What types of laws govern drug offenses in the state of Texas?
Drug crimes are covered by both federal and state laws in Texas. Federal offenses are regulated by The Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970, known as the Controlled Substances Act.
The Controlled Substances Act covers nearly all of the drug offenses in Texas and is codified in the Texas Health and Safety Code, Chapters 481 through 486. Since Texas is an international border state, drug traffic offenses are a major concern. The state of Texas also has several state drug laws which may not be applicable in other states.
What Are the Penalties for a Drug Conviction in Texas?
Drug offenses are among the most serious charges in criminal law. They carry with them severe penalties and can have other consequences in areas of one’s life such as family life and employment. The legal penalties for drug crimes will depend on the nature of the drug offense, and will usually include a fine and/or a lengthy prison sentence.
What Types of Factors Are Considered in Sentences for Drug Crimes?
In determining the sentence for a drug crime, a Texas court will consider the following factors:
The type of drug: The Controlled Substances Act classifies drugs into 5 “Penalty Groups”, with Group 1 being the most serious. For example, cocaine is classified as Penalty Group 1, whereas prescription drugs are Group 3.
The amount of drugs in possession: Prison sentences or fines will increase according to the amount of drug possessed. Greater amounts of the same drug will result in higher sentences.
The purpose for which the drug is used: Simple possession is usually considered less severe than other crimes, such as possession with intent to distribute, or manufacturing and delivering drugs.
Location of the violation: Drug offenses are considered more severe if they take place in certain areas, such as near a school or day care center
Another important factor that a court will consider is whether the drug offense was combined with another offense. Many drug offenses are related to other crimes such as conspiracy, theft, or assault. If the drug offense is related to another felony, especially a violent crime, the penalties will be more severe.
Are There Any Defenses to Drug Charges?
There are relatively few defenses available in drug offenses. It is never a defense if the offender was unaware of the laws that regulate drug crimes in Texas. Some possible defenses include:
Coercion: the person was coerced to commit the crime under a threat of death of severe bodily injury
Incapacitation: the person was incapacitated, for example they were involuntary intoxicated or mentally insane at the time the crime was committed
Control: The defendant can argue that they were not actually in control of the substances or paraphernalia at the time of arrest.
Proper police procedure is also a vital part of most drug offense cases. Police must have a reasonable suspicion that the person is involved in a drug crime. Violations of warrant requirements and Constitutional rights can lead to a determination that a police search or seizure was improper. In that case, the evidence will probably be suppressed and not allowed to be used in court.
Do I Need a Lawyer for a Drug Offense?
Drug offenses are serious and can lead to felony charges. Therefore, the services of a competent criminal attorney can be crucial when dealing with drug charges. This is especially true if the defendant is involved in multiple or repeat offenses. An experienced lawyer can help explain the various requirements under Texas drug laws.