Arizona Drug Trafficking Laws

Stemming the flow of illegal drugs over the Arizona border is a priority for state and federal law enforcement agencies. It’s no surprise that those charged with drug trafficking or drug transportation face stiff penalties, including mandatory minimum prison sentences.

What may come as an unwelcome shock is that you don’t need to be caught traveling across the border carrying an illegal substance with the intent to distribute to be convicted of drug trafficking. Arizona law say that if you have a specified amount of drugs in your profession there is a presumption the drugs were for sales or distribution. Arguing the drugs were intended for personal use is not a recognized defense.

Arizona Threshold Amount for Drug Sales

If your caught by local law enforcement selling a small quantity of illegal drugs, you’re going to be prosecuted for violating the state’s drug sale and distribution laws. Surprisingly, there are also circumstances when the type, amount or weight of the drugs in your possession may lead police to believe that you’re a drug trafficker. This is known in Arizona law as a “threshold amount.” Even if the drugs in your possession were intended for personal use, if the amount is above the threshold” Prosecutors need only prove that you knowingly had this specified quantity in your possession.

The court assumes the defendant possessed the drugs for sale if at or above the threshold amounts set by Arizona law:

  • 1 gram of heroin
  • 9 grams of cocaine
  • 4 grams or 50 milliliters of PCP.
  • 9 grams of methamphetamine, including methamphetamine in liquid suspension.
  • 9 grams of amphetamine, including amphetamine in liquid suspension.
  • 2 pounds of marijuana.

Elements of Proof for Trafficking Conviction

The crime of importing, transporting or selling dangerous drugs in Arizona requires the prosecution prove beyond a reasonable doubt the following two statements:

1. The defendant knowingly imported, transported, or sold dangerous drugs

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 intentionally imported, transported or intended to sell the drugs. A ‘usable quantity’ is not an element of drug trafficking offense, but the quantity will trigger the presumption of sales.

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.

Potential Penalties for Drug Trafficking

Trafficking an illegal substance in Arizona can range from a class 6 to a class 2 felony. If you are convicted of any crime related to importing and selling illegal drugs, you are not eligible for Arizona’s Proposition 200 diversion programs. Your specific penalty will be determined by the type and quantity of drugs involved.

For example, selling heroin is typically a Class 3 felony. The fine for a Class 3 felony is $1,000 or three times the value of the drugs, whichever is greater. If the sale is to a minor, the crime becomes a Class 2 felony and carries a maximum sentence of 12.5 years in prison, assuming you have no prior felony convictions. If the sale was made in a drug free school zone, one year is added to the jail time.

Some drugs carry more severe penalties than others. If the you’re caught with methamphetamine, you will not be eligible for a suspended sentence, probation, or parole. A charged of trafficking or drug transportation is frequently coupled with other charges including possession or distribution. These charges carry additional penalties that will be added to your overall sentence. See the chart below for other penalties and sentences.

Overview of Arizona Drug Trafficking Laws

Below, you will find key provisions of Arizona’s Drug Trafficking laws. The penalties available for a conviction on drug distribution or trafficking charges depend on the type of drug, the activity, the defendant's prior criminal record, and any applicable sentencing enhancements permitted by Arizona law.

Arizona Statutes

Statutory Definitions

  • Deliver: Actual, constructive or attempted exchange from one person to another, whether or not there is an agency relationship
  • Sale: Exchange for anything of value or advantage, present or prospective
  • Transfer: Furnish, Deliver or Give Away

Penalties and Sentences

  • First-time felony offenders (dangerous offenses)
    • Class 6 Felonies: Minimum 1 year in prison
    • Class 4 Felony: Minimum 4 years in prison
    • Class 2 Felony: Minimum 7 years in prison
  • First-time Felony Offenders (non-violent) are eligible for probation with the exception of methamphetamine related charges
    • Class 6 Felonies: Minimum 6 months in prison
    • Class 4 Felony: Minimum 18 months in prison
    • Class 2 Felony: Minimum 4 years in prison
  • Repeat Offenders with three or more felony offenses that did not take place on the same occasion.
    • Class 6 Felonies: Minimum 1 year in prison
    • Class 4 Felony: Minimum 3 years in prison
    • Class 2 Felony: Minimum 6 years in prison

Defenses

  • Duress
  • Lack of Knowledge
  • Illegal Search and Seizure
  • Lack of Probable Cause

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.

Research the Law

If you have additional questions about drug trafficking charges and Arizona laws, review the following links:

Get a Free Case Review

Arizona takes drug trafficking offenses very seriously. Prosecutors will seek the maximum prison sentence in most cases. Fortunately, you don’t have to go through this alone. A criminal defense attorney is your advocate in the court room. Your attorney can evaluate the evidence against you, develop a case strategy and negotiate with the state on your behalf. If you’re charged with a drug-related crimes, it's in your best interest to receive a free case review from an Arizona criminal defense attorney to learn more about your legal options.

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