Drug Crimes 

Utah has some of the strictest drug laws in the country. Even the casual user can face tough penalties for simply possessing a controlled substance. 

If you are charged with any type of drug crime in Salt Lake City or throughout Utah, then you need a lawyer who will aggressively fight for your rights and the best possible result in the case. 

Our drug crime attorneys have successfully resolved many drug cases for clients charged with such crimes as:

  • Marijuana Possession
  • Cultivation
  • Possession of Paraphernalia
  • Possession of Cocaine
  • Possession of Heroin
  • Possession of Meth
  • Possession of Ecstasy
  • Possession with Intent to Distribute
  • Production of a Controlled Substance
  • Illegal Drug Lab
  • Traffic Stop Drug Bust
  • Prescription Drugs
  • Prescription Forgery
  • Drug Possession
  • Prescription Drug Crimes
  • Distribution/Sales/Trafficking
  • Drug Manufacture and Cultivation Charges

Drug Searches by the Utah Highway Patrol

Utah has seen an increase in drug cases as the Utah Highway Patrol and other agencies have stepped up their efforts. Particularly on Utah interstate highways, motorists are stopped for no reason and required to answer endless questions about their travels and their lives. 

Dogs are often at the scene, and cars are searched without a legal basis. It is important that you know your rights on the roadside. Although the Constitution does not always win on the roadway, it is often a different result in the courtroom. Detentions involving drug investigations are often illegal, but it is only through the efforts of a good lawyer that you can require the police to answer for their conduct. 

The State of Utah is cracking down on people they believe might be trafficking marijuana and cash between Utah and other states that have legalized or decriminalized marijuana. Law enforcement officers in Utah take a very tough approach to trafficking marijuana. 

One way the State of Utah is enforcing their no-marijuana-trafficking position is through the forfeiture and seizure of cars and assets from drivers passing through with lots of cash on their way to buy marijuana in California. Utah takes an ultra-conservative approach to prosecuting the use and purchase of illegal substances like marijuana. 

Let despite these ultra-conservative law enforcement approaches, the Utah legislature has enacted laws trying to curb the government’s ability to seize the assets of drivers suspected of going to California for marijuana purchases. Nonetheless, the state government—in the form of the highway patrol—still acts aggressively to seize related assets.

The political battle plays out on the interstate. The California marijuana industry is huge and plays a big role in terms of supplying customers across the entire country with marijuana. Marijuana is semi-legal in California, despite the fact is far from being legal in Utah. Because marijuana is semi-legal in California, it can be grown there with little legal risk, but it has no legal way of being transported out of California and across Utah. 

Serious criminal charges can occur when an individual drivers go to California to act as the transporters—either officially for someone else or personally. Officers often seize and attempt asset forfeiture on large amounts of cash, obviously connected to the marijuana trade as it flows through Utah’s interstate highways to and from California. 

When troopers with the Utah Highway Patrol see drivers that meet the profile they are looking for, they often perform traffic stops without a valid legal basis for the stop. After the traffic stop, these troopers are finding cash and/or marijuana. It takes an experienced criminal defense attorney in Salt Lake City to fight these cases to suppress evidence illegally obtained.


Utah Law on Drug Possession

For the prosecutor to prove "Possession or Use of a Controlled Substance," the prosecutor must prove that the defendant possessed the controlled substance. The State may prove this element by proving constructive possession of the controlled substance. To find that the defendant had constructive possession of the controlled substance, the evidence must

To find that the defendant had constructive possession of the controlled substance, the evidence must establish a sufficient nexus or connection between the accused and the controlled substance to permit a reasonable inference that defendant had both the power and the intent to exercise dominion and control over the controlled substance. 

Factors relevant to deciding whether defendant constructively possessed the controlled substance, include, but are not limited to:

  • ownership and/or occupancy of the residence, vehicle or property where the controlled substance was found;
  • whether that ownership and/or occupancy was exclusive;
  • presence of defendant at the time the controlled substance was found;
  • defendant’s proximity to the controlled substance;
  • previous drug use;
  • incriminating statements or behavior;
  • presence of the controlled substance in a location where defendant had control; and
  • other people who also had access to the location of the drugs.

Possession of Club Drugs in Utah

The term “club drugs” refers to a variety of drugs that are gaining popularity at all-night dance parties such as raves, dance clubs, and bars. The harmful effects of the drugs can include if they are used in combination with alcohol or marijuana. 

