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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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Arizona attorney Darin Colburn

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I, recently, consulted with Darin after my wife filed for divorce. He was referred to me by a friend whom I very much trust. Darin was the antithesis of the first two attorneys I consulted (who were matter-of-fact and had very little empathy about the fact that I was struggling emotionally with what was transpiring). From the first few minutes of speaking with Darin, it was obvious that he was very knowledgeable and skilled with divorce and family matters. While that was most important to me, the thing that made the difference was his calming, logical, and empathetic approach. He took the time to listen and empathize with me. He took the time to understand what I wanted to achieve through this process and laid out my options. After the consultation, I knew he would be my attorney if I had to pull the trigger. I, ultimately, didn’t have to engage Darin’s services due to a reconciliation with my wife. I hope I never have to go through that process again, however, if I do, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt who I will be hiring to represent me…Darin R. Colburn. Darin, thank you for caring and being more than an attorney.

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I hired David Maletta and it was the best decision of my life. His knowledge, genuine interest, overall attitude, and ability to connect with people is incomparable. I could talk about all of this at length. I COULD do all of that, but that wouldn’t do David justice. He first and foremost demonstrates his interest and genuine care for his client. Being in uncharted territory with a criminal charge and nowhere to turn, David’s presence and personality put all nerves at ease. I went through a jury trial with David beside me. The trial ran for 3 days and I spent a significant amount of time with David one-on-one. During this stressful time, he wanted to hear my input and thoughts on everything. David was incredible from the first day I met him. Not only is he a great attorney, but he is also a great person who cares about people and finding justice for his clients. He connects to the human side of people. I can’t put into words how much David cares about the individual in a case. When it comes to the courtroom, there is NOBODY I would rather have defending me than David.

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Arizona attorney Darin Colburn

“Because of Darin I got my daughter back”

Before I hired Darin I went through a total of 3 different attorneys in two different states fighting a jurisdiction battle, when my daughter was taken to a different state. It was a very difficult decision to switch attorneys at one of the most difficult, time sensitive and important times in my case, but I’m very glad I did. Upon receiving my file from previous attorneys Darin came very familiar with my case quickly. Like other people have explained he took the time to lay everything out and explain how the process was going to proceed and what to expect and continued to do this as new issues arrived. He is also very quick at responding to emails and phone calls. My case was getting close to trial as told by my previous attorneys, I did not want to go to trial as I know this is very costly (most attorneys will convince you that you need to.) Darin knew my situation, fought for what was right and got the results I wanted while avoiding a costly trial. He is extremely knowledgeable in the Child Support Guidelines as well. Because of Darin I got my daughter back. I would highly recommend him and would hire again for any future issues. Thanks Darin!

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Attorney David Maletta

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Dave stayed with me while he pushed back and forth with Covid-19 and the delays with court. Once cited, the state basically decides that you’re guilty through the automatic suspension of your drivers license. Dave immediately took care of that problem and I never lost the privilege of driving. Dave took notes like crazy and was upfront about our uphill battle. I was also well aware that the plea deal that was given to us, was unacceptable and through Dave’s knowledge and experience I had put my trust in him to guide me to make the right decision on how to proceed. With Dave’s guidance I had decided that we needed to fight for something better than what the prosecutor was offering and Dave was 100 percent behind me on that decision. We knew the risks, be we also knew we had very little to lose based on the prosecutions stance. We decided to go to trial… Watching the prosecution and then watching Dave was night and day!! It was clear to the jury that the prosecution didn’t have their facts straight and were not addressing the facts that they could not address…There was a lot at stake for my personal life and my work life. I was found NOT GUILTY. Dave won the trial for me.

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I had an incident and was Given the catch-all charge. There wasn’t really anything I could do by myself to get out of it. Tim was absolutely amazing and worked diligently to ensure that I would have the best possible outcome from my case. Which he successfully achieved! As of right now I am on the path to having my case fully dismissed. A couple things that really helped me through this process was that Tim did an amazing job at was answering my questions. He was available almost anytime and would respond promptly when he got my emails. He was also very approachable and comforting to be around while we had in person meetings and especially when I was at the court house. I would trust him and the company he works for with any other cases in the future and as of right now they will be my first choice if I need a lawyer in the future.

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Arizona Attorney Timothy Hintze

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I honestly just want to let it be known to any and everyone looking for an attorney on a case. Whether it be DUI, possession, or your every day to day traffic violations where you need representation attorney Tim Hintze is your man. You have to respect a man that listens to every request that you make on a case and he gets in there and gets it done. Tim has my respect as an attorney and being a well-rounded representer. From him being honest on the possibility and options for your case to him being easy to work and communicate with via over the phone or face to face Mr. Hintze is working it out.

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