Posted in alcohol and drug addiction on July 24, 2017
Last modified on December 1st, 2018
Texas Drug Laws: A Breakdown of Controlled Substances
When it comes to drugs and drug addiction, Texas is a state with particularly strict laws regarding controlled substances and narcotics. What’s more, the state’s laws are so complicated that the average person may find them challenging to understand or interpret, even though they are explained in the Texas Penal Code and the Texas Controlled Substances Act, Health and Safety Code.
A person found to be in possession of any drug in Texas can face jail time, probation, hefty fines, mandatory drug addiction treatment, and a six-month suspension of their driver’s license.
Most prescribed drugs are legal in Texas, but even with a prescription, charges for drug possession can apply in certain circumstances. Any charges will depend, in part, on the type of drug, the amount in possession and whether a person has a valid prescription or order from a doctor or other health care provider to use the drug at that dose.
The details can be confusing, and even after reading about Texas drug laws, many people still want to know: Is possession of a controlled substance a felony in Texas? The answer depends on several factors.
Here is a breakdown of Texas drug laws to help readers understand how the state’s laws are commonly applied, including which drug penalties are classified as misdemeanors, and which ones are classified as felonies.
Texas Drug Laws and Penalty Groups
Under Texas drug laws, the various offenses and punishments for drug possession are divided into four groups according to drug classification. The groups are known as Penalty Group 1, 2, 3 and 4. The charges for drug possession in each penalty group vary depending on additional factors or circumstances.
At a minimum, the charge for drug possession in Texas is either a “Class B” or “Class A” misdemeanor, which carries a penalty of up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $4,000, depending on the type of drug. For example, if a person is found to be in possession of a drug that falls into Penalty Group 1, the charge may be considered a misdemeanor with one to two years in jail and a fine to be determined in court. However, this charge may increase from two years to a maximum of life imprisonment plus fines of up to $250,000 for possession of a larger amount of the same substance, say 400 grams or more. With larger amounts of certain substances, the charge may be categorized as a felony for “drug possession with intent to distribute.”
In addition to the quantity of the drug in possession, other factors will determine the severity of the charge, including whether it will be classified as “intent to distribute.” These factors may include how the drug is stored or concealed, possession of any accompanying drug paraphernalia (i.e., scales), possessing large amounts of cash and past convictions and/or prior offenses.
Texas Drug Laws and Drug Categories. Different drug categories or classifications in Texas have different penalties applied. It is worth noting that marijuana is in its own drug category with its own penalties, and is independent of the other four drug classes, or penalty groups. It should also be noted that some drug types fall into two categories. For example, the painkiller hydrocodone is both a narcotic and a depressant.
Drug categories recognized in Texas are:
Narcotics (drugs made or derived from the opium poppy): opium, morphine, codeine, hydrocodone (commonly known as Vicodin, Lorcet, Lortab), oxycodone (commonly known as Percodan, Percocet), fentanyl and carfentanil, among others.
Depressants (drugs that slow body functions and are used as sedatives or tranquilizers to calm the nerves or help someone sleep): opiates (heroin), opioids (painkillers), barbiturates, benzodiazepines (commonly known as Alprazolam/Xanax, Lorazepam/Ativan, Diazepam/Valium and Temazepam/Restoril), chloral hydrate (commonly known as Somnote), a range of inhalants, and alcohol.
Stimulants (drugs that speed up the nerves and make you more alert): cocaine, amphetamines (speed), and some inhalants, among others.
Hallucinogens (drugs that alter perception, mood or emotion and thought): LSD (acid), PCP, marijuana (cannabis), mushrooms (psilocybin), ketamine and peyote or mescaline, among others.
Drug categories are classified into different penalty groups in Texas, as follows:
Penalty Group 1: Opioids (including painkillers like codeine, hydrocodone and oxycodone), opium derivatives and/or opiates (heroin and others), cocaine, methamphetamine, ketamine, LSD, mescaline, psilocybin and similar hallucinogens.
The penalties in this group range from two years in jail and a $10,000 fine to a maximum of life imprisonment for possession of 400 grams or more, with fines up to $250,000.
Penalty Group 2: Ecstasy (MDMA), PCP, hashish and other cannabinols derived from cannabis (marijuana)
The penalties in this group range from two years in jail for possessing less than one gram to a maximum sentence of life imprisonment for possession of 400 grams or more, with fines up to $50,000.
Penalty Group 3: Opioids and opiates not listed in Penalty Group 1, benzodiazepines and sedatives like Valium and others, anabolic steroids, methylphenidate (commonly known as Ritalin), and other prescription drugs that have either a stimulant or depressant effect and potential for abuse.
The penalties in this group range from a minimum one year in jail and fines up to $4,000 to maximum sentences of about 20 years in jail for possession of 200 grams or more, with fines up to $10,000.
Penalty Group 4: Opioids and opiates not listed in Penalty Group 1, and a range of prescription medications and various chemical compounds that have a potential for abuse. Penalties are similar to those for Penalty Group 3.
Marijuana Group: Marijuana (cannabis) and synthetic marijuana or synthetic cannabinoids (commonly known as K2 and Spice, among others).
The penalties in this group range from being placed on probation and undergoing mandatory drug treatment (and the potential to have the charge dismissed after successfully completing a treatment program) to up to 180 days in jail and fines of $2,000 for possession of two ounces or less. Anyone in possession of even a small amount of marijuana will likely have their driver’s license suspended for six months. Anyone in possession of more than two ounces of marijuana can incur penalties of one to 10 years in jail, and fines from $4,000 to $50,000.
It is important to remember that in Texas the severity of a drug charge is highly variable due to contributing factors in each case. For these reasons, it is advisable that anyone facing drug charges in Texas seek legal representation.
Texas Controlled Substances Act, Health and Safety Code. Title 6. Food, Drugs, Alcohol and Hazardous Substances, Chapter 481. http://www.statutes.legis.state.tx.us/docs/HS/htm/HS.481.htm
Texas Penal Code. Onecle, 2017.
Texas Drug Possession Laws. FindLaw.
Drug Possession Laws, Texas. http://www.drugpossessionlaws.com/texas/marijuana-laws/
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