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Colorado Senate approves removal of drug felonies as habitual offences

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By Candice Geier

The Colorado State Senate on Friday, Feb. 18, passed a bill to help people who are convicted of class 6 drug felony charges instead of jailing them.

Senate Bill 11-096 removes the possibility of people, who are charged with class 6 drug felonies, from being considered habitual offenders. At this time, if a person was convicted of a class 6 felony drug possession charge three times, they would be considered habitual offenders. Convictions in other states count toward the required three.

According to the bill, if class 6 drug possession felony offences are removed from the habitual offender list, more people will choose to plea bargain and receive probation.

Photo courtesy of morguefile.com.

Probation for drug charges generally includes therapy and counseling to remove the substance addiction from an offender’s life. Providing recovery would be proactive in limiting future substance abuse, according to the bill.

After the third reading of Senate Bill 11-096, and passage out of the Senate Judiciary Committee, the senate passed the bill unanimously.

The bill has moved to Colorado’s House of Representatives and is being reviewed by its Judiciary Committee. If the House Judiciary Committee votes in favor of the bill, it will move to the House floor to be voted on. The existing law could then be changed.

The current punishment for habitual offenders is stiffer than for non-habitual offenders, according to current state statutes.
When a person is convicted of a class 6 drug possession felony, they receive an average sentence of 12 and half months in a Department of Corrections facility.

If the person becomes a habitual offender they will serve up to four times the maximum amount of time they can receive for one offence, according to current state statutes. The average amount of time they would serve is approximately five years in a department of corrections facility for class 6 drug possession charges.

There are many types of class 6 drug possession offences that include an array of prescription medications and street drugs.

If a person does not have a medical marijuana license, for use or cultivation, and they are found in possession of more than 12 ounces, they will receive a class 6 felony drug possession charge.

If a person is found in possession of 4 grams or more of other substances, such as ketamine (a tranquilizer) or pharmaceuticals, they can also be charged with a class 6 drug possession felonies. Two grams or less of methamphetamine is also a class 6 drug possession felony.

Class 6 drug felonies are not considered as severe as Classes 1-5 drug felony charges.