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Posted on March 6, 2020 in Drugs

What to Expect if You’re Arrested for Drug Possession in Arizona 

If you’re arrested for drug possession in Arizona, don’t panic. An arrest is not a conviction. Allowing your emotions to control could lead to decisions or statements that result in additional drug charges.

A Ride to the Police Station

You can expect to be handcuffed and transported to the police station after your arrest for drug possession. Fight the urge to talk during the ride to the police station. Trying to explain “your side” may give officers additional evidence and information to use against you.

If you have an attorney, request your telephone call as soon as possible. If you don’t have an attorney, use your telephone call to ask family members or friends to search for an Arizona criminal defense attorney to help you. An attorney can help you get out of jail as soon as possible.

While you wait to speak with your criminal defense attorney or to see a judge, don’t say anything else to the police. You aren’t required to answer questions. Exercise your right to remain silent.

The First Twenty-Four Hours After an Arrest for Drug Possession — The Initial Appearance

Within 24 hours after your arrest, you appear in court for your initial appearance hearing. At the initial appearance, a judge reviews the charges against you. He also informs you of the right to have an attorney.

The judge sets the terms for your release or denies bond. Depending on the facts in your case, a judge could release you on your own recognizance (without a bond). If you are required to post a bond, a bail bond agent can help you post bail if you do not have the full funds to pay the bail.

The judge also sets a date for a status conference at the initial appearance.

The Status Conference

The status conference is an opportunity to discuss the charges for drug possession with the prosecutor. Several outcomes are possible. Your case could be dismissed, you could agree to a plea deal, or your case could proceed to a preliminary hearing.

If you accept a plea deal, the court schedules a sentencing hearing. Otherwise, your case proceeds to a preliminary hearing.

The Preliminary Hearing

At the preliminary hearing, the prosecution presents evidence to prove the drug possession charge. The judge decides if there is sufficient evidence to go to trial. If the judge decides the prosecution did not establish grounds for a criminal case, the judge can dismiss the charges against you.

The court schedules an arraignment if there is sufficient evidence to proceed to trial. At the arraignment, you plead guilty, not guilty, or no contest. If you plead not guilty, the judge schedules a trial.

Proceeding to a Trial on Drug Possession Charges

Rule 8, Arizona Rules of Criminal Procedure states that a trial date must be set within 150 days if the defendant remains in custody. Otherwise, trial dates are set within 180 days from the date of the initial appearance. There are some exceptions to the general rules.

However, the date of the trial could be adjusted depending on numerous factors. Various motions and pre-trial hearings could result in a later trial date. Also, complex cases could have later trial dates.

Your criminal defense attorney uses the time to gather evidence, interview witnesses, and research laws to develop a defense strategy that gives you the best chance of a positive outcome at trial.

Should I Settle or Go to Trial for Arizona Drug Possession Charges?

The decision to accept a plea deal or go to trial can be complicated. In some cases, going to trial can be riskier than accepting a plea deal. Working with an experienced Arizona criminal defense attorney is highly recommended.

If you go to trial, the prosecution presents its side first. Prosecutors question witnesses and present evidence for the jury to consider. Your attorney has the chance to cross-examine witnesses the prosecution presents.

You are then able to tell your side. You and your attorney decide whether it is a good idea for you to take the stand to testify in your own defense. Your attorney may utilize a variety of defense strategies to argue against the prosecution’s case.

After all evidence is presented, a jury decides if you are innocent or guilty. If the jury finds you guilty, you proceed to sentencing before the judge. Penalties for drug possession in Arizona can be severe.

How Are Drug Possession Charges Classified?

The exact charge for drug possession depends on several factors. Factors that impact the exact criminal charge include, but are not limited to:

  • The type of drug in your possession;
  • The amount of the drug in your possession;
  • Your past criminal history;
  • Whether you face other criminal charges, such as possession with intent to distribute, sell, or transport drugs; and,
  • Any aggravating or mitigating factors related to the drug charge.

Drug possession charges range from misdemeanors to felonies.

However, drug charges are complicated in Arizona. Possession of a dangerous drug is a class 4 felony. However, the charge could be reduced to a class 1 misdemeanor if certain factors are present.

Penalties for Drug Possession in Arizona

Drug-related penalties in Arizona can be severe. Even first-time offenders could face one to 3.75 years in prison for a class 4 felony drug possession charge. However, some individuals convicted of personal possession of a controlled substance could qualify for probation.

What is the bottom line? Sentencing for drug possession is complicated. You could receive probation, drug treatment plans, drug education, fines, and prison as part of your sentence for drug possession.

Because numerous factors impact sentencing in drug possession cases, it is best to consult with an Arizona criminal defense attorney as soon as possible after an arrest.