Drug Offenses

Possession of Controlled Substances in Arizona

Drug Offenses

In Arizona, drug offenses cover a broad range of crimes and refers to unlawful acts with controlled substances. Most drug offenses in Arizona result in felony charges. The consequences for conviction vary widely due to the many potential variables involved in the prosecution of drug offenses.

It is very important that if you were charged with possession of drugs in Arizona, that you consult with a criminal defense attorney skilled at defending drug crimes. The best legal strategy for you to take depends on the specific circumstances of your case and your criminal history.

We are prepared to go over the facts of your case with you and build your strongest legal defense. At Civil Rights Restored, we will fight for the best possible outcome for you.

Get Help Now (480) 759-7479.

Phoenix & Scottsdale Drug Possession Lawyer

At Civil Rights Restored, our drug possession attorney, Sheena Lemmons, is local to Phoenix, Arizona and wants to help you resolve your case. If you were arrested and charged with possession of drugs, we defend cases in Maricopa County including Phoenix, metro Phoenix area, Scottsdale, Tempe, Gilbert, Chandler, Mesa, Ahwatukee, Glendale, Avondale, Laveen, and more.

Arizona Felony Drug Offense Menu

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Arizona Drug Laws

What is a Controlled Substance?

Controlled substances are drugs that are tightly regulated by the federal and state governments due to their potential for abuse and dependency. Controlled substances include both illegal street drugs as well as drugs used for medicinal purposes, such as prescriptions.

The categories of controlled substances include:

  • Opioids,
  • Stimulants,
  • Depressants,
  • Hallucinogens, and
  • Anabolic steroids

Under the federal Controlled Substances Act of 1970, there are five schedules of controlled substances, known as Schedules I, II, III, IV, and V. The placement of a drug within a Schedule is based upon the substance’s potential for abuse, safety, dependence, and medical purposes.

How are Schedule I Drugs Classified?

Schedule I contains substances classified as the most potentially dangerous whereas Schedule V contains substances with the lowest potential for addiction. Schedule I substances are considered the most dangerous of the five Schedules with no recognized application for medical purposes. Schedule I drugs have the highest potential for abuse and addiction.

Examples of controlled substances within each Schedule:

Schedule I

  • Heroin (opium)
  • Marijuana
  • LSD (lysergic acid)
  • Magic Mushrooms (psilocybin)
  • Peyote
  • Ecstasy (methoxymethylenedioxyamphetamine)
  • Synthetic THC, Spice (cannabimimetic agents)

Schedule II

  • Cocaine
  • Fentanyl
  • Hydrocodone
  • Methamphetamine (injectable meth)
  • Morphine
  • Oxycodone

Schedule III

  • Anabolic steroids (testosterone)
  • Codeine
  • PCP (phencyclidine)
  • Amphetamine

Schedule IV

  • Ambien
  • Ativan (lorazepam)
  • Tramadol
  • Valium (diazepam)
  • Xanax (alprazolam)

Schedule V

  • Cough medications with no more than 200 milligrams of codeine
  • Lomotil (anti diarrheal)
  • Lyrica (pregabalin)

Conflict of Laws

You will notice that marijuana is a Schedule I drug, which means it categorized as the most dangerous with no existing recognized medical purpose. However, the state of Arizona has legalized both medical and recreational marijuana under strict guidelines. The legalization of marijuana under state law does not make marijuana legal under federal law. Therefore, possession of ANY amount of marijuana remains illegal under federal law currently.

What is Possession of Drugs in Arizona?

Drug possession is the most commonly prosecuted drug offense in Arizona. What does it mean to possess a drug? The legal definition is more broad than the majority of people realize. Most people’s understanding of possession would be to have something in your hand or your pocket. However, the legal concept of possession goes beyond carrying something on your person.

Possession means that a person knowingly 1) has physical possession of property or 2) exercises dominion or control over property. A.R.S. 13-105(34) (2022). There are generally two different types of possession: actual and constructive possession.

