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Utah Drug Defense Attorney - Drug Sentences

** Please note that laws governing controlled substances and drug offenses in Utah have changed. Most simple possession charges were reduced to the misdemeanor level based on amendments passed in 2016 by the Utah Legislature. But felony possession charges are still possible in cases involving enhancements for prior convictions or for drug-free zone violations. For the best and most current information on defending drug charges in Utah, contact us today.**

How much time can a person expect to spend in prison on a drug possession case in Utah?

The sentence a criminal court will impose for a drug charge in Utah can depend on a number of factors. Prison time is not mandatory in Utah drug cases. Instead, the court has a range of possible sentencing options that can include probation, fines, jail time, or prison. Having an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side can help give you the best chance of avoiding prison time and achieving a successful outcome in your case.

Based in Salt Lake City, criminal defense attorney Stephen Howard has successfully defended clients facing drug charges ranging from drug possession to first-degree felony drug distribution charges. Contact us today to schedule an initial consultation.

Indeterminate Sentencing in Utah Drug Cases

In the Utah criminal court system, when imposing a prison sentence in a felony case, a judge orders an indeterminate term. Rather than setting an exact length a prison sentence, Utah's indeterminate sentencing system provides a range of possible time. The Board of Pardons and Parole then determines how much of that time a defendant will actually serve.

A third-degree felony is punishable with a prison term ranging between zero and five years. A second-degree felony carries a possible 1-15 year prison term. First-degree felony charges are punishable with a potential of up to life in prison.

In Utah misdemeanor drug cases, a judge has the option of imposing a fixed-length jail sentence. Depending on the level of the offense, a misdemeanor charge can carry a potential of up to a year in jail.

Offense Levels for Drug Crimes in Utah

Drug crimes in Utah include possession of drug paraphernalia, possession of a controlled substance, drug distribution, and possession with the intent to distribute. Drug paraphernalia charges in Utah are typically filed as class B misdemeanors. For possession or distribution charges, the level of the offense can depend on which drug is involved.

Possession of marijuana (less than one ounce) begins at the class B misdemeanor level. Marijuana distribution or possession with the intent to distribute typically starts at the third-degree felony level.

Most other common street drugs (including heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine) as well as many commonly-abused prescription medications begin at the third-degree felony level. Possession with the intent to distribute or distribution of these drugs begin at the second-degree felony level.

Enhancements for drug charges in Utah can increase the level of a charge by one step. Enhancements commonly charged in Utah include the drug free zone enhancement, possession within a correctional facility, and an enhancement for prior convictions.

Probation in Utah Drug Cases

For a felony drug crime in Utah, the court may impose a prison sentence. But the court may also suspend the prison term and place the defendant on probation. When placing a person on probation in a felony case in Utah, a court may may require that the defendant serve a period of time, not to exceed one year, in a county jail. (See Utah Code 77-18-1(8).) A court may also require drug testing, a substance abuse evaluation, and participation in appropriate drug treatment.

Finding a Criminal Defense Lawyer in Utah

If you are facing prosecution for a drug crime in Utah, your best step is to retain the services of an experienced criminal defense attorney. Based 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.

Contact us today to see how we can help you.


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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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