Arizona Criminal Defense Attorney Blog

Articles Posted in Arizona Drug Charges

Overview of new law: Qualified first responders and training; Liability & Immunities; Good Samaritan Laws; Criminal Penalties & Defense

Overview of AZ HB 2489: Combatting Heroin Overdoses

A bill we have been following closely, AZ HB 2489 was passed on April 10, 2015. The expected  effective date is July 3, 2015. Arizona now joins 26 other US states that have passed similar legislation.

First responder’s administration of opiate reversal injections, have been credited with saving over 10,000 lives in the USA where overdoses were reversed.

According to the National Centers for Disease Control (CDC), accidental overdose is now the number one cause of death in the USA, exceeding even automobile accidents for people among the age of 25 and 64.

Earlier this year, the CDC reported that heroin overdose deaths nearly quadrupled between 2000 and 2013.  An increasing number of Arizona residents have been overdosing on heroin and opiate-based painkillers like Codeine.  Arizona is now the sixth-highest state for heroin overdose fatalities.

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Case analysis; Impacts of Ruling on Arizona; Your 4th Amendment Rights at a Stop: Arizona Criminal Defense

Police cannot prolong stop’s duration beyond its initial purpose, without reasonable suspicion.

The United States Supreme Court recently decided an important case  that tilted in favor of 4th Amendment protections against unlawful detention, search and seizures.

Police dog

The case arose when a K-9 police officer pulled over the defendant for moving traffic violation.  The driver was in driving on a highway shoulder, in violation of state law.  The officer took the driver’s and passenger’s driver’s licenses, registration and proof of insurance.

The officer returned to his patrol car and began a records check of the driver.  The officer then returned to the suspect’s vehicle, and began questioning both the driver and passenger about where they were coming from and their destination.

After conversing with the driver and passenger the officer returned to his patrol car, and finished the records check.    Following the completion of the records check, the officer called for backup.

While waiting for back-up, the officer began writing a warning ticket to issue to the driver for the traffic violation.  For the third time, the officer returned to the suspect’s vehicle where he issued the warning ticket to the driver.

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Your Rights at a Stop; 10 Defenses for Drug Charges; Mitigating Sentencing; Drug Trafficking Laws; Penalties.

Police Stop Arizona

This is Part 2 of our Case Study on a recent Arizona Court of Appeals ruling involving Marijuana Trafficking charges.

If you’re just joining us, here’s a quick summary of the case: Recently, an Arizona Superior Court granted suppression of the Marijuana evidence that led to the State’s dismissal of the charges. The State promptly appealed arguing that the lower court erred in dismissing the Marijuana evidence found in the vehicle the suspect was driving.   The state argued on Appeal that the detention of the suspect for 40 minutes while awaiting the drug K-9 unit was not unreasonable.

The Appeals Court agreed, and overturned the lower court’s ruling, based on totality of the circumstances at the time.   The factors that the Appellate Court considered were the police officers extensive knowledge and experience in drug trafficking detection; prior drug crimes history of the suspect; voluntary statements made by the suspect at the time of the stop; and the suspect’s consent to search the vehicle he was driving.

In this discussion we focus on criminal rights at a stop, common defenses for drug crimes, laws, and drug trafficking penalties in Arizona.

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Suspect’s 40 minute detention, while awaiting drug K-9 unit was not unreasonable.

Arizona Drug K-9 UnitIn a case decided earlier this month, an Arizona Appeals Court ruled that an officer had enough “reasonable suspicion” to detain a suspect 40 minutes while awaiting the drug K-9 unit.

The court considered the “Totality of Circumstances” or “the whole picture”, to conclude that the detention was not unreasonable.

Case Facts

The suspect was pulled over, after the police officer observed the driver swerving and traveling at varied rates of speed.

The officer approached the vehicle, and requested the driver’s license, and registration.  The driver complied as well as providing the rental car agreement.

The officer asked the driver where he was going, at which point the driver provided several answers. The officer reported that the answers were inconsistent, “confusing” and “perplexing”.   The officer reported that the responses raised the officer’s suspicions.

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Determining who will prosecute; Differences between Arizona, Federal laws and penalties.

m16-shadow-201674-mA Phoenix AZ man was recently sentenced to 25 years in prison for charges of methamphetamine possession with intent to distribute; and prohibited possession of a firearm. The suspected was prohibited from possessing a firearm because of a prior felony conviction on his record.

