The penalties for drug charges could have sobering consequences: jail or prison, a criminal record, suspension of driver’s license, and steep fines. Drug charges can result in both misdemeanor charges or felony charges, depending. In general, there are both possession and delivery of a controlled substance. What might or might not happen in your case is impossible to say without knowing more, without knowing what evidence the state has against you in addition to other factors. What happened? What do police say happened? What do you say happened? Is there an illegal search? And for a possession charge, there must be a link connecting you to the drugs. Possession, as defined in the Texas Penal Code, means care, custody, control, or management. If there is a tenuous link, this will likely signal a problem for the state to prove that you are guilty of possession beyond a reasonable doubt.
What are Some Initial Questions You Need to Ask?
There are many moving parts that can dictate what penalties you may be facing, if you are facing a drug charge. There are many considerations that will go a long way in determining what you are charged with and how your case might shape out. Some of the obvious questions that may drive your case: what kind of drugs did you have? How much did you have? (this is probably the single biggest factor that will drive the outcome of your case). Is there an allegation that you were selling drugs? Selling drugs is a higher penalty than possession. If you are caught with drugs, how do you get from possession to selling? An allegation of selling or manufacturing drugs can obviously result if police or law enforcement witness you selling drugs. However, an allegation can also come via circumstantial evidence. For instance, if police find you with cocaine in several smaller bags, you will likely get indicted for selling even if there is no other evidence of selling or distributing. Ultimately, it is difficult to say how your case might take shape without reviewing the specific evidence in your case.
What is the Texas Law on Drug Charges?
The penalties for controlled substances in Texas are not located in the Texas Penal Code as most other crimes are. The Texas Penal Code lists the majority of crimes that are prosecuted throughout the state of Texas. Instead, specifically outlawed controlled substances and the level of charges can be found in Chapter 481 of the Texas Health and Safety Code. There are different kinds of drug charges, and there are different levels of drugs charges ranging from low level misdemeanors that carry County jail time, all the way to a first degree felony that carry a punishment range between 5 and 99 years in the Texas Department of Corrections. It can get serious quickly. There is possession and there is also manufacture or delivery of a controlled substance. Possession encompasses both possession of marijuana and possession of a controlled substance.
What is a Controlled Substance?
There are a huge number of substances and drugs that are deemed to be dangerous and are therefore restricted. Some are obvious and come immediately to mind. These are drugs like cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine that are the usual suspects when a person thinks of illegal drugs. However, other substances do not immediately come to mind when a person thinks of illegal drugs. Some of these controlled substances are pharmaceuticals or chemicals that many people may not be as familiar with. A conviction for a drug charge could prevent a person from getting into college, or enrolling in professional programs like medical school or law school. Many drug charges are that funnel through the criminal justice system are charged as possession. If you are charged with possession or if you are facing another drug charge, either state or federal, call my office. If you are facing drug charges, if a family member or other loved one is facing such a charge, you need an experienced and aggressive criminal defense attorney who fights these cases. Call my office for a free and confidential consultation about your case.
Is Marijuana a Controlled Substance?
Marijuana is not considered a controlled substance in Texas under the Health and Safety Code, although it is under Federal law. Marijuana is its own thing, and has its own unique and specific penalties. However, Dallas County and Harris County have now gone to a citation-only class B penalty for possession under two ounces out of sheer financial necessity. It is very expensive to book offenders into jail and house them, and this alleviates some of that cost and helps overcrowding and allows police to focus on more serious and more important crimes than a class B possession of marijuana. (more on marijuana below). But yes, this is still Texas, and marijuana is still very much illegal and prosecuted. If police find you with any amount of marijuana in Tarrant, Parker, Johnson, or Denton Counties, you will very much get arrested.
What are the Penalties for Marijuana?
Marijuana is not a controlled substance in Texas, and it is classified by itself in its own category, with its own penalties. Marijuana is, however, a controlled substance according to the federal schedules. But, this page is about Texas drug charges, and Texas it has different and unique penalties. These penalties are less severe than any of the Penalty Groups. On a national scale, attitudes toward marijuana have rapidly become open-armed and accepting in the last decade. States like Colorado and Washington and Alaska have decriminalized marijuana. However, Texas law has not budged, and even though possession of small amounts is a misdemeanor, large amounts of marijuana still carry severe felony charges. Possession of Marijuana charges begin at the misdemeanor level—small amounts of marijuana can be punishable as a Class B or Class A Misdemeanor. Larger amounts can be a State Jail Felony or greater.
What are the Different Drug Classifications?
