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Drug Trafficking Charges & Defenses

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Drug Trafficking Charge & Defenses

Charges of drug trafficking, or the transportation of illegal drugs, can result in severe consequences. Arizona has very strict laws carrying severe penalties for people who are convicted of trafficking drugs. As a border state, Arizona prioritizes fighting against drug trafficking and other drug offenses, and people might also face federal charges with even longer potential sentences.

If the police have arrested and charged you with transporting or trafficking illegal drugs, you should speak with a drug crimes lawyer at Colburn Hintze Maletta as soon as possible. Retaining an experienced defense lawyer might make the difference between whether you remain free or face prison time.

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Arizona Drug Trafficking Charge & Defense

What is Drug Trafficking?

Drug trafficking is found in three statutes, including ARS 13-3405ARS 13-3407, and ARS 13-3408. Under these laws, drug trafficking is defined as transporting illegal drugs with the intent to sell. It does not matter whether you cross state borders with drugs. The prohibition against trafficking drugs applies to dangerous drugs, prescription-only drugs, narcotic drugs, and others.

Some common types of drugs that people can be arrested for trafficking include the following:

  • Ecstasy
  • Methamphetamine
  • Cocaine
  • Marijuana*
  • Heroin
  • Xanax
  • Morphine
  • Oxycodone
  • Hydrocodone
  • Methadone
  • Flakka
  • Fentanyl
  • LSD
  • Ketamine

*Note: Even though Arizona has passed the law for Recreational Marijuana, there are still limits and regulations that apply.  These regulations can have just as serious of ramifications as the other drugs listed above.

What the Prosecutor Must Prove in a Drug Trafficking Case

The prosecutor must prove the following elements of drug trafficking beyond a reasonable doubt:

  • You knowingly possessed and had control over drugs.
  • The drugs were illegal and were considered dangerous, prescription-only, or narcotics.
  • You possessed the drugs with the intent to sell.

If the prosecutor is unable to prove each of the elements beyond a reasonable doubt, you cannot be convicted of drug trafficking.

For example, if the prosecutor can prove the first two elements but not the third, the offense would be mere possession instead of trafficking and would carry a lower sentence.


The Different Factors Considered when Charged

Several factors can affect the sentence you might face for drug trafficking, including the following:

  • The amount of drugs you possessed at the time of your arrest
  • Types of drugs you possessed
  • The area of distribution
  • Your criminal record
  • Any prior drug trafficking convictions
  • Whether minors were present
  • Whether you possess firearms while transporting drug

Drug Trafficking Laws in Arizona

While a charge of drug trafficking generally involves transporting illegal drugs with the intent to sell, people can also be charged and convicted if they are caught with a large amount of drugs in their possession.

Arizona’s drug trafficking laws do not require you to be caught transporting drugs over the border, or to purchase or manufacture drugs, to be charged and convicted. If you have what the legal limits consider a large amount of drugs (over the threshold amounts discussed below), your intent to sell them can be inferred. You may also be charged with drug trafficking if there is other evidence of intent to sell, such as possession of scales, bags for distribution, or sales ledgers. The prosecutor will need to prove that you knowingly possessed the drugs, however.


Have You Been Charged or Pre-Charged with Drug Trafficking in Arizona?

Law enforcement in Arizona focuses on enforcing drug trafficking laws since the state sits on the border and is one entry point for illegal drugs to come into the US. The penalties for a conviction are very harsh.

If the police have charged you with transporting drugs, you should contact an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately. Defending against drug trafficking cases requires a substantial amount of work to secure reduced penalties or dismissal.

Colburn Hintze Maletta focuses on defending people against serious felonies, including drug crimes. Call us at (602) 825-2500 to schedule a free consultation or complete our online contact form to learn more.

What are the Penalties for Drug Trafficking?

A conviction for drug trafficking can result in a Class 4 felony to a Class 2 felony. A Class 2 felony conviction for drug trafficking is much more severe than a Class 6 felony, which you would face for simple possession of marijuana with a weight between 2.5 ounces and 2 pounds. If you are convicted of drug trafficking, you will also be ineligible for diversion programs under Arizona Proposition 200.

