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Utah Drug Crimes Defense - Salt Lake Criminal Attorney

Based in Salt Lake City, Stephen Howard is a Utah criminal defense attorney with extensive experience defending drug crimes. His record of success includes charges ranging from first-degree felony distribution to misdemeanor marijuana cases. If you or a loved one are facing criminal prosecution for drug crimes in Utah, an experienced criminal defense attorney can be vital to achieving a successful outcome. Contact us today to arrange for an initial consultation.

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Utah Drug Crimes Lawyer - Constitutional Protections

The Fourth Amendment's protections against unreasonable search and seizure can play a major role in defending Utah drug crimes. If police have obtained evidence in violation of the Fourth Amendment, that evidence can be ordered "suppressed." A suppression order means that the prosecutor cannot use that evidence against you at trial. Often, this will result in an outright dismissal of the criminal case.

Most possession charges involve allegations that drugs were found in your car, in your home, or on your person. Not coincidentally, some of the more common violations of the Fourth Amendment involve police officers unlawfully searching your car, your home, or your person.

If you have been accused of possession, paraphernalia, distribution, or another Utah drug crime, an experienced Utah drug crimes attorney can analyze your case and help determine if your rights have been violated.

Fact Defenses to Utah Drug Crime Prosecution

Salt Lake Contolled Substance Defense LawyerJust because police find drugs doesn't necessarily mean that you are guilty. Depending on the specific facts of your case, there may be factual defenses based on entrapment, compulsion, "innocent possession," and "constructive possession."

Clients have reported that police tell them that if the drugs are found in their car (home, apartment, room, etc.) then they are responsible. This is simply not true. In order to support a criminal drug possession charge, the evidence must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant knowingly and intentionally possessed the controlled substance. This means that the prosecutor must prove that the defendant knew the drugs were there, was aware of the character of the substance (i.e., knew what the drugs were), and had the intent to exercise controll over orpossess the drugs.

Just because police find drugs does not mean that you are automatically guilty. Subtle differences in the facts can make major differences in ultimate outcomes. You should consult with an experienced Utah drug crimes attorney to determine the best way to build a defense around the specific facts of your case.

Utah Drug Crimes - Penalties and Enhancements

Most Utah drug crimes are filed as felonies. Marijuana and drug paraphernalia possession are the most common exceptions, and are normally filed on a misdemeanor level. But simple possession of most other common street drugs (heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, etc.) and many prescription medications will normally be filed at the third-degree felony level. At the third-degree level, simple possession carries a possible 0-5 year prison term.

Distribution of a controlled substance, possession with the intent to distribute, and offering or arranging to distribute a controlled substance are normally filed at the second-degree felony level. At this level, these charges carry the potential of a 1-15 year prison term.

While these potential penalties are severe, Utah's legislature has given prosecutors the option of enhancing drug crimes to even higher levels under certain circumstances. Two grounds for enhancement are proximity to a "drug free zone" and prior convictions. These enhancements are not always justified, and an experienced drug crimes lawyer can help determine if the evidence supports the enhancement.

A drug free zone is defined as any place within 1000 feet of a school, church, park, stadium, mall, theater, parking lot, pre-school, child care facility, etc. The list of qualifying locations is so large that in most cities and towns in Utah, it can be hard to find a place that is not within a drug free zone.

Charges can also be enhanced if you have previously been convicted of another drug crime. Unfortunately, many people who are struggling with addiction find themselves getting charged more than once. The possibility of an enhancement makes it even more important to handle the case right the first time.

Each enhancement increases the level of the charge one step - a third-degree felony becomes a second; a second-degree felony becomes a first. And enhancements can be "stacked." That means that many drug charges can be filed as a first-degree felony, punishable by up to life in prison. Actually serving a life sentence for a state drug charge is rare. But the stakes are high. Consultation with an effective Utah drug crimes lawyer is critical to success.

The Legal Case is Only Half the Battle

Salt Lake Drug Paraphernalia LawyerIf you're facing prosecution for Utah drug crimes, fighting the legal case is only half the battle. Stephen Howard is an experienced Utah drug crimes defense attorney, and can help guide you toward a lasting solution.

First is the question of how to best handle the legal case. This involves constitutional defenses, search and seizure law, factual disputes, the presumption of innocence, the right to counsel, the privilege against self incrimination, and other legal issues and arguments that can come into play in a Utah drug crime case.

Regardless of the outcome of the legal case, many people facing prosecution for drug crimes are also struggling with addiction or substance abuse. Even if the case is dismissed or a not guilty verdict is achieved, a person struggling with drug or alcohol addiction still has another fight ahead of them.  Just winning the legal case is not enough if the addiction and substance abuse issues have not been addressed. That is the second half of the battle.

Stephen Howard is an experienced Utah drug crimes lawyer, and is uniquely qualified to address both sides of your case. He has successfully defended his clients in court for many drug crime prosecutions. He also served previously for several years as defense counsel in a felony drug court program. This position gave him extensive experience and training in how best to address substance abuse issues within the context of the criminal justice system.

Whether your primary goal is to take your case to trial or to find help with your addiction, you need an effective Utah drug crimes lawyer who understands both sides of the case. Stephen Howard is qualified to help you get the results you need. Contact us today for an initial consultation.

