No one plans to find themselves facing a drug conviction, but if you do find yourself in this situation, it’s important to know how different variables could affect the severity of the drug charges against you. From the controlled substance involved with your arrest, the amount of the controlled substance you were arrested with, the purpose of the drug (possession vs. manufacturing/distribution,) and the location the offense or arrest took place, all of these factors can impact your sentencing.

Below we’ll break down how the factors mentioned above could affect the severity of your sentencing.

Controlled Substance Type and Amount

There are multiple kinds of drugs that if found on your person or property, can set you up with hefty jail times and fines.  In Texas, the Texas Controlled Substance Act has six different “penalty groups” in which controlled substances are categorized by severity, including both street drugs and prescription drugs that are being used outside of their prescribed purpose. These penalty groups do not include marijuana, which has its own separate category, but we will detail the various amounts of marijuana and their corresponding consequences below. For the drugs that are included in penalty groups, they are as follows: 

Penalty Group 4: Includes compounds, mixtures, materials or preparations containing limited amounts of narcotics

Penalty Group 3: Includes zolpidem (Ambien) alprazolam (Xanax), methylphenidate (Ritalin), diazepam (Valium)

Penalty Group 2: Includes 3,4-methylenedioxy methamphetamine (MDMA, Ecstasy, or Molly) and phencyclidine (PCP)

Penalty Group 1-A: Includes lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD)

Penalty Group 1: Includes heroin, cocaine, oxycodone, methamphetamine, gamma hydroxybutyric acid (GHB)

Now that we know what penalty group certain drugs fall under, we can take a look at how the amount of a controlled substance that is found on a person or on their property can be classified in terms of crime, and ultimately the punishment for that crime. We’ve broken down the punishment by penalty group, and then by amount as follows:

Penalty Group 4: 

-Possession of less than 28 grams is a Class B Misdemeanor, with a penalty of up to 180 days in a country jai and a fine of up to $2,000

-Possession of 28 grams to 200 grams is a 3rd degree Felony, with a penalty of 2-10 years in a state prison and a fine of up to $10,000

-Possession of 200 to 400 grams is a 2nd degree Felony, with a penalty of 2-20 years in a state prison and a fine of up to $10,000

-Possession of more than 400 grams is a 1st degree Felony, with a penalty of 5-99 years in state prison and a fine of up to $50,000

Penalty Group 3:

-Possession of less than 28 grams is a Class A Misdemeanor, with a penalty of up to 1 year in a county jail and fine of up to $4,000

-Possession of 28 to 200 grams is a 3rd degree Felony, with a penalty of 2-10 years in a state prison and a fine of up to $10,000

-Possession of 200 to 400 grams is a 2nd degree Felony, with a penalty of 2-20 years in a state prison and a fine of up to $10,000

-Possession of more than 400 grams is a 1st degree Felony, with a penalty of 5-99 years in a state prison and a fine of up to $50,000

Penalty Group 2:

-Possession of less than 1 gram is a State Jail Felony, with a penalty of 180 days – 2 years in a state jail and a fine of up to $10,000

-Possession of 1 to 4 grams is a 3rd degree Felony, with a penalty of 2-10 years in a state prison and a fine of up to $10,000

-Possession of 4 to 400 grams is a 2nd degree Felony, with a penalty of 2 – 20 years in a state prison and a fine of up to $10,000

-Possession of more than 400 grams is a 1st degree Felony, with a penalty of 5 – 99 years in a state prison and a fine of up to $50,000

Penalty Group 1-A: (in this case a “unit” is equivalent to one dose of LSD)

-Possession of less than 20 units is a State Jail Felony, with a penalty of 180 days – 2 years in a state jail and a fine of up to $10,000

-Possession of 20 to 80 units is a 3rd degree Felony, with a penalty of 2 – 10 years in a state prison and a fine of up to $10,000

-Possession of 80 to 4000 units is a 2nd degree Felony, with a penalty of 2 – 20 years in a state prison and a fine of up to $10,000

