What Is a Drug-Free Zone?
Although recreational marijuana is legal in many states, it is not legal in the State of Texas. Nevertheless, many college students in Texas – and all across the nation – think nothing of imbibing in occasional usage. What you may not realize, however, is that such usage (in a Texas drug-free zone, which includes universities) is subject to amplified charges and attendant penalties.
The charges associated with possessing, selling, manufacturing, or delivering illegal drugs within 1,000 feet of a drug-free zone is enhanced by an additional degree of what the charge would have originally been (had it not occurred in a drug-free zone). Drug-free zones encompass all of the following:
Universities and colleges
Further, charges will be similarly enhanced if the alleged offense occurs within 300 feet of a video arcade or swimming pool. As a point of reference, 300 feet is about four-fifths the length of a football field.
This additional degree enhancement means that – if you would have faced a Class A felony – you could find yourself facing a state jail felony (if the incident happened in a drug-free zone). One exception to this rule is if the charges are related to an incident that took place in your home (as long as no one under the age of 18 was present at the time of your alleged offense).
It Gets Worse
Not only are your charges related to offenses in drug-free zones enhanced, but your potential fines and penalties are also vulnerable to enhancements. For example, you could be rendered ineligible for early release based on good behavior. Because the alleged incident took place in a drug-free zone, your good conduct is not likely to be taken into consideration for the first five years of your sentence. If your sentence is for less than five years, you will almost certainly be required to serve it in full. Finally, if you are facing any charges in addition to the drug charge, the state is very likely to stack the sentences that you receive, which means you will be required to serve one after the other (instead of serving them concurrently).
Drug-free zones are meant to help protect children from the negative consequences of the illegal drug trade. Still, many charges that involve this enhancement do not involve children in any capacity. In other words, it can amount to merely being in the wrong place at the wrong time (in the eyes of the law). If you are facing enhanced charges, the consequences of a conviction are far too great not to work closely with an experienced criminal defense attorney.