Although some federal laws can be relevant in an illegal drug possession case, the establishment of what constitutes a crime and what penalties apply is principally a matter of state law. State laws vary along a spectrum from relatively liberal to very strict. By and large, Texas remains at the stricter end of the scale. For example, while some states have decriminalized (that is, eliminated the possibility of incarceration or a large fine) or even legalized possession of relatively small amounts of recreational marijuana, possession of as little as an ounce in Texas can result in incarceration for up to 180 days.
Texas drug possession fundamentals
A number of factors come into play in determining when and how to charge a person with possession. The principal considerations include drug type, quantity, paraphernalia and prior convictions. Even states with less strict drug laws generally consider some drugs to be more dangerous than others.
In Texas, drugs are assigned to one of six “Penalty Groups” (“PGs”) based on their perceived harmfulness. Note that the lists below are not comprehensive. An experienced drug possession defense attorney in Grapevine or elsewhere in Tarrant County will be able to ascertain the PG into which a particular substance falls.
Opium, opium derivatives (including heroin), codeine, a lengthy list of opioids, methamphetamine, Rohypnol, GBH and several more. A conviction of possessing a Penalty Group 1 substance typically carries the most severe penalties.
LSD and closely related compounds.
PG 2 includes other hallucinogens, including psilocybin and mescaline, and synthetic marijuana.
An extensive list of stimulants and depressives, though many may be legally prescribed by a licensed physician.
Various compounds containing relatively small amounts of codeine and other specified substances. “Marijuana” is a separate and distinct PG.
The greater the amount of drug in one's possession, the more serious the charge against the individual will be. In the case of marijuana, six quantity ranges are established. Penalties range from a maximum six months in prison for possession of two ounces or less to life for possession of more than one ton.
Possession of scales, large amounts of cash and similar items may be taken as circumstantial evidence of possession with intent to distribute. As in most states, this is a more serious offense than “simple” possession. Enhanced penalties apply if intent to distribute to persons under 21 years old is proven.
Statutes of limitations of various lengths provide some protection against criminal prosecution for crimes allegedly committed years before. Certain serious offenses including homicide and some sex crimes are not subject to a statute of limitations in Texas. However, unless the defendant in a drug possession case is also charged with one of these offenses or another more serious charge, charges must ordinarily be brought within three years from the date of the offense.
NOTE: This is for informational purposes only and is not legal advice.