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Arizona Drug Threshold Amounts

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Arizona drug threshold amounts are critical in the prosecution of drug crimes within the state. If law enforcement assumes that you are in possession of a certain quantity of drugs, they may accuse you of intent to distribute or sell.

However, having a certain amount of drugs found in your possession does not always mean you are guilty of drug trafficking or distribution.

Understanding the threshold amounts for different drugs in Arizona is essential for anyone facing drug-related charges. These threshold amounts determine whether you will be charged with a misdemeanor or felony, and the potential consequences of the charges you are facing. Whether you are a first-time offender or have a history of drug-related offenses, the legal system can be intimidating and complex. Hiring an experienced lawyer can make a significant difference in the outcome of your case. 

For those facing legal challenges associated with drugs and drug crimes, Colburn Hintze Maletta provides comprehensive support, ensuring clients’ rights are protected and advocating for the most favorable outcomes. The firm is reachable 24/7 at (602) 825-2500.

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Drug Threshold Amounts

Understanding Arizona Drug Threshold Amounts

In the context of Arizona’s drug laws, a drug threshold amount refers to:

the legally defined minimum quantity of a specific controlled substance, which, when exceeded, indicates a more serious offense.

These threshold amounts are critical in the legal classification of drug-related charges, as they often distinguish between simple possession and more severe offenses like trafficking or intent to distribute.

  • Legal Definition: The Arizona Revised Statutes (ARS), particularly ARS 13-3401(36), outline the threshold amounts for various controlled substances, including but not limited to marijuana, heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine.
  • Impact on Legal Charges: Exceeding these threshold amounts typically suggests an intent to sell or distribute, leading to more serious charges compared to possession for personal use. The quantity of the drug involved plays a crucial role in determining the severity of the offense and the associated penalties.

various substances and their drug threshold amounts

Common Threshold Amounts for Various Substances in Arizona

Below is a summary of the threshold amounts for some of the most common substances, as defined under the Arizona Revised Statutes:

  • Marijuana: The threshold amount for marijuana is two pounds. 
  • Methamphetamine and Amphetamine: For methamphetamine and amphetamine, the threshold is nine grams
  • Cocaine: The threshold for cocaine is also set at nine grams. 
  • Heroin: For heroin, the threshold amount is one gram. 
  • LSD: The threshold amount for LSD is set at half a milliliter or 50 dosage units
  • PCP: For PCP, the threshold is set at four grams or 50 milliliters. 

For individuals facing drug charges in Arizona, understanding these specific threshold amounts is important. It can be the difference between facing a charge for simple possession and a more serious charge with potentially greater consequences, such as intent to sell or distribute.

Penalties and Charges for Exceeding Threshold Amounts

Arizona’s drug laws impose strict penalties for offenses involving quantities of controlled substances that exceed set threshold amounts. The severity of these penalties is a key factor in the state’s approach to combating drug-related crimes.

Here are more specific examples illustrating how exceeding threshold amounts impacts legal outcomes:

  • Possession of Methamphetamine Over the Threshold: For an individual found with more than nine grams of methamphetamine, the charge often escalates to a Class 2 felony under ARS 13-3407. This can result in a prison sentence ranging from 3 to 12.5 years for a first-time offender. For repeat offenders, the sentence can increase significantly.
  • Heroin Distribution: If someone is caught with more than one gram of heroin, indicating distribution, they could face a Class 2 felony charge, with potential penalties including a prison term of up to 12.5 years for first-time offenders, as outlined in ARS 13-3408.
  • Marijuana Trafficking: Trafficking more than two pounds of marijuana is a serious offense under ARS 13-3405. This can lead to a Class 3 felony charge, carrying a potential prison sentence of 2 to 8.75 years for a first-time offender. If there’s evidence of sale or intent to sell, the penalties can be more severe.
  • Cocaine Sales: Selling more than nine grams of cocaine can lead to a Class 2 felony charge. The prison term for a first offense ranges from 3 to 12.5 years.
  • LSD and Felony Charges: Possession of over half a milliliter or 50 dosage units of LSD can result in a Class 3 felony, with a potential sentence of 2 to 8.75 years in prison for a first-time offender.

