With multiple interstates corridors and a border with Mexico, Arizona is home to a broad range of drug trafficking and drug smuggling operations. In an attempt to curb drug trafficking in Arizona, strict drug sale laws were established that forbid transporting, selling or possessing drugs for sale. While the law in Arizona is clear on that point, the facts, and their interpretation, are often in dispute.
The elements of the crime of possession with intent to distribute or drug trafficking are:
It is the final one of these elements that distinguishes possession for sale of a drug from mere possession.
It is important to remember that the State has the burden to prove that you were in possession of a certain drug and that you sold or intended to sell that drug. Many times, proving felony drug possession is fairly easy but the intent to distribute is where the drug trafficking case becomes difficult for the State to prove.
When a case lacks direct evidence of an actual drug transaction occurring, the State will often rely on expert testimony. These experts will attempt to establish that in addition to the drugs found there is other evidence or there are signs of drug trafficking. This evidence is commonly referred to as indicia of sale. Examples of indicia of sale include:
In drug trafficking cases, if the State is unable to prove that you not only possessed a drug but that you sold or intended to sell that drug, then you are only guilty of a lesser offense of felony possession of drugs.
The consequences of drug trafficking can be severe under Arizona law, even for a first offense. Prior drug sale convictions or prior felonies can increase possible punishments. That said, drug trafficking of narcotic drugs, dangerous drugs and marijuana is a class 2 felony. The maximum and minimum punishment that you can expect after a conviction for a class 2 felony is:
1. The amount of the drug seized;
2. The type of drug for sale;
3. Any additional charges to the drug trafficking offense; and
4. Any prior criminal history.
If a person caught with an amount of a specific drug for sale that is over the Arizona statutory threshold amount, they are not eligible for probation and must be sentenced to prison. Under ARS 13-3401(36), the Arizona statutory threshold amounts are as follows:
A conviction for either luring a minor or aggravated luring requires mandatory registration as a sex offender and may be punishable under DCAC depending on the age of the minor.
Arizona differentiates drugs and punishes some drugs more harshly than others. Listed below are drugs that fall outside of the standard drug trafficking sentencing structure:
It is fairly uncommon to be charged with drug trafficking alone as the nature of drug operations inherently give rise to additional charges. Other common crimes charged in addition to charges of drug trafficking include:
SIDE NOTE: When money, cars, homes, businesses, weapons and other property are seized in connection to a drug trafficking charge, criminal forfeiture proceedings should be expected. These proceedings are separate from any criminal charges.
Prison is a mandatory sentence for many drug trafficking charges under Arizona law, even for a first offense. However, if a person has prior criminal history, the potential consequences of drug trafficking convictions increases dramatically.
While drug trafficking charges are serious charges, there are defenses that can be raised, and raised successfully. Some of the more common drug trafficking defenses and strategies include:
The skilled drug trafficking lawyers at Feldman & Royle, represent clients charged with all manner of drug crimes in the greater Phoenix area. Defending drug trafficking charges is a specialized field and we have the experience and knowledge required to mount an aggressive defense of your case.
Developing and mounting a strong defense strategy is what the drug trafficking lawyers at Feldman & Royle have been doing for years. In an effort to explain Arizona’s complex drug laws, we offer a free confidential consultation to discuss Arizona drug trafficking charges and how a drug trafficking lawyer impact your specific case.
Drug trafficking involves transportation, hand-to-hand sale and felony possession for sale of narcotic, dangerous and prescription drugs.
Beating drug trafficking charges can take many forms based on the facts of a specific case. That said, the most common defenses include Constitutional challenges to evidence, discrediting of State witnesses and uncovering wiretap issues, where applicable.
Evidence of a person’s intent to distribute is often called indicia of sale. Examples of indicia of sale include: scales, baggies, large amounts of cash, ledges, sizable amounts of a particular drug, people coming in and out of a house and witness testimony of drug sales.
The possible sentence for possession with the intent to distribute depends on four main factors: 1) Whether the amount of the drugs seized was over the Arizona statutory threshold amount; 2) The type of drug that was allegedly being sold; 3) Whether any criminal charges in addition to the drug trafficking charges are being alleged; and 4) Whether the person has any prior criminal history.
Bail in drug trafficking cases is extremely case specific. How much bail is being requested for drug trafficking charges depends on: the judge, the amount of a specific drug seized, the defendant’s prior criminal history, the defendant’s history reporting for previous court dates and the defendant’s connection to Arizona. That said, low-level, first-time offenders can often expect an own recognizance (OR) release where more serious drug trafficking cases have bonds in the $100,000 range.
The Arizona statutory threshold amounts are as follows: Heroin – 1 gram; Cocaine – 9 grams; Crack Cocaine – 750 milligrams; PCP – 4 grams; Methamphetamine – 9 grams; Amphetamine – 9 grams; LSD – .5 milliliter or 50 dosage units; and Marijuana – 2 pounds.