Factors that Influence Drug Offense Sentencing in Arizona


Drug offense sentencing in Arizona can be very complicated. Arizona is known for having harsh drug laws. However, two people who face a similar set of circumstances can receive different outcomes based on the evidence an attorney presents to the court. Many factors influence drug offense sentencing in Arizona.

Factors influencing drug sentencing in Arizona
What factor influence drug sentencing in Arizona?

These factors include the following.

  • Were the drugs intended for personal use or sale?
  • How much of the drug was involved?
  • Was the convicted person a repeat offender?
  • What type of drug was involved in the offense?

Sentencing factors in Arizona are contained in the federal and state statutes. The United States Sentencing Commission Guidelines give directions on drug sentencing under federal law. Arizona sentencing guidelines are contained under the Arizona Criminal Code Sentencing Provisions, and A.R.S. 13 Chapters 7, 8, and 9.

The statutory guidelines provide a sentencing range. These include minimum and maximum sentences. The guidelines for methamphetamine offenses, for example, in Arizona are tough. People convicted on a first offense of selling meth, the equipment, or the chemicals to make meth, face a minimum sentence of five years in prison, a presumptive sentence of 10 years, and a maximum sentence of 15 years.

Non-statutory factors may influence drug offense sentencing in Arizona within these ranges. They include the defendant’s character, history, and the circumstances surrounding the offense. The court will consider factors like violence or threats in a drug offense, a prior criminal record, and the nature of the harm to victims. Mental and physical health and substance abuse can be taken into consideration in drug sentencing in Arizona.

The quantity of drugs is particularly important in narcotics offenses in Arizona. The state has so-called “threshold amounts.”

The “threshold amount” is defined as the particular quantity of drugs over a certain amount which attracts a mandatory prison sentence. These sentences apply to both repeat offenders and first-time drug offenders; irrespective of whether they have a prior criminal record.

The threshold amounts are related to the amount of the drug and the degree of danger. Deadly drugs like heroin have much smaller threshold amounts than marijuana.

The threshold amounts relevant to drug sentencing in Arizona include the following:

  1. Heroin – 1 gram;
  2. Cocaine – 9 grams;
  3. Methamphetamine (Meth) – 9 grams;
  4. Amphetamine – 9 grams;
  5. Marijuana – 2 pounds;

At the Garcia Law Firm, our attorney is well aware of the link between mental illness and drug dependency. These factors are important in mitigation. Many people who are arrested for drug offenses are addicted to these substances. Please contact us today over drug crimes.

Posted in Arizona Laws, Drug Crimes | Tagged |

Book Raises Fears About Mental Illness, Marijuana and Violence


A new book has raised fears about mental illness, marijuana, and violence. The book claims the drug may induce psychosis and schizophrenia in some users, in particular, young men in their 20s.

However, the book by former New York Times reporter Alex Berenson has also provoked a backlash.

Berenson’s book, Tell Your Children: The Truth About Marijuana, Mental Illness, and Violence draws on a body of research that links the use of the drug to mental disorders and violence.

New book highlights concerns about Mental illness and marijuana

Mental illness and marijuana fears are raised in new book

A report in The Guardian referred to a statement from the American Psychiatric Association in 2013 that points out evidence points to a “strong association of cannabis use with the onset of psychiatric disorders.”

Adolescents were identified as being particularly vulnerable to harm because of the effects of cannabis on their neurological development.

A report on NBC stated scientists have found a link between cannabis use and severe mental illness over two decades. Even in controlled laboratory settings, some people who were given THC, a psychoactive chemical in marijuana, experience hallucinations.

The research suggested cannabis changes structures in the brain, contributing to mental illnesses. One study of more than 50,000 people indicated those who used cannabis during the teen years face a higher risk of developing schizophrenia.

Berensen’s theory is that marijuana causes psychosis. Psychosis causes violence. The obvious implication is that marijuana causes violence.

A report in Medical News Today suggested people who are prone to schizophrenia are more likely to take marijuana which, in turn, may increase the prospects of developing symptoms.

Research shows cannabis use is more common among people with psychosis than among the general population. However, rather than alleviating symptoms it may increase the risk of psychosis.

The study found cannabis can lower levels of the brain chemical dopamine. A reduction in dopamine is associated with fatigue, mood changes, depression, and lack of motivation. Conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder entail low levels of dopamine.

