Are you facing drug trafficking charges in Phoenix, AZ? Do not hesitate to call Orent Law Offices for immediate assistance. Our Phoenix criminal defense attorneys have decades of experience handling drug trafficking cases, and we’ll do everything we can to help you. Our law firm offers a free initial consultation, so call now.
The crime of drug smuggling is serious in the state of Arizona. It can lead to significant penalties, and you may be charged at both the state and federal levels. However, our Phoenix criminal lawyers are experienced in these matters and will aggressively defend your case.
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Attorney Craig Orent has over 30 years of experience defending clients facing drug charges. He understands the complexities of drug transporting and selling laws, both state and federal. If you’ve been accused of drug trafficking, Orent Law will be there to help you fight the charges. Just give us a call today to get started on your defense.
Now, the term drug “trafficking” generally refers to the sale and distribution of illicit drugs. It may also include the carrying of drugs across state or international lines for the purposes of sale. Because Arizona is situated above Mexico, the state has a long history of drugs coming across the border.
As you might imagine, local and national authorities are working hard to combat this issue. For that reason, there are large penalties in place for individuals caught selling and importing illegal drugs. Specifically, under the law, it is a crime to “transport for sale, import into this state, offer to transport for sale or import into the state, sell, transfer or offer to sell or transfer” any illegal drug.
While this language may seem confusing, it is important to understand that selling and importing drugs is considered the same crime in Arizona. Further, you don’t need to be arrested at the border with drugs in your possession to be charged with a trafficking drugs offense.
Note that, in Arizona, if you have over a certain amount of an illegal substance in your possession, it is assumed that you had an intent to distribute the drug. This means that even if you acquired the drug for personal use only, this would not affect whether or not you could be charged with a trafficking offense.
With that in mind, at issue in these cases is whether or not the volume in your possession is over what is known as the “threshold amount” which varies depending on the controlled substance. Below is a list of the threshold amounts for several common drugs:
Again, having these amounts of more of the substance in your possession means that you could face trafficking charges even if you had no intent to sell the drugs.
By contrast, possession of the threshold amount of an illegal substance is not required for you to be charged with drug importation. All you need is some supply of the drug, with even trace amounts being sufficient.
In these cases, the prosecutor instead needs to show that you knowingly imported or transported the substance. This means that there must be evidence that shows that you knew that the drug was being brought into the state and you were part of the process in some way.
For example, the knowledge requirement would be met if you put drugs in your luggage at the airport or in your car at the border. It would also be met if you asked someone else to smuggle the drugs for you.
However, keep in mind that it would not be considered importing or transporting if someone without your consent used your luggage or vehicle to bring drugs into the state. Here, you had no knowledge or control over the smuggling activities.
Keep in mind that not all drugs carry the same penalties in Arizona. This is because drugs are categorized differently in the state depending on the perceived dangers associated with their use and the risk of abuse. Specifically, each illicit drug is placed into one of four categories:
Note that these categories differ from the “scheduling” of drugs used by the federal government. For that reason, it’s important to understand that the penalty you face can also depend on whether you are being prosecuted at the state or federal level, or both.
Due to the effects of larger-scale sale and transport of drugs, the penalties are more severe than in simple drug possession charges. Specifically, depending on the volume of drugs you are arrested with, trafficking offenses range from a class 6 felony up to a class 2 felony.
For example, transporting or selling marijuana with a weight of less than 2 pounds is considered a class 3 felony. This carries a potential prison term of between 2 and 7 years. By contrast, transporting or selling narcotics and dangerous drugs is deemed a class 2 felony.
This definition includes natural and synthetic drugs like opium, heroin, stimulants, and LSD. If convicted, you face a potential prison sentence of between 3 and 10 years.
Finally, transporting or selling prescription drugs illegally is classified as a class 6 felony in Arizona. This carries a potential prison term of between 4 months and 1.5 years.
Now, bear in mind that if you cross state lines or international borders with illegal substances, you may also be prosecuted under Federal law. This would be in addition to any state penalties you receive and means that you can still be convicted in federal court even after being acquitted in state court.
Keep in mind that federal charges are serious. In fact, importing heroin or cocaine can result in a prison sentence of 20 years and up to $5 million in fines. For this reason, it’s particularly important to have a qualified criminal defense attorney on your side if you are charged with this crime.
In all criminal cases, the prosecution must prove your guilt beyond what is known as “reasonable doubt.” This means that there can be no other logical conclusion from the facts presented other than you knowingly imported or sold drugs. This is a high bar to meet and requires the state to offer significant evidence that you committed the drug crime.
Lack of Intent: One defense that you can raise to a trafficking charge is that you never intended to transport the drugs in question. It’s important to remember that this defense would only apply to a charge of transporting or importing, not intent to distribute. As mentioned above, intent to distribute looks at the threshold amount and does not take into account your intentions.
However, for transport/import cases, some reasons why you may not have the requisite intent include the following:
Duress: Note that duress may also be raised as a defense. An example would be if you were threatened by drug smugglers and coerced to carry illicit substances across the border.
Constitutional Violations: There may also be violations of your constitutional rights that could limit what evidence the prosecution can use to prove your guilt. An example would be an illegal search and seizure of your home or automobile. If law enforcement conducted these activities without a warrant or probable cause, you may have grounds for getting any evidence they recovered kept out of the case.
It’s important that you don’t delay in speaking with a Phoenix criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible when facing drug charges. You deserve the best representation possible. Even if you haven’t been formally charged, our law group can help out at any stage of a police investigation or legal process. Contact Orent Law today for a free consultation with our experienced legal team.