Cocaine possession is no light or minor crime in Texas. If you or a loved one face cocaine-possession charges in the Houston area, then take those charges most seriously, devoting the greatest available time, attention, and resources to their defense and defeat. Know what's at stake and what you can do about it. Promptly retain Houston criminal defense lawyer Doug Murphy whom the Texas Board of Legal Specialization has Board Certified in Criminal Law. Attorney Murphy knows how to aggressively defend cocaine possession charges on constitutional, statutory, and procedural grounds. Trust experienced and dedicated attorney Doug Murphy with cocaine possession defense.
The Drug-Type and Drug-Quantity Framework
The Texas Controlled Substances Act, like the drug laws of other states, criminalizes drug possession in complex statutes that categorize the drugs and drug quantities, assigning graduated penalties. Access the most recent Texas controlled substances schedules here. Generally, the worse the drug and the larger the quantity of drugs, the worse the penalty.
The Texas Board of Pharmacy explains that the worst drugs, classified on Schedule I, have high abuse risk with no safe and accepted medical use. Schedule I lists hundreds of drugs, including opiates, opium derivatives, hallucinogens, depressants, and stimulants. By contrast, Schedule V drugs have narcotic properties but also active non-narcotic medicinal properties and thus present far lower abuse risk against their recognized medical value.
For example, possessing under two ounces of marijuana in Texas is a mere Class B misdemeanor, but the penalties for marijuana possession increase with increasing quantities all the way up to a first-degree felony for possessing over two thousand pounds. Marijuana possession in its leafy form doesn't carry a severe penalty until one possesses large quantities or carried in concentrated THC vape cartridge or in marijuana THC concentrated gummy edibles. By contrast, possessing under a single gram of methamphetamine or heroin in Texas is already a state jail felony, while possessing over four-hundred grams can get you fifteen years to life. Possessing any quantity of meth or heroin can bring a severe penalty.
Cocaine Possession Penalties
As you would expect, cocaine is on the list of most dangerous, and therefore most-penalized, drugs, right up there with methamphetamines, PCP, and heroin. Cocaine can be highly addictive and thus readily abused, while having no safe and accepted medicinal properties. No one wants to be arrested for possessing illegal drugs. One should be especially cautious, though, not to face arrest and charge for possessing cocaine. Conviction on Cocaine Possession charges can bring penalties every bit as severe as those assigned to heroin, PCP, and meth users.
Texas law groups drug-possession convictions into Penalty Groups 1, 1a, 2, 3, and 4. Each penalty group includes a range of increasing penalties as the quantity of the possessed drug increases. Naturally, cocaine falls into Penalty Group 1, carrying the stiffest penalties. Possessing even so little as less than one gram of cocaine is a state jail felony. The penalties increase from there. Possessing one to four grams is a third-degree felony, four to two-hundred grams a second-degree felony, and two-hundred to four-hundred grams a first-degree felony. Possessing more than four hundred grams brings an enhanced penalty. Here are the progressively more severe penalties defined under Texas Health & Safety Code §481.115:
- state jail felony under one gram: 180 days to two years imprisonment plus fine up to $10,000 fine;
- third-degree felony one to four grams: two to ten years imprisonment plus up to $10,000 fine;
- second-degree felony four to two-hundred grams: two to twenty years imprisonment plus up to $10,000 fine;
- first-degree felony two-hundred to four-hundred grams: five to ninety-nine years imprisonment plus up to $100,000 fine; and
- enhanced penalty over four-hundred grams: ten to ninety-nine years imprisonment plus up to $100,000 fine.
Elements of the Cocaine Possession Crime
To convict of cocaine possession, though, prosecutors must show more than the nature of the drug and its quantity. The Constitution requires that the prosecution establish each element of a Cocaine Possession crime beyond a reasonable doubt. One looks to the state's drug-possession statute for the crime's elements. Texas Health & Safety Code §481.115(a) defines a Penalty Group 1 possession offense as follows:
“Except as authorized by this chapter, a person commits an offense if the person knowingly or intentionally possesses a controlled substance listed in Penalty Group 1, unless the person obtained the substance directly from or under a valid prescription or order of a practitioner acting in the course of professional practice.”
The statute thus requires not only proof that the possessed substance (a) was cocaine and (b) was of a quantity that the statute prohibits but also (c) that the defendant possessed the cocaine and (d) knew of or intended its possession. The prosecutor must prove each of these four elements beyond a reasonable doubt. The statute's other element, that the defendant did not have it under prescription, would not apply to cocaine, which practitioners have no authority to prescribe.
