Right to Refuse Search
If an officer asks you to allow him to search you, your car, your home, or any other place belonging to you - you have a right to say no. If the officer searches despite your refusal, a judge may find that your rights were violated. Unless the officer can give a legally valid reason for searching you, the judge may decide that the officer should have obtained a warrant. Many drug offenses hinge on these "Search and Seizure" issues.
Federal drug statutes establish categories or schedules of controlled substances, defining and classifying illegal drugs. In Colorado, the schedules refer to, or are based upon, federal schedules. Drugs included on these schedules are referred to as "Controlled Substances".
The seriousness of drug crimes generally depends upon:
- The SCHEDULE, or classification of the drug
- The QUANTITY
- The PURPOSE for which you possess it
Producing, manufacturing, and selling illegal drugs are obviously the most serious drug crimes. You can be convicted of possession of drugs with intent to distribute from the quantity of the drug alone, without any evidence of that you distributed it at all.
In Colorado, possession of drugs for personal use is generally less serious than those mentioned above. For example, possession of a small amount of marijuana (less than one ounce) is charged as a petty offense. A person convicted of a petty offense is generally not imprisoned, but may be placed on probation or ordered to pay a fine. However, possession of a larger quantity of marijuana or other drug, even if for personal use, is treated as a serious crime. Possession of more than one ounce of marijuana is charged as a felony in Colorado.
Colorado has enhanced penalties for drug crimes. These penalties go into effect if minors are used by the defendant to distribute the drugs, if the drugs are presented to minors, or if the drugs are distributed on school property.
Fourth Ammendment Search and Seizure
Drug cases often involve Fourth Amendment Search and Seizure violations. That is, the government frequently violates your Constitutional Rights when searching for the drugs or other evidence. A skilled Denver criminal attorney can recognize whether the law was followed and may be able to have some or all of the evidence against you thrown out. By weakening the case in this way, your attorney can force the prosecutor to deal the case, allowing you to plead guilty to lesser - much more reasonable - charges.