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The Federal crime of Money Laundering is traditionally understood to be the practice of filtering “dirty” money, or ill-gotten gains, through a series of transactions until the funds are “clean,” or appear to be proceeds from legal activities. The United States Criminal Code takes a broader stance towards money laundering, and criminalizes knowingly engaging in a broad array of financial transactions that involve money either derived from or meant to promote various illegal activities, or that involve certain elements of deception. While money laundering charges are often perceived as related with drug crimes, they are more frequently related with business-related crimes. For example, money laundering charges may be associated with illegal funds obtained through business fraud, mortgage fraud/real estate fraud schemes or other white collar crimes.
The Charles Johnson Law Firm represents individuals and institutions in matters such as:
- Hiding money
- Failing to file require cash transaction reports
- Making multiple cash withdrawals or deposits slightly below the $10,000 reporting threshold
- Evading taxes by underreporting income
- Alleged Patriot Act violations
- Illegal wire transfers
- Financial transactions involving proceeds of unlawful activity
- Other illegal transactions
- Federal criminal appeals involving money laundering
Such activities are often viewed by federal prosecutors as indicators of money laundering. Houston Money Laundering Lawyer Charles Johnson will provide a vigorous defense of clients who have drawn scrutiny from the federal government for their financial transactions. If the government is able to make the case that your financial transactions were an effort to “launder” money received from criminal activities such as drug trafficking or weapons trafficking, you will face forfeiture of your assets. Houston Lawyer Charles Johnson is available to speak with you directly about your case, anytime night or day, at (713) 222-7577 if you have been charged with or are being investigated for Money Laundering.
Overview of Money Laundering in Texas
Although money laundering can be a complex process, it usually involves three distinct steps that can occur simultaneously or sequentially. These steps are referred to as (1) Placement, (2) Layering, and (3) Integration.
- Placement is the initial process of getting illegal funds into “the system,” or placing unlawful proceeds into legitimate financial institutions. A common technique used for placement is structuring, or “smurfing,” which involves dividing the funds into multiple deposits of cash that are below reporting thresholds and then depositing the funds at one or more institutions, using one or more individuals to make the deposits. Placement may also be accomplished by purchasing money orders or travelers checks at one institution and depositing them into accounts at other institutions.
- Layering is the process of converting funds after they have entered the legitimate system. This step involves a series of complex financial transactions that move the funds in order to distance them from their illegal source. For example, dirty money may be converted to clean money through the purchase and sale of stocks, bonds, art, or jewelry. It may also be wired as payment for non-existent goods, disbursement to a non-existent borrower, or simply a transfer to another account.
- Integration is the process in which the illegal funds re-enter the legitimate economy and become virtually indistinguishable from legal funds. The newly cleaned funds, often commingled with legitimate funds, are then ready for use, be it in investing in real estate, purchasing luxury items, or financing business ventures.
Common elements that drive the efforts of money launderers throughout this three step process include “the need to conceal the origin and true ownership of the proceeds, the need to maintain control of the proceeds, and the need to change the form of the proceeds in order to shrink the huge volumes of cash generated by the initial criminal activity.” It is important, when reviewing literature on money laundering, to be aware that a conviction for the crime of money laundering may not necessarily reflect activity that would traditionally be understood to constitute money laundering. For example, someone who buys legitimate goods online commits money laundering, under the federal statute, if the supplier is outside of the country and the supplies are intended to facilitate one of several crimes — even if the product is itself legal and is being used in a legal way. (For example, purchasing napkins in such a way would be money laundering, if they were to be used by an illegal casino.)
Identifying and verifying money laundering is a difficult task, partly because of the complexities of the multi-transactional process but also because of the legal, political, and economic barriers that interfere with and often completely prevent investigation or enforcement of U.S. law outside of U.S. borders. Some of these barriers are reduced through the use of “memoranda of understanding” (MOUs), or mutual agreements — between agencies or officials of different nations — to exchange information and cooperate in criminal investigations. However, not all nations enter into these or other cooperative agreements. Examples of these instances include Nauru, Myanmar, and Nigeria.
Costs and Statistics
There is no clear picture of the actual amount of money laundered globally. Estimates based on reported crimes will tend to underestimate the figure, and estimates based on the size of the underground economy will tend to overestimate the actual amount. Synthesizing a variety of sources, the International Monetary Fund cites figure of between ¾ of a percent to 2 percent of the world’s gross domestic product, when using the reported crime method and 5 to 85 percent of a nation’s economy (depending on the nation) when using the underground economy method. These two figures can be found in other sources, roughly combined to give a range of 2-5 percent of the world’s GDP. In 1996, the 2-5 percent formula yielded between 590 billion and 1.5 trillion dollars. This figure is relatively often quoted as being the range of the magnitude of the money laundering problem (sometimes “rounded up” to 600 billion)- such as by the FBI. The U.S. Department of the Treasury has also been quoted as estimating that “$600 billion represents a conservative estimate of the amount of money laundered each year.” Using 2005’s world GDP of 59.6 trillion, the 2-5% approach would give one a figure of between 1.2 and 3 trillion dollars. Of course, the research that provided the main support for the 2-5% figure is itself a decade old, and money laundering has become an issue commanding much greater legislative, regulative, and law enforcement attention in the wake of September 11th. In fiscal year 2001, federal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. seized more than $300 million in criminal assets that were attributable to money laundering. In 2001, U.S. district courts completed 1,420 money laundering cases and convicted 1,243 individuals, or more than 87 percent of the defendants prosecuted. Some of these cases involved more than $100 million in laundered funds, and one-fifth of the cases involved more than $1 million. Of the Money Laundering Control Act charges made in 2001, 63 percent involved fraud, bank embezzlement, transporting stolen property, and counterfeiting, and 16 percent involved drug trafficking. Almost half (44 percent) of the money laundering cases referred to U.S. Attorneys in 2001 occurred in the six geographic areas designated by the U.S. Departments of Justice and the Treasury as areas of high risk for financial crimes and money laundering activity (High Intensity Financial Crime Areas or HIFCAs). These areas are (with the year designated a HIFCA)
- New York and Northern New Jersey – (2000)
- Los Angeles – (2000)
- San Juan, Puerto Rico – (2000)
- The southwest Texas and Arizona/Mexico border – (2000)
- The northern district of Illinois (Chicago) – (2001)
- The northern district of California (San Francisco) – (2001)
- Southern Florida (Miami) – (2003)
High Profile Examples/Case Studies
In 2006, Charles E. Edwards was sentenced to 13 years in prison and was ordered to pay $320,397,837 in restitution following his September conviction on charges of wire fraud, money laundering, and conspiracy to commit money laundering. The evidence showed that from 1996 through September 2000, Edwards, the founder of ETS Payphones, Inc. (ETS), raised capital to grow his coin-operated payphone business by using a network of independent insurance agents to sell payphones to investors throughout the United States for $5,000 to $7,000 per phone. Edwards convinced investors to buy payphones and lease them back to ETS for what Edwards claimed would be a guaranteed profit of approximately 14 percent per year. The scheme defrauded approximately 12,000 nationwide investors out of more than $400 million. Edwards siphoned off approximately $21 million of the fraud proceeds for himself and his wife. In addition, the evidence showed that Edwards engaged in a series of unusual and convoluted financial transactions, which served no legitimate business purpose and were intended solely to conceal and disguise the source, location, ownership, nature, and control of the proceeds involved in those transactions.In 2006, Edmundo P. Rubi was sentenced to 70 months in prison for conspiracy to commit mail fraud and money laundering. Rubi previously pled guilty to the charge that he conspired to conduct a scheme to defraud investors out of more than $12 million using his companies, Knights Express, Ltd. and Djmler Enterprises, Inc. Rubi was also ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $12,483,000. According to the plea agreement, beginning in 1999 and continuing up to October 31, 2001, Rubi formed and operated Knights Express Ltd. and Djmler Enterprises, Inc. for the purpose of soliciting investments from members of the public. In connection with his guilty plea, Rubi admitted that he made fraudulent representations that investor funds would be used to purchase and resell Federal Reserve notes in an international trading program. In actuality, no such international trading program existed. Millions of dollars of investor funds were used instead to pay the periodic returns that investors received and to make unsecured investments. Rubi also intentionally concealed from investors the fact that millions of dollars of investor funds were converted for his own personal use and benefit.The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and U.S. Attorney’s Office in New York completed in 2002 a “long-term investigation targeting the money laundering and narcotics activities of the Khalil Kharfan Organization operating in Colombia, Puerto Rico, Florida, and the New York Tri-State area.” Initial statements by the agencies indicated that more than $100 million in narcotics proceeds were laundered in the scheme. The organization used members to open fictitious businesses, which they used for the deposit and transfer of money between countries. Approximately $1 million has been recovered.In 2002, a California jury convicted two principals in a Costa Rican tax evasion-money laundering ring. Wayne Anderson, 62, and Richard Marks, 58, were arrested in one of the largest undercover stings in IRS history. The two men were charged with conspiracy to launder $470,000, mostly through offshore trusts that concealed millions of dollars for U.S. taxpayers who wanted to evade U.S. taxes. The case resulted in seven federal convictions. “A Nashville, Tennessee man was sentenced to 20 years in jail for his three-year role in a large-scale cocaine distribution and money laundering organization in the Nashville area. The individual pled guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering and conspiracy to distribute cocaine. The defendant used several vehicles with sophisticated hidden compartments to transport the cocaine and the proceeds to pay for it back and forth between Chicago and Nashville.” “On June 21, 2002 a federal jury in North Carolina convicted Mohamad Hammoud and his brother Chawki, Lebanese immigrants, for providing material support to the terrorist group Hezbollah through racketeering, conspiracy, and conspiracy to commit money laundering by funneling profits from a cigarette smuggling operation. In March 2002, several of the Hammoud’s co-defendants pled guilty in North Carolina federal court to racketeering, conspiracy, and conspiracy to commit money laundering for funneling profits from their cigarette smuggling operation to purchase military equipment for the Hezbollah terrorists. The case began when the West Virginia State Police seized a significant quantity of contraband cigarettes. The Federal indictment alleged that millions of dollars worth of cigarettes were smuggled out of North Carolina to resell in States, including Michigan, where higher State taxes greatly increase the sales price.”
