What are Narcotic Drugs?
Narcotic Drugs, by statute, is a drug “whether of natural or synthetic origin and any substance neither chemically nor physically distinguishable from them:” and provides a list of almost 100 substances.
These substances, whether alone or mixed in any other form, provide the basis for Narcotic Drugs. That list can be found at A.R.S. 13.3401 Definitions
Within the list of substances, Opium appears. This is where we see the most common charges being filed for Narcotic Drugs. Substances such as Codeine, Heroin, Hydrocodone, Morphine, and Oxycodone are some very common substances we see.
How do they file charges for Narcotic Drugs?
Narcotic drugs, much as in any of the drug offenses, will get charged as possession, sale, transportation, productions, or manufacturing.
As with all of the possession charges will show, you have to knowingly possess the Narcotic Drug in order to be charged with possession.
However, in legal terms, possession doesn’t have to mean “in your hand” or “in your pocket.”
The law allows prosecutors to try and prove you “should have known” the Narcotic Drug was somewhere.
So the definition of possession gets stretched to, you “knew” or “should have known” that the Narcotic Drug was in your car, home, garage, locker, back pack, etc.
How do the police find people that have Narcotic Drugs?
Arizona wants to crack down on drug use.
Maricopa County in particular takes a very harsh stance on drugs, only slightly less that Yavapai County to our North.
If you have ever been pulled over, you might have heard the officer ask you, “Any weapons, drugs, or explosives in the car?”
There are many instances where an individual will immediately answer yes. If this happens, the police officer now has probable cause to take you out of the car and search the vehicle.
In other instances, the police officer is looking for cues of drug impairment. There are two types of drugs: Central Nervous System Stimulants and Central Nervous System Depressants.
Central Nervous System Stimulants are substances that will stimulate the brain into speeding up both mental and physical processes.
Central Nervous System Stimulants can be prescribed to patients for a varying number of illnesses, some of which include: Attention Deficit Disorder, Narcolepsy, and Prolonged Depression. One very common CNS stimulant we see is Methamphetamine (under Dangerous Drugs).
CNS Stimulants can have a wide ranging effect on people. Some of the drugs will have a quick effect and then leave the system; while others can have a more lingering effect.
Police Officers are looking for cues that a person has taken a CNS stimulant when they are interacting with someone. Some of these cues include: facial tics, rapid speech, dry mouth (as seen by someone constantly trying to swallow), mood swings, and tremors or body shakes.
Central Nervous System Depressants are exactly the opposite of CNS Stimulants.
CNS depressants slow down the brain and bodily functions. Alcohol is probably the most common CNS Depressant. CNS depressants can be used to treat things such as anxiety, panic, acute stress, and sleep disorders.
There are very common prescription drugs that fall under the CNS depressant banner: Valium, Klonopin, Xanax, Ambien, and Lunesta. We are confident you have heard of one or all of these drugs or seen their commercials. Heroin is the most common illegal substance that is a CNS depressant.
CNS depressants generally slow everything down. Someone who is taking a CNS depressant can often times have slurred speech, drowsiness, poor concentration, dry mouth (remember that from above?), difficulty with coordination, and slowed breathing.
These are the signs a police officer is looking for when the approach a vehicle on a traffic stop or otherwise may have some belief that there are drugs involved. This is where you see those roadside tests come in with DUI related stops.
When a police officer is approaching a suspect (their words not mine) they will begin looking for all of these cues. So anytime there is a traffic stop, or an officer is approaching an individual for any other reason, the police officer will be looking for these cues.
Why does this matter? If the officer starts to see some of these cues, they are going to become more suspicious and suspect there may be drugs on your person, or in your car or house. If this is the case, they will often ask for a consent to search your vehicle or house.
What am I facing if they find Narcotic Drugs?
There can be a wide range of penalties for possession of Dangerous Drugs.
Fortunately, all Narotic Drugs are covered by the protections of “Prop 200” or statute A.R.S. 13-901.01.
A person covered by Prop 200 is going to be placed on probation the first time they are charged with a Narcotic Drug violation. You will have to complete probation as well as drug treatment.
