There is a wide range of drug offenses in Arizona. Simple possession is a very common drug charge. Generally, this type of charge evolves from police contact, whether a speeding ticket or a disorderly conduct call, and then either they have a reason to believe that there are drugs involved, or there are drugs indicated by the smell or the odor of marijuana, which is a very common thing we see in police reports. Or they do a pat down when they arrest somebody and in their pockets, they find drugs, but those drugs can vary widely, with a lot of possession of marijuana, especially in vehicle stops.

There are a lot of new defenses that are coming up with medical marijuana as a defense, but outside of that, methamphetamine is very prevalent in Arizona, and it’s prosecuted much harder than some of the other simple drug offenses.

How Is A Drug Charge Determined To Be Either A Misdemeanor Or A Felony?

Realistically, almost all drug charges are felonies; even possession of marijuana is a Class VI felony. There are some differences with prescription medications that fall under misdemeanor classifications, but the vast majority of drug charges are going to fall somewhere along the lines of a felony drug offense. Possession of drug paraphernalia and/or possession of marijuana could be classified as a misdemeanor; a lot of times, it is determined by how the police officer writes it up or how the county or city attorney is going to handle it. If it goes to the city, it’s going to be handled as a misdemeanor. If it goes to the county, almost every time it’s going to be handled as a felony.

How Does Arizona Classify Controlled Substances?

Arizona has specific statutes that give definitions as to controlled substances, which are listed in statute 13-3401. Dangerous substances would be classified as a Class IV felony for simple possession, but there are three main categories: There are dangerous drugs, narcotics and marijuana. Dangerous drugs and narcotics are both going to be Class IV felonies.

Are Drug Possession Charges Classified Separately As Well?

Yes. They each are going to have their own subset of statutes, but realistically, what happens is it’s possession of ____, whether it’s a dangerous drug, a narcotic or marijuana, and then you just refer to the various schedules to determine if it’s defined as a dangerous drug or a narcotic drug. A lot of people don’t really understand the concept of what’s considered a dangerous drug. People think a dangerous drug is just methamphetamine, but there are many prescription drugs that can be considered dangerous or narcotic drugs. People unknowingly can be looking at and facing a very serious Class IV felony.

What Are Some Aggravating Factors For Drug-Related Charges In Arizona?

An aggravating factor that comes to mind, which can move a drug charge up to the felony range, is possession for sale. If you possess an amount over the threshold, that can start moving you, even on a first offense, into a mandatory prison range. The amount or weight of the drugs, whether or not they were for sale, if there were different types of drugs, can involve different charges. Also whether or not you have any prior felony convictions or any controlled substance convictions are going to be contributing factors to how your case potentially can be resolved.

What Does A Threshold Amount Mean When Talking About Drug-Related Offenses?

Over the threshold amount essentially just means the amount of the weight of the drugs. For instance, a threshold amount for marijuana is 2 pounds; for methamphetamine it’s going to be 9 grams; cocaine is 9 grams; LSD is half a milliliter, and PCP is 4 grams. That’s the threshold limit that if you are above it, you are going to be facing a more serious offense than if you have something under that limit.

What Is The General Timeline Of Drug-Related Cases In Arizona?

There are two different courts that handle drug cases in Arizona. There is an early disposition court, which generally lasts about 60 days from start to finish. A lot of drug cases can get resolved in that amount of time. The other step is the pre-trial track, which is in the downtown superior court here in Maricopa County. That generally lasts an additional two to three months. If it ends up going to trial for simple possession, you can probably look at maybe a six-month timeline from start to finish. When you get into some of the more serious sales cases, that’s when you’re going to get some of those extended timelines when you have multiple co-defendants, and you’re probably looking at nine months from start to finish, just depending on all the complexities. But about four months is a good general guideline.

For more information on Felony Drug Offenses In Arizona, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (480) 400-1355 today.