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State Bar of Texas

Texas Drug Laws: Laws and Penalties for Controlled Substances

Jerry W. Tidwell, Jr.

Texas has some of the strictest drug laws in the country.

The penalties for basic possession can include life imprisonment under certain circumstances. If you have been caught with even a small amount of a controlled substance, you can possibly be looking at jail time for possession of drugs.

For that reason, it’s incredibly important that you contact an expert drug crimes lawyer.

texas drug penalty groups

The State of Texas does not take drug offenses lightly. If you’ve been charged for a Texas drug crime, contact the criminal defense attorneys at the Tidwell Law Firm.

We can help you negotiate your charges down and show the court that you are trying to kick a dangerous habit. While the Texas courts are not without sympathy, they also have a vested interest in discouraging the sale and proliferation of drugs in the community.

In this article, we’ll discuss Texas drug laws, potential penalties, and what you should do if you’ve been charged in Texas.

Drug Categories in Texas Law

Texas divides drugs into specific categories. The penalties are stiffer the “harder” the drug is considered to be. The categories are described below:

  • Narcotics. Narcotics are drugs of the opioid class. These include prescription pain medication used, sold, and distributed for recreational purposes as well as drugs like heroin and fentanyl.
  • Depressants. Depressants cover a wide variety of drugs. Opioids, for instance, can be considered depressants. Also, barbiturates and benzodiazepines such as Xanax or Valium that are sold recreationally. Alcohol, though legal, is also a depressant.
  • Stimulants. Stimulants include drugs like crack, cocaine, amphetamine, methamphetamine, and similar drugs. They can also include prescription ADHD medication like Ritalin, Adderall, and Dexedrine.
  • Hallucinogens. Hallucinogens include drugs like marijuana, LSD, ketamine, PCP, magic mushrooms, peyote, and others.

Based on these categories, Texas assigns specific penalties.

Drug Offenses in Texas

In Texas, drug crimes aren’t just penalized based on the type of drug involved, but also on the details of the offense. Indeed, Texas recognizes the following drug crimes (more information on penalties for these crimes is described in detail below):

  • Possession of a controlled (penalty) substance. Under Texas’ Penal Code Section 1.07 (a) (39), “possession” is defined as the “actual care, custody, control, or management” of a substance. If a person has a controlled substance on their person, even if they are not using that substance, they can be charged with possession. Further, if a person has control over a substance, even if it is not on their person (i.e. it is in their home in a drawer and they have knowledge of this), they can be charged with possession.
  • Manufacturer of a controlled (penalty) substance. A person who manufactures a controlled substance will face serious penalties. Manufacturer is typically defined as the production of a controlled substance via chemical synthesis or natural extraction.
  • Delivery of a controlled (penalty) substance. If a person gives a controlled substance to another party, they can be charged with delivery of a controlled substance/drug trafficking.

Penalty Groups for Drugs under Texas Law

There are four penalty groups and then a separate group entirely for marijuana and marijuana analogs.

Penalty Group 1

This penalty group consists of opioids, including illegally obtained prescription painkillers, heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine, and hardcore hallucinogens like LSD, magic mushrooms, ketamine, and mescaline. The penalties for possession range from 2 years in prison and a $10,000 fine to life imprisonment for possession of 400 grams or more and a $250,000 fine.

Penalty Group 2

Penalty Group 2 consists of “club drugs” like Ecstasy, PCP, hashish and other cannabis derivatives. The penalties for these range from 2 years in prison and a $10,000 fine for possession of less than 1 gram to life in prison for possession of more than 400 grams.

Penalty Group 3

The third penalty group consists of sedatives, including less potent opioids like codeine, benzodiazepines like Valium or Xanax, barbiturates, anabolic steroids, drugs like Ritalin or other prescription stimulants or depressants. The penalties for this group range from a minimum of 1 year in prison and a $4,000 fine to 20 years for possessing more than 200 grams.

