Austin Drug Charges Attorney
Drug Charges In Austin, TX
Drug charges in Texas can vary in severity depending on a wide variety of factors. They can be as low as a class C misdemeanor (on par with a traffic ticket) for possession of drug paraphernalia, all the way up to life imprisonment for manufacture/delivery of a large amount of a schedule 1 substance. Regardless of the severity of the drug charges, it’s always recommended to speak with an experienced Austin drug attorney first to better understand the charges brought against you and the best course of action for your specific scenario.
The seriousness of the charges usually come down to these factors:
- What is the controlled substance found?
- What is the amount of the substance in weight?
- Was the substance for personal consumption or distribution?
- Are there any prior arrests and/or convictions for drugs?
- Are there any other aggravating factors?
What Is The Substance?
In Texas, drugs are separated into 4 Penalty Groups. Penalty Group 1 has the highest penalties, Penalty Group 4 has the least. Not all the penalty groups make sense, although unlike in Federal law, marijuana is fortunately not a schedule 1 drug in Texas. I will provide some examples, but for an exhaustive list of the penalty groups, check the Texas Health and Safety Code chapter 481.
Penalty Group 1 consists of the most serious drugs. Drugs like heroin and methamphetamine are in penalty group 1. LSD is in Group 1A and treated similarly to Penalty Group 1. Group 2 includes psilocybin, the active ingredient in psychedelic mushrooms. Perhaps surprisingly, it also includes synthetic cannabinoids, meaning that even a small amount of THC oil can be charged as a felony. Group 3 includes Alprazolam (Xanax), and other drugs that can be obtained with a prescription. Group 4 contains other prescription drugs like codeine.
The Amount of the Substance
By way of example, possession of even trace amounts of a schedule 1 drug can be charged as a State Jail Felony. Above a gram, and the charge bumps up to a third-degree felony. 200 grams becomes a second-degree felony. Above 200 grams, and the penalty is a minimum of 10 years and maxes out at a life sentence. Because the combinations are endless, the best resource would be to check out the following chart.
One important note is that the weight of the drugs includes all the additives and everything else that came with the drugs. So, for example, a pot brownie can include the weight of the brownie in addition to the controlled substance. It seems ridiculous, but it is true, and law enforcement will take full advantage of that fact if they want to bump your charges up to the next penalty level.
Personal Consumption vs. Manufacture and Delivery
Penalties will be greater if you are found to be manufacturing or delivering the controlled substance. Prosecutors show manufacture/delivery in a number of different ways. Are there scales and baggies present? Are the drugs packaged in a way that makes them easy to distribute? Is the amount of drugs such that it is far more than a person could reasonably use? Were any drug deals witnessed by law enforcement? These factors can be brought into evidence to show beyond a reasonable doubt that the actor was dealing drugs, rather than using them for personal consumption.
You may notice that many of the factors above could point toward distribution but fall short of proof beyond a reasonable doubt. A good drug charge attorney will highlight doubt, whether it be at trial, or during the plea negotiation stage. Importantly, the defendant’s statements are fully admissible in court. Never speak to the police without an Austin drug lawyer present!
In practice, drug charges in Travis County rarely go to trial. The Travis County District Attorney and County Attorney are both progressive when it comes to drug charges, viewing them mostly as a mental health issue rather than a criminal one. As such, there are many good alternatives to trial that will lead to either dismissal or significant reductions in charges.
Prior Arrests or Convictions
Although drug charges do not usually lead to jail time except in extreme cases, prior arrests and convictions can be a big factor that can ratchet up the seriousness of the charges. If a defendant has two prior felony convictions (drug charges or otherwise), he is considered a “habitual offender”. If this is the case, every new charge he is facing can be bumped up to a higher level. For example, a State Jail Felony can become a third-degree felony. A third-degree can be bumped up to a second degree, etc. If you have 2 prior convictions, it is important to have a drug charges lawyer who understands the raised stakes and handles the case accordingly.
Even if a defendant is not facing a habitual offender enhancement, prior drug charges, and especially manufacture and delivery charges, can have a big impact when trying to reach a plea deal. It becomes more difficult to make the case that treatment options are the answer when these treatments have been tried and failed in the past.
Other Aggravating Factors
If the arrest occurs within 1,000 feet of a school, the charge is enhanced in the same manner as the habitual offender enhancement so that the charge is enhanced one level higher. In theory, it is definitely a great idea to keep drugs away from schools. In practice, most people charged with drug possession in a school zone either didn’t know the school was there, or it didn’t have any bearing on their behavior. Schools are located all over Austin, so it is very easy to be near a school and not be aware. Either way, the school one enhancement is another hurdle if the drug possession occurred close to a school.
If the drug charge is coupled with related charges, they will be more difficult to handle. For example, if a person is charged with POCS because drugs were found when the police were called to a domestic violence situation, there’s a good chance that the defendant will have a bad time. The same goes for other charges like unlawful possession of a firearm, theft, DWI, or even something like criminal mischief.
Defenses to Drug Charges In Austin
As discussed earlier, the best defense to drug charges in Travis County is a good plea negotiation with the prosecutor. Pretrial Diversion, Deferred Prosecution, and even straight dismissals are all available in many cases, and these all lead to the prosecutor dropping the charge.
In more serious cases where the prosecutor will not drop the charge, there are a number of ways to cast reasonable doubt on the charges. For example, is there a way for prosecutors to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the drugs are actually yours? Were they where you could reach them, or perhaps under the passenger seat of your car? Were the drugs tested properly? Were they weighed correctly? I have even gotten cases dismissed because the prosecutor charged the incorrect substance in the indictment. A good Austin drug charges attorney will go over all the evidence to find inconsistencies in the police report, the indictment, and all the evidence to fight the charges.
Contact an Experienced Austin Drug Attorney
Whether facing a first-time drug possession charge or something more serious, it is extremely important to have an experienced attorney walk you through the process. If you or a loved one are facing drug charges, contact a proven Austin drug defense lawyer. Contact us today for a free case evaluation.