How Many Years in Jail for Drug Possession?
Criminal statute ARS 13-3407 provides significant criminal penalties for individuals convicted of possessing a dangerous drug. Arizona law defines substances like methamphetamine, cocaine, and PCP as dangerous drugs.
Because prison time is often on the table when a person is charged with the possession of a dangerous drug, defendants should always seek representation from a drug possession defense attorney. In some cases, a skilled advocate can get drug charges reduced or dismissed altogether. Without an attorney, defendants face the full force of the law alone.
Types of Dangerous Drugs that Can Lead to Jail Time
In Arizona, the dangerous drugs definition includes substances that the legislature has deemed to be dangerous. They are uniformly mind-altering, which means that they impart psychotropic or other similar effects on their users, and they are typically available at the street level through dealers.
If you read the statute that defines the crime of dangerous drug possession, you will see that there are over 300 types of dangerous drugs listed. Some of the more common dangerous drugs in Arizona include:
- Psilocin and psilocybin
- Anabolic steroids
Also on the list are cannabimimetic substances, which are essentially forms of synthetic marijuana.
What Is Possession of a Dangerous Drug?
Statute ARS 13-3407 lists seven circumstances in which an individual may be charged with poss. of dangerous drugs or other drug-related crimes, with each situation carrying a different punishment:
- Possession or use of a dangerous drug: Class 4 felony.
- Possession of a dangerous drug for sale: Class 2 felony.
- Possession of materials for drug manufacturing: Class 3 felony.
- Dangerous drug manufacturing: Class 2 felony.
- Administering a dangerous drug: Class 2 felony.
- Using fraud or deceit to obtain a dangerous drug: Class 3 felony.
- Selling or transporting a dangerous drug: Class 2 felony.
It is common for individuals dealing with a dangerous drug violation in AZ to be charged with more than one of the above-listed offenses. But remember that being charged with possession does not mean the dangerous drugs charge is justified.
What Is the Punishment for Possession of Dangerous Drugs in Arizona?
According to the ARS, possession of dangerous drugs can lead to harsh punishments that include significant jail or prison time and fines. The circumstances of the charge factor heavily in the sentencing.
Factors that affect the punishment include:
- The specific charge
- The defendant’s prior criminal record
- The amount of drug involved
Regarding the specific charge, all possession of dangerous drugs in AZ charges are felonies. The more serious a felony, the lower the number it is assigned. For example, drug possession or use is a Class 4 felony, which is among the least severe of Arizona felonies. Dangerous drug manufacturing, on the other hand, is more serious and thus designated as a Class 2 felony.
Relevant felony punishment schedules in Arizona, including mitigated and aggravated lengths, are as follows:
- Class 4 Felony: 1 to 3.75 years
- Class 3 Felony: 2 to 8.75 years
- Class 2 Felony: 3 to 12.5 years
For some first-time offenders, a charge reduction from a felony to a misdemeanor may be possible. However, if the drug was LSD, methamphetamine, or PCP, then the charge reduction is unavailable.
Does the Quantity of the Drug Possessed Make a Difference?
Yes. The quantity of a dangerous drug makes a big difference in sentencing. If you are caught with an amount of dangerous drug that is over its statutory threshold weight, you will be subject to a sentencing enhancement.
A statutory threshold is a legislated quantity that triggers harsher sentences. Weight thresholds for commonly seized dangerous drugs include:
- Heroin: One gram
- PCP: Four grams or 50 milliliters
- LSD: Half of a milliliter or 50 blotter dosage units
Threshold values, or thresholds that depend on the monetary value of the drug, might also apply. Certain drugs that have a value of at least $1,000 can be deemed as breaking the statutory threshold.
If convicted of exceeding these statutory thresholds, an individual faces mandatory completion of their entire sentence; they will not be eligible for parole or early release.
Could I Be Eligible for Probation If This Is My First Offense in Arizona?
It depends. Arizona law allows for certain first-time offenders to get probation instead of jail or prison time. Proposition 200, which was voted into effect by AZ residents in 1996, holds that a first-time conviction for possession of dangerous drugs must result in probation. However, there are some exceptions to this mandate.
First, this law applies only to first-time offenders. If you already have a conviction for drug possession, you are not eligible for Prop 200 protection.
Second, Prop 200 does not cover every dangerous drug. For instance, defendants convicted of simple methamphetamine possession may not take advantage of first-time offender provisions. Finally, Prop 200 covers only simple possession and not possession for other reasons, such as sale and manufacturing.
If you are given probation under Prop 200, it is important that you fulfill the probation terms and conditions. Failure to do so could lead to facing the full penalties of the dangerous drug possession charge, which include jail or prison time and fines.
Other disqualifiers include previous convictions for certain violent crimes, refusal of drug treatment as a condition of probation, and refusal to agree to probation.
What Is a Diversion Program?
A diversion program is an alternative way of dealing with a criminal charge. Instead of going through traditional criminal channels, the defendant is diverted into a probation-type program with specific conditions and requirements. Once a diversion program has been successfully completed, the defendant’s case is dismissed.
Keep in mind that not all counties in the state have diversion programs. Additionally, there is no automatic right to diversion. It is up to the prosecutor to decide whether a defendant can participate in the program.
With an experienced drug possession defense attorney fighting for you, your chances of getting a diversion go up. For this reason, it is important to contact an attorney as soon as you have been charged with dangerous drug possession so that they can fight to get your case diverted before it is too late.
Possible Drug Possession Defenses to ARS 13-3407 in AZ
If you have been charged with a criminal offense, you should hire a competent defense attorney. This is especially true with drug offenses in Arizona. A seasoned attorney can make an enormous difference in the outcome of your case. Depending on your circumstances, they might mount one of these vigorous drug possession defenses.
To get a conviction for possession of a dangerous drug, a prosecutor must prove, among other things, that the defendant had knowledge of the presence of the drug. In other words, if your defense attorney can prove that you were not aware of the dangerous drug’s existence, they can fight to get the charge reduced or thrown out.
The prosecutor must not only prove that you knew about the drug, but they must also show beyond a reasonable doubt that you were actually in possession of it, either actively or constructively. Your defense attorney might argue that although the drugs were in the same location as you, they were not in your possession.
Unlawful Search and Seizure
You have the right to be free from unlawful searches and seizures. However, law enforcement authorities regularly conduct illegal searches. With the aid of a savvy defense attorney, you could have illegally obtained evidence thrown out. Without evidence, there can be no further criminal proceedings.
Regardless of your situation, you can expect your defense attorney to use every defense available in the fight for your freedom.
Get You Legal Help with the Law Offices of Brandon White
Being charged with possession of a dangerous drug puts your life and liberty in jeopardy. Penalties are harsh and include time behind bars and high-dollar fines. Fortunately, a strong defense can potentially get your charges reduced or dismissed altogether.
Criminal defense lawyer Brandon White is an ex-Arizona State Trooper and knows precisely how the other side thinks. If you want a seasoned criminal attorney who knows how to fight against ARS 13-3407 charges, contact us for a consultation today. You deserve a vigorous defense against the state’s attempt to take your freedom.
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