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Possession of a Controlled Substance: What it Means in Arizona?

Wondering what possession of a controlled substance means in Arizona? In this article, Orent Law Offices explains everything you need to know about this far too common criminal charge.

Being convicted for possessing a controlled substance in Arizona can have serious consequences. “Possession” is the classic drug charge people think of whenever they see the police searching a car, patting someone down, or executing a search warrant.

The U.S. War on Drugs is often blamed for causing mass incarceration in the United States. Possession of a controlled substance is the tip of the spear in The War on Drugs. People of all races and ethnicities have suffered from overzealous prosecution of drug possession.

Mass incarceration has had an extremely disparate impact on minority communities and people of color, causing many to question the motives behind our nation’s strict drug laws. In fact, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, a shocking 38% of the prisoner population is black, despite only making up 13% of the total population of the U.S.

If you are facing charges for possession of a controlled substance, don’t say another word to the police. Invoke your right to silence and contact or call Orent Law Offices at (480) 656-7301 for help.

What Does the State Need to Prove for a Possession Charge in Arizona?

There are a few different ways that you could be charged for possession of a controlled substance. These include:

Sentences can range from misdemeanor to felony, with varying levels of prison and jail exposure. The type of substance and the amount of the substance, along with your prior record, can all influence the penalties in your case.

For a typical possession charge, the state needs to prove the following three elements:

  • The defendant
  • Possessed
  • A controlled substance

The prosecution must prove each of these three elements beyond a reasonable doubt to convict you. The first element is the identity element. They must prove you had possession. It doesn’t matter how much of a controlled substance you had for dangerous, narcotic, and prescription only drugs — having any amount can lead to charges.

The state can show you had actual possession or “constructive possession” of the drugs. Actual possession occurs when you have drugs on your person. Constructive possession allows the state to prove a substance was in your possession just because it was near you. This is often used to prove possession cases when drugs were in a vehicle with multiple passengers or in a home with multiple residents.

What is Possession with Intent?

What is Possession with IntentPossession with intent is a term used by prosecutors. It means they believe you possessed the drugs with the purpose of selling them. In Arizona, the same statutes that prohibit possession of a controlled substance also prohibit possession for sale.

Possession with intent to sell is a much more serious crime than regular possession. Prosecutors may try to prove intent to sell based on:

  • The amount possessed (more than for personal use)
  • Paraphernalia present such as bags, scales, or cash
  • A sting operation / “controlled buy”

If police performed a sting operation, your defense lawyer can argue they unlawfully entrapped you by enticing you to do something you would not have done without extreme pressure from law enforcement.

The key to possession with intent to sell cases is usually the “threshold amount.” This is an amount set by law that suggests an intent to distribute. Threshold amounts vary from drug to drug. Threshold amounts are supposed to be more than amounts for personal use.

What Are Some Common Controlled Substances in Arizona?

There are countless controlled substances in the state of Arizona. Arizona law prohibits possession of dangerous drugs, narcotic drugs, and marijuana. It is also illegal to possess precursors to manufacture drugs, and it is illegal to possess paraphernalia.

Some of the threshold amounts for common dangerous drugs include:

  • Cocaine (9 grams)
  • Methamphetamine (9 grams)
  • Heroine (One gram)
  • LSD (1/2mL)
  • Marijuana (2 pounds)
  • Mushrooms
  • Ecstasy
  • Prescription-only pills

You may have noticed that the last three substances did not include a threshold amount. This is because for most controlled substances a specific quantity is not stated. Rather, the threshold amount is set as “an amount for which the value exceeds $1000”. This list is not exhaustive, there are many, many other controlled substances that are illegal to possess.

What is a Motion to Suppress Unlawful Fruits?

One of the best defense strategies in any possession of a controlled substance case in Arizona is filing a motion to suppress evidence. Specifically, your lawyer will want to file a motion to suppress evidence of drugs due to an illegal search or seizure.

This is called the exclusionary rule. Having the drugs thrown out means the state can’t prove its case against you, and the case will be dismissed.

Under the Fourth Amendment, every person has the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. This right applies to your person, your home, and your vehicle. Police always need a certain level of suspicion before they can search you. Typically this suspicion is called probable cause. Otherwise, they are acting illegally, and the evidence cannot be used against you.

When cops search you on the street without a warrant, they may well have made a mistake and violated your rights. If they did have a search warrant, a judge could still rule in your favor that they did not have probable cause, but it will be a much tougher argument.

What Penalties Am I Facing for Possession in Arizona?

The typical penalties for possession of a narcotic drug and possession of a dangerous drug are the same. Possession will usually be charged as a Class 4 Felony. If it is charged as possession with intent to sell, it will be charged as a Class 2 Felony.

A Class 4 Felony carries a minimum of one year in prison, and a maximum of three years nine months. A Class 2 Felony carries a minimum penalty of three years in prison and a maximum of 12 years and six months.

Penalties can vary greatly based on criminal record, the unique circumstances, and which specific subsection of the law you were charged with violating. An experienced criminal defense lawyer should review your case with you to discuss the penalties you are facing.

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