In another recent case Phoenix police and federal agents from Homeland Security raided two houses and seized five pounds of meth, heroin and marijuana, 7 kilos of cocaine, and 12 weapons (rifles and handguns). The houses were within 1,000 feet of a high school. Neighbors were unaware of the criminal activity. However, four suspects were booked for narcotics possession in a drug free school zone, as well as weapons offenses.

We will refer to these illustrations to outline differences between state and federal investigations, laws, penalties, and the burden of proof held by the prosecution at both levels below.

Arizona V. Federal Laws and Prosecution

Weapons and drug trafficking charges may be brought in federal court. This exposes a person to mandatory minimum sentences. Sometimes both state and federal criminal laws apply, but often serious drug offense may be prosecuted at a Federal level. Generally, the Federal Government prosecutes the larger scale drug crimes, including drug trafficking, and offenses involving more sophisticated and organized illegal drug activity. The Federal Government generally decides if they will prosecute the drug charged in violation of The United States Code (USC) Controlled Substances Act.

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all-you-can-drink-860700-m.jpgDrug, and Liquor Law Violations Top the List

Arizona State University recently released its crime statistics for 2012.

The university has four campuses: Tempe, West campus, Polytechnic Campus, downtown Phoenix and ASU Colleges at Lake Havasu City. The report shows crime statistics for 2010, 2011, and 2012. According to the ASU report, the Tempe campus has experienced the most crime over the past year.

The most commonly committed types of crimes were liquor law violations referred for disciplinary action. The 2012 numbers were down from 2011 and 2010, but they were still high. On the Tempe campus, there were 884 liquor law violations on campus property and 863 liquor law violations on residential facilities in 2012. On West Campus there were 39 liquor law violations on campus and 39 at residential facilities in 2012. On Polytechnic Campus, there were 29 such violations on campus properties and 29 at residential facilities in 2012. On the downtown Phoenix campus, there were 62 liquor law violations on campus and 62 at the residential facilities in 2012. The ASU Colleges at Lake Havasu City just opened in 2012 and there were no violations reported. In total there were 2007 liquor law violations at all the campuses. This is lower than the national average for drinking in college.

Although you might think that the most common liquor law violation is driving under the influence, DUIs are expressly not included in the category in the report. The report specifies that instead this category encompasses violations (or attempted violations) of laws prohibiting: the manufacture, sale, transportation, and possessing of intoxicating liquor, as well as maintaining unlawful drinking places, bootlegging, operating a still, furnishing liquor to an underage person, using a vehicle to illegally transport liquor, drinking on a public conveyance.

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A conviction could send a person to prison for the rest of their lives.

photo_801_20060112.jpgThe West Desert task force is a joint task force for the U.S. Border Patrol, U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations and the sheriff’s department. It aims to fight drug and human smuggling in the west desert region of Arizona, which historically has been a major drug trafficking corridor. In the past few years, the government has found that none of these agencies single-handedly could make a dent in the trade in that region and accordingly, a task force was put together.

The task force discovered five abandoned vehicles full of marijuana near Ventana recently. There were 683 bundles worth $7.2 million that weighed almost 14,500 pounds. The vehicles were seized and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) took over the marijuana.

If you are caught transporting quantities of marijuana (even if significantly less marijuana than what happened in the above-mentioned seizure), the penalties can be very harsh. In a case such as this, most likely the federal government would pursue prosecution in federal, rather than court. While the punishments in Arizona state court can be severe, the ones meted out in federal court are far worse.

For example, trafficking in 1000 kilograms or more can lead to a sentence of not less than 10 years or more than life in federal court. That means there is a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years for this crime–a federal judge cannot use his or her discretion to look at a person’s otherwise good character or the fact that it could be their first offense, if that is the case, to impose a lighter sentence than 10 years. If death or serious bodily injury is caused in connection with trafficking there is a mandatory minimum of 20 years.

Arizona is a state known for being tough on crime. Trafficking or drug transportation is one of several marijuana offenses punished by the state. Others include possession, sale, distribution, and manufacturing. A person can be charged with trafficking either if they are stopped by the police while driving with large quantities of drugs in the car or if they are caught moving separately packaged quantities of marijuana in amounts to be sold. In most cases if a suspect is charged with trafficking, they are also coupled with other charges including possession or distribution.

