Drug laws are constantly changing, but possession of certain drugs such as cocaine can still be a very serious offense. Across the country, there has been a movement to decriminalize small amounts of drug use. However, in certain states, even small possession of cocaine can result in a felony charge. According to the Drug War Facts website (http://www.drugwarfacts.org/chapter/cocaine_crack#Data), in 2016 about 1.9 million or 0.7% of people 12 and older were “current users of cocaine.” Also according to the site over 38 million people had admitted to using cocaine at least one time in their lives.
Overview Of Cocaine Possession Laws In Texas
In the state of Texas possession of any amount of cocaine is considered a felony charge. The drug possession laws are outlined in the Texas Penal Code Health and Safety Section Title 6 Chapter 481 (http://www.statutes.legis.state.tx.us/Docs/HS/htm/HS.481.htm.) The Texas State law defines drug possession as “actual care, custody, control or management” of a controlled substance.
Texas splits it drug charges into two main categories being possession or sale. The penalties are harsher if someone is charged with the sale of a controlled substance as opposed to just having drugs on them. The penalties also get harsher with larger amounts of cocaine being involved. Depending on the amount, someone that gets arrested for cocaine possession can face a 3rd, 2nd, or 1st-degree felony and face excessive jail time and fines.
According to the National Drug Intelligence Center (https://www.justice.gov/archive/ndic/pubs5/5624/overview.htm), in 2002 the state of Texas ranked number one in the nation for the amount of cocaine seized with over 17,000 kilograms of cocaine getting confiscated in the state. According to the NDIC website, most of these seizures are related to illegal drugs coming across the United States and Mexico border. In 2014 the state of Texas reported a total of 23,818 arrests statewide for opium or cocaine possession (https://www.dps.texas.gov/crimereports/14/citCh9.pdf). The Texas DPS does show through their statistics that the number of drug possession arrests has been decreasing in the last ten years.
Criminal Penalties For Cocaine Possession/Sale In Texas
As stated earlier the Texas state law gives worse penalties for cocaine possession based on whether the charge is for possession or sale and how much cocaine by weight is involved. If the possession amount is less than one gram the crime is considered a state jail felony and a person convicted can face up to 2 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. For amounts between 1 and 4 grams, a person can be charged with a 3rd-degree felony and be given 2 to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. Between 4 and 200 grams, the crime is a 2nd-degree felony and can come with 2 to 20 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. If the cocaine possession amount is between 200 and 400 grams the crime will be a 1st-degree felony and the judge can sentence 5 to 99 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. If the amount possessed is greater than 400 grams than the person can be charged with an enhanced 1st-degree felony and face 10 to 99 years in prison and up to a $100,000 fine.
If a person is charged with the sale of cocaine of any amount larger than one gram, then they will receive harsher penalties than they would if they were charged with simple possession. If the sale is to a minor than the charge is automatically a 2nd-degree felony. If the sale takes place within a drug-free zone, penalties for the crime can be doubled.
In some cases, a person may be given probation instead of jail time or a combination of the two. When given probation the defendant must report to their probation officer, take drug tests, complete community service, etc. In many situations, drug abuse treatment may be a requirement to complete the probation program.
Potential Defenses And Your Rights
One of the most common defenses in drug possession cases is illegal search and seizure. The U.S. Constitution only allows police or government officials to search a person’s property in certain cases. Anything found during an illegal search cannot be used as evidence for the case. For a drug possession arrest to turn into a conviction the prosecution must prove that the police found the cocaine as a result of a legal search. In most cases, a police officer must have a search warrant or probable cause to search someone’s property.
Getting a drug possession case dismissed due to an illegal search may be tough but it is not impossible. The best thing to do is hire a lawyer for your case and they will be able to tell if you were legally searched or not. Having legal representation is sometimes the determining factor on whether a person is convicted or not, especially in cases of drug possession.