Actual Possession

  • The state must prove that the person knowingly had physical control of the drugs. Actual possession occurs where the alleged has the drugs on their person such as in their hand or pocket.

Constructive Possession

  • The state must prove that the person knowingly exercised dominion or control over the drugs or the location where the drugs were located.

Actual and constructive possession are legally treated the same in terms of culpability, or the severity of the crime. However, constructive possession is more difficult for the state to prove because it relies on circumstantial evidence that the alleged knew or should have known of the presence of the drugs and exercised dominion or control over the property.

Constructive possession may occur where there is more than one person who has knowledge and access to the location of the drugs. An example of constructive possession of drugs is where drugs are located in the glove compartment of a vehicle in which several people are riding.

Arizona Felony Drug Offenses – Scottsdale Drug Possession Lawyer

Possession of Vapor Releasing Substances A.R.S. 13-3403

It is a class 5 felony in Arizona to breathe, inhale, or drink a vapor releasing substance containing a toxic substance.

A vapor releasing substance under A.R.S. 13-3403 (2022) refers to products such as aerosol spray varnishes or paints, and glues that release toxic fumes.

Toxic vapor examples:

  • Acetone
  • Benzene
  • Butyl alcohol
  • Ethyl alcohol
  • Isopropyl alcohol
  • Petroleum ether
  • Toluene
  • Chloroform

Alternatives to Felony Sentencing

Depending on the circumstances, we may be able to negotiate a reduction from a class 5 felony to a class 1 misdemeanor or probation. It is in the court’s discretion offer misdemeanor designation or probation. Our Phoenix felony drug possession lawyer will work for the best possible outcome for your case.

Possession of Prescription Drugs A.R.S. 13-3406

In Arizona, it is illegal to possess or use a prescription-only drug without a valid, legally obtained prescription.

What is a Prescription-Only Drug?

Prescription-only drugs do not include a dangerous drug, narcotic drug, or marijuana. Those drugs are all covered under separate statutes. Prescription-only drugs under A.R.S. 13-3406 (2022) generally include all other drugs that may be dispensed by RX-only.

Penalty for Conviction of Prescription Drug Possession in Arizona

It is a class 1 misdemeanor in Arizona to possess or use a prescription-only drug without a valid prescription. Procuring a drug through fraudulent means such as prescription fraud using a forged prescription will result in additional serious felony charges.

It is a class 6 felony to possess a prescription-only drug for sale.

If a person is convicted any violation under this law, they will also be fined at least $1,000.

Affirmative Defense

It is an affirmative defense to possession of prescription drugs if you possess a valid prescription from a medical professional qualified to prescribe the medication.

Possession of Peyote A.R.S. 13-3402

In Arizona, it is a class 6 felony to possess, sell, or transfer peyote to another person.

However, it is a defense as long as the peyote is being used for:

  • The bona fide practice of a religious belief, and
  • As an integral part of a religious exercise, and
  • In a manner not dangerous to public health, safety or morals.

Drug Offense Sentencing in Arizona

There are many different types of drug offenses in Arizona and the sentences for a conviction vary widely. Whether a person will be sentenced to jail or prison depends on many factors such as the person’s:

  • Criminal history
  • The offense charged
  • The drug possessed
  • First offense vs. repeat drug offenses
  • Single or multiple offenses charged
  • Weight/quantity of the drugs possessed
  • Aggravating and mitigating factors

Each case is different, so it is important to consult with a Phoenix drug offense attorney so we can go over the details of your case with you.

Speak to a Scottsdale Drug Possession Attorney

Contact us for a free consultation at (480) 759-7479.

Probation for Nonviolent Personal Use of Drugs – A.R.S. 13-901.01 (2022)

Arizona Drug Offense Attorney

Arizona voters passed Proposition 200 in 1996, which requires those convicted of possession of certain drugs to be placed on probation instead of being sentenced to prison. Prop 200 was a big victory for advocates of criminal justice reform and affords people convicted of simple possession greater opportunities to alternative rehabilitative solutions.

What Does Prop 200 Do?

