By: Mark Diaz
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How Severe Are Texas Marijuana Laws and Sentences?
If you live in or visit Texas, you should know that the police take enforcing the law seriously. When you are charged with drug possession in the Lone Star State, it is a severe situation that requires the specialized legal assistance of an experienced criminal defense attorney. Even a ‘minor’ marijuana possession charge in Texas could lead to jail time, so the first call to make after being arrested should be to our Texas drug possession defense lawyers at Mark Diaz & Associates – (409) 407-4784.
Overview Of Texas Marijuana Laws
Marijuana possession cases are still being filed in Texas despite increasing decriminalization happening in many parts of the country. As of this writing, you still can be arrested and punished for marijuana possession in Texas. The only type of legal substance use tolerated in the state today is cannabis oil for specific medical issues. Right or wrong, law enforcement agencies in Texas are committed to prosecuting marijuana possession because they view it as a gateway drug to more dangerous illegal substances.
The type and degree of punishment you can get for the charge depend on the quantity of marijuana you allegedly had in your possession:
Under Two Ounces of Marijuana
The standard for prosecuting someone for marijuana possession is usually whether there was a usable amount of the drug. If the police claim they found a usable amount of marijuana on you, they will likely charge you with less than two ounces of cannabis.
This is a Class B misdemeanor and can be punished by up to six months in jail and a $2,000 fine. Your driver’s license also could be suspended.
Two To Four Ounces of Marijuana
Possession of two to four ounces of marijuana is a Class A misdemeanor, and you may receive up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $4,000. If you face a Class A misdemeanor, you should immediately call Mark Diaz & Associates and hire an attorney as soon as you can. Here at Mark Diaz & Associates, we will fight the charges against you to the best of our ability – specifically, we will try to get the charges reduced or thrown out.
Four Ounces to Five Pounds of Marijuana
Possession of this amount of marijuana is a state jail felony in Texas. You could get between 180 days to two years in a state-jail and a possible fine of up to $10,000.
Five To 50 Pounds of Marijuana
This is a third-degree felony in Texas and is a serious crime. If convicted, you could get between two and 10 years in prison and a possible fine of up to $10,000.
50 To 2,000 Pounds of Marijuana
This crime is a second-degree felony and can be punished by two to 20 years in state prison and a possible fine of $10,000.
More Than 2,000 Pounds of Marijuana
This is a first-degree felony and can be punished by between five and 99 years in prison. The fine can be up to $50,000.
Also, it is illegal to possess drug paraphernalia in Texas. Texas Health and Safety Code 481.002(17) states that drug paraphernalia includes that which is used to plant, cultivate, grow, package, store, inject, ingest, or inhale an illegal drug. If you are arrested with drug paraphernalia, you could be facing a possible drug conviction on your record and a possible fine not to exceed $500.
Can A Marijuana Charge Be Expunged?
This is a critical question for your criminal defense attorney, one Mr. Diaz is well qualified to address. The answer is, sometimes. If the criminal case is correctly handled and you have an outcome where an expunction is an option, you could qualify. You also could qualify for a diversion program in some circumstances, which could offer a way to expunge your record.
What If You Are Arrested Near a School?
Possessing illegal drugs near a school, including marijuana, is an aggravating factor under the law that can lead to a harsher sentence. A school is a ‘drug-free zone’ under the Texas Health and Safety Code. The Texas Health and Safety Code defines many areas in the community as ‘drug-free zones,’ including:
- All elementary and middle schools, whether they are public or private
- All junior colleges and professional schools
- Outdoor playgrounds with a minimum of three stations for playing, such as a slide and swing sets
- Video arcades open to those 17 and under
- Public swimming pools
Usually, state law defines a drug-free zone as a place within 1,000 feet of any of the above facilities. But the distance is 300 feet for an arcade or swimming pool. If you are arrested for marijuana possession at or near any of these places, the prosecutor could charge you one step above the normal offense level. This means, for example, that a Class B misdemeanor could be upgraded to a Class A misdemeanor if you are arrested in a drug-free zone.
