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Houston Lawyer: Charged with a Methamphetamine Offense?

Whether you are currently under investigation for a drug crime involving Methamphetamine or have already been arrested, it’s important to retain criminal defense representation from a skilled Houston Lawyer. Texas has some of the most stringent illegal drug laws in the country, and the police and prosecutors involved with your criminal case aren’t going to let you off easy. By working with an attorney who has considerable knowledge, expertise, and practice of this type of criminal law, your odds of resolving your case effectively increase greatly. Houston Lawyer Charles Johnson will be by your side during this difficult time in your life.

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Methamphetamine is the illegal drug with the fastest growing rate of abuse in the United States. More U.S. counties (48%) report that meth may be the principal drug problem in the country – more than cocaine (22%), marijuana (22%) and heroin (3%) put together. Meth laboratory seizures have increased 577 percent nationwide since 1995. Methamphetamine, also known as “speed,” “crank,” “chalk,” or “ice” among many others, has been hooking people for years. But illegal production and use of the hugely addictive stimulant have exploded in the last few years, spawning what some authorities call America’s first rural drug epidemic. Methamphetamine is a strong stimulant that can cause a high that lasts from six to Twenty four hours. Once favored mainly by West Coast bike gangs, methamphetamine is now spreading across the nation. As outlined by US government surveys, treatment for meth addiction has more than quadrupled since 1993. Greater than 12 million men and women above the age of 12 have experimented with methamphetamine, including one out of 10 adolescents (according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).

What exactly is Methamphetamine?

Methamphetamine is an extremely addictive stimulant that directly has an effect on the pleasure centers within the brain. With repeated use of meth, it turns off the brain’s capacity to produce dopamine which simply leaves the users of methamphetamine incapable of enjoying anything but more methamphetamine. Methamphetamine is usually smoked, injected intravenously, snorted, or perhaps ingested orally. The drug alters mood in different ways, dependent on how it is utilized.

Meth is known to raise the user’s heart rate, blood pressure, temperature, and respiratory rate, a reduction in appetite, sleep, reaction time, and lung function. Extended use of meth can result in a number of conditions for example “meth mouth”, depression, amphetamine psychosis, obsessive scratching, anorexia, unfavorable social behavior, every type of child neglect, neglect of hygiene and property, prenatal exposure, dangerous sexual tendencies associated with the spread of HIV and also STD’s, aggressive behavior, criminal actions, and death from the collapse of the cardiovascular system and/or bleeding in the brain, cardiac arrest or hypothermia. Moreover, there are many side affects related to overdose which include death, brain damage, feelings of flesh crawling bugs connected with compulsive picking and infecting lesions, muscle breakdown producing kidney failure, hallucinations, delusions, along with paranoia. These terrible conditions linked to meth don’t even include the many accidents and deaths that could occur during the cooking process due to fires, explosions, and getting into contact with extremely dangerous chemical substances typically while the user is under the influence.

Forms of Methamphetamine

Meth is known as a central nervous system stimulant with a significant potential for abuse and dependency. A synthetic illegal drug, Methamphetamine is closely related chemically to amphetamine, yet creates increased effects on the central nervous system. The drug’s euphoric effects are comparable to, but longer lasting than those from cocaine. It typically comes in three forms:

Powder: a white, odorless, and bitter-tasting crystalline powder, readily soluble in water or alcohol.

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Crystal: Users will smoke chunks of a very pure form of crystalline Methamphetamine called “Ice”.

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Rock: Big chunks of the drug, typically found in yellow, are usually ingested orally.

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Signs and symptoms of Methamphetamine Addiction

Users can become hooked the first time they take meth, and the addiction is probably the most challenging to treat. People who take methamphetamine may become aggressive and paranoid, and the drug may cause heart attacks and death.

Addicts are typically chronic methamphetamine abusers completely preoccupied with avoiding the “crash”, a period of low energy and deep depression occurring after the individual stops using the drug. Throughout the crash, an individual often sleeps, even up to several days at a time, leaving kids unsupervised.

Methamphetamine dependency is quick, and so is the deterioration within the individual’s family and way of life. Drug tolerance to methamphetamine builds up quickly, and the user typically continues his impairment from abusing other drugs or alcohol, an activity referred to as “tweaking”, to ease the extremely unpleasant feeling after a binge. The tweaker is frequently paranoid and experiences a period of delusions and hallucinations during which violent reactions to otherwise harmless stimuli are routine. Frequently, it is children that happen to be in the way.

The horror of meth abuse just cannot be overstated.

Methamphetamine abuse consumes the quality of life and destroys individuals. In the series of photographs below, the female depicted was 38 years of age when she died. Incredibly, she is actually still living in the last photograph. Each photograph represents about Eleven months.

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History of Methamphetamine

Methamphetamine was first produced in Germany in 1887, but not for the recreational use that we find nowadays. It was produced to deal with various types of depression, weight control (obesity), narcolepsy, and alcoholism. In the Second World War, Methamphetamine was widely used by Nazi soldiers. Hitler’s troops, aviators, and tank crews received chocolate laced with Meth frequently. Following the war, through the 1970′s, the drug was commonly used primarily for medicinal reasons and one could acquire a legal prescription of Methamphetamine. It was not until the 1980′s that we started to see Meth being produced for recreational uses. By the mid- 1980′s we started to notice meth being manufactured illicitly in Texas, and since then, the illicit manufacturing of meth has spread like wildfire.

Challenges for Law Enforcement

The addictive character of meth generates numerous difficulties for law enforcement. People commonly become addicted from a single use of the drug and discover it almost impossible to later cease using meth. Users, dealers and traffickers often target adolescents to start using meth. The DEA has found evidence of this from the increase in availability of flavored methamphetamine. Flavors including strawberry or “strawberry quick,” cola, and chocolate flavored meth have been found by bodies in California, Nevada, Washington, Idaho, Texas, New Mexico, Missouri, and Minnesota.

Safety factors are also a huge obstacle for law enforcement if they happen to find a covert methamphetamine lab. It is a common practice for small meth lab operators to encircle their laboratories with booby traps, meant to seriously harm trespassers. Many of these booby traps include rigged shot firearms behind doors and refrigerators, traps that release harmful fumes, and even poisonous snakes.

Individuals who violate the law by manufacturing, possessing, or distributing methamphetamine frequently break the law in other ways also – because of or in support of their meth addiction. Many law enforcement agencies will point to the connection between meth manufacturers and meth addicts and criminal acts including: homicide, domestic assault, illegal possession of weapons, theft and identity fraud.

Methamphetamine Defense: Hire the Top Houston Lawyer

Whatever illegal drug charges you are defending, it’s of the utmost necessity that you retain the services of The Top Houston Criminal Defense Lawyer who will battle to avoid the severe penalties that are the consequence of drug-related conviction. Even if it’s your initial criminal offense, you could have to deal with a mandatory jail sentence, as well as considerable fines and a felony on your record.

The attorney you hire to defend you can easily make a big difference in whether you win your court case and steer clear of a life-altering conviction. Nonetheless, in a city like Houston, TX, finding the right Houston Lawyer can be challenging. When looking for a Houston drug defense lawyer to handle your court case, you ought to locate a lawyer who’s experienced, but who can also come up with innovative defense tactics for battling your criminal charges. Ultimately, many lawyers are familiar with what the law states, but Lawyer Johnson is skilled at utilizing his understanding of the law to come up with unquestionably inventive and effective ways to defend his clients against their criminal charges.

If you or a loved one has been arrested for an offense associated with Methamphetamine possession, manufacturing or distribution in Houston, obtain the support of Houston Lawyer Charles Johnson as soon as possible.


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Related News Stories – Methamphetamine Arrests in Houston, Texas

Arrested for Federal Drug Charges? Get Expert Counsel From Federal Drug Lawyer Charles Johnson

Best Federal Drug Defense AttorneyFederal Drug Lawyer Charles Johnson represents clients who have been charged or are about to be charged with drug charges in Federal Court. The Charles Johnson Law Firm has earned an international reputation as one of the top Federal Drug Law Firms.

Regardless of the federal or international drug charge, Federal Drug Lawyer Charles Johnson has the drug defense experience to handle your case. He has successfully handled sophisticated drug defense cases that included Trafficking, Importation, Distribution and many others. When faced with a federal drug crime there is absolutely no substitute for experience. If you have been charged with drug crime and need a Federal Drug Defense Attorney, contact Attorney Johnson directly anytime night or day at (713) 222-7577. In Federal and International Drug Defense, experience makes the difference.

Federal Drug Crimes Overview

The Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970, also known as the Controlled Substances Act, classifies narcotics, marijuana and other drugs into five categories, or Schedules. Besides establishing requirements relating to manufacture and distribution of drugs, the law also defines penalties for violations of the Act. Depending on the nature and quantity of the substance involved, as well as the presence of sentence-enhancing factors, the criminal penalties can be severe. If you are facing federal drug charges, call Houston Federal Drug Crime Lawyer Charles Johnson for advice on the law, your rights and how to proceed. He is available around the clock to take your call.

Offenses at the Federal Level

Federal drug offenses differ from those at the state level, even though the conduct in question might be the same. In defining crimes, Congress’ authority comes from its Constitutionally-granted powers over the areas of commerce, taxation and the postal service.

