Even first-time offenders charged with simple drug possession can face serious, life-altering consequences, especially if you are charged with a felony. Some of these consequences could affect you as soon as you are arrested. For example, if you hold a professional license, a security clearance, or work in some other regulated profession, you may have a duty to report your arrest to your employer or licensing board within a short period after your arrest.
While many attorneys practice general criminal defense, if you work in any of these fields or plan to work in a regulated field in the future (such as law, medicine, or teaching), it is critical that you retain an attorney who understands the nuances of how the manner in which a crime is charged, investigated, and the ultimate sentencing decisions could affect your career and educational options for years to come.
You can read the first three chapters of Michael’s book on the Collateral Consequences of Common Crimes.
How can a defense attorney help me fight my drug possession charge?
An attorney can advise you on your best defenses to your particular charge, based on your individual circumstances and present your defense to the court on your behalf. If the drug evidence was obtained as the results of an unlawful stop or search, the attorney may file a motion with the court to suppress the physical drug evidence or to dismiss the charges altogether.
Some examples of defenses to drug possession charges include:
- the drugs did not belong to you
- you were not aware that the drugs were left in your car or house
- you have a valid prescription
- the officer did not have reasonable suspicion to stop you
- the drugs were found as the result of an unlawful search
- you were coerced into carrying the drugs for someone else
The defense attorney will thoroughly review all the facts of your case to determine if any of these or other defenses are applicable.
What kind of penalties could I face?
The penalties vary greatly depending on whether you are charged under federal or state law, the quantity and type of drug, and whether you have any prior criminal record.
The most common categories of drugs are marijuana, narcotics (ex. cocaine), and dangerous drugs (ex. heroin).
Examples of penalties under Arizona law:
- For a simple marijuana possession conviction a first-time offender could be charged with a Class 6 felony and receive probation, 24 hours community service, and a 750 fine.
- But..possession of marijuana “wax” can be charged as a Class 4 felony, even in small amounts, resulting in harsher penalties.
- Possession of more than one gram of heroin, is above the “threshold” amount for simple possession and could trigger a drug trafficking charge or mandatory jail time, even for first-time offenders.
- Possession of methamphetamine, above the threshold amount of nine grams, could also trigger harsh minimum penalties of at least five years in jail.
If I am a first-time offender, am I eligible for diversion (alternatives to jail including substance abuse treatment or classes)?
While you may be eligible for a diversion program, it is still likely that the State will charge you with a felony and you may still face a lengthy period of probation. Even a misdemeanor drug conviction can have a profound impact on your future.
A conviction for drug possession could affect your:
- Immigration status
- Professional license
- Fingerprint clearance card eligibility
- Security clearance
- School admissions
- Student financial aid or scholarships
- Ability to qualify for public benefits
Even if a conviction is expunged from your record, you will still be required to disclose the conviction in many situations. Therefore, it is important to hire an attorney that understands all the collateral consequences of a conviction.
For an Attorney in Tucson – Call Michael Harwin
Criminal defense attorney Michael Harwin knows the ins and outs of criminal laws. He will work with you to build a defense and take into consideration all the other potential consequences you could face, apart from a criminal conviction, such as losing your professional license. For legal advice in the Tucson area, contact Michael Harwin Attorneys at 520-624-3500 to schedule a consultation.