Understanding Drug Possession Laws in Arizona


A drug is a chemical used by people as a medicine to treat or prevent a disease or illness. It can change a person’s physical or mental state. Different types of drugs affect your body in various ways. It can be short-term or long-term effects and can include dependency. The more you take a drug, the more likely you are to build up a tolerance to its effects. Drugs can help you feel better; however, drug abuse and dependence can cause you serious harm.

There are drugs that you can buy at any pharmacy without a prescription. These are called over-the-counter medicines. These are safe and effective when you follow the directions on the label or as advised by a medical professional. In contrast, drugs that can only be obtained through a doctor’s prescription and dispensed by a pharmacist are called prescription medicines. These are classified into two categories –non-controlled and controlled substance medications.

Non-controlled substance medications are used to treat medical conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and bacterial infections. On the other hand, controlled substance medications are used for the treatment of pain and anxiety disorders. The reasons behind the control and regulation of these medicines include the danger of abuse, addiction, physical and mental harm, death, and unlawful drug trafficking.

In Arizona, illegal possession or use of controlled substances without a prescription is considered a felony. Arizona drug possession laws are well-detailed, listing all the types and quantities of prohibited drugs including their corresponding charges and penalties. Drug possession is punishable by the law. The penalties are based on a person’s criminal history, type of substance, and if you are charged for possession with intent to sell or for personal use. The fine usually starts from $2,000 or 3 times the value of the possessed substance, whichever is higher.

Possession of dangerous drugs is considered a Class 4 felony. There is a possibility of a reduction to Class 1 misdemeanor if the accused is a first-time offender or if the drug possessed was not meth or other types of amphetamine. If you have no priors, the jail time will be 0-1 year, but if you have a prior conviction, the jail time can last up to 3.75 years.

If you are caught in possession of narcotic drugs like cocaine, methamphetamine, or heroin, you can be charged with a Class 4 felony (or possible Class 1 misdemeanor for first-time offenders). If you have no prior convictions, you will be punished with a mandatory minimum sentence of 0 – 1 year of jail time, but if you are convicted for the second time, you can be imprisoned for up to a maximum period of 15 years.

Possession of Marijuana (less than 2lbs) for your personal use is classified as a Class 6 felony (can be reduced to a misdemeanor), Class 5 if the drug was personally produced, and Class 4 if you have an intent to distribute or sell it. If you are caught as a first-time offender, you can be put into prison for 0-1 year, but if you have prior convictions, it can increase up to 3.75 years.

Drug laws may be subject to change from time to time. It is important to consult a credible Phoenix criminal defense lawyer to help you verify the laws.

Arizona criminal law classifies controlled dangerous substances (CDS) into six categories: peyote, marijuana, substances that emit toxic vapors, prescription drugs, narcotic drugs, and dangerous drugs. In Arizona, marijuana is legally used as medicine, however, simple possession, drug distribution, and cultivation of marijuana for non-medical use and recreational reasons are still considered as serious drug crimes.

Possession of narcotics crime requires a prosecutor to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the offender “knowingly and intentionally” possessed narcotic drugs before establishing a guilty verdict. There should be sufficient evidence showing your link with illegal drugs. Furthermore, a thorough investigation must be done to prove that the substance seized is considered a dangerous drug.

Arizona has implemented Proposition 200 which states that a judge is no longer allowed to send a first-time or second-time non-violent drug offender to jail until he or she is convicted for the third time. There is a standard punishment that includes a probation term and obligatory drug treatment or TASC Program. If a person violates probation, then they will be sentenced to imprisonment. For illegal possession of not more than 2 pounds of marijuana, you will be penalized with fines, probation, or 0 – 5.75 years imprisonment depending on prior convictions. For 2 up to 6 pounds of marijuana, the jail time will be increased to 6 months up to 7.5 years including fines. If you are caught in possession of a controlled substance or dangerous drug, you will be charged Class 6 felony with a $150,000 fine plus a jail time of 4 months up to 2 years.

A drug possession charge does not automatically lead to a criminal conviction. A qualified Phoenix criminal defense lawyer can help you plan your defense strategies. Your defenses should challenge the testimonies, evidence, or facts in the case. You cannot be convicted of drug possession if you do not know the existence of drugs. You can defend yourself if an illegal search and seizure procedure was conducted. If you are arrested for possession of drugs such as peyote, one of the affirmative defenses that you can raise is the fact that you use it for religious reasons without posing any threats to society. For possession of medical marijuana, you need to prove that the drug was prescribed by your doctor for medicinal purposes.

If you are convicted of any drug crime, you will be penalized with fines, jail sentences, and you will lose your eligibility for public benefits including educational scholarships, welfare benefits, or public housing allowances. A conviction may lead to serious punishments and it can damage your character and reputation. If you face drug possession charges, do not hesitate to contact our experienced Phoenix criminal defense lawyers at Snader Law Group. Our lawyers will help you understand the drug laws and devise your defense strategies that can be useful to your case.

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