Some of the drug crimes under the Controlled Substances Act include:

  • Drug trafficking: manufacturing, distributing or possessing with the intent to distribute illicit drugs
  • Manufacturing: operating places for the purposes of manufacturing, distributing or using illicit drugs, or endangering human life while so doing
  • Continuing criminal enterprise crimes: trafficking in illicit drugs by a person in concert with five or more other persons
  • Conspiracy: involves attempts and the promoting and facilitating of manufacture, distribution or importation of illicit drugs
  • Protected location offenses: distributing illicit drugs to persons under age 21 or within a school or playground zone; employing persons under age 18 in drug operations
  • Simple possession: possessing controlled substances without a valid prescription from a licensed medical practitioner (unlike trafficking, simple possession does not involve intent to distribute the drugs)

Other drug offenses under the Act include investing illicit drug profits in businesses affecting interstate commerce and unauthorized importation of controlled substances. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) enforces the federal controlled substances laws and regulations.

In addition, drug crimes at the federal level may include violations of tax law, such as tax evasion, or engaging in activities prohibited by the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO).

Federal Sentencing Guidelines

Federal drug laws specify minimum and maximum terms of imprisonment, based on the type and quantity of drug involved. Likewise, under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, these factors are taken into account, along with:

  • Whether the offense involved injury to another person
  • Whether a weapon was possessed or used
  • The defendant’s criminal history

While judges have discretion to depart from sentencing guidelines, they must still stay within the mandatory minimum and maximum terms specified by statute. Where the offense occurs in a school or other protected zone, penalties may be enhanced.

Hire the Best Federal Drug Crimes Lawyer: The Charles Johnson Law Firm

Drug crimes can be charged and prosecuted under federal law, state law or both. Because federal drug crimes can carry significantly harsher penalties, it is important to contact a knowledgeable lawyer who is familiar with both federal and state drug laws. If you are facing either federal or state drug charges, call Federal Drug Crimes Lawyer Charles Johnson now at (713) 222-7577. He can explain the intricacies of both systems and vigorously represent your interests.

Charged with a Federal Crime? What To Expect

The following is a short summary of what you can expect if charged with a Federal Crime.

SILENCE

By the time you read this material, you or your loved one will have already entered the Federal Criminal Justice System. Whether you are in custody or in the “free world”, one firm rule applies: Do not discuss your case with anyone but your lawyer. Anything you say can and will be used against you. This is true whether you talk to a police officer, a person you just met in a holding cell, or a “friend”.

RELEASE OR DETENTION

The first thing to worry about is whether you are going to be released while waiting for trial. There is no bond set automatically in federal court. Your family cannot simply pay a bondsman to get you out.

Court Appearance: If you were arrested and taken into custody, you will soon appear before a United States Magistrate Judge.  This is not the District Judge that will hear your trial.  This Magistrate Judge will decide if there are any conditions that would allow your release.

Pretrial Report: In order to assist the Magistrate Judge, a Pretrial Services Officer will interview you and give the Magistrate Judge a written report about your background and criminal history. The Officer will not ask you about the facts of your case and you should not volunteer any information. If you lie to the Officer, it will hurt you later on.

Chance for Release: You are most likely to be released if you have little or no criminal history, if you have solid employment and family ties in your community, if you are a United States Citizen, and if you are not charged with a serious drug trafficking offense or crime of violence. Even if you are not a good risk for release, the Magistrate Judge must still hold a hearing and find reasons to keep you in custody. The only time this hearing is unnecessary is when you are being held in custody for other reasons — such as a sentence in another case, a parole warrant, or a probation revocation warrant.

YOUR LAWYER

When you are facing criminal charges, your choice of legal representation is a critical issue. You must ensure that you have legal representation from a proven attorney with a record of successfully defending difficult cases.

In order to protect your rights and to fight a possible Federal drug conviction, it is very important to hire the Best Federal Lawyer you can find. Your future is at stake, and this is not a time to cut corners. A knowledgeable Drug Crime Defense Lawyer will be able to sort out the details of your drug crime charges and diligently work to provide evidence that will benefit you. At the Charles Johnson Law Firm, we have been successful at lowering or dismissing charges against our clients and will look to do the same for you. To counteract the aggressive investigation and prosecution from the federal government, you will need an equally aggressive criminal defense attorney. Federal Drug Crime Lawyer Charles Johnson understands federal drug crime cases inside and out and will provide an unmatched dedication, commitment and an aggressive approach when defending your case.

Honesty: Defendants often believe it is better not to tell their lawyers the truth about their case. This is not a good idea. Everything you tell your lawyer is privileged and cannot be told to others. The best defense is one that prepares for all the bad evidence the prosecutor may present against you at your trial. Your lawyer must know all the facts. It is foolish to ignore the dangers and simply hope everything will turn out all right. That is the sure way to be convicted.

Bad Advice: If you are in custody, you will probably get a lot of free advice from other inmates. Unfortunately, much of that advice will be wrong. Many of the other inmates are in state custody and know nothing about federal criminal law. Even the ones facing federal charges may give you bad advice; they may not know any better, or they want to mislead you.

Respect: Treat your lawyer with respect and that respect will be returned to you. Lawyers are human beings who tend to work harder for clients who do not mistreat them.

YOUR RIGHTS

When people talk about “rights” in the federal criminal justice system, they are usually talking about the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth and Eighth Amendments to the United States Constitution. These rights include freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures, the right to remain silent, the right to legal counsel, due process of law, equal protection under the law, protection from double jeopardy, a speedy and public trial, the ability to confront one’s accusers, subpoenas for witnesses, no excessive bail, and freedom from cruel and unusual punishment.

Caselaw: There are many books and thousands of cases that discuss what these rights mean. The law is always changing.  A court opinion written in 1934 by a Montana court of appeals is probably no help in your case. Your case will mostly be affected by recent published opinions of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit and the United States Supreme Court.

Application: Not all of these rights apply in all cases.  If you never made a statement to the police, then it will not matter whether you were told of your right to remain silent. If you consented to a search of your car, then it will not make a difference whether the police had a search warrant.

CUSTODY

There are no benefits to being locked up. Jail has many rules and regulations. Some of those rules are made by the jailers. Some of these rules are made by the United States Marshal.

Clothing: You can get clothing two ways. The way to get underwear, tennis shoes, socks, etc, is to buy them through the jail commissary. Despite what others tell you, your lawyer cannot simply bring you these items. In most instances, trial clothing can be brought to the U.S. Marshal’s office shortly before your court appearance. You will be allowed to change in the holding cell at the federal courthouse.

Other Possessions: Sometimes the jail may allow you to receive magazines by subscription or books mailed from a store. It depends on the jail’s rules. Most other items need to be purchased through the commissary. All jails prohibit your lawyer from bringing you any items, such as cigarettes. You may keep legal documents in your possession.

Visits: Your friends and relatives must follow the jail’s rules when making appointments to visit you. You must put the names of these persons on your visitation list.

ARRAIGNMENT

At some point you will come to court for an arraignment. This is the time when you enter a plea of “Not Guilty”.

Indictment: Before the arraignment, you will have been indicted by a Grand Jury. Neither you, nor your attorney, has a right to be present at the Grand Jury session. A Grand Jury decides if there is enough evidence to have a trial in your case. If there is not, then the case is dismissed. If there is, the Grand Jury issues an Indictment. An Indictment is the document that states what the charges against you are. The Grand Jury sessions are rarely transcribed, so it is usually not possible to receive a transcript of their sessions.

Hearing: The arraignment takesplace before a Magistrate Judge,notthe DistrictJudge who will hear your case. The Magistrate Judge will ask you several questions:

  1. Do you understand what you are charged with?;
  2. Do you understand the potential penalties if you are convicted?; and
  3. How do you plead to the charges?

Since you will have discussed the case with your lawyer by this time, you will be able to answer the first two questions “Yes”. Your answer to the third question is “Not Guilty”. You cannot plead “Guilty” at an arraignment. Pleading “Not Guilty” will never be used against you.

Discovery: Federal law provides only limited access to the government’s evidence against you. Under local rules, you and your attorney are permitted to have copies of only certain types of documents in the government’s file. The rules of discovery must be strictly adhered to, and your attorney will discuss these rules with you more thoroughly as your case progresses.

Motions: Before or after investigating your case, your attorney may feel it appropriate to file a motion(s), which may be heard before or at trial. You should never file your own motions without fully discussing the proper procedures with your attorney. If you have ideas about specific motions that could be filed your case, you should discuss with your attorney whether those particular motions would be appropriate or beneficial to your defense.

SPEEDY TRIAL

Many defendants want a quick trial. This is usually for two reasons. First, defendants who are in custody want to get out of the county jail as soon as possible.  Second, defendants believe that if they are not tried within the Speedy Trial Act’s 70-day time limit, then their cases will be dismissed.

Pretrial Detention: There is no question that conditions in the county jail are not good. However, a defendant is rarely ever helped by going to trial as soon as possible. The prosecutor is prepared to try the case when it is filed. Your lawyer is only then beginning to investigate the case. Your lawyer does not have access to offense reports of the law enforcement officers that have already investigated the case. Also, “aging” a case has other benefits — the case becomes less important over time, witnesses’ memories fade, etc.

Dismissal: There are many exceptions to the Speedy Trial Act. Generally, a prosecutor can get a continuance of the trial whenever requested. The usual reason why a prosecutor requests a continuance is because there are co­defendants who have not been arrested yet.  The speedy trial deadlines do not begin to run until all charged defendants have appeared in court. Also, any time any of the defendants file motions, the time until those motions are decided is not counted toward the speedy trial deadline.

TRIAL

A felony trial in federal court is decided by twelve jurors. The jurors only decide if you are “Guilty” or “Not Guilty” of the charges in the Indictment. Jurors do not decide punishment. The District Judge decides punishment.

Jury Selection: The trial begins with the selection of the jury. A panel of potential jurors is called to court from voter registration lists. The District Judge, the prosecutor, and your lawyer talk to the panel and ask questions. The lawyers are allowed to keep certain members of the panel from sitting on the jury. The first twelve of the remaining panel members become jurors.

