Arizona is notoriously tough on drugs. The state’s location on the Mexican border makes it a vulnerable place for importing and exporting drugs, keeping authorities on high alert. The potential for a large scale drug crisis removes all leniency for repercussions, meaning that the penalty for cocaine possession in Arizona is often involves sentencing at the maximum level permitted by an already strict law.

The Classification of Drugs in Arizona

Arizona has three classifications of drugs. Marijuana is its own classification and often leads to the softest penalties, especially since we’re currently living in an age where several states permit the recreational use of marijuana by treating it similarly to alcohol or tobacco.

The second classification is dangerous drugs, which applies to most naturally grown psychedelics. Individuals caught possessing psilocybin mushrooms or peyote are charged with the possession of dangerous drugs. Depending on the circumstances of the arrest, some of these individuals may be faced with lesser charges. First time offenders and cases that did not involve violence or sale of the drugs are less likely to be prosecuted with a heavy hand.

The third classification is narcotic drugs. This category is an umbrella that encompasses prescription opiate type drugs, heroin, and cocaine. Since cocaine falls under the most severe tier of drug classification, the penalties are likely to be the most severe.

You May Be Charged With More Than One Offense

Drug cases with a single charge are somewhat rare in Arizona. If you were caught with just cocaine and nothing else, you may be charged only with the possession of a narcotic. If any instruments for measuring or using cocaine, such as glass pipes, were found at the same time, this would become multiple charges. The possession of the paraphernalia is a separate charge from the possession of the drug itself, and most drug users have a tendency to store related instruments with their drugs.

The Circumstances Surrounding the Charges and Threshold Amounts

Arizona looks at the entirety of the situation before labelling you with a charge or multiple charges as it deems fit. For example, someone with no prior criminal history having a very small amount of cocaine that appears to be for personal use that was discovered through a search that turned up no additional contraband or aggravating factors is going to lead to the least harsh penalty.

If at appears as though the cocaine was intended for sale, transport, or being sold, this makes the case more complicated. If the individual being charged has prior charges, specifically if they’re related to the circumstances of their current situation, this will change the way they’re sentenced.

The state of Arizona also utilizes something called statutory thresholds to apply mandatory prison time. The amount is different for each individual drug. The statutory threshold for cocaine in Arizona is 9 grams for run of the mill street cocaine, or 750 milligrams of cocaine base or hydrolyzed cocaine.

If the amount the individual was caught with does not exceed the statutory threshold, there may be certain circumstances under which probation or a drug intervention program may be utilized as part of sentencing. The odds are far better if the individual doesn’t have any form of a criminal record, or slightly better for individuals with a short record that doesn’t involve any drug related offenses.

Penalties for Cocaine Possession in Arizona

First time offenders found with an amount of cocaine below the statutory threshold amount are eligible for lighter sentencing, and will likely successfully achieve that with the help of a competent attorney. Personal Possession and Use charges require probation, regular drug screening, and the completion of a drug related intervention or treatment program at the expense of the individual.

Repeat offenders are unlikely to see mercy. For repeat offenders charged with possession of cocaine below 9 grams, the penalty is nearly always prison.

Second and Third Offense:

Felony Class Expected Sentence
Class 5 0.5 to 2.5 years in prison
Class 4 1.1 to 3.7 years in prison
Class 3 1.8 years to 8.7 years in prison
Class 2 3 years to 12.5 years in prison

Second offense is probation available. Third and subsequent offenses are prison mandatory.

Second Offense Exceeding Statutory Threshold

Felony Class Expected Sentence
Class 5 0.5 to 2.5 years in prison
Class 4 1.1 to 3.7 years in prison
Class 3 1.8 years to 8.7 years in prison
Class 2 3 years to 12.5 years in prison

Not probation available. 

Third Offense Exceeding Statutory Threshold

Felony Class Expected Sentence
Class 5 0.75 to 5 years in prison
Class 4 1.5 to 6.2 years in prison
Class 3 2.5 years to 11.2 years in prison
Class 2 4 years to 15 years in prison

Penalties don’t begin and end with jail time.

The state of Arizona also applies fines to drug charges, and those fines are as high as $150,000 for each charge. If the charges are deemed to be an act of a criminal enterprise (any organized crime ring built around the sale, manufacture, or transport of drugs), the fines can become as high as $1 million per charge.

What to Do When You’ve Been Charged with Cocaine Possession in Arizona

Cocaine related charges in Arizona are no small undertaking, particularly for those with a prior history or for individuals possessing a large amount of cocaine. Before speaking with any authorities on the matter, speak with adequate and aggressive legal counsel. First time offenders found possessing small amounts of cocaine are easily able to avoid time behind bars when an experienced attorney can advocate for treatment based sentencing.

If you’re facing cocaine possession charges in the Tucson area, contact the Damianakos Law Firm immediately. With fifteen years of experience, including firsthand experience as a former felony and misdemeanor prosecutor, we know exactly how to navigate cocaine possession cases.