Penalty Group 4

The final penalty group consists of opioids that are not listed in groups 1 or 2, and other prescription medications. The drugs have similar penalties to group 3.

The Marijuana Group

The marijuana group consists of marijuana, of course, and other similar drugs like K2 or Spice. Penalties for possession include mandatory probation with a dismissal of charges pending the successful completion of a drug rehabilitation program.

On the steeper end, you can face six months in jail and a fine of $2000 for possession of 2 ounces or less. Those found in possession of even small amounts of marijuana are likely to have their driver’s license suspended for at least 6 months. Those caught with more than two ounces can face up to 10 years in prison.

Salvia is not marijuana; it is an herb, part of the mint family, that can be chewed, smoked, or vaporized. When used, salvia has hallucinogenic effects. Typically, the effects of salvia last approximately 30 minutes, and users report having changes in vision, body sensations, and feelings of being disconnected from their environment in addition to hallucinations. Unlike marijuana, which is illegal at the federal level, salvia is not illegal under federal law; however, many states do regulate its use.

Salvia is listed as a Penalty Group 3 drug in the Texas Controlled Substances Act, and is illegal in the state. Depending upon the amount that a person has in possession, a person could be charged with a felony or a misdemeanor offense. Penalties for possession could range from a fine or up to a year in jail to a sentence of between five years to life in prison, depending upon the quantity of drug in question.

Defenses to Drug Charges in the State of Texas

As scary as all of that sounds, you may have a way out. The fact that you have been caught with drugs does not necessarily imply that you are guilty of a charge.

Being charged with a crime is not the same as being convicted of one, and Texas recognizes that distinction. By definition, possession implies that you have control over a drug that you are not legally allowed to possess. With that in mind, there are a number of defenses a defendant can raise in court to defend themselves against a drug possession charge.

  • You did not have control over the drug or know what the drug in your possession was. In other words, you’re claiming that someone else gave you the drug or left in your car and you were neither aware that the drug was there nor that it was, in fact, an illegal drug. In order for the prosecutor to prove possession, they must show that you voluntary took an illegal substance into your possession.
  • You were legally allowed to possess the drug. This defense, of course, requires that you prove that you had a legal right to possess an otherwise controlled substance for research purposes or because you had a valid prescription from a medical doctor. Once you can show proof of this, charges are generally dropped.
  • You possessed a negligible quantity of the drug. In other words, you were in possession of so little of the drug, that the arrest was not valid under the law.

As an addition to these affirmative defenses, you can also say that the drug was confiscated in an illegal search and seizure. In that event, any charges against you would be considered invalid based on unlawful discovery.

Texas Controlled Substances – How an Attorney can Help if You’re Facing Charges

If you’re facing charges related to the possession, possession with intent, distribution/trafficking, or manufacturer of a controlled substance in our state, working with an attorney is essential. Our Texas controlled substances criminal defense lawyers at the Tidwell Law Firm, PLLC will help you by:

  • Explaining the law;
  • Helping you to understand potential consequences you face if convicted;
  • Exploring all potential defenses relevant to your case;
  • Filing motions on your behalf, including motions to have evidence suppressed;
  • Negotiating a plea bargain with the prosecution;
  • Representing you in a criminal trial; and
  • More.

Dealing with criminal charges related to a controlled substance in Texas on your own can be overwhelming and intimidating. Our lawyers will work hard to protect your best interests and your Constitutional rights, and secure the best case outcome possible.

Consult a Texas Defense Attorney

Texas drug possession laws are needlessly abstruse and highly variable. The courts and prosecutors reserve the right to charge the defendant as much or as little as they want. It’s important to retain experienced criminal defense counsel to advise you through the process. You want a lawyer before you sign a confession or accept a plea deal.

The Tidwell Law Firm can represent your interests if you’ve been charged with drug possession. Before you do or say anything contact our attorneys and we will ensure that your rights are protected.

Give us a call or contact us online and we can begin advising you on how best to proceed immediately.

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