Have you found yourself embroiled in a drug-related issue in Southlake or surrounding regions within Tarrant County, Texas? Just like many individuals we’ve assisted before, you could be grappling with intense anxiety and uncertainty regarding the future post your release from detention. We’ve formulated this manual to assist you in taking informed steps concerning your drug-related legal defense.
Feeling overwhelmed by fear and irritation is natural. The dread of forfeiting your job, the potential of serving time, and the looming shadow this drug accusation might cast over your life. Your irritation might propel you to scour the internet, including platforms like Google, for solutions and enlightenment.
We have constructed this manual, “Navigating Through Drug Accusations in Texas”, to empower you with confidence that by aligning with a proficient Southlake drug offense lawyer and devising a robust strategy for your defense, there exists a genuine chance to retain your freedom and rebuild your life.
To begin with, it is critical to delve into the foundational aspects of drug-related offenses as per Texas legislation. Following this, I will recount a story of a former client I defended in a drug case. Their journey could potentially serve as a resourceful guide to aid you in triumphing over your drug case in Texas. Firstly, let us explore a breakdown of drug laws in Texas:
- Possession of Marijuana: various categories ranging from under 2 ounces to exceeding 2000 pounds.
- Dangerous Drug Possession (Misdemeanor)
- Controlled Substance Possession: Categories PG1 and PG2, including various weight ranges.
- Controlled Substance Possession: Categories PG3 and PG4, detailing various weight bands and including manufacturing/delivery of a controlled substance.
A few years ago, I received an urgent late-night communication from the parents of a young individual who had been apprehended on a drug possession charge in Southlake, Texas. The parents were immensely distressed, unable to fathom their son being implicated in a drug-related offense. This was his initial encounter with drug-related charges, having maintained a clean slate until then.
Upon investigating, I learnt that this young adult, accompanied by acquaintances, was stopped by a police officer in Southlake citing a vehicular violation. During the interaction, the officer allegedly detected the aroma of smoldering marijuana, prompting a vehicle search. Subsequent to the search, drugs were found, culminating in the arrest of all occupants for possession of controlled substances. This young individual, henceforth referred to as Patrick, was escorted to the jail, with the officer critically evaluating his association with his companions during the journey.
Patrick’s parents were fervently seeking ways to hasten their son’s release. I detailed the process: Patrick would be transported to the Tarrant County Corrections Center situated at 100 North Lamar Street in downtown Southlake for necessary formalities and a hearing, post which a bail amount would be determined. Thereafter, we could commence the procedure to post bail and ensure his release.
After securing bail, Patrick came to my office, evidently disturbed by his stint at the Tarrant County detention center. He harbored numerous fears: the looming threat of incarceration, the stigma of being labeled a criminal, and the potential repercussions of a felony drug charge on his future aspirations. He was besieged by one pressing concern…
Facing a Drug Accusation, What Does My Future Hold? How Serious are My Charges?
Witnessing Patrick’s palpable distress and uncertainty concerning the forthcoming proceedings, I reassured him that not all hope was lost. With prudent handling of his case, favorable outcomes were within reach. Patrick faced a State Jail Felony charge for possessing a controlled substance under 1 gram, which could potentially result in a two-year state jail sentence and a penalty up to $10,000.
Patrick had two main concerns: firstly, averting further jail time, and secondly, finding a method to erase this charge from his criminal history. I conveyed my confidence in achieving both objectives.
What Happens if the Drugs Were Not Mine? Could My Case Be Dismissed if the Drugs Belonged to Another Person?
Patrick raised a pertinent query that called for an examination of the Texas Penal Code to elucidate. I explained that, to be convicted of controlled substance possession, the law doesn’t necessitate evidence of “ownership”. Rather, the law demands unequivocal evidence that establishes who had POSSESSION of the drugs, beyond a reasonable doubt. This left Patrick somewhat perplexed – wasn’t there a difference between possession and ownership?
