Are you facing a drug possession charge?

Attorney Matthew ShrumIf you have been arrested for possession of drugs, you need to know the specifics of the charge or charges against you, and the potential consequences if you are convicted.  You also need the services of an experienced Austin criminal lawyer to examine the facts, determine the strength of the case against you, as well as to explore and take advantage of any defenses that may exist.  Finally, you will want to know whether there are sentencing alternatives available to you.

At the Law Office of Matthew Shrum, we represent clients charged with drug crimes, including drug possession.  We have the answers to your questions, and we will fight to protect your rights.  Contact us for a free consultation concerning your drug possession case.

How are drugs classified in Texas?

The system in Texas for classifying drugs is similar to the way it is done by the federal system and by most states.  Drugs are placed in categories – in Texas these are called “penalty groups” – to reflect the supposed dangers of the drugs.  Specifically, the groups are intended to rank drugs based upon their capacity for abuse, and their medical value, or lack thereof.  Here are the groups (marijuana is classified separately), as set forth in the Texas Controlled Substance Act (Chapter 481 of the Health and Safety Code), including some of the drugs included in each:

  • Penalty Group 1. This group includes many street drugs, including heroin, cocaine, and meth (methamphetamine), as well as some drugs used in prescription medications, such as oxycodone (OxyContin) and hydrocodone (over 300 mg) (used in Vicodin).
  • Penalty Group 1-A. LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide).
  • Penalty Group 2. Mescaline, PCP (phencyclidine), psilocybin, ecstasy.
  • Penalty Group 2-A. Synthetic cannabinoids, known by names such as Spice, K2, and others.
  • Penalty Group 3. Includes Valium (diazepam), Xanax (alprazolam), hydrocodone (under 300 mg), anabolic steroids, and Ritalin (methylphenidate).
  • Penalty Group 4. Codeine (up to 200 mg), opium (up to 15 mg), etc.

The truth is that some of the penalty group classifications in Texas, as in other places in the country, are outmoded, and many believe the placement of some drugs in certain groups is scientifically unsupported.  Unfortunately, the classification will determine, at least to some degree, the level of the charge against you.

Drug possession penalties

The overall classification of drug possession charges for purposes of what the penalty will be if you are convicted will depend not only on the type of drug involve, that is, which penalty group the drug is placed in, but also by the amount of the drug possessed, and certain other factors.

  • Amount of drugs possessed. As a general rule, as the amount of drugs possessed increases, so does the penalty.  For Penalty Group 1 and 2 drugs, for example, possession of under a gram is a state jail penalty.  For higher amounts, the classification increases.  In the case of Penalty Group 3 and 4 drugs, possession of less than an ounce (28 grams) is a class A misdemeanor.  Possession of larger amounts is a felony.
  • Aggravating factors. Depending on the facts of you case, the presence of an aggravating factor will generally increase the penalty in possession case.  Examples of aggravating factors are possession in a drug free zone, and possession with intent to distribute.

The potential penalty in your case will therefore be determined by which drug is involved, the amount possessed, as well as the presence of any aggravating factors.

Defenses to drug possession charges

As with any other criminal charge, you are innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.  So if you are facing a possession charge, there is hope.  Many drug cases involve a search and seizure by the police; if the search and seizure was illegal, then the results of the police actions – usually the drugs themselves – may be inadmissible in court, and this alone could lead to a dismissal of the case against you.  Other defenses may also apply in your case.

Law Office of Matthew Shrum – Additional defense strategies

While Texas does have a reputation of being tough on drugs, there are avenues to explore that might lead to an acceptable result short of fighting a drug case.  Where trace amounts of a drug, even a Penalty Group 1 drug, is involved, it may be possible to have the charge treated as a misdemeanor.  In addition, some counties have diversion programs that may allow first offenders to have the possession charge dismissed after successful completion of the program.

Choosing the right lawyer can make all the difference in your drug possession case.  From developing the strongest defense possible, to diversion programs, to negotiating with the prosecutor, you want to give yourself the best chance of minimizing the damage these charges have caused in your life.  Call Mr. Shrum today to schedule a free consultation, and see how we can help you to get your life back on track.