Drug Crimes Representing the Accused for 30+ Years

Phoenix Drug Defense Attorney

Put a Former Public Defender with 30+ Years’ Experience on Your Scottsdale or Maricopa County Case

Attorney Robert J. McWhirter has over 30 years of experience in the legal field, and he also has a diversity of experience working in different worlds. From being a former federal public defender to the first chair qualified to defend capital cases in Arizona to working in El Salvador on criminal justice reform, Attorney McWhirter is well-equipped to handle your drug prosecution.

Whether you have been accused of possession or sale, let the Law Offices of Robert J. McWhirter fight for you. Call (480) 690-9097 or contact the firm online.


6 Categories of Controlled Substances

Arizona divides controlled substances (CDS) into 6 different groups:

  • peyote;
  • substances that emit toxic vapors;
  • marijuana;
  • prescription drugs;
  • dangerous drugs; and
  • narcotics.

Note that some CDS, such as codeine, which is a common painkiller, may be possessed legally if the possessor has a valid prescription.

Generally, drug crimes in Arizona are charged as either felonies (Class 4, 5, or 6) or misdemeanors (Class 1), depending on the class of the drug. 

Penalties and Sentencing: Peyote

Illegal possession of peyote is a Class 6 felony punishable by 4 months to 2 years in prison. At the felony level, fines may be as high as $150,000. A common way to defend against peyote charges, however, is claiming possession for religious reasons (e.g., use during a religious exercise), and that such use did not pose a threat to the community.

Penalties and Sentencing: Toxic Vapors

Substances that contain or emit toxic vapors, such as glues, aerosol sprays, and isopropyl alcohol, are also criminalized. Possession of such a substance is a Class 5 felony punishable by 6 months to 2.5 years in jail and a fine of up to $150,000. However, a charge may potentially be reduced to a Class 1 misdemeanor by the court if mitigating factors are presented. A Class 1 misdemeanor is punishable by a maximum of 6 months in jail and up to $2,500 in fines. 

Penalties and Sentencing: Marijuana

Medical marijuana is legal in Arizona for permitted users, and at the conclusion of 2020 voters ruled to legalize recreational use of marijuana for adults. As a result, those aged 21 or older may possess up to 1 ounce of cannabis and may cultivate up to 6 plants for non-commercial purposes in a private residence.

Possession for personal use can be criminalized if possession is in excessive amounts:

  • 1 ounce to 2.5 ounces – petty offense punishable by a maximum fine of $300
  • Less than 2 pounds – Class 6 felony punishable by at least 6 months and up to 1.5 years in jail, as well as a minimum fine of $1,000 or a fine to exhaust the proceeds of the drug offense
  • 2-4 pounds – Class 5 felony punishable by at least 9 months and up to 2 years in prison, as well as a minimum fine of $1,000 or a fine to exhaust the proceeds of the drug offense
  • More than 4 pounds – Class 4 felony punishable by 1.5-3 years in prison, as well as a minimum fine of $1,000 or a fine to exhaust the proceeds of the drug offense

Additionally, underage possession is a civil penalty for a first offense, a petty offense for a second offense, and a Class 1 misdemeanor for a third offense. Use in public places is also a petty offense.

Penalties and Sentencing: Dangerous Drugs

Possession of a dangerous drug is charged as a Class 4 felony, and the defendant could cause up to 3.75 years in prison and the greater of $2,000 in fines or 3 times the value of the substance. If they were not previously convicted of a felony and the drug was not meth or another type of amphetamine, they could potentially reduce their charge to a Class 1 misdemeanor punishable by up to 1 year in prison.

Penalties and Sentencing: Narcotic Drugs

The penalties for narcotics possession depend on the drug, but they will nonetheless be at the felony level. Possession of cocaine, for instance, is a Class 4 felony punishable by up to 15 years if the defendant has 2 prior convictions. They may also face a fine of either $2,000 or 3 times the value of the controlled substance, whichever is greater. Like a charge for possession of a dangerous drug, a charge for possession of a narcotic can be reduced to a Class 1 misdemeanor that carries up to 1 year in jail if the defendant has no prior felony convictions.

Defend Against Your Drug Prosecution Today

Be aware that the penalties for drug-related charges can increase from the above if the offense involved more than mere possession or personal use and veers toward drug sale, trafficking, or manufacturing. Arizona – and the federal government – seriously punishes drug crimes, so it is important to list the help of an experienced attorney to defend you against harsh accusations that could take away your future. Attorney Robert J. McWhirter will put his former public defense experience on your side as he represents you in court. He could argue your lack of knowledge or right to possess the drug due to a valid prescription, or he could even claim that law enforcement committed an illegal search, thus rendering the evidence against you unusable.

Contact the Law Offices of Robert J. McWhirter online or at (480) 690-9097 to learn more about how he can defend you today.

Robert J. McWhirter Attorney
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Why Choose Attorney Robert McWhirter?

Attorney Robert McWhirter's highly regarded reputation comes from his proven success handling all aspects of criminal defense in State and Federal courts.
  1. Over 30 Years of Legal Experience
  2. Personal, One-on-One Attention
  3. Certified Specialist in Criminal Law
  4. Former Federal Public Defender
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