Arizona Laws: Distribution and Trafficking of a Controlled Substance

In Arizona, the distribution or trafficking of a controlled substance is governed by various laws, including A.R.S. §§  13-3405, 13-3406, 13-3407, and 13-3408, which prohibit the transportation, importation, and sale of illegal drugs. The penalties for these crimes depend on the type and quantity of the drug involved, as well as the location of the distribution. Possessing substances with large amounts of cash or a scale may result in more severe charges.

If convicted of drug trafficking or distribution in Arizona, you may face fines, probation, years of imprisonment, and a permanent criminal record. Therefore, it is crucial to have a comprehensive understanding of the laws governing this subject to protect yourself in case of an accusation.

Factors that Impact the Penalties

A drug transportation or trafficking charge usually comes along with other charges, such as distribution or possession of substances. If you receive multiple charges, your overall sentence will increase as a result. Generally, the higher the quantity of substances, the higher the prison term for a distribution and trafficking conviction. Let’s look at some factors that impact the severity of the penalty for distribution of a controlled substance.

The Drug Schedule

According to federal definitions, some substances are more serious than others due to their potential for abuse or physical dependency. Drugs that don’t have a recognized medical use and have a high abuse potential are classified as schedule 1 substances. These include peyote, ecstasy, LSD, and more. Schedule 2 drugs have a high abuse potential and include cocaine, methadone, oxycodone, Ritalin, and some others. 

Schedule 3 drugs include substances with a low to moderate abuse potential and include testosterone and ketamine. Schedule 4 drugs carry a low risk of abuse and include Tramadol, Ambien, Valium, Soma, and other substances. Schedule 5 drugs usually include preparations that have limited amounts of analgesic or antidiarrheal chemicals in them. 

The Amount of Substance

In Arizona, the crime of selling (or intending to sell) drugs is generally considered more serious than possessing them. However, possessing a certain amount of a drug can lead to an “intent to sell” charge. If you possess more than the legally recognized threshold amount of a substance, you may face a mandatory prison sentence, even if it’s your first criminal offense. Here are the recognized threshold amounts for some substances:

9 grams of cocaine

1 gram of heroin

2 pounds of marijuana

4 grams of PCP

9 grams of amphetamine

9 grams of methamphetamine

It’s still possible to receive an intent to sell charge even if you possess less than the threshold amount of a substance. This is particularly true if you have a large amount of money on hand, the drugs are separated into sellable portions, or you possess items such as baggies, scales, or containers that suggest you were selling.

Trafficking of a Controlled Substance

Under state law, it is possible to be convicted of drug trafficking even if you are caught crossing a border with a drug that you did not intend to distribute. If you are found with more than the threshold amount of drugs in your possession, law enforcement officials may presume that you intended to sell or distribute them. To secure a conviction for drug trafficking, the prosecution must prove that you knowingly engaged in the alleged behavior and were aware of the substance. They must also demonstrate that you intentionally transported, imported, or planned to sell the substance.

Possible Penalties for Trafficking can vary widely depending on the type and amount of the drug in question, as well as the location and circumstances of the offense. In some cases, a trafficking conviction can result in substantial fines, probation, and lengthy prison sentences. It is important to understand the potential consequences of drug trafficking charges and to seek experienced legal representation to help protect your rights and build a strong defense.

Federal Trafficking Crimes

The federal government forbids anyone from possessing, dispensing, distributing, or manufacturing controlled substances. The applicable penalties according to federal law include between 10 years and life in prison for 1000 kilograms of marijuana, 5 kilos of cocaine, or 1 kilo of heroin. You may receive between 5 and 40 years for 500 grams of cocaine or 100 grams of heroin. 

The sentences increase for larger amounts of drugs, and you may receive harsher sentencing if the crime involved death or you have prior convictions on your record. In addition, you might get a more severe penalty if the crime involves a firearm or if you’re considered the leader of the operation. If you receive a firearm sentence, it won’t be concurrent with the trafficking sentence. In other words, you would serve your term for one offense, followed by the other, rather than serving them simultaneously.

Drug Possession

Drug distribution and trafficking are felony crimes, which are more serious offenses than possession. If you’re caught with drugs in your possession, you might get a trafficking charge if it appears that you intended to sell the substances. If you’re accused of drug possession, the prosecutor must prove that you were knowingly in possession of the substances. It’s not enough just to be found in the same place as drugs, they must prove that you were linked to them for a conviction to take place.

Speak with an Arizona Criminal Defense Attorney

Any drug conviction can have a serious effect on your life and future opportunities. You might lose access to career advancement due to your criminal record, in addition to having to pay fines and possibly spend time in prison. A drug charge can also cause you to lose access to public services like welfare benefits and scholarships.

The laws surrounding distribution and trafficking of a controlled substance are always changing and can be hard to keep track of. It’s important to speak with a criminal defense attorney who understands the law and can help guide you through your defense. Speak with one of our professionals today, so you can get the best possible outcome for your situation.

Call the JacksonWhite Criminal Law team at (480) 418-4281 to discuss your case.

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