Does Utah Have Strict Drug Laws?

Understanding Potential Penalties for Possession of a Controlled Substance

Utah has very strict drug laws. Possessing even the smallest amount of drugs can land you in serious trouble, facing felony charges. If you have been charged with possession of a controlled substance, it’s important that you understand the laws that may apply to you and the consequences you may be facing.

Utah’s Drug Laws

Utah’s drug laws are primarily governed by the Utah Controlled Substances Act (UCSA), which classifies drugs into various schedules based on several different factors. There are five schedules of drugs. For example, fentanyl is a Schedule I controlled substance, and oxycodone is a Schedule II controlled substance.  

Under the law, it’s illegal for a person to knowingly and intentionally possess a controlled substance unless it was obtained under a valid prescription. While that might sound reasonable, you might be surprised to learn that it’s also illegal for an owner or other person in control of a building, room, or even vehicle to knowingly and intentionally permit any of those places to be occupied by someone who unlawfully possesses, uses or distributes controlled substances in that location.

Penalties for Drug Offenses

Generally, it is a class A misdemeanor for a first or second offense to possess a Schedule I or Schedule II controlled substance. A third offense for this type of charge within seven years can be enhanced to a third-degree felony. However, there are exceptions to the general rules. For example, possession of 100 pounds or more of marijuana is a second-degree felony.

The level of offense (misdemeanor vs. felony) will determine the potential penalties you face. If you are charged with a class A misdemeanor, you could face up to a year in jail. For a felony, you could be facing prison. A judge may also sentence you to pay fines, do community service, complete probation, or get substance abuse treatment.

Problem-Solving Courts

Despite strict drug laws, Utah has shown some signs of progress in addressing drug-related issues through alternative approaches. For example, many courts in Utah offer “drug court.” Drug courts recognize that people who are facing drug-related charges will not be helped with long jail sentences and hefty fines. Instead, these courts focus on substance abuse treatment with frequent drug testing and court supervision. This model works to address the underlying substance abuse or addiction issue, not punish it.


Utah has stringent drug laws. Possessing illegal drugs, or drugs without a proper prescription, can land you in serious trouble. Depending on your criminal history and the amount of drugs you have, you could be charged with a misdemeanor or felony offense. If you are charged with possession of a controlled substance, talk to your criminal defense lawyer about the best way to handle your case to ensure that your rights are protected and you are treated fairly.

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