Opening Statements: Before the evidence is presented, the lawyers may make opening statements.  Opening statements are when the lawyers tell the jury what they believe the evidence will show.

Order of Proof: The prosecutor presents evidence first.  You are presumed to be innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. You do not have to present any evidence or testify. If your lawyer does put on evidence, it will happen after the prosecutor has finished presenting evidence.

Rules: During the trial, the lawyers must follow the rules of evidence and procedure. These rules are complicated. The rules can both help and hurt you. For instance, the rule against hearsay evidence prohibits a prosecutor from calling a witness to testify how he heard about what you did. The same rule will stop your lawyer from introducing an affidavit made by some person who is unwilling to come to court and testify.

Prior Acts: Although you are only on trial for the charges in the Indictment, there are two ways the jury can learn about other accusations against you. First, if you testify then the prosecutor will be able to introduce your prior convictions. Second, the prosecutor can introduce your prior acts –even if they are not convictions — if they are similar to the crime you are charged with (for example, prior drug sales in a drug distribution case).

Final Arguments: After all the evidence has been presented, the lawyers argue the facts to the jury.

Jury Deliberations: Jurors are usually average working people from the community. They are not specially trained in law. They use their common sense when deciding the case. Although the District Judge will instruct them about “the presumption of innocence” and “proof beyond a reasonable doubt”, jurors rely on many things in coming to a decision in a case. Jurors often rely on things such as: the appearance of the defendant, the defendant’s character, and their own biases and prejudices. They cannot be questioned about how they reached their decision.

Verdict: If you are found “Not Guilty”, you will be released. If there is a “Guilty” verdict, then the District Judge will order the Probation Department to prepare a Presentence Investigation Report to assist the District Judge at sentencing. It takes approximately two months between a conviction and sentencing.

Release: If you were previously on pretrial release,the District Judge may continue thatrelease until sentencing, unless you were convicted of a crime of violence or a serious drug trafficking offense.

GUILTY PLEAS

Statistics show that most defendants plead guilty. You make the decision to plead guilty. That decision is never simple. Some possible benefits of a guilty plea are that:

  1. the prosecutor may dismiss some charges;
  2. the prosecutor may not file new charges;
  3. the prosecutor may recommend a favorable sentence;
  4. you may get credit for accepting responsibility, etc.

Plea Agreement: Any promises the prosecutor makes for your guilty plea will be stated in a written plea agreement. That agreement is signed by you, your lawyer, and the prosecutor.

Plea Hearing: You must enter a guilty plea in court before the District Judge. The District Judge must ask you many questions so the record shows you understand what you are doing. During the hearing, the prosecutor will briefly tell the District Judge the facts of the case. You must agree to those facts for the District Judge to accept your guilty plea.

Effect of Plea: Once the District Judge accepts your guilty plea, you are just as guilty as if a jury returned that verdict. Once you are convicted of a felony, you lose certain civil rights, including the right to vote; the right to sit on a jury; and the right to possess firearms.

After Plea: The procedure after a guilty plea is the same as after a conviction at trial. A Presentence Investigation Report will be ordered and you will either be released or detained until sentencing (see “Trial” section).

COOPERATION

Some defendants give prosecutors information against other persons for the possibility of a reduced sentence. There is no guarantee that a defendant will get a lower sentence for “giving people up”. Cooperation usually requires a defendant to testify in court or before a Grand Jury.

OTHER CHARGES

Many times, federal defendants are first arrested by state officers on state charges. Sometimes, even when federal charges are filed, the state charges are not dismissed. It is possible to be convicted of both state and federal charges for the exact same offense. This is not “double jeopardy”. It is also possible to receive “stacked time” (a consecutive sentence), by pleading guilty to an unrelated state or federal case before being convicted in your federal case. Be careful not to do anything about your other cases without telling your attorney. If you are summoned to “jail call”, do not agree to plead guilty to your state charge in exchange for “time served” without telling your lawyer. Despite what the state prosecutor may tell you, this conviction will affect your federal sentence.

SENTENCING

Sentencing takes place approximately three (3) -six (6) months after you have been convicted by a jury or guilty plea. The District Judge decides the sentence. Unlike state court, you cannot simply agree with the prosecutor to serve a particular amount of time or probation.

Federal Sentencing Guidelines: The District Judge decides your sentence based upon a book called the “Federal Sentencing Guidelines Manual”. That book works on a point system. You get points for the seriousness of the offense and your role in the offense. Points may be subtracted if you accept responsibility for the offense or if you were only a minor participant. The Manual also considers your criminal history.  Your criminal history is the record of your prior convictions in state and federal courts. A chart at the back of the Manual determines your sentencing guideline range, based upon your criminal history points and the points you received for the offense conduct.

Mandatory Minimum Punishments: Some drug and firearms cases have mandatory minimum punishments. These minimum punishments apply even if the Federal Sentencing Guidelines would otherwise give you a lower sentence. For instance, anyone possessing over 280 grams of crack cocaine after August 3 2010, with the intent to deliver it, must receive at least ten (10) years in prison; even if that person is a first offender.

Departures: If the District Judge sentences you to more or less time than your sentencing guideline range, it is called a “departure”. Departures are unusual. The District Judge must have a good legal reason for a departure. The District Judge cannot depart downward below a mandatory minimum punishment, unless the reason is that you have provided substantial assistance to the government in the prosecution of others or you qualify for the “safety valve” provision as a first offender. Only drug cases qualify for the “safety valve”.

Presentence Investigation Report: Before the sentencing hearing,the District Judge will review a Presentence Investigation Report prepared by a Probation Officer. That report summarizes the offense conduct, your criminal history, and other relevant background information about you. Most importantly, the report calculates a range of punishment for the District Judge to consider in your case. The Probation Officer creates the report based upon information from the prosecutor, independent investigation, and an interview with you in the presence of your lawyer.

Interview: It is important to be honest with the Probation Officer at the presentence interview. If you mislead the officer you may increase your sentence for “obstruction of justice”.  Also, you will not get credit for accepting responsibility unless you talk truthfully about your crime.  Do not talk about any other conduct for which you have not been convicted, unless your lawyer tells you to.

Objections: Before the District Judge gets the Presentence Investigation Report, it will be sent to your lawyer. The probation office will also mail a copy directly to you for your inspection. Review it carefully. If there is anything incorrect about the report, your lawyer can file objections. Some mistakes are more important than others. If the report says your car is red rather than blue, that is probably not important. If the report says you have five (5) prior felonies when you do not, that is important.

Sentencing Hearing: At the sentencing hearing, the District Judge will review your objections to the Presentence Investigation Report and make findings about any facts or legal issues that cannot be agreed upon. Your lawyer will address the legal issues and point out the facts in your favor. District Judges do not want to hear from witnesses who are just there to plead for a reduced sentence. Letters of recommendation and other helpful evidence should be provided to your lawyer well before sentencing so the District Judge can see them before the hearing. Before the District Judge pronounces sentence, you can make a statement.

Concurrent and Consecutive Sentences: No area of law is more confusing to defendants and lawyers than whether multiple sentences (more than one) may be served at the same time (concurrent) or one after another (consecutive).

Present Charges: If your federal Indictment has several related charges, and you are convicted of them, you probably will serve these sentences at the same time. However, it is possible for the District Judge to “stack” unrelated convictions so each must be served before another begins.

Other Charges: Sometimes a defendant is already serving a sentence before being convicted in a federal court. Unless the District Judge specifically orders the new sentence to run at the same time as the previous sentence, they will be stacked and will run consecutively.  You would have to finish your other sentence before the new one begins.  Even if the District Judge runs the new sentence at the same time as your previous sentence, you will not get credit for the time you served prior to sentencing.

VOLUNTARY SURRENDER

If you were on release until sentencing, you may be allowed voluntary surrender. This means about 45 days later you report directly to the federal prison designated for sentence. Otherwise, you would go directly into custody if you received a prison sentence.

APPEAL

An appeal is not a new trial. An appeal is a review of your case by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, which is located in New Orleans, Louisiana. You may only appeal after you have been sentenced. A notice of appeal must be filed within 10 days after judgment (your sentencing order) is entered, or you lose that right. Transcripts of all testimony, and all the legal documents in your case, are sent to the Court of Appeals. The Court of Appeals decides whether the District Judge made any mistakes in ruling on the law in your case. If the Court of Appeals decides there were some important mistakes made by the District Judge in your case, the usual remedy is that you will be allowed to have a new trial or a new sentence. That is called a “reversal”. It does not happen often. It is nearly impossible to be released while your appeal is being decided. The decision to appeal should be made only after a careful discussion with your lawyer. The Fifth Circuit is strict about accepting cases that raise legitimate issues. A claim that you received “too much time” will not prevail in the Fifth Circuit. The Fifth Circuit will dismiss your appeal if you do not present an issue they consider meritorious. Also, you and your lawyer can be sanctioned (punished) if you present a “frivolous” issue on appeal.

PROBATION

Probation means your term of imprisonment is suspended, you must follow restrictive conditions, and report to a probation officer. Probation is not available for federal drug trafficking crimes. Except for minor fraud cases, most federal defendants do not get probation. “Shock Incarceration” or “Boot Camp” is not probation.  That is a military discipline program followed by time in a halfway house. It is available mostly to young, nonviolent, first-time offenders.

PRISON

Most defendants who are sentenced to prison go directly into custody or continue to remain in custody. Where the sentence will be served depends on several factors.

