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Texas Drug Laws | What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You

By: Mark Diaz February 17, 2022 no comments

Texas Drug Laws | What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You

It is no secret that state law enforcement cracks down on individuals who violate drug laws in Texas; in fact, Texas makes almost 89,000 arrests for drug abuse violations every year statewide. Texas drug laws define the four primary forms of criminal activity, including:

  1. Drug possession, i.e., having an illegal substance in your care, custody, or control.
  2. Manufacturing, processing, or otherwise producing controlled substances.
  3. Delivering and distributing drugs, familiarly known as drug trafficking.
  4. Possessing, manufacturing, or trafficking in drug paraphernalia.

However, there is much more to state laws on controlled substances than understanding the basic descriptions. The nature of the charges can vary widely, so you could be facing a Class B Misdemeanor, a First-Degree Felony, or anything in between. It is essential to retain a League City drug crime defense attorney for legal help with Texas drug laws. In making this point, a familiar adage comes to mind – What you don’t know CAN hurt you.

Your Rights Upon Arrest

From the moment of your initial encounter and detention, the US and Texas Constitutions protect your civil rights in interactions with law enforcement. Some of these protections even apply to cases involving pre-arrest investigations, which are common when the police seek to collect evidence regarding drug trafficking and manufacturing enterprises. Your constitutional rights cover:

  • Unlawful Search and Seizure: The Fourth Amendment restricts police from conducting unreasonable searches and seizures. Officers cannot search you, your home, business, and other places where you have an expectation of privacy unless they have a warrant issued by a judge or another limited exception applies. Any evidence law enforcement seizes in violation of your Fourth Amendment rights cannot be used against you at trial.
  • Self-Incrimination: Police cannot force you to be a witness against yourself in a criminal proceeding under the Fifth Amendment. Thus, if you have been placed under arrest and are being interrogated by officers, you can refuse to answer questions or provide statements during said interrogations under the Fifth Amendment. Plus, your refusal cannot act as evidence against you in attempting to prove your guilt in a drug case.
  • Right to Counsel: You have the right to be represented by an attorney of your choosing, so exercise it immediately by calling a drug crime defense attorney. Considering the protections under the Fifth Amendment, requesting to contact a lawyer should be the only thing you say to the police.

How Drug Schedules Work

The Texas Controlled Substances Act is similar to federal drug statutes in some ways, but there is a key distinction related to the organization. US laws create a system of schedules, classifying them according to their use in the medical field and potential for abuse. Texas statutes establish Penalty Groups as follows:

  • Penalty Groups 1 and 1A: Drugs in this category have no recognized medical use and are likely to cause substance abuse. As such, possession, manufacturing, or trafficking in these controlled substances will lead to the most serious drug charges.
  • Penalty Group 2 and 3: In this class, controlled substances may have some use by medical professionals, but there is still the risk of abuse. Mushrooms, Xanax, and some steroids fall in these categories.
  • Penalty Group 4: Controlled substances such as codeine and opium fall in this classification, which involves the least serious drug charges.

Marijuana referred to also as “marihuana” under Texas drug laws, falls into its own category, and it is important to note how different forms affect the charges. A wax, oil, concentrate in a vape cartridge, and other derivates begin as a felony, regardless of the amount. In practice, this means that having leafy marijuana v. a small amount of weed wax may mean the difference between a misdemeanor and felony.

The Government’s Burden of Proof

You hear the term “proof beyond a reasonable doubt,” but not understanding the details could harm your interests. The prosecution has the highest burden among all types of cases, and it refers to situations where the evidence demonstrates that there is no reasonable doubt as to the defendant’s guilt. Even a minuscule amount of skepticism in the minds of the jury can result in an acquittal.

Plus, the burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt applies to every element of a drug crimes case, so the prosecutor must establish multiple sets of facts. The intent is an element for all drug offenses, which means there must be evidence of your state of mind. For instance:

  • To get a conviction on drug possession charges, the government must prove that you knowingly, intentionally exercised control over a controlled substance.
  • For a drug manufacturing case, the prosecutor must establish that you produced, processed, or cultivated the controlled substance with the intent to deliver.
  • A drug trafficking case requires proof that you distributed a controlled substance to another person, regardless of whether you received money or another item of value in exchange.

