By: Mark Diaz
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Why You Need a Lawyer for Drug Charges in Texas
Texas Drug Laws
Texas drug laws are among the strictest in the US. Statistics from the Department of Public Safety reveal the diligent, pervasive efforts of the police. According to the annual publication on Crime in Texas from 2019, law enforcement officers made more than 128,000 arrests for drug abuse violations in the State of Texas. Of these arrests, it can be broken down into two types of activities involving drug abuse violations:
- Possession. The vast majority of drug arrests in 2019 in Texas are for possession, with almost 108,500 arrests for possession of the total drug abuse arrests of 128,000+.
- Manufacture/Delivery. Nearly 20,000 people were arrested for drug manufacturing/delivery in the year 2019.
However, these figures merely report arrests for drug charges in Texas. An arrest is the beginning of the criminal law process in Texas, and all it should mean that the police had probable cause to believe you committed a crime. From this point on, your focus should be leveraging every opportunity to defend against the allegations.
Retaining a drug crime lawyer in League City is a priority for a number of reasons. For example, it is important to understand the basics about your rights, the laws, and defense strategies to be used to help you in fighting your case. Some background information may be useful, along with specific reasons why you need a lawyer for drug charges in Texas.
Types of Drug Charges in Texas
While every drug offense case is different, Texas criminal laws define three main classifications of unlawful activity involving controlled substances:
- Possession: You could be arrested for drug possession if you knowingly or intentionally have the controlled substance on your person or otherwise have control over it. Examples of possession include having the drug in a purse within your reach, or a backpack, the glove box of your car, or a container at your home or business.
- Trafficking: This drug offense targets transactions in controlled substances, including sales and other exchanges involving something of value. An arrest for drug possession may often turn into a trafficking charge when the amount or other factors indicate the intent to sell or distribute to others. If you have a stash of cash or drug packaging materials as well as large quantities of the controlled substance, law enforcement may pursue the more serious crime of drug trafficking.
- Manufacturing: To prove manufacturing, the prosecutor must show that you produced, cultivated, or otherwise fabricated a controlled substance. You could face manufacturing charges for growing pot plants, cooking meth, processing cocaine, packaging heroin, and many other activities.
Penalties for Texas Drug Crimes
The sentencing for a conviction on drug charges is a product of numerous factors, including the nature of the crime as described above, and the type and amount of controlled substance. The Texas Controlled Substances Act creates four penalty groups of drugs, closely mirroring the federal drug classification system that organizes substances into schedules.
Drugs in Penalty Group 1 are considered the most dangerous, while Penalty Group 4 includes less serious controlled substances, though still illegal. Additional implications for sentencing include prior criminal history and aggravating factors, such as taking drugs to a drug-free zone.
Even being in possession of a small amount of a controlled substance can lead to jail time, fines, and a conviction on your criminal record. The penalties may include:
- Possession of less than a gram of a PG 1 or 2 controlled substance is a State-Jail Felony, meaning the punishment range is 180 days to up to 2 years in State-Jail, and a possible fine not to exceed $10,000.
- Possession of 1 to 4 grams of cocaine is a Third-Degree Felony. If convicted of a Third-Degree Felony, you face a punishment range of 2-10 years in prison and a possible fine not to exceed $10,000.
Note that marijuana is a special category within the Texas system of classifying controlled substances. Less than two grams is a Class B Misdemeanor, for which you could be sentenced up to 180 days in jail; however, the penalties increase significantly with higher possession amounts, even reaching First-Degree Felony charges and punishment ranges.
Reasons You Need a Lawyer for Drug Charges in Texas
Based upon the foregoing information, you can see that retaining skilled legal counsel is critical for fighting a drug crimes case. There are many specific reasons, but they all relate to one central concept: Unless you have an in-depth, extensive background in criminal law, you are at a disadvantage in trying to defend Texas drug charges. On the other side, representing the government, you face a skilled and experienced prosecutor. It is critical to even the playing field by working with a defense attorney who knows how to properly handle defending drug crimes.
With this one notion in mind, some specific factors should motivate you to retain a lawyer:
- Your drug crimes attorney has knowledge of statutes and case precedent to match that of the prosecutor. These laws describe what facts the prosecutor needs to prove to convict, so they also outline what is necessary to possibly avoid a conviction.
