Cocaine is the third most-used illegal drug in the United States—and the second most-used drug in the remainder of the world. Cocaine brings feelings of euphoria, along with confidence and immense energy. Cocaine can be snorted as a powder or smoked as a “rock” and is very addictive. As many as 15 percent of those in the U.S. say they have used cocaine at least once in their lives, while 2 percent say they have used it at least once over the past year.
Most cocaine is manufactured outside the U.S. then illegally brought into the country. Cocaine is derived from coca leaves, usually grown in Bolivia, Peru, and Colombia (Colombia produces about 90 percent of the cocaine that reaches the U.S.). The manufacturing process usually takes place in remote labs in jungles. Cocaine street names include blow, coca, coke, crack, flake, snow, soda cot, aspirin, devil’s dandruff, and white boy.
What is the Law for Possession of Cocaine in Utah?
Cocaine is a Schedule II drug under federal law and Utah Controlled Substances Act. While possession of cocaine for personal use was once a third-degree felony, Utah now charges possession of cocaine as a Class A misdemeanor.
Possession of cocaine—and any other illegal drug—includes “holding, applying, inhaling, owning, controlling, injecting, or maintaining” the substance. Utah possession laws can be tricky because they allow for “joint” possession. The law states that it is enough for an individual to have participated with one or more people possessing a controlled substance with the knowledge that the activity was occurring. It also states that illegal substances can be found in a place that indicates constructive possession. In other words, you don’t necessarily have to be in actual physical possession of the cocaine to be charged with possession.
Is Possession of Cocaine a Felony in Utah?
Before possession laws in Utah were changed in 2015 to emphasize treatment over punishment, possession of cocaine charges—or any Schedule I or II drugs—was considered a third-degree felony. Today, simple possession of cocaine is charged as a Class A misdemeanor for the first two times you are charged with the crime and as a felony the third time. That being said, possession of cocaine charges can still be considered a felony for a first-time charge when there are extenuating circumstances, such as possession of the drug in the presence of a minor who is eighteen years old or younger or possession in certain areas.
Penalties and Consequences for Cocaine Possession
Simple possession of cocaine for personal use with no enhancements is charged as a Class A misdemeanor. Penalties for a Class A misdemeanor in Utah can bring as much as a year in jail and fines as large as $2,500. If this is your third possession charge of a Schedule I or Schedule II drug, you face a third-degree felony. Penalties for a third-degree felony include a prison term of up to five years and a fine as large as $5,000.
If your possession of cocaine was committed in the presence of a minor, or in a drug-free zone, your charges could be increased from a Class A misdemeanor to a third-degree felony, or from a third-degree felony to a second-degree felony. Drug-free zones include within 100 feet of a school (public or private, vocational or postsecondary school, or any educational institution), preschool or childcare facility, public park, amusement park, recreational center, arcade, church, library, or correctional facility. In addition to criminal penalties following a cocaine possession conviction, you may have your driver’s license revoked, denied, suspended, or disqualified.
While the criminal penalties for a cocaine possession conviction can be harsh, there are other consequences you could face even after you’ve served your sentence. You might be unable to own a firearm and have your driver’s license suspended. Because we are such a mobile society, being without a driver’s license can significantly alter your ability to get to work, school, or complete necessary errands.
You could lose your current job and could find yourself unable to find employment in the future. If you had planned on going to college, you may find your application rejected as a result of your cocaine possession conviction and you could be unable to secure a federal student loan. You may even find renting a home or apartment difficult following your conviction.
Drug Court in Utah
Some individuals may be able to attend Utah’s Drug Court, which is a minimum of 52 weeks and requires six months of clean drug tests. In drug court, you would plead guilty to cocaine possession, but receive a plea in abeyance until the program is completed. You must undergo treatment and counseling, frequent drug testing, and regular court appearances.
If you do not comply with the drug court program, you could end up in jail under the original sentencing for cocaine possession. If you successfully complete the program, your guilty plea will be withdrawn, and the criminal charges against you will be dropped. If you have no history of violence, you may be allowed to be screened for drug court rather than being sentenced to regular probation.
Potential Defenses for Cocaine Possession
As with any criminal charge, your defense will depend on the circumstances and facts surrounding the charges. Your Salt Lake City cocaine possession defense lawyer will look at your situation from every possible angle to determine whether mistakes were made by law enforcement, either during your initial stop, the search, or later, after your arrest. Some of the most common defenses to cocaine possession include:
- Lack of reasonable suspicion. Law enforcement must have reasonable suspicion that a crime has been committed before stopping an individual.
- Violations of your Constitutional rights. If the police officers failed to read you your Miranda rights before your interrogation, they have violated your Constitutional rights. Further, if you ask for an attorney before you answer any questions, yet the police officers continue to question you—and ignore your request for an attorney—your rights may have been violated.
- Lack of probable cause. Law enforcement must have probable cause to search you, your vehicle, or your home for cocaine or other illegal drugs.
- You were not actually in possession of the drug. Perhaps you were driving a friend’s vehicle and were unaware there was cocaine in the glove box.
- Mistaken identity. Another individual may have identified you as someone possessing cocaine, yet you were not that person. You may even have an alibi to prove you were not the person a witness identified.
If you have been charged with possession of cocaine, it is extremely important that you have a strong legal advocate in your corner who can negotiate with the prosecutor for lesser charges or lesser sentencing. In many cases, your attorney may be able to help you take advantage of sentencing alternatives such as drug court, drug counseling, or home detention. For this reason, you should consult a Salt Lake City cocaine possession defense lawyer as soon as possible.
How Can a Salt Lake City Cocaine Possession Defense Lawyer from Conyers & Nix Help?
If you’re facing possession of cocaine charges, you must have a Salt Lake City cocaine possession defense lawyer from Conyers & Nix. When you choose Conyers & Nix, you get the experience, knowledge, and skills of two attorneys—Kate Conyers and Jesse Nix. They work as a team—because two lawyers are always better than one! They had extensive experience in the public defender’s office, meaning they’ve handled more cases, spent more time in court, and have strong relationships with judges and prosecutors.
What this means for you is a better outcome for your charges. They get much better plea deals than many other lawyers. Contact Conyers & Nix today.