Our Law Firm is committed to becoming the best Law Firm for Latino, migrant, and Spanish speaking communities in Arizona.


drug possession attorney

If you are convicted of drug possession in Arizona, you may face significant penalties and repercussions, including steep fines, jail time, and the loss of your driver’s license. The best way to protect yourself and fight a conviction is to hire a skilled drug possession attorney.

At Ybarra Maldonado Law Group, our Phoenix criminal defense attorneys have extensive experience providing fair and qualified representation to those who need it. Everyone deserves qualified representation for their cases, and we’re here to provide that. If you face drug charges in Phoenix, contact a drug possession attorney with our firm today. Call 602-910-4040 today, or fill out our online intake form.

Arizona Drug Possession Laws

The law in Arizona is clear: it is unlawful to intentionally possess or use illicit substances. If you’re caught under the influence or with narcotics on or near you, you’ll almost certainly face felony drug possession charges.

The state’s drug laws are highly specific, outlining the types and quantities of narcotics that are illegal, as well as the penalties associated with them. In Arizona, drug possession penalties vary depending on the type of substance possessed, past criminal history, and whether you’re charged with simple possession for personal use or possession with intent to distribute.

However, due to a recent change in Arizona Revised Statutes, many of our clients come to us wondering, “Is Weed Legal in Arizona?” Luckily, marijuana is now legal for recreational use in the state by adults 21 and over. Keep in mind that there is still a legal limit to how much you may keep for yourself, and in what forms. Visit our page on Arizona Prop 207 to learn more.

Actual Possession vs Constructive Possession

Actual possession is precisely what it sounds like: it’s something you’ve got on your person. As a result, whether it’s in your pocket or in your hand, it’s truly yours.

Constructive ownership entails having it within easy reach. For example, four people are in a car with a kilo of cocaine in the center console. Technically, all four of the tenants have constructive possession of the kilo of cocaine, which means they may all exercise dominion or control over it.

However, in order to prosecute someone with constructive possession, police enforcement and, eventually, a jury must determine that the individual has met a couple of requirements.

  • They knew that the substance was near them.
  • They knew that it was a controlled substance, and acknowledged that information.

What Is a Controlled Substance in Arizona?

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

What Does Possession of a Controlled Substance Mean?

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: Law enforcement or police 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.

Arizona Drug Possession Penalties

Arizona is the only state in the US where possessing a little amount of marijuana for the first time (without a medical card) is a crime. Knowing this should make you realize how serious drug violation prosecutions in Arizona may be. Below, we outline the potential penalties for marijuana and narcotics possession in Arizona.

Marijuana Possession Laws: Less than 2 lbs

  • Class 6 Felony: if found for personal use, possibly reduced to a misdemeanor if you produced it yourself.
  • At least $750 fine: or $2,000 for oil or wax, or 3 times the substance’s value, plus 83%.
  • Class 4 Felony: if found to be for sale. Class 3 Felony if between 2 and 4 lbs. Class 2 Felony if over 4 lbs, or if it is wax or oil for sale.
  • Prison or jail time: varies based on numerous factors, including previous convictions, type of convictions, and more.

Narcotics Possession Laws: Cocaine, Heroine, Pills

  • Class 4 Felony or Class 2 Felony if deemed to be for sale.
  • At least $2,000  fine: or 3 times the substance’s value, plus 83%.
  • Prison or jail time: varies based on numerous factors, including previous convictions, type of convictions, and more.

Other Dangerous Drugs: Meth, Amphetamine

  • Class 4 Felony or Class 2 Felony if deemed to be for sale.
  • At least $1,000 fine: or 3 times the substance’s value, plus 83%.
  • Prison or jail time: varies based on numerous factors, including previous convictions, type of convictions, and more.

Is Possession of a Controlled Substance a Misdemeanor or a Felony in Arizona?

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: Having 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 to 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.

What Are Possession of a Controlled Substance Penalties in Arizona?

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.

What Is Considered a Dangerous Drug?

Possession or use of hazardous substances is a Class 4 felony, according to A.R.S. 13-3407. Any form of narcotic that is not marijuana is considered a “dangerous drug” in Arizona. Cocaine, methamphetamine, amphetamines, anabolic steroids, hallucinogenic substances, and some prescription medicines fall under this category.

If you’re arrested for a first-time crime using a substance that isn’t meth or amphetamine, the charges may be lowered to a Class 1 misdemeanor.

Drug Classifications

Marijuana, peyote, prescription drugs, hazardous drugs, narcotic medications, and chemicals that generate poisonous fumes are all classified as controlled dangerous substances (CDS) under state law. Despite the fact that medicinal marijuana is allowed in Arizona, recreational marijuana use, possession with the intent to sell, and non-medical marijuana production remain severe offenses.

For CDS, there are “threshold levels” that, if met, generate a sales assumption. Even if there is no more evidence of sales and you have no past criminal history, you will face a mandatory jail sentence. A weight, market value, or other kind of measurement of an illegal drug is defined as a “threshold amount” under the law.

