Like all states, Utah classifies and regulates the possession of controlled substances. Read on to learn about the penalties for illegal possession of drugs for personal use.
Utah divides controlled substances into five schedules—Schedules I to V. Schedule I drugs are considered the most dangerous and highly addictive, while Schedule V drugs are the least dangerous and the least addictive. Below are some examples of drugs placed into each schedule.
Schedule III includes drugs such as ketamine, anabolic steroids, and testosterone.
Schedule IV includes drugs such as barbital, diazepam (Valium), flunitrazepam (Rohypnol), and lorazepam (Ativan).
Schedule V includes therapeutic medicines containing low amounts of codeine or other narcotics.
(Utah Code § 58-37-4 (2023).)
Penalties for possession depend primarily on the type and amount of drug involved. While most drug possession offenses are misdemeanors, repeat offenders may face felony penalties.
Look-back period. Utah law only counts prior drug convictions that are less than seven years old (based on the date of the current and prior offenses).
Illegal possession of a Schedule I or II controlled substance carries the following penalties in Utah.
A similar penalty structure applies to illegal possession of Schedule III, IV, and V drugs and marijuana.
Utah law increases the penalty for a drug possession conviction if:
In both instances, the penalty goes up by one degree. A class A misdemeanor, for example, would become a third-degree felony.
(Utah Code § 58-37-8 (2023).)
In drug possession cases, a defense attorney may raise several arguments to challenge the prosecution's case. The prosecutor must prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt.
Drug possession crimes generally require proof that the defendant had actual or constructive possession of the drugs and knew what the drugs were. If the prosecutor can't prove the defendant possessed the drug or knew what it really was, this may lead a jury to acquit.
Another common defense strategy in drug possession cases is challenging the legality of the search that led to finding the drugs. If police conduct an illegal search, typically, the discovered evidence (the drugs) must be excluded. Without evidence of the drugs, the prosecution's case might fall apart.
Utah offers immunity from certain drug possession charges and drug paraphernalia charges for persons who call 911 for help with a drug overdose. Immunity applies to the person seeking assistance and the person experiencing the overdose. To fall under these protections, a person who reports the overdose must remain on the scene and cooperate with authorities. (Utah Code § 58-37-8 (2023).)
If you're charged with drug possession, contact a local criminal defense attorney. While misdemeanor charges might seem minor, having a criminal record with drug charges can make it difficult to find a job, housing, or education. A drug possession conviction can also enhance penalties for future charges.