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The penalties for unlawful possession of prescription medication

On Behalf of | Nov 18, 2021 | Drug Charges

It is illegal to possess certain drugs without a valid prescription in Colorado. A person commits the crime of unlawful drug possession if they have a prescription medication without the medical need for it.

The penalties for this crime depend on the type of drug and the amount a person has. However, even the lesser penalties include jail time and expensive fines. If you have a charge for unlawful possession of prescription medication, you have the right to defend yourself in court before any conviction.

Not all drugs are the same

A person commits the crime of drug possession when they have a controlled substance. The drugs in prescription medication are controlled substances, so a person commits the offense of unlawful possession if they lack the necessary prescription for a medication. The penalties for this crime vary depending on the substance’s schedule.

Colorado classifies substances into five schedules: I, II, III, IV and V. The lower the schedule, the more addictive and dangerous a substance is. Schedule I drugs are not allowed for medical use, so a prescription drug can’t classify as such. However, prescription medication can classify under any of the remaining schedules:

  • A schedule II drug: opioid extracts, amphetamines, oxycodone, morphine, methadone or hydrocodone, etc.
  • A schedule III drug: codeine, hydrocode, anabolic steroids, etc.
  • A schedule IV drug: anti-anxiety and sleep medications, stimulants on the nervous system, etc.
  • A schedule V drug: cold syrups, buprenorphine, medications with a small amount of codeine, etc.

The court imposes the most severe penalties on those who get caught with a Schedule II drug. The lower the number of the drug’s schedule, the more severe the offense is.

Possible penalties

The penalties for unlawful possession of prescription drugs depend on the schedule of the drug in question and the amount that the person has. The penalties can be:

  • A term of imprisonment of 2 to 6 years in prison and a fine between $2,000 and $500,000 If a person has more than 4g of a Schedule II substance (Class 4 felony)
  • A term of imprisonment of 1 to 1.5 years in jail and a fine up to $100,000 if a person has less than 4g of a schedule II substance (Class 6 felony)
  • A term of imprisonment of up to 18 months in jail and a fine up to $10,000 if a person has any amount of a schedule III, IV or V substance (except for flunitrazepam or ketamine).

If a person commits a drug possession felony three times, the penalties they would face would be more severe. 

Your right to defense

If the authorities charged you with possession of a controlled substance, you must know that a criminal charge does not necessarily lead to a conviction. You still have the right to defend yourself in court. Only by building a strong defense could you avoid facing the harsh penalties of this crime.

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