  • Heroin: 1 gram
  • Cocaine: 9 grams
  • PCP: 4 grams/50 mL
  • Methamphetamine: 9 grams
  • Amphetamine: 9 grams
  • Marijuana: 2 pounds

Drug Possession Defenses

If you’ve been charged with drug possession, whether for personal use or with the purpose to sell, a drug possession lawyer will help you figure out what defenses you have. Some defenses object to the case’s stated facts, testimony, or evidence. Others focus on procedural flaws, and some defendants use an affirmative argument to fight drug possession accusations.

Illegal Search and Seizure

Illicit narcotics discovered in “clear view,” such as on the dashboard of a car during a legitimate traffic check, may be confiscated and used as evidence. However, narcotics discovered in a car’s trunk after breaking it open with a crowbar cannot be used as evidence.

The Drugs Don’t Belong to You 

Saying you didn’t do it is a typical defense to any felony allegation. Claiming the drugs aren’t yours or that you had no clue they were in your residence is the drug possession equivalent.

Lab Analysis of the Substance

Just because something appears to be cocaine or LSD does not imply it is. By submitting evidence to a crime lab for analysis, the prosecution must show that a confiscated material is actually the unlawful narcotic it purports to be. In order for the prosecution to establish its case, the crime lab analyst must testify at trial.

Misplaced Drugs

Another defense to drug possession is that the drugs have gone missing. Prosecutors who misplace or otherwise lack the real medicines risk having their case dismissed, similar to the necessity for crime lab analysis. Because seized narcotics are frequently transferred before being placed in the evidence locker, it should never be expected that the evidence would be present during the trial.

Planted Drugs

Because a police officer’s sworn testimony carries a lot of weight in the courts, this may be difficult to prove. Other officers may be hesitant to report a colleague who has broken the law. However, your lawyer can submit a request that, if granted by the judge, forces the department to reveal the officer’s complaint file. This file contains the names and contact information of people who filed the complaints, so your attorney or a private investigator may interview them.


While cops and informants are permitted to set up sting operations, entrapment happens when officers or informants coerce a suspect into committing a crime he or she would not have committed otherwise. Entrapment can occur when an informant pushes a suspect into transferring narcotics to a third party, for example.

Medical Marijuana Exceptions

The use of marijuana for medical purposes is never a defense in federal drug possession court, but it may be in states where medical marijuana is permitted. Typically, states that allow such exceptions to marijuana prohibitions require a written doctor’s approval. However, several of those states also allow people arrested for marijuana possession to assert an affirmative defense if they can prove clear and compelling proof of medical need.

How Does a Drug Possession Attorney Help?

Drug use and possession have risen to the forefront of people’s attention as a result of the ongoing drug war. While some states and laws are becoming stricter, others are becoming more liberal, particularly when it comes to marijuana legalization. This is why, if you’ve been charged with drug possession, it’s critical to have a strong drug possession attorney on your side. A lawyer can assist you win a drug possession case in the following ways.

They Have the Training

As previously said, drug laws are not only changing, but they also differ from state to state. While it is legal to use marijuana recreationally in Colorado, it is still illegal in Arizona. In addition, drug possession punishments differ by state. In one state, you may be sent home with a minor fine, but in another, you may face years in jail. A qualified drug possession attorney in Arizona will guide you through your state’s laws and penalties so you know precisely what you’re up against and how you want to approach your case.

They Work for You

When you employ a defense attorney, they will do everything they can to aid you and your case. They have your best interests at heart and will utilize every resource at their disposal to ensure that you obtain the best possible result in your case. We not only know the law, but we also know how the prosecution operates. They are aware that drug possession accusations are not given the same attention as other crimes. A smart drug possession attorney will take advantage of this to see if they can reach an agreement.

They Will Ensure the Legitimacy of the Charges Against You

You must be aware that the substance you have in your possession is an illicit drug and that you are in possession of it to be charged with drug possession. There are several ways in which the allegations leveled against you might be deemed illegitimate. For example, if you honestly had no knowledge the narcotics were in your residence, your defense counsel will work hard to convince the judge of that. Your lawyer will also look at whether the medicines were obtained through a valid search and seizure procedure. Whatever the situation may be, an experienced defense attorney will work with you to ensure that the drug possession accusation is valid.

They Will Offer Peace of Mind

It might be tough to fight a drug possession accusation. There’s a lot of paperwork, legal jargon, court dates, and a prosecution tasked with proving your guilt. You don’t have to go through this alone. Ybarra Maldonado Law Group has a skilled drug possession attorney on staff that can assist you in defending your case and your future.

Contact a Drug Possession Attorney with Ybarra Maldonado Law Group Today

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, Esq.

Founder & Principal Attorney of Ybarra Maldonado Law Group
Criminal Law, Immigration Law, Personal Injury, and Civil Rights
Read More

Brett Turley, Esq.

Senior Criminal Defense Associate Attorney
Ybarra Maldonado & Associates
Read More


es_MXEspañol de México