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Posted on January 16, 2020 in Drugs

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

Being convicted of drug possession can result in a criminal record that haunts you for years. If you are arrested for this crime in Arizona, you could also face serious penalties, including jail time. For that reason, you have the right to an attorney if you’re up against these charges.

Penalties for Drug Possession

Now, the penalties for drug possession in Arizona depend on the type of drug, the amount, and whether the person charged has any prior convictions. There are four categories of illegal substances to be aware of:

  • Dangerous drugs – includes methamphetamines, steroids, and psychedelics
  • Narcotics – cocaine, heroin, opium
  • Marijuana, and
  • Prescription drugs.

Drug crimes can be misdemeanors or felonies. The offense of possession of any amount a dangerous drug or narcotic is considered a class 4 felony. This could result in a prison term of between 1 and 2.5 years. However, if the offender had no priors, the court may reduce the crime to a class 1 misdemeanor. This results in a maximum of 6 months in jail, plus a $2,500 fine and probation.

By contrast, possession of marijuana is treated as a class 6 felony, which can lead to a prison term of between 4 months and 1 year. For prescription drugs, the state considers the offense to be a class 1 misdemeanor, which can result in a maximum penalty of 6 months in jail, a $2500 fine and probation.

Note that in all cases mentioned above, an offender may be ordered to attend a drug treatment program, and/or perform community service.

Keep in mind that these penalties apply to cases where the amount in your possession is below what is referred to as the “threshold amount.” This can vary depending on the drug, but higher volume possession cases involve a presumption of sale. These carry more significant penalties and means that you could be charged with intent to distribute even if the drug was for personal use.

Next Steps After a Drug Arrest

Once you are taken into custody, you will need to be brought before a judge with 24 hours. This is known as the initial appearance, and the judge will inform you of the allegations against you and that you have the right to be represented by an attorney.

The judge will also establish the conditions for your release. You may be released on your own recognizance or may be required to post a bond. The court will also schedule a status conference and a preliminary hearing.

The status conference serves as an opportunity to negotiate a resolution with the prosecution. This can result in your charges either being dropped or a plea deal where you accept guilt to a lesser offense. If the prosecutor agrees to a plea deal, the court will schedule a date for sentencing. If no deal is reached, the case will move forward.

A preliminary hearing is the next step and involves the prosecution presenting the evidence which establishes the criminal case against you. The court will then decide to either dismiss the matter or order you to stand trial.

If you are ordered to stand trial, the court will then schedule the arraignment. The arraignment is where you enter your plea of either guilty, not guilty, or no contest. If you choose to plead not guilty, the case is then scheduled for trial.

Note that there may be a number of pretrial hearings, including hearings involving evidence. These are important in laying the groundwork for trial, and your attorney may fight to keep certain evidence out based on the manner in which it was obtained, such as through an illegal search and seizure.

What to Expect at Trial

Now, in cases where no agreement can be reached with the prosecutor, the matter will head to trial. Each side will deliver an opening statement to the jury that explains their side of the case. Keep in mind that the prosecutor has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you are guilty of drug possession. This is done by presenting evidence, typically in the form of witness testimony and exhibits.

During the trial, your attorney will have a chance to question any witnesses for the prosecution and will present evidence that establishes your innocence and/or certain defenses to the crime. The jury will then decide whether you are guilty or not guilty. If you are found guilty, the matter will proceed to sentencing.

During the sentencing hearing, the judge will decide your punishment based on the range allowed by statute. This will require consideration of several factors, including whether or not you had any priors.