The Response/Current Efforts
Legislation and Regulation The U. S. has imposed a number of legislative and regulatory standards to deter money laundering. The most significant of these are the following:
- The Bank Secrecy Act (BSA), signed into law in October 1970, implemented a reporting system for large financial transactions (over $10,000) to monitor and deter the flow of criminally obtained proceeds. (Codified 31 U.S.C. §§ 5311-5330)
- The Money Laundering Control Act of 1986 amended the BSA and specifically made money laundering – spending, saving, transporting, or transmitting proceeds of criminal activity – a federal felony. (Codified 18 U.S.C. §§ 1956 and 1957)
- The Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988 increased the penalties and sanctions for money laundering crimes and amended the money laundering provisions of 18 U.S.C. § 1956 to include financial transactions with the intent to violate § 7201 (attempted tax evasion) or § 7206 (false tax return) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 (26 U.S.C.). (Pub. L. 100-690)
- The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act identified violations of money laundering statues as “predicate offenses” that constitute racketeering activity and provided for both civil and criminal actions against violators. (Codified 18 U.S.C. §§ 1961-1968)
- The Money Laundering and Financial Crimes Strategy Act of 1998 required that the Secretary of the Treasury coordinate and implement a national strategy to address money laundering. (Pub. L. 105-310)
- The USA PATRIOT Act of 2001 established new rules and responsibilities affecting financial institutions and commercial businesses to prevent, detect, and prosecute terrorism and international money laundering. For example, the Act required banks to actively monitor customer transactions, expanded the ability of public and private institutions to share information, and increased civil and criminal penalties for money laundering. (Pub. L. 107-56)
Current Efforts To Reduce Money Laundering In 2005, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) completed Operation Mallorca, an investigation into the use of the Columbian Black Market Peso Exchange to launder drug money. Operation Mallorca resulted in the arrest of 36 individuals and the seizure of 7.2 million dollars, 947 kilograms of cocaine, 7 kilograms of heroin, and 21,650 pounds of marijuana. In 2005, the multinational Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force completed Operation Cyber Chase, an investigation that targeted illegal Internet pharmacies. These pharmacies used more than 200 websites to sell controlled substances internationally and to launder the proceeds. Just one of the organizations involved used this system of web-based distribution to move approximately 2.5 million dosage units of Schedule II-V pharmaceuticals (including Vicodin, amphetamines, and anabolic steroids) permonth. “Operation Wire Cutter,” a two and a half year joint effort of U.S. and Colombian law enforcement, uncovered a massive money laundering operation for several Colombian narcotics cartels that channeled money through New York, Miami, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Juan, and Puerto Rico using the Black Market Peso Exchange. The efforts resulted in 37 arrests – 29 in the U.S. and eight in Colombia – as well as the seizure of more than $8 million, 400 kilos of cocaine, 100 kilos of marijuana, 6.5 kilos of heroin, nine firearms, and six vehicles. Since the attacks of September 11, 2001, efforts to reduce money laundering – throughout the world – have increased significantly, with particular attention paid to associations with terrorist activities. Effective September 24, 2001, for example, President Bush issued Executive Order 13224, “blocking property and prohibiting transactions with persons who commit, threaten to commit, or support terrorism.” Initially, 27 individuals and organizations were identified as Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) entities under Executive Order 13224. By June 6, 2003, 282 individuals and organizations had been identified as SDGTs, and over $137 million in associated assets had been frozen worldwide. In July 2002, the second National Money Laundering Strategy issued by the U.S. Department of the Treasury pointedly addressed the issue of money laundering as “integral to the war on terrorism.” Specifically, the strategy (1) presented “government’s first plan to attack financing networks of terrorist entities” and (2) focused on “the use of charities and other non-governmental organizations to raise, collect, and distribute funds to terrorist groups.”
Penalties for Money Laundering Charges in Texas
Money laundering refers to the process of concealing financial transactions. Various laundering techniques can be employed by individuals, groups, officials and corporations. The goal of a money laundering operation is usually to hide either the source or the destination of money in connection with a criminal act.
Money laundering is a white collar crime that will be investigated by many different sources including: local, state and federal investigators that may also include the Department of Justice, the State Department, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). A person can be charged with money laundering if suspected of receiving, concealing, possessing, transferring, transporting or having any interest in the proceeds of criminal activity. In fact a money laundering charge can be filed against a person that has almost anything at all to do with the proceeds of a criminal act. In Texas, money laundering charges have varied penalties depending on the amounts involved:
- Value from $3000 to $19,999 = third degree felony (2-10 years in prison plus a hefty fine if convicted)
- Value from $20,000 to $99,999 = second degree felony (2-20 years in prison plus a hefty fine if convicted)
- Value from $100,000 and up = first degree felony (5 to life years in prison plus a hefty fine if convicted)
There are several different types of money laundering charges you can face. Some are more serious than others and could result in severe punishments and steep fines. In fact, if you are convicted of money laundering, you could be forced to pay a fine up to twice the amount of the total dollar amount of funds involved in the illegal activity.
It is important that you contact Houston White Collar Crimes Lawyer Charles Johnson as soon as you are aware of charges against you or a loved one. If you are confronted with federal charges, you will want an experienced attorney who is familiar with federal court procedure as it is quite different from the state court process. Attorney Charles Johnson is well-versed in both federal and state law and court procedure. No matter what your money laundering charges or other white collar crime charges entail, you can trust that he will prepare a solid defense on your behalf.
Defenses for Money Laundering Charges in Texas
- Absence of intent to commit a crime — Most crimes require intent to commit the crime. In terms of money laundering, people who are accountants, bankers, or others who deal with large amounts of money are often charged with money laundering without even knowing they committed a crime. If you can prove you were unaware the money obtained was illegal, then there is no way you can have intent to commit money laundering.
- Duress — Duress occurs when a person truly believes there will be some danger or harm if they do not participate in the crime. In money laundering, criminals often force accountants or bankers to launder illegally obtained money or else be subjected to harm. If this is the case, you will have a good duress defense (as the banker or accountant).
- Insufficient evidence — A criminal charge can be dismissed if there is insufficient evidence to prosecute. In money laundering, an intention to prevent illegally obtained funds from being traced to its origin is required for a conviction. A conviction also requires proving the money laundered came from a specific illegal activity. If one of these two things is missing, then there is a possibility this defense will work.
The main defense to Money Laundering is the defendant’s lack of knowledge that the funds were from an unlawful activity. Attorney Charles Johnson may be able to establish that you did not intend to promote unlawful activity or that the transaction was not designed to conceal the unlawful activity. This is usually a valid defense when a person is merely an employee of a business, or a non-involved partner who is basically “duped” into managing a business whose proceeds are the result of an illegal activity. This defense can be supported with evidence from the company’s financial statements or accounting records showing material misrepresentation or omissions, committed by someone else other than the defendant. Many times one devious business partner will ask another partner to “sign off” on certain loan documents or tax returns without telling the defendant that the information contained therein is false misleading. Just because a defendant has signed off on paperwork that might be designed to cover up the source of money or funds does not mean the defendant actually knew about the source of the funds. It is important to interview all of the parties involved to ascertain the defendant’s good character and honesty and lack of control over this area of the company’s finances, and to emphasize the partner’s bad character. Another defense is tracing the funds involved in the transactions and proving that these specific funds did not fund, nor were the proceeds of, any unlawful activity. The defenses for Money Laundering are quite complex (as are all white collar cases) and involve many hours of records research by attorneys and expert witnesses. It is often beneficial to utilize a “forensic accountant” to also go through the documents in order to defend against the Government’s allegations.