-Possession of more than 8000 units is an Enhanced Felony 1, with a penalty of 15 – 99 years in a state prison and a fine of up to $250,000

Penalty Group 1:

-Possession of less than one gram is a State Jail Felony, with a penalty of 180 days – 2 years in a state jail and a fine of up to $10,000

-Possession of 1 to 4 grams is a 3rd degree Felony, with a penalty of 2 – 10 years in a state prison and a fine of up to $10,000

-Possession of 200 – 400 grams is a 1st degree Felony, with a penalty of 5 – 99 years in a state prison and a fine of up to $10,000

-Possession of more than 400 grams is an Enhanced Felony 1, with a penalty of 10 – 99 years in a state prison and fine of up to $100,000

Marijuana:

-Possession of less than 2 ounces is a Class B Misdemeanor, with a penalty of not more than 180 days in a country jail and/or fine of up to $2,000

-Possession of 2 to 4 ounces is a Class A Misdemeanor, with a penalty of not more than 1 year in a county jail and/or a fine of up to $4,000

-Possession of 4 to 5 ounces is a State Jail Felony, with a penalty of not more than 2 years in a state jail and/or fine of up to $10,000

Drug Trafficking Charges

In Texas, charges for distribution or manufacturing can be more severe than possession charges, and drug trafficking (defined as distribution or delivery of illicit drugs) is also a violation of the Texas Controlled Substances Act. Drug trafficking or distribution laws can be charged as a felony, and can include several various penalties, with the amount of the drug being distributed or delivered and the type of drug and its classification or penalty group, influencing how severe potential sentencing will be. Charges for being in possession of an illegal drug already range from misdemeanors, state jail felonies and first-degree felonies (the most extreme felony sentencing) and once delivery and distribution is mixed in with possession, being able to lessen a charge to a misdemeanor is not likely.  

Whether you’re a Texas resident or just a visitor on vacation for a few days, you need to know that Texas has particularly heavy penalties for drug trafficking, especially in comparison to other states. However, in some cases, you could be offered a plea deal that would include a decreased penalty, but usually that will be in exchange for evidence or other information that could lead to an arrest in another drug investigation. If you’re offered a plea deal, you will want to immediately consult with an experienced drug attorney to look at your options and help you navigate the charges.

While the sentencing for distribution or delivery varies on the amount of the drug being delivered, penalties for drug trafficking can include anywhere from 180 days to two years in a state jail and a fine or no more than $10,000, all the way to a term of 15 to 00 years in prison, and fine no more than a quarter million dollars.

Drug Free Zones

If you’re in possession of drugs in Texas and are caught in a Drug Free Zone, you can be subject to even more severe sentencing. But what exactly is a Drug Free Zone?

Put in place be either state law or federal agencies, a Drug Free Zone is a determined area where drug crimes are enforced my strictly than other areas. Drug Free Zones are commonly placed around school campuses, but in Texas, Drug Free Zones can encompasses many other locations as well. 

According to the Texas Health and Safety Code, a Drug Free Zone is considered any location that is within 300 feet of the a public swimming pool, video arcade, or a school bus, as well as any location that is within 1000 feet of any building or place that is leased, rented or owned by a playground, a private or public youth center, or any institution of higher learning. 

Watching where you step is especially important for marijuana possession, as a possession charge for less than 2 ounces of marijuana, which is normally a Class B Misdemeanor, could be upped to a felony if you’re arrested within a designated Drug Free Zone. Regardless of what drug you are found in possession of within a Drug Free Zone, the severity of potential charges with be increased. 

Knowing your rights in these situations is important to avoid more severe drug charges, and to preserve your future and your freedoms. You have the right not to speak to anyone or give any statements until you have a trusted attorney present.

If you or someone you know are currently facing any kind of charges relating to illegal drugs or narcotics, don’t hesitate to contact an experienced drug attorney. Trying to navigate the world of drug charges on your own can prove to be difficult, and having someone who will fight to defend you could make all the difference in your case.

Thank you for visiting the Jarvis, Garcia, & Erskine blog. We write to inform Austin locals about law changes, events and news.