By: Mark Diaz
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Are Penalties Harsher for Drug Trafficking or Drug Manufacturing in Texas?
Texas has some of the harshest drug laws among all US states, so you would probably not be surprised to learn that the penalties are hefty for any violation of the Texas Controlled Substances Act. While possession is generally on the lower end in terms of severity, it is tough to give a definitive answer on whether the penalties are harsher for drug trafficking or drug manufacturing. There are too many variables within the laws, and the range of offenses runs from a serious misdemeanor to a high-level felony. Plus, there are numerous factors that might or must be considered in addition to the statutory language.
Combined, these issues and more make it difficult to say whether drug trafficking is worse than manufacturing. What can be said for sure is that the penalties are serious and may include jail time, incarceration in prison, fines, and much more. Another definite point is that defendants fare better in these cases when represented by Texas drug crime defense lawyers. You can read on for a comparison of drug trafficking and drug manufacturing penalties, common evidence issues, and other relevant information as it pertains to these types of cases.
The kickoff point for any drug case is how Texas classifies the controlled substance in type and amount. The state uses a system of penalty groups that is similar to the schedules used by federal law. The most serious controlled substances are those which are most likely to lead to abuse or addiction, and which have no recognized use in the medical profession.
These drugs are categorized in Penalty Group 1 and the degrees of severity decrease as the numbers run sequentially higher. As such, lower classifications include controlled substances that are less likely to cause addiction and/or have a recognized medical use.
- Penalty Group 1 includes cocaine, heroin, and crystal meth.
- LSD is a common drug in Penalty Group 1A.
- In Penalty Group 2, you will find mushrooms and other hallucinogens.
- Penalty Group 2A includes synthetic marijuana.
- Steroids, Xanax, ecstasy, and other stimulants are found in Penalty Group 3.
- Penalty Group 4 includes various prescription opiates and opioids not covered in Penalty Group 1.
Marijuana is classified within its own penalty group, which is generally less severe than the others.
For both drug trafficking and manufacturing, the basic analysis is the type of drug, the associated penalty group, and the amount of the weight of the controlled substance.
Statistics on Texas Drug Arrests
Data collected from law enforcement departments throughout the state reveals how officials crackdown on all types of drug offenses. Texas refers to all violations of controlled substances as “drug abuse” arrests, and authorities charge almost 142,000 people each year with these crimes. Possession constitutes the vast majority of cases, but the statistics on arrests for drug manufacturing and trafficking are informative:
- Almost 20,000 people are arrested for sale and manufacturing every year.
- More than half of all trafficking and manufacturing charges relate to synthetic narcotics, followed by opium/cocaine and marijuana.
- Almost 1 in 5 of the total arrests in Texas are for drug abuse.
- Individuals charged with drug trafficking and manufacturing range in age from juveniles 10 to 14 years old up to adults 65 and older. The age group with the highest number of arrests is 20 to 24 years. More than 50 percent of all sale/manufacturing charges involve individuals aged 20 to 38 years old.
- Of all adult males facing criminal charges in Texas, almost 20 percent were arrested for drug crimes. More than 85 percent were for possession, and just under 14 percent of these individuals face drug trafficking or manufacturing charges.
Penalties for Texas Drug Crimes
Trafficking and manufacturing are both illegal, but they are distinct in nature. Texas uses the term “distribution” to refer to the sale, delivery, or other exchange of controlled substances, which many people know as trafficking. Manufacturing covers a wide range of activities that may be involved with taking a drug and transforming it into usable material. Examples include growing marijuana, cooking meth, combining chemicals to produce LSD, and any other act of preparing, propagating, converting, processing, and compounding.
Still, despite the fact that the laws encompass different acts, the general scheme of sentencing according to type and amount applies. Therefore:
- For a Class A misdemeanor, you face up to 1 year in jail, $4,000, or both.
- If arrested for a state jail felony, the sentence could be 180 days to 2 years’ incarceration, along with a $10,000 fine.
- A conviction for a third-degree felony might lead to a minimum of 2 years in prison, though the punishment range goes all the way up to 10 years’ incarceration.
- For a second-degree felony, you’re looking at anywhere from 2 to 20 years’ imprisonment.
- If convicted of a first-degree felony for drug manufacturing or trafficking, the minimum is 5 years and the maximum is 99 years in prison.
From this description, you can see that the sentencing ranges vary considerably. This is where additional facts of the case and aggravating circumstances enter the picture. Factors that could increase the severity of penalties for drug manufacturing and trafficking include:
- Your past criminal history, including both drug law violations and other crimes
- Whether the circumstances of the crime involve a minor
- The presence of violence in connection with trafficking or manufacturing
- Where the alleged criminal activity took place, such as near a school or other drug-free zone
Ramifications You Did Not Expect
Fines and imprisonment are the most impactful of penalties if convicted of drug manufacturing or trafficking, but these are the implications of the criminal justice system. There are additional restrictions and legal disabilities that may apply, and these are known as collateral consequences.
A critical disadvantage of a drug conviction affects your driving privileges — your Texas driver’s license will be automatically suspended for a minimum of 180 days; reinstatement is not automatic, however. You must reapply to have your driving privileges restored. Another ramification stems from having a criminal conviction on your record, which will show up in a background check and must be disclosed in certain situations. You could have difficulties with employment and business opportunities.
Additional collateral consequences of a drug offense conviction may include:
- Loss of voting rights
- Disqualification from running for public office
- Revocation of any professional or business licenses you hold
- Inability or difficulty obtaining housing
- Many others
Defending Texas Drug Crimes
The first line of attack when facing drug charges will be contesting the government’s case against you. The prosecutor must prove the essential elements of manufacturing or distributing drugs beyond a reasonable doubt, and there must be evidence showing that you did so with the requisite intent. This is the heaviest legal burden, so any weaknesses in the government’s case offer opportunities to potentially beat the charges.
Additional strategies employed by Texas drug crime defense lawyers include:
- If police engaged in violating your constitutional rights as part of their investigation and arrest, you may seek to exclude that evidence from being used against you at trial. All evidence collected through an unlawful search or seizure must be tossed out of court, so the prosecution may have limited ability to prove its case without this information.
- Because the amount of the controlled substance is central to trafficking and manufacturing cases, you might have grounds to get the charges reduced to drug possession. Though you still face penalties, the charges could be reduced from a felony to a lower level misdemeanor.
- When the evidence against you is weak, you may have more leverage to work out a plea bargain with the prosecution.
- Texas has established a system of drug courts as an alternative to punishment for certain offenders with substance abuse issues. The case works similar to probation, in which you agree to comply with all terms set by the court. You will be required to submit to random, regular drug testing, avoid additional criminal activity, and go through substance abuse treatment – among many other requirements. Not all individuals will qualify, and you must get the approval of the drug court team, the state, and the judge to be considered for admission to the drug court program.
Our Texas Drug Crime Defense Lawyers Will Fight the Charges
While it is difficult to say whether the penalties are harsher for drug trafficking versus drug manufacturing, there can be no doubt you will need help fighting them. With solid legal representation, you know your case is in good hands.
For more information on defenses to drug possession, manufacturing, and trafficking charges in Texas, please contact criminal defense attorney Mark Diaz. You can set up a complimentary consultation with a Texas drug trafficking defense lawyer by calling (409) 515-6170. We serve clients in Greater Houston and throughout Galveston County, so our team is ready to take on your case.