Salt Lake Criminal Defense Attorney Utah
Call Criminal Defense Attorney in Utah
Call Utah Criminal Lawyer
Experienced Criminal Defense Attorneys / Former Prosecutors
Call 801-449-1409 now to see what our team can do for you.
Utah Criminal Defense Lawyer Salt Lake City

Criminal Defense Solutions Start HereSM

Finding a Felony Defense LawyerChoosing a Misdemeanor Defense LawyerDrug and Alcohol Crimes Defense LawyerWhite Collar Defense Attorney for Utah ChargesAttorney for Expungements Reductions and PardonsDefendant Constitutional Rights Criminal LawyerBail and Bond Alternatives in UtahReasons for Hope Facing Criminal Charges

Penalties for Felony Drug Crimes

How long is the prison sentence for a felony drug offense in Davis County?

In 2015, the Utah State Legislature enacted some sweeping criminal justice reforms that dramatically affected penalties for drug crime prosecution. The most significant aspect of the drug crime reforms was the reduction of most standard drug possession charges from the felony level down to the class A misdemeanor level. Even with these reforms, many drug crimes are still punishable at the felony level.

At the third-degree felony level, a drug conviction is punishable by up to 5 years in prison. A second-degree felony drug charge carries a possible prison term of up to 15 years. A first-degree felony drug charge (generally only applicable to distribution charges) can result in a "life" prison sentence.

Even at the misdemeanor level, the consequences of a criminal drug conviction are serious. But at the felony level, the penalties for a drug conviction rise dramatically. If you are facing prosecution for drug crimes in Davis County or anywhere in Utah, contact us today to see how an experienced criminal defense attorney can help you.

Does a judge have to impose prison time in a felony drug case?

Relatively few crimes in Utah carry mandatory jail or prison sentences. In most Davis County drug cases, the actual sentence imposed by a judge will depend on a number of factors that may be considered by the court. Even in a felony drug case, the court has discretion to impose a variety of penalties, which can include probation and drug treatment, jail time as a condition of probation, or the full prison term.

What can I do to improve my chance of avoiding prison?

The criminal justice system has a number of goals that it has been designed to accomplish. These goals include protecting society from criminal conduct, punishing offenders, and helping offenders through the rehabilitation process.  These sometimes-competing goals require that a judge and a prosecutor consider a variety of issues and interests as they approach the sentencing process.

When approaching a sentencing hearing from the defense perspective, we want to be able to keep the judge (and prosecutor when possible) focused on the rehabilitation goal of the criminal justice system. If a judge is convinced that substance abuse or addiction is the underlying issue leading to criminal activity, and if the defense can convince the judge that appropriate drug treatment can adequately address that issue, a person's chances of avoiding jail or prison increase substantially. Becoming involved with a treatment program or counselor immediately is one of the most important things you can do to help persuade a judge or prosecutor that treatment, not jail, is the best answer.

Treatment is often just one piece of the puzzle. Getting into a treatment program is not an automatic get-out-of-jail-free card. But by consulting with your criminal defense attorney, you can work together to develop defense strategy designed to give you the best chance of staying out of jail.

If I do go to prison, how long will I spend there?

Utah criminal law provides for "indeterminate" prison sentences. This means that the judge does not determine the ultimate length of a prison sentence. Instead the judge imposes a range of time that is set by statute. The Board of Pardons and Parole then decides how much of that time will actually be served in prison.

The Board of Pardons and Parole can consider a number of factors in making its decision, including a person's prior criminal record, prior prison or jail terms served, and prior probation or parole history. In addition to the person's prior history, the Board can also consider the person's conduct while in prison, including any classes or treatment that the person completes while in prison, or any rule violations committed by the person while in prison. The Board can also consider family support, treatment options, job opportunities, or other factors that may contribute to the person's likelihood of success once released on parole.

For misdemeanor drug offenses, Utah criminal law provides for "determinate" sentences. This means that if the judge imposes jail, it will be for a specified number of days. County jails have statutory authority to reduce this amount of time based on an inmates good behavior. But a jail does not have the same broad discretion that is had by the Board of Pardons and Parole to determine the length of incarceration.

What drug crimes in Utah are charged as felonies?

Since the 2015 legislative amendments to the Utah criminal code, the number of felony drug prosecutions has dramatically dropped. Except in cases where an enhancement applies, so-called "simple" possession is now normally filed as a misdemeanor regardless of what drug is involved. (Previously, most of the "harder" drugs, including methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin, and many prescription drugs would result in a felony charge even without any element of distribution.) Simple possession of marijuana was not affected by these amendments, and without enhancements continues to be filed as a class B misdemeanor. Possession of drug paraphernalia is also typically charged as a class B misdemeanor.

