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Drug Offenses

Houston Criminal Defense Attorney Lloyd S. van Oostenrijk

Houston Drug Possession Attorney

Unlike other criminal cases, the government usually builds a drug possession or drug trafficking case on the word of an informant’s controlled buy, traffic stop, search of a home or business, or through wiretaps or other tracking devices.  The defense of drug cases often depends on whether the government had reasonable suspicion to stop a vehicle, probable cause to search the person or vehicle, search a home or business, obtain a wiretap, or install a tracking device.  It is important to hire an attorney who is willing to spend the necessary time in investigating your case to determine whether a motion to suppress evidence or statements can be filed and, if so, the likelihood of success.  The key time in the case is not just the jury trial but also the motion to suppress.

Here are the normal punishments for drug offenses absent prior convictions or possession in a drug-free zone:

PENALTY GROUP 1:

Possession Offense Level Incarceration Fine
Less than 1 gram State Jail Felony At least 180 days in jail up to 2 years $10,000.00
More than 1 gram but less than 4 grams 3rd Degree Felony 2 to 10 years in prison $10,000.00
More than 4 grams but less than 200 grams 2nd Degree Felony 2 to 20 years in prison $10,000.00
200 to 400 grams 1st Degree Felony 5 to 99 years $100,000.00
400 grams or more 1st Degree Felony Enhanced Life imprisonment or 10 to 99 years $100,000.00

 

PENALTY GROUP 1-A

Possession Offense Level Incarceration Fine
Fewer than 20 units State Jail Felony 180 days to 2 years $10,000.00
20 units to 80 units 3rd Degree Felony 2 years to 10 years $10,000.00
80 units to 4,000 units 2nd Degree Felony 5 years to 20 years $10,000.00
4,000 units to 8,000 units 1st Degree Felony 15 to 99 years $50,000.00
8,000 units or more 1st Degree Felony Enhanced Life imprisonment or 15 to 99 years $250,000.00

 

PENALTY GROUP 2

Possession Offense Level Incarceration Fine
Less than 1 gram State Jail Felony 180 days to 2 years $10,000.00
1 gram to 4 grams 3rd Degree Felony 2 to 10 years $10,000.00
4 grams to 400 grams 2nd Degree Felony 2 to 20 years $10,000.00
400 grams or more 1st Degree Felony 5 to 99 years $50,000.00

 

PENALTY GROUP 2-A (Marijuana in Plant Form):

Possession Offense Level Incarceration Fine
2 ounces or less Class B misdemeanor 180 days $2,000.00
2 to 4 ounces Class A misdemeanor 1 year $4,000.00
4 ounces to 5 pounds State Jail Felony 180 days to 2 years $10,000.00
5 to 50 pounds 3rd Degree Felony 2 to 10 years $10,000.00
50 to 2,000 pounds 2nd Degree Felony 2 to 20 years $10,000.00
More than 2,000 pounds 1st Degree Felony Life imprisonment or 5 to 99 years $50,000.00

If the marijuana is given as a gift or sold, the following punishment levels apply:

Sale Offense Level Incarceration Fine
Gift of ¼ ounce or less Class B misdemeanor 180 days $2,000.00
Sale of ¼ ounce or less Class A misdemeanor 1 year $4,000.00
¼ ounce to 5 pounds State Jail Felony 180 days to 2 years $10,000.00
5 to 50 pounds 2nd Degree Felony 2 to 20 years $10,000.00
50 to 2,000 pounds 1st Degree Felony 5 to 99 years $10,000.00
2,000 pounds or more 1st Degree Felony Enhanced Life imprisonment or 10 to 99 years $100,000.00

 

PENALTY GROUP 3:

Possession Offense Level Incarceration Fine
Less than 28 grams Class A Misdemeanor 1 Year $4,000.00
28 grams to 200 grams 3rd Degree Felony 2 years to 10 years $10,000.00
200 grams to 400 grams 2nd Degree Felony 2 years to 20 years $10,000.00
400 grams or more 1st degree felony Life imprisonment or 5 to 99 years $50,000.00

 

PENALTY GROUP 4:

Possession Offense Level Incarceration Fine
Less than 28 grams Class B Misdemeanor 0 to 180 days $2,000.00
28 grams to 200 grams 3rd Degree Felony 2 years to 10 years $10,000.00
200 grams to 400 grams 2nd Degree Felony 2 years to 20 years $10,000.00
400 grams or more 1st degree felony Life imprisonment or 5 to 99 years $50,000.00

 

The possession of drug paraphernalia or sale of paraphernalia is also illegal.

Miscellaneous Offense Level Incarceration Fine
Paraphernalia Possession Class C misdemeanor None $500.00
Paraphernalia Sale Class A misdemeanor 1 year $4,000.00

 

You should also note that sale to minors or possession or sale within a “drug free zone” will ehance the punishment as well. A drug-free zone finding in a felony case also results in a mandatory minimum sentence of five years that must be served day-for-day.  A second drug-free zone finding for a plea or conviction turns that offense into a 3(g) offense meaning you must serve (day-for-day one-half of your sentence) and that a judge cannot grant community supervision (probation).

 

To a minor (Penalty Groups 1, 1-A, 2, or 3 and marijuana) 2nd Degree Felony 2 to 20 years $10,000.00
Within 1,000 feet of school or within 300 feet of specified areas Misdemeanor or felony depending on the amount possessed Increases Penalty by a Degree Fines are also increased

 

Finally, possession of materials to manufacture drugs can be prosecuted and the range of punishment depends on which Penalty Group the substance being made falls into, the type of substance, and the quantity of the ingredient substance. This includes ingredient substances like anhydrous ammonia, ephedrine, pseudoephedrine, lithium, sodium metal, red phosphorous, iodine, iodine crystals, lye, sulfuric acid, hydrochloric acid, muriatic acid, organic solvents (ethyl ether, alcohol, or acetone), a petroleum distillate (including naptha, paint thinner, or charcoal lighter fluid), or aquarium, rock, or table salt. You must possess these items in addition to a piece of chemical laboratory apparatus, and the item possessed is not in a proper container for you to be charged for a violation of Section 481.124 of the Texas Controlled Substance Act. Violations of this section range from a Class A misdemeanor to a second-degree felony.

Drug cases are serious and the range of punishment depends on the amount of drugs possessed and where the drugs were possessed.  Prior convictions may also be used to enhance the punishment in a particular case.  Possession in a drug free zone (i.e., within 1,000 feet of a school, playground, or other specified area) can also be used to enhance the punishment up one whole level.

The normal range of punishment also depends on the type of substances being possessed and which of the Penalty Groups it falls into.  You should keep in mind that if you have had a previous conviction, these penalties below may increase.  In fact, even with misdemeanor cases, there is the possibility of statutory minimum sentences.  If you have prior convictions and are facing a new drug case, call me at 713.665.4400 to set up a consultation.

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