First-time drug possession offenders in Arizona generally must be granted probation instead of jail. But there are three exceptions. First-time offenders convicted of drug possession for personal use may be jailed if:
- The drug was methamphetamine; or
- The drug was marijuana, and the quantity was two or more pounds (“threshold amount”); or
- The defendant was also convicted of a violent offense, which is a criminal act that either results in death or physical injury or involves the criminal use of a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument.
Under Arizona law, first-time drug possession offenders must complete a court-ordered drug treatment or education program as part of probation. And the defendant must pay for it to the extent he/she is able.
When a probationer violates the terms of probation, the court will impose increased terms such as intensified drug treatment, community restitution, intensive probation, home arrest or any other sanctions. The court may not impose jail unless the defendant committed a drug crime or violated a court order relating to drug treatment.
If the defendant refuses to participate in drug treatment, the court may revoke probation and impose standard drug felony sentences.1
What are the penalties for first-time drug possession in Arizona?
A first offense of personal possession of dangerous drugs (ARS 13-3407) is a class 4 felony in Arizona. Defendants ineligible for probation face a prison sentence from one-and-a-half years to three years, with a presumptive penalty of two-and-a-half years. If there are two or more mitigating factors, the penalty can be as low as one year in Arizona State Prison. If there are two or more aggravating circumstances, the maximum penalty is three years and nine months in prison.
Note that a first-time charge of possession of dangerous drugs can be reduced from a class 4 felony to a class 1 misdemeanor unless the drug was lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), methamphetamine, amphetamine or phencyclidine (PCP). Common dangerous drugs include:
- anabolic steroids
- alprazolam or Xanax
- diazepam or valium2
If the drug is cannabis, the penalty for first-time possession depends on the pounds of marijuana:
Amount of marijuana
|Arizona penalties for first-time offenders |
|More than 1 oz. to 2.5 oz.||Petty offense, punishable by up to $300 and no jail time|
|More than 2.5 oz. to less than 2 lbs.||Class 6 felony, punishable by .33 years to two years in prison. But the offense is usually probationable.|
|2 lbs. to less than 4 lbs.||Class 5 felony, punishable by six months to two-and-a-half years in prison|
|4 lbs. or more||Class 4 felony, punishable from one year to three years and nine months in prison|
Possession of marijuana constituting no more than one ounce by people 21-years old or older is legal in Arizona.3
What is the TASC Diversion program?
The TASC program – which stands for Treatment Alternatives to Street Crime – is a deferred prosecution option that allows first-time drug offenders to avoid both jail and a conviction. If they successfully complete a drug education and treatment program and pass drug tests, defendants will have the drug charge dismissed.4
What is drug possession?
Possession of controlled substances – also called simple possession – comprises three main behaviors:
- Having actual possession over the drugs, such as physically carrying them or using them.
- Having constructive possession over the drugs, such as by keeping them in a safe or closet or other location the person has control over.
- Having joint possession over the drugs, such as by sharing possession of them with a significant other or roommate.
Therefore, a person can sustain a drug conviction for possession even if they are not physically touching or using them. Simply being in control of the drugs rises to the level of possession. Common evidence in drug possession cases includes eyewitness testimony, surveillance video, and the drugs themselves.5
Facing criminal charges for drug offenses? Our criminal defense lawyers create attorney-client relationships throughout the state of Arizona, including Phoenix, Scottsdale, Tempe, Mesa, Maricopa County, and more. Contact our law offices today for a free initial consultation.
See our related article on possession of drug paraphernalia (ARS 13-3415).
- Arizona Revised Statute 13-901.01 (Proposition 200); ARS13–3405 (C); ARS 13–3407 (D), (E), (F) & (G); ARS 13–3408 (D) & (E); ARS 13-3401.
- ARS 13-3407. Note that dangerous drugs are different from narcotic drugs, which include cocaine, codeine, oxycodone, heroin, hydrocodone, morphine, and fentanyl. See possession of narcotics drugs (ARS 13-3408). See also State v. Story, (Ariz. Ct. App. 2003) 206 Ariz. 47, 75 P.3d 137, 407 Ariz. Adv. Rep. 16. See also State v. Nunn, (Ariz. Ct. App. 2020) 480 P.3d 109.
- ARS 13-802; ARS 36-2853; ARS 13-3405.
- See, e.g., Tempe.gov.
- ARS 13-105.