Anyone charged with a drug crime in Utah should now be aware of the state’s most recent changes to legal statutes for controlled substances. As of 2015, state judges throughout Utah began delivering sentences for certain types of drug crimes that emphasized intensive treatment instead of the traditional sentence that recommended incarceration.
HB348, which is often referred to as the Justice Reinvestment Initiative, mandates the new revised drug laws. The Justice Reinvestment Initiative is based on the careful study, review, and precise recommendations by the Utah Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice (CCJJ). This sweeping new legislation was approved by the Utah State Legislature and signed into law by Governor Gary Herbert on March 31, 2015. The revised legislation went into effect on October 1, 2015.
A particular section of House Bill 248 is completely devoted to drug possession in fact. The revised statute is located at Utah Code § 58-37-8 as previously presented before the revisions. These groundbreaking reforms for various drug crimes related to the possession of controlled substances were implemented to assist non-violent offenders in their effort to become law-abiding members of their communities once again.
The intention of the reforms was to save taxpayer money and reserve more severe penalties for strictly violent criminals. In addition, the new reforms give innocent persons increased leverage in their plea negotiations when facing misdemeanor charges, aiding them to potentially avoid harsh felony penalties.
Another benefit of the new legislation is that it will allow defendants who are convicted of controlled substance offenses to retain their driver’s licenses during the process if they agree to participate in an approved substance abuse treatment program.
Felony Drug-Possession For Personal Use Downgraded To Misdemeanor
House Bill 348 amends Schedule I or II controlled substances (including drugs like OxyContin, methamphetamines, and heroin) to class A misdemeanors, thus they are no longer considered as a felony for the first two convictions. A Class A misdemeanor carries a statutory maximum sentence, which is up to 12 months in jail and a $2,500 fine.
NOTE: Any third offense for the possession of a Schedule I or II controlled substance would then be charged as a third-degree felony.
Before October 1, 2015, any person that was convicted of drug possession for personal use, referred to as simple possession, could have been charged with a second-degree felony (carrying a sentence of 1 to 15 years) or a first-degree felony (carrying a sentence of 5 years to life). With the new revisions, these offenses will be charged simply as class A misdemeanors that carry lower maximum statutory penalties across the board.
Read More: ‘Drug-Free Zone’ Areas Reduced In Utah
Charges are only increased to a felony after an offender’s third conviction. It is important to note however that the sweeping changes in House Bill 348 did not revise Utah’s existing drug laws for those who are accused of selling or trafficking drugs.
Serious drug crimes for production, manufacturing, sales, distribution, and organized criminal activity, in general, are still absolutely classified as felony offenses.
Marijuana Possession Charges Downgraded To Class B Misdemeanor
The new version of Utah Code § 58-37-8(2)(d) has revised a violation of Subsection (2)(a)(i) for drug possession of certain substances such as cannabis or marijuana (in an amount less than 100 pounds) to a Class B misdemeanor. The current statutory maximum penalties for Class B misdemeanors recommend up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.
Marijuana possession is now a Class A misdemeanor for a third conviction. And the new revised legislation has eliminated the weight thresholds in regard to marijuana offenses and has now reclassified marijuana possession—including offenses previously classified as third-degree felonies or Class A misdemeanors—to Class B misdemeanors. However, the possession of marijuana in an amount of 100 pounds or greater is still classified as a second-degree felony offense.
241 Misdemeanors Downgraded To Infractions
The revised legislation has downgraded 241 misdemeanor crimes to simple infractions. Note that the standard penalties for criminal traffic offenses such as DUI and reckless driving, however, have not been amended under this new legislation.
For more information on New Drug Laws Under Utah Code 58-37-8, an initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (801) 455-1743 today.