Can I be charged with drug distribution if no drugs were sold?
Under the Utah criminal code sections dealing with distribution of a controlled substance or possession with the intent to distribute, a wide range of activities can form the basis for criminal charges – even when no drugs are actually sold. If you are facing drug possession, distribution, or other criminal charges in Davis County, an experienced criminal defense attorney can make a real difference in the outcome of your case. Contact us today to arrange for an initial consultation.
Distribution of a Controlled Substance
Under Utah law, distribution of a controlled substance is a serious felony charge punishable by substantial time in prison or jail as well as thousands of dollars in fines. The law does not require any proof of payment for or sale of drugs. Instead, the statute creates a broad definition of “distribution” that can include sale, gifts, trades, or other exchanges in which drugs are passed from one person to another.
But Davis County prosecutors have been known to distinguish between individuals who have been charged for selling drugs and individuals who “shared” something with a friend. Even when drugs have been sold for money, Davis County prosecutors have been known to make a distinction between individuals who are selling drugs for profit and individuals who may be selling, but only to support their own drug addiction. Individuals who are willing to address the issues related to their addiction and engage in treatment are much more likely to receive more leniency from both prosecutors and judges.
Offering or Arranging to Distribute a Controlled Substance
In addition to actual distribution, Utah criminal law imposes penalties against individuals who have “offered” or “arranged” to distribute a controlled substance. The statutory language used by the legislature had been interpreted broadly to include conduct such as telling someone where a dealer is from whom they can buy drugs, telling a dealer how to contact someone who is interested in buying drugs, or offering to meet someone at a specific time and location in order to make a drug transaction.
Limits to the “Offering” Statute
Utah’s courts have imposed some restrictions on the “offering” component of this charge. In order to meet the required elements of the offense, a prosecutor must be able to prove that the defendant’s offer to sell drugs was sincere. One such case involved a defendant who told an undercover police officer that he would be willing to sell drugs to the officer, took money from the officer, and promised to return shortly with the drugs. The defendant took the money, but did not return. Other officers shortly thereafter arrested the defendant, and he was charged with offering to distribute a controlled substance. When arrested, police did not find any drugs in the possession of the defendant.
The defense argued that the prosecutor did not have sufficient evidence to prove that the defendant actually intended to complete a drug transaction. The evidence that the prosecutor was able to present was indistinguishable from evidence that would show that the defendant was merely scamming the undercover officer, and had used the pretense of a supposed drug transaction to trick the officer into giving him the money.
While the defendant may have been guilty of fraud or theft by deception, the defense argued that there was no proof that the defendant actually intended to sell drugs. Further, the prosecutor had not filed a charge of theft or fraud – only the charge of offering or arranging to distribute a controlled substance. Because a defendant is presumed to be innocent under both our State and Federal Constitutions, the defense argued that the prosecution did not have sufficient evidence to support the drug charge.
The courts ultimately agreed with the defense..
Finding a Criminal Defense Attorney in Utah
Felony drug distribution charges in Utah can carry serious consequences. Utah criminal defense attorney Stephen Howard has a track record that includes dismissals or not guilty verdicts on some of the most serious criminal charges on the books in Utah. Providing legal services to clients in Davis County and throughout Utah, he has the experience needed to help you get the results you need. Contact us today to arrange for an initial consultation.