No corner of the country has been untouched by the ravages of the opioid epidemic. In 2016, more than 42,000 Americans died due to overdoses of heroin and powerful opiate drugs, including painkillers such as OxyContin®, fentanyl, Vicodin®, and Percocet®. Here in Texas, 1,375 lives were lost because of opioid-related overdose deaths in 2016 according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, and the number of annual heroin-related deaths in Texas has doubled since 2010.
These drugs are not only deadly but also highly addictive. The hold that these drugs have on those struggling with opioid abuse and addiction can and does cause good people to make bad decisions, including engaging in deceptive and criminal conduct to obtain the substances their brains and bodies tell them they need. In turn, this creates a lucrative market for those who see financial gain in manufacturing, selling, and distributing heroin and prescription opiates.
Given the carnage left by opiate drugs, it is no surprise that Texas law establishes severe penalties for those caught possessing or distributing these substances. Law enforcement and prosecutors see themselves on the front lines of the fight against opioids and will aggressively pursue convictions for those who violate the law.
Tenacious Defense and Compassionate Counsel for All Opiate Charges
At the Law Office of Case J. Darwin, we provide compassionate counsel and tenacious defense representation for those charged with opiate possession and distribution crimes. We understand that addiction can cloud judgment and lead to poor decisions. But we also know that police often make mistakes and prosecutors can and do file unwarranted charges. No matter the circumstances, we will be by your side, working tirelessly to achieve the optimal result, including obtaining an acquittal or a sentence more focused on recovery than incarceration.
Texas Opiate Possession and Distribution Laws
The primary law that governs drug possession and distribution cases in San Marcos is the Texas Controlled Substances Act. This law defines opiates as any “that has an addiction-forming or addiction-sustaining liability similar to morphine or is capable of conversion into a drug having addiction-forming or addiction-sustaining liability.” Some specific opiates mentioned in the law include:
- Morphine and its derivatives
- Codeine methylbromide and codeine-n-oxide
- Painkillers like hydrocodone, hydromorphone, and oxycodone
The Texas Controlled Substances Act groups various drugs into different penalty groups, and these groups generally determine the penalties for possessing or distributing these substances. Most opiates fall into Penalty Group 1, meaning they carry the harshest penalties upon conviction.
Many prescription painkillers contain opiates, and it’s worth noting that it’s a crime to possess, sell, or distribute these drugs under the Texas Health and Safety Code. The only way to obtain these drugs legally is from a doctor or pharmacist. However, you could face criminal charges if you obtain these medications legally and then attempt to sell or distribute them.
Penalties for Opiate Possession and Distribution in San Marcos
Under the Texas Controlled Substances Act, most opiates belong to Penalty Group 1, meaning possessing or distributing these drugs carries the harshest penalties. In general, the consequences for possessing or distributing these substances depend on the amount of the drug in question. State law outlines the following penalties for opiate possession or distribution:
- Less than one gram – State jail felony, punishable by up to two years in jail and a fine of up to $10,000.
- 1-4 grams – Second-degree felony, punishable by up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
- 4-200 grams – First-degree felony, punishable by a minimum of five years in prison. A life sentence is possible. Maximum fine of $10,000.
- 200-400 grams – First-degree felony, punishable by a minimum of 10 years in prison. A life sentence is possible. Maximum fine of $100,000.
- More than 400 grams – First-degree felony, punishable by a minimum of 15 years in prison. A life sentence is possible. Maximum fine of $250,000.
Forging or altering a prescription to obtain opiates is a Class B misdemeanor under the Texas Dangerous Drug Act. Penalties for forging or altering a prescription include up to 180 days in jail and a maximum fine of $2,000. If someone previously convicted of forging a prescription is convicted again, the offense is a Class A misdemeanor. In these cases, the potential penalties include up to one year in jail and a maximum fine of $4,000.
Additionally, Sec. 481.129 of the Health and Safety Code makes it a second degree felony to possess, obtain, or attempt to possess or obtain a Schedule II substance like prescription opiates through forgery, fraud, subterfuge, or deception.
Common Defenses in Drug Possession and Distribution Cases
Facing charges for opiate possession or distribution can make you feel like you’re backed into a corner. However, it’s essential to remember that a charge is not a conviction. At the Law Office of Case J. Darwin, we can deploy a range of defense strategies in these cases, a few of which we’ve outlined below:
Unlawful Search and Seizure
One of the most effective defenses is to question the legality of the search and seizure that led police to the drugs. If law enforcement did not follow proper procedures or violated your constitutional rights, the evidence against you is not admissible in court.
Lack of Possession
Merely being near or around drugs does not mean that you possessed them. The prosecution must demonstrate that you had actual control over the substance. If they can’t, they may have to drop or reduce the charges against you.
In some cases, law enforcement agencies induce individuals into committing a crime they would not have otherwise committed. This is a violation of your rights and should lead to the dropping of charges.
Mistaken Identity or False Accusation
Errors and mix-ups can and do happen. Maybe someone else planted the drugs on you, or perhaps you’ve been wrongly accused of a crime someone else committed. Providing a credible alibi or witnesses can cast reasonable doubt on the allegations against you.
Sometimes, the amount of the substance found is not sufficient to meet the legal criteria for a possession or distribution charge. If so, your attorney can argue for reduced charges or even dismissal.
Chain of Custody Issues
For evidence to be valid, it must be handled and stored correctly from the moment of seizure until it’s presented in court. Any irregularities in this “chain of custody” can compromise the integrity of the evidence and work in your favor.
Contact a San Marcos Opiate Possession and Distribution Defense Lawyer Now
If you’re facing opiate-related drug charges in San Marcos, attorney Case J. Darwin can use his extensive legal experience and deep understanding of the prosecution’s strategies to build a robust defense on your behalf. Without help from a capable criminal defense lawyer, you could risk losing years of your life in prison, considerable fines, and all the fallout that comes with a criminal conviction. Our firm is ready to portect your rights and guide you through this ordeal. Call (512) 738-6146 now or complete our contact form for a free case review.