Nationwide, states regulate the possession of controlled substances. However, each state’s definition of controlled substances and penalties for possession varies. Penalties for possession may differ based on the motive, type of substance, and the amount of substance found on one’s person. Possession for personal use generally has less severe consequences than possession for distribution or sale. A drug-related charge, such as drug possession, is a serious offense and it is always best to have experienced attorneys to help explain and protect your rights.

Controlled Substances Classified

Under Arizona law, there are many categories of controlled substances and this blog will focus on three of the most common ones: dangerous drugs, narcotics, and marijuana. Possession of drugs within any of these categories, no matter the amount, is a felony. Drug possession is not as simple as having the controlled substance in your hand or directly on your person, but rather whether you have control over the substance. It does not have to be in your hand for example, as it could be in your pockets, your purse, or even your car. The penalties for drug possession in Arizona can be quite severe, and vary depending on the type.

Possession of a dangerous drug in Arizona. Dangerous drugs include, but are not limited to: ecstasy, LSD, methamphetamines, steroids, and xanax. Possession of dangerous drugs is considered a very serious felony and can result in thousands of dollars in fines as well as jail or prison time.

Possession of narcotics in Arizona. Narcotics include, but are not limited to: cocaine, heroin, oxycontin, and vicodin. Possession of narcotics is considered at least a Class 4 Felony and may result in a 45-month prison sentence.
Possession of marijuana in Arizona. Fines for marijuana possession can be as low as $750 and as high as $150,000, depending on the circumstances. The length of a prison sentence ultimately depends on how much marijuana was found to be in your control. If you are found with over 4 pounds of marijuana in your possession though, you will be charged with a felony and the prison sentence starts at one year.


As seen above, most possession charges come with a prison term, but it is possible that someone convicted for a drug charge can qualify for what is known as “deferred prosecution”. Deferred prosecution is an Arizona-based program that aims to reduce imprisonment for simple possession charges, and an overall effort by the state of Arizona to give people a second chance; it is not available in all circumstances, though. One may be eligible for deferred prosecution if they are a first-time non-violent offender with a clean criminal record. Additionally for many offenses there are mandatory provisions for probation, and speaking with an attorney will help you understand if you qualify for that.

Deferred prosecution simply means that the state will put a hold on prosecution for a probationary term. During this probationary period, the individual is required to undergo routine drug testing, and undergo drug treatment or enroll in a substance abuse course. If you successfully make it through the probationary period, then the charges will be dropped; if you violate the terms of the probation though, you will be prosecuted on the original charges.

What to do when facing charges of possession?

If you are facing drug possession charges or any other drug offense, seek the assistance of one of the criminal defense attorneys at the Barber Law Group, PLLC, located in Phoenix, Arizona to assist you and protect your rights. Contact the Barber Law Group, PLLC today, at 602-500-2261 to learn how we can help you.