Additionally, because the Charles Johnson Law Firm fights conviction from all angles, they will assert a wide range of defenses and challenges to constitutional violations that apply in all criminal cases. The possibilities are numerous and diverse. One of those is the “denial of right to Counsel”. This occurs when a suspect is in custody and requests to speak to their attorney, but is denied and questioning continues. Other defenses may include challenging the validity of any search warrant, or whether there were any “forensic flaws” during the investigation of your case. Depending on what else you have been charged with, this could include exposing flawed procedures regarding fingerprints analysis; computer analysis/cloning hard drive procedures; GPS tracking monitors; forensic financial accounting reviews; etc.. Lastly, one of the most common defense tactics is exposing sloppy or misleading police reports which include everything from misstatements, false statements, flawed photo line-ups and inaccurate crime scene reconstruction. It is important to hire a skilled Money Laundering lawyer to defend you who has knowledge of all the possible defenses to assert in your case. While related charges can further complicate a money laundering defense or other type of case, it is important to remember that just because you have been accused, doesn’t mean you are guilty. Contact Houston White Collar Crimes Lawyer Charles Johnson immediately for your free phone consultation. Attorney Johnson will take your call 24/7 365 days/year at (713) 222-7577 to discuss your case. Put his knowledge to work for you.
Hire the Best Houston Money Laundering Lawyer: Houston White Collar Crimes Lawyer Charles Johnson
At the Charles Johnson Law Firm, our attorneys possess the necessary skills and knowledge to successfully defend individuals facing federal money laundering charges. Unless you retain counsel who will aggressively investigate the matter on your behalf, you may have a poor chance of avoiding a lengthy prison term among other severe consequences. Money laundering is a serious offense with potential long-term consequences including jail time.When your future is at stake, contact the Leading Houston Criminal Lawyer at the Charles Johnson Law Firm. You can reach Attorney Johnson directly anytime night or day at (713) 222-7577.
Download “Facing a Money Laundering Investigation? Hire the Leading Houston White Collar Crimes Lawyer” in PDF Format
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The Department of Public Safety says a 27-year-old passenger, Daniel Carrillo of Houston, was arrested on a money laundering count. Jail records did not list him as still in custody. A trooper had stopped the SUV for a traffic violation. The bundles of ...
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Lakewood woman charged in fraud scheme
HOUSTON - Three people were arrested for conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering in Texas. Stefano Guido Vitale, 39, Alan Leschyshyn, 51, and Bree Ann Davis, were arrested following the return of a federal indictment.
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Houston defense lawyer arrested, charged with money laundering, fraud
Abraham Moses Fisch, 52, a criminal defense attorney in Houston, was arrested this morning on charges of conspiracy, obstruction of justice, money laundering and conspiracy to commit money laundering, federal prosecutors said. Fisch and his wife ...
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, money laundering charges
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Have you been accused of operating a marijuana grow house? Grow houses have been popping up all over Texas and all over the nation. As a result, law enforcement has intensified investigations. They are reviewing electrical usage and water usage to determine if excessive amounts are being used — creating suspicion that the manufacture/cultivation of marijuana is being carried out on the premises. If you are under investigation or have been arrested and are facing drug manufacturing charges, you need experienced legal counsel on your side. Houston Criminal Lawyer Charles Johnson expertly defends clients who have been charged with marijuana-related crimes through the entire State of Texas, with offices in Houston, Austin, Dallas and San Antonio.
At the Charles Johnson Law Firm, we take marijuana charges seriously. We provide aggressive manufacture/cultivation defense representation to each client. Contact Attorney Johnson directly at (713) 222-7577 anytime night or day to discuss your case with an experienced criminal defense attorney.
Marijuana Cultivation: Defense Lawyers You Can Trust
Our law firm provides exceptional defense representation. We have earned a reputation for our diligence and our commitment to our clients. Clients have come to respect and trust us when they are in need and their future is at stake. We know the law and how to effectively defend our clients.
When clients have been charged with marijuana cultivation or other drug manufacturing, we analyze every aspect of the case.
- How did law enforcement become aware of the use of grow lights?
- Was reviewing the occupant’s electrical bills legal?
- Was a valid search warrant obtained before entering the home?
- Did someone else have access to the home?
- Was the home actually owned by someone else?
In marijuana cultivation cases, penalties are based on quantity. Therefore, if you have possession of a significant amount of plants in your home or an amount of marijuana of substantial weight, you may face a mandatory minimum sentence. Experienced defense counsel is paramount to the success of your case.
We use our knowledge of the law to our client’s benefit. If required procedure was not followed or our clients’ rights were violated, we petition to have evidence suppressed from the record — weakening or destroying the case against you. If you have been arrested for marijuana cultivation, trust the Best Houston Drug Lawyer Charles Johnson to provide the zealous defense representation you need. You can contact Attorney Johnson directly anytime night or day at (713) 222-7577.
About Marijuana Cultivation in Texas
In Texas, it is against the law to possess, distribute, or grow marijuana. The charges for these crimes are serious and the penalties include jail time, probation, prison, and expensive fines. In addition to these consequences, your driver’s license will be suspended even if you are not driving a vehicle at the time of your arrest.
Texas marijuana cultivation laws make it illegal for you to grow and possess certain plants or other organic materials that are used to produce marijuana. This means that if you are found with cannabis seeds, grow lighting systems, or marijuana plants, you will be charged with marijuana cultivation.
Large-scale federal marijuana cultivation charges are serious and carry severe consequences. As a federal offense, your case would be handled in the federal court system, which places strict sentencing guidelines on convictions. It is important that you retain a lawyer who has experience trying cases at the federal level. I can evaluate your case from every angle to determine the best course of action.
Marijuana is derived from the hemp plant called Cannabis sativa, which can be found growing naturally in many parts of the world. Though it may be commonly known as a hallucinogenic drug, the hemp or marijuana plant can be used in many other ways to produce paper, hemp oil, food and clothes. Owning items that are made of hemp is not illegal; however, growing or cultivating a marijuana plant in Texas is punishable as a criminal offense.
Marijuana remains readily available and is considered the most widely used illegal drug throughout the State of Texas. Marijuana in this area is primarily imported from the Texas/Mexico border via privately owned vehicles (POV) and commercial trucks. Large quantities of marijuana are routinely seized by all levels of law enforcement during highway interdiction stops in the North Texas area. In recent years, increased enforcement activity has lead to the seizure of several significant indoor marijuana cultivation operations in North Texas. These operations range in size from 100 to over 1100 plants and have produced marijuana with THC levels as high as 15%. Mexican marijuana is the most predominantly trafficked drug in the Houston Division. It is not uncommon for the US Border Patrol to make multi-hundred pound marijuana seizures from “back packers” at points along the Rio Grande River, and from vehicles at the US Border Patrol secondary checkpoints in Texas. At the Ports of Entry, ton quantity seizures of marijuana are often made from commercial trucking attempting to enter the United States.
Seasonal marijuana growing operations may be conducted on lands of all ownership. Some individuals elect to grow their illegal crops on publicly owned lands where isolation and limited public access lessen the likelihood of accidental detection. Certain things may be indicators of an outdoor growing operation. Some of these are:
- An unusually large purchase of fertilizer,
- garden hoses, PVC pipe, and
- camouflage netting.
- Excessive security measures out of place
- in remote forested areas.
- An unusual structure or out-of-place
- items in remote forested areas, such as
- buckets, garden tools, hoses, PVC pipe,
and fertilizer bags.
Many individuals choose to cultivate marijuana indoors in order to have total control of the environment. These operations may divert power from power companies to circumvent payment of high bills and attempt to avoid detection. This only raises the cost of power for law-abiding citizens.
Certain things may be indicators of an indoor growing operation. Some of these are:
- Covered or blackened-out windows.
- Loud humming sounds (from fans or ballasts).
- An unusually strong musty odor.
- Unusually large amounts of potting soil, containers, fertilizer, hoses, halide light system, and ballasts.
- Excessive security measures and use of guard dogs.
Marijuana possession, sale, and manufacture are regulated by both state and federal law. In Texas, marijuana is classified as a Schedule I substance, which means that it has a high potential for abuse and no generally recognized medical value. (Texas Stat. and Code Ann. § 481.002.)
It is a crime to possess marijuana in Texas. Penalties vary according to the amount possessed, with increased penalties for offenses in a drug free school zone. (Texas Stat. and Code Ann. § 481.121.)
Two ounces or less. Penalties include a fine of up to $2,000, up to 180 days in jail, or both.
More than two ounces, but less than four ounces. Penalties include a fine of up to $4,000, up to one year in jail, or both.
Four ounces or more, up to and including five pounds. Penalties include a fine of up to $10,000, between 180 days and two years in prison, or both.
More than five pounds, up to and including 50 pounds. Penalties include a fine of up to $10,000, between two and ten years in prison, or both.
More than 50 pounds, up to and including 2,000 pounds. Penalties include a fine of up to $10,000, between two and 20 years in prison, or both.