Understanding “Possession” and the Burden of Proof on the Prosecution
I further detailed to Patrick that according to the laws governing the state of Texas, it’s the onus of the State to conclusively demonstrate, beyond any shade of doubt, that Patrick had an authoritative presence, holding, or influence over the narcotics. Essentially, the prosecution has to confirm that Patrick had a deliberate or cognizant grip on the illicit substance.
I emphasized that just because drugs were found in his car, it doesn’t unequivocally confirm the prosecutor’s case in linking Patrick to the awareness of their existence. Simply put, being in the car doesn’t solidify the claim that Patrick was conscious of the drugs present there. Considering there were multiple passengers, it could very well be that someone else in the vehicle was aware and had control over the drugs.
To build a substantial case, the prosecution needs to forge a direct connection between Patrick and the narcotics discovered in his vehicle. It boils down to questions like: Where exactly were the drugs situated? Were they on Patrick’s person? How proximate were the drugs to him? Were any fingerprint analyses conducted on the drug container? Establishing Patrick’s relation to the drug’s location becomes pivotal in crafting the prosecution’s narrative. The spatial distance between Patrick and the drugs could potentially undermine the prosecution’s efforts to solidify a connection.
Furthermore, it’s important to investigate whether the drugs were found inside a parcel or any kind of bag and if there were identifiable personal items within that could hint at ownership. For instance, any item carrying personal information, like a photo ID or checkbook, could facilitate the prosecutor in linking the narcotics to a particular person. Ultimately, a lack of solid proof tying Patrick directly to the narcotics can foster a substantial degree of reasonable doubt, which could be beneficial in defending his case. This seemed to reassure Patrick, especially given the presence of other passengers and the location of the drugs in the car. This led Patrick to another concern:
What Implications Could My Discussions with the Police Have? Can My Words Be Used as Proof of “Possession?”
The dynamics of the situation – including the timing, manner, and nature of your statements – play a significant role here. Essentially, it’s vital to consider the principles surrounding Miranda Rights and whether your comments are permissible in court. Patrick was anxious that his comments might be interpreted as an admission of knowledge regarding the drugs, which he wished to avoid.
I clarified to Patrick that Miranda Rights chiefly influence admissions of guilt. To Patrick’s query regarding what “confessions” entail, I explained that when an individual like him is apprehended, the police aim to glean information through strategic questioning, often pretending to be allies. Unfortunately, responses to such questions can potentially be used against you in court.
In this scenario, understanding the nuances of Miranda Rights is essential since Patrick had conversed with the police. If there was any breach in the procedure, Patrick’s comments might be inadmissible in court. This situation presented an excellent chance to elaborate on the conditions when Miranda warnings are applicable.
This principle, originating from the seminal case Miranda vs. Arizona, necessitates the following advisory to the individual: “You have the right to remain silent. Any statement you make may be used against you in court. You are entitled to have an attorney. If you cannot afford one, the court will provide one for you.”
Failing to provide Miranda warnings before questioning should, theoretically, make Patrick’s statements inadmissible in court, although there are known exceptions and police have developed methods to sidestep this requirement.
For Patrick to receive a Miranda warning before answering questions, the following criteria must be met:
- Patrick has to be formally arrested – being restrained to the point where you are not free to go qualifies as “under arrest”. This entails being physically detained, a condition satisfied if handcuffed and seated in a police car. However, informal conversations can be used against Patrick, under the claim that he was free to leave anytime. This accentuated the need for Patrick to refrain from answering any police inquiries without the presence of a competent drug attorney from Southlake.
- The application of Miranda warnings comes into play during a police interrogation – spontaneous revelations are not protected. Only during a formal questioning do Miranda rights become relevant. Consequently, any voluntary information shared by Patrick while in the police car could be used in the prosecution’s favor.
In this case, Patrick did converse with the officer while restrained in the police car. As a result, these statements could potentially be deemed inadmissible in court.
This does not necessarily mean that a failure to read Miranda rights would lead to the immediate dismissal of Patrick’s case. It indicates that Patrick’s verbal and written statements could be excluded, making it more arduous for the state to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt.
