Opiate Crimes

Phoenix Lawyer Defending People Charged with Drug and Narcotics Offenses

Opiates are a class of drug that includes opium, heroin, morphine and codeine. These drugs bind to opiate receptors in the brain, spinal cord, and other organs, and block pain while increasing the release of dopamine. The source of natural opioids is Papaver somniferum. Laboratories manufacture synthetic opioids, including methadone, fentanyl and meperidine. Heroin, hydromorphone, hydrocodone, and oxycodone are semi-synthetic opioids made by synthesizing opiates that occur naturally. Both federal and state laws criminalize activities involving opiates. Arizona prosecutors take opiate possession and sales seriously. Persons charged with opiate crimes should contact Phoenix opiate crime lawyer James E. Novak for a consultation.

Opiate Crimes

Arizona classifies heroin and other opium drugs as Schedule I drugs. Heroin possession is treated as a class 4 felony. Under A.R.S. section 13-702, you can face a presumptive sentence of 2.5 years of incarceration for a first-offense class 4 felony. When two aggravating circumstances are present in connection with heroin possession, you can face a sentence of 3.75 years.

Possession can be actual or constructive. When the police find opiates immediately on your person or in your hand, you can be charged with actual possession. Constructive possession of opiates is a broader concept. It occurs whenever you are able to exercise dominion and control over opiates. For example, if opiates were found in your bedroom, prosecutors might be able to establish constructive possession.

Persons convicted of manufacturing opiates may receive a harsher sentence. If you are caught securing opiates, chemicals or equipment to manufacture opiates, you may be charged with a class 3 felony. The presumptive sentence for a class 3 felony is 3.5 years. The minimum sentence is 2.5 years. You should contact an opiate crime attorney in Phoenix if you are facing this type of charge.

Possession of opiates with the intent to sell is a class 2 felony. The minimum sentence for a class 2 felony is 4 years. If a person possesses more than the threshold amount of opiates, the court will consider that the person had an intent to distribute even if the person did not actually intend to sell the drug. The threshold amount for heroin is 1 gram. For first-time offenders with less than a gram of heroin, an experienced lawyer may be able to secure a sentence of probation and enrollment in a drug treatment program. However, a person caught with 1 gram or more will not likely benefit from this leniency.


Not all persons charged with opiate crimes will be convicted. An attorney may be able to raise certain defenses in plea negotiations with the prosecutor or at trial. The defense may be able to argue that the prosecution failed to meet its burden of proof or that its witnesses were not credible. If the police found the opiates in the living room of a common house, a Phoenix opiate crime attorney may be able to argue a lack of knowledge, meaning that the defendant lacked any knowledge that someone had placed the opiates there and others had greater access to the drugs. The circumstances of constructive possession will affect whether that defense is available. Another potential defense is that the lack of control over the drug. For example, if you were charged because you were a rideshare passenger when the driver stopped to pick up the threshold amount of opium, you may be able to show that even though you knew the opium was in the car, you had no control over it.

Retain a Phoenix Lawyer

If you are charged with an opiate crime, you should talk to seasoned Phoenix attorney James E. Novak. As a former prosecutor, Mr. Novak understands what strategies are most likely to be successful when defending people charged with opiate crimes. He represents clients in Gilbert, Chandler, Mesa, and Maricopa County. Contact him at (480) 413-1499 or complete our online form to discuss your case with an opiate crime lawyer in the Phoenix area.

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