What Are the Defenses to Drug Crimes in Texas?
Facing drug charges is a serious matter in Texas. A conviction for drug possession, manufacture, distribution, or other drug offenses can lead to long-term consequences. In fact, your freedom could be at stake if you are facing drug charges in Texas. However, just because you were arrested for a drug crime does not necessarily mean you will be convicted. There are several defenses to drug offense charges in Texas.
When facing drug possession charges, the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant knowingly possessed a controlled substance. If you are facing drug offense charges, consider speaking with an experienced attorney at the Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard to discuss your unique case and determine what defense options may be available to you to avoid a conviction or reduce charges.
Schedule a free consultation with our criminal defense lawyer by calling (254) 220-4225 or complete this contact form.
Drug Penalty Groups in Texas
Penalties for a drug crime depend on a number of factors, including the type, amount, and classification of the drug. Texas uses five penalty groups to categorize controlled substances and illicit drugs pursuant to Texas Health and Safety Code Chapter 481. Those drug penalty groups are based on the risk of abuse and the medicinal value of the substance.
Penalty Group 1. The group has a high risk of addiction and includes cocaine, heroin, Oxycodone, Morphine, Methamphetamine, Hydrocodone, and others. These substances have no recognized medical use.
Penalty Group 1-A. This group includes lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), both of which have a high potential for abuse and addiction.
Penalty Group 2 or 2-A. Although drugs in these groups have a high probability of abuse, they have some medicinal value. Drugs in these groups are mostly hallucinogenic substances other than LSD. Examples are synthetic THC, PHP, MDMA, and others.
Penalty Group 3. This group encompasses some prescription drugs, including Xanax, Klonopin, Testosterone, anabolic steroids, and other drugs widely used in medicine but also have a mid-level potential of abuse.
Penalty Group 4. While drugs in this group have the lowest risk of abuse, they also have recognized medical uses. These drugs include various chemical compounds, opioids, and opiates not listed in Penalty Group 1 and others.
The penalties for drug offenses in Texas heavily depend on their penalty group. If it is not immediately clear what the substance found in your possession is, the police will order a drug analysis.
Elements of a Drug Possession Offense in Texas
Drug possession is the most commonly charged drug-related offense in Texas. According to the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS), over 115,000 Texans are arrested for drug possession each year.
In order to convict someone of drug possession, the prosecutor must prove specific elements outlined in Texas Penal Code § 481.115. Under Texas law, the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt three elements:
The defendant possessed a drug;
The defendant acted knowingly or intentionally; and
The drug is classified as a controlled substance under the Texas Penal Code.
Proving that the accused “knowingly” or “intentionally” possessed an illegal substance can be tricky. The lack of evidence in the prosecutor’s case can become the basis for a successful defense.
The prosecution must demonstrate evidence proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant was aware that the substance that was in their possession was an illegal drug. If your criminal defense lawyer can prove that you unwittingly possessed a controlled substance because you did not know that the substance was an illicit drug, you might be able to avoid a drug possession conviction.
What Are Other Drug Offenses in Texas?
Drug possession is not the only drug-related offense under Texas Penal Code. In fact, other drug offenses are associated with more severe penalties. Other drug offenses include:
No matter what drug crime offense you are facing, consider speaking with a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible after your arrest. An attorney will analyze the evidence presented in the prosecutor’s case and identify the most effective defense strategies in your case.
What Evidence Do Prosecutors Use in Drug Crime Cases?
The strength of the prosecutor’s case against the defendant depends on the availability of evidence and their ability to prove the necessary elements to secure a conviction. Some of the evidence that prosecutors commonly use in drug crime cases include:
The controlled substance itself. If you were arrested with a controlled substance in your possession, the prosecutor could bring the drug into the courtroom as evidence. The drug can become an invaluable piece of evidence in a criminal case to demonstrate the amount of the substance that was found in the defendant’s possession.
Video footage. If cameras captured the moment when you purchased, sold, transported, distributed, or used drugs, video footage could be used in the courtroom to prove your guilt.
Testimony from drug experts. Drug experts are often used in drug crime cases to testify in front of a jury and judge and confirm that the substance found in the defendant’s possession was a controlled substance. Testimony is also likely to include the results of the chemical test performed at the crime lab.
Testimony from witnesses. If you were seen buying, selling, transporting, distributing, or using a controlled substance, the prosecutor is likely to ask witnesses to testify in the courtroom.
Testimony from the officer. In most drug crime cases, the officer who arrested the person charged with a drug offense will be asked to testify in the courtroom.
If you are facing drug offense charges in Texas, consider hiring a criminal defense lawyer to review the evidence against you, find weaknesses or inaccuracies in the prosecutor’s case, and put together a solid defense strategy to protect your rights and freedom.
