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What is considered a “Dangerous Drug” in Arizona?

Current Arizona statutes distinguish drug charges related to the possession or use of marijuana or narcotics from those related to other intoxicating substance characterized as “dangerous drug.” While this sounds like a broad term, it is actually strictly defined in A.R.S. 13-3401 to include a number of common drugs, including: compounds having hallucinogenic capabilities including LSD and psilocybin, chemicals have stimulant effects on the central nervous system including amphetamine and methamphetamine, and drugs having a depressant effect on the nervous system including valium and Xanax.

The number of drugs classified in this manner is much too long to list in its entirety. However, it is important to understand that the term “dangerous drugs” is not restricted to ‘illegal’ or schedule 1 drugs. Instead it encompasses lower schedule drugs that, while recognized to have abuse potential, have a recognized medical use. This includes many anti-depressants/anxiolytics (Valium, Xanax) and psychostimulants (Ritalin). Note that unlawful possession, use or sale of prescription medication not deemed ‘dangerous’ for their abuse potential may still face charges under A.R.S 13-3406.

Possession of a Dangerous Drug

Under A.R.S 13-3407, the unlawful possession of a dangerous drug is considered a class 4 felony, which is a very serious charge. It is important to note that the prosecutor and the court can approve to charge such a violation as a class 1 misdemeanor, provided the following are true:

  • The drug in question is not lysergic acid diethylamide (‘LSD’, ‘acid’), methamphetamine (‘meth’), amphetamine (‘speed’) or phencyclidine (‘PCP’, ‘angel dust’).
  • The individual in question has not been previously convicted of a felony offense
  • The individual in question has not been previously convicted of possession or narcotic drugs

As with charges related to marijuana, the distinction between possession for personal use and possession for sale of a dangerous drug is made based on volume of drug in question. Common threshold amounts are as follows:

  • One gram of heroin
  • Nine grams of cocaine
  • Seven hundred fifty milligrams of cocaine base or hydrolyzed cocaine
  • Four grams or 50 milliliters of PCP
  • Nine grams of methamphetamine, including methamphetamine in liquid suspension
  • Nine grams of amphetamine, including amphetamine in liquid suspension
  • One‑half milliliter of lysergic acid diethylamide, or in the case of blotter dosage units fifty dosage units
  • Two pounds of marijuana
  • For any combination consisting solely of those unlawful substances listed, an amount equal to or in excess of the threshold amount
  • For any unlawful substance not listed, a value of at least one thousand dollars

The period of incarceration associated with a fist-offense class 4 felony is up to 3.75 years in prison. If the individual in question is charges with a class 1 misdemeanor as described above, this maximum period of incarceration is reduced to 6 months.

Note that first or second offense non-violent drug offenders whose charges are unrelated to the possession of methamphetamine are likely eligible for probation only under A.R.S. 13-901.01. Note that a person is not eligible for probation if the court finds the person:

  • Had been convicted three times of personal possession of a controlled substance or drug paraphernalia
  • Refused drug treatment as a term of probation.
  • Rejected probation
  • Was convicted of the personal possession or use of a controlled substance or drug paraphernalia and the offense involved methamphetamine

In individual charged with possession of a dangerous drug may also be eligible for TASC diversion. In this program of adult deferred prosecution, charges related to drug possession may be dismissed entirely upon successful completion of a TASC program. For more information on TASC, please click here.

Other Charges Related to Dangerous Drugs

In Arizona, the possession or manufacturing of a dangerous drug for sale is classified as a class 2 felony. This crime has a prison-only range of 3 to 12.5 year incarceration. This range of incarceration increases to 4.5 to 23.25 years for second-time offenders. Individuals charged with possessing the equipment necessary to manufacture a dangerous drug or narcotic face a class 3 felony with possible punishments ranging from probation to 8.75 years in prison for first-time offenders.

Arizona statues are notoriously tough on charges related to methamphetamine. If a person is found guilty of possession of methamphetamine above the threshold amount of 9 grams, transport of methamphetamine for sale, possession of chemicals or equipment to manufacture methamphetamine, or the manufacturing of the drug, they will be sentenced as follows:

  1. First offense – Presumptive period of incarceration of 10 calendar years (range from 5-15 years)
  2. Second offense – Presumptive period of incarceration of 15 calendar years (range from 10-20 years)

Arizona attorney for Dangerous Drug Charges

If you have been charged with a crime related to the possession, sale or manufacture of dangerous drugs, it is important to consult with an experienced criminal defense lawyer. Time is not on your side. An attorney will review the facts of your case to determine your best possible defense. In additional, such intimate familiarity with Arizona statues is required to determine whether a defendant qualifies for programs such as TASC resolution and probation under Proposition 200.