By: Mark Diaz
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How Harsh Are Drug Charges For Minors In Texas?
Parents may only know their children possess illegal drugs once they are called by law enforcement or the school about drug charges. If your child is facing a Harris County drug charge, it is essential to take care of the matter immediately. A drug crime conviction can prevent your child from going to college, renting an apartment, getting a decent job, and more.
The Harris County drug crime defense lawyers at Mark Diaz & Associates can help. First, read about drug charges against minors in Texas, then contact one of our attorneys for assistance.
Overview Of Drug Possession Charges Against A Minor In Texas
A Texas drug charge against a minor may involve many drugs, chemicals, and medications governed by state and federal laws. A minor who knowingly possesses a controlled substance may be charged with drug possession without a legal reason. The minor is considered a juvenile when he or she is younger than the age of 17.
Drug possession is defined in Texas as having care, custody, control, or management of the substance. A minor who possesses a controlled substance knowingly may be charged with drug possession as a juvenile (so long as the person is under the age of 17). Some of the more common juvenile drug possession cases include possession of MDMA, cocaine, marijuana, THC oil, or weed wax, and other illegal substances. In addition, a minor who has unprescribed prescription drugs also can be charged.
A Harris County juvenile drug charge requires the minor to knowingly possess or control the drug. For example, let’s say the school police found marijuana in your child’s backpack while at school. Many parents would respond to this by telling the officers that the child did not know he or she had marijuana in the school backpack. In response, it is common for the Harris County prosecutor to use circumstantial evidence to prove the child knew there was marijuana in his or her backpack based on the specific circumstances of that case.
Possessing illegal drugs on your body or in your hands is not required for the prosecutor to prove its case. If the prosecutor can prove the minor had control of the area where the illegal substance was found, that may be sufficient to support a conviction.
For instance, if the minor is pulled over in his truck and drugs are found under the seat, this may show he had possession. The minor also can be charged if the illegal substances are found in a school locker that only he has access to. If the person has control over the area where the drugs were found, the charges could stick.
Possessing Edibles in Texas
Marijuana is still illegal in Texas. However, the plant is being ingested in other ways besides smoking. A Texas minor possessing two ounces or less of marijuana can be charged with a class B misdemeanor. A minor possessing any amount at all of THC oil, also known as weed wax, can be charged with a felony.
Possessing Marijuana in Texas
When you are arrested with drugs in Texas, how much you have on you determines how severe the charge is. For instance, if you are arrested with under two ounces of weed, it is a Class B misdemeanor. However, if you are arrested with more than four ounces, you could be charged with a felony.
Also, possessing beverages or food that have THC is punished differently than weed in the plant form. Edibles that are infused with THC are treated as possession of controlled substances, not marijuana.
THC in edibles in Texas is treated under Penalty Class 2. This means the weight of the edibles the minor has in their possession determines the charge. This means if you had an edible with only a gram of THC, they weigh the entire item to determine how severe the felony is.
Minor Drug Possession Penalties In Texas
A minor (who hasn’t reached the age of 17 years of age) and who is charged with drug possession in Harris County, Texas will be handled through the juvenile court system, not the adult court system. Juvenile courts offer different options when handling minors charged with drug possession. Some options the judge may consider in a minor drug possession case are:
If the court orders drug counseling, the reason would be to focus on rehabilitation for the minor. The court can order both the minor and parents to attend drug counseling classes. If they do not attend, there can be harsher punishments, including probation or detention.
Juvenile Probation For Drug Charges
If the minor is put on probation, they are less free to move about and travel. However, the minor is not held in a detention facility. They may also need to participate in community service, therapy, counseling, and daily curfew.
A vital difference between juvenile and adult probation is that a juvenile can be put on probation for any criminal offense. This even includes capital murder. Also, a prior felony history does not disallow the minor from being placed on probation. On the other hand, an adult with a previous felony conviction is not eligible for probation.
Diversion is similar to probation, but differs in that the juvenile will not enter a formal plea like you would with any other probation. Diversionary programs are common for the court to impose. Like probation, the minor has to comply with everything the juvenile court orders to receive diversion instead of a harsher punishment.
A significant difference between diversion and probation is the minor on diversion may comply with the orders without appearing before the judge, and more importantly, when the minor completes the diversion program, all charges are dismissed.
This is the least desirable option for a minor charged with a drug crime. If the juvenile court orders detention, they could be put in a juvenile detention center or confined to the home. Fortunately, detention for drug possession is not typical for minors. An exception is if the person is a repeat offender.
A juvenile can be tried as an adult for a drug charge in a few severe cases. If that happens, the minor could have to pay hefty fines and face serious jail time. On the other hand, if it is a first offense, the adult court may be lenient. But it is imperative you have a criminal defense attorney assist you along the way.
Juvenile Drug Charges Defenses In Harris County
When a minor is charged with drug possession, ownership of the drugs is a common issue. A criminal defense attorney is helpful when asserting the various defenses available for minor drug possession. Some examples of defenses are: the minor facing the charge had drugs that belonged to someone else, or the juvenile may have a prescription for the drug but just can’t prove it in the moment they are in possession and being questioned by the law.
Many drug cases have issues with how law enforcement finds illegal substances. For example, the 4th Amendment of the US Constitution is sometimes ignored when law enforcement does searches of minors because there are different privacy concerns specifically when students are on school grounds. Nonetheless, your attorney can fight to suppress the evidence if there is a constitutional violation.
Why Robust Criminal Defense Is Needed For Drug Charges
In recent days, more states are legalizing recreational marijuana. However, it is still illegal for adults and minors to possess cannabis in Texas.
If your minor child was arrested for drug possession, it is critical for their future to protect their rights. Remember, Texas law states your child can be charged with drug possession from the ages of 10-16.
When a minor is charged with a crime, treat it seriously. If it is not handled properly, it can affect your minor child’s future for many years to come, if not the rest of their life. Imagine the child having difficulty being accepted to college, getting student aid or loans to pay for college, or getting a job.
For example, getting a government job is almost impossible if someone has a serious criminal record. It also is much more challenging to get professional licenses in many fields. Obtaining housing is very difficult as well for a person with a criminal history. So, having a skilled criminal defense attorney representing a minor facing a drug charge is vital to their future.
Delivery Of A Controlled Substance Or Marijuana To A Child
This crime applies to adults but is related to the above information. In addition, delivery of Controlled Substances To A Child in Texas gives law enforcement the right to arrest you if they think you delivered illegal substances to a minor.
This crime also applies to giving drugs to anyone in elementary or middle school, even over 18. However, there is an affirmative defense in the law if you were a minor when you committed the crime or were under 21 and gave less than .25 ounces of marijuana to a minor.
A conviction on this charge is a second-degree felony. You can be fined up to $10,000 and sent to prison for 20 years.
Talk To A Harris County Drug Crime Defense Lawyer
If your child is charged with a drug crime in Texas, their life could be turned upside down if you don’t intervene and ensure the case is handled properly. A drug crime conviction could follow your child for the rest of their life. But, it doesn’t have to.
Mark Diaz & Associates will provide the strongest defense possible for drug charges against a minor. Our drug crime defense attorneys also represent clients in Houston, Webster, Spring, Cypress, Humble, Pasadena, Tomball, La Porte, Bellaire, Atascocita, Channelview, Deer Park, Crosby, Nassau Bay, Jersey Village, and Galena Park. Contact a Harris County criminal defense lawyer at (409) 515-6170.