Possession of Drugs for Sale or Transportation in Maricopa County

by Aaron Black • March 14, 2019
Getting arrested for drugsArizona like other states is dealing with the failure of the so-called war on drugs, which saw an increase in the sale of illegal drugs. Our border state is at the forefront of the movement so our drug laws are enforced with enthusiasm.

The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office adopted the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HISTA) initiative in 1997 that uses a variety of tools, including wire taps, undercover operations, and interdiction of highways and the desert.

Between 2003 and 2016 deputies served more than 605 warrants and seized a variety of illicit drugs, including 567 tons of marijuana and 1,275 pounds of meth, totaling a street value of almost $1.24 million.

The County Attorney’s Office also has a unit devoted to drug crimes, the Drug Enforcement Bureau. It’s one of the county attorney’s largest units prosecuting people for possession, sale and transportation of drugs with help from county and city investigators and confidential informants targeting both street sales and trafficking.

If you’ve been arrested for selling a small quantity of illegal drugs, the state will charge you under its drug sale and distribution law. But the type, weight or the amount of drugs allegedly in your possession can mean an arrest for the far more serious drug trafficking.

Arizona’s Applicable Drug Possession Laws

Authorities are enforcing Arizona Revised Statute §13-3407(A)(2) that covers knowingly possessing a drug for sale. ARS §13-3407(A)(7) addresses knowingly possessing illicit drugs to transport or offer to transport drugs for sale, importing drugs into Arizona or offering to sell or transfer a dangerous drug.

ARS §13-3407(D) establishes a threshold amount for various illicit drugs by the amount and weight of them. If the amount of drugs reaches the threshold, the law presumes you had that much because you possessed them intending to sell or transport them.

ARS §13-3401(36) defines “weight” as including the entire weight of “any mixture of substance that contains a detectable amount of an unlawful substance.” If the contents has more than one substance the entire weight of all substances are taken together and “the unlawful substance that results in the greatest offense.”

Here are weight examples for common illicit drugs:
  • Marijuana, 2 pounds
  • Methamphetamine, 9 grams
  • PCP, 4 grams or 50 milliliters
  • Cocaine, 9 grams
  • Crack (Cocaine base of hydrolyzed cocaine), 750 milligrams
  • Heroin, 1 gram
  • LSD (Lysergic acid diethylamide), 1/2 milliliter

I've been arrested for Possession of Drugs, what should I do?

No matter what your arrest is based on, confidential informant, sting operation or wiretap, at the moment of your arrest you must not agree to talk to the authorities. They don’t have your best interests at heart.

You’ve heard the mantra, anything you say can and will be used against you. They mean it. So don’t offer any information. You’ve probably also heard the phrase “taking the fifth.” That refers to the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution. It prevents you from incriminating yourself.

Authorities know it, too. They by law have to tell you about your Miranda rights. Yet in their enthusiasm they will try to get you to talk. The only thing you should say is, “I invoke the Fifth Amendment and I want to speak to a lawyer.”

Common Defenses for Possessing Drugs for Sale or Transportation

To earn a conviction from enthusiastic efforts the state must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that (1) you knowingly sold, imported, transported dangerous drugs and that (2) the drug was a narcotic.

Because of the various investigative technics drug possession cases will have varying facts and physical evidence, supporting facts and testimony that may conflict.


Common Drug Defenses

  • You didn’t know that a drug possession crime was planned or carried out even if you were in close physical contact of it or driving a vehicle unaware of its illicit cargo.

    Without such knowledge you had no intent of committing a crime. In this situation it may be best to cooperate with authorities but do so with a defense lawyer at your side. Yet, under pressure, they may have caused you to make a false confession which would not become evidence.
     
  • Entrapment, although a difficult defense, is solid if authorities went beyond their legal limits and coerced you to take part in possessing drugs for sale or transportation. You wouldn’t have committed the crime but for investigator interference.
     
  • It may sound odd but authorities have been known to fail advising you of your Miranda rights, which stem from a long-ago Arizona case. If you weren’t told about your rights the evidence gathered won’t be admissible in court.
     
  • The investigation itself may have faults. Careless paper work, the validity of a search warrant, missing evidence, challenging the weight of the drugs didn’t meet the threshold amount, or witnesses may be lying to implicate you.

Potential Consequences of a Felony Conviction

Possession, sale, and transporting dangerous drugs are felonies and a conviction can have life-long impacts. You’ll lose the right to own and possess a firearm, you won’t be allowed to vote, landlords may refuse to rent you property, employers may be able to fire you, and potential employers may reject you.

If you have a professional certification or license it can be suspended or revoked. Adding to the financial harm of lost income is that the state can levy significant fines. You may also have difficulty accessing higher education.

Legal Representation

Having a criminal defense attorney in Maricopa County who is well-experienced in possession, selling and transporting dangerous drugs cases is essential for developing an aggressive defense.

In many situations the prosecution may offer a plea agreement, or the defense can propose a deal if that is the desire of the client, to reduce the seriousness of the charge and the length of the sentence. Plea agreements are beneficial to the state by saving taxpayers the expense of a trial.

Free legal advice 24-hours a day

Please contact Maricopa County Criminal Defense Attorney Aaron Black for a free telephonic legal consultation or call (480)729-1683.

The law office of Aaron Black is always available to take your call 24 hours a day.