Can A Passenger In A Vehicle Also Be Charged If Drugs Are Found?
Yes, a passenger in your car can also be charged. It goes back to the definition of possession that I mentioned a while ago. They can have four people in a car, and the driver is getting ready to light up a joint, and pass it around to the other individuals in the car. They see an officer pulling up behind them and they stash it. It is halfway burnt, or it is still burning or something to that effect. If there is smoke, and the officers contacts the driver, and smells the smoke, or the odor of marijuana, and pulls everyone out, he finds the joint under the seat, and no one admits to it, the officer can charge all four of them with possession of marijuana. Based on that broad definition of possession, the other passengers had knowledge, or knew about this, or were about to exercise control over that joint.
You can employ that statutory language to other cases like cocaine, methamphetamine, or something like that. If someone has a meth lab in their garage, and they are living there with their families and stuff like that, those people had knowledge of that lab. They can be charged, even though it was not theirs per se, and even if they did not have any in their possession, or had not used any when they went and tested them. The fact that they had that knowledge, and helped facilitate that, they can be charged.
What Is The General Timeline Of A Drug Related Case In Utah?
The drug cases tend to get resolved fairly quick. I would say, on a felony level, they could be resolved within six to seven months. The biggest thing is getting the analysis back from the lab. Therefore, if law enforcement collects a controlled substance, and they have to send it to a forensic lab to be analyzed, sometimes the labs take a while to get those results. Sometimes, I have seen the results come back in sixty to ninety days. Once we have that back, we can confirm what the controlled substance is, and we can look at the procedures used by the laboratory to make sure that they were correct and appropriate by a qualified individual. After we do that, then we can move forward quickly through plea negotiations, or scheduling for a trial.
If it is a trial, then it may go out as long as a year, depending on the court’s trial calendar, but I would say most of them could be resolved within six months, based on what the lab provides us with.
What Are The Potential Penalties Associated With Drug Convictions In Utah?
On most first possession cases, it is my belief that the focus of the courts is to get the individual the help they need. If there is a conviction, or a guilty verdict, then the big issue that I have seen with the courts is treatment. They want to get them into the right kind of treatment provider so they do not have this problem in the future. Sometimes there is a lot of illegal activity that goes on with drug possession, and drug charges. If the courts believe they can fix the problem, make the person get an evaluation, and follow through with drug testing, and they are clean for a period of eight to twelve months, then the fine is minimal. Sometimes there is minimal jail or no jail at all, because the focus is on the rehabilitation.
When you get to repeat offenders, such as second and third offenders, they will focus on treatment but it is more intensive. The treatment might be a program you do inside jail. You might spend six months inside where you cannot have access to drugs. If you are going through special programs by the Department of Corrections, then you have to demonstrate, and work through the different levels of these treatment programs before you can get out. They have drug courts for first time offenders. This is where you enter the drug court program, comply with all the rules, work with them, and then sometimes the charges will be reduced, or even dismissed. In general, a first offense drug charge, on a felony case might be fifteen to thirty days in jail. Sometimes that can be converted to home confinement, community service, or something like that.
It just depends on the judge, or what county we are in, and other circumstances. Consideration is by a sentencing court, or it can be in prison. If you are drug trafficking, and part of a large criminal, organization then you can be sent to prison, including federal prison, and be locked away for quite a while. Most of what we handle is for second or third time offenders in the state system. We can keep people out of prison if we focus on the treatment, and signaling to the court that they are trying to rehabilitate themselves to kick this addiction. Consider it like a disease as far as possession type cases go, even on the second or third offenses. They treat it like a disease. We do not put people in prison, or jail for cancer, or for having diabetes, and things like that.
That is how I approach it. I help my clients get treatment, because that is what is ultimately going to be in the best interests of the client. On the distribution cases, they are a bit tougher. There might be more jail time. The judge might be quicker to send someone to prison on a second, or third distribution charge, because on a third distribution charge, the judge might express you are not getting the point here. You do not have a disease, you do not have an addiction, you have more of a money problem, and that is not good for the community. I will send you to prison for a bit. In each case, we try to do our best to tailor our representation to the individual’s needs, and help them through the system the best way we can.
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