The penalty you might face will partly depend on the quantity and type of drugs involved. For example, if you are convicted of trafficking cocaine, it will generally be a Class 3 felony carrying from 2.5 to 7 years in prison and a fine of $1,000 or triple the value of the drugs.

However, if you sold cocaine to a minor, the charge is increased to a Class 2 felony even if you do not have any prior convictions. For this offense, you could face up to 12.5 years in prison. If the transaction occurred in a drug-free school zone, another year could be added to your sentence.

Trafficking certain types of drugs can carry a harsher sentence. Arizona has struggled for years to fight against methamphetamines, and the penalties involved with meth trafficking are more severe than for other types of drugs.

If you are convicted of trafficking meth in Arizona, you also will not be eligible for probation, parole, or a suspended sentence. Meth trafficking is a Class 2 felony in Arizona, which is punishable by 3 to 12.5 years in prison for a first-time offense. If you are caught with 50 or more grams of meth with a purity of at least 80%, you can be charged federally with drug trafficking. If you are convicted in federal court, you will face a minimum mandatory sentence of 10 years.

Drug trafficking is usually charged together with possession and distribution. If you are convicted of all of the charges against you, you can face additional penalties and could be sentenced to serve consecutive sentences. This is also referred to as stacked charges.


Drug Quantities in Federal Trafficking Cases

Federal penalties for drug trafficking are very severe. For a first offense of the following types of drugs, you can face a sentence ranging from 5 to 40 years:

  • From 500 to 4,999 grams of cocaine
  • From 28 up to 279 grams of crack cocaine
  • From 40 up to 399 grams of Fentanyl
  • From 10 up to 99 grams of a fentanyl analog
  • From 100 up to 999 grams of heroin
  • From one up to 99 grams of LSD.
  • From five up to 49 grams of methamphetamine
  • From 10 up to 99 grams of pure PCP.
  • From 50 up to 499 grams of mixed amphetamine
  • From 100 up to 999 grams of mixed PCP.

If someone dies or is seriously injured as a result of you trafficking drugs in the above-listed quantities, you can face a federal prison sentence of 20 years to life along with a fine of up to $5 million.

If you are convicted of a second offense, you will face a sentence of 10 years to life. If someone is injured because of your second drug trafficking conviction, you will face a mandatory sentence of life in prison along with a fine of up to $8 million.

If you traffic drugs in greater quantities than what is listed above, a first offense will result in a prison sentence of 10 years to life and a fine of up to $10 million. If someone was injured, your sentence would be 20 years up to life in prison.

For a second offense involving greater quantities than those listed above, you will face a federal sentence of 20 years to life in prison.

If someone was injured during your second offense, you would also face a fine of up to $20 million. A second offense involving a death or injury will also carry a mandatory life sentence.

The Maximum Threshold Amounts of Drugs in Arizona

Arizona lists some threshold amounts for drugs under ARS 13-3401(36). If you are caught with more than the threshold amount, you will be charged with possessing drugs with the intent to sell. If you are convicted, you will have to serve a mandatory prison sentence and will be ineligible for probation.

The threshold amounts for different drugs include the following:

  • Marijuana – 2 pounds
  • Amphetamines – 9 grams
  • Cocaine – 9 grams
  • Methamphetamine – 9 grams
  • C.P. – 4 grams
  • Heroin – 1 gram
  • Crack cocaine – 750 milligrams
  • S.D. – 50 doses or 0.5 milliliters


Defenses to Drug Trafficking Charges

When you meet with your attorney, he or she will review the evidence to determine the best defenses to raise in your case. Some of the defenses that might be available include the following:

  • You didn’t know the drugs were in your possession.
  • The police conducted an illegal search or seizure.
  • The police did not have probable cause to arrest you.
  • You did not possess the drugs to sell them.
  • The weight of the drugs as claimed by the prosecutor and police is inaccurate.
  • The police committed other constitutional violations.

Get Immediate Help from Colburn Hintze Maletta, PLLC

At Colburn Hintze Maletta, our attorneys focus on defending clients against serious drug crimes. During your free consultation, we will evaluate your case from top to bottom and start strategizing the best possible defense to protect your freedom. You will not fight this alone!

Call us today at (602) 825-2500 for a free case evaluation, or fill out our contact form.

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