By: Mark Diaz
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Prescription Drug Abuse and Criminal Prescription Drug Possession in Texas
Prescription Drug Possession
Prescription drug possession is a serious criminal offense in Texas when you are in possession of a prescription drug and it isn’t prescribed to you. Most people associate drug crimes with street drugs, such as cocaine and heroin. Although these illicit substances make up a large portion of drug-related criminal activity, prescription drug abuse is on the rise. And while these medications confer many benefits when used properly, in the wrong hands they can be just as dangerous and deadly as street drugs. According to The Partnership for a Drug-Free Texas, prescription drug abuse in the Lone Star State has become a serious public health crisis. The statistics are frightening:
- 1 out of 6 Texas teens reports having misused or abused a prescription drug in the past year. This is a 33% increase over the last 5 years.
- Nearly nine of every 100,000 Texans died from prescription drug overdoses in 2012, most caused by abuse of illegally obtained prescription medications.
- The Drug Policy Alliance reports a 150 percent increase in accidental overdoses over an eight-year period in Texas.
- In the 2012 12th biennial Texas School Survey of Substance Use survey, 12.3 percent of secondary students reported using codeine cough syrup non-medically at some point in their lives.
- About 3 percent of secondary students in 2010 reported using oxycodone products non-medically in their lifetime, and 3 to 5 percent reported using hydrocodone products nonmedically in their lifetime.
- About 27% of teens perceive prescription drug abuse as safer than using street drugs.
- About 1 out of 5 parents report giving their teen prescription medications that were not prescribed to them.
As a response to this growing problem, both Texas and federal law imposes strict penalties on individuals who illegally use and distribute prescription drugs. These laws are put in place to deter individuals from misusing prescription medication as well as to stop people from using the ingredients they contain to manufacture and sell additional controlled substances. If you are facing criminal charges relating to prescription drugs, you are facing serious penalties.
Commonly Abused Prescription Drugs
As prescription drug abuse has become more common, so too have the medications involved. Health care personnel and law enforcement officers generally classify these drugs into three groups: opioids, stimulants, and depressants.
Opioids block pain by preventing the brain from receiving pain signals from the rest of the body. Because they interfere with the body’s ability to feel discomfort, they are a prime target for misuse. In most cases, they are also highly habit-forming. Common opioids include codeine, Vicodin, Percocet, and oxycontin.
As their name suggests, stimulants cause the individual to feel more alert and aware. Popular stimulants include Adderall and Ritalin.
Finally, depressants help individuals who suffer from insomnia, anxiety, and a host of other ailments. Depressants include Ambien, valium, and Xanax.
Penalties for Prescription Drug Crimes are Severe
Since prescription drugs in Texas are considered controlled substances, their possession, and use is governed by the Texas Controlled Substances Act. This legislation denotes the classification of all drugs that are considered dangerous for use without a prescription. Many common prescription drugs that individuals in Texas are found in possession of, such as oxycodone, are primarily considered Schedule I substances (otherwise known as Penalty Group 1) bringing the most severe sanctions.
According to §481.115, a person commits the offense of possession of a substance in Penalty Group 1 if:
- The person knowingly or intentionally possesses a controlled substance listed in Penalty Group 1, unless the person obtained the substance directly from or under a valid prescription or order of a practitioner acting in the course of professional practice.
A possession charge is classified by the amount found on the individual at the time of the arrest. The more the amount, the more enhanced the charge will be. For instance, it will be considered a state jail felony (up to 2 years in state jail and/or up to $10,000 in fines) if the individual is found to possess less than one gram. It is considered a felony of the third degree (up to 10 years in state prison and/or up to $10,000 in fines) if the individual is found with more than one gram but less than four. If the individual is found with 4 grams but less than 400 grams, it is considered a felony of the second degree (up to 20 years in state prison and/or up to $10,000 in fines). It is considered a felony of the first degree (up to 99 years in state prison and/or fines up to $10,000) if the individual is found in possession of 200 grams or more but less than 400 grams.
If the individual is found with 400 grams or more of a controlled substance, the offense is punishable by imprisonment in the institutional division of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice for life or for a term of not more than 99 years or less than 10 years, along with a fine not to exceed $100,000.
Given the severe consequences of Texas prescription drug crimes, consulting with an experienced Texas criminal defense attorney is of vital importance for those facing such charges.
Mark Diaz – Experienced Texas Prescription Drug Crime Defense Lawyer
When you have been charged with a drug crime, you need an experienced lawyer who focuses exclusively on defending criminal cases and who will aggressively protect your rights. Throughout my career, I have successfully handled every type of criminal defense case. More importantly, criminal defense is the only thing I do. I have witnessed firsthand how a criminal charge can negatively impact every area of a person’s life. As a lawyer, I consider it a privilege to help people during this stressful time in their lives. Call me today at (409) 515-6170 for a free consultation to discuss your case.