Possession Of Drugs For Sale & Drug Sales In Arizona

Drug offenses are probably the most common type of crime in Arizona, especially in the Tucson area. Unfortunately, selling illegal drugs is big business in this part of the country. Whether you sell or possess drugs for sale to support your own drug addiction or you do it just for the money, the consequences are much more serious than those for simple drug possession. If you’ve been charged with possession of drugs for sale or distribution, it is imperative that you seek the help of an experienced Tucson drug crimes lawyer. You do not want to take any chances in this kind of a case.

What is Considered a Controlled Substance?

In Arizona, there are three basic categories of controlled substances: Dangerous Drugs (such as methamphetamines, ecstasy, LSD, and others), Narcotic Drugs (such as heroin, opium, cocaine, and others), and Marijuana.

It’s important to note that even many prescription medications are legally considered controlled substances and can fall within one of the three categories above. If you sell your prescription drugs, you could be charged with drug sales in Arizona. Of course, if you have a valid prescription and aren’t selling these medications you should be fine.

Sale vs. Possession for Sale vs. Transportation of Drugs for Sale

The penalties for drug sales and possession of drugs for sale and transportation of drugs for sale are much more severe than the penalties for simple drug possession. In Arizona, possessing a drug for sale is basically just as serious as actually selling the drug. Whether a drug is possessed for sale is a factual determination made by a judge or jury and is usually based on factors like the amount of drug possessed (possession for sale is usually assumed if you possess more than the threshold amount for the drug involved), how the drug is packaged, whether large amounts of cash are found with the drugs, and other indicia of sales (ledgers, scales, communication indicating intent to sell…).

How Are Penalties for Possession for Sale and Drug Sales in Arizona Determined?

Selling a narcotic drug or possessing it for sale is usually a Class 2 felony, punishable by up to 12.5 years in prison for a first offense! Many factors are taken into consideration before a sentence is determined, including the type of drugs involved, the amount of drugs involved, the extent of the operation or apparent number of sales, a person’s criminal history, any gang affiliation, the reasons behind the offense, whether there were firearms associated with the drugs, whether there were accomplices…. If you are convicted of Sale of a Narcotic Drug or Possession of a Narcotic Drug For Sale, it’s important to have an attorney that will present any potentially mitigating factors to the court at sentencing.


There are special penalties for methamphetamine, which Arizona has determined to be especially dangerous. Possessing 9 grams or more of methamphetamine, or meth, whether you intend to sell it or not, requires a mandatory prison sentence of 5 to 15 years for a first offense. In addition, unlike sentences for other types of drugs, this is flat time. In other words, you will not be eligible for early release or parole based on good behavior.

Defenses To Possession for Sale

Although every case is different and presents different opportunities for developing a defense, two common defenses are (1) a lack of knowledge, and (2) that the drugs were for personal use rather than for sale. There are also less common defenses like entrapment and coercion or duress.

Often drugs are found in a home or vehicle used by multiple people. The State must prove that you are the one who knowingly possessed the drugs. We have also seen people who were asked to take a bag somewhere, or drive a vehicle somewhere, as a favor to a “friend” or acquaintance. These people have no idea that they drugs are concealed within the bag or the vehicle. We have also seen more and more people fall victim to becoming “blind mules” for large scale drug trafficking organizations who sometimes plant drugs in or on a vehicle and collect them later. This allows the drug trafficker move drugs from one point to another (past a border patrol checkpoint for example) without the risk of being caught. Of course, the person transporting them is charged and prosecuted despite their insistence that they had no idea drugs were in the vehicle.

If a drug is for personal use rather than sale, the penalties are much less severe. Even if the amount is over the statutory threshold, the presumption that the drug is for sale can be rebutted. It often makes sense, for instance, for a drug user to purchase a larger quantity of drugs if he can afford to do so. It reduces the risk of getting caught because the user is engaging in a single transaction rather than numerous transactions over a longer period of time.

One very important aspect of defending drug cases is challenging any constitutional violation that may exist. Traffic stops and searches (of persons, vehicles, homes, cell phones, computers…) must always be examined, along with the validity of any search warrants that may have been obtained. When phones have been tapped, wiretap applications can often be challenged. Identification procedures can be challenged. Statements or confessions can be challenged based on Miranda violations or a lack of “voluntariness”. Any of these challenges can lead to suppression of evidence, including suppression of the drugs themselves. So it’s important to hire a skilled attorney who has experience defending charges like Sale of a Narcotic Drug, Possession of a Narcotic Drug for Sale, and Transportation of a Narcotic Drug for Sale.

For a free, confidential case assessment, call us at 520.314.4125 or contact us online.

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