State Custody: If the reason you first came into custody was a state charge, parole warrant, or probation revocation warrant, then you are in state custody, not federal custody. Neither the United States Marshal, nor the District Judge, has the authority to take you from state custody so that you may begin serving your sentence in a federal institution. This means you will remain in the county jail, or the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, until your State of Texas (or whatever other jurisdiction you owe time) sentence is completely served. Even if you got a federal sentence that is to run at the same time as your previous sentences (see “Sentencing” section), you will do that time in the other jurisdiction’s prison.

Jail Credit: In the federal system, the district judge does not have the authority to award jail credit at your sentencing hearing. See United States v. Wilson , 112 S.Ct. 1351 (1992); 18 U.S.C. §3585(b). Under the statute giving a defendant convicted of federal crime the right to be credited for time spent in official detention before sentence begins, the Attorney General is required to compute credit after the defendant has begun to serve his sentence, rather than the district court at time of sentencing. Statute giving defendant convicted of federal crime right to receive credit for time spent in official detention before sentence begins does not authorize district court to award credit at sentencing.

Federal Custody: You are in federal custody if you  were brought in on a federal warrant. It does not matter that you are being held in the county jail or that state charges or revocations are later filed. It is always better to be in federal custody, because the State of Texas will give you credit for serving your state sentences no matter who has custody of you.

Designation: If you are in federal custody, then a federal institution must be designated for your sentence. This designation takes about one (1) month and is made by the Federal Bureau of Prisons. During that month, you will probably remain in a county jail. The decision about where you will go depends upon the seriousness of the crime, your criminal history, the location of your family, among other things.  A recommendation by the District Judge to send you to a particular place is not binding on the Bureau of Prisons.

Good Time Credit: The Bureau of Prisons can give you up to 54 days a year of “Good Time Credit”.  This is time subtracted from your sentence. The credit is a privilege for good behavior, not a right. It does not begin to be counted until after your first year in prison.

Release: There is no parole in the federal criminal justice system. You will serve the majority of your sentence, minus Good Time Credit. You will receive a term of supervised release that begins after you are released. Like probation or parole, supervised release means you have to follow rules and report back to a probation officer. Violating supervised release can mean going back to prison.

CORRESPONDENCE

You must use your own judgment about writing letters. You should not write about the facts of your case to anyone other than your lawyer. If you have any questions about your case or suggestions about it, you should contact your attorney immediately.

Federal Drug Charges in Houston, TX

Houston is in a unique position because of its convenient location. It is a criminal hotbed for illegal drug activity and because of its reputation, law enforcement; the FBI and the DEA are on high alert when it comes to detecting and convicting those guilty of trafficking or other federal drug crimes. Because drug activity is so rampant in Texas, the state has exceptionally harsh penalties for those who commit federal drug crimes. How one is prosecuted will depend on whether or not they have any priors on their record, the type of drug, and the quantity. A prison sentence for a federal drug crime can be as little as five years or it can be as long as life in prison.

The state of Texas has long been involved in a “war on drugs.” Federal prosecutors in the state of Texas come down hard on criminals involved in selling, distributing and trafficking large amounts of drugs. Not only do you face years in prison if convicted, non-citizens face deportation from the United States. At The Charles Johnson Law Firm, we are here to defend you against Federal Drug Charges.

Contact the Best International Federal Drug Crimes AttorneyHouston Federal Drug Crimes Lawyer Charles Johnson comprehends the differential factor between State and Federal drug crimes. If in fact you or a loved one are under investigation for a drug crime, or if you have been apprehended for or charged with a drug crime in Texas or Houston, you could face harsher punishment than you expect. If you or a loved one’s alleged crime is based upon large amounts of illegal drugs, transporting or distributing drugs over state lines or over and across the border, or other specific details, you could face federal drug crime charges rather than state charges.

The significant thing to know pertaining federal drug crimes is that a conviction will carry a much harsher punishment, a longer mandatory at the very least sentence, and the possibility of no bond or bail. Attorney Johnson defends cases at the Federal Level that involve drug crimes such as:

  • Federal drug trafficking
  • Federal drug manufacturing
  • Federal drug sales and distribution
  • Internet drug distribution
  • Federal drug importation and transportation
  • Mailing drugs over and across state lines or national borders
  • Drug smuggling into or out of the United States
  • Other crimes related to drugs and money laundering

Contact Houston Lawyer Charles Johnson anytime night or day to discuss your case. You can speak with him directly by calling (713) 222-7577. If in fact you or a loved one think you are part of a federal drug investigation, don’t wait to contact a lawyer you can trust. Rest assured that The Charles Johnson Law Firm will zealously defend you against any type of Federal Drug Charge.

Houston Federal Drug Crimes Lawyer Charles Johnson

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Charged with Possession of a Controlled Substance? Protect Your Future with the Help of Houston Drug Lawyer Charles Johnson

Hire the Best Drug AttorneyCharges of Possession of a Controlled Substance (POCS) in the Houston area are quite common. Often times the controlled substance charge results after someone has already been arrested. For example, someone is arrested for DWI, public intoxication or an outstanding warrant and the controlled substance is found after arrest or during the process of being booked in to the Harris County Jail. Whether it’s a loose Vicodin pill in your purse or a Xanax pill that your friend gave you, drug charges can be filed.

Conviction for possession of controlled substances can leave you with a large fine, loss of property, or a jail sentence. Conviction for this offense will go down on your record and can affect your chances of getting a job, renting an apartment or home, or hinder your chances of getting an education loan.

If you or someone you love has been arrested and charged for possession of a controlled substance in the Houston area or anywhere in Texas, contact Houston Drug Defense Lawyer Charles Johnson today to get the experienced criminal defense you need and deserve. The Charles Johnson Law Firm has offices located in Houston, Dallas, Austin and San Antonio for your convenience. Attorney Johnson will speak to you whenever you need him. He can be reached directly at (713) 222-7577 24 hours/day, any day of the year.

Possession of a Controlled Substance in Texas

Under Texas Health and Safety Code §§ 481.115 – 481.118, an individual can be charged with the offense of possession of a controlled substance (POCS) if they knowingly or intentionally possess any of the substances listed in Penalty Group I-IV without  a valid prescription from a doctor, including drugs, dangerous drugs, chemicals, narcotics, stimulants, prescription pills, medications, synthetic substances and natural substances. Penalties for possession of controlled substances differ based on the type of drug and the quantity you are carrying.  The penalties for possessing any of the above drugs range from 180 days to 99 years in jail. Your license can also be suspended for six months if you are convicted of violating the Texas Controlled Substance Act, and police have the right to seize any property, such as your car or home, that was used or was going to be used in the commission of drugs.

Charges of Possession of a Controlled Substance

It is an offense under both state and federal law to be in possession of any controlled substance and this is the most common charge filed involving drugs.  Possession is defined as the actual care, custody, control or management.  Actual possession refers to actual physical possession of a controlled substance while constructive possession usually is alleged when the controlled substance was found in an area where the person had access to or otherwise exercised control over (such as the trunk of a car or a safe).  This means that while a person can be charged with possession of a controlled substance even if the controlled substance was not actually found on the person, the charges can be challenged on the basis that the person did not exercise care, custody or control over the substance.  The focus in those cases is on whether the government can prove the person had “affirmative links” to the controlled substance.  Experienced Drug Attorney Charles Johnson has successfully challenged a client’s accusation of possession of controlled substance by making the case that there were no “affirmative links” to his client and the controlled substance.

Delivery of a Controlled Substance

It is an offense under both state and federal law to deliver or to have an intent to deliver a controlled substance.  “Deliver” means to transfer, actually or constructively, to another person and includes offering to sell a controlled substance as well.  Therefore, money does not have to actually be exchanged, and the “middleman” who helped arrange the transaction can also be prosecuted under this theory.  Under federal law, the most commonly charged delivery offense is possession of a controlled substance with the intent to deliver.  Under that type of charge, the government does not have to prove that you actually delivered the substance, but only that you had an intent to do so.  Most often, the government will attempt to this intent based on the large quantity of drugs found, or the possession of other indicators including scales, baggies, or cutting agents.

Manufacturing of a Controlled Substance

It is an offense under both state and federal law to manufacture a controlled substance.  Manufacturing refers to the production or creation of drugs and is most commonly prosecuted in cases involving marijuana grow operations or meth labs.  It is also a crime to possess certain drug precursors with the intent to manufacture and pharmacies now vigilantly monitor the sales of commonly used precursors such as certain cold medicines, matches, and lighter fluid.

Conspiracy to Possess with the Intent to Distribute a Controlled Substance

One of the most frequently charged drug offenses in federal court is conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute a controlled substance, which involves actively planning with others to possess or distribute a controlled substance, regardless of actual possession or delivery.  This is typically the most serious type of drug accusation and usually involves multiple defendants and large quantities of drugs and can be extremely serious and complicated.

Possession of Methamphetamine

Due to the skyrocketing methamphetamine problem, the penalties for possession, delivery and manufacturing of methamphetamine have become extremely severe.  In addition, in Texas, depending on the quantity, there is a 15-20 mandatory minimum sentence if a child younger than 18 years of age was present on when the manufacturing of a controlled substance offense occurred.  In an effort to combat methamphetamine production, many counties in Texas have implemented “Meth Watch” programs which record and monitor over-the-counter cold medicines, prescription drugs, and household ingredients which are used to manufacture methamphetamine.

Possession of Cocaine

It is an offense to possess or distribute even the smallest amount of cocaine.  For example, even if there is a trace amount of cocaine found in a baggie, you can still be charged with possession of a cocaine which is a felony.  In the federal system, the penalties for cocaine base (crack cocaine) are notoriously severe.  In fact, the sentences for possession of cocaine base were so severe, especially in comparison with possession of an equal amount of powder cocaine, that the United States Sentencing Commission recently amended the Federal Sentencing Guidelines to slightly reduce the penalties for crack cocaine offenses.

