Drug Distribution and Sale in Arizona
Arizona, like the nation, has a serious drug distribution problem. In Arizona, there is a major difference between simply using drugs yourself, and taking part in the sale and distribution of those drugs to others. Both are serious, but sale and distribution, and the transportation of the drugs that enables the sale and distribution, are serious felonies. If the amounts of the drug involved exceed the thresholds that are set by law, the penalties include jail time, usually lots of it.
The Activities Prohibited
The commercial end of the drug trade requires that drugs be moved from the manufacturer to the end user. Along the way, the drugs have to be transported from one place to another, transferred from one person to another, and ultimately sold by someone to the end user. In Arizona, each of those acts is prohibited for illegal drugs (narcotics, marijuana, listed “dangerous drugs” and prescription only drugs).
In order to be guilty of the offense, however, the person charged must have acted “knowingly.” Someone who is unaware that they are carrying drugs, or that the packages they have delivered contain drugs, for example, is not committing a crime.
Penalties: Statutory Threshold Amounts
Distribution of narcotics, listed “dangerous drugs,” and more than two pounds of marijuana are class 2 felonies punishable by many years in prison. Methamphetamine is singled out for an even higher maximum penalty.
Drug distribution of less than two pounds of marijuana is a class 3 felony with a lower maximum sentence. Distribution of prescription drugs is a class 6 felony with a still lower maximum sentence.
The state’s normal range of sentencing options, including probation and diversion programs, remain options unless the amount of the drugs involved exceeds the “threshold amount” set by statute; then prison time is mandatory. Section 13-401 of the Arizona statutes specifically defines the “threshold amount” of various drugs as:
- Heroin—1 gram
- Cocaine—9 grams or, if in the form of cocaine base or hydrolyzed, 750 milligrams
- PCP—4 grams or 50 milliliters
- Amphetamine and methamphetamine—9 grams
- LSD–.5 milliliters or, if in blotter form, 50 doses
- Marijuana—2 pounds
For any other illegal drug, the threshold amount is any amount that is valued at $1,000 or more. Note that this means that the threshold amount of any illegal drug not listed above will actually vary as the drug’s value goes up or down and raises serious questions as to how the value is determined.
The fact that you have been charged with sale, drug distribution or transportation of illegal drugs isn’t the end of the story. Depending on the circumstances of the case, an experienced Arizona criminal defense lawyer can offer several defenses. If you were tricked into the drug activity—unaware that you were carrying drugs—there is no crime. Your actual knowledge is subjective, of course, but circumstantial evidence of the right kind can build a good defense.
In many cases, your defense lawyer can challenge whether the statutory threshold amounts of the drug have been met: Was the measuring accurate? Did the measurement include some amount of drugs beyond those with which you were involved? Succeeding in this defense won’t get the charges dismissed, but prison time would no longer be mandatory.
Other defenses involve your rights as a citizen, such as the right to not talk to the police, the right to consult an attorney, the right to be free of illegal searches, and so on. Successful defenses of this type can result in dismissal of the charges or the exclusion of some evidence that the state hoped to use against you.
Get Legal Help
Charges of sale, drug distribution or transportation of drugs in Arizona threaten your future and the future of your entire family. Get experienced help and get it as soon as possible. If you have been charged anywhere in the state, call attorney Howard A. Snader. Howard offers 25 years of experience as a dedicated criminal defense attorney, certification as a criminal law specialist, the highest rating from his peers, and a background as a Maricopa County prosecutor. With his experience and credentials, he is among the most qualified criminal defense lawyers in the state and has the time, commitment, and passion for justice that makes him an unbeatable choice when you’re facing an Arizona drug charge.