More than 2,000 pounds. Penalties include a fine of up to $50,000, between five and 99 years in prison, or both.
Marijuana Cultivation and Sales
It is illegal to cultivate or sell marijuana (or possess marijuana with the intent to do so) in Texas. Penalties vary according to the amount cultivated or sold, with increased penalties for sales to a minor or within a drug free school zone. (Texas Stat. and Code Ann. § 481.120.)
Gift of one fourth of an ounce or less. Penalties include a fine of up to $2,000, up to 180 days in jail, or both.
Selling one fourth of an ounce or less. Penalties include a fine of up to $4,000, up to one year in jail, or both.
More than one fourth of an ounce, and up to and including five pounds. Penalties include a fine of up to $10,000, between 180 days and two years in prison, or both.
More than five pounds, up to and including 50 pounds. Penalties include a fine of up to $10,000, between two and 20 years in prison, or both.
More than 50 pounds, up to and including 2,000 pounds. Penalties include a fine of up to $10,000, between five and 99 years in prison, or both.
More than 2,000 pounds. Penalties include a fine of up to $50,000, at least ten (and up to 99) years in prison, or both.
It is illegal in Texas to manufacture, sell, or use drug paraphernalia (or possess paraphernalia with the intent to do so). Paraphernalia includes items used in growing, harvesting, processing, selling, storing, or using marijuana. Penalties for possession include a fine of up to $500, but no jail time. Selling paraphernalia may be punished with a fine of up to $4,000, up to one year in jail, or both. (Texas Stat. and Code Ann. § 481.125.)
A stamp tax is a tax imposed on certain types of transactions (such as the transfer of property) that requires a stamp to be purchased and attached either to the item sold or to an instrument documenting the transaction (such as a deed). The federal government imposes stamp taxes on deeds, the issue and transfer of stocks and bonds, and on playing cards.
In Texas, those who buy, transport, or import marijuana into Texas are required to pay a stamp tax and place the stamp (proof of payment) onto the contraband. However, because the possession of marijuana is illegal, people typically don’t pay the stamp tax. When you are convicted for possession, you will also be liable for payment of the unpaid taxes ($3.50 for each gram or portion of a gram). (Texas Stat. and Code Ann. § 159.101A.)
Challenging the Prosecution’s Case – Why You Shouldn’t Give Up Hope
Marijuana cultivation cases often depend on informants. People who have been arrested on drug and related criminal charges may agree to provide police with information in exchange for a reduced sentence. As a result, someone may give your name to the police when in reality you have little, if anything, to do with the cultivation of marijuana. Houston Drug Lawyer Charles Johnson will investigate the background of informants and their relationship to the police in order to expose leads and information ignored by law enforcement in building their case against you.
Facing Possession Charges
Often marijuana possession charges result from police contacts while in your car. Typically, officers will ask the driver if they can search their car. In many cases, drivers agree to a search thinking officers have a right to inspect their car. However, an officer must first have reasonable suspicion that a law has been broken to pull you over. Second, in order to search your car, one of the following must apply: You must give voluntary, informed consent to the officer; the officer must see something in plain sight that gives them probable cause to conduct a search; or the search must be incident to a lawful arrest. Attorney Johnson will review the evidence, dashboard camera footage and the actions of arresting officers to determine if your rights were violated.
The Value of Local Legal Representation
If you have been charged with a marijuana-related offense, consult an experienced criminal defense attorney. While the penalties and consequences of a marijuana charge are governed by statutory law, only a local criminal defense attorney can tell you how cases like yours tend to be handled by prosecutors and judges in your courthouse. As you can see, the penalties for marijuana cultivation in Texas are life changing. Not only is your freedom at stake, your bank account can be cleaned out and you will lose your driving privileges. You need an experienced drug-offense attorney on your side at a critical time like this.
Houston Drug Lawyer Charles Johnson expertly defends clients who have been charged with marijuana-related crimes through the entire State of Texas. Due to his dedication to fighting drug charges, he is familiar with the most effective defense strategies to defend you. If you’ve been arrested on marijuana cultivation charges in Houston or anywhere in Texas, it’s in your best interest to speak with an experienced drug cultivation defense lawyer who can inform you of your legal rights and provide you with the aggressive defense you need against your charges.
When you come to our firm, you can rest assured that a knowledgeable and well-practiced Texas marijuana cultivation defense attorney will thoroughly look into your charges to determine if the police violated your constitutional rights, or conducted an unlawful search and seizure. If we find any evidence that may indicate the police violated the law, we will make it known to the judge immediately, and motion to have the charges dropped.
To learn more about our defense services, please contact Houston Marijuana Cultivation Lawyer Charles Johnson anytime night or day at (713) 222-7577 to speak with him directly.
Download “Marijuana Cultivation Charges: The Best Houston Criminal Lawyer To Represent You” in PDF Format
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The Charles Johnson Law Firm is one of the foremost criminal defense law firms in Houston in defending people from drug convictions, including the possession and sale of marijuana. Our unique strategy gives our clients the best opportunity to avoid criminal penalties, and our criminal defense law firm’s familiarity with drug laws, both felonies and misdemeanors, is unrivaled. We provide each client a high-quality legal defense that is superior. Houston Criminal Lawyer Charles Johnson can defend against any criminal drug charge in both federal and state courts, and our firm’s track record of success continues to grow.
Hire the Best Houston Drug Crimes Defense Lawyer: The Charles Johnson Law Firm
Criminal Marijuana Penalties
Marijuana possession and sale charges can be either misdemeanors or felonies, but both carry serious penalties. Jail time, heavy fines, probation, mandatory rehab programs and more are all possible penalties for drug charges. Attorney Johnson’s finely tuned defense techniques have evolved from years of experience, and he brings that knowledge and experience to those facing marijuana-related criminal charges.
Of all the marijuana laws in Texas, possession of marijuana may be the most unfair. It punishes otherwise responsible citizens merely for keeping some pot for personal use and who have no intention of ever doing anything hurtful with it or profiting from it. Nonetheless, it is an offense to possess, distribute or cultivate marijuana in Texas. Depending on the quantity, possession of marijuana can be charged as a misdemeanor of felony in both state and federal court.
The prosecution may argue that you’re “in possession” of marijuana in Houston, TX, if you’re found smoking marijuana or if you knowingly “exercised control” over the marijuana. Therefore, the location of the marijuana is very important:
- If the marijuana is found on your person, in your car, in or around your home, in a storage unit belonging to you, or in any other place that you have some authority over, the prosecution will argue that you were in possession of the marijuana since you had some control over the location.
- Furthermore, if marijuana is found in your system during a drug test or you were caught driving under the influence of marijuana in Texas, the prosecution may try to use that to prove you’ve been in possession of marijuana since you presumably “exercise control” over your body.
Marijuana Possession Penalties in Texas
- Two ounces or less include a fine up to $2,000, up to 180 days in jail or both
- More than two ounces, but less than four ounces. Penalties include a fine of up to $4,000, up to one year in jail, or both.
- Four ounces or more, up to and including five pounds. Penalties include a fine of up to $10,000, between 180 days and two years in prison, or both.
- More than five pounds, up to and including 50 pounds. Penalties include a fine of up to $10,000, between two and ten years in prison, or both.
- More than 50 pounds, up to and including 2,000 pounds. Penalties include a fine of up to $10,000, between two and 20 years in prison, or both.
- More than 2,000 pounds. Penalties include a fine of up to $50,000, between five and 99 years in prison, or both.
Sale of Marijuana
Various states have different marijuana laws, and Texas is no different. Texas treats marijuana sales as a much more serious crime than possession, which is reflected in the penalties. The sale of any amount of marijuana can lead to prison time, even for small amounts.
Sale of Marijuana Penalties in Texas
- 1/4 oz – 5 lbs: 6 months – 2 years, $10,000 fine
- 5 lbs – 50 lbs: 2 – 20 years, $10,000 fine
- 50 lbs – 1 ton: 5 – 99 years, $10,000 fine
- 1 ton or more: Mandatory minimum of 10 – 99 years, with a $100,000 fine
These are for either the sale OR delivery, meaning it is irrelevant whether or not you are actually paid or just just giving it to someone. On top of that, if the delivery or sale is to a minor (in ANY amount), that is punishable by an additional 2 – 20 years in prison. Also, sale within 1,000 feet of a school or within 300 feet of a youth center, public pool or video arcade increases the penalty classification to the next highest level (which in some cases is a difference of many years).
The Houston Lawyer Charles Johnson understands the unique nature of Texas marijuana laws, and can provide a skilled defense. His unparalleled knowledge of state and federal drug laws gives him a unique ability to provide excellent legal services for you and your loved ones. If you are in need of criminal defense legal representation in the Houston area, contact Attorney Johnson anytime day or night at (713) 222-7577 to discuss your situation.
What Is Marijuana?
