When you hear the term “dangerous drug,” you may envision drugs that are always in the media, like heroin or cocaine. The term "dangerous drug" has a very specific meaning under Texas state law. In Texas, a dangerous drug is an unscheduled (i.e., not classified as a scheduled drug) substance regulated for self-medication.
Even though a dangerous drug is not a scheduled drug according to Texas law does not mean there are no consequences for possessing them. If you possess or obtain a dangerous drug illegally, you may face a criminal charge of Possession of a Dangerous Drug. In fact, you could face charges for a drug you purchased lawfully if you possessed the drug in a container other than the original prescription bottle.
Drug possession laws in Texas are strict. If you have been arrested for possession of a dangerous drug or possession of a controlled substance in Texas, contact the Doug Murphy Law Firm, P.C. today. Attorney Doug Murphy is the top Houston drug possession lawyer available. Doug Murphy is an experienced trial attorney with a proven track record of successfully defending his clients. Contact the Doug Murphy Law Firm, P.C. today to learn more about how he can help you defend yourself in front of a jury of your peers.
What is a “dangerous drug” under Texas law?
The definition of a dangerous drug is set out in the Texas Health and Safety Code and was created as part of the Texas Dangerous Drug Act of 1993. According to Texas Health and Safety Code § 483.0001, a dangerous drug is a device or a drug that is unsafe for self-medication and that is not included in Schedules I through V or Penalty Groups 1 through 4 of the Texas Controlled Substances Act. In other words, it is any substance that must be obtained through a doctor's prescription that does not fall within the drug schedules listed in the Texas Controlled Substances Act.
The Health and Safety Code requires dangerous drugs to be marked in a certain way. According to the code, all dangerous drug containers must reflect the following:
- "Caution: federal law prohibits dispensing without prescription" or "Rx only" or another legend that complies with federal law; or
- "Caution: federal law restricts this drug to use by or on the order of a licensed veterinarian."
There is an important exception to keep in mind as well: marijuana. While marijuana is not on the schedule of controlled substances, it is also not considered a dangerous drug under the statute. Marijuana is a unique case that is treated differently from every other regulated substance.
Dangerous Drugs vs. Controlled Substances
While the name may be confusing, there are clear differences between dangerous drugs and scheduled controlled substances under Texas law. There are drugs in both categories that can only be legally possessed with a prescription. Dangerous drugs, however, only include drugs that are not as strictly regulated. According to Texas law, Xanax and Valium are examples of dangerous drugs that can lead to a possession of dangerous drugs charge.
On the other hand, controlled substances include the most addictive substances available. They include street drugs like heroin or methamphetamine as well as prescription drugs like morphine. The most addictive scheduled drugs, known as penalty group 1 drugs, carry the toughest sentences of any controlled substance. If you are arrested with any controlled substance listed on the drug schedule, you can be charged with possession of controlled substances in Texas.
Charges for Possession of a Dangerous Drug
Every substance that qualifies as a dangerous drug under Texas law has some sort of valid intended use. So long as you obtain these dangerous drugs legally from a licensed medical professional, you will not be in any legal jeopardy. However, if you obtain a dangerous drug from someone other than a pharmacist or medical professional even if you had a valid prescription, you could be charged with possession of a dangerous drug. You can also face criminal charges under other conditions, too. For example, you may be charged with a crime if you attempt to make an unauthorized sale of a dangerous drug that you acquired legally.
What's more, carrying a dangerous drug in another container other than the prescription bottle can lead to an arrest. In that situation, it's possible that the prosecutor will drop the charges against you if you are able to show that you had a valid prescription at the time of your arrest. That's where an experienced criminal defense attorney comes in. Your attorney may be able to discuss the case with the prosecutor early on in the process, clearing up misunderstandings and having unwarranted charges dismissed. To learn what a Houston drug possession attorney can do for you, contact the Doug Murphy Law Firm, P.C. today.
Exemptions in Possession of Dangerous Drug Cases
Having a valid prescription isn't the only case where possessing a dangerous drug wouldn't merit criminal charges. In fact, there are a few instances where the possession, delivery, or manufacture of a dangerous drug are exempt from prosecution.
The most obvious exemption would be for pharmacists. It is the job of a pharmacist to distribute dangerous drugs and controlled substances, so it makes sense they are exempt. However, that exemption is only in place if the pharmacist is operating with a prescription from:
- A medical provider;
- A registered nurse;
- A physician's assistant; or
- Another practitioner authorized by Texas law.
The medical practitioners and registered nurses listed above are also exempt themselves from possessing or distributing these dangerous drugs.
Potential Consequences for Possession of a Dangerous Drug
If you possess a dangerous drug without a prescription or a valid exemption discussed above, you are in violation of Texas law. The laws related to dangerous drugs are strict, and a conviction for possession of a dangerous drug can carry serious consequences. Each charge for possession of a dangerous drug is classified as a Class A misdemeanor under Texas law. A conviction carries a fine of up to $4,000 as well as up to one year in county jail.
If you are arrested while possessing a large amount of dangerous drugs, you could face felony charges. In addition, any conviction for possession of dangerous drugs can lead to a suspension of your driving privileges.
Can a conviction for possession of a dangerous drug lead to a driver's license suspension?
Yes. While the obvious response to an arrest for possession of a dangerous drug is to fret about the potential jail time or fines, it is worth remembering that any conviction for possessing a dangerous drug can lead to a six-month driver's license suspension. In addition to the suspension, you will also be required to complete an authorized Drug Education Program in order to have your license reinstated.
What to Look For in a Houston Drug Possession Attorney
There are any number of attorneys that are happy to defend you for drug possession charges in Texas. But how do you know which attorney is right for you? There is a lot more that goes into hiring your attorney than just picking an attorney with frequent television or internet ads.
The best course of action for hiring a defense attorney is ensuring that he or she is Board Certified by the State of Texas as an expert in criminal defense law. Only the best and most successful attorneys have the opportunity to obtain such a certification. Both Doug Murphy and Chris McKinney are board certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization.
To be certified as an expert in criminal defense law, an attorney must dedicate a large portion of his or her career to defending the accused. They must also have reached certain milestones in the courtroom, including a minimum number of jury trials. Finally, the attorney must pass rigorous skills testing before they can be accredited. Only a fraction of the self-described criminal defense attorneys in Houston are certified as experts, which makes it a great metric to separate the best from the rest. This certification is held in high regards by the Texas legal community, due to the commitment and experience that is required to obtain it.
Hiring the Best Houston Drug Crimes Lawyer
If you have been charged with possession of a dangerous drug in the Houston area, the Doug Murphy Law Firm, P.C. is ready to help. Doug Murphy is a Board Certified expert in criminal defense law. In fact, he is one of only two attorneys in the State of Texas to be certified as an expert in both criminal defense law and DWI defense law. He has extensive experience defending clients across the Houston area, and he has obtained positive outcomes in many of those cases.
There are many attorneys that are content to take your money and push you to sign whatever plea agreement is put forward by the prosecutor. Doug Murphy isn't one of those attorneys. He understands that in many cases, his client's best chance for a positive outcome is through taking the case to trial. That's why he prepares every case as if it will ultimately be decided in front of a jury of your peers. To discuss your case with Houston's top drug crimes lawyer, contact the Doug Murphy Law Firm, P.C. today for your free consultation.