Were you arrested for possession of drugs?
Are you facing a drug possession charge? While some possession charges may be relatively minor, the penalties applicable in a particular case will depend, at least in part on a variety of factors, including the particular drug involved, and the amount of the drug allegedly possessed, among others. The drug possession laws in Arizona can be confusing. To understand the specific elements of your charge, the possible defenses, and the potential penalties, contact The Feldman Law Firm to speak to an experience drug crimes lawyer.
Laws Relating to Possession of Different Drugs
When it comes to drug possession, the confusion is the result largely of the existence of a host of different laws relating to different drugs, and to different classes of drugs. Here are the details of some of those laws:
- Possession of Marijuana. Illegal possession of even a small amount of marijuana is a class 6 felony. The potential penalties increase with the amount possessed. Provided you have a valid medical marijuana card, and have followed all the legal requirements, possession of medical marijuana is not a criminal offense in Arizona.
- Possession of Peyote. Possession of peyote is likewise a class 6 felony, although the law contains a defense for use of the drug as part of a bona fide religious practice.
- Possession of “dangerous drugs.” These include hallucinogens such as mescaline and LSD, amphetamines, ketamine, benzodiazepines (benzos), certain anabolic steroids, and others. Possession of dangerous drugs is generally a class 4 felony. With certain dangerous drugs, however, and depending upon your prior record, it could be charged as a class 1 misdemeanor.
- Possession of “prescription-only drugs.” As the name implies, this category covers drugs which are available only through prescription by a medical practitioner. It does not include dangerous drugs or narcotics drugs. Illegal possession of a prescription-only drug is generally a class 1 misdemeanor.
- Possession of narcotics. Illegal possession of narcotics is a felony. Narcotics include heroin, fentanyl, opium, tramadol, codeine, oxycodone, and similar drugs.
- Possession of precursor chemicals. These are specifically named substances that are used in the manufacture of methamphetamine and certain narcotics and dangerous drugs. Possession of these substances is a felony.
There are numerous additional factors, which, if present in your case, could mean either a higher classification of the offense, or enhanced penalties. Those factors include your prior criminal history, as well as issues such as a charge of possession for sale or drug trafficking or being considered a “serious drug offender.”
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Probation Under Proposition 200
Over 20 years ago, the citizens of Arizona determined that the jails were being filled with people convicted of minor drug offenses, primarily possession, and that the strict laws in the state meant that you would be serving a term of incarceration in most of these cases.
Prop 200 changed that significantly. It now appears as A.R.S. 13-901.01. Under that law, most of those persons convicted of “personal possession” of controlled substances are entitled to have their sentence suspended and be placed on probation. While the terms of the law are mandatory, there are exceptions, include the following:
- It is not applicable to those with violent crime convictions.
- It is not applicable to possession for sale, trafficking or manufacturing drugs.
- It is only available on charges of possession for personal use.
- It is not applicable if the drug possessed is methamphetamine.
- It is not applicable if you had three or more possession or other prior drug convictions.
- It is not applicable if you refused drug treatment as a term of probation.
- It is not applicable if you rejected probation.
Although these exceptions exist, probation will be available – and mandatory – in most cases. This is a relief for those who might believe that a drug possession conviction will involve jail or prison time.
Defenses to Drug Possession Charges
If you have been arrested for possession of drugs, there are defenses that may be applicable, and which could lead to a dismissal of the case against you. The following list contains some of the defenses that may apply:
- Illegal search and seizure. Whether it’s a traffic stop, a search of your home or office, or some other search, you can challenge the validity of the action taken by the police. Searches without probable cause could lead to the evidence obtained being inadmissible in court. With a possession charge, this may well be the end of the case against you.
- Lack of ownership or possession. If you did not own or possess the drugs, you have a valid defense to a possession charge.
- Police stings are often used to bait individuals into purchasing drugs. If the police step over the line, and essentially engineer a transaction, which you would not have participated in otherwise, entrapment may be a valid defense.
Other defenses, including those relating to the testing and handling of the drugs, may also apply in some cases.
Drug Possession Defense Attorney in Phoenix
Drug charges can bring harsh penalties if you are convicted. On the other hand, there are laws that can help your case. If you are facing a drug possession charge, get an honest evaluation of where you stand. Contact The Feldman Law Firm. The initial consultation is free.