Understanding Different Types Of Drug Charges In Arizona

Mar 25, 2024 | Criminal

Navigating Arizona’s legal landscape concerning drug offenses can be complex and daunting. With stringent laws and severe penalties in place, Arizona is one of the toughest-on-drugs states in the U.S., and understanding the different types of charges is crucial for anyone living or visiting the state. Whether it’s possession, trafficking, manufacturing, or related paraphernalia charges, each offense carries its own set of legal implications.

In this blog, we delve into the various categories of drug charges in Arizona by shedding light on their definitions, penalties, and potential defenses. By gaining a comprehensive understanding of these charges, individuals can better protect their rights and make informed decisions when faced with legal challenges related to drug offenses in Arizona.

Types Of Drug Charges

Dangerous controlled substances are classified in 6 groups in Arizona: narcotic drugs (such as cocaine, heroin, opium, morphine, and oxycodone), substances that give off toxic vapors, peyote, marijuana, drugs that can only be obtained through a prescription, and dangerous drugs (such as LSD, ecstasy, methamphetamines, steroids, and more).

An individual may be charged with one or many of the following in relation to those drugs:

Possession – under Arizona Statute 13-3408, it is illegal for a person to knowingly possess or use a controlled dangerous substance, and can be charged for physically possessing them or using them, constructively possessing them in a location they have control over, or physically possessing the drugs by sharing possession of them with a spouse, partner, or roommate.

These charges can be filed as a Class 1 misdemeanor or a Class 3, 4, or 5 felony depending on the type of drug that the individual possessed, as well as whether or not this was a first or subsequent conviction, which could result in consequences like expensive fines and jail time.

Possession With Intent To Distribute – this charge is a Class 2 felony which would likely result in fines and a prison sentence, once again dependent upon the type of drug involved and whether it is a first or subsequent conviction. If a person is arrested with any drug over a certain threshold quantity, they may be charged with possession with intent to distribute.

The court will review the evidence which points to an intent to distribute, such as whether the defendant had a large amount of cash on hand, was in possession of a scale, or was in possession of a large number of small bags or containers which could make separating the drug easier for sale.

Trafficking – when an individual transports illegal substances over a certain threshold quantity with the intent to sell, they could be charged with drug trafficking. It does not matter if they crossed state lines or not.

These charges range anywhere from a Class 6 felony to a Class 2 felony, and some drugs carry harsher penalties than others. A conviction would likely result in hefty fines and a prison sentence, depending on the type of drug and whether it is a first or subsequent conviction.

Manufacture – this is the crime of either making or cultivating (growing) dangerous drugs and it is a Class 2 felony. A person could also be charged for manufacturing prescription-only drugs without proper licensing (Class 1 misdemeanor), or manufacturing misbranded medications (Class 4 felony). These charges have the potential to impact even innocent parties, as a property owner where drugs have been manufactured or cultivated could be charged too, even if they had nothing to do with the crime.

Many times, these charges have to do with so-called “meth labs” and could result in a prison sentence of up to 15 years, or 20 years with no opportunity for parole if a child was present or it is a second offense.

Paraphernalia – while you may think of this as a “lesser” drug charge, the penalties are actually steeper than most realize. Possessing drug paraphernalia is a Class 6 felony in Arizona. The wording of the law is broad, but most of the objects regarded as paraphernalia include spoons, plastic baggies, scales, pipes, rollers, cigarette papers, bongs, pipes, and syringes.

The court will have to prove that the defendant had the intent to use the object with illicit drugs in order to convict them. Under Proposition 200, those convicted of a first or second non-violent possession of paraphernalia are sentenced to probation (unless meth was involved).

Possible Legal Defenses Against These Charges

There are several strategies that a skilled defense attorney may utilize to fight these charges, such as…

Lack of knowledge or intent – the prosecution must prove that the defendant knowingly and intentionally committed the drug crime they are charged with. By proving that the defendant was unaware of the presence of the drugs or that they belonged to another person, a conviction may be readily avoided.

Unlawful search and seizure – our 4th Amendment rights protect us from unreasonable searches and seizures by law enforcement, so if the defense attorney can prove that the evidence against their client was obtained during an unlawful search, the case is likely to be deemed inadmissible in court.

Entrapment – this happens when law enforcement causes a person to commit a crime that they may not have otherwise committed without their interference. The defendant’s attorney may be able to prove that they were entrapped by law enforcement and have the case thrown out of court.

Drug addiction as a mitigating factor – in some specific cases, a defense attorney may be able to get charges reduced on the grounds that their client has a substance abuse disorder which led to them committing the crime(s), and they aren’t just a criminal – but someone who needs help and rehabilitation. The court may then offer a treatment-oriented sentencing program, such as drug courts or diversion programs and impose a lighter sentence.

Charged With A Drug Offense? Let Alatorre Law Fight For Your Future

Drug charges are serious, especially here in Arizona. Not only are you facing legal consequences like hefty fines, community service, probation, and jail time, but you will likely endure collateral consequences in your personal life for years to come. You may have difficulty – or even be prevented from – pursuing certain employment and educational opportunities, becoming a licensed professional, or maintaining your legal status in the United States if you are an immigrant.

With so much at stake, you need an attorney who is experienced, knowledgeable, and effective. Our lead attorney, Javier Alatorre, has been defending the accused for 20 years and knows how to put you in the best position to receive a favorable outcome. If you’ve recently been charged, call today to schedule your free, confidential initial consultation and learn how we can give you an advantage!

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