Common Defenses to Drug Crimes in Texas
An experienced lawyer will be able to identify the most effective defense strategy to defend their client against the drug offense charges. The right defense strategy depends on the circumstances of the offense. Some of the most common defense strategies used by skilled criminal defense lawyers in drug crime cases in Texas include:
The substance is not an illegal drug. If the substance in your possession is not classified as a “controlled substance” under Texas Penal Code, you cannot be found guilty of a drug crime. If the substance is not an illicit drug, lab testing will confirm this. When there are disputes, the prosecutor has the burden to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the drug constitutes a controlled substance.
Illegal search and seizures. Law enforcement must respect your constitutional rights. When police officers conduct illegal searches and seizures in violation of your constitutional rights, any evidence they find on your person or in your vehicle during the search cannot be used as admissible evidence in your drug crime case. If a drug or any other evidence was obtained during illegal searches and seizures, the evidence could be suppressed in court. However, it takes a skilled criminal defense lawyer to successfully argue that your constitutional rights were violated during the search or arrest.
Police abuse of power. If you become a victim of any form of police misconduct during or after the arrest, your defense lawyer could help you avoid a conviction by proving that the law enforcement abused their power. Common examples of police misconduct in drug crime cases include falsification of evidence, police brutality, and forced confessions.
Legal use of medical marijuana. According to Texas.gov, thousands of Texans with eligible medical conditions can legally use medical marijuana. If you are one of them and marijuana was found in your possession, your defense lawyer could help you avoid a conviction because you have permission to use marijuana for medicinal purposes.
You have a valid prescription. Some of the drugs listed as “controlled substances” in the Texas Penal Code are used for medicinal purposes. If a medical professional prescribed the controlled substance found in your possession, you could avoid a conviction for drug possession if you can show that you have a valid prescription.
The drug was not yours. One of the elements of a drug possession conviction is proving that the defendant knowingly or intentionally possessed the drug. Thus, if you can prove that the controlled substance did not belong to you, you cannot be found guilty of possession. For example, if you live in a room with several people and the drug was found in a common area, the prosecutor will have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the drugs belonged to you.
Entrapment. Entrapment is an affirmative defense under Texas Penal Code § 8.06. In order to successfully use the defense strategy in a drug crime case, your lawyer will have to prove that police lured you into committing the offense. You can avoid a conviction by using the entrapment defense if you can prove that the police officers’ influence would have induced any other reasonable and prudent person to commit the crime.
Depending on the circumstances of the drug offense, there may also be other defenses available to you. Consider consulting with an experienced criminal defense lawyer to discuss your particular case and determine your best course of action.
Why Do You Need a Criminal Defense Lawyer When Facing Drug Charges in Texas?
A conviction of a drug offense can affect your life and future in a number of ways. In addition to a possible jail sentence and hefty fines, you can lose some of your legal rights. Having a drug conviction on your criminal record also carries harsh consequences for immigration, employment, and housing.
The stigma of a criminal conviction can haunt you for the rest of your life, which is why you need to act immediately when facing drug offense charges. Consider hiring a skilled criminal defense lawyer to put together a solid defense strategy in your case and fight against the charges to protect your reputation, freedom, and future.
At the Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard, our criminal defense lawyer has extensive experience representing people accused of drug offenses throughout the state of Texas. We understand the seriousness of drug-related charges, which is why we are committed to helping you resolve your case in the best possible manner.
When you work with a criminal defense lawyer, you can rely on legal counsel to:
Understand your legal options and rights
Assess the prosecutor’s evidence and find weaknesses in the other side’s case against you
Examine the circumstances of your arrest to determine if your constitutional rights were violated
Determine if you should plead guilty, no contest, or not guilty and fight against the charges
Prepare a strong defense strategy to help you avoid harsh penalties
Negotiate a plea bargain
Advocate for your rights vigorously throughout the criminal justice process
Facing drug-related charges is a serious matter in Texas. You need to consult with a skilled lawyer to understand all available defenses in your case. Depending on the circumstances of the offense and the skills of your lawyer, it may be possible to drop or reduce the charges against you.
Contact a Drug Crime Defense Lawyer at the Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard
If you are facing drug-related charges in Texas, you have much to lose if you decide to represent yourself without a lawyer. Your freedom is at stake when facing accusations of drug crimes. For this reason, you might want to consider hiring a knowledgeable drug defense lawyer to fight for your rights and freedom.
At the Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard, we understand the stress and uncertainty that accompany criminal charges. We understand the legal system and can help you understand all defenses to drug crimes that may be available in your case.
Schedule a free consultation with our drug crime defense lawyer at the Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard to discuss your particular case. Call (254) 220-4225 or visit our contact us page to get a free case review.