Drug Possession Charges in Arizona
In Arizona, you can face serious felony charges if you possess, use, sell, manufacture, distribute, or administer dangerous drugs under ARS 13-3407. These types of drug possession charges can result in lengthy prison sentences and substantial fines.
Because of the severe penalties for selling drugs charges, you should consult an experienced criminal defense attorney at the Law Office of Michael Alarid III to understand the legal options and defenses that might be available to you.
Arizona has severe penalties for drug offenses, and law enforcement officers are continuously looking for evidence of drug sales and trafficking. Each year, thousands of pounds of illegal drugs are seized by law enforcement as they are transported over the border with Mexico.
What is Possession of Dangerous Drugs for Sale?
Under ARS 13-3407, possession of drugs for sale is a class 2 felony. You can be charged with this offense if you are found to be in possession of a dangerous drugssion of a dangerous drugspossession of a dangerous drug in an amount above the threshold. ARS § 3401(6) defines dangerous drugs to include many different substances. Some of the most common types of dangerous drugs include the following:
- Lysergic acid
- Anabolic steroids
This list is not all-inclusive. Many other substances are also defined as dangerous drugs under the statute.
Drug Threshold Amounts
You might face selling drugs charges under ARS § 13-3407 if you have more than the threshold amount of dangerous drugs listed in ARS § 13-3401(36). The thresholds for dangerous drugs include the following:
- 4 grams of PCP
- 9 grams of amphetamine
- 9 grams of methamphetamine
- 50 dosage units of LSD blotter or 0.5 ml of liquid LSD
- Any other dangerous drug valued at $1,000 or more
- Any combination of dangerous drugs that exceed the threshold amounts when added together
Police officers often rely on confidential informants and undercover officers to secure evidence to support drug sales charges.
Charged with Selling Drugs
Possessing dangerous drugs with the intent to sell them is prohibited under ARS § 13-3407. Courts consider several factors to determine whether someone had the intention to sell dangerous drugs in their possession, including whether the quantity exceeds the threshold amounts, whether the person had drug paraphernalia related to selling drugs such as baggies or scales, whether the drugs were packaged, and whether a large number of people have been observed coming and going to and from the person's home. Police officers often rely on confidential informants and undercover officers to secure evidence to support drug sales charges.
To prove that you possessed dangerous drugs with the intent to sell them, the prosecutor will have to prove the following elements:
- You were present in the state on the date and time listed in your charging documents.
- You possessed dangerous drugs.
- You knew that you had dangerous drugs in your possession and that they were illegal.
- You possessed more than the threshold amount or had paraphernalia indicating a sales operation.
- You had the intent to sell the dangerous drugs.
Trafficking or Transporting Dangerous Drugs to Sell
Under ARS § 13-3407, drug trafficking occurs when someone transports, imports into the state, offers to transport or offers to import into the state a dangerous drug for transfer or sale. This offense is a class 2 felony carrying more severe penalties than possessing dangerous drugs for sale.
Possessing Dangerous Drugs vs. Possessing Narcotic Drugs
There are many other substances listed as narcotic drugs under the statute. Even though it is possible for you to have a prescription for some narcotic drugs, if you possess them without a valid prescription, the police might charge you under this statute.
If you are convicted of possessing dangerous drugs above the threshold amount with the intent to sell them, you will not be eligible for probation or a suspended sentence
Penalties for Possession of Dangerous Drugs with the Intent to Sell
The penalties for possessing dangerous drugs with the intent to sell them depends on the type and quantity of the drugs, your criminal history, and whether there were any aggravating factors.
If you are convicted of possessing dangerous drugs above the threshold amount with the intent to sell them, you will not be eligible for probation or a suspended sentence. If you are convicted of possessing methamphetamine with the intent to sell as a first offense, you will face a prison sentence from five years up to 15 years.
For a second conviction of possessing methamphetamine with the intent to sell, the sentencing range is from 10 years up to 20 years. For other types of dangerous drugs, the sentence for a first offense will range from a mitigated sentence of three years up to an aggravated sentence of 12.5 years under ARS § 13-702.
The penalties for selling dangerous drugs will increase with prior allegeable convictions or specific aggravating factors, including possessing a gun while possessing dangerous drugs with the intent to sell or selling them close to a school.
Defenses to Possessing Dangerous Drugs With the Intent to Sell
The defenses that your attorney might raise will depend on the facts and circumstances surrounding what happened. Your lawyer will carefully review the evidence to determine the best defense strategy to take.
Some common types of defenses are detailed below.
Unconstitutional Search and Seizure
Under the Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution, you have rights against unlawful searches and seizures. Unless an exception applies, police officers will normally need to get a warrant before searching your home. Officers may search vehicles without warrants if they have probable cause to believe that evidence will be discovered in a specific area.
For example, if the police pull you over and smell drugs, they can search in any area of your vehicle where drugs might be located.
If the police pulled you over for a different reason and see drugs in plain view, they can similarly seize them and use them as evidence against you. If the police did not have probable cause to search your vehicle, and you did not give consent and were not under arrest, police cannot search without a warrant.
Proving your rights were violated could result in a dismissal of the charges against you.
If your rights against an unreasonable search and seizure were violated, your attorney might file a motion asking for the evidence to be suppressed. Proving your rights were violated could result in a dismissal of the charges against you.
Lack of Knowing Possession
This defense might apply if you did not know that the dangerous drugs were present in your home or vehicle. For example, if you gave a hitchhiker a ride, and he or she left a backpack containing several packages of methamphetamine in the back seat of your car, your attorney can defend against your charge by presenting evidence that the backpack was not yours and that you did not know it contained dangerous drugs.
Lack of Intent to Sell
Some people buy more than the threshold quantities of dangerous drugs to support their addictions. If that occurs, a skilled defense attorney might argue for your offense to be reduced to a misdemeanor and for you to be placed on probation.
Police sometimes arrest people for possessing dangerous drugs when they are not the substances that they believe them to be
Police sometimes arrest people for possessing dangerous drugs when they are not the substances that they believe them to be. After arresting someone for possessing dangerous drugs, the officer will send the substance to the crime lab to be analyzed.
The prosecutor will call the analyst as a witness to prove its case. However, your attorney may also retain an expert to challenge the chain of custody or the steps taken in the analysis.
Drug Evidence Has Gone Missing
Police officers must keep dangerous drugs in their evidence locker to be used at trial. If the drugs are missing, the case might be dismissed.
Having proof that an officer planted drugs in your vehicle or home can be difficult. However, your attorney might file a motion with the court to gain access to the officer's complaint file.
With this information, your lawyer can interview people who have filed complaints against the officer in the past and potentially be called to testify on your behalf.
Problematic Confidential Informants
Many law enforcement agencies rely on information from confidential informants (or CIs) to build cases against people for selling dangerous drugs. Some CIs receive favorable plea offers in their own cases or may receive payments for providing information.
If a CI was used in your case, your attorney might review the agreement he or she signed with the police, look at the CI's record, and cross-examine the CI to challenge his or her story.
Get Help from an Experienced Drug Crimes Lawyer
If you are facing a charge of possession of dangerous drugs with the intent to sell them, you should talk to an experienced drug crimes lawyer as soon as possible. The penalties for this offense are severe.
Working with an experienced criminal defense lawyer at the Law Office of Michael Alarid III might help you to achieve a better outcome in your case. Call us today to request a consultation at (602) 818-3110.