Yes, a drug crime charge is possible when you are caught with prescription drugs. Even though prescription drugs are legal, they can be in violation of Texas’s controlled substances laws under certain circumstances. For example, being in possession of a prescription drug without a prescription.
Yet, even having a prescription may not shield you from a drug crime charge. Take, for instance, someone with a large number of prescribed drugs, like multiple months of dosages. It could be inferred they are collecting it with the intent to sell. This inference may be even stronger depending on how it is packaged and if it is accompanied by other evidence, like cash or a scale.
What Charge Can I Receive For Prescription Drugs
Texas has one of the strictest and complicated controlled substance laws in the country. It places all legal and illegal drugs into Penalty Groups 1, 2, 3, or 4 except for marijuana. Marijuana is in a separate group on its own.At a minimum, these penalties carry a Class B or Class A misdemeanor allowing for up to 1 year in jail and fines totaling $4,000. The highest felony charge can mean life or 99 years in prison with fines up to $250,000. The punishments range from group to group and go up with a greater quantity within a group.
Prescription drugs are implicated in a number of the penalty groups, and now with medical cannabis, is implicated by the marijuana group as well. Opioid based pain killers like codeine, hydrocodone, and oxycodone are in Group 1. Penalties start at 180 days and $10,000 fine. If there are 400 grams or more, penalties max out at life and $250,000 in fines.
Group 3 is home to prescription drugs that have a stimulant or depressant effect (like Ritalin). Group 4 is home to a wide range of prescription medications, not in Groups 1 or 3. The minimum penalties for Group 3 and 4 are the same as group 1, while the max penalty if over 400 grams are found, is life with fines up to $50,000.
Medical marijuana is not “prescribed” due to Federal laws, but Texas does allow it to be “recommended” by doctors for certain medical conditions. The analysis follows other prescription drugs, a doctor’s recommendation can shield you from liability for possession of marijuana, subject to following the rules.
The minimum penalty in the marijuana group is probation, mandatory drug treatment, and very likely suspension of your driver’s license for six months. Possession of more than two ounces risks ten years in jail and fines from $4,000 up to $50,000.
Other factors that could affect the severity of punishment in addition to quantity is if there was an “intent to deliver.” For example, if the drugs are concealed, stored in sellable amounts, and a scale is present, the inference of an intent to sell will likely be made. Past convictions will also be a factor. If found with a large number of drugs for sale, you could face federal charges as well.
Defense To A Drug Charge
There are a number of ways an experienced attorney can defend you from an illegal drug conviction. As discussed above, having a prescription or a doctor’s recommendation for medical marijuana can be a defense, but is not insurmountable depending on the context. There are, however, other defenses available.
An unlawful search and seizure that violates the 4th Amendment of the Constitution will lead to the suppression of the evidence seized. This is an important analysis when assessing drug possession charges, as it is impossible to convict with no evidence. Law enforcement must follow prescribed constitutional safeguards as further defined by the Supreme Court’s case law.
There are other hurdles to a successful conviction the defense counsel can leverage. Sometimes police, prosecutor, or crime labs misplace the evidence. Crime labs must also establish a clean chain of custody when making a determination that a seized substance is a controlled one.
Defense could also claim the drugs belongs to someone else or were not for human consumption. Lastly, and likely most difficult to show, is the police officer planted the drugs or entrapment. Planting requires defendants’ word against the officers, and entrapment requires showing that the defendant would not have done the crime but for the police officer’s encouragement.
Contact An Experienced Houston Texas Drug Crime Attorney Today
A drug crime conviction in Texas can have serious consequences. Call the Law Firm of Vinas and Graham to help you through Texas’s complicated controlled substances laws. As former Felony Prosecutors, they have the experience needed to protect your rights and freedom. Contact a top Houston drug crime defense firm today, and please feel to follow on Facebook.