Cannabis sativa: There are two species of Cannabis. One species is Cannabis sativa, originally cultivated to make hemp. The stalks of the plant contain fibers that are woven to make rope, cloth, and paper. The other species is Cannabis indica, known for its psychoactive properties. Hashish is derived from Cannabis indica. In Africa, cannabis is know as “dagga,” in China as “ma,” and in India as “ganga” or “bhang”. Marijuana is the Mexican colloquial name for Cannabis sativa. Marijuana is a greenish-gray mixture of dried, shredded leaves, stems, seeds, and flowers of the hemp plant.
THC is the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. THC or delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol is found in the plant’s resin. The amount of THC determines the potency of the marijuana. The resin is mostly concentrated in the flowers of the plant. Because of various cultivation techniques the amount of THC varies considerably in the flowers of individual plants.
Other Chemicals: Marijuana is a complex drug and is made up of 420 chemical components. Sixty-one of these chemicals are called cannabinoids and are unique to marijuana. Many scientific studies focus on the primary psychoactive chemical, THC but don’t know how these other cannabinoids affect the various organs, brain, and behavior.
Grades of Marijuana
- Low-grade marijuana is made from leaves of both sexes of the plant.
- Medium-grade marijuana is made of the flowering tops of female plants fertilized by male plants.
- High-grade marijuana is made of the flowering tops of female plants raised in isolation to male plants. This marijuana is called sinsemilla because it does not produce a seed.
- Hashish is produced when resin is collected from the Cannabis indica plant. The THC-rich resin is dried and then compressed into a variety of forms, such as balls, cakes, or cookie-like sheets. Pieces are then broken off, placed in pipes, and smoked or rolled into a cigarette along with tobacco or low-grade marijuana. The Middle East, North Africa, Pakistan, and Afghanistan are the main sources of hashish. THC content of hashish can vary from 8% to 20%.
What are the Physical Effects of Marijuana usage?
When marijuana is smoked, the affects are felt in minutes. The high usually peaks within a couple of hours. Marijuana affects users differently. The “high” can include a feeling of relaxation, improved sense perception, and emotional well-being. Music and visual images may seem more vibrant and intense. Time seems to slow down. Some people experience physical hunger and a range of emotion from laughter to introspection. Marijuana does not always produce pleasant feelings and may cause paranoia and hallucinations. Emergency room visits have increased because some people feel anxious or fearful after smoking high-grade marijuana. Whether the marijuana is smoked or eaten, THC can remain in the body for days. About half the THC is in the blood 20 hours after smoking. Although the initial high has disappeared, physical and mental functions may be affected for days.
The physical effects of marijuana depend on many individual factors such as personal health, the time of day that marijuana is used, the problems it causes, and how well a person is able to control his or her use. Research studies have shown that one of the primary concerns for those who use marijuana is cardiovascular damage. Marijuana causes damage to lungs that is similar to that caused by cigarettes. For people who inhale deeply or hold the smoke in their lungs longer, the risk can be greater. One study that compared cigarette and marijuana smokers found that marijuana smokers absorbed five times the amount of carbon monoxide, and had five times the tar in their lungs, as compared to cigarette smokers. For those who smoke both marijuana and cigarettes, the damage can be exponentially greater than that caused by marijuana or cigarettes alone.
Research shows that people who use marijuana more than one time during the day tend to have more social and physical problems than those who only use in the evenings. Those who use at multiple times may also be more likely to be smoking to avoid problems they feel unable to confront. A person who uses marijuana in addition to alcohol or other drugs can be at additional risk. The effects of some drugs become exponentially greater when taken together. In addition, the physical tolerance that one drug produces can sometimes affect another drug, and lead to dependence on multiple substances.
Is Marijuana Addictive?
While marijuana is not in the same addictive league as cocaine, heroin, and even alcohol, recent studies raise the possibility that THC affects the level of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is a chemical in the brain that affects the pleasure circuits. Many addictive drugs cause the release of dopamine from the neurons. One report by the National Institute of Drug Abuse states that long-term marijuana use can lead to addiction for some people. This report concludes that along with craving, withdrawal symptoms can make it hard for long-term marijuana smokers to stop using the drug. People trying to quit report irritability, difficulty sleeping, and anxiety.
Texas does not prosecute possession of drugs only. In fact, Texas will prosecute a person for possession of drug paraphernalia. Thus, it is a separate criminal charge classified as a Class C Misdemeanor and typically carries a penalty of $500. Normally, if one is charged with a possession of controlled substance, then a possession of drug paraphernalia will be charged against the person, as well.
Under federal law the term drug paraphernalia means “any equipment, product or material of any kind which is primarily intended or designed for use in manufacturing, compounding, converting, concealing, producing, processing, preparing, injecting, ingesting, inhaling, or otherwise introducing into the human body a controlled substance.”
Drug paraphernalia is any legitimate equipment, product, or material that is modified for making, using, or concealing illegal drugs such as cocaine, heroin, marijuana, and methamphetamine. Drug paraphernalia generally falls into two categories:
User-specific products are marketed to drug users to assist them in taking or concealing illegal drugs. These products include certain pipes, smoking masks, bongs, cocaine freebase kits, marijuana grow kits, roach clips, and items such as hollowed out cosmetic cases or fake pagers used to conceal illegal drugs.
Dealer-specific products are used by drug traffickers for preparing illegal drugs for distribution at the street level. Items such as scales, vials, and baggies fall into this category. Drug paraphernalia does not include any items traditionally used with tobacco, like pipes and rolling papers.
With the rise of the drug culture in the United States in the 1960s and 1970s, the country began to see the appearance of “head shops,” which were stores that sold a wide range of drug paraphernalia. While some of the paraphernalia was crude and home-made, much was being commercially manufactured to cater to a fast-growing market. Enterprising individuals even sold items openly in the street, until anti-paraphernalia laws in the 1980s eventually ended such blatant sales. Today, law enforcement faces another challenge. With the advent of the Internet, criminals have greatly expanded their illicit sales to a worldwide market for drug paraphernalia. For example, in a recent law enforcement effort, Operation Pipedreams, the 18 companies targeted accounted for more than a quarter of a billion dollars in retail drug paraphernalia sales annually. Typically, such illicit businesses operate retail stores as well as websites posing as retailers of legitimate tobacco accessories when in reality the products are intended for the illegal drug trade.
Identifying drug paraphernalia can be challenging because products often are marketed as though they were designed for legitimate purposes. Marijuana pipes and bongs, for example, frequently carry a misleading disclaimer indicating that they are intended to be used only with tobacco products. Recognizing drug paraphernalia often involves considering other factors such as the manner in which items are displayed for sale, descriptive materials or instructions accompanying the items, and the type of business selling the items.
The Charles Johnson Law Firm is experienced in marijuana-related matters involving:
Contact the Best Houston Marijuana Possession Lawyer: The Charles Johnson Law Firm
Before someone can be convicted of marijuana possession in Houston, the state must prove that the accused actually had possession or took action to control the drug. Drug possession cases are complicated and depend the police’s adherence to strict guidelines concerning search and seizure of the drug.
As you could be facing fines, probation, drug classes, community service, and jail, it is crucial that you speak with an experienced Houston criminal attorney if you have been accused of this crime. Our team at the Charles Johnson Law Firm is well-equipped to handle any type of drug crime, including those involving possession of marijuana and/or drug paraphernalia. We understand that mistakes can happen and not everyone who has been accused of a crime is guilty. No matter how serious you may believe your case to be, contact The Houston Lawyer Charles Johnson directly by calling (713) 222-7577 anytime, day or night to discuss your case.
Arrested for Marijuana Possession or Sales? The Best Houston Lawyer
by Charles Johnson
Download “Arrested for Marijuana Possession or Sales? Choose the Right Houston Marijuana Lawyer For Your Case” in PDF Format
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Teacher, husband arrested for marijuana possession
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While it may seem minor, an Ecstasy possession or distribution offense can carry serious penalties in Houston and throughout Texas. Houston Criminal Lawyer Charles Johnson has proven his success in defending those charged with serious drug offenses. Houston Drug Lawyer Charles Johnson understands what you are up against, and knows the best defense strategies to preserve your rights and your freedom.
Ecstasy is one of the most dangerous drugs threatening young people today. Called MDMA (3-4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine) by scientists, it is a synthetic chemical that can be derived from an essential oil of the sassafras tree. MDMA is also one of the easiest illegal drugs to obtain. Its effects are similar to those of amphetamines and hallucinogens. Distributed almost anywhere, it has become very popular at social events like raves, hip hop parties, concerts, etc. frequented by both adults and youth. While not all “event” attendees use Ecstasy, the drug often makes the circuit of these parties and can set up dangerous circumstances that can affect everyone there.
What is Ecstasy?
