Answers to Burning Questions Related to Criminal Defense in Texas
If you are facing a criminal charge in Texas, you have burning questions. This is to be expected. The outcome of your case will directly affect your future and is far too consequential to leave to chance. If a criminal charge has been levied against you, the first order of business – regardless of the charge type – is consulting with an experienced Killeen criminal defense attorney.
What are the illegal Drug classifications and the corresponding penalties for possession in Texas?
Texas groups illegal drugs into five categories, and the penalties for even a relatively minor possession charge can bring up to a year in jail, and a conviction at the other end of the scale can bring a sentence that peaks at 99 years behind bars.
Penalty Group 1
Drugs in Penalty Group 1 include classic street drugs, such as cocaine, methamphetamine, and heroin. The minimum charge associated with a Group 1 drug is a state jail felony, and the maximum possession charge in this group is an enhanced first-degree felony. Penalties for a Group 1 charge that is classified as a state jail felony include from 180 days up to two years in a state jail and fines of up to $10,000. If, however, the charge involves more than 400 grams, the maximum sentence is elevated to an enhanced first-degree felony with penalties of from 10 to 99 years behind bars and fines of up to $100,000.
Penalty Group 1A
Penalty Group 1A includes drugs such as LSD and other hallucinogens. The minimum charge for possession of a Group 1A drug is a state jail felony, which can extend all the way to a first-degree felony (that can also be enhanced). A conviction at the low end of this charge means from 180 days to two years in jail and fines of up to $10,000. A maximum penalty (for an enhanced first-degree felony), however – for possession of over 8,000 units – can mean from 15 to 99 years behind bars and to fines of up to $250,000.
Penalty Group 2
The drugs in Penalty Group 2 include PCP, mescaline, and ecstasy. Charges for drugs in this classification range from state jail felonies to enhanced first-degree felonies, and a conviction can range from 180 days to two years in jail (for less than one gram – a state jail felony) up to 10 to 99 years in prison with fines of up to $50,000 for possession of 400 grams or more (an enhanced first-degree felony).
Penalty Groups 3 and 4
Drugs in Penalty Groups 3 and 4 include Ritalin, Valium, and other opioid compounds. A conviction for possession in these categories begins with a state jail felony and moves all the way up to an enhanced first-degree felony. A conviction at the low end of the scale maxes out at one year in county jail with fines of up to $4,000, and a conviction at the high end, which amounts to possession of more than 400 grams, can bring from 5 to 99 years in prison with fines of up to $50,000.
What about marijuana?
If you are wondering where marijuana falls in the scheme of drug charges in the State of Texas, you are not alone. Texas has a complicated relationship with marijuana, and its laws reflect this fact. Even as other states continue to legalize recreational marijuana, the State of Texas sees things differently. In Texas, Marijuana is classified in a group of its own, and marijuana possession can range from a Class B misdemeanor all the way up to a first-degree felony. Penalties and fines correspondingly range from up to 180 days in jail with fines of up to $2,000 (for possession of up to 2 ounces) to a sentence of from 5 to 99 years in prison and fines of up to $10,000 (for possession of more than 2,000 pounds).
What can I expect if I am charged with theft?
In the State of Texas, the charge of theft covers a broad range of unlawful practices that include all the following:
Receiving stolen property
Stealing personal property
Swindling, extorting, or embezzling
Personal property in this context refers to anything of value, including cash, jewelry, cars, electronics, money out of a bank account, property (land or title to land), and documents (such as stock certificates), and services (such as labor, utilities, and/or accommodations). Theft crimes are grouped into classes.
Class C Misdemeanor Theft
If the value of the goods or services stolen is worth less than $100, the charge is Class C misdemeanor theft, and a conviction can lead to fines of up to $500 (with no jail time).
Class B Misdemeanor Theft
The charge becomes a Class B misdemeanor theft if any of the following apply:
The value of the stolen goods or services is more than $100 but less than $750.
The value of the stolen goods or services is less than $100, but the charge is the person’s second or higher offense.
The property stolen was a driver’s license or another form of personal identification.
If convicted of a Class B misdemeanor, you will face fines of up to $2,000 and up to 180 days behind bars.
Class A Misdemeanor Theft
The charge of Class A misdemeanor theft applies when the value of the goods or services stolen is between $750 and $2,500. A conviction can bring up to one year in jail and fines of up to $4,000.
State Jail Felony
The charge becomes a state jail felony if any of the following apply:
The amount stolen in either goods or services ranges from $2,500 to $30,000.
The amount of the stolen goods or services is less than $2,500, but the charge is the person’s second or higher offense.
