Have You Been Accused of a Drug Crime?
Looney, Smith & Conrad, P.C., Criminal Defense Law Firm
Texas Drug Crime Attorney
Since 1995 criminal defense trial attorney Paul Looney has litigated
60 criminal jury trials with zero final convictions
The United States government classifies drugs according to a schedule. Classes from 1 to 5 are “controlled substances,” and are available only with a prescription – or not at all. If a person is found to be in possession of a drug that is illegal, or a legal drug without a prescription, he or she faces criminal drug charges under federal as well as state laws.
The severity of drug charges depends on the type of drug, quantity involved, and whether they are suspected of manufacturing, distributing or trafficking the drug, or fraudulently obtaining it with a prescription. Drug charges can be either felonies or misdemeanors, and may be filed in State or Federal court.
Since the war on drugs began in the 1980’s, the federal government has aggressively pursued drug convictions, and as a consequence our prison population has more than quintupled. The prevalence of drug use leads people to assume drug charges are not serious, which is simply not true. Drug crimes have among the most aggressive sentencing guidelines in the criminal justice system.
As soon as a person knows or suspects themselves or a loved one may be charged with a drug-related crime, a criminal defense attorney with experience defending against drug charges needs to be consulted. Drug Crimes Lawyers at Looney, Smith & Conrad, P.C. are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to answer questions.
Types of Drug-Related Crimes
- Possession of a Controlled Substance
- Drug Distribution, Trafficking, and Manufacturing
What Constitutes Possession of a Controlled Substance?
Possession of a controlled substance occurs when a person owns or otherwise has care, custody, control or management over a drug or other illegal substance. More than one person may possess the same drugs. These charges usually apply when a person is found carrying marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine, or other illegal narcotics. Also, without a proper prescription, prescription medications qualify as controlled substances, and possession charges are possible.
- The crime of possessing a controlled substance occurs when a person knowingly or intentionally exercised actual care, custody, control or management over a controlled substance. The prosecution must only show the accused knew the drugs were present and intended to possess them. Prosecutors can show this from the circumstances of the case, and they do not need to have actual statements from the accused or evidence that the accused ever actually used the drugs.
- Simple Possession
- Possession means a person has care, custody, control and management over the controlled substance. Courts have held a person can have either actual or constructive possession. This means a person may have it on them, or that the person has control over the drug, (having the drugs in a vehicle glove compartment, a bag, or hidden in the home, for example).
- Shared Possession
- A defendant can be convicted of possessing a controlled substance if the prosecutor can show the accused had at least partial control over the drug. For example, two roommates may each be convicted of possession if they shared an apartment in which the police found marijuana. However, prosecutors must show more than the two were just roommates in the same home, by proving, for example, that each defendant had control over the drugs or made incriminating statements about them.
Drugs in Vehicles
Many possession cases arise from interactions between motorists and the police. In these situations, it’s common for the police to find drugs in the car and charge the driver with possession, or if the quantity is large, intent to deliver. The police may also be able to charge the driver with possession if passengers are found with drugs on their person, or vice versa.
However, even when the prosecutor can show that there were drugs in the car, the prosecutor must prove the driver or passengers knew the drugs were there, or that they were near the driver or in plain view. Often, in the face of an aggressive defense, the State is unable to prove beyond a reasonable doubt which of the car’s occupants possessed the drugs.
In order to be convicted, there must be knowledge of the possession to be found guilty. When a person is found to be in possession of a drug, law enforcement may attempt to get the person to admit he or she knew it was there or get the person to say he or she knew it was there but didn’t know what it was or that it was illegal.
Marijuana possession, sale, and manufacture are regulated by both state and federal law.
In Texas, marijuana is classified as a Schedule I substance, which means that it has no legally recognized uses. Some states legalized possession of user quantities of marijuana, and more than a dozen states have legalized marijuana for medical use, but marijuana presently has no legally accepted use in Texas. Medical marijuana patients who bring marijuana into Texas from another state face prosecution.
Drug Distribution, Trafficking, and Manufacturing
Depending on the facts, a person charged with possessing an illegal drug might face charges of possession with the intent to deliver. Intent to deliver crimes, commonly referred to as intent to distribute, drug dealing, sales, or trafficking, are more serious than simple possession, and are usually based on the amount of drugs a person is found with, the drug’s purity, or by other evidence showing the accused intended to sell them and not just use them.
Manufacturing and drug trafficking convictions have especially severe consequences. Federal agencies like the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) or the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) may be involved and the case may be prosecuted in federal court. Convictions in federal court are subject to mandatory minimum sentences that may be harsher than state penalties.
“Valid Reason” For A Police Stop
There must be a valid reason for a law enforcement officer to conduct a traffic stop but what exactly is the definition of a “valid reason”? If an officer sees a driver briefly cross the white line onto the shoulder of the road, is that a sufficiently valid reason?
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals answered this question. The case involved a mini-van stopped for crossing over the white line onto the shoulder of the road. During the police stop, the officer found meth in one of the van’s tires and charged the driver with a drug crime.
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals threw out the evidence, stating that the stop was illegal. The court said that even sober drivers can briefly cross onto the shoulder of the road. According to Section 545.058 of the Texas Transportation Code, Texas drivers are permitted to travel on an “improved shoulder,” or a paved shoulder if determined necessary and if it can be completed safely.
Driving on the right shoulder is permitted under the Texas Transportation Code in order to stop, stand or park the vehicle; to accelerate before entering the travel lane; or to decelerate before a right turn. Using the right shoulder is also allowed when passing another vehicle that is slowing or stopped in the travel lane or about to turn left or to let a faster vehicle pass. Drivers can also use the right shoulder to avoid a collision or when required to by traffic-controlled mechanism such as construction barrels.
Driving on the left shoulder is permitted in order to slow or stop a disabled vehicle that can’t reach the right shoulder, to avoid a collision or when required to do so by traffic-controlled mechanisms.
In the case of the mini-van mentioned above, the driver actually consented to the search that led to the police finding meth in the tire. But because the police stop was illegal, the evidence was thrown out. People arrested for drug crimes and other crimes must know their rights and consider the possibility that their rights have been violated. Any evidence of improper procedure on the part of police can dramatically change the outcome of a drug case.
To answer the question, “Is driving on the shoulder a valid reason for a police stop?” the answer is “no”. The courts have determined this is not a violation of the law and does not provide a reasonable basis for an officer to pull you over and search your vehicle. The courts have also acknowledged that it is nearly impossible to drive in a perfectly straight line. However, if you are stopped by law enforcement, be polite, courteous and do not consent to any searches. Call the Houston Drug Crimes Attorney for a free evaluation of your case.
Consequences of a Drug-Related Conviction
If convicted, permanent consequences will occur. Prison, years on probation or parole, travel restrictions, rejection from potential employers, and the fear of violating conditions of release with a trivial technical violation, are more than anyone should face alone. Under Section 481.119(a) of the Health and Safety Code, if a person charged with delivery of a controlled substance has a previous conviction for the same offense, the crime now becomes a state jail felony. Further, if the person has been convicted of two previous crimes for delivery of a controlled substance, the crime now becomes a 3rd degree felony.
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For assistance with drug crime issues, contact a Drug Crime Lawyer at
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