Heroin is the common name for the psychoactive drug diacetylmorphine and can be sniffed, injected, or smoked. Heroin is processed from morphine, which is extracted from opium poppy plants. Heroin was synthesized from morphine in 1874 when Bayer marketed it as a cough suppressant. Today, Heroin is classified as a Schedule I substance, meaning the federal government has determined the drug has no accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse and addiction.
What is Heroin Possession in the State of Utah?
If you have been charged with heroin possession, you “willfully” possessed an illegal, Schedule I drug. Possession means you knew you had the substance—you were aware you were in possession of heroin. If you borrowed your friend’s car and were stopped by the police who searched the car and found concealed heroin, it would be more difficult to prove possession than if the drugs were found in your car. You must also be aware that the heroin you carry is illegal to possess in Utah.
This means that if a friend gave you a drug that was in a prescription bottle for your painful knee, you would have every reason to believe the drug was not illegal. If you can prove you had no knowledge the drug was illegal, you might not be charged with possession. In reality, proving you did not know a substance was illegal is an uphill battle as the law assumes you have a reasonable knowledge and understanding regarding drugs in your possession.
Possession applies to actual possession as well as constructive possession. Actual possession means you were physically in control of the heroin at the time it was discovered—i.e., the drug was in your pocket. Constructive possession means you have control over the heroin and access to the heroin, even if it is not actually on you at the time of your arrest. Constructive possession might be presumed if you kept heroin in the medicine cabinet in your home.
Significant amounts of the drug can indicate possession with intent to distribute—a much more serious charge. Evidence of distribution could include plastic baggies, scales, large amounts of cash, or even statements or texts from those who purchased drugs from you.
What Are the Penalties and Consequences of Heroin Possession in Utah?
A first or second charge of possession of heroin and other Schedule I or II drugs will result in a Class A misdemeanor, rather than a felony—assuming you were not in a drug-free zone when arrested. This is punishable up to one year in jail and a $2,500 fine.
A third charge for heroin possession will be prosecuted as a third-degree felony. The penalties for a third-degree felony include up to five years in prison, a fine of up to $5,000 with a 90 percent surcharge. Enhancements for heroin possession could occur if the possession took place in a designated “drug-free zone,” was in the presence of a person under 18, or if the heroin was sent into a correctional facility or was possessed on correctional facility grounds.
The definition of a drug-free zone is fairly broad, meaning you could unintentionally find yourself in one of these zones. If your charges would have been a third-degree felony, being in a drug-free zone with heroin could increase the charges to a second-degree felony that can result in up to fifteen years in prison.
Drug-free zones include:
- Being within 100 feet of a public, private, vocational, or postsecondary school or educational institution when the facility is open;
- Preschools or childcare facilities fall under the same rules as schools;
- Being within 100 feet of any public park, amusement park, recreation center, or arcade when the facility is open to the public; and
- Churches, including any house of worship, along with libraries (when they are open to the public), fall under drug-free zones, requiring you to be more than 100 feet away to avoid drug enhancements.
Drug enhancements will occur if you are in possession of heroin in the presence of an individual younger than 18, regardless of where the act occurs. Enhancements can be implemented if law enforcement believes you facilitated, arranged, or caused the transport, delivery, or distribution of heroin to an inmate or on the grounds of any correctional facility.
In addition to the legal penalties associated with a conviction for heroin possession, there are collateral consequences. Your driver’s license could be suspended, you could be restricted from owning a firearm, and securing employment—or keeping the job you have—could be extremely difficult following a conviction for heroin possession. Additionally, you could find yourself unable to take out a federal loan for college, your college application could be rejected, or you could be unable to obtain a professional license for which you are otherwise well qualified.
Are There Defenses to Charges of Heroin Possession in the State of Utah?
While your specific defense will depend on the facts and circumstances surrounding your charges of heroin possession—including the amount of heroin you were in possession of and whether you qualify for enhancements—some common defenses for heroin possession include:
- Your Constitutional rights were violated. A violation of your Fourth Amendment means the search of your person, vehicle, or home was not done with reasonable suspicion that you were in possession of an illegal substance. If the search can be shown to be unreasonable—i.e., the police officer had no reason to think you were in possession of an illegal drug—the resulting evidence can be suppressed. Under the Fifth Amendment, you have the right to remain silent to avoid self-incrimination. If you tell the police officers you will not answer any questions until you have spoken to an attorney, yet they continue questioning you without letting you call an attorney, your Constitutional rights have been violated. Law enforcement must also read you your Miranda Rights if they interrogate you after your arrest.
- The prosecutor may be unable to prove constructive possession because they must prove you had knowledge of the drug as well as intent to possess heroin. The drug may not have been yours, or you may have been unaware that the drug was in your vehicle or home if others have access to your vehicle or home.
How Can a Salt Lake City Heroin Possession Defense Lawyer from Conyers & Nix Help?
An experienced Salt Lake City heroin possession defense lawyer from Conyers & Nix can help you through this difficult time. We never judge our clients, focusing all our attention and experience on securing the best outcome possible. The zealous advocacy we provide each and every client is firmly supported by our meticulous preparation of every case. Attorneys Kate Conyers and Jesse Nix fight for the best interests of our clients no matter how challenging that fight may be while always treating our clients with respect and patience. If you’ve been charged with Salt Lake City heroin charges, contact the knowledgeable attorneys from Conyers & Nix.