Despite the recent changes in the marijuana laws, many other drug laws in Colorado are now harsher than they were only a few years back. What are the penalties for drug trafficking, and how can a Denver drug crimes attorney defend yourself if Colorado authorities charge you with a drug trafficking crime?

You will also learn what steps you must take if you are charged – rightly or wrongly – with drug trafficking by state or federal authorities or with violating any of the other drug laws in this state.

Q: HOW IS “DRUG TRAFFICKING” DEFINED IN COLORADO?

A: Drug trafficking happens when someone moves large amounts of illegal drugs for the purpose of distribution. Under Colorado law, trafficking may also include:

  • manufacturing, dispensing, or distributing an illegal drug
  • possession of chemicals, supplies, and/or equipment for illegal drug manufacturing

Q: HOW DOES COLORADO HANDLE DRUG TRAFFICKING CHARGES?

A: Drug trafficking in Colorado is almost always charged as a felony. Trafficking is a misdemeanor only when it involves:

  • a drug classified by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a schedule V drug
  • transferring (without selling) four grams or fewer of a schedule III or schedule IV drug

Q: WHEN IS DRUG TRAFFICKING A FEDERAL CRIME?

A: A variety of both federal and state drug trafficking laws have been established. The federal drug trafficking laws are designed so that federal law enforcement agencies can essentially intervene or take over drug trafficking cases whenever they choose to.

courthouse columns

Still, most drug trafficking cases will be charged at the state level unless:

  • A large trafficking operation is investigated and uncovered by federal drug agents.
  • The drug trafficking was accomplished by crossing a state line.

Q: DOES TRAFFICKING CANNABIS REMAIN ILLEGAL?

A: The state of Colorado has tried to make it abundantly clear that when marijuana legally produced in this state crosses a state line, the marijuana is no longer legal, and drug trafficking has been committed. Trafficking across a state line is also likely to trigger a federal charge.

Q: HOW DOES COLORADO PENALIZE A DRUG TRAFFICKING CONVICTION?

A: Colorado drug trafficking laws are aggressively enforced, and most defendants who are convicted may expect harsh penalties:

  • for a Class 1 felony: from 8 to 32 years in prison and a fine of up to $1 million
  • for a Class 2 felony: from 4 to 16 years in prison and a fine of up to $750,000
  • for a Class 3 felony: from 2 to 6 years in prison and a fine of up to $500,000
  • for a Class 1 misdemeanor: from 6 to 18 months in custody and a fine of up to $5,000

arrestee in handcuffs

Penalties can be even harsher if a convicted offender has previous drug convictions, if the crime happened in the vicinity of a school, or if juveniles or firearms were involved with the crime in any way.

Q: HOW ARE FEDERAL DRUG TRAFFICKING CONVICTIONS PENALIZED?

A: If you’re convicted in a federal court of trafficking illegal drugs, the penalties that may be imposed include:

  • probation for one to three years
  • a fine that could be as much as $1 million
  • a prison term of up to ten years – and longer if firearms were involved in the crime

Some drug convictions at the federal level mandate minimum prison sentences. If you are convicted of a federal drug trafficking charge, you will almost certainly serve a minimum term of five years in federal prison.

Q: COULD YOU FACE BOTH FEDERAL AND STATE CHARGES?

A: Yes, you could face federal and state drug trafficking charges at the same time. If you are dealing with legal charges at both levels simultaneously, the legal complications will be enormous.

In Colorado, if you are charged with drug trafficking in federal court, state court, or both courts simultaneously, you must obtain sound legal advice and aggressive defense representation from a reliable defense lawyer who has abundant experience handling drug trafficking cases.

Q: WHAT LEGAL DEFENSES CAN BE OFFERED IN TRAFFICKING CASES?

A: If you are charged with a drug trafficking crime in Colorado, you must contact an experienced Denver criminal defense attorney immediately. A good criminal defense lawyer will protect your rights, fight for the justice you need, and bring your case to its best possible conclusion.

The legal strategy your attorney pursues in your defense must be based on the specific details of the charge against you, but generally speaking, these are the defenses most commonly offered by good defense attorneys in drug trafficking cases:

  • The drugs were not yours, and you did not know anything about them.
  • The police gathered the evidence against you by violating your constitutional rights.
  • The drugs were for your personal use, and you had no intention of trafficking the drugs.

drug crimes lawyers in CO

Depending on the particulars of your case, your defense lawyer will determine the most effective and appropriate defense strategy for contesting the charge or charges against you.

If the police violated your Fourth Amendment rights, it is possible that incriminating evidence against you will be suppressed, and sometimes that’s enough to have the charge against you reduced or entirely dismissed.

Q: HOW WILL TOP LAW FIRMS HELP YOU FIGHT A DRUG TRAFFICKING CHARGE?

A: If you’re charged with trafficking or any other drug crime in Colorado, contact an experienced Denver criminal defense attorney as quickly as possible. In a drug trafficking case, a good defense attorney will:

  • ensure that you don’t incriminate yourself during questioning
  • try to have the charge dismissed, or the evidence against you suppressed
  • recommend entering a guilty plea or a not guilty plea
  • negotiate with a prosecutor and recommend accepting or rejecting a plea bargain
  • represent you at all courtroom hearings
  • offer the most appropriate legal defense
  • represent you at trial (if your case goes to trial)

Q: WILL YOU BE CONVICTED IF YOU’RE CHARGED WITH TRAFFICKING?

A: Do not presume that a trafficking charge automatically means a conviction. Drug trafficking charges, in many cases, are difficult to prove beyond a reasonable doubt. The state may not have sufficient evidence to convict you or may not be able to prove that you intended to traffic drugs.

state's evidence

If you are charged with any drug crime in Colorado, you must select a defense attorney who has ample experience with drug cases, who can find the flaws in the government’s case against you, and who will work resolutely for the justice you deserve. A good lawyer’s help is your right.

By: Dan Murphy

Denver criminal defense lawyer Daniel M. Murphy provides clients in the Denver area with aggressive and sympathetic legal representation. He graduated from the University of Denver Law School in 1994 and worked as a public defender before starting his own practice in 1996. He has defended clients accused of the most difficult criminal and alcohol-related charges. He also serves as a Moot Court Judge for Denver-area law students who rely on his mentorship.