The discussion then veered towards the legality of Patrick’s vehicle stop by the police.
What if the Stop of My Vehicle was Unjustified? Can this Lead to the Dismissal of My Drug Case?
Patrick brought up a pertinent query. As per Texas regulations, the police need a valid Reasonable Suspicion to halt a vehicle for scrutiny. This means, they cannot stop you just based on a hunch or speculation of illegal activity. But what constitutes reasonable suspicion? Typically, it involves observing a traffic violation as an excuse to initiate a stop.
In this instance, Patrick was convinced that he had not violated any traffic rules during the time of the stop. A careful review of the police documents revealed that the officer accused Patrick of not signaling a lane change within the required distance and having a faulty license plate light.
I informed Patrick that just because the officer reported a traffic offense, it doesn’t automatically validate it in court. It’s necessary to question how the officer estimated the distance and if video evidence can potentially challenge the officer’s claim regarding the signaling distance.
Regarding the defective license plate light, it’s essential to analyze the video footage to ascertain its condition. If it was sufficiently luminous to make the license plate visible from a distance, then the basis for the stop might not have been justifiable.
In case it turns out that the stopping of Patrick’s vehicle lacked reasonable suspicion, he should be aware that we can move to suppress all evidence acquired post the stop, given it was obtained through unlawful means. This piqued Patrick’s interest, leading to further inquiries about the potential application of this motion to the search of his vehicle, thereby opening up a new line of questioning…
What Happens If the Police Didn’t Have a Legal Basis to Search My Car? Can an Illegal Search Result in the Dismissal of My Drug Charges?
I applauded Patrick for posing such a pertinent question. Under the stipulations of Texas law, a police officer is mandated to have probable cause in order to initiate a vehicle search. It requires reasonable suspicion to pull over a vehicle, but establishing probable cause, which suggests a higher probability of a crime occurring, is essential to legally search the vehicle. In Patrick’s situation, our first step was to meticulously analyze police documents and video footage to ascertain the basis the officer claimed to establish probable cause for the vehicle search.
Upon reviewing the documentation, it became evident that the officer relied on the scent of burnt marijuana as the justification for the search. It was vital for Patrick to understand that, as of now, a significant majority of states – 33 to be exact – don’t accept the mere smell of marijuana as adequate justification for a vehicle search.
This aspect necessitated careful legal scrutiny, particularly in light of recent modifications to Texas marijuana regulations. In earlier times, verifying THC levels of marijuana wasn’t obligatory. Nevertheless, contemporary revisions to the Texas legal code necessitate the validation of THC levels to secure a conviction. Consequently, a persuasive argument can be developed that simply detecting the smell of burnt marijuana, without corroborating evidence of its THC concentration, doesn’t fulfill the requirements for probable cause in a vehicle search. Probable cause indicators for drug searches might encompass visible drugs, evident attempts to conceal an object, tossing something out of the window, or rapidly ingesting something.
Patrick was keen on understanding the protocols associated with drug testing. He maintained his innocence, stating he was unaware of the drugs, couldn’t verify their illegality, and thus raised a subsequent question…
#How Can We Verify the Accuracy of the Drug Lab Tests? How Can We Confirm the Substances are Indeed Unlawful?
I underscored to Patrick the government’s duty to substantiate that the laboratory conducted the drug tests accurately, confirming both its legality and weight correctly. It’s worth noting that several labs in the Dallas/Southlake area have previously encountered credibility problems due to employee errors impacting the exactness and trustworthiness of the tests. Retesting the substances at times unveils that what was previously identified as an illegal drug was, in fact, not a drug.
Furthermore, I highlighted the potential for labs to erroneously assess the drug quantities. A retest could occasionally furnish a defense strategy to lessen the charges based solely on weight discrepancies. At times, a reevaluation might lead to a reduced charge, from a felony to a minor misdemeanor, or it might reveal a non-usable amount. Under Texas law, possessing an unusable quantity does not constitute a criminal offense.