- After reviewing your circumstances and applying the relevant legal concepts, your lawyer will be able to explain your options and assess the appropriate defense strategy specific to you and your case. You will want and eventually must make informed decisions about your case, so advice and counsel are crucial.
- Court procedural rules define the criminal process and provide options for requesting the court take certain actions. Defense attorneys know how to navigate these rules and at times, leverage them to gain an advantage during pre-trial phases and at your potential trial.
- When it comes time for trial, you will need a lawyer with extensive trial advocacy skills and experience with criminal litigation.
- Facts and evidence play a central role in a drug crimes case, and you need all the information you can gather to defend the charges. As such, assistance from private investigators, forensic professionals, and related resources is important. The most experienced drug crimes attorneys in Texas will have access to these resources, as well as business relationships with specialists who dedicate their time and efforts to assisting in your defense.
Timeline of a Texas Drug Offense Case
You will need representation throughout all stages of the criminal process, and your lawyer can best support your rights when you retain legal help as early as possible. As soon as you believe you are being investigated or under arrest, get in touch with an attorney who knows how to defend you immediately. You have rights during pre-arrest and post-arrest questioning by police. From there, your lawyer will fight for you through such efforts as:
- Representing you during your first hearing, arraignment, and bond proceedings;
- Engaging in motion practice, such as moving the court to exclude evidence, compel the prosecutor to turn over evidence, or laying out the framework as to why the State should dismiss the charges against you; and,
- Taking advantage of discovery tools to uncover additional information and develop a greater defense.
Once your drug crime charge reaches the point where you must appear in court for your trial (if it gets to that point), your attorney will advocate on your behalf in court. The first stages are jury selection, which provides an opportunity for the attorneys to give jurors a roadmap of the case and of course, chose the jurors who will hear the case and decide on whether to convict or not. Then, the State puts on its case-in-chief, usually beginning by making an opening statement. Your lawyer will be heavily involved in the prosecutor’s case-in-chief, by cross-examining witnesses and raising objections.
When the prosecution rests, it is now the defense’s turn to put on its case-in-chief should it decide to. Understand that the defense does not have a burden of proof, so sometimes it is the best strategy to not put on a case-in-chief if your attorney feels the State has not on its own proven you guilty of the offense you are charged with. At this stage, if the defense does put on a case-in-chief, your attorney will have the chance to call witnesses, present exhibits, and advance legal defense theories that may be present in your case.
Once the defense finishes, then both sides wrap up by presenting closing arguments. At the time of closing arguments, the court will instruct the jury regarding the law of the case, how to conduct jury deliberations, and then you await the verdict. Your lawyer protects your interests during these last stages of the criminal process by ensuring the jury instructions are proper and continuing to defend you at sentencing if you are convicted.
Strategies for Fighting Drug Charges in Texas
Considering this information on the timeline of a drug crimes case, you should keep in mind the defense strategies that may be effective at different stages. Initially, note that the prosecutor must prove each element of a drug offense beyond a reasonable doubt. This is a high standard for prosecutors to make their case which offers your attorney the opportunity to expose weaknesses in the facts and obtain an acquittal.
Other defenses to Texas drug possession, trafficking, and manufacturing charges include:
- Lack of knowledge or intent, where it must be shown that the defendant intended to possess or knowingly possessed a controlled substance;
- Unlawful search and seizure by law enforcement, which could mean the evidence uncovered as a result of police misconduct is inadmissible against you;
- Law enforcement failure to read your Miranda warnings;
- The controlled substance was not in your control or was entirely within someone else’s control;
- Having a valid prescription; and,
- Many others, depending on the facts of your case.
Set Up a Consultation with a Drug Crime Lawyer in League City, TX
This overview should explain why you need a lawyer for drug charges in Texas, especially knowing that the stakes are high in terms of punishment and collateral consequences. If you were arrested, it is critical to retain experienced legal representation at the earliest stages of the criminal process. Our team is prepared to protect your interests, so please call Criminal Defense Attorney Mark Diaz at (409) 515-6170 to set up a free consultation. Our Texas drug crimes defense attorneys fight for clients throughout Galveston County and Greater Houston, and we look forward to working with you.