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Drug Crimes Defense Lawyer in Phoenix

Are you facing a drug charge in the greater Phoenix area?  If so, there is much to understand about the laws governing drug offenses in Arizona.  There are a host of statutes applicable to the possession, use, distribution and manufacture/cultivation of illegal and prescription drugs, as well as drug paraphernalia.  Defending these charges properly requires the help of an experienced drug crimes lawyer. At The Feldman Law Office, we represent clients charged with drug crimes on a regular basis. Drug crimes attorney, Adam Feldman, a former prosecutor, has extensive experience, including conducting trials, in drug cases.  His position as a prosecutor, and now as lawyer who devotes his practice to criminal defense, places him in a unique position to understand the way in which prosecutors develop their cases, as well as  extensive knowledge that allows him to spot weaknesses in the state’s case.

Drug charges are treated harshly in Arizona, and your best chance of obtaining a dismissal, reduction in charges, or a reduced or alternative sentence is to hire a drug attorney with the proven capability to provide his clients with the best results possible in their cases.  As an attorney with substantial trial experience, including a long list of successes, Mr. Feldman is not afraid of taking a case to trial; prosecutors know it, and this gives his clients the benefit of increased leverage in negotiations.

How Are Drugs Classified Under Arizona Law?

The Arizona statutes specify hundreds of drugs, the possession, use or distribution of which may lead to criminal charges. The specific laws governing the drugs include those that refer to a specific drug, and others that deal with broader classifications.  The basic drug laws in Arizona include, among others:
  • Possession and sale of peyote.  A.R.S. 13-3402.
  • Possession and sale of vapor-releasing materials that includes toxic substances.  A.R.S. 13-3403.
  • Sale and delivery of nitrous oxide to a minor.  A.R.S. 13-3403.01 and A.R.S. 13-3403.02.
  • Sale of “precursor chemicals” and “regulated chemicals.”  These are materials that contain any amount of certain specified substances.  A.R.S. 13-3404.  They also include ephedrine and pseudoephedrine, among others.  A.R.S. 13-3404.01.

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  • Possession, use, production (cultivation), sale and transportation of marijuana.  A.R.S. 13-3405.
  • Possession, use, administration, acquisition, sale, manufacture and transportation of “prescription-only” drugs.  A.R.S. 13-3406.  These include, but are not limited to, drugs that under federal law are required to be labeled not being dispensable without a prescription.
  • Possession, use, administration, acquisition, sale, manufacture and transportation of dangerous drugs.  A.R.S. 13-3407.  Dangerous drugs are further defined as including a laundry list of substances, among them mescaline, LSD, amphetamine, methamphetamine, MDMA (ecstasy), alprazolam (Xanax), flurazepam (Dalmane); methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV), commonly known as bath salts; diazepam (Valium) and other benzodiazepine drugs; ketamine (used to treat bipolar disorder in humans, and as an sedative in veterinary medicine); lorazepam (Ativan); and methaqualone (Quaaludes).
  • Possession, use, administration, acquisition, sale, manufacture and transportation of narcotics.  A.R.S. 13-3408.  Narcotic drugs include cocaine, heroin, hydrocodone (Vicodin); morphine, oxycodone (Oxycontin); opium and other opiates, etc.
  • Drug offenses involving the use of minors. A.R.S. 13-3409.
  • Possession, manufacture, delivery and advertisement of drug paraphernalia.  A.R.S. 13-3415.
  • Using wire communications and electronic communications in connection with drug transactions.  A.R.S. 13-3417.
  • Controlled substances.  A.R.S. 13-3451(1).  Controlled substances include dangerous drugs, narcotics, and related substances.
  • Imitation controlled substances.  A.R.S. 13-3451(4).

These are only some of the controlled substances regulated under Arizona law, and the statutes go on to set forth both the quantities of the substances, and conduct relating to them, which constitute criminal offenses.

What Are the Penalties for Possession of Dangerous Drugs?

The penalties for crimes involving drugs are dependent upon (a) the specific drug involved, (b) the amount of the drug, (c) the conduct alleged in connection with the drug, and (d) your prior criminal history.  Potential sentences vary widely, but in Arizona most of them are felonies, and these carry with them the possibility of jail time, unless you qualify for probation or deferred prosecution.

In 1998, Arizona voters approved by almost a two-thirds majority Proposition 200, which is also known as the act Relating to Laws on Controlled Substances and those Convicted of Personal Use or Possession of Controlled Substances.  The law is now codified as A.R.S. 13-901.01, and begins with the following general statement:

“Notwithstanding any law to the contrary, any person who is convicted of the personal possession or use of a controlled substance or drug paraphernalia is eligible for probation. The court shall suspend the imposition or execution of sentence and place the person on probation.”

Although “controlled substances” include dangerous drugs and narcotic drugs, the statute goes on to state that there are limitations on the applicability of the law.  Those limitations include the following:

  • It applies only to personal use and possession of drugs.  If you are convicted of a drug sale, possessing drugs for sale, producing, transporting, trafficking or manufacturing drugs, the act does not apply.
  • The act does not apply to anyone who has been convicted of or indicted for a violent crime, including any offense that “results in death or physical injury or any criminal use of a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument.”
  • If you have three or more convictions for possession or use of a controlled substance, you are not eligible under the statute, and may be sentenced to jail.
  • If you have refused drug treatment as a condition of probation, or if you have rejected probation, you are not eligible under the statute.
  • If the controlled substance involved in your conviction for personal possession or use of drugs or drug paraphernalia was methamphetamine, you likewise are not eligible under the statute.

