According to the FBI's 2018 Uniform Crime Report, every 20 seconds, someone in the United States is arrested for drug possession. This staggering statistic is on the rise, even with more states legalizing marijuana for recreational use. It is important to remember, not everyone charged with drug possession is guilty.
An important concept in Arizona law is that a person must knowingly be in possession of drugs to be found guilty by a judge or jury. In some of these cases, law enforcement officers charged a person with "drug possession" who was unknowingly in the presence of drugs. Just because drugs are found in your residence or vehicle does not mean you are guilty, especially if you share these areas with other people. Finding a "usable quantity" in your vicinity likewise does not mean you are guilty. In some cases, law enforcement finds the drugs during an illegal search, or testing at the state crime lab reveals that the "drugs" were, in fact, a legal substance.
Arizona has separate laws for four different types of drugs -- marijuana, prescription-only drugs, dangerous drugs, and narcotic drugs. Some of these charges are misdemeanors while others are felonies. Drug penalties will vary according to the type of drug and any prior drug offenses.
Although Arizona allows qualifying patients to use medical marijuana, it remains illegal to possess or use marijuana for recreational purposes (or even medical purposes if the alleged offender is not permitted by law use medical marijuana). Arizona law specifies that a person cannot knowingly possess, use, sell, transport, or produce marijuana.
Penalties for marijuana charges range from a Class 6 Felony for an amount of marijuana weighing less than two pounds and not for sale to a Class 2 Felony for transporting or importing more than two pounds of marijuana. The presumptive term for a Class 6 Felony is one year in prison, and a Class 2 Felony has a presumptive term of five years in prison.
In Arizona, a person cannot possess or use prescription-only drugs unless they have a valid prescription from a licensed prescriber. They must obtain this prescription without "fraud, deceit, misrepresentation or subterfuge." This section of Arizona law typically applies to stimulant prescription medications, like Adderall or Ritalin.
Possession of Prescription-Only Drugs is a Class 1 Misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in jail, three years probation, and a fine up to $2,500.
Arizona's Dangerous Drugs statute specifies that a person cannot use, possess, possess for sale, manufacture, or administer to another person any dangerous drug. This includes, but is not limited to, drugs such as heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine.
In most cases, Possession of Dangerous Drugs is a Class 4 Felony but may be reduced to a Class 1 Misdemeanor if the defendant does not have any previous felony convictions and the drug involved was not lysergic acid diethylamide, methamphetamine, amphetamine, or phencyclidine.
The judge may also place the defendant on probation without designating the offense a felony or misdemeanor until successful completion of probation.
Like prescription-only drugs, possessing or using narcotic drugs without a valid prescription from a licensed prescriber is a felony. Again, the person must obtain these drugs without "fraud, deceit, misrepresentation or subterfuge." This section of Arizona law covers drugs such as Vicodin, Oxycodone, Methadone, Fentanyl, and Codeine, among others.
Possessing or using a narcotic drug is a Class 4 Felony, with a presumptive term of two years, six months in prison. If a person fraudulently obtains a prescription for narcotic drugs, this is a Class 2 Felony with a presumptive sentence of five years in prison. Anyone convicted of a felony in Arizona may be fined up to $150,000.
Defend Your Freedom in Northern Arizona
If you have been charged with Drug Possession in Northern Arizona, contact The Law Offices of Shawn B. Hamp today. Our criminal defense attorneys understand that just because drugs were found in your vicinity does not mean that you are guilty of drug possession and will build the strongest defense for you. Visit our Drug Offenses page for more information and contact us today for a free case evaluation.