Trafficking two pounds or more of marijuana into Arizona is a Class 2 felony with a sentence of 2-8.75 years imprisonment, and a minimum fine of $750. If someone is allowed to serve out probation rather than imprisonment, he or she will have a mandatory sentence of 24 hours of community service. Trafficking more than 2 pounds of marijuana is a felony with a potential sentence of 2-12.5 years imprisonment and a $750 fine. If significantly more than two pounds of marijuana is seized and the police suspect the person was carrying this amount into Arizona from across the border or another state, they may be charged in federal court.

Arizona as a border state, and its many freeways that lead to the border mean that a person may run a greater risk of being stopped and charged with drug trafficking than in several other states. If you are charged with a drug trafficking offense, the first thing you should do is contact an experienced drug trafficking defense attorney, to discuss your matter and options for defense.

Depending on the facts, including aggravated factors, repeat offenses, or seriousness of the circumstances, a conviction could send a person to prison for the rest of their lives. By law a defendant has the right to defend their charges and hire a qualified criminal defense attorney to legally represent them in defense of the charges.

Additional Resources

Arizona Criminal Code Sentencing Chart
Arizona Constitution
Mesa Police Department

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Drivers with Marijuana in their vehicle, who consent to search may be easier to prosecute than those who expressly refuse.

542938_officer_on_duty.jpgMost people understand that they have a Fourth Amendment right under the United States Constitution to be free from unlawful searches and seizures. They may know that the police must usually have probable cause to get a warrant and must have a warrant to search a car or home. They may also know that the police cannot use evidence obtained illegally, in violation of a defendant’s constitutional rights. Violations of a person’s Fourth Amendment Rights involving search and seizures in drug crimes, may compromise the State’s ability to prosecute a suspect.

Today we will take a closer look at what the Fourth Amendment protections, as they apply on a practical level with an illustration. Here’s common question: “If I’m driving around with several pounds of Marijuana in my vehicle, do I have the right to refuse the request of a police officer who wants to search my car without a warrant?”
The Supreme Court has ruled that people have less expectation of privacy in their cars than in their homes and therefore there are several conditions under which it may be acceptable to search a car without a warrant. But the most obvious scenario in which police can legally search your car is if you give consent.

Exceptions to the Need for a Police Search Warrant

Consent is an “Exception” to the general rules governing search and seizure. So a consensual search is one where a person agrees to let the police search their vehicle without a warrant to do so.

The Supreme Court held that so long as a reasonable person would feel free to disregard the police officer and go about his or her business, the encounter is a consensual one. In reality, however, most drivers would not feel comfortable refusing a police officer that had pulled them over and wanted to search the vehicle. In some instances a driver with marijuana in the trunk of his car who expressly refuses to consent to a search may have a stronger case than one who consents to the search. Police officers must have a probable cause to search or a reasonable suspicion of illegal conduct before searching in order to use any evidence gathered.

Alongside consent, another exception to the rule against warrantless searches and seizures is the “plain view doctrine”. This applies if, for example, the police pull you over because you made an illegal lane change and then see marijuana you planned to sell sitting in the back seat or see a pipe in the front passenger seat next to you. In either of those cases, the court would use a three-prong test:

(1) Was the officer lawfully present?
(2) Did the officer have a lawful right of access to the object?
(3) Was the incriminating character of the perceived object apparent?

If the answer to all of these questions are “yes” then the plain view doctrine exception will apply, and a warrant is not needed. In the situation described, the police officer had a right to stop you about your illegal lane change and could see the incriminating marijuana or pipe in the car. Therefore, this evidence could be used against you at a trial for marijuana possession or sales.

The stop itself, by police requires “reasonable suspicion” that a violation of the law has occurred or is in progress. On the other hand, if the marijuana was inside a backpack on the floor of your car and the police officer stopped you in absence of “reasonable suspicion” the plain view doctrine might not be applicable, and the stop itself may be unconstitutional.
Another exception to the search warrant rule is the “search incident to arrest.” This exception might arise in the previously described scenario if the police decided to arrest you for a DUI because you were clearly intoxicated and talked about a gun. In the process of arresting you, they might pat you down for weapons. If you are carrying bags of marijuana somewhere on your person, it will be found in a search incident to your arrest and will be admissible in a trial for marijuana possession. The police may also use finding the marijuana as a reason to search the rest of your car.