MDMA or Ecstasy is a Schedule I, synthetic, psychoactive drug possessing stimulant and hallucinogenic properties. Ecstasy possesses chemical variations of the stimulant amphetamine or methamphetamine and a hallucinogen, most often mescaline. Ecstasy is a semi-synthetic chemical compound. Ecstasy is a white, crystalline powder in its pure form. It is usually seen in capsule form, in pressed pills, or as loose powder. Average cost ranges from $10-$30 (U.S.) a dose. Ecstasy is rarely consumed with alcohol, as alcohol is believed to diminish its effects. It is most often distributed at late-night parties called “raves”, nightclubs, and rock concerts. As the rave and club scene expands to metropolitan and suburban areas across the country, ecstasy use and distribution are increasing as well.
- MDMA is a “mood elevator” that produces a relaxed, euphoric state. It does not produce hallucinations.
- MDMA takes effect 20 to 40 minutes after taking a tablet, with little rushes of exhilaration which can be accompanied by nausea. 60 to 90 minutes after taking the drug, the user feels the peak effects.
- Sensations are enhanced and the user experiences hightened feelings of empathy, emotional warmth, and self-acceptance.
- The effects of ‘real’ ecstasy subside after about 3-5 hours.
- Users report that the experience is very pleasant and highly controllable. Even at the peak of the effect, people can usually deal with important matters.
- The effect that makes MDMA different from other drugs is that it increases a sense of empathy, or the sensation of understanding and accepting others.
Teenagers and young adults are the primary abusers of MDMA; however, MDMA is gaining popularity among older users. According to TCADA, MDMA-related treatment admissions to TCADA-funded treatment facilities increased from 63 in 1998 to 521 in 2002. MDMA is widely available throughout Texas, particularly in metropolitan areas such as Austin, Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio. DAWN data indicate that MDMA ED mentions in the Dallas metropolitan area increased dramatically from 17 in 1997 to 77 in 2001. Contributing to the threat is increasing MDMA availability in suburban and rural areas. Law enforcement authorities in Bee, Gonzales, and Wharton Counties report increased MDMA availability in their jurisdictions.
What is the history of ecstasy?
MDMA was patented as long ago as 1913 by the German company Merck. Rumor has it that the drug was sold as a slimming pill along with comic descriptions of its strange side effects, although it was never marketed and the patent doesn’t mention uses. The next time it came to light was in 1953 when the US army tested a number of drugs for military applications – again, folklore says it was tried as a truth drug but there is no evidence for this.
The years between 1977 and 1985 are viewed as the ‘golden age’ of Ecstasy. In psychotherapy, its use only appealed to a few experimental therapists since it didn’t fit in with the usual 50-minute psychotherapy session. The therapists that did use it include some of the most dynamic people in the field, including some who claimed that a five hour Ecstasy session was as good as 5 months of therapy.
By 1984 MDMA was still legal and was being used widely among students in the USA under its new name ‘Ecstasy’. (Rumor has it that a big-time dealer called it ‘Empathy’, although the name is more appropriate, he found that Ecstasy had more sales appeal.) In Dallas and Fort Worth, Texas, Ecstasy was even on sale in bars where you could pay by credit card. It replaced cocaine as the drug of choice among yuppies and even spread to people who normally kept well clear of drugs. However, it was this public and unashamed use that resulted in the drug being outlawed.
The criminalisation of ecstasy in America has wide-ranging consequences. The first was to prevent the drug being used by professional therapists, except in Switzerland. The second was to reduce the quality of the drug as sold on the street, because demand was now met by clandestine laboratories and the drug was distributed through the criminal network. Although the number of users was dramatically reduced at first, criminalisation did not prevent the drug’s popularity from spreading worldwide.
Nicknames and Street Names for Ecstasy
Ecstasy usually appears as a small pill or tablet in various colors, sometimes with a logo stamped on it. Here are the common nicknames and street names for Ecstasy:
- X, E, or XTC
- Dancing Shoes
- Disco Biscuits
- Egg Rolls
- Happy Pill
- Hug Drug
- Love Drug
- Malcolm (or Malcolm X)
- Scooby Snacks
- Vitamin E or Vitamin X
Slang Terms for Ecstasy Use and Abuse
Here are some common slang terms for using Ecstasy or to describe someone who uses Ecstasy:
- Drop, Double Drop
- Flip or Flipping
- Roll, Rolling
- Cuddle Puddle, E-Puddle
- Raver, Raving
What does it look like?
Ecstasy usually comes in a tablet form that is often branded. Such logos or trademarks include CK (Calvin Klein), shamrocks, stars, Woody the Woodpecker, Dino, Pinocchio, Snoopy, Love, and many other colors, symbols/logos. A sample of several logo/trademark tablets are shown below:
It is clear that most of the logos/trademarks found on Ecstasy tablets are aimed at young adults. The logos/trademarks entice one to believe that Ecstasy is safe, almost candy-like. Do not be fooled. While attractive and interesting, these tablets, even in their purest form, contain a dangerous controlled substance that could take your life. Keep in mind that it is not uncommon for such pills to be tainted with dangerous substances other than Ecstasy. Ecstasy is not produced in safely regulated laboratory environments where the contents of what goes into the drug are closely scrutinized.
How is it used?
Ecstasy is usually taken in pill form and swallowed and it can also be injected. Some users have been known to crush and snort the resulting powder. Others insert the pill into the anus where it is absorbed. This process is known as “shafting.” Liquid Ecstasy is actually GHB, a nervous system depressant—a substance that can also be found in drain cleaner, floor stripper and degreasing solvents.
What is the dosage?
E is almost always swallowed as a tablet or capsule. A normal dose is around 100-125 mg. Black market “ecstasy” tablets vary widely in strength, and often contain other drugs.
How Is MDMA Abused?
MDMA is taken orally, usually as a capsule or tablet. It was initially popular among Caucasian adolescents and young adults in the nightclub scene or at weekend-long dance parties known as raves. More recently, the profile of the typical MDMA user has changed, with the drug now affecting a broader range of ethnic groups. MDMA is also popular among urban gay males—some report using MDMA as part of a multiple-drug experience that includes marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine, ketamine, sildenafil (Viagra), and other legal and illegal substances.
What are its short-term effects?
Users report that Ecstasy produces intensely pleasurable effects — including an enhanced sense of self-confidence and energy. Effects include feelings of peacefulness, acceptance and empathy. Users say they experience feelings of closeness with others and a desire to touch others. Other effects can include involuntary teeth clenching, a loss of inhibitions, transfixion on sights and sounds, nausea, blurred vision, chills and/or sweating. Increases in heart rate and blood pressure, as well as seizures, are also possible. The stimulant effects of the drug enable users to dance for extended periods, which when combined with the hot crowded conditions usually found at raves, can lead to severe dehydration and hyperthermia or dramatic increases in body temperature. This can lead to muscle breakdown and kidney, liver and cardiovascular failure. Cardiovascular failure has been reported in some of the Ecstasy-related fatalities. After-effects can include sleep problems, anxiety and depression.
- Impaired judgment
- False sense of affection
- Sleep problems
- Severe anxiety
- Drug cravings
- Muscle tension
- Faintness and chills or swelling
- Involuntary teeth clenching
- Blurred vision
What are its long-term effects?
Repeated use of Ecstasy ultimately may damage the cells that produce serotonin, which has an important role in the regulation of mood, appetite, pain, learning and memory. There already is research suggesting Ecstasy use can disrupt or interfere with memory.
- Long-lasting brain damage affecting thought and memory
- Damage to portions of the brain that regulate critical functions such as learning, sleep and emotion
- It is as if the brain switchboard was torn apart, then rewired backwards
- Degenerated nerve branches and nerve endings
- Depression, anxiety, memory loss
- Kidney failure
- Cardiovascular collapse
What are some types of paraphernalia associated with Ecstasy use?
- Pacifiers, Blo-pops, Popsicle sticks
- M&Ms, Skittles, Tootsie-Rolls, Candy necklaces
- Glo-sticks, Bottled water
- Dust / surgical masks
- Vicks Vapor Rub
- Strobe lights
- Suppository bottles
The pacifier is used to prevent the grinding of teeth that is often a physical side effect when using Ecstasy. Glow sticks are used to increase the visual psychedelic effects associated with the use of Ecstasy. Vapor rub in a surgical mask that is placed over the nose and mouth is used to enhance the euphoric effects of Ecstasy. None of these items alone indicates use of Ecstasy. However, in the right context, such items are tools which enhance the Ecstasy “high,” and cut down on the undesirable effects of the drug.
How Does MDMA Affect the Brain?
MDMA exerts its primary effects in the brain on neurons that use the chemical (or neurotransmitter) serotonin to communicate with other neurons. The serotonin system plays an important role in regulating mood, aggression, sexual activity, sleep, and sensitivity to pain. MDMA binds to the serotonin transporter, which is responsible for removing serotonin from the synapse (or space between adjacent neurons) to terminate the signal between neurons; thus MDMA increases and prolongs the serotonin signal. MDMA also enters the serotonergic neurons via the transporter (because MDMA resembles serotonin in chemical structure) where it causes excessive release of serotonin from the neurons. MDMA has similar effects on another neurotransmitter—norepinephrine, which can cause increases in heart rate and blood pressure. MDMA also releases dopamine, but to a much lesser extent.