The Texas Controlled Substances Act organizes controlled substances into four different categories with different levels of punishment. The Controlled Substances Act began on a federal level during the Nixon Administration. Two organizations: the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Food and Drug Administration determine which drugs belong in the different schedules. How and why a chemical substance gets categorized in a certain group is for two reasons: potential for abuse, and the medical value the substance has for treating people. In Texas there are hundreds of kinds and types of illegal and restricted controlled substances. These include narcotics, such as opiates and opioids, stimulants such as cocaine and methamphetamine, as well as barbiturate prescription drugs such as benzodiazepines. There are a couple of other sub-groups such as Penalty Group 1-A and 2-A. These groups do not require much discussion. Group 1-A contains only Lysergic Acid Diethylamide, better know by its acronym LSD. Penalty Group 2-A consists of synthetic cannabinoids that mimic the pharmacological effect of natural cannabinoids (these are strange, esoteric compounds that lack names and are referred to only as "JHW-004" and "JHW-007"). This is a brief discussion of each Penalty Group, but for a more thorough discussion, look at this page on Penalty Groups.
Penalty Group 1
- Abbreviated, this may say something like PCS PG1, which stands for possession of a controlled substance, penalty group 1. This group consists of the substances considered both most dangerous because of potential for abuse, and are also deemed to have a low level of medical value. Substances in this group are well known. There are opiates, including the isomers, esters, ethers, and salts of opiates. This includes codeine and heroin and methadone. Heroin is semi-synthetic and highly addictive opioid. Group I also includes the stimulant cocaine. Cocaine is the second most widely used substance in the United States behind marijuana. Methamphetamine is also included in Group 1. Meth is, by far, the charge I see most often in the counties in which I practice. Methamphetamine is a highly potent central nervous system stimulant with a high potential for abuse. There are many, many more substances in this group. For a more detailed listing of these substances, consult Chapter 481 of the Texas Health and Safety Code or look at my page on penalty groups. The majority of controlled substance criminal charges arise out of penalty group 1.
Penalty Group 1-A
- Penalty group 1-A has only one listed substance. Penalty group 1-A consists of lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), including its salts, isomers, and salts of isomers. This is the only chemical compound in group 1-A. LSD is a psychedelic drug which can drastically alter a person's awareness or perceptions. LSD is famous from the 1960s and is often associated with the counterculture and political movements as well as music form that era. People take LSD for recreational reasons, and the drug is sometimes ingested by users for spiritual experiences and highs. LSD is a drug that has no current medical uses, and for this reason it is in group 1-A.
Penalty Group 2
- Drugs in this group includes hallucinogens, including their salts and isomers, and salts of isomers. These drugs include psychedelics such as mescaline, which is a psychotropic alkaloid that occurs naturally in the peyote plant. Although, peyote itself is in Group 3. Psilocybin is a naturally occurring psychedelic substance that is found in various species of mushrooms, and it is also in Group 2. Amphetamine, a central nervous system stimulant, is also in Group 2. Amphetamine is the active ingredient in the prescription drug Adderall and others.
Penalty Group 3
- Central nervous system depressants such as alprazolam and diazepam are found in Group 3. Alprazolam is a very popular and widespread benzodiazepine that is better known by its brand name Xanax. Benzodiazopenes have a high potential for abuse and have both sedative and hypnotic properties. Alprazolam is used to treat both generalized anxiety and social anxiety. Alprazolam is the most frequently prescribed benzodiazepine in the United States. Peyote is also included in Group 3. Although there are certain Native American tribes and groups have a religious exemption from prosecution for possession and even for distribution of peyote for use in religious ceremonies.
Penalty Group 4
- Penalty Group 4 is a little weird and slightly confusing. Group 4 deals with substances that contain limited narcotics but have active nonnarcotic properties that lend the compound a substantial and valuable medicinal quality. These narcotics are substances codeine, dihydrocodeine, ethylmorphine, and diphenooxylate. On their own, these narcotics are all included in Penalty Group 1. However, when they are a part of compounds or mixtures with medicinal qualities, they become classified into Group 4.
What are Other Factors That Can Impact Drug Charges?
Whether it is possession or delivery or manufacturing of a controlled substance, there are many considerations that go into defending a drug charge. If a person has a drug problem, they need help and not punishment. Many times I battle to get my clients that help and try and shield them as much as I can from criminal culpability. There are other aspects to how a drug charge may take shape. There can be other significant factors that can enhance the severity of a drug charge. For instance, did the incidience that resulted in the drug charge also involve death or serious bodily injury to another person? Obviously, is this is present it can greatly complicate matters and will make any drug charge more difficult to defend. There are other factors that must be considered, such as: what kind of criminal history do you have? Is this a first time mess up or do you have a history with abuse? Also, was there a weapon used in the commission of the offense? Another question: was there a child under 18 involved in the commission of the offense? There are many questions that can affect the way in which your case might take shape. If you have been arrested and are facing a charge for any drug charge, call me and let's talk about your case and your options and discuss and develop your defense.