Drug Sales Crimes in Arizona: Frequently Asked Questions
Drug sales are serious felonies in Arizona, especially if the amount of drugs found is alleged by police to be “over the threshold.” This guide answers frequently asked questions about drug sales, and what constitutes a threshold amount for each drug, thereby triggering harsher penalties.
A. Drug Sales Crimes in ArizonaIf you have been arrested for being in possession of drugs for sale in Phoenix, or other cities within Maricopa County, there are several laws about drug sales that could affect your case. First, the State must prove you were in possession of the drugs.
B. Two types of Possession: Actual and ConstructiveThere are two types of possession under Arizona law: (1) Actual Possession or (2) Constructive Possession.
Actual possession: An example of actual physical possession is having drugs in your pocket or
Constructive Possession: Possession can also be constructive possession, meaning the drugs were not on your person, but were within your purview or control. Constructive possession can refer to items, including drugs, inside of a vehicle. The owner or driver of the vehicle can be found to be in constructive possession of all the drugs inside the car, even though the drugs were not on the driver’s physical person. The concept of constructive possession is that an individual has actual control over drugs without having physical control over the drugs.
C. What is the Weight of the drugs? Is it over the statutory threshold?Once the State of Arizona has established that you possessed the drugs, then the question becomes what is the weight of the drugs? The State of Arizona has set statutory threshold amounts for possession of illegal drugs. If you possess illegal drugs in an amount over Arizona’s threshold, you can be charged with possession with intent to sell. Even if you possessed the drugs for personal use and had no intention to sell, you can still be charged with possession with intent to sell. Possession with the intent to sell is always charged as a felony, and you could be facing mandatory prison time if you are convicted.
D. What if the weight of the drugs is under the threshold? Can you still be charged with drug salesIf the amount of drugs found to be in your possession is under the threshold amount, prosecutors would normally need to have additional evidence of intent to sell such as packaging materials (baggies, tinfoil, jars, twist ties, etc.) or items that indicate that the possessor is involved in illicit transactions (scales, a large amount of cash, ledgers, phone/electronic messages indicating sales, sales to an undercover officer, an informant’s testimony, etc.) in order to charge somebody with possession with intent to sell.
E. Over statutory threshold? Trial consequences:However, if Arizona’s statutory threshold is met or surpassed, the prosecutors and a criminal jury, if you choose to go to trial, may simply assume the quantity alone is indicative of an intent to sell.
F. Specific Statutory Threshold Amounts for each Drug:Under Arizona Statute §13-3401.36, the following "threshold amounts" indicate you had possession with an intent to sell (to name a few):
(1) Marijuana – Two pounds.
(2) Heroin - One gram.
(3) Cocaine - Nine grams (powder form); 750 milligrams (rock form).
(4) Methamphetamine – Nine grams.
(5) Amphetamine – Nine grams.
(6) Heroin – One gram.
(7) PCP – 4 grams (powder form); 50 milliliters (liquid suspension).
(8) LSD -1/2 milliliter (liquid form); 50 dosage units (blotter form).
G. Legal consequences of having possession of drugs over the statutory threshold:If you are arrested, and there are drugs in your actual or constructive possession, and those drugs turn out to be over the statutory threshold, the penalties under the law become much harsher. Depending on which drug is possessed, how much of the drug is possessed, and how many other indicia of sales are found, drug sales over the threshold can lead to mandatory prison sentences. Additionally, the defendant/inmate may be mandated to serve flat time - meaning day for day credit with no early release from prison.
H. Defenses to Drug Sale Charges: Preparing your defense to drug sales chargesFirst, and most importantly, if police try to question you, invoke your right to remain silent and your right to an attorney.
Second, meet with your attorney and go over the police report and details of the case together, so you can evaluate whether there are any viable search and seizure issues to litigate in an effort to suppress the drugs from coming in at trial.
Third, evaluate whether there may be a legal argument that you did not have actual or constructive possession of the drugs.
Fourth, the possession has to be knowingly, so there may be an argument that you did not know the drugs were present.
But, the bottom line is, take drug sales charges seriously, whether the amount is over the threshold or not. Work closely with your attorney because drug sales charges are serious, but there are ways of effectively defending yourself against them.