4 Things You Should Know About Drug Crimes in Utah

With some of the strictest drug laws in the country, drug crimes in Utah can come with severe and lasting penalties. Additionally, with more of the states surrounding Utah legalizing recreational marijuana, law enforcement is on the lookout for people illegally transporting marijuana through the state—even if it was legally grown and sold in another state.

If you or a loved one has been accused of a drug crime in Utah, here are four things you need to know.

1. What qualifies as drug crime?

One of the most common types of drug charges in Utah is possession. In Utah, the rules for “possession” can include more than you might think.  


There are lengthy definitions to explain exactly what counts as possession under the law, but some of the general definitions of possession of a controlled substance include holding, applying, inhaling, owning, controlling, injecting, and maintaining.

Joint Possession

This is where Utah law gets confusing and tricky. Under Utah law, it is not required that the person individually possess a drug to be charged with possession. The law states that it is enough for a person to have participated with one or more persons in the possession of a controlled substance with the knowledge that the activity was occurring, or the controlled substance is found in a place or under circumstances indicating constructive possession.

In addition to possession crimes, some of the more serious crimes may include possession with intent to distribute, produce, distribute, manufacture, cultivate, traffic, or write a forged prescription.

2. What are the penalties for drug crimes in Utah?

Since there are countless types of drug crimes, penalties vary greatly. Below are a few examples of some crimes and their classifications. Ultimately, a judge will determine the extent of the punishment associated with drug charges.


First or second conviction of possession* of a controlled substance:

Class A misdemeanor - Imprisonment for a term of no more than one year and a fine of no more than $2,500

Third or subsequent conviction of possession* of a controlled substance:

Third-degree felony - Imprisonment for a term of no more than five years and a fine of no more than $5,000

For crimes more serious than possession, such as distribution, production, manufacturing, sales, and organized criminal activity, the classifications are serious felonies.


*Possession of certain substances such as marijuana or cannabis in an amount less than 100 pounds is a class B misdemeanor, which carries a punishment in Utah of imprisonment for a term of no more than six months and a fine of no more than $1,000.


When a drug crime is committed in the presence of a minor or in a “drug free zone,” which is defined as within 100 feet of areas where children might be present (such as schools, parks, libraries), the crime is increased to a more severe classification (class B misdemeanor to class A misdemeanor etc.)

 Driver License Suspension

In addition to criminal charges, the penalty for many drug crimes is a mandatory revocation, denial, suspension, or disqualification of a driver license after a conviction. The code for this penalty is long and complex. The experienced lawyers at Brown, Bradshaw & Moffat can help you determine how your charges might affect your ability to drive.

Drug Court

Drug courts in Utah were created to reduce repeat offenders and to try and address the underlying issues that lead people to commit drug crimes. According to the Utah drug courts website, the goal is to recognize “that unless substance abuse ends, fines and jail time are unlikely to prevent future criminal activity.”

3. How does drug court work in Utah?

Drug court is a minimum of 52 weeks with 6 months of clean drug test. In drug court, defendants plead guilty, but that plea is held in abeyance until the program is completed. Part of the program includes treatment and counseling, frequent and random drug testing, and appearances before a judge. Non-compliance with the program could lead to jail time. Graduation from the program means your plea will be withdrawn and criminal charges are dismissed.


If you have a felony drug charge in Salt Lake County and no history of violence, you can be screened for drug court. You may also be sent to drug court instead of sentencing in the justice system.

4. Do I need a lawyer to represent my drug case?

If you have been charged with a drug crime in Utah, whether it is a misdemeanor possession charge or a more serious felony charge, you deserve to have your rights protected. A free consultation with the criminal lawyers at Brown, Bradshaw & Moffat will help you determine the best course of action for your case. Our defense team has handled drug cases for decades, and we will help you navigate the traditional justice system or Utah’s drug courts.

Contact us at (801) 532-5297 if you have questions about Utah’s drug laws or if you are ready to talk about the best way to defend your case.

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