Defending Cocaine Possession Charges
A charge is not a conviction. Either the material facts at the time of arrest or the procedure of the arrest itself may raise a defense to cocaine possession. A defense does not mean that the prosecution automatically dismisses the charge. The defendant may have a defense that the prosecution fails to disclose or will not recognize. The Cocaine Possession defendant must instead retain skilled counsel to timely raise and aggressively and effectively advocate available defenses, whether in pretrial motions to suppress, pretrial conferences, and plea bargaining, or at trial.
A person charged with cocaine possession may have constitutional, statutory, or procedural defenses. Constitutional defenses rely on Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights. Statutory defenses examine whether the prosecution's evidence meets the detailed elements of the Cocaine Possession crime. Procedural defenses examine whether the prosecution has failed to follow court rules and criminal procedures. Some of these defenses to cocaine possession include that:
- the defendant did not actually or constructively possess the cocaine;
- someone else possessed the cocaine outside the defendant's control;
- the defendant did not intend to possess the cocaine;
- the defendant did not know that what they possessed was cocaine;
- the defendant made a reasonable mistake of fact as to the cocaine;
- the substance possessed was not in actuality cocaine;
- the substance possessed was not in the quantity charged;
- the police recovered the cocaine evidence in an illegal search;
- the police gained a confession or admission in an illegal stop or arrest;
- the police failed to advise of rights to remain silent and retain counsel;
- police interrogations, lineups, or showups violated rights to counsel;
- police interrogations, lineups, or showups violated due process;
- police entrapped the defendant violating due process rights;
- the prosecution withheld or failed to disclose exonerating evidence;
- the prosecution did not supply a fair, open, and speedy trial.
Other Ways to Defend Cocaine Possession Charges
Sometimes, though, defending a cocaine possession charge involves other important considerations outside of the law and facts of the alleged crime. As a highly addictive drug dangerous to one's health and without accepted medicinal properties, cocaine rightly carries a strongly negative connotation. That's why the law penalizes cocaine possession so severely. But some of the same things that make cocaine possession so serious can also excuse or mitigate the crime. Texas criminal defense lawyer Doug Murphy knows how to advocate those excusing and mitigating circumstances.
Take as an example, cocaine's highly addictive quality. Some defendants, unfortunately charged with cocaine possession have had other people, such as abusive parents, pimps, gangs, drug dealers, or domestic partners, manipulate them into addictions. Some other defendants have drug dealers and abusers coerce them into possessing the substance, even if not addictively using and abusing it. Judges, jurors, and prosecutors can generally distinguish, and may well excuse, those victim defendants who have lacked the capacity and support to avoid cocaine involvement, and instead faced abuse and coercion. Attorney Murphy knows how to advocate and prove excusing circumstances.
Cocaine's danger to one's health is likewise a two-edged sword, one that attorney Murphy may wield effectively for some clients to mitigate a Cocaine Possession charge. Some Cocaine Possession defendants have debilitating mental or physical conditions that contribute to their cocaine addictions. Those conditions may be severe chronic or acute depression, suicidal ideation, self-immolation, or severe chronic pain. Absent available and effective treatment, these and similar conditions can so distort the defendant's reason as to mitigate their misconduct, as skilled and aggressive defense counsel may advocate and prove.
Retain Expert Drug-Possession Defense Representation
All is not lost with a cocaine possession charge. Make no assumptions about the outcome of your charge, or a charge leveled against your loved one. Instead, retain, consult, and rely on the best available criminal-defense representation. Houston attorney Doug Murphy is one of only two Texas lawyers holding both DWI Board Certification and Criminal Law Certification. Attorney Murphy has served as President of the Harris County Criminal Lawyers Association, proving his highest Houston-area standing. US News & World Report has continuously listed attorney Murphy among Woodward White's Best Lawyers in America from 2013 through 2021 for his outstanding successes. The multi-national law publisher Thomson Reuters has also named attorney Murphy as a Texas Super Lawyer in 2009 and continuously from 2013 through 2021. You can do no better than to retain attorney Doug Murphy to defend your Cocaine Possession charge or that charge against your loved one. Contact Doug Murphy Law Firm online or at (713) 229-8333 to discuss your case today.