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Utah Criminal Defense Attorney - Heroin Possession

Because heroine is classified as a Schedule I controlled substance (under Utah Code 58-37-4), criminal charges for possession of heroin in Utah begin at the third degree felony level. With enhancements, the level of the offense can be even higher. If you are facing drug charges in Utah, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney to help give you the best chance of avoiding prison or jail time and keeping a felony conviction off your record. Based in Salt Lake City and serving clients throughout Utah, criminal lawyer Stephen Howard has successfully defended criminal drug charges ranging from simple possession to first degree distribution. Contact us today for an initial consultation.

Enhanced Heroin Possession Charges in Utah

Possession of Heroin and Drug Paraphernalia UtahHeroin possession charges can carry enhanced penalties under Utah law for reasons that may include the following: the offense occurred within a drug-free zone; the circumstances indicated an intent to distribute heroin; or prior convictions for distribution of or the intent to distribute a controlled substance. A singe enhancement can increase the level of the charge to the second degree felony level (one to fifteen years in prison); multiple enhancements can raise even a straight possession charge to the first degree felony level (up to life in prison). While it is rare to see straight possession charges filed as a first degree felony level, a one level enhancement for a drug-free zone violation is common - especially in urban counties along the Wasatch Front.

"Drug-free zones" are defined under Utah law as being anywhere within 1,000 feet of any specifically listed kinds of places, including: churches, schools, parks, libraries, shopping centers, theaters, etc. To determine what areas are considered drug-free zones, you could draw a circle with a radius of 1,000 feet around each of these locations. Any area covered by one of these circles would be a drug-free zone. In densely populated areas (such as Salt Lake County, Weber County, Utah County, etc.), it may be difficult to find an area that is not a drug-free zone. While many heroin possession charges could be charged with a drug-free zone enhancement, prosecutors have discretion in determining whether to pursue the enhancement. A prosecutor may be much more likely to pursue the enhancement, for example, if a person is found shooting heroin at an elementary school playground as compared with a person who is charged for possession of heroin in a distant location only barely within the drug-free zone.

Potential Defenses to Heroin Possession Charges in Utah

When facing heroin or other drug charges, your defense attorney needs to consider a variety of legal issues, including: Fourth Amendment search and seizure issues; Fifth Amendment (Miranda) issues; evidentiary issues, which may include witness reliability, constructive possession, confidential informants, etc. An experienced criminal defense attorney can help you understand whether or not your case presents defenses that make the case a good candidate for trial.

Trial v. Negotiated Resolutions in Utah Heroin Possession Cases

Any person charged with drug possession or other crimes in Utah has the right to have the case heard by a jury at trial. But in some circumstances, your prospects of avoiding prison or jail time and keeping a felony conviction off your record may be improved by engaging the prosecutor in settlement negotiations to see if an alternative resolution to the case is possible. An experienced criminal drug crimes attorney can help you determine the best options for defending your case.

Addiction in Utah Drug Cases

If you are facing drug charges, you should also seriously and honestly consider any addiction or substance abuse challenges that you may be facing personally. Heroin addiction addiction can be particularly difficult to fight on your own, and getting involved in an appropriate treatment program or counseling may greatly improve your chances of being able to beat an addiction. If you are convicted and placed on probation for a drug charge, it is almost certain that the judge will require drug treatment as a condition of probation. But getting involved in treatment before you are ordered to do so by the court can greatly improve your chances of convincing the prosecutor that you deserve a plea in abeyance, probation, or a reduced misdemeanor charge.

Some people have expressed concern that their involvement in treatment may be used against them at trial. This is not the case. If you decide to take your case to trial, your involvement in treatment after being charged cannot be used against you at trial to try to show that you are a drug addict or that you are otherwise guilty of a crime.

Choosing a Criminal Defense Attorney in Utah

As an experienced Utah drug crimes defense attorney based in Salt Lake City, Stephen Howard can help you explore the various options and issues involved in defending a drug possession case. He is one of only a few criminal defense attorneys now in private practice who has previously served as defense counsel for a Utah felony drug court program. His track record in defending clients in Utah criminal cases includes dismissals, not guilty verdicts, and appellate reversals in serious felony and misdemeanor cases.

Contact us today to schedule an initial consultation.


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  • 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.
  • Drug Crimes Defense Attorney Utah Dismissed - Client facing first-degree felony drug distribution charge and potential life in prison. Charges were based on allegations that client had sold drugs to an undercover police officer, then made a full confession. Successful mitigation work resulted in negotiated offer of misdemeanor plea-in-abeyance and ultimate dismissal of case.
  • Utah Expungement Attorney Expungement - Worked to restore client's expungement eligibility through 402 reduction process, then filed successful expungement petitions in multiple courts obtaining expungement orders and clearing client's official criminal history.
  • Felony Attorney Utah Dismissed - Client facing first-degree felony charge and possible life in prison for child kidnapping. Full defense analysis of the case revealed critical legal flaws in the prosecution's case. When confronted with the defense legal analysis, the prosecutor agreed to dismiss the case outright without trial.
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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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