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Statute of Limitations for Colorado Drug Charges

Posted on 04/28/23

The statute of limitations is a window within which a prosecutor can bring charges against a defendant. The length of the limitation period varies depending on the crime charged. Crimes like murder or treason are exempted from a statute of limitations, so individuals can be prosecuted at any point in time for these severe offenses Crimes like petty theft or vandalism usually have shorter limitation periods, which can be less than a year.

Statute of Limitations – Drug Charges

This deadline for drug charges changes depending on the level of the charge.

Felony Drug Charges

Possession of more than four grams of Schedule I or II drugs is a felony in Colorado, and so is manufacturing or distributing. The statute of limitations for felony charges is three years. Therefore, the prosecutor must file charges within three years of the date of the offense. If they fail to do so, you can’t be charged with that crime anymore. 

Misdemeanor Drug Charges

If you have less than four grams of a controlled substance, it is a misdemeanor, and you only have 18 months to be charged.

Petty Drug Offenses

In Colorado, possessing up to 2 ounces of marijuana, drug paraphernalia, or prescribed drugs in an unauthorized container without being able to prove legal ownership are all considered petty drug offenses. For these offenses, the statute of limitations is six months.

Exceptions To The Statute of Limitations

The statute of limitations for most crimes, including drug charges, begins when the crime is committed. It’s important to know that there are times when the statute of limitations will be paused, and the state has a more extended deadline to file charges.

The statute of limitations pauses if the defendant leaves the state of Colorado. This means that if a person suspected of drug charges flees the state, the clock stops running until they return to Colorado. Regardless of the circumstances, the statute of limitations in Colorado terminates after a period of five years. If a drug offense happened over five years ago, it’s probably not able to be prosecuted.

Why Does The Statute of Limitations Exist?

Statutes of limitations exist for a few reasons. The primary reason why the statute of limitations exists is to promote justice and fairness. Memories fade, evidence deteriorates, and witnesses disappear over time. If a prosecution is delayed for too long, obtaining a fair trial can be difficult or even impossible. 

In these cases, the defendant may be prejudiced because they cannot mount an effective defense or because exculpatory evidence is lost or destroyed. By limiting the time period within which a person can be charged, the law ensures that justice is served while also protecting the rights of defendants.

Additionally, it prevents prosecutors from holding the threat of prosecution over them indefinitely. This allows the accused to move on with their lives without the constant threat of prosecution hanging over their head.

There are also logistical reasons why the statute of limitations exists. Courts can only handle a certain number of cases at once, as they have limited time and resources. If prosecutors could bring charges for any crime at any time, the criminal justice system would be even more overwhelmed than it already is

If you need help with a criminal charge or have questions about the statute of limitations, contact our Colorado Springs drug defense attorneys to schedule a free consultation.