Arizona charges many drug-related crimes as felony offenses. The penalties for possession of illegal substances vary by the type of substance, whether you intend to distribute the substance and whether you have prior criminal convictions.

These are the basic categories of state drug charges and the associated consequences.

Dangerous Drug Penalties

Ariz. includes heroin, cocaine, methamphetamines and prescription opioids and antidepressants in the category of dangerous drugs. Possession of these substances carries a fine of the greater of three times the drug value or $2,000.

If you have no prior convictions, you can receive up to a year in jail, or up to 45 months if this is a second or third conviction. Ariz. prohibits jail time for first and second-time nonviolent drug offenders provided they attend drug treatment and comply with the terms of probation. However, probation violations by these individuals carry up to six months in jail.

Although dangerous drug possession is a class 4 felony, the court can treat anything except for amphetamine possession as a class 1 misdemeanor if there are no prior convictions. A third conviction for cocaine possession carries up to 15 years in jail. Possession of drug paraphernalia, including plastic bags, smoking pipes and other accessories, can also result in a drug possession charge.

Marijuana Possession Penalties

 Although the state does not categorize cannabis as a dangerous drug, marijuana possession is still illegal in Arizona. For less than two pounds, possession penalties are the same as for first and subsequent dangerous drug offenses.

If the drug is for personal use, cannabis possession is usually a class 6 felony or downgraded to a misdemeanor. Possessing marijuana for sale is a class 4 felony. Growing cannabis is a class 5 felony.

Because penalties vary dramatically based on the circumstances of each case, individuals must defend their rights when charged with drug crimes in Ariz. Often, first-time and nonviolent offenders successfully receive reduced sentences.