Drug possession and other related charges are serious in every state and can involve both state and federal laws. When an individual in Texas is facing drug possession charges, there is usually a threshold amount of the drug that will trigger additional federal charges of trafficking on the assumption that the possessor’s intent was to distribute the substance. The presence of a firearm at the time of arrest will compound the severity of sentencing.
The cascade of penalties can turn simple possession or recreational use of an illegal drug into a crime with life-altering consequences. For residents of Houston and surrounding areas, with an aggressive defense strategy you will have a fighting chance at getting charges dismissed and reducing the severity of penalties during sentencing.
Drug possession penalties in Texas
Under the Texas Controlled Substance Act, there are four classifications of drugs, each with its own penalties, including:
- Heroin or cocaine possession: under one gram, state jail felony, jail sentence of six months to two years, probation for a first offense. One to four grams, third-degree felony, jail sentence of two to ten years, fines of up to $10,000.
- Methamphetamine, ecstasy, PCP, or possession: under one gram, state jail felony, up to two years in prison, fines of up to $10,000. One to four grams, third-degree felony, two to ten years in prison, up to $10,000 in fines.
- Benzodiazepine, Valium, or Ritalin: less than 28 grams, Class A misdemeanor, up to one year in prison, up to $4,000 in fines. 28 to 200 grams, third-degree felony, two to ten years in prison, up to $10,000 in fines.
- Prescription medications and addictive controlled substances: less than 28 grams, up to six month in jail, up to $2,000 in fines. 28 to 200 grams, third-degree felony, two to ten years in prison, up to $10,000 in fines.
These categories make the Lone Star State penalties for drug crimes some of the most severe in the country. In addition to possession and possible drug trafficking charges, individuals who have more than 400 grams of some of these substances, you could receive up to a 99-year prison sentence with fines of as much as $300,000.
Best defenses for possession charges
In a criminal possession case, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused knew that the drug was illegal and that they were aware that they were in possession of it. A guilty decision requires a unanimous verdict from the jurors, which is a very high bar for proving culpability.
The defense team will do everything they can to cast doubt in the minds of the jury, from challenging the statements, actions and procedures of the arresting officers, to questioning the stated facts and the evidence presented in court. They will question if the prosecution submitted tainted evidence, or if the crime lab results were inaccurate.
When calling into question the actions of law enforcement, they may find evidence of:
- Entrapment, if the officer somehow encouraged or tricked the suspect into committing a crime.
- Sloppy procedure when gathering evidence.
- Violations of the suspect’s Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizure.
- Improper arresting procedure, especially if the officer did not read the suspect their Miranda Rights.
If they have merit, any of these accusation can prevent the jury from reaching a verdict. The judge will dismiss a case if the evidence was not legally obtained, or if law enforcement broke the law during the arrest and detainment.