By: Mark Diaz
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What You Need To Know About Drug Manufacturing Laws In Texas
What Are Drug Manufacturing Laws In Texas?
It is one thing to get arrested for possessing a couple of marijuana joints. But it is quite another to be charged with a drug manufacturing crime. Under both federal and Texas state law, you can face severe penalties if prosecutors can prove you engaged in activities related to the manufacturing of certain controlled substances, i.e., illegal drugs.
Drug manufacturing is one of the most broadly defined criminal offenses in Texas. In other words, police need not catch you actively making crystal meth in an underground lab before they arrest you. Drug manufacturing can include something as seemingly simple as purchasing ingredients commonly used in producing illegal drugs, such as the over-the-counter decongestant pseudoephedrine. Indeed, in many cases, prosecutors will charge people they believe to be lower-level participants in a drug manufacturing operation in the hopes of convincing them to “flip” on the alleged ringleaders.
But even if you had no knowledge or role in any drug manufacturing activity, you still need to take the charges seriously. Never assume that if you “just cooperate” with the police the problem will go away. Drug manufacturing is one of the most strictly prosecuted crimes in Texas, and the police and prosecution will use every available tool at their disposal to secure a conviction. That is why it is critical for you to understand your rights in a drug manufacturing case and learn about what steps you can take to defend yourself against such charges.
How Does Texas Regulate Controlled Substances?
You probably already know it is against the law to possess certain drugs such as marijuana, cocaine, and methamphetamine. In legal terms, these are called “controlled substances.” Basically, a controlled substance is any drug that the government has determined to have a detrimental effect on a person’s well-being. In some cases, a controlled substance may be medically useful but also highly addictive. In others, a controlled substance may simply be deemed too harmful to ever have a valid medical or scientific use.
Of course, not all controlled substances are treated the same. Federal and state law actually relies on a complex classification system for these drugs. The full schedule of controlled substances is too long to list here. But essentially, Texas law divides controlled substances into four main “penalty groups,” which can be broadly described as follows:
- Penalty Group 1 includes opiates, such as cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine. There is also a subgroup, Penalty Group 1-A, reserved for LSD.
- Penalty Group 2 includes many commonly used hallucinogens (aside from marijuana) and substances that act as a depressant on the body’s central nervous system.
- Penalty Group 3, conversely, includes controlled substances designed to be used as a stimulant, such as codeine, peyote, barbiturates, and anabolic steroids.
- Penalty Group 4 includes narcotics with at least one non-narcotic active ingredient.
Within each Penalty Group, the degree of criminal offense and potential sentence depends primarily on the amount of controlled substances involved. For instance, manufacturing less than 1 gram of a Penalty Group 4 controlled substance is a state jail felony, while the manufacture of more than 400 grams of a Penalty Group 1 drug is punishable by life in prison.
If you are arrested for drug manufacturing, prosecutors will tell you the specific degree of a misdemeanor or felony charge you face. As a general guideline, here are the different levels of criminal offenses under the Texas Penal Code:
- Class B misdemeanors represent the lowest type of drug manufacturing charge. A conviction carries a jail term of no more than 180 days. In addition, the court may fine a defendant up to $2,000.
- Class A misdemeanors are the highest non-felony charge in Texas. The penalties are basically double that of a Class B misdemeanor. So if convicted of drug manufacturing under a Class A misdemeanor charge, the defendant faces up to 1 year in jail and/or a $4,000 fine. By default, if a drug manufacturing case involves a controlled substance that is not expressly included in any of the four Penalty Groups, it is prosecuted as a Class A misdemeanor by default.
- State jail felonies are the lowest level of felony charge in Texas. A felony is basically any crime for which the defendant faces more than one year in prison if convicted. Specifically, a state jail felony has a sentencing range of between 180 days (6 months) and 2 years and a fine of up to $10,000.
- Third-degree felonies carry a minimum prison term of at least 2 years–and as many as 10 years. As with a state jail felony, the court may also impose a fine of up to $10,000.
- Second-degree felonies also have a minimum prison term of 2 years. But the maximum sentence is doubled to 20 years. The maximum fine at this level remains $10,000. Keep in mind, manufacturing as little as 2 grams of a Penalty Group 1 drug like meth can trigger a second-degree felony charge.
- First-degree felonies are the most severe non-capital charge available under Texas law. A defendant convicted of such a felony faces between 5 and 99 years in prison (plus the $10,000 fine). Additionally, many first-degree drug manufacturing cases provide for higher minimum sentences based on the quantity of drugs involved. Manufacturing more than 400 grams of a Penalty Group 1 controlled substance, for instance, carries a minimum term of 15 years to life and a fine of up to $250,000.
What Activities Are Considered Drug Manufacturing?
The actual definition of drug manufacturing is quite expansive. Section 481.001 of the Texas Health and Safety Code, the state’s controlled substances law, defines manufacture as “the production, preparation, propagation, compounding, conversion, or processing of a controlled substance other than marihuana, directly or indirectly by extraction from substances of natural origin, independently by means of chemical synthesis, or by a combination of extraction and chemical synthesis, and includes the packaging or repackaging of the substance or labeling or relabeling of its container.”
The key thing to understand from this definition is that you can be charged with drug manufacturing if you participated in any stage of the process of creating a drug. This can mean obtaining the ingredients to make a controlled substance, working in an illegal meth lab where it is produced, or even just placing individual units of a previously manufactured drug into plastic bags for distribution. Especially in cases where the police have raided a suspected illegal drug lab, they are likely to arrest everyone present and charge them with drug manufacturing without taking the time to figure out each suspect’s precise role in the operation.
How Can I Defend Myself Against a Drug Manufacturing Charge?
Just because you are arrested and charged with drug manufacturing, that does not always mean the prosecution has enough evidence to make those charges stick. Depending on the unique facts and circumstances of your drug manufacturing case, you may have a number of defenses available to you. Here are just a few examples of defenses we have used in prior cases:
- You lacked knowledge of any drug manufacturing activities. By their very nature, illegal drug labs tend not to operate in the open. They are often hidden away in basements or garages, often without the knowledge of other residents or the property’s owner. If you genuinely had no knowledge of any drug manufacturing, that can be enough to get criminal charges dismissed in court.
- Police do not always follow proper procedures when busting a suspected drug lab. Remember, the Constitution offers protections for citizens regarding police conducting a search of private property without the owner’s consent. This means that any evidence of drug manufacturing uncovered during an illegal search is inadmissible against you in court.
- It is not uncommon for people to face false accusations of drug manufacturing. Perhaps the real culprit decides to try and shift blame onto you to get out of trouble. Or you may be simply the victim of incorrect eyewitness identification.
- As explained earlier, the severity of a drug manufacturing charge hinges on the amount of controlled substances involved. The burden of proof is on the prosecution to prove the quantities of drugs present. If the evidence is shaky on that point, it may force prosecutors to reduce or dismiss the charges altogether.
- Interestingly enough, it is possible to beat a drug manufacturing charge if you can show that the controlled substance at issue was never intended for human consumption. For example, if you are caught producing hand sanitizer, which contains alcohol, you probably would not be charged with drug manufacturing under Texas law, as that is not a product designed to be consumed internally. (Of course, you may still be charged with violating FDA regulations.)
This is only a brief overview of some of the potential defense strategies available in a drug manufacturing case. A qualified Galveston drug manufacturing defense attorney can review the facts of your specific case and advise you on the best course of action. Contact Mark Diaz today at (409) 515-6170 to schedule a free consultation.