Minor in Possession of Drugs

Phoenix Lawyer Handling Criminal Charges Against Juveniles

If you are a parent, you probably hope your child will never become involved with drugs. When the police arrest minors with drugs, the criminal charges can result in harsh consequences that follow the children into adulthood, making their lives more difficult. Because the juvenile justice system is more focused on rehabilitation, it is especially important to steer the case away from the adult criminal justice system. Contact an experienced Phoenix drug crime attorney to fight the criminal charges for a minor in possession of drugs. James Novak is a former prosecutor who uses insights from his prior career to aggressively defend juveniles in criminal cases.

Minor in Possession of Drugs

In Arizona, the juvenile court system focuses on those who are younger than 18-years-old by emphasizing rehabilitation. The court recognizes that since minors are not fully developed, they may change and become law-abiding adults with the proper guidance and support. However, if a minor is close to 18-years-old, charges may be brought against him in the adult criminal justice system, and depending on the severity of the crime, these charges may be felony charges, which have very serious consequences.

A minor who knowingly possesses or is in charge of a controlled substance can be charged with drug possession. To obtain a conviction, the prosecutor will need to prove the juvenile either (1) knowingly possessed or (2) actually controlled the drugs at issue. The possession can be actual or constructive. Actual possession involves actual physical control of the drugs on one’s person or in one’s possession, such as in a purse or bedroom. Constructive possession requires proof that: (1) the offender was aware an illegal substance was within their presence, (2) he had the intent to actually possess the drugs, and (3) he was physically able to take control and actual possession of the drugs.

It may be enough to secure a conviction for a prosecutor in the Phoenix area to prove a minor had control of the place where the police found the drugs. A common scenario is for a routine traffic stop to lead to drug possession charges. If a minor is found with drug paraphernalia, further investigation can result in drug possession charges.


Courts do not impose mandatory sentencing for juvenile crimes. When a minor is charged with drug possession, he or she may be ordered to participate in drug counseling. In some cases, parents are included in the order so that they can help their child overcome addiction. Minors may also be ordered to probation that requires that they meet certain conditions, such as performing community service and, depending on the age of the minor, keeping a job or regular attending school. Probation usually requires regular reports to a probation officer and drug testing.

In some cases, a minor may be able to participate a diversion program instead of probation. Diversion is a voluntary process in which a juvenile charged with misdemeanors or certain other offenses can be diverted from formal court action. For example, the Maricopa County Attorney’s office and the Maricopa County Juvenile Probation Department offer a drug diversion program to reduce the incidence of drug use among minors and to provide minors with skills that will help them stop using unlawful drugs.

However, some situations may require the juvenile to be sent to a detention facility, such as when the juvenile has committed repeat offenses or other crimes as well. Detention is the temporary confinement of the juvenile in a physical restricting facilities surrounded by locked and physically secure barriers with limited or no in-and-out privileges for the juvenile’s protection or the community’s, pending court disposition or as a condition of probation.


An experienced lawyer may be able to mount a defense in a juvenile drug crime case. It may be possible to argue that the minor did not know the drugs were present. Or it might be appropriate to show that the minor did not have physical control of the drugs. However, if the drugs are found inside a minor’s school locker, bedroom or car, this may be enough to show possession. In some cases, it may be appropriate to show there was a legal justification for the drug possession.

Hire a Juvenile Criminal Defense Attorney

An experienced lawyer may be able to keep your child out of adult court. By providing them with the strongest possible defense, you can prevent a youthful error from following the child into adulthood. If you or your child is charged as a minor in possession of drugs, you should discuss your situation with James E. Novak. Mr. Novak has years of experience representing those charged with drug crimes in Phoenix along with Gilbert, Chandler, Mesa, and Maricopa County. Contact him at (480) 413-1499 or complete our online form.

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