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If you are found in possession of a controlled substance, you may face very serious consequences, including considerable fines or imprisonment. It is imperative that you seek help from an experienced Phoenix drug possession defense lawyer right away. Our attorneys at Ybarra Maldonado Law Group welcome all our clients with open arms, and make it a priority to ensure that everyone gets a fair trial.

A “controlled substance” is basically a drug that you legally cannot have unless a doctor wrote you a prescription for it. The law specifies that if you knowingly possess one of these drugs without having obtained it with a prescription, you have possession of a controlled substance. This is a crime. 

Controlled substances cover a very wide range of prescription drugs, which you can find a full list of on the Diversion Control Division of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s website. Prescription controlled substances are only legal with a medical professional’s prescription. However, “controlled substances” also include completely illegal drugs, such as heroin, ecstasy, cocaine, and meth. In addition, Arizona considers any compounds used to manufacture controlled substances to also be controlled substances. 

Arizona divides its controlled substances into six major groups:

  • Narcotic drugs
  • Peyote
  • Dangerous drugs
  • Substances that emit toxic vapors
  • Prescription-only drugs
  • Marijuana

This phrase means that you have in your possession a drug that is illegal for sale or use without a prescription. A common misconception is that, in order to be charged with possession of a controlled substance, law enforcement must find the substance on your person. This is not entirely true.

To be in possession of a controlled substance, any of the following cases apply.

  • Actual possession: Police or law enforcement find drugs physically on your person.
  • Constructive possession: Police or law enforcement find drugs in a place that you have control over. This can include your home, your car, or even your bag.
  • Joint possession: Police or law enforcement find drugs in a space that you share control over with another person, like your home or apartment. For example, a spouse could be charged with joint possession if they are aware of your drugs in the home, but they do not alert the authorities about it.

Depending on the substance and the amount, possession of a controlled substance can be either a misdemeanor or a felony. Below, we list how some of those substances are classified under Arizona law.

  • Substances that emit toxic vapors: Possession of substances that emit toxic vapors is a felony, but the court may reduce it to a misdemeanor. 
  • Marijuana: Possession of marijuana is a felony, but in varying degrees depending on the amount in the defendant’s possession. 
  • Peyote: Possession of peyote is a felony unless you prove that it was used for religious reasons and that it did not threaten the community.

For detailed information on other substances, we encourage you to consult the Arizona Codes that list each substance and the group it fits into.

Different substances in different amounts have different penalties. In this section, we’ll outline the potential penalties for the substances listed above.

  • Substances that emit toxic vapors: As a felony charge, anywhere from 6 months to 2 ½ years in prison, plus up to $150,000 in fines. As a misdemeanor, up to 6 months in jail and up to $2,500 in fines.
  • Marijuana: Punishment for marijuana possession is determined by the amount in the defendant’s possession.
    • Less than 2lb: Anywhere from 4 months to 2 years in prison and up to $150,000 in fines.
    • More than 2lb, but less than 4lb: Anywhere from 6 months to 2 ½ years in prison and up to $150,000 in fines.
    • More than 4lb: Anywhere from 1 to 3 years in prison and a fine of up to $150,000 in fines.
  • Peyote: Anywhere from 4 months to 2 years in prison and up to $150,000 in fines.

Drug possession penalties vary depending not only on which drug you possess, but also on whether or not you were convicted in the past. In Arizona, Proposition 200 prevents judges from sending first or second-time nonviolent offenders to prison. Standard sentencing in these cases involves probationary periods, as well as rehabilitation programs and drug treatment.

Charged With Possession of a Controlled Substance? Contact an Experienced Phoenix Criminal Defense Attorney

When you face drug possession charges, you need the right representation. Our experienced criminal defense attorneys will aggressively fight for you and help you navigate the complex judicial system.

We won’t leave you to face your allegations alone. Call our experienced attorneys today at (602) 910-4040 or fill out our contact form to set up your free consultation. The drug possession lawyers at Ybarra Maldonado Law Group are here to hear your story and get the help you need.



Our team of compassionate and experienced attorneys are here to help guide you in your time of need.

Ray A. Ybarra Maldonado

Attorney, Human Rights Activist, Author
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Jazmin Alagha

Plaintiffs & Personal Injury Litigation
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Juliana Manzanarez

Associate Attorney, Immigration
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