Opioid Addiction And Criminal Defense Options In Texas
Opioid addiction has taken a terrible toll on people across Texas and nationwide over the last two decades, and the problem shows no signs of slowing down. In 2021, over 100,000 people died from drug overdoses in the United States, with about 70% of those deaths linked to opioids. Texas experienced over 3,000 drug overdose deaths in 2021, indicating that drugs remain a serious public health crisis in the state.
To combat this epidemic, an “all hands on deck” approach has taken place, from education in schools, increased rehab and treatment options, and criminal prosecution of drug traffickers and users. In Texas, over 100,000 drug possession arrests occur annually. Casting a wide net helps catch dangerous dealers and traffickers, but it can also sweep up vulnerable individuals that are struggling with an addiction they can’t shake.
What a Prosecutor Must Prove in a Drug Possession Case
Prosecutors must prove that a defendant knowingly or intentionally possessed a controlled substance in a drug possession case, including cases involving prescription opioids. This requires the establishment of three elements that must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt:
- Knowledge/Intent: That the defendant had some knowledge that the substance was a controlled substance they were not legally entitled to have;
- Possession: This means “actual care, control, or management” over the substance. Generally, a defendant had to have had it directly in their possession, or knew where it was and could be used or sold. Simply being in the same house or vehicle as an illegal drug does not necessarily equate to possession.
- The item was a controlled substance: The substance must be identified within the Texas Controlled Substances Act as a prohibited item. Sometimes, lab analysis may be required to prove that a substance falls within a controlled substance category.
Issues that can be challenged in court can include how and when law enforcement obtained the contraband evidence, and whether a defendant had “possession” under the legal definition.
An issue frequently seen in opioid cases is when a defendant had a valid prescription for a substance like oxycodone or hydrocodone, but misuses, shares, or sells the pills. Theft of opioid prescriptions from those with valid prescriptions is also an ongoing and dangerous problem.
Drug Courts as an Option in Opioid Cases
Often, in opioid cases, the users that get ensnared in a criminal probe are battling significant addiction problems that have derailed their lives. Qualified defendants might be able to enter the Texas Drug Court program as an alternative to standard criminal procedures and sentencing methods. Through Drug Court, a defendant might be able to avoid certain criminal penalties including jail.
Both Harris County and Fort Bend County offer Drug Courts for individuals that complete an assessment and are deemed suitable to participate in the program. If the defendant faces only a non-violent drug charge and demonstrates willingness to participate, they may be able to follow the Drug Court track. Drug Court is not for everybody, however. It is an intensive program that can last over a year, and involve weekly monitoring, frequent drug testing, and supervision by a Drug Court Judge.
This system recognizes that many individuals are not truly criminals – they happened to fall into the criminal justice system due to an addiction that overwhelmed them.
Working with an experienced Pearland drug crime attorney, defendants might be able to explore all potential resolutions to their case, including Drug Court.
Our Pearland, Texas Criminal Defense Attorney Understands Your Situation and Knows Your Legal Options
Opioid addiction is a vicious problem that can not only cause health issues and overdose, but can lead to criminal prosecution and even jail. The consequences of a drug arrest can lead to months or even years of legal problems if an addict becomes a repeat offender. At Keith B. French Law in Pearland, Texas, we will examine your circumstances to determine not only what your best legal options are, but what additional resources – including Drug Court and treatment centers – might be available to you. Contact us today for help.