Heroin is illegal under both federal and state laws. It is an opioid drug that is made from morphine, which is a natural substance obtained from seed pods of opium poppy plants. It can be white or brown in powder form, or it can take the form of black tar heroin, which is black and sticky. It is also known as hell dust, big H, and smack. Prosecutors in Arizona take possession of heroin or other highly addictive narcotics seriously. If you are charged with this crime, Phoenix heroin possession lawyer James Novak is a former prosecutor who may be able to use his insights about how drug crimes are charged and sentenced to provide you with an aggressive defense.Understanding Heroin Possession Charges
In Arizona, there are five schedules of controlled substances or drugs. Along with other opium derivatives, Arizona classifies heroin as a Schedule I drug, and possession of it is a felony. Ordinarily, heroin possession is a class 4 felony. The presumptive sentence for a first-time class 4 felony is 2.5 years of incarceration under A.R.S. section 13-702. A sentence for an aggravated offense is 3.75 years.
However, if it is a first offense, the court has the discretion to make heroin possession a class 1 misdemeanor. In that case, you would be fined a minimum of $1,000 or three times the value of the heroin, whichever is greater. You may be able to avoid a criminal record by going into a diversion program, which will often include fines, drug classes, and random drug testing. If there are other charges associated with the heroin possession charge, you may not be able to go into the program. Similarly, if you have completed the program previously due to other drug charges, you may not be eligible. A heroin possession attorney in the Phoenix area can advise you on how to minimize the consequences that you may face.
To establish heroin possession, the prosecutor will need to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you knowingly possessed heroin. It is not enough for the prosecutor to show that you were present where the heroin was. Instead, the prosecutor will need evidence linking you to the heroin so that a jury can reasonably infer that you knew that the heroin existed there and that you had control over it. However, it is not necessary for the prosecutor to show that you possessed enough heroin to use. Generally, the prosecutor will need to show that the substance that it claims is heroin actually is heroin by getting it tested by a forensic scientist who can testify that what was recovered was heroin.
In Arizona, there are threshold levels for certain substances, and if you meet those thresholds, there is a presumption that you were possessing the substance for sale. This means that you will face a mandatory prison sentence even if there are no other indicia that you were planning to sell the heroin and even if you do not have prior convictions. By law, the threshold amount of heroin is one gram.
It can be overwhelming to be charged with a drug crime. However, there may be strong defenses available that a Phoenix heroin possession attorney can help you assert. For example, the police must safeguard your Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights when doing their jobs. You are entitled to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. This is a complex and nuanced area of jurisprudence, but generally, law enforcement is not supposed to perform a search without probable cause to believe that a crime has taken place or is taking place. If heroin was discovered in your car or home, but the search was done without probable cause, it is very possible that we will be able to get that evidence suppressed.
For example, if the police pulled you over, they are not permitted to search your car based on a hunch that you have drugs. If they find heroin during the illegal search, it usually cannot be used in court, which means that it is unlikely that the prosecution will be able to prove its heroin possession case beyond a reasonable doubt. (There is an exception for when the heroin is in plain view during a vehicle stop.)Consult a Heroin Possession Lawyer in the Phoenix Region
If you are charged with heroin possession or trafficking, you may be facing some serious penalties as well as a criminal record. It is important to retain a tough, experienced lawyer to present a strong defense. James Novak represents people throughout the Phoenix area, including in Tempe, Mesa, Chandler, Gilbert, Scottsdale, and other areas of Maricopa County. Contact James Novak at (480) 413-1499 or via our online form.