Possession of Marijuana

It is an offense to possess, distribute or cultivate marijuana.  Depending on the quantity, possession of marijuana can be charged as a misdemeanor of felony in both state and federal court.  Under state law, possession of less than four ounces is a misdemeanor; however, you must have possessed a “usable quantity” to be charged with possession of marijuana.

Possession of Illegal Prescription Medications

It is an offense under both state and federal law to possess a prescription drug if you are not the valid prescription holder or to deliver a validly issued prescription drug to another person.  It is also a crime to forge or alter a prescription.  Prescription drug cases are prosecuted as aggressively as controlled substance cases and the penalties can be just as serious.

Possession of Paraphernalia

Under Texas law, it is a crime to possess or deliver drug paraphernalia.  Depending on the circumstances, what constitutes drug paraphernalia is very broad and can include pipes, lighters, plastic baggies and rolling papers if the government can show that there was an intent to use the items to use drugs.  In addition, it is also a crime to possess any items with the intent that they be used to cultivate a controlled substance which could include gardening equipment and fertilizers.

Penalties and Punishment for Possession of Controlled Substance in Texas

The penalty for Possession of a Controlled Substance is set out in the Texas Health and Safety Code, which vary upon various factors that generally include the type of the controlled substance and the amount of the controlled substance. The Texas Health and Safety Code creates five penalty groups that controlled substances are classified under:

Penalty Group

Examples of Drug/Controlled Substance

1

Cocaine, Heroin, Methamphetamine, Codeine, Oxycodone, Hydrocodone, Rohypnol and GHB

1A

LSD

2

Ecstasy, Amphetamines, Mushrooms, PCP and Mescaline

3

Valium, Xanax and Ritalin

4

Compounds containing Dionine, Motofen, Buprenorphone or Pryovalerone

Penalty Group 1

Weight

Charge

Range of Punishment

Less than one gram

State jail Felony

180 days to 2 years in state jail and a fine not to exceed $10,000

1 gram or more, but less than 4 grams

Third-degree Felony

2 to 10 years in a state prison and a fine not to exceed $10,000

4 grams or more, but less than 200 grams

Second-degree Felony

2 to 20 years in a state prison and a fine not to exceed $10,000

200 grams or more, but less than 400 grams

First-degree Felony

5 to 99 years or life in a state prison and a fine not to exceed $10,000

400 grams or more

Enhanced First-degree Felony

10 to 99 years or life in a state prison and a fine up to $100,000

Penalty Group 1A

Units

Charge

Range of Punishment

Fewer than 20 units

State jail Felony

180 days to 2 years in state jail and a fine not to exceed $10,000

20 units or more, but less than 80 units

Third-degree Felony

2 to 10 years in a state prison and a fine not to exceed $10,000

80 units or more, but less than 4,000 units

Second-degree Felony

2 to 20 years in a state prison and a fine not to exceed $10,000

4,000 units or more, but less than 8,000 units

First-degree Felony

5 to 99 years or life in a state prison and a fine not to exceed $10,000

8,000 units or more

Enhanced First-degree Felony

15 to 99 years or life in a state prison and a fine up to $250,000

Penalty Group 2

Weight

Charge

Range of Punishment

Less than one gram

State jail Felony

180 days to 2 years in state jail and a fine not to exceed $10,000

More than 1 gram, but less than 4 grams

Third-degree Felony

2 to 10 years in a state prison and a fine not to exceed $10,000

More than 4 grams, but less 400 grams

Second-degree Felony

2 to 20 years in a state prison and a fine not to exceed $10,000

400 grams or more

Enhanced First-degree Felony

5 to 99 years or life in a state prison and a fine not to exceed $50,000

Penalty Group 3

Weight

Charge

Range of Punishment

Less than 28 grams

Class A Misdemeanor

Up to 1 year in county jail and a fine not to exceed $4,000

28 grams or more, but less than 200 grams

Third-degree Felony

2 to 10 years in a state prison and a fine not to exceed $10,000

200 grams or more, but less than 400 grams

Second-degree Felony

2 to 20 years in a state prison and a fine not to exceed $10,000

400 grams or more

Enhanced First-degree Felony

5 to 99 years or life in a state prison and a fine not to exceed $50,000

Penalty Group 4

Weight

Charge

Range of Punishment

Less than 28 grams

Class B Misdemeanor

Up to 180 days in county jail and a fine not to exceed $2,000

28 grams or more, but less than 200 grams

Third-degree Felony

2 to 10 years in a state prison and a fine not to exceed $10,000

200 grams or more, but less than 400 grams

Second-degree Felony

2 to 20 years in a state prison and a fine not to exceed $10,000

400 grams or more

Enhanced First-degree Felony

5 to 99 years or life in a state prison and a fine not to exceed $50,000

Additional penalties may include the suspension of your driver’s license or the possibility or seizure and forfeiture of any property if the property was used or was going to be used in the commission of a drug crime.

Possible Defenses for Possession of Controlled Substance Charges

There are many ways to defend a possession of a controlled substance charge. One of the primary defenses to possession of controlled substance cases is to examine the search and seizure process. The fourth Amendment protects citizens from unlawful searches of property. Was there probable cause? Did the officials read you your rights? In some cases the drugs aren’t illegal and the person had a prescription and right to possess them. The element of possession is crucial in a possession of a controlled substance case.

It must be proven that you actually exercised a great degree of care, custody, control or management of the drug. Since many drug arrests in Texas involve finding drugs in a home or car it can be unclear who actually possessed or controlled the drugs. The individual must have full knowledge of possession — if they are unaware, then no crime has been committed. This could happen when an individual borrows a friend’s car only to be pulled over and charged with possession when marijuana is found in the glove box.

Keeping the above items in mind, according to Texas law the offense of drug possession occurs when a person has knowledge that they have a controlled substance within their control and have the intent to possess that substance.

If you have been charged with possession of a controlled substance, contact Houston Drug Lawyer Charles Johnson immediately. In many cases, he can get your case dismissed or reduced and avoid having a felony conviction on your record.

Attorney Johnson can examine and review the circumstance surrounding your possession arrest and develop a defense that is unique to the circumstances surrounding your case.

The Charles Johnson Law Firm combines the experience of a criminal defense attorney with a seasoned support staff and professional investigators. Investigations start immediately by securing documentation involving witness statements and police reports. Police labs are put on notice to verify the alleged illegal substance and its true quantity.

After the facts are assembled, we will pursue the best outcome by negotiating a reduced punishment or pursue a trial in court. Options also exist that encompass counseling and rehabilitation programs for addiction problems.

Possession of a Controlled Substance: Hire the Best Houston Drug Lawyer

Possession of marijuana is in a separate drug offense category in Texas but is still extremely serious with the potential of being charged as a felony or misdemeanor, depending on the amount possessed. All charges in Texas for drug possession are quite serious. This is not the time to hide your head in the sand and hope for the best — you need an aggressive attorney who will fight hard to get your charges dismissed or possibly reduced. A drug conviction on your record will follow you for the rest of your life, so take it very seriously and hire an attorney who does the same.

Contact Experienced Houston Drug Defense Lawyer Charles Johnson if you have been arrested for possession of a controlled substance. An arrest for possession of controlled substance in Texas can have devastating consequences and severe repercussions that can in all probability be avoided if you select the right lawyer. Call Attorney Johnson anytime day or night at (713) 222-7577. He is available to discuss your case whenever you need him.

Possession of a Controlled Substance

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Marijuana Cultivation Charges: The Best Houston Criminal Lawyer To Represent You

Best Houston Criminal Lawyer: Marijuana CultivationHave 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.

Outdoor Operations

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.

Indoor Operations

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.)

Marijuana Possession

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.

Drug Paraphernalia

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.)

Stamp Tax

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.


Marijuana Cultivation Charges: The Best Houston Criminal Lawyer To Represent You

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Facing Federal Conspiracy Charges? Houston Criminal Lawyer Charles Johnson Will Provide the Most Effective Defense

Top Houston Federal Criminal LawyerConspiracy is one of the most often used crimes in the arsenal of the United State’s Attorneys Office.

This all encompassing charge has the ability to touch almost every Federal Crime.  Common conspiracy charges include:

  • Conspiracy to deal in illegal narcotics,
  • Conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute Cocaine, Crack Cocaine, Marijuana, or Methamphetamine.
  • Conspiracy to commit Mail Fraud, Wire Fraud, Health Care Fraud, and Tax Fraud and other White Collar Crimes

If you are charged with conspiracy to commit an offense in Federal Court, your rights and your future are in jeopardy.  Choosing the right criminal defense attorney to defend your case and protect your rights is critical. If you have been charged with conspiracy, or if you have reason to believe you are under investigation by law enforcement agents, the sooner you hire a criminal defense lawyer, the better positioned you will be. Houston Criminal Lawyer Charles Johnson provides a strong defense to conspiracy charges at both the state and federal level.

It is important to speak to an experienced federal criminal defense attorney as soon as possible if you are being investigated or have been arrested for any federal offense. Why?

  • Federal authorities tend to spend a lot of time and money investigating a suspect before they make an arrest.
  • They frequently have tape of your telephone conversations with an informant. Both can present significant challenges for the defense.
  • Conviction for a federal offense can have extremely serious consequences, including long periods of incarceration and huge fines.