Prop 200 is codified in A.R.S. 13-901.01 and provides substantial protections for people convicted of first and second drug possession offenses.

A person convicted of personal possession of drugs for first and second nonviolent possession offenses may not be sentenced to incarceration under Prop 200, but must be granted probation. Offenses involving methamphetamines are not eligible for probation.

In order to qualify, you must successfully complete the terms of probation, which will include a court ordered drug treatment or education program. The court may also require that you complete intense drug treatment and community service, among other potential requirements.

If the person fails at probation, such as a violation of drug treatment, the court can enforce the suspended sentence and order the person into jail while they await a probation violation hearing. It is in the court’s discretion whether to reinstate probation based on the circumstances of the violation and the defendant’s willingness to cooperate with testing, treatment, and other terms.

Who is Not Eligible for Probation for Drug Possession in Arizona?

Prop 200 only applies to drug possession for personal use and does not apply to people convicted of possession for sale, production, manufacturing, or transportation of any drug. For example, a conviction for possession with intent to sell is not probation eligible and involves a mandatory prison sentence.

You are also not eligible for probation if the offense involved personal possession of methamphetamine or meth-related paraphernalia.

Violent offenders are not eligible for probation under A.R.S. 13-901.03. A violent crime means any criminal act that results in death or physical injury or any criminal use of a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument.

Unfortunately, you only get two strikes in Arizona and if you are convicted a third time of possession of drugs for personal use, you are not eligible for probation. In that case, the standard sentencing guidelines will apply, depending on the offense. Since most drug offenses in Arizona are felonies, the sentencing for a third offense will be quite harsh.

Questions About Probation?

Contact us to speak with a Phoenix drug possession lawyer today (480) 759-7479.

No Probation for Possession with Intent to Sell

Arizona prosecutes drug offenses with intent to sell more harshly than simple possession. Consequently, the offense carries a harsher class of felony and the punishment on conviction is more severe. Convictions for felony drug offenses with intent to sell where the quantity of drug possessed is over the threshold are not probation eligible. This means a conviction carries a mandatory prison sentence.

What is Intent to Sell?

The state will charge you with a felony drug offense with intent to sell, if you possess an amount exceeding the threshold of certain drugs and other supporting evidence. In order to establish intent to sell, the state relies on circumstantial evidence that the accused intends to sell the drug rather than possess it for personal use. If you possess an amount of the drug over the statutory threshold, there is a presumption the person possesses with intent to sell.

The state relies on the facts and circumstances of the situation to build the presumption of the intent to sell such as:

  • Possessing a large quantity of the drug
  • Individually packaged quantities of the drug
  • Possessing measuring devices
  • Possessing packaging materials
  • Cash on hand
  • Sale committed in plain view
  • Witness testimony of drug sales

Threshold Amounts for Drug Offenses in Arizona

The threshold amounts for certain drugs are defined in A.R.S. 13-3401(36) (2022):

  • Heroine (opium) – 1 gram;
  • Cocaine – 9 grams;
  • Cocaine base (crack cocaine) – 750 milligrams;
  • PCP (phencyclidine) – 4 grams or 50 milliliters;
  • Methamphetamine – 9 grams;
  • Amphetamine – 9 grams;
  • LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide) – 0.5 milliliter or 50 dosage units of blotters;
  • Marijuana – 2 pounds.
  • Any unlawful substance with a value of at least $1,000.

Sentencing for Drug Offenses Not Prop 200 Eligible in Arizona

If your conviction does not fall under Prop 200, there are several possible statutes that you can be sentenced under for drug offense convictions in Arizona. If your offense involved quantities of drugs under the threshold amount, it may be possible to negotiate for probation with a suspended sentence on a first offense.

Below are some common scenarios to give you an idea of what you are facing if convicted of a drug offense.

