How Is A Drug Charge Determined To Be Either A Misdemeanor Or A Felony In Texas?
The state of Texas is known for its harsh drug possession laws. Many drug cases do rise to the level of a felony in Texas, but the seriousness of a drug charge depends on how much, and what type of controlled substance is involved with the offense. Generally speaking, the more drugs that are involved, the more serious the charges.
In order to truly understand how a drug charge is determined to be either a misdemeanor or a felony in Texas, you need to be familiar with the 6 penalty groups outlined in the Texas Controlled Substances Act.
What Are the Drug Penalty Groups Under Texas Law?
The penalty groups range from the offenses that carry the most severe punishments to the groups that carry the least severe punishments. They are:
- Penalty Group 1 includes codeine, hydrocodone, oxycodone, opium, opium derivatives, opioids, methamphetamine, ketamine, mescaline, and hallucinogens. Possession of a Penalty Group 1 substance is always charged as a felony. For the smaller amounts, you can be sentenced to between 180 days and 2 years in state jail and a fine of up to $10,000. For larger amounts, you can be sentenced to between 15 and 99 years in prison as well as a maximum fine of $100,000.
- Penalty Group 1A includes LSD and any derivatives of LSD. That includes any salt, isomer, or salts of isomers. Possession of a Penalty Group 1A substance is always charged as a felony under Texas law. For small amounts, you’ll face a state jail sentence of between 180 days and 2 years in addition to a fine of up to $10,000. For the highest amounts, you will face a prison sentence of between 15 and 99 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.
- Penalty Group 2 includes hallucinogenic drugs like ecstasy, PCP, and peyote. Possession of a Penalty Group 2 substance is always charged as a felony, with a conviction for less than a gram carrying a potential sentence of 180 days to 2 years in state jail. It also carries a maximum fine of $10,000. For possession of more than 400 grams, you will face a potential sentence of between 5 and 99 years in state prison and a fine of up to $50,000.
- Penalty Group 2A includes artificial chemical compounds that mimic cannabinoids. If convicted of possessing less than a gram of a Group 2B substance you will be charged with a Class B misdemeanor. If you are alleged to have possessed between 1 and 4 grams, you will be charged with a Class A misdemeanor.
Any amount above 4 grams by weight will be charged as a felony under Texas law. For smaller amounts, you will face up to a year in county jail. But a conviction for more than 400 grams of a Group 2A substance carries a potential sentence of between 2 and 20 years in state prison as well as a fine of up to $10,000.
- Penalty Group 3 includes benzodiazepines, anabolic steroids, methylphenidate, and other prescription drugs that have either a stimulant or depressant effect. Possession of small amounts of drugs in Group three is considered misdemeanors under Texas law. These charges carry a county jail sentence of up to 1 year as well as a maximum fine of $4,000. Possession of 28 grams or more of a Group 3 substance is a felony, with a maximum penalty of up to 99 years in state prison for possession of more than 400 grams.
Penalty Group 4 is made up of a variety of prescription medications as well as the chemical compounds that go into those medications. They are typically prescription drugs that have a high potential for abuse.
The possession of less than 28 grams of a Penalty Group 4 drug is treated as a Class B Misdemeanor under Texas law. If convicted, you would face up to 180 days in county jail as well as a fine of no more than $2,000. However, the possession of 28 grams or more of a Penalty Group 4 substance will lead to felony charges. If you are convicted for possessing more than 400 grams, you will face a prison sentence of between 5 and 99 years as well as a maximum fine of $50,000.
- Marijuana is not categorized with any of the 6 penalty groups. Possession of less than a quarter of an ounce will result in being charged with a misdemeanor. For anything more than a quarter of an ounce, you will be charged with a felony under Texas law. If you are in possession of 2,000 pounds of marijuana, you will face between 10 and 99 years in state prison as well as a maximum fine of up to $100,000.
As you can see, there is a lot of detail in how a drug charge is determined to be either a misdemeanor or a felony in Texas. However, it’s easier to understand that the more serious the drug and the larger the quantity, the more serious the punishment.
What Is the Difference Between Possession and Possession with Intent to Distribute in Texas?
The easiest way to understand the difference between possession and possession with intent to distribute is to think about whether the drugs are for personal use or for sale or distribution to others.
The presumption is that drugs are intended for personal use, unless the government can prove otherwise. For example, if a person is arrested with more drugs than an individual could possibly use themselves, then the presumption is that they indented to sell the drugs. Intent to distribute can also be proven if the police have surveillance of drugs being sold or were part of a sting operation.
Can the Police Search a Home or Automobile without a Warrant if There is a Suspicion of Drugs on the Premises?
The Fourth Amendment requires that the police get a warrant before they search an individual or an individual’s home or property, including a car.
However, there are a long list of exceptions to that rule, especially when it comes to searching automobiles. If the police have probable cause (for example, they smell marijuana during a routine traffic stop) they can search your automobile without a warrant. But generally, a warrant is required before a search can take place.
Could I be Arrested on a Drug Charge if I am in a Home or Automobile Where Drugs are Present?
If you are a passenger in a motor vehicle, or if you’re in a place where drugs are found by the police, it’s possible that you may receive a drug related charge. It’s possible even if you had nothing to do with taking, buying, or selling the drugs.
In order to determine your involvement, Texas law will refer to the doctrine known as affirmative links. Affirmative links means that a reasonable person in your situation would have been aware that were drugs on the premises. If a reasonable person in your situation would have been aware that drugs were present, then you can be charged.
Have You Been Arrested on a Drug Charge in Texas?
If you’ve been arrested on a drug charge, then contact Fertitta & Reynal, LLP for a free consultation and a top-notch defense strategy. Please call (713) 364-0007 today.
Call Now To Speak With An Attorney