If you do not know the government’s burden, you cannot appreciate the different ways to counter the evidence and expose weaknesses.

Defenses and Strategies in Texas Drug Cases

The prosecutor will rest its case-in-chief after presenting all witnesses and exhibits, and after your drug crimes defense lawyer has the opportunity for cross-examination. At this point in the legal process, you have the opportunity to present defenses. The details depend on the charges, but options include:

  • Lack of knowledge that the controlled substance was illegal.
  • Failure to exercise control or management of the drug.
  • Insufficient quantity to qualify for manufacturing or trafficking charges.
  • Entrapment by undercover government officials.

Note that the standard of proof is NOT the same when comparing the government’s burden to the accused when presenting defenses. You must establish a defense by a preponderance of the evidence, which basically amounts to 50-50. In other words, the evidence needs to show that it is more likely than not that the defendant should be acquitted.

Texas Drug Court

What you don’t know about Texas drug laws can hurt you in a big way if you are not aware of a special proceeding for resolving the charges: Drug court. The process is similar to what you might think of as probation, but there are a few important points to note:

You must qualify for the Texas drug court program, and only those arrested for nonviolent drug offenses are eligible.

  • The drug court program includes intense supervision, ongoing testing for controlled substance abuse, and participation in frequent treatment sessions.
  • The duration of a typical drug court case is 12 to 18 months.
  • Drug court may be a part of your sentence after being convicted of a controlled substance offense.
  • Alternatively, you might be eligible for drug court as a pretrial or diversion program. By completing the terms set by the judge, you could qualify to have the charges dropped entirely, and maybe even expunged later down the road.

Penalties for a Conviction Under Texas Drug Laws

While all aspects of a criminal case are important, what you don’t know about the penalties could surprise you. The charges are a product of the amount of the drug, what you were doing with it, your criminal history, aggravating factors, and more. At a minimum, a violation is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a $4,000 fine. The penalties for a conviction increase with the severity of the charges:

  • Possession of smaller amounts of drugs in lower Penalty Groups may be a State-Jail Felony. For a conviction, you might be sentenced to 180 days to two years in prison.
  • A conviction for Third-Degree Felony drug charges could mean a minimum of two and a maximum of ten years in prison.
  • If you are convicted of selling larger amounts of marijuana, the punishment for a Second-Degree Felony is two to 20 years’ incarceration.
  • Manufacturing or distributing large amounts of drugs (in Penalty Group 1) and can lead to First-Degree Felony charges. If convicted, the minimum mandatory sentence is five years in prison; however, a judge could sentence you up to life in prison.

These penalties alone should convince you that retaining a League City drug crime defense attorney is a priority, but there are collateral consequences to keep in mind. These are the legal and financial implications that affect your life even after you serve your sentence. One of the most impactful is in the area of employment since a background check into your criminal history will reveal a conviction for drug crimes. There are also ramifications for:

  • Any professional or business licenses you hold.
  • Your ability to qualify for loans, housing, and student aid.
  • Driving privileges, since your license may be suspended after a conviction.
  • Your voting rights and qualifying to run for public office.
  • Your Second Amendment right to bear arms.

A League City Drug Crime Defense Attorney Will Protect Your Rights

These are just a few examples of what you don’t know CAN hurt you when it comes to Texas drug laws. Fortunately, you do not need in-depth details when you have experienced legal counsel on your side. A lawyer will guide you through the criminal process and take advantage of every defense opportunity along the way. While a dismissal or acquittal would be an ideal outcome, other options can deliver positive results.

If you are facing charges for drug possession, manufacturing, or trafficking, please contact Criminal Defense Attorney Mark Diaz. Individuals in Galveston County and Greater Houston can schedule a no-cost consultation by calling (409) 515-6170. After assessing your circumstances, a League City drug crime defense lawyer will advise you on the next steps.

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