If you are facing a criminal charge, you have plenty of questions. Your legal rights, your reputation, and your future, after all, can hang in the balance, which makes working closely with an experienced Killeen criminal defense attorney always in your best interest. Having the answers to some of the questions that Texas criminal defense attorneys hear most often can also help.
What is the difference between a federal and a state charge?
The distinction between whether the charge levied against you is a state crime, or a federal crime can simply come down to who charges you (either the federal government or the State of Texas). Sometimes, however, the distinction is related to whether or not the alleged crime involves crossing state lines (the way online fraud does).
Certain crimes – by virtue of the circumstances – can always be brought as federal charges. A prime example of this is when a felon is charged with gun possession. Because the State of Texas has no gun manufacturing to speak of, any gun that a felon is caught is (by its very nature) part of interstate commerce. This means that if the federal government chooses to do so, it has the authority to step in and bring the charge.
When the matter at hand is drug charges –and the drugs in question came from over the Mexican border and through a large hub like Houston – larger drug conspiracies tend to be involved, and the federal government typically brings the charges.
When the alleged crime in question, regardless of how serious it is, occurs on federal lands, such as in a federal park, the charge you face can be a federal charge.
What kind of drug charges are most common in Texas?
Drug charges break down into basic categories, including:
Charges involving the possession of illegal drugs
Charges involving the sale, manufacture, and/or delivery of illegal drugs
Possession charges are generally less harsh than charges for the sale, manufacture, and/or delivery of illegal drugs. But the kind of drug involved in the charge – and the amount of the drug – also play a role. A prime example to consider in relation to the range of charges within the possession category is that if you possess less than two ounces of marijuana, the charge is a misdemeanor. If, however, you are found in possession of any amount of methamphetamine, the charge is likely to begin at the felony level.
Does a drug crime mean automatic jail time?
Many people who are facing drug charges are very concerned about whether or not a conviction means automatic jail time. The answer, however – like everything else that has to do with criminal charges – is that it is complicated. Whether or not you spend time in jail will depend upon all the following factors:
Whether the charge is for possession of an illegal drug or for the sale, manufacture, or delivery of an illegal drug
The kind of drug in question
The amount of the drug in question
Any criminal record that you may have
Whether or not this is your first offense
If the charge is a first offense, you are far more likely to receive probation, which means you have a far better chance of avoiding jail time. If you are on probation at the time the charge is levied, however, it is important to know that a probation violation of this kind can land you in jail (even if it would not have had you not been on probation). In other words, there are a lot of factors to take into consideration. In the end, drug charges often hinge on our Fourth Amendment right against illegal search and seizure, and your criminal defense attorney's clear, concise analysis of this factor can make a significant difference in the outcome of your case.
How are drugs classified in Texas?
Illegal drugs in Texas are classified into five penalty groups, and even a relatively minor charge has the potential to land you in jail for a year. Let’s take a closer look:
Penalty Group 1
Penalty Group 1 deals with the classic street drugs, including heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine. The lowest charge related to a Group 1 drug is a state jail felony, which comes with a sentence of from 180 days up to 2 years in a state jail and with fines of up to $10,000. At the other end of the spectrum is an enhanced first-degree felony, which brings a prison sentence of from 10 to 99 years and fines of up to $100,000.
Penalty Group 1A
Penalty Group 1A includes hallucinogens like LSD, and the minimum charge involved is a state jail felony. Group 1A also peaks at first-degree felony (with the potential of enhancements for possession of over 8,000 units). The sentencing parameters correspond with those for Group 1, except an enhanced first-degree felony is elevated to from 15 to 99 years in prison and carries fines of up to $250,000.
Penalty Group 2
Penalty Group 2 addresses drugs such as mescaline, ecstasy, and PCP. Possession of less than one gram is generally a state jail felony with a bid of from 180 days to 2 years in jail. Possession of more than 400 grams, however, is an enhanced first-degree felony, which brings from 10 to 99 years behind bars and fines of up to $50,000.
Penalty Groups 3 and 4
Penalty Groups 3 and 4 address drugs like Valium, other opioid compounds, and Ritalin. Convictions in these categories begin with state jail felonies and progress all the way back up to enhanced first-degree felonies. For the state jail felony charge, you face up to a year in a state jail and fines of up to $4,000. For an enhanced first-degree felony, however (for possession of more than 400 grams), the sentence is from 5 to 99 years behind bars and includes fines that top out at $50,000.
