Under Arizona state law, possessing and using dangerous drugs, such as methamphetamine or meth, can get you charged with felony drug possession and result in imprisonment. Penalties for drug possession in Arizona depends on what you’re being charged for and your criminal history, but stiffer penalties are expected if you were charged with drug possession for meth. 

If you were charged with possession of dangerous drugs, speak with a qualified Arizona criminal defense lawyer immediately. Read on to learn about the elements, penalties, and defenses for possession of methamphetamine under Arizona drug laws.

Elements of Drug Possession

Controlled dangerous substances (CDS) are classified into six categories, with meth falling under the dangerous drugs category. If you were found to be in possession of 9 grams or more of meth (including methamphetamine in liquid suspensions), you may be charged with possession with intent to distribute, as this meets Arizona drug law’s threshold amount for CDS.

Penalties for Possession of Meth

possession of methamphetamineDrug possession is considered a felony in Arizona but may be reduced to a misdemeanor in certain cases. Felonies are classified into six classes, with Class 1 being the most serious offense. With the passing of Proposition 200 in Arizona, judges can no longer sentence a nonviolent drug offender to prison unless it’s their third conviction. Instead, first-time and second-time offenders are subject to probation and drug treatment (TASC Program).

However, methamphetamine is a dangerous drug that isn’t covered by the protections of Proposition 200. As such, even a first offense for possession of a controlled substance such as meth is punishable with jail time, and those with past drug offenses in their criminal record can expect longer sentences. The punishment for possession of illegal drugs, specifically methamphetamine, are listed in the table below.

Drug Charges Felony Class Fines Sentence
Simple possession or drug use Class 4 at least $1,000

or

three-time the value of the substance

(whichever is greater)

1 to 4 years
Possession with intent to sell and distribute drugs Class 2 5 to 20 years
Possession of paraphernalia and chemicals for manufacturing Class 2 5 to 20 years
Manufacturing Class 2 5 to 20 years
Import, sale, and transportation Class 2 5 to 20 years

Prison sentences for meth possession can last from one year, up to 20 years if you’ve had prior convictions. You’ll also be fined at least $1,000 up to thrice the value of the drugs you were in possession of, whichever is higher. In some cases, such as in possession of drug paraphernalia and materials for manufacturing of CDS, the charge can be bumped up from a Class 3 to a Class 2 felony if the crime involved methamphetamine.

If you were convicted for possession of methamphetamine, you won’t be eligible for a suspension of sentence, probation, pardon or release from confinement on any basis, unless:

  • you’ve served your full sentence imposed by the court;
  • you become eligible for release based on Section 41-1604.07; or
  • your sentence is commuted or reduced.

Getting a criminal conviction for possession of drugs will greatly impact your life, and may cause you to lose public benefits, such as state provisions for scholarships, tuition waivers, welfare benefits, public housing, and other subsidies. Make sure to get an experienced criminal defense attorney and start working on your defense if you’ve been charged with possession of meth.

Defenses for Drug Crimes

To be convicted for drug possession, the prosecutor has to prove beyond reasonable doubt that:

  • the defendant was knowingly in possession of the dangerous drug using evidence that links the defendant to the dangerous substances; and
  • the substances found in their possession were tested by a forensic scientist and confirmed under oath by the same scientist to be controlled substances.

As the burden of proof lies with the prosecution, there are some defenses available to defendants in a drug possession case.

  • Lack of knowledge. If you weren’t aware of the drugs in your possession, and the prosecution cannot prove that you had knowledge of these dangerous substances, then you won’t be found guilty of the charge.
  • Illegal search and seizure. As a citizen of the United States, you are protected from unreasonable and unlawful search-and-seizure procedures under the Fourth Amendment.

Drug possession is a serious charge, but the defense you need will vary depending on your specific circumstances. If you’re facing drug possession charges in Arizona, call Snader Law Group to get in touch with experienced criminal defense attorneys and start working on your defense today!