If you or a loved one are facing drug possession charges for the first time, you are probably worried about your future. Although attitudes seem to be shifting across the nation when it comes to drugs, Texas still takes these cases very seriously. Drug charges can derail your future, making it difficult to find employment and housing. Therefore, you must have a serious legal strategy for fighting the charges. Here are a few things to keep in mind when facing drug charges.
Understand your charges
The first thing you need to understand is how serious your charges are. Your charges will factor in the type of drug, the amount and any aggravating factors. Knowing the penalties you could face will help you plan your defense. Texas law categorizes drugs into five groups:
- Group One: Cocaine, methamphetamines and heroin. Less than one gram of cocaine or heroin is still a state felony. Penalties range from jail time to ten years to life for over 400 grams, and up to $100,000.
- Group Two: Hallucinogenic drugs such as PCP and Ecstasy. Less than one gram is a jail felony that can get you up to two years in jail and a $10,000 fine, whereas over 400 grams could carry anywhere from five years to life and up to $50,000.
- Group Three: Prescription Drugs, such as Ritalin and Xanax. Less than 28 grams is a Class A misdemeanor, but over 400 grams carries the same penalty as group two drugs.
- Group Four: Controlled substances, such as morphine. Less than 28 grams is a Class B misdemeanor, but over 400 grams carries the same penalty as group two and group three drugs.
- Marijuana: Marijuana is in its own classification, but still illegal. Under two ounces carries a maximum penalty of six months in jail and/or a fine of $2,000. Penalties increase with the amount in possession, but anything over four ounces could result in a felony charge.
Although these charges sound harsh and frightening, defenses and options do exist, especially for first-time offenders.
First-time offender programs
Throughout Texas, first-time offender programs are becoming more and more popular. These programs give low-level, non-violent offenders a pathway to move out of the criminal system and hopefully avoid carrying a drug charge on their criminal record, or reducing the penalties. Some programs allow you to have your record sealed. Others reduce your penalties if you enter a drug treatment program. Only certain counties have these programs, however. Dallas County has several programs for both adults and juveniles. Your attorney can help you determine if any programs are available in your area that may apply to your situation.
Facing a drug possession charge for the first time can be frightening, but you do have legal options to help protect your future.