By: Mark Diaz
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First Time Drug Possession Charges In Texas
At least 120,000 people in Texas are charged with drug crimes annually. While a first-time offender might get off lighter than a repeat offender, the last thing you want on your permanent record is a drug crime conviction. Learn below about first-time drug charges in Texas, then contact our League City drug possession defense lawyers if you need legal assistance.
How Drug Possession Is Defined In Texas
The controlled substance laws in Texas require the prosecutor to prove that you knowingly or intentionally possessed the drugs in question. Possession is defined as “actual care, custody, control, or management.”
This means you can be in legal possession of the drugs if it was in your purse or pockets, or even if it wasn’t within in reach if the prosecutor can prove you exercised “care, custody, control, or management” over the drugs.
How Drug Crimes Are Classified In Texas
An essential aspect of a first-time drug charge is the type and quantity of the drug involved. In Texas, several drug classifications are identified by penalty group numbers. The lower the classification number, the more likely it is not used in medicine, often leading to abuse and addiction. The groups are:
- Penalty groups 1, 1A: methamphetamine, cocaine, and heroin
- Penalty group 2: Psychedelic mushrooms, ecstasy, and PCP
- Penalty group 3: Methylphenidate (Ritalin), anabolic steroids, and Lorazepam (Ativan)
- Penalty group 4: Codeine and opioids
Amount Of Drug
This factor is measured by law enforcement by the weight of the illegal drugs or the number of plants. The amount of drug will determine in part if it is a misdemeanor or felony drug charge, as well as the kind of charge. For example, the more weight of a drug you are accused of possessing, the higher level of felony you will be charged with.
Type Of Activity Involved
Drug possession is considered a lesser crime than being accused of manufacturing or delivering a controlled substance. However, possessing larger amounts of drugs could make one assume that you were involved in manufacturing or delivering. Therefore, these offenses are treated more seriously because they can affect many other people.
Drug Charge Sentences In Texas
If you are convicted of a drug crime in Texas, the punishments can range from a Class B misdemeanor to a first-degree felony. The drug possession charge typically depends on the type and size of the drugs. The potential punishments for drug crime convictions are:
- Class B misdemeanor: Up to 180 days and a $2,000 fine.
- Class A misdemeanor: Up to one year in jail and a $4,000 fine.
- State jail felony: No less than 180 days, and up to two years in a state jail, and a fine of up to $10,000.
- Third-degree felony: no less than two years and up to 10 years in prison and up to a fine of $10,000.
- Second-degree felony: no less than two years and up to 20 years in prison and up to a fine of $10,000.
- First-degree felony: no less than five years and up to 99 years in prison and even life, and a fine of up to $10,000.
Marijuana Charges In Texas
Marijuana is in its own category in Texas for drug possession. While many states are decriminalizing weed drug possession, you can still be prosecuted in Texas for marijuana possession. You may face a misdemeanor charge of 180 days in jail and a $2,000 fine if caught with two ounces or less.
Will You Go To Jail?
The state of Texas takes all drug crime charges seriously. Therefore, even if you lack a criminal record, you may sometimes be sentenced to jail for drug possession. However, as noted earlier, whether you get jail time usually depends on the volume of drugs, the type, and if you possessed them near a school.
How To Fight First-Time Drug Possession Charges
Your League City criminal defense attorney can fight your charges in many ways. Keep in mind that the prosecutor must prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt. You only will be found guilty if it is beyond a reasonable doubt that you possessed illegal drugs. If there is any question about your guilt or the quality of the evidence against you, the prosecutor will have trouble convicting you.
Many drug possession charges relate to law enforcement investigations. However, police sometimes infringe on our constitutional rights as they look for evidence for the arrest. If you can prove that their investigation involved illegal search and seizure under the US Constitution’s 4th Amendment, the evidence must be thrown out in court. The state might have to drop the charges unless there is conclusive proof regarding the type and quantity of the illegal drug.
Court-Ordered Rehab In Texas
If you are a first-time drug possession offender, you probably want to avoid jail. There are other options. Some first-time drug possession offenders can qualify for a diversionary program. This means admitting guilt in court in some way to the drug charge, but the court defers the case as you complete the terms of the program. You may need to go to substance abuse counseling, take random drug tests, and avoid being involved in other crimes.
If you meet all these conditions, the case against you might be dismissed. Another option may be negotiating a plea deal to a lesser charge with the prosecutor. This could reduce the penalties for your drug charge conviction.
How can you qualify for other ways to resolve your drug possession charge? It varies, but these are common factors:
- Going to jail does not match the nature of the crime
- You have never been convicted of a crime
- It was a non-violent offense
- Your offense was related to drug addiction
First-Time Drug Charge FAQ
If you have been charged with drug possession for the first time in Texas, you probably are nervous and have questions. Below are the most common questions we receive:
What Is A Drug Free Zone In Texas?
If caught with drugs in a drug-free zone like a school, you could face more severe penalties, including jail time. A drug-free zone is defined under Texas law as any area within 1,000 feet of a private or public school, including preschool, elementary school, middle school, and high school. The punishment is increased by one degree if you are found guilty of drug possession in a drug-free zone.
Does A Drug Possession Charge Go On Your Record?
If you are convicted, a first-time drug possession charge will be on your permanent record, unless the charge is expunged later. You may qualify for an expunction if you were found not guilty, the possession case was dismissed, or you are later pardoned.
Can A Felony Drug Charge Be Reduced To A Misdemeanor?
It is possible that a felony drug charge can be reduced by plea bargain to a misdemeanor. This is where both attorneys work out a deal, so you get a lesser sentence by pleading guilty. Further, if the arresting officer made mistakes, causing some evidence to be inadmissible, the charge might be reduced.
If you do not get a jail sentence and have no previous convictions, you could qualify for your record to be concealed and the charge reduced to a misdemeanor. However, you must stay on good behavior during probation. You also must show your probation officer that you are making changes to your life and avoiding trouble. Reducing the charge to a misdemeanor is critical to getting certain jobs, voting, and owning firearms.
What Is Possession Of A Dangerous Drug?
You can be charged with possessing a dangerous drug if it requires a doctor’s prescription and is not a controlled substance. The most common dangerous drugs are Valium and Xanax. If you are found guilty of possessing less than 28 grams of dangerous drugs, it is a Class A misdemeanor. It is a felony charge if you possess 28 grams or more of dangerous drugs.
What Is The Mandatory Minimum Sentence For Texas Drug Possession?
It depends on what the charge is – a felony or misdemeanor – and this depends on what the drug was and the weight. For a Class A misdemeanor, and you can receive up to a year in the county jail and a fine up to $4,000. But you may not qualify for a minimum sentence if you were in possession of larger amounts of drugs.
Contact Our League City Drug Possession Lawyers Now
You may think that a first-time drug possession charge in Texas is not a big deal. But it can wreak havoc on your life. You need an excellent attorney fighting for you today. Contact our League City drug possession defense lawyers at Mark Diaz & Associates at (409) 515-6170 for a free consultation.