Archive for August, 2017

Collateral Consequences of a Drug Possession Offense in Texas

Texas criminal defense attorneyIn the history of American criminal justice, drug offenses have generally been subject to some of the harshest penalties, despite the majority of them being non-violent offenses.

The current penal code in effect in Texas is no different. Defendants convicted of drug offenses are subject to jail time, fines and court fees, substance abuse counseling, community service, driver’s license suspension and a host of other sanctions. Even a first offense can carry serious penalties for charges of drug possession.

No criminal defense attorney can promise a particular outcome, but an experienced lawyer can help you navigate the system, protect your rights, work to suppress evidence harmful to your case, negotiate favorable plea deals and, in some cases and work toward a successful trial verdict.

The Criminal Penalties for a First Offense of Drug Possession

The sentencing for drug offenses is set forth in Section 481 of the Texas Health and Safety Code. Sentences are determined based upon (1) the type of drug, and (2) the quantity of the drug. Based upon these factors, the possession offense is classified as a:

  • Class C misdemeanor (punishable by a fine of up to $500)
  • Class B misdemeanor (punishable by a fine of up to $2000, up to 180 days in jail, or both)
  • Class C misdemeanor (punishable by a fine of up to $4000, up to one year in jail, or both)
  • State jail felony (punishable by a fine of up to $10,000 and a jail term of 180 days to two years)
  • Third degree felony (punishable by a fine of up to $10,000 and a prison term of two to ten years)
  • Second degree felony (punishable by a fine of up to $10,000 and a prison term of two to twenty years)
  • First degree felony (punishable by a fine of up to $10,000 and a prison term of five to ninety-nine years)

The Collateral Consequences of a Drug Conviction

Many criminal defendants are painfully unaware of the collateral consequences of a conviction for drug possession – even if it is a first offense.

The criminal process is lengthy, and often results in a significant amount of missed work. Job prospects are usually severely limited after a drug conviction – even if it is a misdemeanor. The consequences of a criminal record is not limited only to job opportunities, either housing, professional licensure, education, welfare benefits, military records, immigration status, the right to serve in public office, and social opportunities can all be limited by the nature of a drug conviction. Civil rights are also revoked automatically after a felony conviction, including: the right to vote, the right to serve on a jury and the right to possess a firearm.

A court can order a criminal defendant to undergo substance abuse screening or treatment as it deems necessary. This, too, can incur significant investments of time and money, but it is a critical step toward rebuilding one’s life after a drug conviction. If the drug offense involved driving under the influence, a significant investment of time and money would be needed in order to restore a defendant’s driving privileges.

Because a drug conviction can carry such devastating and long-lasting consequences, it is important to seek experienced legal counsel from the beginning of your case. Not only do defendants have a constitutional right to be represented by counsel, but the collateral consequences of a drug conviction can be mitigated by effective legal representation.

Protect your legal rights by contacting a Houston criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.