Utah Drug Courts

Drug courts can provide an opportunity to both resolve your legal problems as well as get help with addiction and substance abuse. As an attorney who worked as defense counsel in a Utah felony drug court program for several years and a former member of the National Association of Drug Court Professionals, Stephen Howard knows that drug courts can change lives and even save lives. But as an experienced Utah drug defense lawyer, Stephen Howard knows that a drug court program is not always the best solution to your legal case.

Drug court programs can be complicated and typically require a lot of work. But the potential payoffs for those who successfully participate can be significant. To determine whether drug court is the right way to deal with your case, you should consult with a lawyer who has extensive experience working inside a Utah drug court program.

Learn more about Utah's drug court system by clicking here.

What is a  Utah "Drug" Crime?

What are "drug" crimes? The obvious answers include possession of a controlled substance, possession of paraphernalia, possession with the intent to distribute, distribution of a controlled substance, etc.

Salt Lake Prescription Defense AttorneyBut the real answers go deeper. Some Utah prosecutors will refer to crimes such as forgery, theft, credit card fraud, and even burglary as "drug" crimes. Even though the crime itself does not involve a controlled substance, many people have committed these offenses in order to support their addiction.

The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy estimates that illicit drug users are about 16 times more likely than nonusers to be arrested for larceny or theft; more than 14 times more likely to be arrested for alcohol-related offenses; and more than nine times more likely to be arrested and booked on an assault charge. (Office of National Drug Control Policy, Fact Sheet, 2000.)

If you are charged with a non-drug offense, but you are also struggling with substance abuse or addiction, you should talk to your defense lawyer about this. The information you give your lawyer is confidential, and protected by the attorney-client privilege. But with your consent, an experienced drug crimes lawyer may be able to use that information to ultimately benefit your case.

Utah Drug Crimes - Stop the Revolving Door

Jail shouldn't be a revolving door. But for a person fighting addiction to drugs or alcohol, the first trip to jail will usually not be the last. People struggling with addiction don't just get arrested for drug possession. They also get arrested for things they do to get drugs, and they get arrested for things they do while they're under the influence.

Crimes that seem unrelated to drugs, such as theft, forgery, burglary, shoplifting, or even assault, can repeat and escalate as a person's life spirals into an increasingly difficult web of serious problems. Unless the bottom line is addressed, jail can become a revolving door. An experienced Utah drug crimes lawyer can help stop the revolving door.

During the years he served as defense counsel in a felony drug court, Utah drug crimes attorney Stephen Howard acquired extensive experience and training specific to substance abuse issues in the legal system. His experience and training can help guide clients through the legal system toward more lasting solutions. Whatever crime you've been charged with, if drugs are part of your life, you need help. Utah drug crime lawyer Stephen Howard has the experience you need.

Finding a Utah Drug Crimes Attorney

Utah Criminal Defense LawyerIf you are facing prosecution for drug-related crimes in Utah, having the right defense attorney can be critical to success in your case. Based in Salt Lake City, criminal defense lawyer Stephen Howard has spent his career assisting people facing criminal prosecution in Utah.

Contact us today to schedule an initial confidential consultation with Mr. Howard. Learn what an experienced Utah criminal defense lawyer can do for you.


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  • Selected Defense Victories
  • Criminal Defense AttorneyDismissed - Charges of insurance fraud were brought when investigators found reason to believe that client's claim of injury was fraudulent. Client was seen kicking a soccer ball, and investigators concluded that the injury claim was false. By obtaining medical records and other administrative records, and by pointing out to the prosecutor that the alleged injury interferred with the client's ability to lift - not his ability to kick a ball - the prosecutor agreed to dismiss the case.
  • Utah 402 Reduction Attorney Felony Reduced - Client with prior felony conviction was granted a 402 reduction to the misdemeanor level over the objection of the prosecutor. Based on information provided to the court in support of the defense motion, the judge ruled in favor of the defense.
  • Minor Possession Alcohol - MIP AttorneyDismissed - Minor in possession charge (MIP) was dismissed by prosecutor when defense analysis demonstrated that the police had failed to obtain necessary evidence against client. Police had raided a large party involving underage drinking. Several individuals were charged, but police did not obtain evidence showing that client had personally consumed or possessed alcohol. Case was dismissed.
  • Utah Burglary Defense Attorney Not Guilty - Client was charged with second-degree felony residential burglary and facing potential prison time. Investigation by the defense revealed multiple witnesses, missed by police and prosecutors, who supported client's claim of innocence. At trial, the jury returned a "not guilty" verdict on all charges.
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Serving Salt Lake, Davis, Weber, Utah, Cache, Tooele, Summit, Box Elder, and Wasatch Counties, and all of Utah.

Offices in Salt Lake and Davis Counties
560 South 300 East, Suite 200, Salt Lake City, UT 84111
952 S. Main St., Suite A, Layton, UT 84041

Call now to arrange for a confidential initial consultation with an experienced and effective Utah criminal defense lawyer.

In Salt Lake City, call 801-449-1409.
In Davis County, call 801-923-4345.

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Attorney Stephen Howard practices as part of the Canyons Law Group, LLC and Stephen W. Howard, PC.
Stephen W. Howard, PC