Drug Offenders and Sentencing

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To say that drug sentencing laws in Arizona are complicated is certainly an understatement. There are plenty of guidelines, mandatory minimums, and judicial discretion to contend with. Two felons who are convicted for a similar drug offense, for instance, may not receive the same sentence, depending on a number of factors. These include:

  • If the person receives a first or second drug conviction or if he is a habitual or repeat offender
  • The type of drug involved in the case
  • The amount of the particular drug
  • If the drug involved is intended for sale

Depending on how these factors turn out, the court can order a sentence that may range from pre-conviction diversion program to fines or even lengthy prison terms.

Drug Offenders


Arizona Sentencing in General

In the state of Arizona, a felony may be punishable by a prison term of 1 year or more. The state categorizes general crimes under 5 felony classes. These are Classes 2 to 6, with each class having 5 possible sentences:

  • A mitigated sentence that is shorter than the minimum, and is available when two or more mitigating factors are present
  • A minimum sentence, which is available when one or more mitigating factor is involved
  • A presumptive sentence or the normal sentence given for the same crime
  • A maximum sentence, which is available if one or more aggravating factor is present
  • An aggravated sentence, given for crimes that involve two or more aggravating factors

First-Time Offender vs. Second-Time or Repeat Offender

The law provides a different treatment for first-time and second-time offenders. The case may be eligible for sentencing under Proposition 200.  The case may be brought to a drug court. In this arrangement, the prosecutor will consent to drop the case once the offender completes a drug rehab program. When an offender, on the other hand, habitually sells or possesses large quantities of drugs, the court may sentence the person to a long prison term.

Volume, Intent and Type of Drugs

When handing out sentences, the court also considers the amount of drugs involved, as well as whether there was the intent to sell or distribute drugs.   Harsher penalties are also imposed for some drugs over others. Compared to marijuana, dangerous drugs including heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine and prescription drugs get stiffer sentences.

Factors That May Be Considered to Reduce a Sentence

The judge is mandated to consider 6 mitigating factors when deciding on a sentence. These include:

  • The defendant’s age
  • Whether or not the person appreciates the wrongfulness of their actions, which can include mental impairment that does not rise to the level of a defense to the offense
  • Whether or not the defendant was under significant or substantial duress
  • Whether or not the person is only a minor player in the crime
  • The defendant complied with the required legal duties after committing the crime
  • And a catch-all provision that includes anything about the defendant, his character, background, or the crime’s nature that the judge may deem relevant

Factors That May Be Considered to Increase a Sentence

The court may also additional time to a sentence if there are aggravating factors in the crime.  Although some of these may not apply to a drug offense, aggravating factors include:

  • The infliction of harm or the threat to inflict harm
  • Whether a deadly weapon or dangerous was used or simply used as a threat
  • Property was taken or damaged
  • Whether an accomplice was present
  • The crime was committed for financial gain
  • The offense was committed by a public servant in direct relation to their office or employment
  • Whether or not the crime was related to gangs
  • Whether or not the defendant committed the crime while on probation or parole
  • And a catch-all provision that includes anything about the defendant, his character, background, or the crime’s nature that the judge may deem relevant

Sentencing for drug cases in Arizona can be complicated. Thus, if you’re facing any type of criminal charge, and need a lawyer for your defense, contact the offices of Robert A. Dodell, Attorney At Law for drug charges, right away. Initial consultation is free.


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