Time Is Not on Your Side

Don’t delay. The earlier you retain legal counsel, the more options we will be able to pursue. For example, we may be able to negotiate with the prosecutor to get the charges dismissed or reduced before a grand jury convenes to issue an indictment. Houston Federal Criminal Lawyer Charles Johnson may be able to intervene on your behalf even before an arrest is made. If you believe you are the target of an investigation by any federal authority, please contact our office immediately.

Effective Defense Against Federal and Conspiracy Charges

In order to prove conspiracy, the government must prove each of the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

  • An agreement between at least two parties to achieve an illegal goal
  • That the defendant became a member of the conspiracy knowing at least one of its goals and intending to accomplish it
  • At least one conspirator committed an act to further the conspiracy.

As you can see, you can be charged with conspiracy even if you did nothing to actually commit a crime. The “crime” itself does not even have to be completed. In many cases, individuals with a limited role, or no role whatsoever in a criminal scheme, are charged with conspiracy. Suddenly even someone with a minor role in a broader conspiracy may be facing extreme consequences if convicted.

The Charles Johnson Law Firm will fight every aspect of these charges. We will hold the government to its burden of proof and will find any potential evidentiary or Constitutional violations in your case. You can contact Attorney Johnson anytime day or night and talk with him directly about your case. He can be reached at (713) 222-7577 around the clock.

Federal Conspiracy: Summary

Zacarias Moussaoui, members of the Colombian drug cartels, members of organized crime, and some of the former Enron executives have at least one thing in common: they all have federal conspiracy convictions. The essence of conspiracy is an agreement of two or more persons to engage in some form of prohibited misconduct. The crime is complete upon agreement, although some statutes require prosecutors to show that at least one of the conspirators has taken some concrete step or committed some overt act in furtherance of the scheme. There are dozens of federal conspiracy statutes. One, 18 U. S. C. 371, outlaws conspiracy to commit some other federal crime. The others outlaw conspiracy to engage in various specific forms of proscribed conduct. General Section 371 conspiracies are punishable by imprisonment for not more than five years; drug trafficking, terrorist, and racketeering conspiracies all carry the same penalties as their underlying substantive offenses, and thus are punished more severely than are Section 371 conspiracies. All are subject to fines of not more than $250,000 (not more than $500,000 for organizations), most may serve as the basis for a restitution order, and some for a forfeiture order.

The law makes several exceptions for conspiracy because of its unusual nature. Because many united in crime pose a greater danger than the isolated offender, conspirators may be punished for the conspiracy, any completed substantive offense which is the object of the plot, and any foreseeable other offenses which one of the conspirators commits in furtherance of the scheme. Since conspiracy is an omnipresent crime, it may be prosecuted wherever an overt act is committed in its furtherance. Because conspiracy is a continuing crime, its statute of limitations does not begin to run until the last overt act committed for its benefit. Since conspiracy is a separate crime, it may be prosecuted following conviction for the underlying substantive offense, without offending constitutional double jeopardy principles; because conspiracy is a continuing offense, it may be punished when it straddles enactment of the prohibiting statute, without offending constitutional ex post facto principles. Accused conspirators are likely to be tried together, and the statements of one may often be admitted in evidence against all.

In some respects, conspiracy is similar to attempt, to solicitation, and to aiding and abetting. Unlike aiding and abetting, however, it does not require commission of the underlying offense. Unlike attempt and solicitation, conspiracy does not merge with the substantive offense; a conspirator may be punished for both.

Introduction

Terrorists, drug traffickers, mafia members, and corrupt corporate executives have one thing in common: most are conspirators subject to federal prosecution. Federal conspiracy laws rest on the belief that criminal schemes are equally or more reprehensible than are the substantive offenses to which they are devoted. The Supreme Court has explained that a “collective criminal agreement – a partnership in crime – presents a greater potential threat to the public than individual delicts. Concerted action both increases the likelihood that the criminal object will be successfully attained and decreases the probability that the individuals involved will depart from their path of criminality.” Moreover, observed the Court, “group association for criminal purposes often, if not normally, makes possible the attainment of ends more complex than those which one criminal could accomplish. Nor is the danger of a conspiratorial group limited to the particular end toward which it has embarked.” Finally, “combination in crime makes more likely the commission of crimes unrelated to the original purpose for which the group was formed.” In sum, “the danger which a conspiracy generates is not confined to the substantive offense which is the immediate aim of the enterprise.” Congress and the courts have fashioned federal conspiracy law accordingly.

The United States Code contains dozens of criminal conspiracy statutes. One, 18 U. S. C. 371, outlaws conspiracy to commit any other federal crime. The others outlaw conspiracy to commit some specific form of misconduct, ranging from civil rights violations to drug trafficking. Conspiracy is a separate offense under most of these statutes, regardless of whether conspiracy accomplishes its objective. The various conspiracy statutes, however, differ in several other respects. A few, including Section 371, require at least one conspirator to take some affirmative step in furtherance of the scheme. Most have no such overt act requirement.

Section 371 has two prongs. One outlaws conspiracy to commit a federal offense; a second, conspiracy to defraud the United States. Conspiracy to commit a federal crime under Section 371 requires that the underlying misconduct be a federal crime. Conspiracy to defraud the United States under Section 371 and in several other instances has no such prerequisite. Section 371 conspiracies are punishable by imprisonment for not more than five years. Elsewhere, conspirators often face more severe penalties.

These differences aside, federal conspiracy statutes share much common ground because Congress decided they should. As the Court observed in Salinas, “When Congress uses well-settled terminology of criminal law, its words are presumed to have their ordinary meaning and definition. When the relevant statutory phrase is ‘to conspire,’ we presume Congress intended to use the term in its conventional sense, and certain well-established principles follow.”

These principles include the fact that regardless of its statutory setting, every conspiracy has at least two elements: (1) an agreement (2) between two or more persons. Members of the conspiracy are also liable for the foreseeable crimes of their fellows committed in furtherance of the common plot. Moreover, statements by one conspirator are admissible evidence against all. Conspiracies are considered continuing offenses for purposes of the statute of limitations and venue. They are also considered separate offenses for purposes of sentencing and of challenges under the Constitution’s ex post facto and double jeopardy clauses. This is a brief discussion of the common features of federal conspiracy law that evolved over the years, with passing references to some of the distinctive features of some of the statutory provisions.

Background

Although it is not without common law antecedents, federal conspiracy law is largely of our own making. It is what Congress provided, and what the courts understood Congress intended. This is not to say that conspiracy was unknown in pre-colonial and colonial England, but simply that it was a faint shadow of the crime we now know. Then, it was essentially a narrow form of malicious prosecution, subject to both a civil remedy and prosecution. In the late 18 and early 19 centuries, state courts and legislatures recognized a rapidly expanding accumulation of narrowly described wrongs as ” conspiracy.” The patchwork reached a point where one commentator explained that there were “few things left so doubtful in the criminal law, as the point at which a combination of several persons in a common object becomes illegal.”

Congress, however, enacted few conspiracy statutes prior to the Civil War. It did pass a provision in 1790 that outlawed confining the master of a ship or endeavoring revolt on board. This, Justice Story, sitting as a circuit judge, interpreted to include any conspiracy to confine the prerogatives of the master of ship to navigate, maintain, or police his ship. The same year, 1825, Congress outlawed conspiracies to engage in maritime insurance fraud. Otherwise, there were no federal conspiracy statutes until well after the mid-century mark.

During the War Between the States, however, Congress enacted four sweeping conspiracy provisions, creating federal crimes that have come down to us with little substantive change. The first, perhaps thought more pressing at the beginning of the war, was a seditious conspiracy statute. Shortly thereafter, Congress outlawed conspiracies to defraud the United States through the submission of false claim, and followed that four years later with a prohibition on conspiracies to violate federal law or to defraud the United States.

Subsequent conspiracy statutes, though perhaps no less significant, were more topically focused. The Reconstruction civil rights conspiracy provisions, the Sherman Act anti-trust provisions,and the drug and racketeering statutesmay be the best known of these. All of them begin the same way — with an agreement by two or more persons.

Two or More Persons

There are no one-man conspiracies. At common law where husband and wife were considered one, this meant that the two could not be guilty of conspiracy without the participation of some third person. This is no longer the case. In like manner at common law, corporations could not be charged with a crime. This too is no longer the case. A corporation is criminally liable for the crimes, including conspiracy, committed at least in part for its benefit, by its employees and agents. Moreover, a corporation may be criminally liable for intra-corporate conspiracies, as long as at least two of its officers, employees, or agents are parties to the plot. Notwithstanding the two-party requirement, no co-conspirator need have been tried or even identified, as long as the government produces evidence from which the conspiracy might be inferred. Even the acquittal of a co-conspirator is no defense. In fact, a person may conspire for the commission of a crime by a third person though he himself is legally incapable of committing the underlying offense.

On the other hand, two people may not always be enough. The so-called Wharton’s Rule placed a limitation on conspiracy prosecutions when the number of conspirators equaled the number of individuals necessary for the commission of the underlying offense. Under federal law, the rule “stands as an exception to the general principle that a conspiracy and the substantive offense that is its immediate end do not merge upon proof of the latter.” And under federal law, the rule reaches no further than to the types of offenses that birth its recognition — dueling, adultery, bigamy, and incest.

Agreement

It is not enough, however, to show that the defendant agreed only with an undercover officer to commit the underlying offense, for there is no agreement on a common purpose in such cases. As has been said, the essence of conspiracy is an agreement, an agreement to commit some act condemned by law either as a separate federal offense or for purposes of the conspiracy statute. The agreement may be evidenced by word or action; that is, the government may prove the existence of the agreement either by direct evidence or by circumstantial evidence from which the agreement may be inferred. “Relevant circumstantial evidence may include: the joint appearance of defendants at transactions and negotiations in furtherance of the conspiracy; the relationship among codefendants; mutual representation of defendants to third parties; and other evidence suggesting unity of purpose or common design and understanding among conspirators to accomplish the objects of the conspiracy.

