Intent to Sell – Three Words that Maximize a Prison Sentence

If the state of Arizona looks poorly on those in possession of drugs, it feels even less love for those charged with the “intent to sell” drugs. When those three words follow drug possession on the list of charges, the state has a license to maximize the penalties against the accused, including extra jail time and larger fines. But there is a way you can fight back against gratuitous charges and sentencing: ask for a lawyer and stay quiet.

We assess the facts of your case and are dedicated to getting an acquittal or having the charges dropped altogether. If that doesn’t appear possible, we are straight up with you from day one, making sure you know what to expect and how we can help you get the best possible outcome.

Possession in Arizona

It is a crime to possess a narcotic in this state. A narcotic is defined by Arizona Statute 13-3401 as 20 or more substances (naturally found or synthetically derived). To be guilty of possession of a narcotic, it must be shown a defendant had possession of a substance and the substance was a narcotic.

Possession of a narcotic means to knowingly have physical possession or otherwise to exercise control over property, in this case, a narcotic. Arizona courts break possession down into two types:

  1. Actual possession (having physical possession)
  2. Constructive possession (being able to exercise control over property, such as having it in your vehicle)

Possession must be with knowledge, meaning if a defendant is unaware narcotics are in a vehicle he or she is riding in, the defendant is not guilty of possession.

Narcotics are a specially defined class of drugs. Common narcotics include:

  • Heroin
  • Fentanyl
  • Hydrocodone
  • Oxycodone
  • Morphine

These are harder and more dangerous drugs, some of which may be legal if used and prescribed appropriately. 

Intent to Sell 

The intent to sell encompasses the exchange of a narcotic for money or other items of value. The charge of possession with intent to sell commonly comes about when a defendant is in possession of large quantities of narcotics–generally larger than an amount kept for personal consumption. Other cases arise out of staged drug buys, where an undercover police officer purchases drugs from a defendant.


While the possession of a narcotic by itself is a serious crime, possession with the intent to sell doubles the sentence of simple possession upon conviction. For example, a person charged solely with possession of a narcotic receives a minimum sentence of one and a half years up to three years (more or less time may be sentenced with mitigating or aggravating factors). However, punishment for possession with intent to sell carries a minimum sentence of four years and a maximum sentence of ten years (more or less with mitigating or aggravating factors). 

Compare how the intent to sell or distribute narcotics increases the punishment for a first-time offender below:

  • Possession of Narcotics: Class 4 Felony – 3-year minimum, 5-year maximum
  • Possession of Narcotics with Intent to Sell: Class 2 Felony – 4-year minimum, 10-year maximum
  • Transport of Narcotics for Sale – Class 2 Felony – 4-year minimum, 10-year maximum

In addition to jail time, a conviction for possession of narcotics with the intent to sell can also result in fines and the assessment of court costs and fees. Conviction can also result in civil forfeiture, or the state’s taking of vehicles or other items used to manufacture or transport drugs or proceeds traceable to the sale of drugs. This means the state can seize a vehicle used to transport narcotics or cash or items purchased with cash from the sale of narcotics. 

Defenses if Charged with Intent to Sell

The intent to sell is a specific intent of the defendant to exchange what he or she knows or should have known to be narcotics for something of value. The most basic defense is that you were not knowingly in possession of narcotics or lacked the intent to sell the narcotics. Other defenses applicable to most other crimes also apply, such as:

  • Entrapment
  • Unlawful search and seizure
  • Lack of probable cause
  • Duress
  • Incapacity
  • Mistake of fact

At Arizona Lawyers an experienced criminal defense attorney evaluates every case and can advise you of any defenses that may apply. 

Know Your Rights, Protect Yourself

The state bears the burden of proving you are guilty of a crime beyond a reasonable doubt. Speaking with police or voluntarily giving information can make it much easier for the state to meet its burden of proof. Especially if that information could result in increased charges of intent to sell. If you have been arrested or questioned by the police about any crime, keep the following rights in mind:

  • The right to be free of unlawful searches and seizures
  • The right to remain silent
  • The right to an attorney
  • The right to due process

Exercising these rights places you in the best possible position should you be prosecuted. If you’ve been charged with a drug crime, contact Arizona Lawyers. We provide a free consultation where we honestly evaluate your case. We provide cost-effective solutions and are there to address your concerns every step of the way.