Overwhelmed and concerned, Patrick then inquired…
#If the Prosecution Can Substantiate Everything, Is There Still a Chance for My Drug Case to Be Dismissed and Erased from My Record?
Indeed, I assured Patrick that such outcomes were still within reach. Even if the Texas state could build a substantial case, avenues like conditional dismissal or participation in a Drug Diversion Program might facilitate case dismissal.
Patrick was keen to learn more about conditional dismissal, a procedural agreement orchestrated between the defense lawyer and the prosecutor, potentially leading to case dismissal if Patrick agrees to comply with specific prerequisites, such as engaging in community service, presenting clean drug screenings, and completing drug awareness programs, paving the way for possible case dismissal facilitated through defense attorney negotiations with the prosecutor.
Patrick then queried about the Diversion Program alternatives. In Tarrant County, Texas, three primary Drug Diversion Programs could be instrumental for Patrick since successfully completing one could sometimes grant Immediate Eligibility for Expunction in certain cases!
Deferred Prosecution Initiative (DPI) – This initiative, prevalent in Tarrant County, offers a rehabilitative path and a second chance for first-time offenders, allowing them to prove their sobriety in exchange for case dismissal. The initiative has the following specifications:
- Applicable for first-time offenders only
- The offender must be aged 25 or above during the time of the offense (excluding youthful offenders)
- No prior juvenile records
- The program application should be completed, and admission secured within 90 days of case filing
- Tarrant County Probation administers hair testing
- A program fee of $300 is applicable
- Mandatory orientation session to process documentation and postpone the case until program culmination
- Drug screening processes
- Successful completion of a 4-hour Drug Education Course or continuous therapy or counseling proof
- The program spans a duration of 6 months
A significant benefit of the DPI is the immediate eligibility for expunction upon successful completion, which Patrick must be aware of, particularly considering the obligatory 3-year waiting period for traditional dismissals relating to the felony charge he faces.
In the scheme, you find yourself under the jurisdiction of the legal system. Essentially, you have already acknowledged your culpability regarding the drug offence before the magistrate. This means forfeiting the option for a trial by jury. Your sole entitlement is to have your sentence determined by the magistrate, who has the authority to either put you on probation or decree a penalty that falls within the statutory guidelines corresponding to your offence.
Patrick should be fully aware that engaging with a Diversion Program necessitates committing to its successful conclusion.
The Deferred Prosecution Initiative (DPI) recognizes the following drug offences as qualifying infractions:
- Holding less than 2 ounces of marijuana (Misdemeanor)
- Holding 2-4 ounces of marijuana (Misdemeanor)
- Holding less than 2 ounces of marijuana in a drug-free zone (Misdemeanor)
- Holding a controlled substance (PG3), less than 28 grams (Misdemeanor)
- Holding a controlled substance (PG2A), less than 2 ounces (Misdemeanor)
- Holding a controlled substance (PG2A), less than 1 gram (Misdemeanor)
- Holding a hazardous drug (Misdemeanor)
- Holding 2-4 ounces of marijuana in a drug-free zone (State Jail Felony)
- Holding a controlled substance (PG1), less than 1 gram (State Jail Felony)
- Holding a controlled substance (PG1A), less than 20 abuse units (State Jail Felony)
- Holding a controlled substance (PG2), less than 1 gram in a Drug-Free Zone (Felony)
- Holding a controlled substance (PG2), less than 1 gram (Felony)
- Holding a controlled substance (PG2), between 1 and 4 grams (Felony)
- Holding a controlled substance (PG2), between 4 and 200 grams (Felony)
- Holding a controlled substance (PG4), less than 28 grams (Misdemeanor)
Post-Arrest Rehabilitation Program (PARP) – This program serves as a rehabilitative route specifically designed to accommodate individuals encountering their initial charge and who have maintained a clean criminal history. It facilitates a new beginning for first-time offenders with minimal oversight.
Candidates must be younger than 25, with no previous convictions (adult or juvenile, class B misdemeanor or higher), and pass a drug screening. The PARP outlines two distinct routes: Pathway A, which requires application submission, a background check, orientation, and successful drug test; and Pathway B, focused primarily on marijuana and specific substance abuse infractions, comprising of application submission, background check, orientation, and regular drug screenings throughout the duration of the program.