The most common club drugs include GHB & Rohypnol, Ecstasy, Ketamine, 


Drug Courts in Salt Lake County

The Third District has the following drug courts located throughout Salt Lake County: 

  • Salt Lake City Adult Felony Drug Court
  • Salt Lake City Adult Misdemeanor Drug Court
  • Taylorsville Misdemeanor Substance Abuse within Justice Court
  • Tooele Juvenile Delinquency Drug Court
  • Salt Lake County Misdemeanor Adult Drug Court within Justice Court
  • Salt Lake Juvenile Drug Court

New Changes to Utah Law for Controlled Substances 

Effective on October 1, 2015, the Justice Reinvestment Initiative in House Bill 348 changed the penalty for distribution of a controlled substance from 1 to 15 years in prison to 0 to 15 years in prison. 58-37-8(1)(b)

The new legislation changed the penalty for a first or second conviction of possession of a controlled substance to a class A misdemeanor. The penalty for a third or subsequent conviction is a third-degree felony. The new legislation encourages substance use disorder treatment in the community (where treatment is more effective) for non-violent offenders rather than incarceration. 58-37-8(2)(b)

The new legislation removed the tiered penalty structure for possession of marijuana. 58-37-8(2)(b).

The legislation reclassified the penalty for a first or second conviction of acquiring a controlled substance by deception from a third-degree felony to a class A misdemeanor. A third or subsequent conviction remains a third-degree felony. 58-37-8(3).

House Bill 348 restructured the “drug-free zone” sentencing enhancement to focus on drug dealers targeting children by restricting the enhancement to commercial drug offenses committed in the presence of a minor or in areas where children are likely to be present. Additionally, the bill narrows the radius of drug-free zones to 100 feet of the specified facilities. This addresses a significant expansion of drug-free zones over the years, which has resulted in a policy that no longer focuses on crimes taking place in areas where children are likely to be present. 58-37-8(4).


Driver’s License Suspensions for Convictions of Drug Crimes in Utah

Section 53-3-220 provides a list of offenses requiring mandatory revocation, denial, suspension, or disqualification of a driver’s license after a conviction. Subsection 1(c) provides that except when action is taken under Section 53-3-219 for the same offense, the division shall immediately suspend for six months the license of a person upon receiving a record of conviction for:

(i) any violation of:

(A) Title 58, Chapter 37, Utah Controlled Substances Act;

(B) Title 58, Chapter 37a, Utah Drug Paraphernalia Act;

(C) Title 58, Chapter 37b, Imitation Controlled Substances Act;

(D) Title 58, Chapter 37c, Utah Controlled Substance Precursor Act; or

(E) Title 58, Chapter 37d, Clandestine Drug Lab Act; or

(ii) any criminal offense that prohibits:

(A) possession, distribution, manufacture, cultivation, sale, or transfer of any substance that is prohibited under the acts described in Subsection (1)(c)(i); or

(B) the attempt or conspiracy to possess, distribute, manufacture, cultivate, sell, or transfer any substance that is prohibited under the acts described in Subsection (1)(c)(i).


Additional Resources

Salt Lake Narcotics Diversion Unit - The Unified Police Department Narcotics Diversion Unit in Salt Lake City, Utah, is a specialty group of detectives who act as compliance and probation officers for participants in Salt Lake County Felony Drug Courts. The Narcotics Diversion Unit represents the law enforcement arm of drug court. The detectives communicate directly with the judges and legislators to advocate for passing effective controlled substance laws. The Unit for Narcotics Diversion in Salt Lake City also interacts with other members of the drug court community including prosecutors, defense attorneys, and drug treatment providers while making sure drug court participants adhere to the drug court agreement.

Neighborhood Narcotics Unit in Salt Lake City - The Neighborhood Narcotics Unit works with the Drug Enforcement Administration / Metro Narcotics Task Force and the Department of Housing and Urban Development to target street level to mid-range dealers from local communities. The Neighborhood Narcotics Unit work closely with the three patrol divisions and their Community Oriented Policing (COP) units. The unit provides equipment such as undercover vehicles and other technical devices to assist the COP officers. The officers in the unit also help with writing search warrants, doing controlled buys with confidential informants, and formulating viable raid plans. The unit has a single-purpose police canine, certified as a Narcotics Detector Dog, to assist in drug investigations. 


Finding a Drug Crime Attorney in Salt Lake City

At Brown, Bradshaw & Moffat we are very proud of our record in protecting clients' rights. We focus on these drug cases in Salt Lake City, Utah, and understand the issues involved. 

Please take the time to review a small sampling of the results we have obtained for clients.

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