The goods were stolen from another person, a human corpse, or a grave.
The stolen property is a firearm, an election ballot, or certain other items.
A conviction for a state jail felony can lead to fines of up to $10,000 and to jail time that ranges from 180 days to two years. If the accused used or exhibited a deadly weapon in the crime’s commission or if he or she has a previous felony conviction, the charge can be bumped up to a third-degree felony.
Third-Degree Felony Theft
The theft charge is third-degree felony theft if any of the following apply:
The value of the stolen goods or services ranges from $30,000 to $150,000.
The property in question is a controlled substance that is valued at less than $150,000 and was stolen from a commercial building in which controlled substances are typically stored.
The property in question is a specific kind of livestock that is valued at less than $150,000.
A conviction for a third-degree felony theft can lead to from 2 to 10 years in prison and to fines of up to $10,000.
Second-Degree Felony Theft
If any of the following apply, the charge is a second-degree felony theft:
The value of the goods or services stolen is between $150,000 and $300,000.
The stolen property is either the contents of an ATM or an ATM (with a value of under $300,000).
A conviction for a second-degree felony theft can lead to 2 to 20 years in prison and to fines of up to $10,000.
First-Degree Felony Theft
To reach the level of a first-degree felony theft charge, the value of the goods or services stolen must exceed $300,000. A conviction can bring from 5 to 99 years in prison and to fines of up to $10,000.
All of the following can enhance the theft charge faced:
The property stolen was under the control of a public servant.
The property stolen was under the control of someone who worked for the government in a contractual capacity.
The property stolen was under the control of a Medicare provider.
The owner of the property stolen was over the age of 65, or he or she worked for a nonprofit organization.
The accused either caused the fire alarm to go off during the commission of the crime – or prevented it from doing so.
What can I expect if I am charged with assault?
Assault charges in the State of Texas are classified as either simple assault or aggravated assault.
Simple assault refers to intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causing someone else to suffer bodily injury – or credibly threatening to do so. In other words, you do not have to come into physical contact with your accuser to face a simple assault charge. In fact, assault can take many physical forms that are not violent in nature, including unwanted and inappropriate touching in the workplace. The following applies to simple assault charges:
If the alleged simple assault causes bodily injury, it is a Class A misdemeanor, and a conviction can bring a sentence of up to 1 year in jail and fines of up to $4,000.
If the alleged simple assault involves credibly threatening bodily injury or making physical contact that the other person finds provocative, the charge is a Class C misdemeanor, and a conviction can bring a fine of up to $500 (but no jail time applies).
Aggravated assault is naturally a more serious matter. To reach the level of aggravated assault, the accused must have either caused serious bodily injury or have used or brandished a deadly weapon in the crime’s commission. Serious bodily injury in this context means that the person filing the charge must have suffered an injury that results in a protracted loss or impairment of a body part or organ (the way a broken bone does), to serious permanent disfigurement, or to a substantial risk of death. Consider the following:
In Texas, aggravated assault is a second-degree felony, and a conviction can bring a sentence of from 2 to 20 years in prison with fines of up to $10,000.
If certain circumstances were involved, such as domestic violence, the charge can be elevated to a first-degree felony, and a conviction can lead to up to 99 years in prison.
Other types of aggravated assault charges in Texas include impeding the breathing of someone else (choking another person), committing assault with a prior conviction, and engaging in continuous family violence.
Can I face a civil charge for a shoplifting conviction?
The answer to whether or not you can face a civil charge after being convicted of shoplifting is – in a word, – yes. The State of Texas allows a store’s owner to bring a civil lawsuit against anyone who is convicted of shoplifting in his or her establishment. This comes under the state’s Shoplifting Liability Act, and it allows the store owner to seek the cost of the stolen goods involved in addition to the cost of recovery, which is capped at $1,000.
Can’t I just explain the charge away to the police?
While you are welcome to try and explain a criminal charge away when questioned by the police, you are ill-advised to do so. If you are facing a criminal charge, you have legal rights, and one of the most important of these rights is the right to remain silent, which you should avail yourself of early in the process. While you are required to provide the police who question you with basic identifying information, your obligation ends here. You also have the right to an attorney, and now is the time to invoke this right.
Reach out to an Experienced Killeen Criminal Defense Attorney Today
If you are facing a criminal charge of any kind or have concerns related to a criminal charge, Brett Pritchard at The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard in Killeen, Texas, is a savvy criminal defense attorney with an impressive track record of guiding complicated cases like yours toward optimal outcomes. Your future is too important not to bring your strongest defense, so please do not wait to contact us online or call us at 254-501-4040 for more information today.