This program observes a firm 90-day timeframe from the case filing date for consideration.
A brief summary of the PARP program specifications include:
- Pathway A fee = $125
- Pathway B fee = $225
- Orientation – involves a guiding adult or a responsible acquaintance for a 2-hour session to complete necessary documentation and initiate the program formally
- Program Duration
- Misdemeanor Drug Offences – 4 months
- Felony Drug Offences – 8 months
- Drug Testing
Eligible transgressions for the Post-Arrest Rehabilitation Program (PARP) encompass:
- Possession of marijuana less than 2 ounces (Misdemeanor)
- Possession of marijuana between 2 and 4 ounces (Misdemeanor)
- Possession of marijuana less than 2 ounces in a drug-free zone (Misdemeanor)
- Possession of a controlled substance (PG3), less than 28 grams (Misdemeanor)
New Beginnings Drug Program (NBDP) – This initiative offers a pathway for individuals confronting their first legal charge, necessitating little to no oversight. One of the program’s advantages is the opportunity for case dismissal and potential expunction upon successful completion. Conversely, participants are required to enter a guilty plea before the judge as a precondition, meaning non-adherence to the program’s terms could result in direct sentencing, with the magistrate determining the penalty spectrum for the drug offence. Adherence to a strict 90-day period from the case’s filing is a vital prerequisite.
If accepted, Patrick will have to liaise with a case manager to finalize the entry paperwork and visit the designated court to settle the plea agreement. Given that Patrick’s case is a felony, he would be required to present himself at the 372nd District Court in Tarrant County, Texas, where Judge Scott Wisch oversees proceedings.
Outlined below are the necessary conditions and acceptable offenses for participation in the Fresh Start Drug Program:
Program Requisites Overview:
- Abstaining from alcohol or drug usage throughout the program duration
- Essential possession of a High School Diploma or GED, along with complete payment of the program charges
- A financial obligation of $550 for those with felony drug accusations
- Duration of the felony program is set at 180 days
- Monthly conduct of two urinalysis and two hair examinations are mandatory
- Obligatory participation in a Drug Awareness Course
- Imposition of a $350 fee for individuals facing misdemeanor drug allegations
- Misdemeanor program has a timeline of 90 days
- Conducting two urinalysis tests per month is mandatory
- Participation in a concise Drug Awareness Session is non-negotiable
- List of Qualifying Offenses for the Fresh Start Drug Program Entry:
- Holding a controlled substance less than 1 gram
- Retaining a controlled substance amounting from 1 to 4 grams
- Being in possession of a controlled substance not exceeding 2 ounces
- Keeping marijuana quantities under 2 ounces
- Holding onto marijuana quantities ranging between 2 and 4 ounces
- Being found within a drug-free zone with a controlled substance under 28 grams
- Presence in a drug-free zone with marijuana ranging between 2 and 4 ounces
- Act of fabricating or modifying a prescription
- Possession of hazardous drugs
- Redirecting a controlled substance unlawfully
- Attempting to commit any of the mentioned offenses
As Patrick navigated through the whirlwind of information, he found solace in having a clear roadmap to protect his liberty and expunge his criminal history.
So, what was the outcome of Patrick’s journey? Despite having several avenues to seek dismissal of his case, Patrick chose to enroll in one of the succinct Diversion Programs to erase the traces of his arrest and charges from his criminal history. Post the triumphant conclusion of the 4-month Diversion Program, the process of working towards his expunction commenced, with our joint efforts.
Patrick’s narrative mirrors the experiences of numerous individuals who face arrests in Texas due to drug-related offenses. Regrettably, not all are privy to the crucial data that can guide them in making enlightened decisions post their apprehension. It is our aspiration that this material illuminates the workings of the criminal justice mechanism, especially in drug cases.
Should you find yourself with questions regarding your distinct circumstances, we stand ready to offer swift responses and support.