If you’re facing a drug possession charge, you are probably wondering what the consequences might be, which vary widely from state to state. Here is an overview of what a drug possession charge means and what factors may impact sentencing.
Drug possession is a crime in both federal and state law. Possession laws make it a crime to willfully possess specific illegal controlled substances, such as LSD, marijuana, cocaine, and heroin. It’s also a criminal offense to possess certain precursor chemicals that are commonly used in drug cultivation and manufacturing, as well as certain items that are considered accessories to drug use.
Drug possession laws will vary widely depending on the type of drug, amount possessed, and the geographic location of the offense. Being found with larger amounts of drugs in your possession may cause you to be charged with “intent to distribute,” which raises the severity of sentencing.
To prove possession, prosecutors must be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant knew the drug was a controlled substance and that the defendant knowingly had possession or control of the substance. This includes “constructive possession”, or access to the location where an illegal drug is stored.
Factors Impacting Sentencing
The punishment you receive upon conviction for drug possession will depend on a variety of factors. The first is whether you were arrested by federal or state law enforcement. Federal penalties can be harsher than state law, and generally a federal arrest is made in connection with a suspected criminal enterprise or growing operation. Under federal law, even first-time possession is punishable by up to a $1,000 fine and a year in prison.
Some states have legalized possession of small amounts of marijuana, but other drugs remain criminalized. If you are holding a large enough amount of a drug to be considered a seller, rather than a personal user, you will likely be looking at a felony rather than a misdemeanor. This means significantly harsher penalties.
Other factors that may enhance your sentencing include:
- A previous criminal record. If this is not your first offense, or if you have other crimes on your record, your sentence for drug possession is likely to be more serious.
- Selling to minors. If you’re convicted of selling of any kind, especially to minors, your sentence will probably be harsher.
- Drug use while driving. If your possession charge is linked to an incidence of driving while intoxicated, that will be considered when delivering your sentence.
- Harvesting the drug. Having a drug-growing or drug-harvesting incident linked to your drug possession charge, you are likely to receive a stiffer penalty than for a simple possession charge.
Factors Impacting You
If you were arrested for drug possession under the state laws of Arizona, the laws that apply to you would be under Title 13 of the Criminal Code. Here are some important factors that impact sentencing in Arizona:
- Possession with intent to distribute an imitation controlled substance is a felony. Believing it was really the controlled substance is not considered a defense.
- Community service is often a condition of being granted probation
- As with many states, the severity of the charge increases as the amount of the drug possessed increases
- Possessing drugs in a drug-free school zone increases the sentencing penalty by one year, and sets a minimum fine of $2,000. A judge may not suspend the fine.
- Having a previous drug possession conviction will make the penalty harsher
- Using a building for the purpose of selling drugs is an additional offense, beyond possession
If you’re looking for help with a drug possession charge, contact The Law Office of Howard A. Snader by calling (602) 899-0590 for a free case evaluation today.