First Offense Non Dangerous Felony Sentencing A.R.S. 13-702 (2022):

Class 23 years4 years5 years10 years12.5 years
Class 32 years2.5 years3.5 years7 years8.75 years
Class 41 year1.5 years2.5 years3 years3.75 years
Class 5.5 years.75 years1.5 years2 years2.5 years
Class 6.33 years.5 years1 year1.5 years2 years

Sentencing for Multiple Drug Offenses

For convictions involving multiple offenses that did not occur on the same occasion and the quantity of drugs is below the statutory threshold, sentencing will be pursuant to A.R.S. 13-3419(A)(1), (2) (2022). This generally does not include convictions for nonviolent possession of drugs for personal use.

For Two Offenses

Class 23 years4 years5 years10 years12.5 years
Class 31.8 years2.5 years3.5 years7 years8.7 years
Class 41.1 years1.5 years2.5 years3 years3.7 years
Class 5.5 years.75 years1.5 years2 years2.5 years

Note: If you possess an amount of drugs that equal or exceed the statutory threshold, you will be sentenced under a different guideline and the term of incarceration will be more harsh.

Fines for Felonies in Arizona

The maximum fine per person for a felony offense is $150,000 per charge.

Potential Defenses to Felony Drug Charges in Arizona

Drug Charge Defense in Arizona

There are abundant and diverse possible defenses to drug charges in Arizona, all depending on the facts of your case. If you are charged with drug possession in Arizona, contact our Scottsdale drug possession attorney for a free consultation and start building your defense today. These are serious charges and we are prepared to aggressively defend your case. Below are a few examples of modern and effective potential defenses to drug offenses in Arizona. This is not at all an exhaustive list, as the defense depends on your case.

No Knowledge

It is a problem for the state’s case if we can show that you had no knowledge of the presence of the drugs. For example, if a friend or acquaintance left drugs in your house or in your vehicle without you knowing.

No Possession

If an issue exists whether you had dominion or control over the drugs, we will challenge the state’s evidence that you had possession of the drugs.

Valid Prescription

It is a strong affirmative defense to show that you have a valid prescription from a medical professional qualified to prescribe you the substance and that you are taking the medication as prescribed.

Medical Marijuana Card

A AMMA (Arizona Medical Marijuana Act) ID Card is a strong affirmative defense to possession of marijuana.

Not Impaired

We will challenge the state’s allegation that you are impaired by attacking the quality of the police investigation and the accuracy and reliability of their evidence. This can be done in many ways such as conducting police and witness interviews, filing motions to lodge legal challenges against the evidence, through aggressive cross-examination, and through challenging the accuracy of chemical testing or forensic analysis. If we can destroy the state’s best evidence against you, they may dismiss the case altogether.

Illegal Search and Seizure

The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution protects individuals from unreasonable search and seizure. If the state has violated your rights in obtaining evidence illegally, we will lodge legal challenges to preclude or suppress the evidence. If the government is prevented from using its best evidence against you, your case may be dismissed.

Challenge the Evidence Against You

With every criminal case we defend, we will scrutinize the state’s investigation and leave no stone unturned to poke holes in their case. The prosecution has the burden to prove the case against you beyond a reasonable doubt. This is the highest burden to carry and it is our job to create as much doubt in your case as possible.

What we do is we will look at whether police conducted their investigation according to their standards of training and experience and challenge the accuracy and reliability of their case. If your Constitutional rights were violated, we will file legal challenges against the evidence obtained illegally.

For cases involving forensic analysis of your blood, breath, or urine, we will hire expert witnesses such as a criminalist to review the testing processes, procedures, and results from the state’s lab. We will challenge those results prior to trial if any issues exist, which may result in very favorable results for your case such as an offer for reduced charges or even dismissal of charges. If you decide to take your case to trial, we are prepared to bring our criminalist to rebut the government’s expert witness testimony against you.

Ready to Build Your Defense?

As you can see, the possibilities are endless when it comes to hypothetical examples of defenses to criminal charges. The best step you can take is to contact a criminal defense attorney skilled at defending drug offenses in Arizona.

Civil Rights Restored DUI & Criminal Defense is prepared to aggressively defend your case and fight for the best possible outcome for you. We are private criminal defense firm dedicated to going the extra mile to get results!

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