Prosecutors have charged Patrick Sullivan, 68, with felony distribution and possession of meth as well as a misdemeanor charge of soliciting prostitution.
Authorities said he offered methamphetamine to a man in exchange for sex in a sting set up last week by a drug task force.
His hearing Monday in Arapahoe County Court was a procedural one in which prosecutors advised a judge what charges they have filed. Citing Sullivan's clean criminal record, the judge lowered Sullivan's bond.
He has been in an isolation cell at the Patrick J. Sullivan Jr. Detention Facility, a suburban Denver jail named in his honor. Standard procedure for current or former law enforcement officials is that they be kept from the general inmate population for their safety.
Sullivan also is charged with attempting to influence a public servant following a Sept. 20 report of an "old man" inside a home that the caller said he wanted to leave.
An incident report notes a man at the house reported Sullivan was getting three recovering addicts back into drugs. Sullivan falsely told investigators he was helping them out as part of his work with a law enforcement and state drug rehab program, according to the document.
Sheriff's officials said Sullivan has declined to grant interviews while incarcerated.
He was sheriff of the suburban Denver county from 1984 until 2002, when he retired. He was hailed as a hero following a daring 1989 rescue in which he crashed a vehicle through a fence to provide cover for two of his deputies who were pinned by gunfire. Sullivan was also named Sheriff of the Year by the National Sheriff's Association and praised by former Rep. Tom Tancredo in 2002.
Current Arapahoe County sheriff, Grayson Robinson, has said that police talked to him in January about Sullivan as part of an investigation into the unsolved drowning death of a man. Robinson said a detective contacted him in January for insight into the personality of Sullivan.
Denver police refuse to say whether they questioned Sullivan or what information they sought in the Jan. 26 drowning death of 27-year-old Sean Moss.
An autopsy found intoxication from meth and gamma-hydroxybutryic acid that's a rave drug known by various street names such as "Liquid Ecstasy," which is also a date rape drug, contributed to Moss' death.
Police spokesman Sonny Jackson said the case remains open because the coroner was unable to determine if Moss' death was accidental, a suicide or homicide.
The Denver Post reported that Sullivan had posted bail for Moss after his arrest Jan. 14 in a domestic violence case in Centennial, a suburb of Denver. That case involved a fight that broke out in a car on Interstate 25 between Moss and a man described by investigators as Moss' boyfriend, according to an incident report from the Arapahoe County sheriff's office.
The incident report said Moss and the other man were living together at the time. Both men were arrested but charges were later dropped. Moss' body was found in the South Platte River northeast of downtown Denver.
Robinson said he knew little about the Moss investigation because that was Denver's case.
Authorities have also arrested a Denver man suspected of supplying methamphetamine to Sullivan. Timothy Faase, 49, is accused of drug trafficking and possession of more than 2 grams of methamphetamine.