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Criminal Defense Attorney Stephen Howard
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Criminal Attorney Utah - Drug Possession in a Correctional Facility

A criminal charge for possession of a controlled substance in a Utah correctional facility carries significant potential penalties. If you are found carrying drugs into a jail or prison, the offense level can be enhanced by one degree above what the charge would normally be. But there are potential defenses available to this criminal charge. As a Utah criminal defense lawyer based in Salt Lake City, Stephen Howard has extensive experience defending drug charges in Utah's criminal court system. He has a track record of achieving real results for his clients. Contact us today for an initial consultation and case analysis.

Elements and Defenses to Drug Possession in a Correctional Facility

Utah law provides that person convicted of illegal possession of a controlled substance "while inside the boundaries of a property occupied by any correctional facility" or in "any public jail or other place of confinement" are subject to a penalty one degree greater than what would otherwise apply.

Many people who are charged with possession of a controlled substance in a correctional facility are people who were booked into jail, either on an outstanding warrant or for other recent charges, and just happened to have drugs in their possession when they were booked. In many of these cases, the person did not intend to smuggle drugs into the jail. Given the choice, the person would not be in jail at all. Such cases raise the issue of whether a person who does not intend to bring drugs into a jail or correctional facility should be subject to an enhanced penalty.

When a person is arrested, he may be faced with the choice of giving up his Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination by announcing to police that he has drugs in his possession, or risking an enhanced penalty by remaining silent and waiting till he goes through the jail booking process and police find the drugs at the jail. Such a choice essentially imposes a higher penalty on a person for exercising his or her Constitutional rights. The criminal court system should not permit this kind of forced waiver of Constitutional protections.

Penalties for Drug Possession in a Utah Jail or Prison

Under Utah criminal law, a person found in possession of a controlled substance in a correctional facility, jail, "or other place of confinement" is subject to a penalty enhanced one level higher than for ordinary drug possession.  For example, a person found in possession of cocaine would normally be charged with a third degree felony, punishable by up to 5 years in prison.  If a person is arrested and taken to jail, and if cocaine is found in his possession at the jail, a prosecutor may file the charge as a second degree felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison. A simple marijuana possession charge, normally a class B misdemeanor, can be enhanced to a class A level punishable by up to a year in jail.

Finding a Utah Drug and Criminal Defense Lawyer

Based in Salt Lake City, criminal defense lawyer Stephen Howard has defended thousands of felony and misdemeanor cases. His track record includes dismissals, not guilty verdicts, and appellate reversals on some of the most serious charges on the books in Utah.

If you are facing prosecution for Utah drug crimes or other criminal charges, contact us now to schedule an initial consultation and case analysis.


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  • Criminal Defense AttorneyDismissed - Contractor was charged with theft by deception for allegedly misusing customer funds and failing to complete work that had been agreed upon. A successful motion to quash on legal grounds following the bindover order at preliminary hearing resulted in a complete dismissal of all charges.
  • 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 Salt Lake Davis Expunged - Client with prior conviction for violent felony was ineligible for expungement through the courts. A successful 2-step reduction restored expungement eligibility and ultimately led to the court's decision to grant the requested expungement.
  • Violent Crimes Assalt Defense UtahProbation - Client charged with aggravated robbery based on allegations he entered a store with a gun and mask and demanded cash. Client confessed to police before hiring a defense attorney. Defense mitigation efforts resulted in a negotiated resolution that removed life in prison as a possibility, and secured a probation sentence from the court.
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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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