Possession of an Illegal Substance

Marijuana Laws in Arizona – What You Might Not Know

Although Arizona residents were close to legalizing marijuana less than a year ago, the ballot lost by a slim margin, maintaining the illegality of marijuana in the state. Many believe that the next vote on the legalization of marijuana will have a different outcome. Until then, smoking, ingesting, or possessing recreational marijuana is still illegal. That’s why it’s important to know all you can about the consequences of marijuana possession.

Misdemeanor or a Felony

When caught with marijuana, it’s possible to be charged with either a misdemeanor or felony, typically depending on the amount found in your possession. Marijuana possession is classified as a class 6 felony, which – by a judge’s discretion – can be designated as a class 1 misdemeanor instead. Felony charges carry much more significant penalties, both in terms of the court system and how you’re affected once the case has been closed, which is why obtaining legal counsel from the onset is so crucial.

Jail Time for First-Time Offenders

Under Prop 200, courts cannot give jail time for first time marijuana personal possession offenders. There are specific exceptions to this, of course, one of which is if the drug offense was tied to a violent offense. In most cases of marijuana possession, however, you’ll likely be cited and released. Some other factors that could enhance your punishment include:

  • Previous criminal record
  • Multiple arrests for possession of illegal substances
  • Arrest made in connection with a driving infraction
  • If cultivation was involved

State vs. Federal Jurisdiction

The news coverage in recent years has highlighted overlapping state and federal laws as they pertain to marijuana possession. Federal law enforcement officials have reiterated their authority to arrest individuals for possession, regardless of a state’s laws. Though federal officials have yet to act on this authority in places where recreational marijuana has been legalized at the state level, there exists important distinctions between being arrested by state or federal officials. The most significant difference, in most cases, is that federal penalties are potentially more severe. If you are arrested by federal law enforcement, the agency is likely pursuing additional charges, ranging from drug trafficking and grow operations, to violent activities or unlawful possession of firearms. This is why it is essential that you hire an effective criminal attorney, like those at the Schill Law Group, to protect your legal rights.

Mandatory Penalties for Personal Possession

Marijuana possession carries with it a mandatory fine that is calculated at either a base rate or by the value of the drug, plus a surcharge. In addition to the monetary fine, you may also be required to perform community service, complete drug awareness classes, or be placed on probation. Many people who have been arrested for possession seek out a plea deal without even consulting an attorney aside from a public defender, which often means that these penalties are not explained clearly, and may not be in your best interest. Even these lesser mandatory penalties can disrupt a person’s life for months, or possibly even years.

Loss of Federal Financial Aid and Employment

A marijuana possession conviction could lead you to lose eligibility for federal financial aid, as well as damage your reputation when trying to find employment. It could also exclude you from some jobs that require fingerprint clearance. Just as we discussed above, these types of secondary penalties are not typically explained to the arrested individual by law enforcement, which is yet another reason why proper counsel must be obtained if you hope to lessen your punishment for years to come.

Have you recently been arrested for marijuana possession? Are you looking for more information on this subject or other criminal issues? Reach out to the attorneys at Schill Law Group and we’ll provide a free case review.

What To Do When Confronted for Marijuana

Although the legalization of marijuana is expanding across the country, Arizona is still a state where it is illegal. About half of all drug arrests are related to marijuana, and 88% of those arrests are for simple possession. While the best way to avoid trouble with the law is to not carry illegal substances on your person, there are still a few things you can do to protect yourself in the event you’re confronted by law enforcement and have marijuana in your possession. 

Know Your Rights to a Bodily Search 

Without reasonable suspicion that you’re carrying drugs, a police officer isn’t supposed to search your person without your consent. He or she may “ask” you to turn out your pockets, but unless they have a search warrant, have spotted paraphernalia or drug residue on your property (including inside of your vehicle), or have felt something hard during a pat down, you have the right to refuse. If the officer tells you that he or she has a warrant, you can ask to see it. If no warrant is presented, you might consider telling the officer that you do not consent to the search and request to speak to a lawyer.

Know Your Rights to a Vehicle Search 

Just as in the case of a bodily search, a police officer cannot legally search your vehicle unless he or she has a warrant, reasonable suspicion (including the presence of drug paraphernalia), or your consent to conduct the search. The officer may order you to get out of your vehicle, and you should comply with this demand. Unless something is found on your person during a legal body search, a warrant is present, or the officer has a reason to suspect that you are in possession of illegal substances, he or she cannot legally search your property. You might consider telling the officer that while you have nothing to hide, you do not consent to a search, and then ask the officer if you’re free to go. If there are no grounds to hold you and conduct a search, the officer will usually let you go. You can also request to speak with a lawyer regarding your rights at any point. 

Remain Silent 

By remaining silent you reduce the chance of incriminating yourself or offering “reasonable suspicion” by saying too much. The more you talk, the more prone you are to nervousness, stuttering, stammering, or stumbling over your words. This can lead an officer to believe that you are under the influence or that you have something to hide. It’s best to keep your responses to a police officer to a minimum, simply asking whether or not you are being detained or are free to go.

Being calm and knowing your rights when confronted by a police officer for marijuana can go a long way in keeping you out of trouble with the law. In the event that you do find yourself under arrest for marijuana possession, the Schill Law Group can help. Contact us for a free case evaluation today.