MDMA can produce confusion, depression, sleep problems, drug craving, and severe anxiety. These problems can occur soon after taking the drug or, sometimes, even days or weeks after taking MDMA. In addition, chronic users of MDMA perform more poorly than nonusers on certain types of cognitive or memory tasks, although some of these effects may be due to the use of other drugs in combination with MDMA. Research in animals indicates that MDMA can be harmful to the brain—one study in nonhuman primates showed that exposure to MDMA for only 4 days caused damage to serotonin nerve terminals that was still evident 6 to 7 years later. Although similar neurotoxicity has not been shown definitively in humans, the wealth of animal research indicating MDMA’s damaging properties strongly suggests that MDMA is not a safe drug for human consumption.
For some people, MDMA can be addictive. A survey of young adult and adolescent MDMA users found that 43 percent of those who reported ecstasy use met the accepted diagnostic criteria for dependence, as evidenced by continued use despite knowledge of physical or psychological harm, withdrawal effects, and tolerance (or diminished response). These results are consistent with those from similar studies in other countries that suggest a high rate of MDMA dependence among users. MDMA abstinence-associated withdrawal symptoms include fatigue, loss of appetite, depressed feelings, and trouble concentrating.
What Other Adverse Effects Does MDMA Have on Health?
MDMA can also be dangerous to overall health and, on rare occasions, lethal. MDMA can have many of the same physical effects as other stimulants, such as cocaine and amphetamines. These include increases in heart rate and blood pressure—which present risks of particular concern for people with circulatory problems or heart disease—and other symptoms such as muscle tension, involuntary teeth clenching, nausea, blurred vision, faintness, and chills or sweating.
In high doses, MDMA can interfere with the body’s ability to regulate temperature. On rare but unpredictable occasions, this can lead to a sharp increase in body temperature (hyperthermia), which can result in liver, kidney, cardiovascular system failure, or death. MDMA can interfere with its own metabolism (breakdown within the body); therefore, potentially harmful levels can be reached by repeated MDMA administration within short periods of time. Other drugs that are chemically similar to MDMA, such as MDA (methylenedioxyamphetamine, the parent drug of MDMA) and PMA (paramethoxyamphetamine, associated with fatalities in the United States and Australia), are sometimes sold as ecstasy. These drugs can be neurotoxic or create additional health risks to the user. Furthermore, ecstasy tablets may contain other substances, such as ephedrine (a stimulant); dextromethorphan (DXM, a cough suppressant); ketamine (an anesthetic used mostly by veterinarians); caffeine; cocaine; and methamphetamine. Although the combination of MDMA with one or more of these drugs may be inherently dangerous, users who also combine these with additional substances such as marijuana and alcohol may be putting themselves at even higher risk for adverse health effects.
What Treatment Options Exist?
There are no specific treatments for MDMA abuse and addiction. The most effective treatments for drug abuse and addiction in general are cognitive-behavioral interventions that are designed to help modify the patient’s thinking, expectancies, and behaviors related to their drug use and to increase skills in coping with life stressors. Drug abuse recovery support groups may also be effective in combination with behavioral interventions to support long-term, drug-free recovery. There are currently no pharmacological treatments for addiction to MDMA.
What are the symptoms of ecstasy withdrawal?
The most common ecstasy withdrawal symptoms include but are not limited to:
- panic attacks
- paranoid delusions
Ecstasy is NOT legally produced anywhere in the world. Most of the MDMA abused in Texas is produced in the Netherlands and Belgium. MDMA production may be emerging in Texas, but to a very limited extent. MDMA is smuggled into Texas from Canada, Europe, and Mexico primarily by Israeli criminal groups. To a lesser extent, Dominican criminal groups also smuggle MDMA into Texas. MDMA transporters use several means to smuggle the drug, including couriers on foot entering the United States from Mexico, couriers traveling on commercial and private aircraft, private vehicles, and via package delivery services.
Caucasian local independent dealers and, to a lesser extent, Asian criminal groups, are the primary wholesale and retail distributors of MDMA in Texas. Many retail-level MDMA distributors in Texas are middle and upper-middle class Caucasian high school or college students. MDMA typically is distributed at colleges, raves, nightclubs, and private parties. MDMA distributed in Texas often is stamped with a brand name or a logo. According to DEA, in the fourth quarter of FY2002 MDMA sold for $25 per tablet in Dallas, $16 to $20 per tablet in El Paso, and $10 to $30 per tablet in Houston.
MDMA also is transported from Texas to destinations in other U.S. states. For example, some Asian criminal groups transport shipments of MDMA from Texas, primarily overland, to major drug markets on the East Coast.
A large proportion of the retail trade is conducted by people buying for their friends without making a profit, although usually gaining a few free tablets for their own consumption. Then there are the dealers who are trusted as connoisseurs of the drug, and will describe the subtle qualities of the particular batch from personal experience. This type of dealer never sells to the public but only to regular clients who respect them, so the dealer cannot afford to provide poor quality.
Another variation, more common among working class men, is for friends to arrange a meeting place, usually a pub, before a rave. One person knows of a supply and collects money on behalf of the others, then returns with the drugs which cost each person less than if they had bought separately. This method carries more risk, either of losing your money or of getting poor quality. The person buying for the others also runs the risk of far greater penalties.
A more commercial form of supply is by individuals who buy 100 or so and are either ‘known’ at certain clubs, or go around offering them for sale. They may be honest, especially if they are known, but they may also be selling fake pills. A new trend is for ‘retail specialists’ to sell in a club or at a rave. These are organized gangs, but probably not part of a large syndicate. They cooperate with security staff or the promoters of raves and clubs. The club or rave organisers put on a show of heavy security, searching people on their way in so as to exclude dealers. This leaves the way open for the gang to sell inside. Some members go around asking people if they want to buy drugs without carrying stock themselves so that, if arrested, they will not be accused of ‘supply’ and may get off with a fine. The stock and money is carried by members who are well protected by body guards, and lookouts warn of police activity inside and outside the venue. They have contingency plans worked out in case of a surprise raid, for example members who are free of drugs might cause a fight so as to attract the attention of the police while those carrying drugs and money escape.
Punishment for Ecstasy Possession, Distribution or Manufacturing
MDMA is a controlled substance in Texas. Unlike a state such as California, which has not explicitly scheduled MDMA, but instead considers it as within its broad “controlled substance analogue” provisions, MDMA is an explicitly scheduled substance in Texas. MDMA has been placed it in “Group 2” of the Texas controlled substance hierarchy. (See Tex. Health & Safety Code, Sec. 481.103).
Punishment for Simple Possession of MDMA
The punishment for simple possession of MDMA in Texas is dependant upon the weight of the MDMA (See Tex. Health & Saf. Code, Sec. 481.116):
- Less than 1 gram = “state felony” with a mandatory minimum of 180 days in county jail up to 2 years and a fine of up to $10,000. (Tex Pen. Code, Sec. 12.35).
- 1 gram, but less than 4 grams = “felony 3rd degree” with a mandatory 2 year minimum, up to 10 years, and a fine of up to $10,000. (Pen. Code, Sec. 12.34.)
- 4 grams, but less than 400 grams = “felony 2nd degree” with a mandatory 2 year minimum, up to 20 years, and fine of up to $10,000 (Pen. Code, Sec. 12.33)
- 400 grams or more = mandatory 5 year minimum, with possible life imprisonment (Health & Saf. Code, Sec. 481.116)
Punishment for distributing or manufacturing MDMA, possessing it with the intent to distribute
Distributing or manufacturing MDMA, possessing it with the intent to distribute it is punishable as follows. (See Tex. Health & Saf. Code, Sec. 481.113):
- Less than 1 gram = “state felony ” with a mandatory minimum sentence of 180 days in county jail up to 2 years and a fine of up to $10,000. (Tex Pen. Code, Sec. 12.35).
- 1 gram, but less than 4 grams = “felony 2nd degree” with a mandatory 2 year minimum, up to 20 years, and fine of up to $10,000 (Pen. Code, Sec. 12.33)
- 4 grams, but less than 400 grams = “felony 1st degree” with a mandatory 5 year minimum, up to possible life imprisonment and maximum $10,000 fine. (See Pen. Code, Sec. 12.32)
- 400 grams or more = mandatory 10 year minimum, with possible life imprisonment (Health & Saf. Code, Sec. 481.113)
Hire the Best Houston Criminal Lawyer: The Charles Johnson Law Firm
If you or your child has been arrested or charged with any crime involving ecstasy, you must act quickly. The drug laws are incredibly complex and difficult to navigate without the assistance of a skilled criminal defense attorney. Texas treats all Ecstasy crimes harshly. No one accused of an Ecstasy crime should attempt to handle their case without a good lawyer. The law provides the maximum possible sentence and it is up to your attorney to fight for your rights and work to improve your situation. At the Charles Johnson Law Firm, we have successfully defended many types of drug charges throughout Texas and we can expertly handle your Houston Ecstasy case.
