The number of people visiting Texas each year is staggering. Millions of people enter the state with business or vacation on their mind. In fact, in 2017 alone close to 22 million people visited Houston from another state or country. Regardless of the purpose of their visit, none of those millions of visitors came to Texas intending to get arrested for a drug crime. Unfortunately, for many people each year, that is the end result.
If you have been arrested in Houston for a drug-related charge, all is not lost. Arrests are not the same as convictions, and with the right attorney by your side, you may be able to avoid a conviction altogether.
Doug Murphy is the preeminent criminal defense attorney in the Houston area. He is a Board Certified expert in criminal defense law and a Board Certified expert in DWI defense law. As one of only two attorneys in the State of Texas with this distinction, it is no wonder that his clients are quick to recount how he helped them out of legal trouble. To learn how Doug Murphy may be able to help you, contact the Doug Murphy Law Firm, P.C. today.
Common Drug Crime Charges Against Non-Residents
The vast majority of arrests of non-residents while in Texas occur without any intent or forethought. The vast majority of these arrests involve bad spur-of-the-moment decisions like driving while intoxicated or assault. However, some drug crimes involve the alleged intent to enter Texas to commit or further a crime. But like with most criminal charges, not every case is exactly as it seems.
Police frequently make mistakes and prosecutors are known to rush to judgment. In many cases, a drug arrest is based on a simple misunderstanding. Here are some of the most common drug charges in Texas.
By far the most common drug charge for people traveling from outside the State of Texas is possession of a controlled substance. It's not hard to understand why: many states have legalized medicinal or recreational marijuana. Texas, however, has not. And once you cross over the state line, you must abide by the laws of the State of Texas.
It's entirely possible that you can be arrested for possession of a controlled substance like marijuana despite having a valid prescription for it only one state over. Whether you brought the controlled substance into Texas or purchased it while here, a conviction for drug possession can be costly.
Possession of a Dangerous Drug
Not all prescription drugs are classified as controlled substances under state or federal law. That doesn't mean there aren't consequences for possessing them without a prescription. Known as dangerous drugs under Texas state law, these prescription drugs may only be possessed with a prescription of some other valid for authentication. This can mean trouble for you if you travel with your pills in anything other than the marked container they came in.
Without the prescription bottle, law enforcement can't be sure that you are authorized to possess the drugs. The end result: you get arrested. Thankfully, this is an issue that can often be cleared up with the help of a Houston drug crimes attorney.
Possession of Drug Paraphernalia
It's not just illegal to possess drugs in Texas. It's also illegal to possess any tools intended for the consumption of drugs. Known as drug paraphernalia, these tools can include anything from a pipe to a straw to a piece of fruit. Odd as that may sound, possession of drug paraphernalia is no laughing matter. If convicted, you could face up to a year in county jail and spend thousands of dollars in fines.
Distribution of a Controlled Substance
The most serious of these drug crimes is the distribution of a controlled substance. The word distribution might bring to mind large-scale drug traffickers hauling narcotics into the state, or street dealers selling those narcotics. But the definition of distribution is much broader than that.
Distribution is simply the act of transferring to another person a controlled substance. This transfer can be constructive, i.e., leaving it at a pre-determined drop spot. It also doesn't have to be for money.
Could I lose my job in my home state if convicted in Texas?
Every employer is different, but it is worth noting that many employers make use of criminal background checks during the hiring process. If you have a drug crimes conviction on your record, it will be there for the rest of your life. Given that possibility, it is highly likely that a drug crime conviction in Texas can harm your ability to find or maintain employment in your home state.
Could a conviction in Texas hurt my ability to find housing in my home state?
The same issues in finding and maintaining employment are present when it comes to seeking housing. The unfortunate reality is that many landlords do background checks and weed out anyone with a criminal conviction. There is nothing illegal about that, and it is becoming a more common practice.
Housing is one more reason why it's important to discuss your case with a Houston drug crimes attorney before you agree to anything with the prosecutor in your case.
Will I have to return to Texas for court if I am released on bond?
Part of any pre-trial release will include the condition that you appear at all court hearings. If you fail to do so, the money you put up as bond will be forfeited and a warrant will be issued for your arrest. In the most serious of cases, Texas will pay to have you extradited back to face trial. However, because of the immense costs of extradition, Texas rarely uses this option. That doesn't mean you are in the clear, as local law enforcement can still make your life difficult if you have active warrants from out of state.
It's in your best interest to make all of your required court dates, but that is also an area where a Houston drug crimes attorney can help. While you will still need to be present if your case goes to trial, your attorney can appear on your behalf for nearly all other hearings in your case. You can get back to your life while your attorney does the heavy lifting here in Texas.
The prosecutor claims to have enough evidence to convict me. Should I just take a plea agreement so I can go home?
It's a common tactic for prosecutors to apply pressure to defendants in order to score quick, easy guilty pleas. This is certainly the case if you are from out of state and the prosecutor is giving you an option of going home with little to no jail time. But in many cases, these offers aren't made from a position of strength. If the case against you is flawed by weak or illegally-collected evidence, it is imperative that you discuss your case with an experienced criminal defense attorney before agreeing to anything.
What to do After a Drug Arrest in Houston if You are from Out-of-State?
A common question is “what should I do after a drug crimes arrest?” The answer is generally the same whether you are from Texas or merely visiting. It's important to remember that the things you say and do can be used against you at your trial. Here are the steps you should take if you are arrested for a drug crime while visiting Houston:
1. Remain Silent – Other than giving your name or address, you have no obligation to speak with the police about your case. Everything you say can be used as evidence in your trial, and there is no reason to help the prosecutor make the case against you.
2. Plead Not Guilty – When you are arraigned, you will have a chance to enter a plea. Do not plead guilty; by pleading not guilty you will have the opportunity to meet with counsel and learn your options.
3. Contact an Attorney – The most important step to take after a drug crime arrest is to contact an attorney as soon as possible. The prosecution will begin preparing the case against you immediately, so delaying the hiring of an attorney only hurts your case.
Get the Best Legal Defense Possible for your Houston TX Drug Charge
If you have been arrested for a drug crime while visiting Houston, you need legal representation that you can count on. Attorney Doug Murphy has an extensive record of obtaining successful outcomes for his clients. An experienced trial attorney, Doug Murphy prepares every case as if it were going to be tried in front of a jury. This approach has led to success in courtrooms in Houston and throughout the region.
To discuss the facts of your case with Houston's best drug crime defense attorney, contact the Doug Murphy Law Firm, P.C. today to schedule your free consultation.