The same will happen on a second violation for Narcotic Drugs. As a term of probation everyone is required to submit to urine screens to determine if there is any ongoing drug use.
The intentions behind this proposition and statute are good natured; we don’t want to throw addicts in prison. Unfortunately, that is not the reality. Arizona has mandatory sentencing that after two strikes, a person is facing a severe prison consequence.
Since you already have two strikes, generally that means you have two prior felony convictions and you are placed in the Category Three repetitive offender status.
Possession of Narcotic Drugs is a Class 4 Felony. Therefore, if you are a Category Three offender on a Class 4 Felony you will be facing a minimum prison sentence of 6 years but could face all the way up to 15 years in prison.
Even if you were lucky enough to have one of your priors drug convictions as a misdemeanor, or your other felonies are old enough, you can still face a range of 2.25 to 7.5 years in prison. The presumptive being 4.5 years in prison.
What are some examples of cases you have seen charged as Possession of Narcotic Drugs?
We have seen many cases involving Possession of Narcotic Drugs. Again, the most common thing we see is heroin.
However, we have seen cases where a person has pills in a baggie and these pills qualify as a Narcotic Drug under the definition.
We have also had cases where a person is found to be in possession of a pill bottle that does not belong to them and the pills inside are classified as Narcotic Drugs.
How can you defend a Possession of Narcotic Drugs Charge?
This depends on how the case is charged and the underlying factors. (Typical lawyer answer, right, it depends).
There are a number of defenses that we check in all of our cases.
- If there was a search, was the search done properly?
- How was the search allowed?
- By consent?
- By warrant?
- By probable cause?
- Was there a drug dog in use?
All of these answers can lead to defenses to be used in the criminal case.
As mentioned above, some cases are charged because a person is carrying pills in something different other than a pill bottle. People choose to carry pills in a number of ways.
This may sounds odd, but remember Narcotic Drugs are often prescription drugs. Think about carrying multiple bottles of prescription drugs with you everywhere you go – or you can carry a pill cases that has your daily allotment.
When these cases come up, presenting a valid prescription is the best defense. We show that the person who was charged is legally allowed to take the substance that was found and provide the doctor’s prescription. This will usually end in a fairly quick dismissal.
Sometimes a little harder scenario is when you are carrying a pill bottle that belongs to someone else.
This becomes harder to defend and is very fact dependent upon what happened. The best case scenario is the pill bottle is found in a car (not in plain sight) and is prescribed to the registered owner of the car.
Although technically the State could move forward with charging this case, generally they will not proceed with prosecution.
Opioid use in America and Arizona today
Unfortunately, American, and Arizona in particular, is rife with Opioid use. While prescription drug use may not seem like a problem, this is the root of the epidemic. Opioid drugs are highly addictive and can have the addiction effect after just a few uses.
Here is the scenario:
A person is injured playing a sport. This person goes to the doctor to get help. The doctor prescribes Oxycodone to deal with the pain while the injury is. The doctor only prescribes an amount of drug that can be safely used.
Unfortunately, the person’s pain level is above what they believed their pain level would be.
So they take another pill sooner than they are supposed to take a pill. And this happens over an over again until the person is taking two pills at a time. This process could be fast in the matter of days, or a little slower and take weeks to happen.
However, the end result is the same, the person is out of their prescription and they do not have the ability to get a refill.
So they go visit another doctor to get a new prescription, maybe this works for a short term, but eventually doctors will quit prescribing the drug.
What does this person do now?
They turn to Heroin. This is why people talk about a heroin outbreak and how it starts from opioid use.
This is how that mother that you thought had everything together is now having her children taken from her and facing prison time because she is addicted to Heroin. T
his is how that kid down the street loses his scholarship to college, gets fired from his job, and now resorts to selling drugs to feed his addiction.
States are cracking down on what they are trying to do to combat the issues.
In January of 2018 Governor Ducey released the Arizona Opioid Epidemic Act which promises that it will “attack the issues from all angles, while protecting individuals who suffer from chronic pain, and maintaining compassion for those struggling with addiction.”
Which may be true… the first two times.