The lower federal appellate courts have acknowledged that evidence of a mere buyer-seller relationship is insufficient to support a drug trafficking conspiracy charge. Some do so under the rationale that there is no singularity of purpose, no necessary agreement, in such cases: “the buyer’s purpose is to buy; the seller’s purpose is to sell.” Others do so to avoid sweeping mere customers into a large-scale trafficking operation. Still others do so lest traffickers and their addicted customers face the same severe penalties. All agree, however, that purchasers may be liable as conspirators when they are part of a large scheme.

Again, in most cases the essence of conspiracy is agreement. “Nevertheless, mere association, standing alone, is inadequate; an individual does not become a member of a conspiracy merely associating with conspirators known to be involved in crime.”

One or Many Overlapping Conspiracies

The task of sifting agreement from mere association becomes more difficult and more important with the suggestion of overlapping conspiracies. Criminal enterprises may involve one or many conspiracies. Some time ago, the Supreme Court noted that “thieves who dispose of their loot to a single receiver – a single ‘fence’ – do not by that fact alone become confederates: They may, but it takes more than knowledge that he is a ‘fence’ to make them such.” Whether it is a fence, or a drug dealer, or a money launderer, when several seemingly independent criminal groups share a common point of contact, the question becomes whether they present one overarching conspiracy or several separate conspiracies with a coincidental overlap. In the analogy suggested by the Court, when separate spokes meet at the common hub they can only function as a wheel if the spokes and hub are enclosed within a rim. When several criminal enterprises overlap, they are one overarching conspiracy or several overlapping conspiracies depending upon whether they share a single unifying purpose and understanding—one common agreement.

In determining whether they are faced with a single conspiracy or a rimless collection of overlapping schemes, the courts will look for “the existence of a common purpose . . . (2) interdependence of various elements of the overall play; and (3) overlap among the participants.” “Interdependence is present if the activities of a defendant charged with conspiracy facilitated the endeavors of other alleged co-conspirators or facilitated the venture as a whole.

If this common agreement exists, it is of no consequence that a particular conspirator joined the plot after its inception as long as he joined it knowingly and voluntarily. Nor does it matter that a defendant does not know all of the details of a scheme or all of its participants, or that his role is relatively minor.

Overt Acts

Conviction under 18 U. S. C. 371 for conspiracy to commit a substantive offense requires proof that one of the conspirators committed an overt act in furtherance of the conspiracy. In the case of prosecution under other federal conspiracy statutes that have no such requirement, the existence of an overt act may be important for evidentiary and procedural reasons. The overt act need not be the substantive crime which is the object of the conspiracy, an element of that offense, nor even a crime in its own right. Moreover, a single overt act by any of the conspirators in furtherance of plot will suffice.

Conspiracy to Defraud the United States

Federal law contains several statutes that outlaw defrauding the United States. Two of the most commonly prosecuted are 18 U. S. C. 286, which outlaws conspiracy to defraud the United States through the submission of a false claim, and 18 U. S. C. 371, which in addition to conspiracies to violate federal law, outlaws conspiracies to defraud the United States of property or by obstructing the performance of its agencies. Section 371 has an overt act requirement; section 286 does not. The general principles of federal conspiracy law apply to both.

The elements of conspiracy to defraud the United States under 18 U. S. C. 371 are (1) an agreement of two or more persons; (2) to defraud the United States; and (3) an overt act in furtherance of the conspiracy committed by one of the conspirators. The “fraud covered by the statute reaches any conspiracy for the purpose of impairing, obstructing or defeating the lawful functions of any department of the Government” by “deceit, craft or trickery, or at least by means that are dishonest.” The plot must be directed against the United States or entity; a scheme to defraud the recipient of federal funds is not sufficient. The scheme may be designed to deprive the United States of money or property, but it need not be so; a plot calculated to frustrate the functions of an entity of the United States will suffice.

In contrast, a second federal statute, 18 U. S. C. 286, condemns conspiracies to defraud the United States of money or property through submission of a false claim. The elements of a section 286 violation are that “the defendant entered into a conspiracy to obtain payment or allowance of a claim against a department or agency of the United States; (2) the claim was false, fictitious, or fraudulent; (3) the defendant knew or was deliberately ignorant of the claim’s falsity, fictitiousness, or fraudulence; (4) the defendant knew of the conspiracy and intended to join it; and (5) the defendant voluntarily participated in the conspiracy.” Conviction does not require proof of an overt act in furtherance of the conspiracy.

When Does It End

Conspiracy is a crime which begins with a scheme and may continue on until its objective is achieved or abandoned. The liability of individual conspirators continues on from the time they joined the plot until it ends or until they withdraw. The want of an individual’s continued active participation is no defense as long as the underlying conspiracy lives and he has not withdrawn. An individual who claims to have withdrawn bears the burden of establishing either that he took some action to make his departure clear to his co-conspirators or that he disclosed the scheme to the authorities. As a general rule, overt acts of concealment do not extend the life of the conspiracy beyond the date of the accomplishment of its main objectives. On the other hand, the rule does not apply when concealment is one of the main objectives of the conspiracy.

Sanctions

Imprisonment and Fines

Section 371 felony conspiracies are punishable by imprisonment for not more than five years and a fine of not more than $250,000 (not more than $500,000 for organizations). Most drug trafficking, terrorism, racketeering, and many white collar conspirators face the same penalties as those who committed the underlying substantive offense, e. g. , 21 U. S. C. 846 ( “Any person who . . . conspires to commit any offense defined in the Controlled Substances Act shall be subject to the same penalties as those prescribed for the offense, the commission of which was the object of the . . . conspiracy” ); 18 U. S. C. 2339B ( “Whoever knowingly provides material support or resources to a foreign terrorist organization . . . . or conspires to do so, shall be fined under this title, or imprisoned not more than 15 years, or both” ); 18 U. S. C. 1962(d), 1963(a)( “(d) It shall be unlawful for any person to conspire to violate any of the racketeering provisions of subsection (a), (b), or (c) of this section. . . . (a) Whoever violates any provision of section 1962 . . . shall be fined under this title, or imprisoned for not more than 20 years. . . or both ” ); 18 U. S. C. 1349 ( ” Any person who . . . conspires to commit any offense under this chapter relating to mail fraud, wire fraud, etc. shall be subject to the same penalties as those prescribed for the offense, the commission of which was the object of . . . the conspiracy” ).

The United States Sentencing Guidelines greatly influence the sentences for federal crimes. Federal courts are bound to impose a sentence within the statutory maximums and minimums. Their decision of what sentence to impose within those boundaries, however, must begin with a determination of the sentencing recommendation under the guidelines. Reasonableness standards govern review of their sentencing decisions,and a sentence within the Sentencing Guideline range is presumed reasonable.

The Sentencing Guidelines system is essentially a scoring system. Federal crimes are each assigned a numerical base offense level and levels are added and subtracted to account for the various aggravating and mitigating factors in a particular case. Thus, for example, providing material support to a terrorist organization, 18 U. S. C. 2339B, has a base offense level of 26, which may be increased by 2 levels if the support comes in the form of explosives, U. S. S. G. §2M5. 3(a), (b) and may be increased or decreased still further for other factors. The guidelines designate six sentencing ranges of each total offense level; the appropriate range within the six is determined by extent of the offender’s criminal record. For instance, the sentencing range for a first-time offender with a total offense level of 28 would be imprisonment for between 78 and 97 months (Category I); while the range for an offender in the highest criminal history category (Category VI) would be imprisonment for between 140 and 175 months.

The base offense level for conspiracy is generally the same as that for the underlying offense, either by operation of an individual guideline, for example, U. S. C. §2D1. 1 (drug trafficking), or by operation of the general conspiracy guideline, U. S. S. C. §2X1. 1. In any event, conspirators who play a leadership role in an enterprise are subject to an increase of from 2 to 4 levels,

U. S. S. G. §3B1. 1, and those who play a more subservient role may be entitled to reduction of from 2 to 4 levels, U. S. S. G. §3B1. 2. In the case of terrorism offenses, conspirators may also be subject to a special enhancement which sets the minimum total offense level at 32 and the criminal history category at VI (regardless of the extent of the offender’s criminal record), U. S. S. G. §3A1. 4.

The Sentencing Guidelines also address the imposition of fines below the statutory maximum. The total offense level dictates the recommended fine range for individual and organizational defendants. For instance, the fine range for an individual with a total offense level of 28 is $12,500 to $125,000, U. S. C. §5E1. 2. The recommended fine range for an organization with a total offense level of 28 is $6,300,000 (assuming the loss or gain associated with the organization offense exceeds the usual $500,000 ceiling), U. S. S. G. §8C2. 4.

Restitution

A conspirator’s liability for restitution is a matter of circumstance. Most conspiracy statutes do not expressly provide for restitution, but in most instances restitution may be required or permitted under any number of grounds. As a general rule, federal law requires restitution for certain offenses and permits it for others. A sentencing court is generally required to order a defendant to make restitution following conviction for a crime of violence or for a crime against property (including fraud), 18 U. S. C. 366A(a), (c). Those entitled to restitution under Section 3663A include those ” directly and proximately harmed ” by the crime of conviction and “in the case of an offense that involves as an element a scheme, conspiracy, or pattern of criminal activity, any person directly harmed by the defendant’s criminal conduct in the course of the scheme, conspiracy or pattern,” 18 U. S. C. 3663A(b).

