March 1, 2020

Due to the passage of HB19-1263 in late 2019, the Offense Level for many drug charges will be changing to a lower level offense beginning March 1, 2020.  The Colorado General Assembly determined that it would classify most drug possessions cases as misdemeanors with different sentencing options and limited incarceration penalties.  The purpose of this sentencing scheme is to provide offenders who are assessed to be in need of treatment or other intervention with probation supervision in conjunction with effective medical and behavioral intervention and treatment.  For drug possessors who are not in need of treatment, sentencing by the courts system should be limited.  The new sentencing scheme recognizes that drug use and drug possession are primarily health concerns and should be treated as such by Colorado Courts.  As such, District Attorneys are encouraged to file drug charges in the court where treatment and supervision can most effectively be matched to the defendant’s assessed risk and treatment need levels.

What will HB 19-1263 do on March 1, 2020 to Offense Classifications?

  • simple possession of 4 grams or less of a schedule I or II controlled substance (except “date rape” drugs) will become a DM1 – a class 1 drug misdemeanor.
  • District Attorneys are prohibited from charging possession for “miniscule, residual, or unusable amount” of drugs in a syringe “or other drug paraphernalia”, although such evidence can still be used for probable cause or reasonable suspicion in any otherwise lawful stop/search; 
  • simple possession of marijuana over 6 oz. or over 3 oz. of concentrate will become a DM1; 2 to 6 oz. of marijuana or less than 3 oz. of concentrate will become a DM2; and all of these marijuana offenses will be subject to summons only, not an arrest or warrant, so long as the defendant does not fail to appear;
  • the DF4 offense classification for simple possession of any quantity of flunitrazepam; ketamine; gamma hydroxybutyrate, or cathinones; (“date rape” drugs) and more than 4 grams of Schedule I or II controlled substances remains the same;
  •  keeps simple possession of any quantity of Schedule III, IV, or V controlled substances (except “date rape” drugs) a DM1; and a 4th or subsequent offense a DF4 instead of a DM1 (raising the penalty)
  • HOWEVER, the amount of drugs can still be used as evidence in a prosecution for possession with intent, distribution, sale, or manufacture;

What will HB 19-1263 do on March 1, 2020 to the Sentencing Options for drug cases?

  • In any case where Useful Public Service is ordered, a Court may now suspend UPS hours if the Useful Public Service would interfere with “appropriate and necessary treatment or with any other requirements of probation ordered by the court;”
  • Useful Public Service requirements have been removed from Deferred Judgments and diversions;
  • The jail and probationary sentences possible for a DM1 conviction increased to up to 2 years of probation and/or up to 180 days of county jail;
  • The jail and probationary sentences possible for a 3rd or subsequent DM1 conviction increased to up to 2 years of probation and/or up to 364 days of county jail (jail time includes jail as a condition of probation and sanctions for violating probation); maximum fine of $1,000;
  • The jail and probationary sentences possible for a DM2 conviction increased to up to 1 year of probation and/or up to 120 days of county jail;
  • The jail and probationary sentences possible for a 3rd or subsequent DM2 conviction increased to up to 1 year of probation and/or up to 180 days of county jail (jail time includes jail as a condition of probation and sanctions for violating probation); maximum fine of $500;

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