School Zone Drug Violation

Tempe Lawyers for Drug Violations in School Zones

Arizona prosecutors regard any action that might expose children to illicit drugs very seriously. They seek harsh sentences for school zone drug violations. When you’re charged with a drug crime within a specific distance of a school, you can face increased penalties. If you’ve been charged with a school zone drug violation, you will need to hire an experienced Tempe drug crimes attorney who understands how to mount an effective defense. You should discuss your situation with James E. Novak, a criminal defense lawyer well-versed in how prosecutors think about drug crimes. As a former prosecutor, Mr. Novak brings insights from his time in that earlier stage in his career to bear on his strategic defense of the accused.

School Zone Drug Violation

Arizona Revised Statutes 13-3411 sets forth laws and penalties for drug violations perpetrated near a school. Schools include private, public, and common schools from kindergarten through high school. Drug free school zones include anything that lies within 300 feet of a school or school grounds. If a prosecutor can show you committed certain drug crimes within 300 feet from the edge of a school property, you can be charged with a school zone violation. The school is supposed to keep permanently fixed signs located where they can be seen at the entrance of each school identifying the area as a drug free school zone.

The court can impose enhanced penalties if you’re caught possessing, using, or manufacturing a dangerous drug, narcotic, or peyote within the demarcated school zone. For instance, if you’re caught possessing methamphetamine within 100 feet of a school, you could face increased penalties for a school zone violation. You can also face enhancements if you are caught selling and making a dangerous drug. For instance, if you maintain a lab inside your garage from which you make and sell synthetic drugs and you live next door to a school, you risk face enhanced penalties for a school zone drug violation. Those facilities that call themselves a drug free school while intending to sell or transfer narcotics and other drugs also face enhanced school zone penalties.


Under A.R.S. section 13-709, if you’re convicted of a drug crime committed in a drug free school zone, the ordinary presumptive sentence, minimum sentence, and maximum sentence for the crime will be increased by one year. The additional term will be added on top of the existing term for the underlying drug charge. Suppose, for example, you are convicted of a class 2 felony for a first offense of possessing a dangerous drug for sale; this carries a presumptive sentence of 5 years in prison. However, if you intentionally perform the same act within the protected school zone area, you can face at least 6 years as a presumptive sentence.

You can also face fines of at least $2000 or three times the value of the drugs as determined by the court. You’ll face whichever of these sums is greater, though not more than an authorized maximum. It’s important to realize that the judge will not have the discretion to suspend your fines.

A.R.S. section 13-3411 provides that school security guards, teachers and other school personnel who witness a school zone drug violation should let the school administrators know right away. When a school employee witnesses a violation, but doesn’t report it, she can be charged with a class 3 misdemeanor.

Hire an Experienced Tempe Drug Crimes Attorney

You must take any drug crime charge seriously. However, whether or not a violation occurred within a school zone can complicate the charges and involve even harsher sentencing. You don’t want to face enhanced penalties without counsel by your side; a seasoned Tempe drug crime lawyer not only develops the strongest possible defense but also shifts strategies appropriately as new information comes to light. James E. Novak may be able to represent you if you face school zone drug violation charges. He represents those accused in Phoenix, as well as Gilbert, Chandler, Mesa, and Maricopa County. Contact him at (480) 413-1499 or complete our online form.