Arizona law is clear: you cannot knowingly possess or use illegal drugs. If you are discovered under the influence, or with drugs on or near you, it’s likely you’ll be charged with felony drug possession.
The state’s drug laws are very detailed, listing the type and quantity of drugs that are prohibited, as well as the corresponding punishment. Drug possession penalties in Arizona depend on the type of substance possessed, prior criminal history, and whether you’re being charge for personal-use simple possession or possession with intent to sale. Here’s what you need to know drug possession laws in Arizona.
Overview of Arizona Drug Possession Laws
Below, you will find key provisions of Arizona’s drug possession laws.
Note: State laws are always subject to change. It’s important to verify the laws you’re researching by conducting your own research or consulting with a qualified Arizona criminal defense attorney.
Classification of Drugs in Arizona
State law divides illegal drugs, referred to as controlled dangerous substances (CDS), into 6 categories: marijuana, peyote, prescription drugs, dangerous drugs, narcotic drugs and substances that emit toxic vapors. Although medical marijuana is legal in Arizona, the recreational use of marijuana, possession with intent to sell, and the non-medical cultivation of marijuana are still serious crimes.
There are “threshold levels” for CDS that, if met, create a presumption of sales. This exposes you to a mandatory prison term even without further evidence of sales, and regardless of a lack of prior criminal history. The law defines “threshold amount” as a weight, market value or other form of measurement of an unlawful substance as follows:
Elements of the Crime
All crimes carry a burden of proof that must be established for a guilty verdict. The crime of possession of a narcotic drug requires the state prosecutor to prove beyond a reasonable doubt the following two statements:
1. The defendant knowingly possessed a narcotic drug.
Simply being present where drugs are found is not enough for a conviction of possession. There must be evidence linking you to the drugs so it can reasonably be inferred that you knew about the drug’s existence. Plus, the prosecutor must show that you exercised control over the drugs. A ‘usable quantity’ is not an element of the possession offense nor necessary to sustain a conviction for possession.
2. The substance was in fact a narcotic drug.
The prosecutor also must clearly show that the recovered substance contains a recognized dangerous drug. The drug needs to be tested by a forensic scientist and that same scientist must later testify that the recovered substance is a dangerous drug.
Drug Possession Penalties
A conviction of any drug offense can seriously impact your life. In addition to fines and jail time, you can lose many public benefits. This includes any money or services provided by this state for scholarships or tuition waivers, welfare benefits, public housing or other subsidies.
After the Arizona passed Proposition 200, judges can no longer send first or second time nonviolent drug offenders to prison until their third conviction. The standard sentence is a term of probation and mandatory drug treatment (TASC Program). However, if probation is violated, a jail term can be imposed.
Drug Possession Defenses
Being charged with drug possession doesn’t mean that you will be convicted. There are a variety of defenses an attorney can raise on your behalf. Some defenses challenge the facts, testimony or evidence in the case; others target procedural errors, such as search and seizure violations; and there are affirmative defenses that negate criminal liability, such as the right to use. The following are some of the more common defenses to drug possession.
Research the Law
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Being charged with any criminal offense is a frightening experience. After all, a conviction for can carry serious penalties and damage to your reputation. It may be tempting to accept the government’s offer to put the experience behind you. However, a criminal conviction can have a lasting effect. A criminal defense attorney will evaluate the evidence against you and develop a strategy for your case. If you're dealing with a criminal matter, it's in your best interest to receive a free case review from a local attorney to learn more about how the law applies in your case.
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