Arizona Drug Possession Laws
Arizona drug possession laws and sentencing are complex. Your sentence, if convicted, will depend on at least the following factors:
- The specific crime or combination of crimes—particularly whether the offense is possession for personal use as it involves intent to sell/actual sale/transportation for sale, etc.
- How many prior offenses you have
- The quantity of drugs involved
- Any mitigating or aggravating factors
In addition to potential jail time, probation, etc., Arizona provides for financial penalties in the form of fines that reach as high as $150,000 for each criminal charge for individuals, and as high as $1,000,000 for each criminal charge for enterprises. The same factors listed above generally determine the amounts.
In short, you need the assistance of an experienced Arizona criminal defense lawyer. He can help you figure out what your potential sentence might be if you face conviction.
Statutory Threshold Amounts Call for Incarceration
In many cases, a range of sentencing options is possible, including probation and diversion programs. This is not the case when the quantity of drugs involved meets or exceeds the “statutory threshold.” In that case, prison time is mandatory. Section 13-401 of the Arizona statutes specifically defines the “threshold amount” of various drugs as:
- Heroin—1 gram
- Cocaine—9 grams or, if in the form of cocaine base or hydrolyzed, 750 milligrams
- PCP—4 grams or 50 milliliters
- Amphetamine and methamphetamine—9 grams
- LSD—.5 milliliters or, if in blotter form, 50 doses
- Marijuana—2 pounds
For any other illegal drug, the threshold amount is any amount that is valued at $1,000 or more. Note that this means that the threshold amount of any illegal drug not listed above will actually vary as the drug’s value goes up or down and raises serious questions as to how the value is determined.
For the charge of possession for personal use, the court generally gives first offenders probation. Completing a drug treatment or education program is one of the probation conditions, and the court requires defendants to bear the cost of the program to the extent that they are financially capable of doing so. Probation is also common for second offenders, but the court may make incarceration a condition of probation. Various other circumstances affect whether the court imposes incarceration for these offenses.
The more serious offenses of distribution, transportation, etc., are class 2 felonies with maximum sentences of many years in prison, if they involve narcotics, a listed “dangerous drug, or more than 2 pounds of marijuana. Methamphetamine is singled out for an even higher maximum penalty.
Under Arizona drug possession laws, distribution of less than 2 pounds of marijuana is a class 3 felony with a lower maximum sentence. Distribution of prescription drugs is a class 6 felony with a still lower maximum sentence.
Most drug charges in Arizona involve multiple offenses. This means that the defendant is accused of several illegal acts based on the same event. For example, possession of a drug combined with possession of drug paraphernalia, or both transportation for sale and the actual sale. For multiple offense cases, Arizona provides a comprehensive scheme based on whether it is the first, second, or third and higher offense, whether the quantity of drugs exceeds the statutory threshold amount.
The penalties cover a broad range even for the same offense. For example, a class 2 felony that is a second offense, involves a quantity below the threshold amount, and presents mitigating factors draws a 3-year sentence. If the class 2 felony is a third or higher offense, involves drug quantities above the threshold amount, and present aggravating factors the draws a 15 year sentence.
Experienced Legal Representation in Arizona
Drug charges in Arizona are serious business: they can ruin your reputation, your finances, your family and your future. A good defense requires in-depth knowledge of Arizona drug possession laws. It also requires knowledge of the police, prosecutors and the facts of your specific case. If you are facing drug charges anywhere in the state, call and speak to Howard Snader. He has built his understanding of these cases over a 25-year legal career (limited exclusively to criminal defense law in Arizona) after having served as a prosecutor in Maricopa County. Howard has offices in Phoenix and Scottsdale. He offers a free initial consultation.