Anyone under investigation for sales, possession, under the influence, manufacturing, trafficking, importing, distributing or transporting ecstasy can expect very serious penalties if convicted. At the Charles Johnson Law Firm, we help clients who have been arrested for drug crimes involving ecstasy. Do not give up hope, even if you feel there may be solid evidence against you or a loved one, there are still many legal defenses that may help to have your charges minimized or dismissed entirely. Take advantage of the free initial consultation to discuss your options. The free consultation is an opportunity to discuss your case in detail and Houston Criminal Lawyer Charles Johnson will answer any questions that you may have regarding your ecstasy charges.
Houston Criminal Lawyer: Arrested for Ecstasy Possession or Distribution?
Houston Criminal Lawyer Charles Johnson has proven his success in defending those charged with serious drug offenses, including Ecstasy Possession or Distribution. Attorney Johnson understands what you are up against, and knows the best defense strategies to preserve your rights and your freedom.
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Numerous states have undertaken a revision of their rape and sexual assault laws, creating a broad set of sexually related crimes. These crimes are frequently referred to collectively as sexual assault, criminal sexual conduct or sexual abuse. The chief characteristic of these laws is that they prohibit doing any kind of sexual act with an additional person against that person’s will. Usually, it isn’t necessary to show physical resistance on the part of the victim, only that the victim did not consent to the act. When you have been accused of sexual assault, seek the guidance of the Recommended Best Houston Sexual Assault Lawyer at the Charles Johnson Law Firm in Houston, TX.
The contemporary trend is to make the laws against sexual assault gender neutral so that they apply to acts by and against both men and women. Probably the most severe types of sexual assault are those committed against kids or those that involve the use of violence.
Is Sexual Assault exactly the same as Rape?
The traditional definition of rape demands an act of sexual intercourse or sexual penetration by force or against the victim’s will. Sexual assault includes contact like sexual touching. These definitions, however, vary by jurisdiction.
The majority of sexual assault allegations are made by someone who knows the accused. When a sexual act is done with a minor who seemingly consented, criminal charges might arise because minors are not regarded as capable of giving consent.
The seriousness of a sexual assault charge, as well as the penalty that is imposed, may depend upon the amount and kind of force used by the defendant and also the injuries suffered by the victim. The victim’s physical resistance isn’t a main factor in deciding the severity of the charge. Sexual assault charges are frequently felony charges, even though some types of sexual assaults might be misdemeanors.
The penalties for sexual assault are severe and consist of prison or jail, monetary fines, psychiatric evaluation and treatment, and restitution payments to the victim. A person convicted of sexual assault may be forced to register as a sex offender for the rest of his or her life and have his or her name appear on the public registry of sex offenders.
Prosecution and Defense of Sexual Assault Cases
Generally, the only witnesses to an alleged sexual assault are the victim and also the individual accused. Many cases thus turn out to be “he said/she said” kinds of cases, in which one particular person’s word is pitted against another’s. False allegations have been made by each adults and kids. An adequate defense against a sexual assault charge demands sufficient info and rigorous advocacy. Houston Sexual Assault Lawyer Charles Johnson will go to war to defend your rights.
Hire the Recommended Houston Sexual Assault Attorney!
Sexual assault includes numerous types of sexual acts carried out with out the consent of the victim. These cases often don’t involve eyewitnesses and, as a result, are complex. Being convicted of sexual assault can result in lengthy prison time and social isolation once you are released. If you’re facing sexual assault charges, speak with the skilled and aggressive Houston Criminal Defense Attorney Charles Johnson. He is available around the clock to answer any questions you may have regarding your case.
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Marijuana is regarded as the frequently abused unlawful drug in the United States. Marijuana is defined as a Schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act, classified as having a very high potential for abuse. Street names for marijuana include grass, pot, weed, Mary Jane, dope, indo, and hydro. Marijuana possession laws can certainly impose strict penalties under specific situations.
Possession of marijuana (sometimes often called simple possession) is among the most common drug criminal offenses in the United States. Considered a misdemeanor in a majority of states, marijuana possession penalties include fines, probation, and/or community service. Criminal possession of marijuana is the next level up in marijuana possession crimes and consists of possession of marijuana in a public place where it is either burning or in open public view in quantities greater than 2 oz, but less eight oz. Criminal possession of marijuana is also a misdemeanor but the repercussions increase as does the probability of jail time.
Technically, under federal drug law, the possession of marijuana, in any amount, is punishable by up to twelve months in jail and a minimum fine of $1,000 for a first conviction. Additional convictions and greater amounts bring about much stiffer penalties. Comparatively few marijuana possession court cases give rise to a felony level crime. Marijuana distribution, however, is invariably a felony under federal law. The sale of under 50 kilograms of marijuana (the smallest amount category) is punishable by five years in jail along with a $250,000 fine.
Marijuana is usually consumed in its organic state, the plant by itself utilized in various ways to produce a hallucinogenic effect on the user. Abuse and use of the cannabis plant as a means for getting high dates back to biblical times. The advent of laws criminalizing the use of the drug occurred sometime during the 20th century, with fights to legalize the use of marijuana debated ever since, its use among Native Americans in religious ceremonies and the utilization of the drug by cancer patients to relieve nausea being the most recurrent arguments used for its legalization, including a significant change in the marijuana possession laws.
Marijuana production’s principal supply is Mexico. Virtually all foreign-produced marijuana available within the United States is smuggled into the country from Mexico over the Mexico border by criminal groups. Mexican criminal groups control nearly all of wholesale marijuana distribution in the U.S., with Asian criminal groups which bring in the product over the Canadian border running a close second. The potency of Canadian marijuana being deemed finer quality than the Mexican version has resulted in an increase in Asian control of marijuana production and distribution. According to the National Drug Threat Assessment 2007, high potency Canada-based smuggling, distribution and production groups are increasing, giving rise to large-scale cannabis cultivation in large outdoor sites by both Mexican and Asian groups. In addition, in an effort to remain competitive in the higher potency marijuana distribution trade, Asian groups have started operating indoor grow sites in homes throughout the Pacific Northwest and California. The trend is to buy or lease a residence, modify the residence for the purpose of producing two to four crops of cannabis and abandoning the property after the crops are harvested.
Challenges to current marijuana production and distribution laws are ongoing, with quite a few states decriminalizing certain marijuana usage for specific medical ailments. Nonetheless , in United States v. Oakland Cannabis Club, the United States Supreme Court ruled that marijuana doesn’t have any medical value as determined by Congress. The court’s opinion stated that: “In the case of the Controlled Substances Act, the statue reflects a determination that marijuana has no medical benefits worthy of an exception outside the confines of government-approved research projects.”
In 2002, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit issued a ruling which upheld the Drug Enforcement Act’s determination that marijuana should remain a Schedule I controlled substance, the most restrictive schedule under the Controlled Substance Act. The marijuana debate and court battles will doubtless continue to occasionally appear in the United States Court system for many years.
Defenses for those guilty of breaking marijuana possession laws, and distribution of marijuana laws, normally revolve around the misuse of police power to search and seize assets . Illegal search and seizure, unlawful surveillance, and entrapment are the primary means of defending an arrest of marijuana possession or marijuana distribution.
Texas courts take marijuana possession criminal charges seriously, and so should you. Multiple convictions of marijuana possession can bring about felony charges. Hence, you want to battle every arrest you confront , not just right away , but to safeguard your legal rights in the future as well. Considering that possession criminal charges might very easily bring about growing and cultivation charges, you want a lawyer who can lower virtually all potential damages.
The Most Respected Houston Lawyer will defend your legal rights and fight for you against marijuana possession criminal charges.
The seriousness of the criminal charges you confront is dependent on the quantity of marijuana. Should you are caught with under two ounces, you will have to deal with minor misdemeanor charges, but the consequences go up steeply from there. Possession of two to four ounces is defined as a Class A Misdemeanor, and possession if over four ounces is considered a felony.
No one wants a drug charge on their permanent record, so our first step is to have the charges completely dismissed. If dismissal or an acquittal at trial isn’t really potential, we are going to seek to lessen the charges or reduce the penalties where possible.
For first-time offenders, the Most Effective Houston Attorney will explore diversionary programs as well. By seeking proper drug treatment, you may very well be able to avoid prison time. They will help you discover virtually all potential alternative sentencing techniques.
Juvenile Marijuana Possession
Marijuana has a unique smell, and so it is dangerous for minors to smoke it anywhere: in a car, at home, or in a dorm room. Authorities can certainly smell it and another infraction might bring about significant repercussions, including the loss of student loans. Houston Criminal Attorney Charles Johnson will handle juvenile crimes involving marijuana possession as well as criminal court cases.
If you or a family member have been arrested for marijuana possession, you want an expert attorney who is prepared to stand up for your protection under the law right right now. Contact Houston Attorney Johnson immediately for a free of charge initial consultation.
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