On the other hand, if nothing suspicious was found on your person and you were placed in a police car, the Arizona Supreme Court determined in 2007 that the police may not come back to your car once the arrest is over and search it without a warrant.

Overview of Search Warrants

These principals described above are broad, and it is an in an area of law that has changed over time. These protections continue to be tested and challenged in courts throughout the country. Current technology makes it relatively easy for police to obtain a warrant within a few minutes, but they must still have probable cause to get one. A number of law enforcement agencies use electronic search warrant programs to request one from a judge on call. They simply complete a form including information describing their justification of “probable cause”. It is within a matter of minutes that the judge reviews the request and approves or denies it electronically.

If you are arrested for marijuana possession or sales, an experienced criminal defense attorney may be able to look at the circumstances in detail to determine whether the evidence was obtained legally or not. Contact the experienced criminal defense attorneys of the Law Offices of James Novak at 480-413-1499 for more information and a powerful defense.

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Arizona remains a hub for Meth crimes. Get the facts. Know the consequences..

Throughout 2012, Marijuana laws, and offenses capitalized the news media, and social websites. However, there are other dangerous, illegal drugs, and controlled substances that continue to be used, possessed, manufactured, and transported in Arizona. One of the most dangerous of them is Methamphetamine. .

Almost monthly in 2012 we learned of large and small operating Meth rings and labs discovered in some alarming places. Meth Busts took place in residential homes, where children reside; offices; and mobile lab units. Arrests are frequent, and Arizona prosecutes offenses related to it, egregiously. Meth is classified in Arizona as a “Dangerous Drug”. Crimes involving them are prosecuted egregiously. Convictions of any Dangerous Drug offense carry prison terms.

Methamphetamine (Meth) Facts:

Meth is a highly addictive and dangerous drug. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, ingesting even small amounts of methamphetamine (Meth) can result in adverse symptoms such as irregular or rapid heartbeat, high blood pressure, and hyperthermia. Long-term abuse of Meth may include anorexia; severe dental problems and gum disease; anxiety, confusion, insomnia, behavior and mood changes that include violence and hostility. Serious and Chronic methamphetamine addictions may result in psychosis; paranoia, hallucinations, disturbing delusions. Overdosing may lead to convulsions, heart failure, stroke, other organ failure, and death. Chronic addiction to Meth has proven to lead to of infectious diseases such as and HIV/AIDS hepatitis B and C due to IV use or high risk behaviors.

Meth may be found in pill, or powder form. Crystal Meth is formed in glass fragments or bluish-white rocks. It has many common street names including but not limited to “Crank”, “Crystal”, “Glass”, “Speed”, and “Ice”, just to name a few.
Methamphetamine may be obtained through importation by “super labs” or dealers outside the USA; they are also manufactured here in the USA in large or small labs. In Arizona they are often found in ordinary residential neighborhoods, businesses, and in mobile labs.

Meth is illegal in Arizona. Crimes include use, possession, transport, sales, or administration. It also has been known to lead to other criminal behaviors such as theft, burglary, robbery, assault, and other violent crimes.

Arizona State Meth Laws and Penalties

It is illegal in Arizona, and considered a “Dangerous Drug” by Definition (A.R.S. 13-3401) and strict laws pertain to possession, use, sales, transport or administration (A.R.S. 13-3407).

Dangerous Drugs are prosecuted by the state egregiously. Meth is also illegal under Federal Law. It is categorized as a Schedule II stimulant under the Controlled Substances Act. Schedule II Stimulants are recognized as having high abuse potential, with limited medicinal uses in the medical community.

As a border state Arizona is has experienced heavy trafficking of Meth into the country. The Maricopa County Sheriff’s office has used Meth-task-force organizations to monitor the desert skies by aircraft along desert corridors. Other police efforts have included aircraft drone surveillance; under cover informants; special camouflage equipment; night vision resources; and community outreach programs to help combat the Meth problem in the valley.

