In recent years, the social acceptance of marijuana use has led to a gradual liberalization of marijuana laws in some states. It is increasingly common for states to allow their citizens to possess and even cultivate small amounts of marijuana for personal use. Unfortunately, this growing acceptance has led many to falsely believe the days of marijuana arrests are over. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
In Texas, state law still treats marijuana possession harshly. What many fail to consider is that federal law also outlaws the possession of controlled substances for any purpose. Federal prosecutors typically focus on large-scale drug crimes and leave minor possession cases to state authority. There are situations where the federal government will proceed with simple possession charges. One of those cases involves interstate drug possession.
If you are accused of bringing drugs across state lines for personal use, it is important to seek legal representation as soon as possible. When facing this type of federal offense in Houston, it could benefit you to discuss your options with attorney Doug Murphy right away. Doug Murphy has extensive experience taking on federal drug crime cases and winning. To learn about your defense options, reach out to the Doug Murphy Law Firm, P.C. as soon as possible.
Understanding Interstate Drug Possession Crimes in Texas
Ultimately, the federal government has the right to prosecute any drug crime within its borders. Federal law not only supersedes state drug laws, but the federal government has also failed to loosen restrictions on marijuana possession compared to some states.
There is an important difference between the ability to bring drug charges and the willingness to do so. Generally, the federal government passes on filing charges on drug possession cases in order to conserve their resources for large cases.
The circumstances in which federal prosecutors will bring a case for possession of a controlled substance is limited to very specific situations. Some of the situations where the federal government will pursue a possession case include:
- When a federal informant tips off the U.S. Attorney's office
- When a federal agent conducts the arrest
- When a possession arrest occurs on federal property
- When a person is caught transporting drugs across state or international lines
It is the fourth of these elements that relates to interstate drug possession charges. When law enforcement apprehends someone carrying a banned substance across a border, it is up to the federal government whether or not they want to pursue the case.
Penalties for Interstate Drug Possession
The penalties associated with interstate drug possession can be found at 21 USC §844. According to the statute:
- First-time offenders could face up to one year in prison, a fine of $1,000, or a combination of both.
- Second offenses can result in at least 15 days but as many as two years in prison and a fine of up to $2,500.
- Third and subsequent offenses can carry a prison term between 90 days and three years as well as a fine of up to $5,000.
Fines and jail time are not the only consequences that come with a conviction for interstate drug possession. Federal law also allows civil penalties of up to $10,000 for possessing a controlled substance. A conviction could also lead to a defendant paying not only court costs but also the expenses related to investigating the case.
Interstate Drug Possession vs. Trafficking
Because interstate drug possession involves carrying a controlled substance across state lines, it can be difficult to distinguish between this charge and federal drug trafficking charges. Drug trafficking involves the transport of large amounts of drugs across state lines, typically as part of the illicit drug trade.
The primary difference between these crimes is the amount of drugs that cross state lines. Federal law sets out limits on the amount of drugs that result in a trafficking charge. These minimum amounts vary from one type of controlled substance to the other. For example, the amount of LSD needed to meet the threshold for trafficking is far lower than marijuana.
Generally speaking, a person that crosses state lines with a controlled substance in an amount below the trafficking cutoff will face interstate drug possession charges. If that has happened to you, contact attorney Doug Murphy right away.
Dealing with State and Federal Offenses
If you are familiar with the concept of double jeopardy, you will know that the legal theory means you cannot be tried twice for the same offense. It is a common trope in movies about murder, among other things. It might surprise you to learn that double jeopardy does not prevent a person from facing criminal and state charges relating to the same incident.
Even when the facts of a case overlap, it is possible to face both federal and state charges. While it is uncommon for both entities to prosecute the same drug possession crime, there is no guarantee that at some point either entity could come after you.
Because of the risk of dual charges, it is in your best interest to work with defense counsel experienced in both venues. When you hire a defense attorney that has defended both state and federal drug crimes, you can rest assured the legal advice you get will assist you under any circumstances.
Work with a Seasoned Houston Interstate Drug Possession Lawyer
If you are facing federal interstate drug possession charges or if you believe your arrest is forthcoming, you should hire a skilled defense attorney immediately. There is a notable difference between state and federal possession charges but having a drug crimes defense lawyer familiar with both can go a long way in your case.
Attorney Doug Murphy has extensive experience in the state-federal courts in and around Houston. He is a skilled litigator that understands fighting back against these charges is often the best way to obtain a favorable outcome for his clients. To get started on building your defense, reach out to the Doug Murphy Law Firm, P.C. and schedule a free consultation as soon as possible.