Frequently Asked Questions About Arizona Drug Crimes

October 15, 2009 by admin  
Filed under Criminal Court

Drug use seems to be a never-ending problem in Arizona.  As a result, we have a never ending amount of people becoming criminals.  If you were sitting in one of Arizona’s courts devoted solely to the resolution of drugs cases, the lines would resemble those at Costco or Sam’s club.  It is common for an Arizona court to handle over 100 drugs cases in a day.  In practical terms, people are being made into felons for drug charges at an alarming rate.  However, not everyone in those lines at court has the same fate.  Not every person charged is convicted.

Here are some frequently asked questions about Arizona drugs crimes:

What does it mean when the State of Arizona says the drugs were over the threshold amount?

When drugs are possessed in sufficient amounts, Arizona law requires mandatory prison.  Each drug has a different specified amount that triggers a mandatory prison sentence.  The specified amount is called the “threshold” amount.  However, simply because you are found with an amount above the threshold that does not automatically mean you are going to prison.  The issues of whether the amount of the drugs found is over the threshold amount is commonly debated and confronted.

What are the most common illegal drugs prosecuted in Arizona?

Marijuana, Hashish, Cocaine, Crack Cocaine, Methamphetamine (meth), Heroin, Opium, LSD, PCP, psilocybin mushrooms, and ecstasy (MDMA).

Is there any way to get a charge of possession of drugs dismissed without a trial?

Obviously, no one can predict how a case will result without all the facts.  However, for possession cases, you may be eligible for diversion.  Diversion requires you to do drug education and monitoring.  If you successfully complete the program then your case may be dismissed.  There are times when people are not initially offered diversion when they are eligible.  This is usually because of incorrect information in the possession of law enforcement.

What does it mean when I am charged with possession for sale by the State of Arizona?

If you have been found in possession of larger amounts of drugs, then the State may claim you possessed the drugs to sell.  The most common example is being found in possession of several pounds of marijuana.  Law enforcement will inevitably claim that this much marijuana was more than needed for personal use.  However, usually more than just mere quantity is needed to support this claim.  Law enforcement will look for what they term “indicia of sale.”  This usually includes items such as scales, baggies, currency, etc…  Unless, of course, the quantity is so great that is not possible that the drugs are for personal use.  For example, if you are found with 100 kilos of cocaine, it unlikely that such an amount is for personal use.

How do you fight the charge of “possession for sale”?

The basis for the State to show you possessed drugs for sale is generally the opinion of a police officer.  The State is going to use the police officer as an “expert.”  The will say that the officer has specialized knowledge in drugs sales and based upon their “expert” opinion, these drugs were possessed for sale.  In my experience, to fight these charges you may need your own expert.  I generally employ a former drug enforcement officer and get my own independent opinion as to whether the drugs were possessed for sale.  Moreover, you also want to examine and possibly challenge the evidence provided to the grand jury that was the basis of the indictment.  The prosecutor must present both sides of the story to a grand jury when then indicate (charge) a person.  If they fail to present clearly exculpatory evidence, then that is a violation of Arizona law.

What if I was just a passenger in a car in which drugs were found?

There is no crime in Arizona of “guilt by association,” but there is something close to it.  Arizona law makes a distinction between ownership and possession of drugs.  You do not have to own drugs to be guilty of possession of drugs.  In addition, more than one person can posses drugs at the same time.  For example, if you are driving a car and a person has drugs in their pocket, it is unlikely that you possessed the drugs.  You did not have access to them, nor could you exercise any control over them.  On the other hand, if you are driving a car and there is three pounds of marijuana sitting on the consol then it may be determined that both you and the passenger “constructively” possessed the drugs.  You both had knowledge and the ability to control the drugs.  However, there will still be a debate as to whether you were “merely present” while someone else possessed the drugs – which is not a crime.

The issues arise when drugs are found in a residence shared by multiple people.

Can I get my drug charges expunged?

Arizona recognizes a manner to help clear someone’s criminal record.  Many states use the term expungement.  However, Arizona refers to this as “setting aside” a conviction.  Moreover, Arizona law also permits the courts to restore someone rights (i.e. vote, etc…) after criminal conviction.

If you need legal advice for a specific problem, you must consult with an Arizona Criminal Defense Attorney. For more information about Arizona Criminal Law or a specific legal problem, please contact Koplow & Patane Online or by phone at (602) 494-3444.

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