By: Mark Diaz
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Can You Be Charged For Selling Drugs In The Past?
It may not come as welcome news, but YES, due to Texas drug crimes law, you can be arrested for drug trafficking in Texas even if you engaged in the criminal activity some time ago. In cases where authorities conduct a lengthy investigation to obtain enough evidence to charge you, there might even be several months or years in between the drug transaction and an arrest.
However, it should be reassuring to note that officials do not have an infinite amount of time within which to apprehend someone suspected of drug trafficking. The Texas statute of limitations applies to all criminal cases, and it generally gives authorities a longer deadline to arrest a person when the charges are more serious. For some crimes, there is no statute of limitations. Murder and sexual assault are examples. The period for most felonies varies from ten years to three years based upon the charge; the limitations period for misdemeanors is two years.
As such, the nature of the charges will dictate how far into the past you can be arrested for selling controlled substances. Regardless of the statute of limitations, make it a priority to get legal help right away. Galveston drug trafficking lawyers are more effective when you reach out as early on in the criminal process as possible. Some general information is also useful.
Summary of Texas Drug Trafficking Laws
Like many other US states, Texas controlled substances laws are organized according to the drug and type of unlawful activity. Drug trafficking is defined as knowingly delivering, selling, manufacturing, or purchasing controlled substances.
When the illegal activity is selling drugs, the next focus becomes how it is classified and the amount involved in the transaction. Instead of the schedule system used by the federal government and other states, Texas classifies drugs by Penalty Groups running from 1 to 4. Controlled substances in the lower numbered groups have no or limited use in the medical field and are more likely to lead to abuse. For example:
- Penalty Group 1 and 1-A: cocaine, heroin, crystal meth, and LSD.
- Penalty Group 2: PCP, THC oil (or commonly referred to as “weed wax”), psychedelic mushrooms, and ecstasy.
- Penalty Group 3. Valium and anabolic steroids.
- Penalty Group 4: Opioids, codeine, and substances containing opium.
The reason these categories are important for purposes of selling drugs in the past is that a different statute of limitations applies. Even small amounts of drugs in the lower penalty groups could lead to a felony. Smaller amounts of Penalty Group 4 might be treated as a misdemeanor, limiting officials to two years.
Penalties for Selling Controlled Substances
The specifics of the charges will determine what punishment someone could face for a drug trafficking conviction, but even the low end could mean a Class A Misdemeanor. If convicted, you face up to a year in jail, a $4,000 fine, or both. The penalties increase by severity:
- For a State Jail Felony, the range of punishment is 180 days to 2 years’ incarceration.
- If convicted of Third-Degree Felony drug trafficking, the mandatory minimum is 2 years in prison and up to 10 years of incarceration, and a $10,000 fine.
- The mandatory minimum sentence for a Second-Degree Felony is also 2 years, but a conviction could mean up to 20 years’ imprisonment.
- For First-Degree Felony drug trafficking, a person could be sentenced to a minimum of 5 and up to 99 years, or life in prison.
Special Considerations for Marijuana Trafficking
While other jurisdictions have legalized or decriminalized marijuana for personal use, Texas still considers possession, sale, and delivery of marijuana as a crime. However, the laws are somewhat more lenient as compared to those controlled substances specifically assigned to a penalty group. Marijuana trafficking is also charged as a felony or misdemeanor based upon the amount and related factors. Therefore, the statute of limitations will be two or three years depending upon the nature of the charges.
- You face misdemeanor charges for selling 4 ounces or less, but there is a distinction on whether there was money exchanged. It is a Class A Misdemeanor to traffic cannabis with remuneration and a Class B Misdemeanor without payment. A Class B Misdemeanor is punishable by up to 180 days in jail and a $2,000 fine.
- Selling marijuana weighing 4 ounces to 5 pounds is a State Jail Felony.
- For trafficking 5 to 50 pounds, you could face Second-Degree Felony charges.
- You could be arrested for a First-Degree Felony for dealing in 50 to 2,000 pounds of marijuana.
