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Salt Lake Drug Crimes Attorney - Drug Free Zones

Salt Lake County drug possession charges can be enhanced if the crime occurs within an area defined under Utah law as a "drug free zone." This enhancement can substantially increase the potential penalties for simple possession of a controlled substance, possession with the intent to distribute, or actual distribution. If you are facing drug charges in the Salt Lake area or elsewhere in Utah, contact Stephen Howard now to see what an experienced Salt Lake criminal defense lawyer can do for your case.

Salt Lake Drug Free Zone Penalties

Utah law provides for enhanced penalties for possession or distribution of a controlled substance in areas that are considered drug free zones. This enhancement increases the severity of the charge by one degree - a class B misdemeanor becomes a class A misdemeanor, a third degree felony becomes a second degree felony, and a second degree felony becomes a first degree felony. In Salt Lake, prosecutors can use this enhancement to increase the penalties for possession of marijuana from six months to one year in jail, or for other common drugs such as cocaine, methamphetamine, or heroin from five years to fifteen years in prison. Distribution charges can have an enhanced maximum penalty of up to life in prison.

Salt Lake Drug Free Zones Defined

Utah law defines a "drug free zone" to include schools, pre-schools, parks, libraries, churches, shopping malls, stadiums, theaters, parking lots, and an area extending 1000 feet (the length of more than three football fields) from the structures or grounds of those facilities. Because of the nature of development in Salt Lake County, drug free zones cover a substantial portion of the entire county. Except for a few undeveloped open areas, most neighborhoods and commercial areas are likely to be considered drug free zones. Small pockets also exist within more developed areas. But the majority of residential neighborhoods and commercial districts will be covered by a drug free zone.

Drug Free Zone Violation in Salt Lake - Burden of Proof

As with any criminal charge, the Constitution places the burden of proving a drug free zone enhancement on the prosecution. But a prosecutor does not have to prove that the defendant knew that he/she was in a drug free zone, or even that the defendant had reason to believe that he/she was in a drug free zone. Many schools, parks, etc. in the Salt Lake area have posted signs stating that the area is a drug free zone. But the absence of such a sign does not provide a defense to a drug free zone enhancement. Measurement of the 1000-foot distance from a designated drug free zone location is done by straight-line measurement. Even if there is no road, sidewalk, or other direct route between the drug free zone location and the place of the alleged offense, the enhancement may apply if the offense falls within the 1000-foot zone.

Finding the Right Criminal Defense Attorney for Your Utah Drug Case

The consequences of a conviction for a drug offense in Salt Lake can be substantial. The drug free zone enhancement increases those consequences. If you are facing prosecution for drug charges, trust your case to an experienced Salt Lake criminal defense attorney with a proven record of achieving results.

Contact us now to schedule an initial consultation.


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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

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