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What are Drug Crimes in Houston, Texas?

In Houston, Texas, it is a crime to use, possess, produce, or distribute substances with a high potential for misuse. Cocaine, heroin, marijuana, and amphetamines are examples of these substances with abuse potential.

In addition to illegal consumption, distribution, and production of controlled substances, drug crimes could also be associated with other criminal offenses. 

Each drug crime in Houston is punishable with varying punishments and varying degrees of charges issued. Overall, these crimes may be prosecuted on a state or federal level. Federal drug charges typically result in harsher terms, while state drug charges may result in probation or shorter-term imprisonment.

Common drug crimes in Houston include:

  • Drug possession

Possessing any amount of restricted narcotics is prohibited at both state and federal levels. Individuals found with controlled substances will face either simple possession charges or possession with the intent to distribute. 

  • Drug Paraphernalia

Another type of Houston drug crime is drug paraphernalia. This crime happens when the subject is discovered in possession of a drug-related item. This object could be anything like a bong, rolling papers, syringes, or even a scale. If a scale is discovered with a considerable number of drugs, the person may be charged with intent to distribute and simple possession charges.

  • Drug trafficking or distribution

This type of drug crime includes transporting, selling, or importing unlawful drugs. This crime is deemed a felony, a far more severe offense than simple possession or possession with the intent to distribute. In most cases, those accused of drug trafficking are discovered to be in possession of a large quantity of cocaine, heroin, or marijuana.

  • Drug Manufacturing

Production of illicit drugs is deemed a drug crime in Houston. Anyone discovered to be involved in making an illegal drug might face prosecution under this charge regardless of their level of involvement.

A drug offense conviction can have lasting consequences for the offender’s possibility of work, purchase a property, or obtaining loans post-incarceration. 

What are the Penalties for Drug Crimes in Houston, Texas?

Drug cases can be extremely complicated, with several harsh punishments if the defendant is found guilty. Fines, jail time, drug addiction treatment programs, probation, and a driver's license suspension are all possible repercussions. Still, many factors influence how an offender is charged and the resulting penalties. These factors include:

  • The quantity of illicit drugs found in the individual’s possession at the time of the arrest
  • A minor’s presence or participation in the offense
  • The type of drug found and its classification according to federal, state, and municipal law.
  • The offender's drug-related intentions include possession and distribution.

Furthermore, the Texas Health and Safety Code and the Texas Penal Code contain the state’s rules and penalties governing the possession of a restricted substance. These laws categorize restricted drugs into four penalty groups and two sub-penalty groups according to their punishments, level of addiction, and severity: 

  • Penalty Group 1: This category includes controlled substances, prescription narcotics, or street drugs. Examples are codeine, cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, etc. Possession of less than a gram of drugs in this category is a crime in Texas.
  • Penalty Group 1A: Drugs in this category include hallucinogens that change perception. They consist of drugs like LSD, marijuana (cannabis), and ketamine. Generally, these penalties for offenses involving drugs in this penalty group are decided by the number of units in possession. The penalties typically include life in prison or a sentence of up to $250,000 in fines. However, possessing below 20 units is deemed a state felony punishable by imprisonment for 180 days to two years and a maximum fine of $10,000.
  • Penalty Group 2: This category constitutes drugs called "club drugs." They are psychoactive substances that have an effect on the central nervous system and can alter mood, consciousness, and behavior. Examples are ecstasy, mescaline, and molly (MDMA). Possessing less than one gram of a drug in this category is considered a crime. For this type of drug possession, life imprisonment and penalties of up to $50,000 may be imposed.
  • Penalty Group 2A: This category covers the possession of drugs that mimic cannabinoids, such as K2 or Spice. For offenders found in possession of less than one gram, the penalties include a $2,000 fine, 180 days or two years in prison, or both. Those with 50 pounds or more may face increased penalties, including fines of up to $50,000, 99 years in federal prison, or both.
  • Penalty Groups 3 and 4: These groups include possession of prescription drugs that have been obtained without a proper medical prescription. Prescription medications such as valium, Xanax, and Ritalin are examples of drugs in group 3, while group 4 comprises drugs that contain limited amounts of narcotics. They carry a potential maximum punishment of 20 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
  • Marijuana: Marijuana sanctions may include up to 20 years in prison or life in prison, as well as $10,000 in fines. Nonetheless, among all the penalty groups, marijuana convictions may be eligible for alternative kinds of punishment, such as drug rehabilitation and probation terms.

According to the National Drug Intelligence Center (NDIC), high levels of violent and property crime in Houston are typically connected to illegal drug trafficking and consumption, particularly cocaine and methamphetamine. These substances are the most closely linked to violent and property crimes.

Drug distributors perpetrate assaults, house invasions, robberies, and firearms crimes to protect and expand their drug enterprises. Additionally, in order to support their addictions, addicts typically commit property crimes such as burglary.

A report from the NDIC states that violent crime in Houston, Texas, went up from 23,987 crimes in 2005 to 24,250 in 2006. At the time, law enforcement authorities suggested that the relocation of street gangs and drug traffickers from New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina played a big role in the crime surge in Houston. With 25,257 reported violent crimes in 2019, Houston remains the Texas city with the highest number of violent crimes.

Drug-related crimes account for a sizable portion of law enforcement arrests in Houston and throughout Texas. In 2018, the Houston Police Department and other law enforcement authorities in Harris county filed a total of 3,159 controlled substances-marijuana charges.

Houston, Texas Drug Crime Lawyer

When a person is charged with drug possession in Texas, the first thing they are advised to do is contact an experienced drug crime defense attorney for assistance. A competent lawyer will fight to safeguard a defendant's rights and will assist the defendant in presenting the most potent legal defense possible. In some cases, the attorney may be able to negotiate a reduction in the charges or even a complete dismissal.

How to Beat Drug Crime Charges in Houston, Texas

When defending a person against a drug crime charge, a defense attorney may raise the following arguments:

  • The confiscated items were not illicit drugs.  

There are instances where a law enforcement official may believe that an item is an illegal drug when it is not. In this case, the defense counsel might request that the material be tested to see if it is indeed a drug. If the substance is not a controlled substance, the charges will generally be dismissed.

  • Improper search and seizure procedure.

If the court determines that the search and seizure were illegal and that the defendant's rights were violated throughout the investigation, the discovered items may be excluded as evidence. As a result, if there is no further evidence against the defendant, the court usually dismisses the accusations.

  • The defendant had a prescription.

If the defense attorney can demonstrate that the defendant is lawfully permitted to have certain substances in their possession, the defendant may avoid a drug crime conviction. In this situation, the defense may produce a bottle with the defendant's name and most recent date for having the prescription filled. Alternatively, if the defense successfully obtains sufficient information from the doctor or pharmacist to present to the court, they may be able to defeat the accusation entirely.

In general, several defenses might be raised in a drug crime prosecution. The appropriate defense is determined by the facts of the case and the defense attorney's ability to exploit them to the defendant's advantage.