Criminal Defense for Meth Crimes

If convicted, all Meth crimes are classified as Felonies, and generally carry harsh prison sentencing. If you were arrested for a drug crime you still have the right to defend your charges and retain a criminal defense firm on your behalf. If retained, an experienced criminal defense attorney will evaluate the evidence; defend your rights; determine if it is weak or unjust; determine if your rights were violated; and if there are any defenses that can be used to get a favorable resolution to your charges.

Additional Resources:

Arizona State Legislature – Meth Defined as Dangerous Drug

Arizona State Legislature – Dangerous Drug Laws involving Meth

Arizona Drug Enforcement Program

Arizona Substance Abuse Treatment Center Index

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Marijuna Defense Attorney Phoenix, AZ.jpgAlthough imitation Marijuana is readily available, it is still illegal to use or sell in Arizona
Synthetic Marijuana Facts

On Thursday November 23, 2012 local media outlets reported three incidents of synthetic Marijuana poison by high school students from two different schools in Southern AZ. Two of the students were sent to hospital emergency rooms.

Synthetic Marijuana or Imitation Marijuana is a chemically engineered cannabinoids substances or plant material that is said to produce a high similar that of Marijuana if smoked or ingested.

Arizona is in the majority of states in the country that prohibit use, sales, production, and distribution of synthetic marijuana products and other illegal substances.

This is because they have proven to be dangerous, causing severe illness, resulting in emergency hospitalizations, and fatalities. The National Institute on Drug Abuse compares the effects in some cases to poisoning. Health effects include severe anxiety, nausea, vomiting, heart problems, tremors, seizures, hallucinations, paranoia, psychotic episodes, and other serious medical conditions.

According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers incidents of poisonings, and poison control emergency calls increased 50% from 2010 (2915) to 2011 (5741) and continued to increase for 2012.

Despite Health alerts and warnings by Local, State, and Government Agencies, synthetic marijuana continues to be sold and used. Brands marketed and sold as something other than fake or synthetic Marijuana. They may be found under the popular names of:

• “Herbs”;
• “Incense”;
• “Spice”;
• “K2,”;
• “Blaze
• “Red X Dawn”
They are usually labeled as Incense and have the words “Not for Human Consumption”. They are readily available, and can be purchased at marijuana shops, other retail outlets, and even some convenient stores.

AZ Synthetic and Imitation Drug Laws

Synthetic Drugs are defined under Arizona Law Imitation Substances or Drug Offenses
A.R.S. 13-3451 and include:

• Controlled substances;
• Counterfeit preparations;
• Imitation controlled substances;
• Imitation prescription-only drug;
• Imitation over-the-counter drug
Arizona Laws A.R.S. 13- 3456; 13- 3457, and 13-3458, prohibit use of imitation or synthetic controlled substances; prescription drugs; and over-the-counter (OTC) drugs;
Violations of these laws will result in Class 2 Misdemeanor criminal charges.
Class 2 Misdemeanor charges expose a person to four months in jail; probation; substance abuse education, counseling and treatment; up to $750.00 fines; fees, and costs.

Arizona laws also apply to sales, manufacturing, or distribution of synthetic or imitation drugs under A.R.S. 13-3453; 13-3454; 13-3455; and 13-3459.

Violations of any of these laws will result in Class 6 Felony charges and expose a person to more severe sentencing including prison terms and exorbitant fines.

Arizona Marijuana Laws

Marijuana use, sales, production, and distribution is prohibited under Arizona law A.R.S. 13- 3405, and includes synthetic Marijuana as described in A.R.S. 13- 3401 Drug definitions.

Charges are classified as felonies. The classification of the offense and severity of the offense depends on the quantity of the drug found in a person’s possession as well as other factors.

Criminal Defense for Marijuana and Synthetic Marijuana Possessio
Many users are misled by the fact that the imitation drugs are readily sold over the counter. However, it is a criminal offense to use, sell, produce or distribute Synthetic Marijuana. If you face any Marijuana drug charges you should consult a criminal defense attorney regarding your matter. If retained, they will make sure your rights are protected; you are treated fairly; and defend your charges. There may be defenses you are not aware of that can lead to dismissal of charges; reduction of sentencing or other favorable resolution in your matter.

Arizona State Legislature Title 13 Imitation Substance or Drug Offense

Arizona State Legislature Title 13 Classifications for Use of Synthetic Drug Charges

National Institute on Drug Abuse

US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)

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