Drugs and the laws surrounding them can seem complicated. There are various levels of drug charges, and infractions can be tried as misdemeanors or felonies, which is determined by a large number of factors that can be difficult to understand. Elements such as the classification of drugs, the amount that you have on you, your intent regarding the drugs, and any previous criminal convictions can play into what you will be charged with and how you will be punished.

The lawyers at Joyner Law have a wealth of experience fighting drug charges, and we have constructed a guide for you to understand the basics of drug scheduling, drug crimes, and the associated penalties. Read on to find out about how drug infractions are classified and charged.

Drug Scheduling

According to the DEA, drugs are classified into five categories based on their level of accepted medical usage and their potential for abuse. The higher the schedule listing, the more potential for chemical dependency and the higher the illegality. Theoretically, schedule I drugs are classed as the most dangerous with a high potential for overdose or addiction.

The five schedules, or classifications can be broken down as follows:

  • Schedule I: Examples of schedule I drugs include marijuana, heroin, LSD, methaqualone, ecstasy and peyote. This is the highest classification of the drug schedule, and includes drugs that have a high incidence of psychological or physiological addiction, as well as a high potential for abuse. These drugs also have no current acceptable medical usage.
  • Schedule II: Schedule II drugs also have a high rate of abuse and dependence, but they are recognized as having a limited capacity for medical usage, although they are still considered dangerous. Examples of schedule II drugs include Vicodin, cocaine, meth, Adderall, Ritalin, fentanyl, OxyContin, Demerol, and Dilaudid. 
  • Schedule III: These types of drugs have a lower potential for abuse and dependency, and they are more often used in medical contexts. Examples include drugs with a low threshold of codeine, steroids, testosterone, and ketamine.
  • Schedule IV: These types of drugs are often used in medical settings and have a low incidence of abuse and dependency. They include Ambien, Xanax, Soma, Valium, Ativan, Darvon, Darvocet, and Tramadol.
  • Schedule V: These types of drugs are not considered chemically addictive and they are often used medically. Examples of schedule V drugs include drugs with minimal amounts of codeine, Lyrica, Motofen, and Parepectolin.

Types Of Drug Charges

When it comes to drug charges and their penalties, these can also be roughly broken down into a classification system, with misdemeanor offenses on the lowest end of the skill and high classes of felonies on the highest end of the scale.

When it comes to drug infractions, you are most likely to be charged for a crime like possession, which can be labeled as a misdemeanor or a felony–we will get to that shortly–based on certain factors. More serious drug crimes typically charged as felonies include infractions such as possession with intent to sell, drug manufacturing, and drug trafficking.

One important aspect to note is that, although marijuana is legal in Colorado, it can only be used by people 21 and older, and a person can only possess up to 2 oz. at any given time.

Misdemeanor Charges

There are a few drug infractions that can be charged as a misdemeanor, and they can be broken down into two levels, as follows:

Level I Misdemeanor 

Possession is often charged as a misdemeanor. Level I possession charges are more serious than level II possession charges. You can be charged with level I misdemeanor possession if you:

  • Are found in possession of schedule III, IV, or V drugs
  • Possess more than 6 oz of marijuana
  • Possess up to 4 grams of a schedule I or II charge

If you are found guilty of this type of possession, you might face such penalties as:

  • Fines up to $1,000
  • Up to 180 days in jail
  • Up to 2 years of probation
  • Community service

Level II Misdemeanor

Level II misdemeanors are less serious than level I misdemeanors, and there are a variety of infractions that can lead to this type of charge, including:

  • Possession of more than 2 but less than 6 oz of marijuana
  • Use of a controlled substance
  • Abusing vapors
  • Advertising drug paraphernalia
  • Attempting a crime that would result in a higher drug charge

The consequences for this type of charge might include:

  • Fines up to $500
  • Up to 120 days in jail
  • Probation up to a year
  • Community service

Felony Charges

Drug infractions can be very serious and many of them will be charged as felonies. If convicted on these charges, you could face serious penalties, including significant time in prison. Felony charges are also ranked on a scale, so let’s take a closer look:

Level I Felony

A level I felony drug charge is the most serious type of drug offense. You can be charged with this type of offense if you are caught:

  • Selling schedule I or schedule II drugs (more than 225 grams)
  • Selling over 50 pounds of marijuana
  • Selling over 2.5 pounds of marijuana to a minor
  • Selling drugs while on probation for a felony offense
  • And more. These are only a few of the most common offenses.

If you are found guilty of a Level I felony for your drug infraction, you are facing charges such as:

  • Revocation of your second amendment rights
  • 8 to 32 years in prison
  • Up to $1,000,000 in fines
  • 3 years of parole

Aggravating factors, especially those related to previous felony convictions or being on parole, can increase these punishments, which is true of any drug offense.

Level II Felony

These penalties are not as harsh as Level I felonies but still incredibly serious. You can be charged with this type of felony if you:

  • Sell more than 14 grams but less than 225 grams of a schedule I or II substance
  • Sell materials to manufacture controlled substances
  • Possess materials to make meth and amphetamines

The punishment for this type of felony includes, but is not limited to:

  • 4 to 8 years in prison (8 to 16 with aggravated circumstances)
  • Up to $750,000 in fines

Again, there are harsher penalties involved in circumstances such as if you are on parole for a previous felony conviction!

Level III Felony

When you commit a level III felony, the stakes are high, but not as harsh as the penalties for the previous two categories. You can be charged with a level III felony when you:

  • Attempt to commit a level II drug felony
  • Sell 14 grams or fewer of schedule I or II drugs
  • Sell imitation substances to a minor (when you are an adult two years their senior)

Penalties you are likely to experience include:

  • Fines of up to $500,000
  • Prison time from 2 to 4 years
  • One year of parole

Level IV Felony

Though this is the lowest level penalty on this classification, a level IV felony is still a felony and has the potential to derail the rest of your life. You can be charged with a level IV felony if you:

  • Attempt to commit a level III drug felony
  • Sell schedule III and IV drugs of no more than 4 grams
  • Are found in possession of no more than 4 grams of a schedule I or II drug

Penalties you could be facing include:

  • Fines up to $100,000
  • Prison time from 6 months to a year

Joyner Law Can Help You With Your Drug Charges

If you are being charged with a drug crime, Joyner Law can help. We have experience having our clients’ drug charges reduced to lesser offenses or dismissed altogether. Reach out to schedule a free initial consultation and learn how we can help defend your rights.