Options For Fighting Drug Trafficking
Assuming the statute of limitations has not expired, authorities will pursue charges for felony or misdemeanor selling of drugs. Always keep in mind that you are innocent until proven guilty and that the prosecution must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt with respect to each element of the crime. The burden is the highest in all of US law, so any question in the minds of the jury could lead to an acquittal.
Some additional points are important when assessing defenses and strategies for fighting the charges:
- Another important point with respect to the standard of proof beyond a reasonable doubt is that it may open the door to plea bargaining. When the prosecutor realizes that the evidence and legal arguments are weak, the government may be more willing to resolve drug trafficking charges by agreement than risk a loss.
- Drug trafficking charges are often preceded by a lengthy investigation as law enforcement and detectives gather evidence for probable cause. At times, police may engage in misconduct that violates your civil rights. Specifically, the Fourth Amendment protects against unlawful search and seizure. If officers obtain evidence through illegal misconduct, it must be excluded from the case. Without essential information, the prosecution might not meet the high standard of proof.
- You might qualify for Texas drug court, a court supervision program that aims to treat addiction rather than incarcerate people with substance abuse problems.
There are also options for resolving drug trafficking charges through probation or deferred sentencing. However, there are strict conditions set by the court, and breaking the terms could mean even harsher penalties.
If you were charged for selling drugs in the past, there may be additional strategies to fight the charges based upon evidentiary issues. When months or years have passed, certain evidence may deteriorate and witness recollections fade.
This is exactly the sort of scenario lawmakers anticipated when implementing statutes of limitations. Problems with evidence are also a reason that prosecutors may sometimes consider plea bargaining instead of going to trial with weak evidence.
How a Galveston Drug Trafficking Attorney Supports Your Rights
More often than not, when it comes to facing a Texas drug offense, it is rare that you will need to raise the issue of the statute of limitations barring prosecution. Law enforcement officers and prosecutors know that their best bet for getting a conviction is to pursue charges right away. However, based upon the defenses and strategies described above, you can see that an arrest is just the beginning of the case. You can count on a skilled lawyer to protect your interests through other opportunities:
- Shortly after an arrest for drug trafficking, you will be brought into court for arraignment. At this first appearance, the court will read the charges against you and ask you to enter a plea. You will also have the chance to address bail. By posting a bond, you can be released pending your trial date.
- If police engaged in misconduct in their investigations or when making an arrest, you might be able to have evidence excluded in some scenarios after that happens, the government may have no choice but to dismiss charges. A criminal defense attorney will file the appropriate motions to exclude evidence in hopes it leads to a favorable result.
- A plea bargain can be advantageous because the charges could be reduced, and the penalties are not as harsh. Your lawyer can explain whether doing so is advisable, especially when you have a solid defense to fight the charges.
- When you go to trial for selling drugs, you will need legal representation to attack the prosecution’s case and possibly present evidence for your case-in-chief.
Discuss Defense Options with Our Galveston Drug Trafficking Lawyers
As you can see from this legal summary, Texas drug trafficking laws are complicated. Even the statute of limitations is complex knowing that there is a fine line between felony and misdemeanor charges for selling drugs. Fortunately, there are defenses and strategies for obtaining a favorable outcome.
To learn how our team can help with your case, please contact Criminal Defense Attorney Mark Diaz. You can set up a no-cost initial consultation by calling (409) 515-6170. Our Galveston drug crimes defense lawyers represent clients throughout Galveston County and Greater Houston, so we are ready to serve your needs.
Mark Diaz & Associates is a Criminal Defense Law Firm in Galveston, Texas representing clients throughout Galveston, Chambers and Harris Counties including but not limited to Tiki Island, Jamaica Beach, Texas City, League City, Alvin, Algoa, Santa Fe, Hitchcock, La Marque, Bayou Vista, Bacliff, San Leon, Dickinson, Kemah, Bolivar Peninsula, Clear Lake Shores, and Friendswood.