By: Mark Diaz
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What You Need To Know About Drug Charges and Sentences in Texas
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Drug Charges And Sentences In Texas
If you were recently arrested for a violation of controlled substances laws in Texas, you are wise to seek as much information as possible on drug charges and sentencing. The state treats drug crimes very seriously, and statistics indicate that law enforcement continues to aggressively pursue alleged offenders. In a publication on Crime in Texas, the Texas Department of Public Safety reveals that around 88,650 people are charged every year for drug abuse violations – almost 17 percent of the total arrests. Possession of controlled substances makes up the bulk of these cases, at more than 84% of all drug crimes. Another 13,900 individuals face charges for trafficking, manufacturing, and related offenses.
Another wise move, if you were arrested for violating controlled substances laws, is to get in touch with an experienced defense attorney right away. Galveston drug crime lawyers are best able to apply their knowledge, develop a strategy, and leverage defenses early on in the criminal process. The details about the charges and penalties vary widely based upon the offense, underlying circumstances, and your own criminal history. However, a list of drug charges and sentences should put the legal issues into perspective.
How Texas Classifies Drug Crimes
The first important fact to know about state laws on controlled substances is how they are grouped into categories, which work in a similar fashion to federal statutes on drug schedules. Under Texas law, there are multiple drug classifications that run according to a numbered system. The lower the number, the more likely it is that the controlled substance has no legitimate use in medicine and is likely to lead to abuse. With higher numbers, a drug may be available through prescription or age restrictions, but still subject to the laws.
- Penalty groups 1 and 1-A: Cocaine, LSD, and heroin
- Penalty group 2: Phencyclidine (PCP), psychedelic mushrooms, and ecstasy
- Penalty group 3: Valium, Xanax, and Ritalin
- Penalty group 4: Opioids and codeine, including compounds
- Marijuana: Though in a category all its own, marijuana is still a controlled substance under Texas drug laws
Aside from the type of controlled substance, there are two other considerations that impact the nature of Texas drug crimes:
1. Amount of the Drug: This factor is measured by the number of plants, the weight of the controlled substances, compounded amount, or other standards, depending on the form of the drug. Not only does the amount affect the class of misdemeanor or degree of felony, but it could also impact the type of crime. For instance, if you have an extremely large quantity in your possession, prosecutors might seek charges for drug trafficking, delivery, or manufacturing.
2. Type of Illegal Activity: Possession is generally considered a lesser crime, mainly because of the impression that misconduct only affects the individual arrested for the offense. As noted above, however, possession of large amounts could lead to the assumption that the controlled substance was the subject of trafficking or manufacturing. These offenses are more serious because they do impact many others – sellers, buyers, growers, producers, compounders, and anyone involved in a delivery or trafficking situation.
Drug Possession As Defined In Texas
According to Texas controlled substances laws, a prosecutor must prove that you knowingly, or intentionally had possession of a drug. Possession could be actual, in the sense that you had the item on your person, in a pocket, or in a bag that you were carrying. However, you could also be charged for ‘constructive possession’, even when the controlled substance was not within reach. The key is whether you were able to exercise care, custody, or control over the drug, to the exclusion of other individuals.
Sentences for Drug Charges In Texas
If convicted of a Texas drug crime, punishment ranges from Class B misdemeanor all the up to First Degree Felony. This depends primarily on the weight AND the classification of the substance. Therefore, it is important to understand the different punishment ranges for the different degrees of offense:
- A Class B Misdemeanor is punishable by up to 180 days’ incarceration and a $2,000 fine.
- A Class A Misdemeanor is punishable by up to 1 year in jail and a maximum fine of $4,000.
- A State Jail Felony is punishable by no less than 180 days and up to 2 years imprisonment and a potential fine of up to $10,000.
- A Third Degree Felony, the range of punishment is 2 to 10 years in prison.
- A Second Degree Felony could mean 2 to 20 years’ imprisonment.
- A First Degree Felony drug offense, a judge or jury could sentence 5 to 99 years’ incarceration – or even up to life in prison.
