Drug Trafficking Charges in Arizona
Drug trafficking charges involving selling, transporting, or trafficking illegal drugs can expose you to severe penalties in Arizona. The penalties for selling drugs in the state will vary depending on the amount sold. Depending on the circumstances, your record, and the types and amounts of drugs, you could also be charged federally and face a lengthier sentence.
If you are facing charges of selling drugs, it is important for you to secure legal representation from an experienced attorney as soon as possible. The lawyers at Gurion Legal can help you to understand your charges and the options you might have for fighting your case.
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Drug Trafficking / Selling Drugs
Trafficking in or selling drugs are crimes that are defined in ARS 13-3405, ARS 13-3408, and ARS 13-3407. These laws define selling or trafficking drugs as transporting drugs with the intention to sell them. These laws prohibit drug sales and transportation involving narcotic drugs, dangerous drugs, and prescription drugs without a valid license to sell.
Some examples of drugs that you can be arrested for selling include the following:
It is important to note that even though the recreational use of marijuana is now legal for adults ages 21 and older in Arizona, you cannot sell marijuana as an unlicensed provider and can still face felony charges if you do or are caught with more marijuana than the legally allowed amounts.
The Prosecutor’s Burden in a Drug Selling Case
Before you can be convicted of drug charges for possessing drugs while intending to sell them, the prosecutor must prove each of the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:
- You had knowing possession and control over the drugs.
- The drugs you possessed were illegal and were narcotics, prescription-only drugs, or dangerous drugs.
- You intended to sell the drugs.
You will not be found guilty of selling or trafficking drugs if the prosecutor cannot meet his or her burden of proof as to each element.
For example, if the prosecutor can only prove two out of three of the elements, you cannot be convicted of selling drugs. However, you might be convicted of a lesser included possession offense with a lower sentence.
Factors Influencing Charging Decisions for Drug Sales
A variety of factors will influence the prosecutor’s charging decision and the potential penalties you might face for drug charges, including the following:
- The quantity of drugs in your possession when you were arrested
- The type of drugs in your possession
- The area where the drugs were distributed
- Whether you have any prior convictions for drug sales
- Your criminal record
- Whether any children were present
- Whether you transported drugs while having a firearm in your possession
Laws for Illegal Drug Sales in Arizona
Trafficking drugs generally is charged when people transport illegal drugs while intending to sell them. However, you can also be charged with possessing illegal drugs with the intent to sell them when you are found to possess a large amount of drugs.
You do not have to transport drugs from another state or over the border or manufacture them to be convicted of possessing illegal drugs with the intent to sell. Possessing drugs in an amount that exceeds the threshold for their specific types can result in an inference that you possessed them with the intent to sell them.
You can also face criminal charges for this offense if there are other indicators of illegal drug sales, including sales logs, baggies, weight scales, and others. However, the prosecutor will still need to prove that you had knowing possession and control over the drugs.
Penalties for Selling or Trafficking Drugs
The penalties you might face if you are convicted of possession with the intent to sell or transporting illegal drugs will depend on the type of drug involved and its weight. Drug sales convictions can be charged as Class 2 to Class 4 felony offenses, and Class 2 felony charges are more serious than Class 4 felony offenses. A drug sales conviction will also mean that you are not eligible for diversion per Arizona Proposition 200.
Trafficking or selling narcotics or dangerous drugs is a Class 2 felony carrying the potential for a prison sentence of a mitigated 3 years up to an aggravated 12.5 years for a first offense.
If you have one prior allegeable felony on your record, you will face a sentence ranging from a mitigated 4.5 years up to a maximum of 23 years in prison.
If you have two prior allegeable felonies, you will face a sentence ranging from a mitigated 10.5 years up to a maximum of 35 years. You will also face a fine ranging from a minimum of $2,000 up to a maximum of $150,000 or three times the value of the drugs involved.
If you sold drugs in a school zone, the court could add another year to your sentence. If the drug involved was methamphetamine, you will be ineligible for probation, a suspended sentence, or parole and will have to serve your entire sentence before you are released from prison.
If you are charged with possessing at least 50 grams of methamphetamine that is at least 80% pure, you may face federal charges. The minimum mandatory federal sentence for trafficking methamphetamine is 10 years.
Federal Drug Trafficking Thresholds
If you are convicted of a federal trafficking offense, the penalties will be very severe. A first offense of trafficking in federal court will result in a sentence from 5 to 40 years for drugs of the following types and amounts:
- Cocaine – 500 grams up to 4,999 grams
- Crack cocaine – 28 grams up to 279 grams
- LSD – 1 gram up to 99 grams
- Fentanyl – 40 grams up to 399 grams
- Analog of fentanyl – 10 grams up to 99 grams
- Heroin – 100 grams up to 999 grams
- Methamphetamine – 5 grams up to 49 grams
- Pure PCP – 10 grams up to 99 grams
- Mixed PCP – 100 grams up to 999 grams
- Mixed amphetamine – 50 grams up to 499 grams
The prison sentence that you will face for a federal trafficking conviction when someone suffers serious injuries or dies ranges from 20 years up to life in prison and a $5 million fine.
A second trafficking conviction in federal court will result in a sentence ranging from 10 years up to life in prison. For a second conviction causing serious injury or death, you will face a mandatory life sentence and a fine of a maximum of $8 million.
For drugs exceeding the threshold ranges above, a first conviction will come with a prison sentence from 10 years to life and a maximum fine of $10 million. A first offense in which someone was injured will result in a prison sentence of 20 years to life.
A second conviction involving larger quantities than the listed amounts will result in a sentence of 20 years to life.
If someone was injured or killed during your second drug sales offense involving large quantities, you would face a mandatory life sentence and a fine of up to $20 million.
Arizona Drug Possession Thresholds
The thresholds for drugs in Arizona are listed in ARS 13-3401(36). You will be charged with possessing drugs with the intent to sell them if you are found to have more than the threshold amounts of the drugs in your possession.
After a conviction, you will face a mandatory prison sentence and will not be eligible for probation.
Some examples of threshold amounts for different types of drugs include the following:
- 2 pounds or more of marijuana
- 9 grams or more of cocaine, methamphetamine, or amphetamines
- 1 gram or more of heroin
- 750 milligrams or more of crack cocaine
Defending Against Drug Trafficking or Selling Charges
While charges that allege you sold drugs are serious, it is possible to defend against these types of criminal allegations. Your attorney will discuss the potential defenses in your case after carefully reviewing the evidence.
Some examples of different defenses that might be available include the following:
- You did not knowingly possess or control the drugs.
- The search or seizure conducted by the police was illegal.
- The police lacked probable cause for your arrest.
- You had no intent to sell the drugs.
- The police and prosecutor’s claimed drug weight is wrong.
Talk to a Drug Crimes Defense Attorney at Gurion Legal
Allegations that you possessed drugs with the intent to sell them are serious. If you learn that you are being investigated for a drug sales offense or have been arrested and charged, you should retain an experienced drug defense lawyer as soon as possible.
Contact a Phoenix drug lawyer at Gurion Legal today to request a free and confidential consultation and learn about how we might be able to help you.
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