As a resident of Arizona, it can be difficult to keep up with the constantly changing laws and new bills regarding marijuana. Currently, the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act only legalizes the possession of 2.5 ounces or less of marijuana for medicinal purposes, and only if you have a physician’s written certification. If the police find you in possession of an illegal quantity of marijuana in Arizona or possession without a medical card, you could face criminal charges and serious penalties.
Penalties for Illegal Possession of Marijuana in Arizona
Nonmedical marijuana use or possession in Arizona could result in a felony charge, punishable with 6 months to 10 years in jail or prison. The degree of the felony and accompanying penalties depend on the amount of marijuana in your possession. Possessing less than 2 pounds is a Class 6 felony, for example, with 6 months to 1.5 years incarceration and up to $150,000 in fines. Possession of 4 pounds or more is a Class 4 felony, with 1.5 to 3 years in jail.
If the courts convict you of possession of marijuana with intent to sell, the consequences are more severe. Possession with intent to sell can result in a punishment of 1.5 to 10 years behind bars and/or fines of up to $150,000. Since marijuana remains an illegal drug on a federal level, federal punishments are also a possibility. Possession of any amount of marijuana is a misdemeanor that can result in up to one year in jail and/or a $1,000 fine for a first offense.
What Is Deferred Prosecution?
Most criminal cases in Arizona do not go to trial. Instead, the prosecution and the defendant’s attorney will work out an arrangement during arraignment hearings. One possibility for settling a possession of marijuana case in Arizona is pre-trial intervention through a deferred prosecution program. Deferred prosecution is a diversion program that rehabilitates rather than punishes the defendant. Only certain cases in Arizona will qualify for deferred prosecution. Most relate to drug and substance abuse charges.
Unlike taking a plea deal, you do not have to plead guilty to qualify for deferred prosecution. If the prosecution offers a possession of marijuana diversion program, it is up to you to accept or deny participation. If you agree to participate in the program, you must obey its stipulations for an agreed-upon amount of time. The marijuana diversion program may require drug or addiction counseling, random drug tests, screenings and defendant assessments. If you fail to adhere to the rules of the program, the prosecution will press for conviction of the original charges.
A possession of marijuana diversion program aims to educate a defendant on the dangers of using marijuana. The goal will be to rehabilitate you so you can become a productive member of society. Rather than simply punishing you for the possession of marijuana, the diversion program will try to prevent crime by educating you and helping you avoid drug offenses in the future. Once you complete the program, the courts will dismiss your case. You will not have a criminal record. The rehabilitation program can help you get back on your feet after a drug charge rather than impose a jail sentence that could significantly disrupt your life.
How Can I Qualify for the Marijuana Possession Diversion Program?
Deferred prosecution is not mandatory for the courts to offer in Arizona. Only some marijuana-related cases will receive offers for diversion programs. Hiring a Glendale criminal defense lawyer could increase your chances of the prosecutor offering a diversion program. Your lawyer can argue for the program on your behalf – especially if this is your first drug-related crime.
First, your lawyer will request a review of your case by the prosecutors. This review may conclude that you qualify for a marijuana diversion program. If so, accepting the terms of the program could help you avoid more serious possession penalties, as well as keep your criminal record clean. Those who complete diversion programs are eligible for complete record expunction.