Arizona Drug Sentencing Laws

Criminal Defense Lawyer Serving the Phoenix Area

It is a crime to knowingly use or possess unlawful drugs in Arizona. The state has very harsh drug laws, and if you’re discovered to be under the influence of drugs or in possession of drugs, you can face felony drug crime charges. Arizona drug sentencing laws specify a punishment for varying amounts and types of illegal drugs involved in narcotics charges. Your prior criminal history can also play a role in sentencing. A seasoned Phoenix drug crime attorney can help you navigate your options if you are charged with a narcotics offense.

Arizona Drug Sentencing Laws

In Arizona, controlled dangerous substances are classified in 6 groups: narcotic drugs, substances that give off toxic vapors, peyote, marijuana, prescription drugs, and dangerous drugs. What must be proven in the criminal case against you depends on the particular drug crime that is charged. Where you’re charged with possession of a narcotic, the government will need to show beyond a reasonable doubt: (1) you knowingly, (2) possessed a narcotic drug, (3) the substance at issue was actually a narcotic drug. With the third element, the prosecutor will bear the burden of showing the substance contains the prohibited narcotic, and this includes the need for testing and scientist testimony.

Certain threshold levels of controlled dangerous substances are considered presumptive of sales. If your case involves those threshold levels, you will face a mandatory prison term for a conviction, even if it’s your first offense and there isn’t any evidence of actual sales. The threshold amount varies depending on the drug.

Drug Sentencing for Specific Offenses

It is important to be aware of Arizona drug sentencing laws if you’ve been charged. A conviction can result in serious penalties, and these penalties vary, depending on what the charge is and what drugs are involved. If you are a nonviolent drug offender, the sentence is likely to be lighter, and will most likely involve a probation term and mandatory drug treatment. However, you can face incarceration if you violate probation.

If your drug crime involved a first offense possession of less than 2 pounds of marijuana, you can face up to 5.75 years in prison depending on how many prior felony convictions you have. Generally, it’s charged as a class 6 felony if the marijuana is for personal use, and in that case the fine may be the higher of $2000 or 3 times the value of the marijuana. The likely sentence is up to 1 year in jail without prior offenses.

If your drug crime involves a dangerous drug of less than the threshold amount and it is charged as a class 4 felony first offense, it may be possible to get it reduced to a class 1 misdemeanor. The potential fine is the higher of $2000 or 3 times the value of the substance. The sentence can also include up to 1 year of incarceration if there are no prior convictions, or a maximum of 3.75 years in prison where there are prior convictions.

If your drug crime involves a narcotic such as cocaine and is a first offense, you can face a class 4 felony charge, though it may be possible to get it reduced to a class 1 misdemeanor. You may face a fine of the higher of $2000 or 3 times the value of the substance, and you may face a year in jail. The period of incarceration can be significantly higher if you have prior convictions. A dedicated drug crime lawyer can help you assess options for negotiating a plea deal or other strategies to seek a lighter sentence.


Simply being charged doesn’t mean a conviction is assured. Defenses you may be able to raise include lack of knowledge, illegal search and seizure, or medical marijuana. With peyote possession, you may be able to raise religious use.

Experienced Drug Crime Attorney in Phoenix

If you are facing drug charges in Phoenix, you may be subject to harsh penalties under Arizona drug sentencing laws. It is wise to hire a seasoned drug crime lawyer who can go over your options and put forward a defense on your behalf. Mr. Novak defends clients facing drug crimes charges around the Phoenix area, including in Chandler, Gilbert, Mesa, and across Maricopa County. Call him at (480) 413-1499 or contact us via our online form.

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