By: Mark Diaz
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What Changes Drug Charge From Drug Possession To Trafficking?
Whether you are arrested for drug possession or drug trafficking, it is a stressful and frightening experience. However, drug trafficking charges carry much more severe penalties, so it is essential to know the differences between these drug charges. Learn about drug possession vs drug trafficking below and talk to a drug possession defense attorney in La Marque at Mark Diaz & Associates for assistance.
What Was Your Intent With The Drugs?
So, you were charged with a drug crime in La Marque near Jack Brooks Park or Mac McGaffey Highland Bayou Park. How do you know if you will be charged with drug possession or drug trafficking? The significant factor that differentiates between drug possession and drug trafficking charge is your intent. Drug trafficking means you intend to sell or distribute illegal drugs possibly across state or national borders. Drug trafficking is more serious than drug possession because you want to sell the drugs to others.
Drug possession usually only means carrying enough drugs for your personal use. While drug possession is also criminal, it is considered less severe than trafficking. Drug possession charges also may mean the police caught you using drugs when you were arrested.
If the prosecuting attorney can show that you had a large amount of drugs on you or in your possession, you could be charged with drug trafficking. The charge type also depends on whether they find you with drug-related materials for selling, such as baggies and scales.
Your La Marque drug possession defense attorney will try to get a drug trafficking charge reduced to drug possession. This charge reduction can make a massive difference in the penalties you receive.
What Are Penalties For Drug Trafficking In Texas?
The Texas Controlled Substance Act lays out various penalties for possessing and selling multiple controlled substances. For example, Penalty Group 1 includes cocaine and opiates. Penalty Group 4 includes many types of compounds that have narcotics as ingredients.
Lesser drug trafficking offenses can result in a two-year state jail sentence and a $10,000 fine. However, more severe charges can lead to a life sentence and thousands of dollars in fines.
What Factors Enhance Drug Trafficking Charges?
If the police suspect you intend to sell and distribute illegal drugs, including heroin, methamphetamine, and cocaine, you may be charged with drug trafficking. The following factors can lead to even more severe, enhanced drug trafficking penalties if you are convicted:
Selling Narcotics Near Schools
Texas takes drug crimes that involve children seriously. If you are charged with drug trafficking and distributing near a school, you may face an aggravated drug trafficking charge. In addition, you may receive up to five years in state prison and thousands in fines.
Also, if you are caught with enough drugs and are near a minor or school, you could be charged with a second-degree felony that is subject to a mandatory prison sentence. Even more significant amounts of drugs near a school can result in a first-degree felony conviction.
Selling Drugs When Guns Are Involved
Texas is now a constitutional carry state, meaning you do not need a concealed-carry permit to carry a firearm. You also can carry a handgun openly. However, if you are arrested for drug trafficking and have a gun on you, the drug trafficking charge can be enhanced. Plus, a federal drug trafficking charge can be enhanced if you carry a firearm.
Other reasons that a drug trafficking charge can be enhanced in Texas are:
- How much drugs were in your possession
- If you had a lot of cash on you at the time
- If you carried packaging materials and scales
- If you have previous drug convictions
Depending on these factors in a Texas drug trafficking charge, you could face many punishments. For example, if you are found guilty of drug trafficking less than a gram of many illegal drugs, you can receive between six months and two years in jail and up to a $10,000 fine.
But if you are convicted for trafficking up to 400 grams of illegal drugs, you can receive between five and 99 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. Also, trafficking between 28 and 200 grams of many illicit drugs can lead to a two to 20 years prison sentence and a $10,000 fine.
When To Hire A Drug Possession Defense Attorney
It is almost always wise to hire a drug possession defense attorney for the best-case result. The attorney can fight to have the charges dismissed. He also may prevent the charge from being enhanced to drug trafficking. As someone facing a drug charge, you have the right under state and federal law to fight the charge.
Your attorney will investigate any state and federal drug charges against you and determine if it was a legal arrest. Then, based on the evidence, they may argue why you should face reduced charges.
For instance, if you did not know you had the drugs in your possession, you could get the case dismissed. Also, if you were charged with drug trafficking or possession of a substance that was not illegal, you could get off.
Further, your lawyer might argue that you were being forced to traffic drugs because your family was threatened. However, state law says you cannot be charged if you are being forced under duress to traffic drugs.
If you are facing a federal drug charge, hiring a drug crime defense attorney is imperative. Cases that involve a large quantity of drugs or taking drugs across state lines may interest the FBI and DEA. Any charges that federal authorities file will probably be handled in federal court.
Federal drug charges always carry harsher penalties than state charges. For example, you can expect a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison for a first drug trafficking conviction.
Possible Sentencing Options For Texas Drug Charges
If you are charged with possessing, distributing, or trafficking illegal drugs in Texas, many bad things can happen. Some of the penalties can put you in jail for many years. With a robust defense and the right circumstances, your lawyer may argue for alternative penalties to keep you out of prison. However, this depends on the severity of the charge, your previous convictions, and more:
The Texas courts can sentence you to probation for months or years and require drug testing, community service, and more. If you violate probation, you will probably be sent to jail.
If the judge sentences you to drug court, you must go to drug abuse counseling through the justice system. This usually means meeting often with a probation officer, drug court administrator, and judge and having regular drug tests. If you do not complete drug court, you will go to prison.
You are put on probation. If you complete probation successfully, the judge will dismiss the charges.
Court Ordered Treatment
You may be sent to in-patient treatment rather than jail.
If the judge sentences you to jail time, you may be able to continue to go to work. However, you will need to go back to jail after every workday.
You can be ordered to serve the community instead of going to jail. This service can range from a few weeks to several months.
Common Drug Charges Mistakes
If you are charged with drug possession or drug trafficking, you must contact an attorney immediately. Also, you can make your case more difficult if you do any of the following:
Speaking To The Police
You should never talk to the police about a drug possession or trafficking charge without a lawyer present. It is impossible to speak to the police about charging you once they have done so. You will only make the problem worse and complicate your drug charge defense. Remember, when the police say ‘anything you say can be held against you,’ they mean it.
Not Doing Anything After Being Questioned
If the police question you about a drug case and do not charge you at first, it is understandable to think it is ok to wait. This is because they may not charge you for the crime. However, you should talk to an attorney as soon as the police question you. The best time to get the authorities to drop a charge is at the start of the case.
Talking To A Witness
Some people charged with a drug crime may try to talk to the complaining witness. This will not help. First, it may anger the person, and they will call the state attorney. Also, you could be accused of witness tampering. If your attorney talks to witnesses himself, he may be able to gather information for your defense.
Telling People About Your Case
If you are charged with drug possession or trafficking, you should not speak to friends or family about it. When you tell someone close to you about the case, they become a witness. They could be called to court to testify, and what you said and what they remember could be very different.
Talk To A Drug Possession Defense Attorney in La Marque
You face life-changing consequences if you are charged with drug possession in La Marque. Therefore, it is imperative to contact a drug possession defense attorney in La Marque as soon as possible. Mark Diaz & Associates attorneys will fight hard to beat your drug possession charges.
We represent clients in Galveston, League City, Texas City, Tiki Island, Alvin, Algoa, Santa Fe, Hitchcock, La Marque, Bayou Vista, San Leon, Dickinson, Kemah, Clear Lake Shores, and Friendswood. Contact us today at (409) 515-6170 for legal help.