The book was published at a time when Canada has legalized recreational cannabis use along with western U.S. states including Colorado, California, Washington, and Nevada.

An article in Vox questioned Berenson’s reasoning. It said the author overstated the link between marijuana and psychosis.

Some articles have pointed to a link between mental illness and violence. Others found little link. However, studies are far from conclusive. An article published in Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica by a group of academics in Australia and the Institute of Psychiatry in London highlighted a correlation between untreated schizophrenia and higher levels of homicides.

Other studies suggest people with untreated mental conditions are more likely to abuse drugs.

If a family member with a mental disorder has been arrested in Arizona, it’s important to hire an attorney who is familiar with these cases. Call our Phoenix attorney today at (602) 340-1999.


Posted in Drug Crimes, Mental Health | Tagged |

Arizona has Some of the Strictest Laws for Methamphetamine Possession in the Country


People caught in possession of methamphetamine in Arizona face extremely tough sentences. The state has some of the strictest laws for meth possession in the nation on its statute books.

Methamphetamine is a highly addictive, manufactured drug. It is also known as meth, chalk, crystal or ice. The drug is a stimulant that affects the central nervous system.

Possession of meth is taken very seriously. The drug was not included in reforms of sentencing for drugs offenses in Arizona in the 1990s.

In 1996, Arizona passed a law known as “Proposition 200.” The law benefitted many first-time drug offenders, convicted of a low-level offense like possession allowing them to receive probation and avoiding jail time.

Arizona has high sentences for Methamphetamine possession

Methamphetamine possession carries a strict sentence

Arizona enacted Proposition 301 in 2006 as part of the war on meth at a time when the drug was making its way across the Mexican border from so-called ‘super labs.’ The law means people charged with possession of methamphetamine face prison even as first time offenders. The ballot directly addressed the Drug Medicalization, Prevention and Control Act of 1996 that allows probation for many people arrested for first and second offense drug possession. It exempted people charged with meth possession allowing them to be sentenced to a jail term for a first offense.

People who are convicted of meth possession can be imprisoned for a first offense.  The drug was not included in the reforms because meth labs were appearing across Arizona and legislators were concerned about the drug. Arizona’s approach to meth is consistent with many other states that take a hard line with users and distributors of this highly addictive drug.

People who are charged with meth offenses may also be linked to associated crimes. It’s not unusual for people who are charged with possession of the drug to be driving under its influence or carrying drug paraphernalia like pipes or firearms.

Meth is classified under Arizona law as a “dangerous drug.” If you are caught in possession of a dangerous drug for personal use, you will be charged with a Class 4 Felony.  A Class 4 felony carries a potential prison term up to 3.75 years.

The courts consider motions for first time drug possession to have their charge reduced to a class 1 misdemeanor carrying a probation term unless the drug involved is methamphetamine, lysergic acid diethylamide, amphetamine or phencyclidine, according to state law.

People convicted of a first offense of possession of meth for sale, equipment or chemicals to make meth, manufacture of the drug or transportation or importation face a minimum of five years in prison, a presumptive sentence of 10 years and a maximum of 15.

Defendants charged with these offenses on a second occasion face a minimum sentence of 10 years in prison, a presumptive sentence of 15 years, and a maximum sentence of 20 years.

Arizona’s criminal justice system can be unforgiving for drug offenses. Often people who suffer from mental illnesses are also drug dependent.

You should take methamphetamine possession charges seriously in Arizona. Call our experienced criminal defense team as soon as possible at (602) 340-1999.

Posted in Drug Crimes | Tagged |

Drug Diversion Programs in Arizona Report Success


Drug diversion programs are not new but they are becoming increasingly popular in Arizona and other states. These programs provide mental health and substance abuse help for defendants who may otherwise end up behind bars.

Pima County in Arizona became one of the most recent places in the state to adopt drug diversion programs. A report in Tucson.com noted federal grant money is funding new programs from January 2019.

The report stated nearly $3 million in federal grant money was awarded to the Pima County Attorney’s Office.

drug diversion programs

drug diversion programs in Arizona

Pima County is setting up a misdemeanor problem-solving program to provide low-level offenders with mental health and substance use treatment, as well as other services for those at risk.

Tucson.com reported the country lacked a method of providing services and drug treatment to people arrested on non-drug-related misdemeanor charges.

