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Arizona Court Holds Defendant Convicted of Drug Offense Was Eligible for Probation Despite Prior Convictions

Earlier this year, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in an Arizona drug case discussing whether the defendant was eligible for probation under Arizona Revised Statute section 13-901.01. Section 13-901.01 is titled “Probation for persons convicted of possession or use of controlled substances or drug paraphernalia,” and states that “any person who is convicted of the personal possession or use of a controlled substance or drug paraphernalia is eligible for probation.”

While section 13-901.01 provides a general rule that a person convicted of a possessory drug offense is eligible for probation, the statute outlines several exceptions. The question in this case was whether the defendant was eligible for probation despite his prior convictions. Under section 13-901.01, a person is not eligible for probation if they have three prior convictions for personal possession of a controlled substance or drug paraphernalia.

According to the court’s opinion, the defendant was convicted of possession of drug paraphernalia in 1996, and solicitation to sell a narcotic drug in 2006. In 2017, the defendant was arrested and convicted for several drug offenses.

Before sentencing, the defendant filed a motion arguing that he should be sentenced to probation for his 2017 drug offenses under section 13-901.01. The defendant argued that his 2006 conviction for solicitation to sell a narcotic drug did not qualify as a “personal possession of use offense.” The trial court rejected the defendant’s argument, and the defendant appealed. The intermediate appellate court reversed, and the state appealed to the Arizona Supreme Court.

The state’s high court agreed with the trial court, reversing the court of appeal’s decision and vacating the defendant’s conviction. The court explained that when interpreting a statute such as section 13-901.01, the first place to start is the text of the statute. The court acknowledged that prior decisions across the state varied in their approach, and used this as an opportunity to clarify the meaning of section 13-901.01.

The court explained that the text of the statute distinguishes between the possession and sale of drugs, excluding offenses involving the sale of drugs. However, the defendant’s 2006 conviction was not for the sale of narcotics, but for the solicitation to sell a narcotic drug. The court explained that such inchoate offenses are not explicitly included in the statutory language excluding certain offenses, and thus, the defendant’s solicitation offense did not count as an offense. Because of this, the court held that the defendant was eligible for probation.

Have You Been Arrested for an Arizona Drug Crime?

If you have recently been arrested and charged with an Arizona drug crime, contact Attorney James E. Novak for immediate assistance. Attorney Novak is a skilled Tempe drug possession attorney with extensive experience handling all types of drug cases, including those involving allegations of drug selling, manufacturing, and distribution. From the moment Attorney Novak begins to work on your case, he will provide you with the dedication and zealous advocacy you deserve. Attorney Novak also handles gun offenses, violent crimes, and allegations of sexual assault. To learn more, and to speak with Attorney Novak about your case today, call 480-413-1499 to schedule a free consultation.

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