How Possession Charges Can Morph into Trafficking Charges in Texas

handcuffs and marijuana leaf

The State of Texas takes its drug charges extremely seriously, and drug trafficking charges are even more serious than possession charges, which are serious enough. Additionally, Texas police and prosecutors are adept at nudging possession charges toward trafficking (also called delivering or distribution) charges. Understanding how this works can help you avoid this fate, and if you do find yourself facing a drug charge, it is time to consult with an experienced Temple criminal attorney.

Drug Trafficking: The Factors at Play

Texas law enforcement officers take several important factors into consideration when determining whether or not the relevant charge is possession or trafficking. These include:

  • Possessing a large amount of a single kind of drug

  • Possessing a large amount of a variety of different kinds of drugs

  • Lacking a prescription for any of the legal drugs in question

  • Possessing a significant amount of cash

  • Possessing equipment, such as sophisticated scales and packaging material, that are considered the tools of the trade

  • Possessing a cache of weapons (which can be a crime in its own right)

The dividing line regarding the amount of drug involved relates to an amount that is considered unreasonable for personal use. This is an exceptionally nebulous yardstick that law enforcement is all too happy to use to its advantage when it comes to bumping a charge from possession to trafficking.

Drug Trafficking

In Texas, drug trafficking refers to anyone who knowingly manufactures, delivers, or possesses a controlled substance with the intention of distributing it. Illegal drugs are divided into four penalty groups – according to how serious the crime of possession and/or trafficking is – with Penalty Group 1 being the most heavily penalized. The more addictive the drug in question, the more serious the associated penalties. Common examples of drugs that fall into each classification include:

  • Group 1: Group I includes opioids, methadone, cocaine, oxycodone, methamphetamines, and marijuana (though charges for marijuana follow their own path).

  • Group 2: Group 2 includes amphetamines, methaqualone, and ecstasy.

  • Group 3: Group 3 includes drugs like Xanax, Valium, and LSD.

  • Group 4: Group 4 includes drugs that are compounds containing lesser amounts of other illegal drugs.

Penalties for Trafficking Groups 3 and 4

The penalties for drug trafficking are dependent on the amount and type of drug involved. Penalties for trafficking drugs in Groups 3 and 4 include the following:

  • If the amount of the drug in question is less than 28 grams, it is a state jail felony that carries from 180 days to two years in jail and fines of up to $10,000.

  • If the amount of the drug in question is from 28 to 200 grams, it is a second-degree felony that carries from 2 to 20 years in prison and fines of up to $10,000.

  • If the amount of the drug in question is from 200 to 400 grams, it is a first-degree felony that carries from 5 to 99 years in prison and fines of up to $10,000.

  • If the amount of the drug in question is more than 400 grams, it is a first-degree felony that carries from 10 to 99 years in prison and fines of up to $100,000.

Penalties for Trafficking Groups I and 2

The penalties for trafficking drugs in Group I and 2 include the following:

  • If the amount of the drug in question is less than one gram, it is a state jail felony that carries from 180 days to two years in jail and fines of up to $10,000.

  • If the amount of the drug in question is from 1 to 4 grams, it is a second-degree felony that carries from 2 to 20 years in prison and fines of up to $10,000.

  • If the amount of the drug in question is from 4 to 400 grams of Group 2 or from 4 to 200 grams of Group I, it is a first-degree felony that carries from 5 to 99 years in prison and fines of up to $10,000.

  • If the amount of the drug in question is over 400 grams for Group 2 or from 200 to 400 grams for Group I, it is a life felony that carries from 10 to 99 years in prison and fines of up to $100,000.

  • If the amount of the drug in question is over 400 grams for Group I, it is a life felony that carries from 15 to 99 years in prison and fines of up to $250,000.

In other words, when it comes to drug trafficking, the State of Texas is on high alert.

Your Defense Strategy

If you are facing a drug trafficking charge – or any drug charge for that matter – your defense strategy is paramount. While no two cases are ever exactly alike – and you and your dedicated criminal attorney will strategize your best path forward in accordance with the circumstances of your case – there are several powerful defense strategies that commonly apply.

Lack of Knowledge

In order for a drug trafficking charge to stick, you must have known that you were in possession of the drugs in question, and the prosecution is tasked with proving that you knew.

Duress

Drug trafficking is a cutthroat business (witness the cache of weapons that can help push a charge from possession to trafficking). If you were forced to take possession of the drugs in question under duress – or under threat of harm to you personally or to someone you care about – it can prove to be a very effective defense.

Mistake of Fact

The substance in question may not be a drug at all and may not be intended for human consumption. Further, police officers are not infallible, and what they believe was under your possession may not – in fact – have been.

Turn to an Experienced Temple Criminal Attorney Today

Brett Pritchard at The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard in Temple, Texas, is an impressive criminal attorney who understands the magnitude of your situation and is committed to aggressively advocating for your case’s most favorable outcome. To learn more, please do not hesitate to contact or call us at 254-501-4040 today.

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