Evidence in Drug Trafficking Cases

Lawyer for Criminal Charges in Phoenix

Law enforcement agencies prioritize drug trafficking cases. In Arizona, these crimes are treated seriously and carry mandatory minimum prison sentences upon conviction. You need not be a drug kingpin to be charged with drug trafficking. Because possession of a threshold amount of a particular drug can trigger charges of this nature, retaining an experienced attorney who understands how to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of evidence in drug trafficking cases is advisable. James E. Novak is an experienced Phoenix drug crime lawyer. He understands that the consequences of a conviction are significant, so he brings his experience as a former prosecutor to help those charged with drug or narcotic offenses.

What Counts as Drug Trafficking?

Arizona Revised Statutes (A.R.S.) section 13-3408(A)(7) prohibits drug trafficking. You can be charged with trafficking if you: (1) knowingly, (2) transport for sale, import into Arizona, sell, or offer to do any of these things with regard to a narcotic drug. Drug trafficking is a class 2 felony.

In other words, in order to establish drug trafficking, the prosecution will need to show beyond a reasonable doubt each of the following: (1) you knowingly (2) sold, transported or imported drugs and 3) the substance with which you were caught was a narcotic. The prosecution will need evidence that links you to the drugs and that shows it can be reasonably inferred you knew about the drug’s existence. Your specific intent to sell or distribute need not be proven by the prosecutor. Rather the amount involved will determine whether you’re charged with drug trafficking.

The court will assume you possessed drugs for sale or distribution if you have a threshold amount of them even if you only intended them for personal use. For instance, if you have 9 grams of cocaine, you have a threshold amount and can face trafficking charges. Similarly, if you have 9 grams of methamphetamine or amphetamine, you have a threshold amount and can be charged with trafficking. If you’re caught with 0.5 milliliters of LSD, you can also be charged with trafficking.

Evidence in Drug Trafficking Cases

Generally, the most critical piece of evidence is the drugs themselves. If you’re caught with drugs in an amount that equals or exceeds the threshold amount, this indicates to police and prosecutors you didn’t intend to possess the drugs for personal use even if, in fact, you did. Once they’re found, the drugs will need to be tested in a lab to verify their identification as a substance containing a narcotic under the law. A forensic scientist will need to test the drug and testify that the found substance is a prohibited one.

In some cases, the way the drugs were found provides some basis with which to challenge their admissibility in a motion to suppress. For instance, if the police discovered them in an illegal search of the trunk of your car and didn’t have a reasonable suspicion of criminal wrongdoing when they pulled you over, it may be possible to get the evidence of the drugs suppressed. Chain of custody rules that apply once the drugs are found will also affect whether the drugs are admissible as evidence.

Other Evidence

It’s not enough for the prosecutor to show that you were present in the place where the threshold amount of drugs were found. Rather, evidence in drug trafficking cases must permit a reasonable inference that you knew the drugs were there and exercised control over them. There must be evidence to support the argument that you “knowingly” had the drugs. Other evidence indicative of your knowledge of the drugs may include drug paraphernalia, such as scales or baggies, as well as large quantities of cash, incriminating text messages, and witness testimony. Where there are texts to or from customers or a supplier, these may constitute evidence that your possession of the drugs was knowing. However, if none of these items were present and the threshold amount of drugs were found in a common area shared by many — such as the living room of a shared house — it may be possible to raise reasonable doubt by proving you didn’t know about the drugs.

Consult a Seasoned Drug Trafficking Attorney in Phoenix

Drug trafficking is a serious charge and it’s important to retain a knowledgeable lawyer to represent you. Our principal James Novak has many years of experience defending those charged with drug trafficking in and around Phoenix including in Tempe, Gilbert, Scottsdale, Chandler, Mesa, and in all cities in Maricopa County. Call him at (480) 413-1499 or contact him through our online form.

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