Childhood and youth are naturally about curiosity just as much as it is about peer pressure. These two attributes can steer youth to drugs. At that age, they aren't worried about the consequences as much as they are about pleasing each other and experiencing the moment. Many times, parents aren't even aware of what's happening. But little do you both know, experimenting with drugs comes with consequences -- legal consequences. Texas is strict when it comes to drugs, whether its possession or distribution of the drugs, and penalties are steep.
For juveniles, the system treats you a little differently but it's still serious and can lead to short- and long-term consequences. If you are a parent and your child has been charged with a drug crime in Texas, you need an experienced, criminal defense trial attorney to help you with your case. Doug Murphy is Board-certified in criminal defense by the Texas Board of Legal Specializations and has a proven history of going to trial to defeat charges rather than settling with the prosecution for a lesser charge. He knows the consequences and knows the impact of those consequences on his clients, who are otherwise law-abiding citizens. He knows that youth need second chances, and as such, he will fight for their freedom and freedom from a criminal record.
Understanding Minor Drug Crimes in Texas
Drug crimes do not refer to illegal substances alone; prescription medications if used unlawfully can also be considered. Many youth do not understand drug crime laws in Texas and are unaware of the consequences. If other kids are doing it, they assume they can, too. Below are some examples of places where youth can encounter drugs and situations that can lead to problems with the law.
Places Where Juveniles Encounter Drugs
Drugs are often found at home. Cough syrups are a problem, and according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, one in ten teens use it to get high. But cough syrups won't land you in jail. Prescription pills will. Pain medication is one of the most common types of prescription pills being used and abused by teens in Texas.
The teen may have been prescribed pain medicine due to an accident or health issue, or a parent may have been prescribed it. It becomes illegal when the drugs are used illegally. For instance, if the teen crushes a pill and then snorts the power or the teen gives a pill to a friend to do the same, then it's illegal drug activity in the State of Texas.
Whether it's college or high school, youth are surrounded by drugs, even if they are unaware of it. It may be that one day a friend introduces some type of drug to your child, and your child tries it either due to curiosity, peer pressure, or a bit of both. From that point onward, your child may be more likely to try drugs, including other kinds of drugs not initially introduced to him or her. That one time encounter opens up a pathway for numerous future encounters and future possibilities of harder drugs.
Teens are connected to the internet every day, maybe even every hour except when sleeping. Kids see drugs on the internet, read about drugs on the internet, and are pressured to try drugs from other persons on the internet. Teens who consume drugs are most likely to use social media on a regular basis, too--particularly Facebook and Instagram.
Sweet 16. Your child receives a driver's license, or his or her friends receive their driver's licenses, and the possibilities of what can happen are endless. Cars are a big place where the first encounter with a drug can occur. Going to school, going to the movies, or going to the library all have the potential for teens to be in the presence of drugs. A friend may invite someone your child doesn't know, and that person brings a bit of weed with him and smokes it in the car. When asked to partake, your child may not want to be the oddball, and from that moment forward, your child may be more willing to smoke a little more weed or test another drug.
Situations Where Juveniles Get Themselves in Trouble
Here are a few situations that can lead to a juvenile's arrest for drugs.
- Stealing a prescription pill from a parent and giving it to a friend at school.
- Selling a prescription pill for money to another kid.
- Getting into a vehicle where the driver or another passenger has a stash of weed.
- Holding on to some pills or drugs to consume or share at a weekend party.
Any one of these situations could get your child into some serious trouble. Though the criminal penalties may not be as severe as if your child were an adult charged with the same crime, the long-term consequences are serious and will impact any academic, employment, and/or housing aspirations the teen may have.
Drug Offenses & Summary of Possible Punishment
Drug crimes are either misdemeanors or felonies. Misdemeanor drug crimes refer only to the possession of small quantities of marijuana or prescription drugs. All other drug crimes are felonies in Texas, and felonies are no laughing matter.
If your child is arrested for a misdemeanor drug crime, penalties could either be absolutely nothing to probation that lasts until the child is 18 years old. The child could also face a court order to attend a treatment facility or another form of treatment in lieu of probation. Penalties for a felony could also include the same as a misdemeanor, but the court can also order a teen to prison at a Texas Juvenile Justice Department facility, and the sentence for the same could last until the child is 19 years old.
Thus, comparatively speaking, penalties for juveniles are not nearly as harsh as what the same or comparable conviction would be for an adult. All the same, for a teenager, they are harsh enough. In addition, youth who are busted for drugs and who do not have their record sealed or expunged will have a criminal record that follows them through life, and that matters. It could affect higher education admissions, school loans and scholarships, housing, employment (including careers that require security clearance or a professional license, like a pilot's license, nursing license, or medical license). Because of a mishap while a youth, your child's future is at risk.
Can You Get Your Drug Crime Sealed or Expunged?
It's quite possible. In Texas, juvenile criminal records can be sealed either through automatic restriction or sealing of the record.
Automatic Restriction requires that the juvenile offender be at least the age of 17 at the time of the automatic restriction, that the juvenile offender is not classified as a habitual or violent offender, and that the juvenile offender's case was heard by a juvenile court and not an adult criminal court. Automatic restriction does not apply if your drug crime involved street gang activity, and if you commit another serious crime in the future, your record will be re-opened.
Sealing a juvenile record is possible if you petition the court. Both misdemeanors and felonies can be sealed if certain qualifications are met. For misdemeanors, at the time of the petition your criminal record must be at least two years since the case was closed, you cannot be convicted of another crime since that time, and no charges can be pending currently. For felonies, you must be at least 19 years old before filing a petition, and your case must have been heard in a juvenile court, your record must not have been used in a later criminal case for punishment purposes, and you must not have committed a felony since the age of 17. A drug crime will likely also require completion of a drug program. Your juvenile record will not be sealed if you are deemed a sex offender, a violent or habitual offender, or your juvenile sentence extended past your 18th birthday.
The best option for your child, however, is never having a criminal record in the first place. If your child has been charged with a drug crime, you should fight the crime. It is the only way you can fight for a clean record and protect your child's future.
Houston Juvenile Drug Crimes Lawyer
If you have been charged with a drug crime as a minor, your freedom and future are at stake. You need the best legal defense possible. Not all criminal defense attorneys have the insight and skill to address these matters. Doug Murphy, however, has the insight and skills from extensive experience in criminal defense law. His capabilities have been recognized by the legal community, which has endorsed his name through accolades and frequent invitations to speak at seminars so that he can provide his insight and teach legal defense skills to other criminal defense attorneys throughout Texas and the United States.
At Doug Murphy Law Firm, P.C., you can expect commitment and the best result according to the facts and circumstances of your case. Contact Doug Murphy today.