Drug Crimes for Manufacturing and Distributing
When criminal activities involving drugs encompass transactions, multiple buyers and sellers, and expansive schemes, the charges are far more serious. Some definitions are in order:
- Texas uses the term “delivery,” to cover what many people know as trafficking. It is illegal to transfer a controlled substance, drug paraphernalia, or other unlawful drug material, both actually and constructively. It is also unlawful to make an offer to sell, regardless of whether a transaction is completed.
- Manufacturing of drugs includes all acts related to production, cultivation, processing, compounding, growing, and other illegal conduct, as well as packaging and labeling the containers that controlled substances are stored in.
Most drug manufacturing, cultivation, and trafficking cases are charged as felonies, with the exception of small amounts of a penalty group 4 controlled substances. Some examples of the charges include:
- It is a state jail felony to manufacture or deliver less than 1 gram of a penalty group 2 drug.
- You could be arrested for a third-degree felony for the cultivation of marijuana in amounts from 5 to 50 pounds.
- For delivery or manufacturing between 20 and 80 units of a penalty group 1-A drug, you could be charged with a second-degree felony.
- The crime is a first-degree felony when trafficking or producing controlled substances in any penalty group in designated amounts, including:
- More than 400 grams of a penalty group 4 drug
- Between 200 and 400 grams of a penalty group 3 substance
- penalty group 2 drugs weighing from 4 and 400 grams
- Between 4 and 4,000 units for substances in penalty groups 1 and 1-A
Defenses to Texas Drug Crimes
There are multiple opportunities to fight the charges, but you should realize that the burden is on the government to get a conviction. You are only guilty if the prosecution proves beyond a reasonable doubt that you were engaged in illegal activity involving a controlled substance. The essential elements the government must prove vary according to whether you face drug possession, delivery, or manufacturing charges. However, if there are any weaknesses in the evidence, the prosecution may not be able to meet its burden. Attacking the prosecutor’s case can be a solid strategy for getting a dismissal or acquittal.
In addition, your Galveston drug crime lawyer may pursue other defense options depending on the details of your case.
For Texas drug offenses, the prosecutor must prove knowledge that the material was a controlled substance AND intent to engage in the unlawful activity. If you have evidence to the contrary, you might beat the charges.
Many drug charges stem from police investigations and detective efforts, but law enforcement could infringe upon your constitutional rights in seeking evidence for an arrest. When their probe amounts to unlawful search and seizure under the Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution, all evidence turned up is inadmissible in court. Without such proof as to the controlled substance, drug paraphernalia, or other evidence, the prosecutor may have to drop the charges.
If you qualify, Texas drug court may be an option to resolve the charges. Through this process, you plead guilty to the allegations, but the case is deferred while you complete the terms established by the court. You will have to attend substance abuse counseling, submit to random testing, and avoid additional criminal activity, and other conditions. After meeting the requirements, the case is dismissed.
Though it may not be possible to get a full dismissal, you may benefit from working out a plea bargain with the prosecutor.
Set Up a Free Consultation with Our Galveston Drug Crime Lawyers
It is helpful to review a list of drug charges and sentences in Texas, but you will need a skilled attorney to assist if you were arrested for possession, manufacturing, or trafficking. There may be defenses or opportunities to fight the allegations, and you are at a disadvantage when up against an experienced prosecutor.
For more information on drug crimes in Texas, please contact criminal defense lawyer Mark Diaz. You can schedule a no-cost consultation by calling 409-515-6170. Our Texas drug crimes defense attorneys serve clients in Greater Houston and throughout Galveston County, and we look forward to working with you.
Mark Diaz & Associates is a Criminal Defense Law Firm in Galveston, Texas representing clients throughout Galveston, Chambers and Harris Counties including but not limited to Tiki Island, Jamaica Beach, Texas City, League City, Alvin, Algoa, Santa Fe, Hitchcock, La Marque, Bayou Vista, Bacliff, San Leon, Dickinson, Kemah, Bolivar Peninsula, Clear Lake Shores, and Friendswood.