An imitation drug is also referred to as a synthetic drug. Over the years, they have been manufactured to mimic drugs like cocaine, LDS, or marijuana. In Arizona, the penalties for synthetic drugs are just as severe as trafficking, selling, or possessing non-synthetic drugs.

These drugs might have been easy to purchase in the past in convenience stores and smoke shops, so many people in Arizona may still believe that possession and use of these drugs is legal. In fact, they are not legal. Arizona made synthetic marijuana illegal in 2011, and “bath salts” were made illegal in 2012.

The common names of some popular, advertised synthetic brands include:

  • K2;
  • Meph;
  • Drone;
  • MCAT;
  • Herbal Incense;
  • Spice;
  • Kronic;
  • Bombay Blue;
  • Thunda;
  • Black Mamba.

What Does Counterfeit Preparation Mean in Arizona Drug Law?

Counterfeit preparation means the drug was manufactured to appear like a certain drug, but it is chemically a completely different substance.

What are the Categories of Synthetic Drugs?

The three categories of counterfeit drugs include:

  • Synthetic over-the-counter drugs: over-the-counter drugs are drugs that any person can purchase without a prescription; for some, there might be age restrictions on purchasing them;
  • Synthetic controlled substances: A controlled substance is a drug or chemical that is regulated by a government, such as drugs that are often used illegally, such as heroin or cocaine, or prescription medications that are designated by law. There are schedules of these substances in state and federal law; both state and federal law describe how activities involving these drugs can lead to criminal charges; some chemicals that are used for the production of illegal drugs are also controlled substances in the U.S., even though they may lack the effects of the drugs themselves.
  • Synthetic prescription-only drugs: these are synthetic forms of drugs which can only be purchased with a prescription from a licensed physician.

These products may be abused by people who want to experience their euphoric, psychedelic or psychoactive effects. A problem arises because most of these substances are not regulated by the government; they are manufactured in illegal labs, and are often imported from other countries. As with genuine controlled substances, these drugs are generally untested and they may have unpredictable, negative side effects. They can be very dangerous.

Some of the side effects associated with use of certain synthetic drugs are seizures, visual impairment, delusions, memory loss, unpredictable behavior and. in extreme cases, even suicide.

What is a Simple Possession Sentence in Arizona?

Possession of any synthetic drug with intent to use it is a misdemeanor. The charge applies to possessing or using any synthetic drug whether it is prescription-only, over-the-counter, or a controlled substance. Possession can be punished with up to four months in jail and/or imposition of a fine of up to $750. Probation after serving a term in jail is a maximum of 2 years.

What is the Sentence for Manufacturing, Possessing, or Distributing Synthetic Drugs?

In Arizona, the charge of distributing, manufacturing, or possessing with the intent to sell any synthetic, or imitation, drug is a felony. The prison term is up to one and a half years in prison.

Although this felony is classified as one of the least severely punished of all felony classifications in Arizona, It carries a sentence of up to 1.5 years in prison (4.5 years maximum for repeat offenders) and/or a fine not to exceed $150,000.

What If I am Accused of Selling or Administering the Imitation Drug to a Minor?

If a person is convicted of manufacturing, distributing or possessing with intent to distribute any of these imitation drugs to a person under the age of eighteen years old, the charge is classified as a more severely punished felony. In that case, conviction of the crime comes with a penalty of up to 2 years (6 years for repeat offenders) in prison and/or a fine of up to $150,000.

What About the Prison Term for Distributing, Possessing, Selling Imitation Over-the-Counter or Prescription Drugs?

If a person is convicted of the crime of distributing, possessing, or selling synthetic drugs, when they are over-the-counter, prescription or controlled substance synthetic drugs, the person can be sentenced to up to up to 1.5 years in prison (4.5 years maximum for repeat offenders). This means that 1.5 years in prison (4.5 years for a repeat offender) is the maximum possible prison sentence.

If a person distributes a synthetic drug to a minor, the maximum possible prison sentences increases to up to 2 years, 4.5 years for repeat offenders.

Are There Any Defenses to Synthetic Drug Crimes?

As with all criminal charges, the charges of possession, manufacturing or distributing synthetic drugs must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Some people assume that synthetic drugs are not illegal, but in fact, they are.

In any event, not knowing that the drugs are illegal is not a valid defense. Arizona law is explicit on this point. It is also not a defense if the perpetrator believes that the substances they possessed, manufactured or distributed were authentic substances.

Some possible issues that could give rise to a defense would be if the police stopped the perpetrator’s vehicle, in which the synthetic drug was found, without probable cause. Or, it could be argued that if the vehicle was searched pursuant to a search warrant, the warrant was not valid because it was not based on probable cause or the information in the warrant was false or misleading or authorities went beyond the scope of the search as prescribed by the warrant.

If the synthetic drug evidence was discovered by the police pursuant to the search of a home or some other place, again, the circumstances of the search should be probed to learn whether it might be subject to attack. If the evidence was seized pursuant to a search that was not legally justified, then the evidence of it can be suppressed at trial. As a practical matter, this would defeat the prosecution of the case.

Another line of defense would be if the prosecution does not offer sufficiently convincing proof that the perpetrator had actual or constructive possession of the drugs if they were discovered in a place where there was shared ownership or possession, e.g. in an automobile full of people. The prosecution must prove actual or constructive possession, because if the perpetrator was just in a place where drugs were found, it is not enough to prove possession.

Do I Need a Lawyer to Fight My Synthetic Drug Charge in Arizona?

A person charged with a synthetic drug crime in Arizona should talk to an experienced Arizona drug attorney. An attorney can represent you before, during and after trial. Before trial, a defense attorney might be able to get the evidence of the drug suppressed, which would essentially defeat the prosecution of the case against you.

They can analyze the facts and circumstances of your case and identify any other defenses that you might have. You are most likely to get the best possible outcome in your case if you have an experienced Arizona defense attorney representing your interests..