The issue of marijuana in Texas is more complicated. While recreational marijuana is gaining increased acceptance throughout the nation and has been legalized in many states, Texas is not buying in. Marijuana falls into a drug group of its own in Texas, and possession of up to two ounces is generally a class B misdemeanor, which comes with up to 180 days in jail and fines of up to $2,000. Possession of more than 2,000 pounds, however, is a first-degree felony that carries from 5 to 99 years in prison and fines of up to $10,000.
Does Texas have strict gun laws?
Texas has a friendly relationship with guns, but that does not mean that you should not take the matter seriously. The Texas Tribune reported back in 2021 that Texas now has what it has dubbed as constitutional carry, which means that basically anyone who is at least 21 years old (other than someone with a felony conviction) can carry a gun without a permit (and without the need for the safety training that comes with that). The governor’s comments on the subject make it clear that he believes the change is a nod to strengthening our freedoms. Since September 1, 2021, anyone who meets the age restriction and who is not otherwise prohibited from carrying a handgun can do so in public without the need for a pesky permit. While Texas has some of the laxest gun laws in the nation, you can still land yourself in plenty of hot water for doing so outside the parameters of the law.
I have been charged with DWI. Do I really need an attorney?
If you are facing a DWI charge, proceeding without an attorney is not going to do you any favors. First, it is important to point out that Texas employs the charge of DUI and DWI. DUI charges are reserved for those who are under the legal drinking age of 21 and who can face DUI charges for having any detectable amount of alcohol in their system (they do not need to be intoxicated to face charges).
DWI charges relate to being behind the wheel while over the legal limit of .08 percent blood alcohol concentration (BAC) – or while exhibiting alcohol impairment (even if you are not over the limit).
A first DWI is generally less harrowing than a second, but if you have a criminal record of any kind, it can affect the outcome. The fact is that a DWI conviction in Texas brings harsh penalties, fines, and social consequences that are best avoided, and the surest way to protect your rights is with an experienced criminal defense attorney in your corner – deftly fighting for your case’s most favorable resolution.
What are the penalties for a DWI conviction?
Generally, a first DWI charge is a Class B misdemeanor. Again, however, a criminal record can affect the penalty range you will face. A prior DWI conviction, for example, can elevate the charge to a Class A misdemeanor, which can carry up to a year in jail and fines of up to $4,000. A first DWI charge can also hit this level if your BAC reaches .15 percent. Having a child in the car at the time can also elevate the charge. It is important to keep in mind that there is also the matter of license suspension to contend with. Further, because a DWI conviction is a matter of public record, there are important social consequences to consider, including all the following:
A DWI conviction can make it difficult to rent a home or even to obtain a home loan.
A DWI conviction can affect your ability to get a federal student loan, attend the college of your choice, and/or live on campus.
A DWI conviction can affect your job prospects and can cause you to lose professional licensure (in some fields).
A DWI conviction can affect your social standing overall.
Shouldn’t I just accept the plea deal?
The short answer to, Shouldn’t I just accept the plea deal that’s been offered to me, is no. The prosecution saves a good deal of time and effort by making plea deals and still manages to get a conviction. When you accept a plea deal, you are admitting guilt and will have a criminal record. Sometimes a plea deal is the way to go, and sometimes it is not – and your criminal defense attorney will help you make the right choices for you and your future.
What is meant by my right to remain silent?
Your right to remain silent means exactly what it sounds like, and if you have been charged with a crime, it is in your best interest to invoke this right. The police are adept at coaxing those facing criminal charges into making statements that ultimately harm their cases. Explaining yourself and the situation to the officer questioning you is unlikely to do you any good (and could go horribly wrong). The most important point to remember is that if you are being questioned, the officer or officers doing the questioning are not on your side and are not there to help you. Always prioritize your own legal rights by invoking your right to remain silent and to have an attorney present during questioning. Far too often, innocent statements made by those facing criminal charges come back to haunt them.
Turn to an Experienced Killeen Divorce Attorney for the Professional Legal Counsel You Need
If you are facing a criminal charge of any kind, Brett Pritchard at The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard – proudly serving Killeen, Texas – is a formidable criminal defense attorney who dedicates his impressive practice to skillfully advocating for the rights of our clients and this includes you. Your case and your future are far too important to leave to chance, so please do not wait to reach out and contact or call us at 254-501-4040 for more information about how we can help you today.