Drug Possession or Drug Distribution?
Being charged with drug possession for the first time is usually a misdemeanor, especially if you have a clean record and there is no evidence that you were manufacturing or distributing illegal drugs. However, it is not unusual for certain defendants to be charged with intent to distribute, which is a more severe situation than possession.
How do police and prosecutors distinguish between possession and distribution? There are several things that could be happening. First, if the drug quantity was large, such as several pounds, one could reasonably argue that you probably intended to do more than use it yourself. Second, if the police officer finds $10,000 cash in your trunk as well as a few ounces of cannabis, this could lead to the assumption that you are selling it.
Another situation in which they would charge you with distribution would be if you had small plastic bags and a weight scale which would indicate you intended to split it up and sell it.
When there is a question of possession vs. distribution, it is especially critical to retain a tenacious criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Overzealous prosecutors could try to convict you for distribution when all you did was possess the drug. But a qualified attorney can fight such an inflated charge to a more reasonable charge.
How Mark Diaz May Beat Your Texas Marijuana Charge
Attorney Mark Diaz has fought for his clients’ legal rights for years and is adept at beating many drug possession and marijuana charges. While every case is different, there are several ways that Mr. Diaz may attack the charges against you:
- Dispute the evidence: Sometimes, the police or prosecutor may mistake a legal substance, such as hemp, for marijuana.
- Dispute the quantity: If you have been charged with marijuana possession, your attorney can see the evidence. Your attorney may be able to determine that the amount of drug is less than what the prosecutor claimed. If it is less, it is possible that a serious felony charge could become a misdemeanor charge.
- Dispute possession: Texas prosecutors know possession means you have care, custody, and control. It can be difficult to convince a prosecutor that you did not have care, custody, and control, but juries can be receptive to this defense.
- Illegal police stop: Many criminal cases are dropped because the police stop violated the suspect’s constitutional rights. Remember, the police must have a reasonable suspicion to detain or pull you over. Mr. Diaz may be able to show the police lacked a legal basis to stop you.
- Incomplete evidence: A drug possession charge should have physical proof. The case falls apart if the evidence disappears before trial or was not correctly tested.
- Illegal search and seizure: Aggressive police officers may search your vehicle without permission or a warrant, which is against the law. If that happens, your attorney may file a motion to suppress so the evidence can potentially be disregarded.
- Chain of custody issues: It is common for many prosecutions to be derailed because of issues with the evidence chain of custody. If there are any issues with how the evidence was obtained, stored, or moved from place to place, it could be ruled inadmissible in court.
What To Do If Pulled Over for Marijuana Possession
Most defendants are arrested for possession during traffic stops. It is common for drivers to be pulled over for a minor traffic violation, only to be charged for a drug crime.
The first thing to do is never to drive your vehicle with marijuana inside. Many marijuana charges could be avoided by simply following this rule. Second, be careful what you say to the police. They are on a fishing expedition and are looking for any reason to search your vehicle.
Third, use care with your behavior. If you give any hint that you are using drugs or are nervous, it could be enough for the police to get a warrant to search your vehicle or maybe even establish probable cause to search without a warrant. Lastly, you should say as little as possible to the police and call an attorney as soon as you are arrested.
Contact Our Texas Drug Possession Defense Lawyers
If you are arrested for marijuana possession, the first step should be to contact an experienced attorney. If convicted, you face serious jail time, and just a first-time offense can result in thousands in fines and other expenses. Our Texas drug possession defense lawyers at Mark Diaz & Associates have a strong record of successfully defending our clients.
Speak to one of our attorneys today for a legal consultation by calling (409) 407-4784. Mr. Diaz understands the seriousness of a drug possession charge and has dedicated his life to his clients’ criminal defense. Our attorneys provide clients with their personal cell phone numbers so clients can always get in touch when they have questions.