There are a number of substances that fall within the State of Arizona’s definition of controlled substances. Aside from the usual illegal drugs such as marijuana, cocaine, and heroin, controlled substances also include synthetic and prescription drugs. Many times, depending on the quantity of a substance, possession charges are also associated with more serious charges of intent to sell. Possession charges are not an automatic sentence, however, as a qualified drug crimes attorney can design an effective defense strategy.

The criminal defense attorneys at Arizona Lawyers have over 40 years of combined legal experience fighting on behalf of those facing serious criminal charges. Our knowledgeable attorneys assess each case individually and provide you with honest feedback on your situation. From there, our attorneys formulate a strategy to have the charges dropped or obtain an acquittal. If the facts are against you, our attorneys provide honest and straightforward advice, letting you know what to expect and how to obtain the best possible outcome.

Definition of Controlled Substances in Arizona

It is a crime to possess a controlled substance in Arizona. Arizona law forbids or limits possession of a number of naturally found or synthetically derived substances. These are broken down into three types of controlled substances: 1.

  1. Prescription Drugs – These do not include dangerous or narcotic drugs, but rather drugs that are not generally recognized as safe for use except under the supervision of a medical practitioner; drugs that are approved for limited use under the supervision of a medical practitioner, as provided by federal law; and any drugs that are required to have a cautionary label by federal law.
  2. Dangerous Drugs – These include numerous types of stimulants and amphetamines, such as methamphetamine; hallucinogenic substances, such as LSD or mescaline; sedatives; steroids such as testosterone; and any forms of similar drugs, regardless of their street name.
  3. Narcotic Drugs – These include common street drugs such as cannabis; cocaine; fentanyl; and opiates including heroin, morphine, and codeine.

Possession in Arizona

To be guilty of possession of a prescription, dangerous, or narcotic drug, a defendant must have had possession of a drug that is scheduled as a controlled substance. Possession of a controlled substance means to knowingly have physical possession or otherwise to exercise control over the substance. Arizona courts break possession down into two types:

  1. actual possession (having physical possession); and
  2. constructive possession (being able to exercise control over property, such as having it in a vehicle).

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

Arizona statute prohibits the possession of controlled substances by making them criminal offenses. Statutory section 13-3406 prohibits the possession, use or sale of a prescription drug. Depending on whether a defendant possesses a prescription drug for personal use or sale, the penalty ranges from a class 1 misdemeanor to a class 4 felony. Punishment for a class 1 misdemeanor is a maximum of six months imprisonment, while punishment for a class 4 felony ranges from a minimum of 1.5 years to a maximum 3-year prison sentence. Arizona also allows punishment in the form of fines, which may be no more than $2,500 for a class 1 misdemeanor and no more than $150,000 for a felony.

Statutory section 13-3407 prohibits the possession, use, or sale of a dangerous drug. In most cases, possession or use of a dangerous drug is a class 4 felony punishable by a minimum of 1.5 years and a maximum 3-year prison sentence. The maximum fine for a class 4 felony is $150,000.

Statutory section 13-3408 prohibits the possession, use, or sale of a narcotic drug. Simply possessing or using a narcotic drug is also a class 4 felony punishable by a minimum of 1.5 years and a maximum 3-year prison sentence. Likewise, a defendant may be fined no more than $150,000 for a class 4 felony.

Mitigating and Aggravating Factors

At sentencing, the criminal court may consider various factors that apply to the level of punishment imposed. Mitigating factors result in a lesser sentence and may include a defendant’s age and capacity or any other factor deemed relevant by the court such as a defendant’s status in the community or the absence of prior criminal behavior.

Aggravating factors result in increased sentencing. Examples of aggravating factors include prior criminal convictions, the defendant’s role in the crime, and other facts and circumstances the court deems relevant.

Defenses to Possession of Controlled Substances

The most basic defense is that a defendant was not knowingly in possession of a controlled substance. 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

After a consultation, an experienced drug crimes attorney can assess whether any defenses may apply to your case. At Arizona Lawyers, our attorneys are realistic about possible outcomes while working to serve your best interests.

Contact Our Phoenix Possession of Controlled Substances Attorney

A conviction for possession of a controlled substance depends on having a controlled substance on your person or within your zone of control. Law enforcement officers will often obtain evidence by asking for a defendant’s consent to search his or her person or property. The best way to defend yourself is to decline consent to search. If you wind up in police custody, remember you have rights, such as:

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

If you need legal representation, contact Arizona Lawyers. We provide a free consultation where we honestly evaluate your case. We are by your side every step of the way and offer solutions for every budget.