It’s important to note that these are baseline penalties. The presence of aggravating factors like a prior criminal record, the involvement of minors, or committing the offense near a school can lead to enhanced sentences.

Arizona’s legal system has limited tolerance for drug offenses, particularly those involving quantities above the threshold, which are seen as indicative of more serious criminal activity.

drug crimes defense

Defense Strategies for Drug Threshold Amount-Related Charges

In Arizona, when dealing with charges involving exceeding drug threshold amounts, several defense strategies can be employed to potentially mitigate the severity of the outcome:

  • Contesting Quantity Measurement: Defense often involves questioning the accuracy of how the controlled substance was measured, challenging the methods and equipment used by law enforcement.
  • Arguing Personal Use: Despite the quantity exceeding the threshold, a defense attorney might argue that the substance was intended for personal use, not for sale or distribution.
  • Suppressing Evidence: If evidence was obtained through a violation of constitutional rights, such as an illegal search, a motion to suppress this evidence can be filed.
  • Plea Bargains: Negotiating a plea bargain for a lesser charge can be a strategy in cases where there is strong evidence against the defendant but mitigating factors exist.
  • Highlighting Mitigating Circumstances: Presenting factors like a lack of criminal history, the non-violent nature of the offense, or willingness to undergo treatment can influence sentencing.

These strategies require careful legal analysis and execution by an experienced criminal defense attorney, who can assess the specifics of the case and Arizona’s drug laws.

Frequently Asked Questions: Arizona Drug Threshold Amounts and Related Charges

Q: Are individuals charged with possession of dangerous drugs over the threshold amount eligible for probation in Arizona? A: Eligibility for probation depends on several factors, including the type of drug, the amount, and the individual’s criminal history. In some cases, such as possession of a substantial amount of dangerous drugs like narcotics, probation may not be an option, and a prison sentence could be mandatory.

 Q: Can the street value of the drugs affect my charges in Arizona? A: While the street value might be considered in the context of the case, Arizona law primarily focuses on the weight and type of the drug when determining charges. Exceeding the statutory threshold amounts is a key factor in escalating charges, regardless of street value.

Q: What happens if I’m found with drugs just over the threshold amount? A: Possessing drugs slightly over the threshold can still result in serious charges, such as a felony. The exact consequences depend on the specific circumstances of the case and the discretion of law enforcement and the prosecutor.

Q: How does packaging influence charges related to drug threshold amounts? A: The way drugs are packaged can influence law enforcement’s assumption about intent. For example, drugs divided into smaller, separate packages may suggest an intention to sell, impacting the nature of the charges.

Q: What are the penalties for a Class 2 felony involving drug threshold amounts in Arizona? A: A Class 2 felony for drug offenses involving threshold amounts can lead to severe penalties, including lengthy prison sentences, hefty fines, and a lasting criminal record. The exact sentence depends on various factors, including the defendant’s criminal history.

Q: How does a criminal defense attorney investigate cases involving threshold amounts of unlawful substances? A: A criminal defense attorney will conduct a thorough investigation, examining the evidence, the legality of the search and seizure, the accuracy of drug measurements, and any potential violations of constitutional rights.

The Role of an Experienced Drug Attorney 

A notable case victory by Colburn Hintze Maletta in Gilbert demonstrates the role of experienced drug attorneys. In this case, their client faced charges of Criminal Possession of a Narcotic Drug (Class 4 Felony), Possession of Marijuana (Class 6 Felony), and Possession of Drug Paraphernalia (Class 6 Felony).

The firm’s skilled legal intervention led to the successful completion of the TASK program by the client, resulting in the dismissal of all charges.

For further assistance or to schedule a consultation with Colburn Hintze Maletta in Phoenix, Arizona, you can contact them at ((602) 825-2500. (Available 24/7) or by email

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