Although the Attorney’s Office provided programs for people arrested on felony drug charges, there was no equivalent program for repeat misdemeanor offenders suffering from drug addiction and mental health issues.

The Consolidated Misdemeanor Problem-Solving Court program that began in January changed that.

Chief Deputy Pima County Attorney Amelia Cramer explained there are few cases related solely to drug possession in the misdemeanor court but the court deals with a considerable number of crimes linked to homelessness.

The court deals with trespassing, urinating in public and other crimes. Often the perpetrators have mental health and behavioral health issues.

It is often beneficial for low-level defendants to go into drug diversion programs.  Admission to the programs is not automatic. Applicants undergo an initial screening. They must have no previous felony drug-related convictions and no past convictions for violent offenses.

If a defendant completes the program successfully, the Treatment Assessment Screening Centers will recommend that the charges be dismissed.

If a defendant fails to finish the program as intended, TASC will recommend that the trial court reinstate the prosecution.

As well as drug division programs, many jurisdictions in Arizona have mental health courts. At the Garcia Law Firm, we can help channel people into diversion programs. Please call us for a consultation at (602) 340-1999.

Posted in Drug Crimes | Tagged |

Tent City to Become Rehab Center


Since the infamous Tent City was recently shut down, Sheriff Paul Penzone announced that an air-conditioned space previously apart of the jail will be turned into a facility to help treat those suffering from substance abuse and addiction. Transforming Tent City into a rehabilitation center is apart of an ongoing effort to help keep repeat offenders out of the prison system and will help them live normal, productive lives.

The rehabilitation center will have space for classrooms and places to sleep. Sheriff Paul Penzone recently spoke about the new facility and said, “we want to ensure that [chronic offenders] have an opportunity to be productive, to not return here to this jail. I hope that all those in our community recognize the investment that we are making to become a more holistic Sheriff’s Office.” Penzone hopes to reduce the rate of recidivism and come up with solutions that will get to the root of the problems many repeat offenders face such as drug addiction and mental illness.

There are also plans for a proposal that would include an employment center for inmates, as well as a community corrections center. Both of these announcements quickly followed the retirement of Tent City. Not only will the changes being made help repeat offenders in the long run, it will also reduce spending by almost $5 million each year. Penzone also hopes that the investments being made will decrease crime rates in Arizona.

The rehabilitation inmate program is seven weeks long and will help inmates to identify early trauma and patterns of behavior. These services will benefit many people who most likely do not have the resources to visit specialists on their own. Once the program is over, the inmates will be given resources to help make sure they have opportunities to succeed when they are out in the real world.

Photo by Лечение Наркомании

Posted in Arizona, Drug Crimes, Law Enforcement, Mental Health, Violent Crime | Tagged , , , , |

Mentally Ill, Drug-Addicted Individuals Need Treatment, Not Jail


Our prisons are filled with mentally ill individuals, some of whom were born with disabilities, and others who have been damaged by circumstances and environment. All mentally ill offenders have their own unique conditions and needs, yet all too often they are simply cycled through the criminal justice system. Regardless of the crime committed, many do not receive the treatment they need to overcome or learn to deal with their issues while locked up. What does a mentally ill individual with no support and limited resources do once they are released from jail? Sadly, once they are in the system, they tend to stay trapped in it.

Many states are now looking at different ways of handling these individuals. Treatment, rather than jail time, not only ends up costing states much less, but also gives these individuals who are suffering a second chance- an opportunity to go forward with new knowledge and an ability to make better choices. In Utah, judges are issuing drug sentences with less jail time and more treatment, with hopes of preventing repeat offenses. Officials in Arkansas are looking at diversion programs for treating mentally ill individuals and drug addicted individuals, as opposed to locking them up in an already overcrowded jail.

Here in Arizona, Maricopa County’s psychiatric crisis facilities have more than doubled in the last year. In addition to expansions in the existing centers, including more beds added to a crisis center in Peoria, a new psychiatric emergency center was opened in Mesa. There are about 100 more beds available than there were less than a year ago. It is still not enough, by any means, but it is certainly a step in the right direction.

A mentally ill individual who has been accused of a crime needs a criminal defense lawyer with experience in this area. Bernardo Garcia has been representing mentally ill defendants for over 20 years. If you are in Phoenix or the surrounding areas, contact Garcia Law Firm, PLC today regarding your mental health defense needs.

Read original article here.

Posted in Drug Crimes, Mental Health Defenses |