While the popularity of certain drugs comes and goes, drug abuse and arrests in Houston have been steadily increasing in recent years. While the most common drug charges stem from the illegal possession of a controlled substance, there are a variety of different drug-related charges that are frequently brought in Houston courtrooms.
If you have been arrested for a drug crime in the Houston area, contact the Doug Murphy Law Firm, P.C. Attorney Doug Murphy is a Board Certified expert in criminal defense law with a reputation for favorable results and exceptional service. To discuss your case with Houston's top drug crime defense attorney, contact the Doug Murphy Law Firm, P.C. today.
The Most Common Drug Charges in Houston
Possession of a controlled substance is the most commonly charged drug crime in Houston, and it is the most common by a large margin. However, every part of the drug supply chain is also illegal. This starts with manufacturing a controlled substance and also includes the distribution of a controlled substance. To get a better understanding of what each drug charge can mean for you, contact the Doug Murphy Law Firm, P.C. today.
Possession of a Controlled Substance
The possession of a controlled substance in Texas is governed by the Texas Controlled Substances Act. The Act covers all illegal narcotics and the vast majority of prescription medication. The penalty for possession of a specific controlled substance depends on the amount of the substance possessed as well as what drug penalty group the substance is categorized into. Under Texas law, there are six different penalty groups. Each group contains specific controlled substances and carries its own set of penalties. The penalty groups are labeled as penalty group 1, 1a, 2, 2a, 3, and 4.
The only controlled substance that doesn't fall into one of these six groups is marijuana. Of the penalty groups, group 1 carries the most severe penalties while group 4 carries the least severe. Least severe relative, however, because most possession charges are treated as felonies under Texas law.
Possession of a Dangerous Drug
While all illegal narcotics are listed under the Texas Controlled Substances Act, not all prescription medications are. The small number of prescription drugs that aren't considered controlled substances are still heavily regulated under Texas law, however. These substances are known as “dangerous drugs,” and the possession of them without a valid prescription or some other type of authorization can result in criminal charges.
Texas law defines a dangerous substance as:
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 Chapter 481 (Texas Controlled Substances Act). The term includes a device or a drug that bears or is required to bear the legend:
(A) Caution: federal law prohibits dispensing without prescription" or "Rx only" or another legend that complies with federal law; or
(B) Caution: federal law restricts this drug to use by or on the order of a licensed veterinarian.
Possession of a dangerous drug can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the volume of drugs the charges are based on. Possessing 28 grams or more of a dangerous drug without a prescription is a felony, while lesser amounts are charged as misdemeanors.
Possession with Intent to Manufacture
If the prosecutor in your case believes that you were in possession of a controlled substance with the intention of manufacturing or distributing, you can face even stiffer penalties than penalties for a charge of possession.
Whether or not you possess the intent to manufacture is a subjective standard that will be decided by the jury in your case. Some of the factors the prosecutor may rely on to show you had the intent to manufacture include:
- Presence of large amounts of cash;
- Quantity of drugs inconsistent with personal use;
- Presence of weapons, scales, packaging material;
- Presence of chemical laboratory apparatuses;
- Use of a stash house with protective dogs;
- Presence of transport equipment necessary for the required chemicals for manufacturing; and, among other factors;
- Presence of chemicals, like anhydrous ammonia, required to manufacture the controlled substance or fake controlled substance.
Possession with the intent to manufacture is treated much more harshly than simple possession. In the most serious cases, you could face a lifetime in prison as well as a maximum fine of up to $250,000.
Possession of Drug Paraphernalia
If felony charges for even the smallest amount of some illegal drugs weren't harsh enough, the State of Texas also punishes the possession of any paraphernalia related to the use of drugs. Drug paraphernalia can include any object used to consume illegal drugs.
The Texas Health and Safety Code § 481.002(17) defines drug paraphernalia as
equipment, a product, or material that is used or intended for use in planting, propagating, cultivating, growing, harvesting, manufacturing, compounding, converting, producing, processing, preparing, testing, analyzing, packaging, repackaging, storing, containing, or concealing a controlled substance in violation of this chapter or in injecting, ingesting, inhaling, or otherwise introducing into the human body a controlled substance in violation of this chapter.
The statute also gives an incomplete list of potential items that could be used as paraphernalia. The list includes:
- Plastic bags
- Planting pots
- Smoking pipes: glass, metal, or wooden
- Vaporizers or combustion devices
- Herb or coffee grinders
- Spoons or beakers for preparing injectable drugs
- Tubes used for insufflating (snorting) powdered drugs
- Rolling papers
- Roach clips.
A charge of possession of drug paraphernalia is a misdemeanor under Texas law, but the consequences of a conviction can follow you long after your potential jail sentence is over. With a drug conviction on your record, you may find it difficult to obtain employment or find suitable housing.
Distribution of a Controlled Substance
Distribution of a controlled substance is as simple as delivering a controlled substance to another person. While delivery charges frequently involve large amounts of a controlled substance, state law more broadly defines deliver and distribute.
According to the Texas Health and Safety Code, § 481.002(8), “deliver” means:
to transfer, actually or constructively, to another a controlled substance, counterfeit substance, or drug paraphernalia, regardless of whether there is an agency relationship. The term includes offering to sell a controlled substance, counterfeit substance, or drug paraphernalia.
According to the Texas Health and Safety Code, § 481.002(14), “distribute” means
to deliver a controlled substance other than by administering or dispensing the substance.
The penalties for distributing a controlled substance vary. Just like with a possession charge, the potential penalties in a distribution case depend on which penalty group the drug is a part of.
One of the tools Houston prosecutors use to obtain as many convictions as possible is to charge a large number of defendants with drug conspiracy. A drug conspiracy according to Texas Penal Code § 15.02 is:
A person commits criminal conspiracy if, with intent that a felony be committed:
- he agrees with one or more persons that they or one or more of them engage in conduct that would constitute the offense; and
- he or one or more of them performs an overt act in pursuance of the agreement.
With drug conspiracy charges, only one person within the conspiracy must commit an overt act in pursuance of the agreement. This overt act need not be illegal but must relate directly to the agreed-upon criminal conspiracy. As long as one person within the conspiracy has taken an overt act in order to further the conspiracy, every person in on the agreement may be charged with a crime.
What should I look for in a drug crimes lawyer?
If you have spent much time watching television or on the internet, you have probably been inundated with advertisements for attorneys. Every ad is the same: they each claim to be the best defense attorney in the area without offering anything to back the claim up. So what is the sign of a competent defense attorney?
The single most important thing to look for in a criminal defense attorney is whether or not they are a Board Certified expert in criminal defense law. While any attorney can say they are the best, only a board-certified attorney may hold themselves out as an expert in criminal law.
The process for an attorney to obtain board certification is a difficult one. The attorney must have an extensive background in criminal law, with multiple state and federal jury trials under their belt. Attorneys that meet these basic requirements must then pass a practical skills exam. Only then can attorney obtain board-certification.
Contact a Board Certified Expert in Criminal Law to Discuss Your Houston TX Drug Charge Today
If you are facing a drug crimes charge in the Houston area, contact the Doug Murphy Law Firm, P.C. today. Doug Murphy is a Board Certified expert in criminal law with an extensive record of successful drug crime defenses. To discuss your case with an expert in criminal law, contact the Doug Murphy Law Firm, P.C. for your free consultation.