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Utah Criminal Defense Attorney - Drug Free Zones

A drug free zone enhancement to a Utah drug charge can substantially increase the jail or prison time you may face as well as fines that can be imposed. Drug free zone enhancements can apply to drug possession, drug paraphernalia, and drug distribution charges.

Stephen Howard has extensive experience defending a wide variety of drug charges, ranging from first degree felony distribution to misdemeanor marijuana and paraphernalia charges. Based in Salt Lake City, Mr. Howard offers legal services to clients throughout Utah. Contact us today for an initial consultation, and see how an experienced Utah criminal defense lawyer can help you achieve the best result in your case.

Drug Free Zone Penalties in Utah

Utah's criminal code (section 58-37-8(4)) provides for an enhancement that a prosecutor can use to increase the potential penalties of a drug possession, drug distribution, or possession of drug paraphernalia charge. If the drug crime is alleged to have taken place in a drug free zone, the enhancement increases the level of a drug crime by one step. But in Utah's criminal justice system, a one step enhancement means that potential penalties increase by double or even more. Consider the following examples.

A class B misdemeanor charge for simple possession of marijuana can become class A misdemeanor level, with a potential penalty that jumps from 180 days to a maximum potential of 365 days. A third degree felony possession charge becomes a second degree felony, with a possible prison term that increases from a potential five years to a maximum of 15 years. Distribution or even just possession with the intent to distribute can become a first degree felony punishable by up to life in prison. Drug charges that would have otherwise been first degree felonies carry a mandatory prison term with life in prison as a possibility if the crime occurs in a drug free zone.

Utah Drug Free Zones Defined

Drug free zones are defined by statute to include schools, pre-schools, churches, parks, shopping malls, stadiums, theaters, movie theaters, parking lots, libraries, and an area extending 1000 feet from the structures or grounds of those facilities. In many urban and suburban areas, drug free zones cover a larger area than many people realize.

The distance of 1000 feet is longer than three full football fields. And that distance is measured not by the path a person would have to take in order to get to one of the listed places (school, park, etc.) Rather, the distance is measured in a straight line.

The more densely populated the area where you are, the more likely it is that you may accidentally find yourself in a drug free zone. The Wasatch Front contains large unbroken areas that qualify as drug free zones simply because the schools, parks, churches, etc. are so closely packed. Other areas in the state with lower density populations will be more likely to have areas that are not considered drug free zones.

Proving a Utah Drug Free Zone Violation

In order to obtain a drug free zone enhancement, the prosecutor does not have to prove that the defendant knew or had reason to believe that he was in a drug free zone. The prosecutor must simply show that the defendant was in fact within 1000 feet of one of the listed places. Because of the straight line measurement, and the fact that many people underestimate the distance of 1000 feet, many people are surprised to find themselves facing enhanced penalties for a drug free zone violation.

Finding a Utah Criminal Defense Attorney in Salt Lake City

The consequences for a drug conviction in Utah are substantial. A drug free zone enhancement raises the stakes even higher. Don't trust your case to just any attorney. Trust an experienced Utah drug crimes defense attorney with a proven record of achieving real results.

Based in Salt Lake City, criminal defense lawyer Stephen Howard is pleased to offer legal services to clients throughout Utah.  Contact us now to schedule an initial consultation and case analysis.


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Serving Salt Lake, Davis, Weber, Utah, Cache, Tooele, Summit, Box Elder, and Wasatch Counties, and all of Utah.

Attorney Stephen Howard practices as part of the Canyons Law Group, LLC and Stephen W. Howard, PC.

Offices in Salt Lake and Davis Counties
340 East 400 South, Suite 25, Salt Lake City, UT 84111
952 S. Main St., Suite A, Layton, UT 84041

Call now to arrange for a confidential initial consultation with an experienced and effective Utah criminal defense lawyer.

In Salt Lake City, call 801-449-1409.
In Davis County, call 801-923-4345.

Stephen W. Howard, PC

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