Drug Possession Defense In Texas: Understanding Your Legal Rights
Despite changing public attitudes toward possession of certain drugs, particularly marijuana, law enforcement and prosecutors still take these crimes seriously in Texas. Each year, over 100,000 arrests are made in Texas for drug possession crimes – almost half of those for marijuana alone.
Nationwide, more people are arrested for drug possession crimes each year than any other category – including violent crime, property crimes, and DUI. Drug arrests account for 1 in 10 arrests each year across the nation and approximately 1 in 7 arrests in Texas. Racial and economic disparities in drug arrests also remain high, despite efforts to bring attention to these issues and reduce profiling by law enforcement.
If you have been arrested or charged with drug possession, you are not alone. Most importantly, you can’t fight this battle alone. You will need a skilled Pearland drug crime defense attorney to confront the state’s charges against you and avoid serious penalties.
Texas Law and Penalties for Drug Possession
The Texas Controlled Substances Act, enacted at the beginning of the “War on Drugs” in 1973, regulates drug crimes in the state and imposes harsh penalties for possession, distribution, or manufacture of narcotics.
Controlled substances are divided among different penalty groups under the Act, with varying penalties for each group of drugs. These groupings are based on the effects of the narcotics and potential for serious harm or addiction. Punishment for possession of serious drugs such as cocaine, methamphetamine, or opioids can include six months to 2 years in jail (or more) and fines of $10,000. While punishment for small amounts of less dangerous narcotics can include up to six months in jail and/or fines of at least $500.
No matter what the drug or the amount possessed, penalties for drug crimes in Texas will often involve heavy fines, potential jail time, potential suspension of your driver’s license, probation, and mandatory drug abuse treatment. In addition, there are usually personal and professional ramifications. A drug conviction can lead to denial for certain job applications, denials for apartment housing, and problems obtaining loans or college scholarships. Depending on your occupation, a drug conviction can also lead to termination of employment.
What a Prosecutor Must Prove in a Texas Drug Possession Case
If you have been charged with drug possession, prosecutors must prove that you knowingly or intentionally possessed a controlled substance. This requires that three distinct elements must be shown:
- Knowing or intentional: You must have had some knowledge or awareness that the substance in your possession was a controlled substance that you were not legally entitled to hold (via prescription or otherwise).
- Possession: You must have had “actual care, control, or management” over the substance under Texas law. This means you either had it directly in your possession, or knew where it was and could direct others to bring it to you. On the other hand, simply being in the vicinity (at a party or while riding in someone else’s car, for example) does not equal possession.
- The item was a controlled substance: The substance you are charged with possession must be identified within the Controlled Substances Act as a prohibited item. In many cases, this will require lab analysis if the substance is disputed. (A white pill, for example, could be anything from oxycontin to aspirin.)
These requirements impose a strong burden on the prosecution and also provide a number of potential defenses to those charged. An experienced criminal defense attorney can attack the prosecution’s case and find critical flaws in their evidence.
A drug possession charge also raises potential Constitutional issues based on the manner in which an arrest was made or a substance was seized. For example, if a drug search was related to an improper traffic stop and search of your vehicle, you have Fourth Amendment rights that must be upheld. If your home was searched without a valid warrant, and the search did not fit within any of the limited exceptions to the warrant rule, any evidence found within the home can potentially be tossed from your case as well.
Contact an Attorney Today to Defend Against Drug Possession Charges in the Pearland, Texas Area
Even if a drug possession charge seems minor to you, it can carry serious and long-lasting consequences. Jail time and fines are just the beginning – you could also face repercussions in your career, education, and personal relationships.
To fight for your rights and protect your liberty and reputation, talk to an experienced drug possession defense attorney today. The offices of Keith B. French Law, PLLC, have been there before for people just like you. Call us today at 832-243-6153 or complete an online case questionnaire to get started as soon as possible.