Felony drug charges now most often involve distribution of or the intent to distribute a controlled substance. Simple possession charges can still be enhanced to the felony level based on prior convictions or proximity to a "drug-free" zone (as defined in statute by the legislature). Because most of these felony drug charges involve allegations of distribution, prosecutors and judges tend to take them much more seriously.

Finding a Criminal Defense Lawyer in Davis County

Facing prosecution for drug crimes in Davis County can carry serious consequences. Choosing the right defense attorney to handle your case is one of the most important decisions you will make.With offices in Davis County and in Salt Lake City, criminal lawyer Stephen Howard has successfully protected his clients' rights in drug cases ranging from first degree felony distribution to misdemeanor marijuana possession. He is also one of only a few criminal defense attorneys now in private practice who has previously worked as defense counsel in one of Utah's felony drug court programs.

Contact us today to see how we can help you.


Best Rating
Make a Payment to Your Account
Get Help Now
Name: Email: Phone: Describe your legal needs here:
I accept the disclaimer below.
Disclaimer: No attorney-client relationship is established by the use of this form. Confidential or time-sensitive information should not be submitted through this form. By clicking 'submit' I am only requesting that I be contacted for the purpose of obtaining legal services.

This form protected by reCAPTCHA.

  • Selected Victories
  • Criminal Defense Trial AttorneyNot Guilty - Client was charged with aggravated assault for alleged attack using broken bottle as a weapon. Despite the testimony of numerous prosecution witnesses, thorough defense investigation to support a self-defense claim resulted in acquittal by jury at trial.
  • 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 Probation Attorney Released - Client absconded for more than 10 years from felony probation with Adult Probation and Parole. At an order to show cause hearing, prosecutor argued aggressively for prison. Based on effective mitigation efforts by the defense, the judge agreed to release client without further jail.
  • Violent Crimes Assalt Defense UtahDismissed at Preliminary Hearing - Client charged with aggravated robbery and facing life in prison. Full case analysis and consultation with client allowed the development of a strong defense strategy. Effective cross-examination of the alleged victim at the preliminary hearing resulted in an outright dismissal of all charges by the judge.
  • Recent Posts
  • What Constitutes Drug Parpahernalia in Utah How is drug paraphernalia defined in Utah? - The definition of drug paraphernalia under the Utah criminal code looks at both the nature of the object and also the intended use of the object in question. . . .
  • Utah Misdemeanor Attorney Salt Lake Can I handle a Utah misdemeanor from out-of-state? - Even if you do not intend to take your case to trial, a misdemeanor criminal offense in Utah can require multiple court appearances to reach a resolution. If you have been charged with a crime in Utah, but are not a Utah resident, an experienced criminal defense attorney may be able to help you resolve the case without returning to the state. . . .
Best Utah Criminal Defense Strategy

Successfully defending against criminal prosecution requires more than just an 'aggressive' defense. The best defense attorneys understand that a sophisticated defense requires a thorough understanding of a variety of nuanced legal issues, real experience in the courtroom, good negotiation skills, and much more. Fighting hard is good. Fighting smart is better....

Strategy »
Salt Lake Criminal Defense Attorney Profile Utah

With decades of combined experience, our criminal defense team attorneys have the knowledge, skill, and determination to help you achieve the results you need. Facing criminal prosecution in Utah can have serious consequences. Choosing the best attorney to defend your case may be one of the most important decisions you will ever make....

Experience »
Conviction Consequences in Utah Criminal Prosecutions

Even a single misdemeanor conviction in Utah can result in extended jail time and substantial fines. The collateral consequences of a criminal conviction can last a lifetime. Whether you are facing misdemeanor prosecution in a justice court or more serious felony charges in the district court, obtaining advice and assistance from an experienced criminal defense attorney is....

Consequences »
Utah Criminal Defense Attorney - Hope

Facing criminal prosecution in Utah can feel like your world is collapsing. But there are reasons to remain hopeful, and there are things you can do right now that can help increase the odds of a successful outcome. An experienced criminal defense attorney can help you evaluate the various options you have, and can help you....

Reasons to Hope »
Home | Attorney Profile | Case Results | Criminal Code | FAQ | Legal Resources | Defense Strategy | Contact Us

Serving Salt Lake, Davis, Weber, Utah, Cache, Tooele, Summit, Box Elder, and Wasatch Counties, and all of Utah.

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

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.

Stephen W. Howard, PC

The materials in this website are intended for informational purposes only, and are not legal advice. Viewing or responding to materials in this site does not create an attorney-client relationship. Read Full Disclaimer.