The law goes on to state that if a person is placed on probation under the statute, the court

“shall require participation in an appropriate drug treatment or education program administered by a qualified agency or organization that provides such programs to persons who abuse controlled substances. Each person who is enrolled in a drug treatment or education program shall be required to pay for participation in the program to the extent of the person’s financial ability.”

Failure to participate in or complete the drug treatment or education program will be considered a violation of probation.

Note that under section 901.01, probation, providing you qualify, is mandatory.  However, if you do not qualify, that does not mean you may not still be eligible for probation on a charge of personal possession or use of drugs under A.R.S. 13-901, the general probation statute.  The difference is that the judge in the latter case is not required to offer probation as an alternative.  Whether you are eligible for probation under section 901 depends upon a number of factors, including your prior criminal history.

You may also be eligible for drug court, which involves the collaboration of the court, the prosecutor, your defense attorney, a probation officer and a treatment provider.  The goal in that case is to design an appropriate treatment and counseling plan.  It is a post-sentencing program in Maricopa County and elsewhere in Arizona designed for rehabilitation to facilitate a drug-free lifestyle.

What is TASC?

The Treatment Assessment Screening Center (TASC) is a non-profit entity that provides drug counseling and other related services.  The TASC program is a diversionary program that offers those charged as first-time drug offenders the opportunity to enter a treatment program, ordinarily lasting up to a year.  The length of the treatment period is dependent in part upon the specific drug involved in your case.  Upon successful completion of the program, TASC will recommend dismissal of the charge.  Eligibility for the program is not automatic, and you will not be eligible unless the charge is personal possession or use of a relatively small amount of drugs, or if you have violent offenses or other serious crimes on your record.

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Are There Defenses to Possession and Other Offenses Involving Drugs?

The simple answer to this question is yes.  There are so many, in fact, that we do not have the space to cover anywhere near the number of possible defenses to particular drug offenses.  Certain situations involving drug arrests are fairly common, however.  A drug arrest often commences with a motor vehicle stop, and there is always a question, in those cases, as to whether the stop, and the subsequent search and seizure of drugs, was legal.  The police are not empowered to stop a vehicle based on a whim.  There must be reasonable suspicion that unlawful behavior is underfoot, although this may be as minor as a traffic violation.  Without reasonable suspicion, the stop is generally illegal, and any evidence (including drugs) discovered from that point forward cannot be used in court.  Even the establishment of a checkpoint does not relieve the police of their obligation to stop cars in an even-handed manner, and the law requires that checkpoint stops be administered in a facially neutral manner, such as stopping every third or fourth vehicle.

Other possible defenses to a drug charge are search warrants that are invalid; entrapment; lack of possession on the part of the defendant; lack of knowledge of the presence of illegal drugs; and an illegal search of a house, other structure or of your person.

Driving Under the Influence of Drugs

A charge of driving under the influence can be based upon having drugs in your system.  The DUI statute is not limited to alcohol, and under A.R.S. 28-1381, it is an offense to drive or to be in actual physical control of a vehicle while under the influence of “any drug.”

Unlike DUI alcohol, however, there is no precise measuring tool in the statute to determine if a per se violation has taken place.  The charge will ordinarily be based upon field sobriety tests, and if the case goes to trial, the state may attempt to introduce the testimony of a Drug Recognition Expert (DRE), who is supposed to be qualified to determine, based upon an evaluation of your appearance and conduct, the presence of drugs in your system, which drug or drugs are involved, and the extent of any impairment of function as a result.  But while many law enforcement personnel call themselves DRE’s, in fact less than one in a thousand officers is actually certified as such.  In all these cases, the analysis of impairment is indirect.  Therefore even in the case of “expert” testimony, the conclusion that you were impaired by drugs can be challenged, and in many cases challenged successfully.

If you have been charged with a drug offense, the consequences can be serious and life-altering.  While probation or diversion may be available in some cases, many of these crimes will result in a prison sentence in the event of a conviction.  Even where alternative sentencing is applicable, the effect on your life can be significant.  In addition, a conviction will follow you for the rest of your life, and will have an impact upon your ability to obtain or hold a job.

In order to insure that you receive the best representation available, it is important to turn to an experienced criminal attorney who can provide you with the information you need to make informed, intelligent decisions as your case moves forward.  This includes retaining the services of a lawyer who understands the prosecution’s case (including weaknesses in the case), who can identify defenses that may be available, who understands alternative sentencing, and who can advise you on how to respond to plea offers.  The ideal attorney will have substantial trial experience in criminal defense matters and a proven track record of success.

At The Feldman Law Firm, we practice criminal defense law on a daily basis.  Adam Feldman has years of experience as a criminal attorney, and prior to that served as a prosecutor.  He has tried countless criminal cases, including drug cases.  He is aggressive within the bounds of his ethical responsibilities, and his record of success in defending clients charged with a wide range of criminal offenses is well-known throughout the legal community.

If you have been charged with a drug crime, call The Feldman Law Firm today.

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