Many law enforcement officials in Texas still hold the same passion about cracking down on drugs as they did when the “War on Drugs” began in the 70s. As far as they’re concerned, all illegal drugs are basically the same, and violators deserve what they get.
Here’s the thing, though. “What they get” varies. A lot.
This is because Texas groups controlled substances together into a handful of “penalty groups.” These groups largely determine the penalties that Texans will face if they are convicted on drug possession charges.
Review this list to understand what you could be up against, and if you have already been arrested or charged with drug possession, reach out to a lawyer for more information about your case.
Penalty Group 1
This group contains the most serious types of controlled substances under Texas law. Within this group, you will find:
- Opiates and opium derivatives (codeine, morphine, heroin, etc.)
Possession of any amount of a drug from Penalty Group 1 is a felony. If you are found guilty of holding less than one gram of any of these controlled substances, you may face up to two years in jail and up to $10,000 in fines. If you are found with more than one gram, the penalties will increase. Two hundred grams of a Penalty Group 1 controlled substance could land you in prison for up to 99 years.
LSD is a subcategory within Penalty Group 1. If you are found carrying under 20 units of LSD on your person, you may face up to two years in jail and up to $10,000 in fines.
Penalty Group 2
Remember, controlled substances in Penalty Group 1 are very serious. If you are found with something less “hard” than cocaine or heroin, you will face similar penalties, but shorter sentences.
Drugs within Penalty Group 2 include:
- Hallucinogenic substances other than LSD (DMT, synthetic THC, MDMA, BZP, psilocybin, mescaline, etc.)
- MDPV, mephedrone
Similar to Penalty Group 1, possession of less than one gram of any of these controlled substances comes with penalties including up to two years in jail and up to $10,000 in fines. Anywhere up to 400 grams may result in up to 20 years in jail and up to $10,000 in fines.
Penalty Group 3
Controlled substances within Penalty Group 3 include a mix of completely illegal substances and prescription drugs, such as:
- Ritalin and Preludin
- Xanax, Ativan, Klonopin
- Medication with limited amounts of narcotics (cough syrup with codeine, etc.)
- Barbiturates, chloral hydrates
- Appetite suppressants
- Unlawful anabolic steroids
Defendants will not have to face felony charges unless they are found in possession of over 28 grams of a Penalty Group 3 substance. If you are found with up to 28 grams, you may face a class A misdemeanor charge.
Penalty Group 4
Controlled substances found in Penalty Group 4 are the most harmless. They are usually medications that you can over order the counter with very limited amounts of “nonnarcotic active medicinal ingredients.” If you are found with up to 28 grams, you may face a class B misdemeanor charge.
What about Marijuana Charges in Texas?
You might have noticed that marijuana is not listed in any of the penalty groups above. This is because, while Texas has not followed the trend of legalizing marijuana for medical or recreational use, it does categorize the substance separately. You can learn more about the specifics of marijuana laws in one of our recent blog posts.
Not all controlled substances are treated equally, but defendants should remember to treat each criminal charge with the same amount of attention and aggressiveness. Build a strong defense to ensure that you walk out of court with the best possible outcome.
After getting his Juris Doctor from the University of Houston Law Center, Jeff Hampton began practicing criminal law in Texas in 2005. Before becoming a defense attorney, he worked as a prosecutor for the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office – experience he uses to anticipate and cast doubt on the arguments that will be used against his clients. Over the course of his career, he has helped countless Texans protect their rights and get the best possible outcome in their criminal cases. His skill has earned him recognition from the National Trial Lawyers (Top 100 Trial Lawyers) and Avvo (Top Attorney in Criminal Defense, Top Attorney in DUI & DWI, 10/10 Superb Rating), and he is Lead Counsel rated.