Many individual who face drug charges or Arizona drug charges, commonly want to know if they will be placed on probation, go to jail or worse to prison if they get a conviction for their Arizona drug charge. The sentencing could include any, a combination or all of these penalties depending on the facts of your Arizona drug charges and your criminal history. However, your charges of getting a good outcome, evidence suppressed, and charges reduced, or even a case dismissal increase drastically if you have an experienced Arizona criminal defense or AZ drug defense Attorney, like Ed Matchett, who defends drug cases frequently throughout the courts, to include Federal Courts in Arizona.
Statutory Threshold Amounts Call for Incarceration
In many cases, a range of sentencing options is possible, including probation and diversion programs. This is not the case when the quantity of drugs involved meets or exceeds the “statutory threshold.” In that case, prison time is mandatory. Section 13-401 of the Arizona statutes specifically defines the “threshold amount” of various drugs as:
- Heroin—1 gram
- Cocaine—9 grams or, if in the form of cocaine base or hydrolyzed, 750 milligrams
- PCP—4 grams or 50 milliliters
- Amphetamine and methamphetamine—9 grams
- LSD—.5 milliliters or, if in blotter form, 50 doses
- Marijuana—2 pounds
For any other illegal drug, the threshold amount is any amount that is valued at $1,000 or more. Note that this means that the threshold amount of any illegal drug not listed above will actually vary as the drug’s value goes up or down and raises serious questions as to how the value is determined.
For the charge of possession for personal use, first offenders are generally given probation. Completing a drug treatment or education program is one of the probation conditions, and defendants are required to bear the cost of the program to the extent that they are financially capable of doing so. Probation is also common for second offenders, but incarceration may be made a condition of probation. There are various other circumstances that affect whether incarceration is imposed for these offenses.
The more serious offenses of distribution, transportation, etc., are class 2 felonies with maximum sentences of many years in prison, if they involve narcotics, a listed “dangerous drug, or more than 2 pounds of marijuana. Methamphetamine is singled out for an even higher maximum penalty.
Distribution of less than 2 pounds of marijuana is a class 3 felony with a lower maximum sentence. Distribution of prescription drugs is a class 6 felony with a still lower maximum sentence.
Most drug charges in Arizona involve multiple offenses, in that the defendant is accused of several illegal acts based on the same event. For example, possession of a drug combined with possession of drug paraphernalia, or both transportation for sale and the actual sale. For multiple offense cases, Arizona provides a comprehensive scheme based on whether it is the first, second, or third and higher offense, whether the quantity of drugs exceeds the statutory threshold amount.
The penalties cover a broad range even for the same offense. For example, a class 2 felony that is a second offense, involves a quantity below the threshold amount, and presents mitigating factors draws a 3-year sentence. If the class 2 felony is a third or higher offense, involves drug quantities above the threshold amount, and present aggravating factors the draws a 15 year sentence.
Drug charges in Arizona are serious business: they can ruin your reputation, your finances, your family and your future. A good defense requires in-depth knowledge of the laws, the police, prosecutors and the facts of your specific case. If you are facing drug charges anywhere in the state, you need an experienced Arizona Criminal Defense Attorney like Ed Matchett. Give him a call today (520) 364-3844.