Otherwise, a court is permitted to order restitution (a) following conviction for an offense prescribed under title 18 of the United States Code or for drug trafficking, 18 U. S. C. 3663; (b) as a condition of probation or supervised release, 18 U. S. C. 3563(b)(2), 3583(d); or (c) pursuant to a plea agreement, 18 U. S. C. 3663(a)(3), 3663A(c)(2).

Forfeiture

The treatment of forfeiture in conspiracy cases is perhaps even more individualistic than restitution in conspiracy cases. The general criminal forfeiture statute, 18 U. S. C. 982, authorizes confiscation for several classes of property as a consequence of a particular conspiracy conviction, for example, 18 U. S. C. 982(a)(2)(calling for the confiscation of proceeds realized from “a violation of, or a conspiracy to – (A) section . . . 1341, 1343, 1344 of this title relating to mail, wire and bank fraud, affecting a financial institution” ); 18 U. S. C. 982(a)(8)(calling for the confiscation of proceeds from, and property used to facilitate or promote, “an offense under section . . . 1341, or 1343, or of a conspiracy to commit such an offense, if the offense involves telemarketing” ).

In the case of drug trafficking, forfeiture turns on the fact that it is authorized for any Controlled Substance Act violation, 21 U. S. C. 853, of which conspiracy is one, 21 U. S. C. 846. The same can be said of racketeering conspiracy provisions of 18 U. S. C. 1962(d).

Relation of Conspiracy to Other Crimes

Conspiracy is a completed crime upon agreement, or upon agreement and the commission of an overt act under statutes with an overt act requirement. Conviction does not require commission of the crime that is the object of the conspiracy. On the other hand, conspirators may be prosecuted for conspiracy, for any completed offense which is the object of the conspiracy, as well as for any foreseeable offense committed in furtherance of the conspiracy.

Aid and Abet

Anyone who “aids, abets, counsels, commands, induces, or procures” the commission of a federal crime by another is punishable as a principal, that is, as though he had committed the offense himself, 18 U. S. C. 2. If the other agrees and an overt act is committed, they are conspirators, each liable for conspiracy and any criminal act committed to accomplish it. If the other commits the offense, they are equally punishable for the basic offense. “Typically, the same evidence will support both a conspiracy and an aiding and abetting conviction.” The two are clearly distinct, however, as the Ninth Circuit has noted:

The difference between the classic common law elements of aiding and abetting and a criminal conspiracy underscores this material distinction, although at first blush the two appear similar. Aiding and abetting the commission of a specific crime, we have held, includes four elements: (1) that the accused had the specific intent to facilitate the commission of a crime by another, (2) that the accused had the requisite intent to commit the underlying substantive offense, (3) that the accused assisted or participated in the commission of the underlying substantive offense, and (4) that the principal committed the underlying offense. As Lopez emphasized, the accused generally must associate himself with the venture . . . participate in it as something he wishes to bring about, and sought by his action to make it succeed.

By contrast, a classic criminal conspiracy as charged in 18 U. S. C. § 371 is broader. The government need only prove (1) an agreement to engage in criminal activity, (2) one or more overt acts taken to implement the agreement, and (3) the requisite intent to commit the substantive crime. Indeed, a drug conspiracy does not even require commission of an overt act in furtherance of the conspiracy.

Two distinctions become readily apparent after a more careful comparison. First, the substantive offense which may be the object in a § 371 conspiracy need not be completed. Second, the emphasis in a § 371 conspiracy is on whether one or more overt acts was undertaken. This language necessarily is couched in passive voice for it matters only that a co-conspirator commit the overt act, not necessarily that the accused herself does so. In an aiding and abetting case, not only must the underlying substantive offense actually be completed by someone, but the accused must take some action, a substantial step, toward associating herself with the criminal venture. United States v. Hernandez-Orellana, 539 F. 3d 994, 1006-1007 (9th Cir. 2008).

Attempt

Conspiracy and attempt are both inchoate offenses, unfinished crimes in a sense. They are forms of introductory misconduct that the law condemns lest they result in some completed form of misconduct. Federal law has no general attempt statute. Congress, however, has outlawed attempt to commit a number of specific federal offenses. Like conspiracy, a conviction for attempt does not require the commission of the underlying offense. Both require an intent to commit the contemplated substantive offense. Like conspiracy, the fact that it may be impossible to commit the target offense is no defense to a charge of attempt to commit it. Unlike conspiracy, attempt can be committed by a single individual. Attempt only becomes a crime when it closely approaches a substantive offense. Conspiracy becomes a crime far sooner. Mere acts of preparation will satisfy the most demanding conspiracy statute, not so with attempt. Conspiracy requires no more than an overt act in furtherance; attempt, a substantial step to completion. Moreover, unlike a conspirator, an accused may not be convicted of both attempt and the underlying substantive offense.

An individual may be guilty of both conspiring with others to commit an offense and of attempting to commit the same offense, either himself or through his confederates. In some circumstances, he may be guilty of attempted conspiracy. Congress has outlawed at least one example of an attempt to conspire in the statute which prohibits certain invitations to conspire, that is, solicitation to commit a federal crime of violence, 18 U. S. C. 373.

Solicitation

Section 373 prohibits efforts to induce another to commit a crime of violence “under circumstances strongly corroborative” of intent to see the crime committed, 18 U. S. C. 373(a). Section 373′s crimes of violence are federal “felonies that have as an element the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against property or against the person of another,” id. Examples of “strongly corroborative” circumstances include “the defendant offering or promising payment or another benefit in exchange for committing the offense; threatening harm or other detriment for refusing to commit the offense; repeatedly soliciting or discussing at length in soliciting the commission of the offense, or making explicit that the solicitation is serious; believing or knowing that the persons solicited had previously committed similar offenses; and acquiring weapons, tools, or information or use in committing the offense, or making other apparent preparations for its commission.” As is the case of attempt, “an individual cannot be guilty of both the solicitation of a crime and the substantive crime.” Although the crime of solicitation is complete upon communication with the requisite intent, renunciation prior to commission of the substantive offense is a defense. The offender’s legal incapacity to commit the solicited offense himself, however, is not a defense.

Procedural Attributes

Statute of Limitations

The statute of limitations for most federal crimes is five years, 18 U. S. C. 3282. The five-year limitation applies to the general conspiracy statute, 18 U. S. C. 371, and to the false claims conspiracy statute, 18 U. S. C. 286. Section 371 requires proof of an overt act; section 286 does not. For conspiracy offenses with an overt act requirement like those under Section 371, the statute of limitations begins with completion of the last overt act in furtherance of the conspiracy. For conspiracy offenses with no such requirement like those under section 286, the statute of limitations begins with the abandonment of the conspiracy or the accomplishment of its objectives.

Venue

The presence or absence of an overt act requirement makes a difference for statute of limitations purposes. For venue purposes, it apparently does not. The Supreme Court has observed in passing that “this Court has long held that venue is proper in any district in which an overt act in furtherance of the conspiracy was committed, even where an overt act is not a required element of the conspiracy offense.” The lower federal appellate courts are seemingly of the same view, for they have found venue proper for a conspiracy prosecution wherever an overt act occurs — under overt act statutes and non-overt act statutes alike.

Joinder and Severance (One Conspiracy, One Trial)

Three rules of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure govern joinder and severance for federal criminal trials. Rule 8 permits the joinder of common criminal charges and defendants. Rule 12 insists that a motion for severance be filed prior to trial. Rule 14 authorizes the court to grant severance for separate trials as a remedy for prejudicial joinder.

The Supreme Court has pointed out that “there is a preference in the federal system for joint trials of defendants who are indicted together. Joint trials play a vital role in the criminal justice system. They promote efficiency and serve the interests of justice by avoiding the scandal and inequity of inconsistent verdicts.” In conspiracy cases, a ” conspiracy charge combined with substantive counts arising out of that conspiracy is a proper basis for joinder under Rule 8(b).” Moreover, “the preference in a conspiracy trial is that persons charged together should be tried together.” In fact, “it will be the rare case, if ever, where a district court should sever the trial of alleged co-conspirators.” The Supreme Court has reminded the lower courts that “a district court should grant a severance under Rule 14 only if there is a serious risk that a joint trial would compromise a specific trial right of one of the defendants, or prevent the jury from making a reliable judgment about guilt or innocence.” The Court noted that the risk may be more substantial in complex cases with multiple defendants, but that “less drastic measures, such as limiting instructions, often will suffice to cure any risk of prejudice.” Subsequently lower federal appellate court opinions have emphasized the curative effect of appropriate jury instructions.

Double Jeopardy and Ex Post Facto

Because conspiracy is a continuing offense, it stands as an exception to the usual ex post facto principles. Because it is a separate crime, it also stands as an exception to the usual double jeopardy principles.

The ex post facto clauses of the Constitution forbid the application of criminal laws which punish conduct that was innocent when it was committed or punishes more severely criminal conduct than when it was committed. Increasing the penalty for an ongoing conspiracy, however, does not offend ex post facto constraints as long as the conspiracy straddles the date of the legislative penalty enhancement.

The double jeopardy clause of the Fifth Amendment declares that no person shall “be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb.” This prohibition condemns successive prosecutions, successive punishments, and successive use of charges rejected in acquittal.

For successive prosecution or punishment, the critical factor is the presence or absence of the same offense. Offenses may overlap, but they are not the same crime as long as each requires proof of an element that the other does not. 130 Since conspiracy and its attendant substantive offense are ordinarily separate crimes — one alone requiring agreement and the other alone requiring completion of the substantive offense — the double jeopardy clause poses no impediment to successive prosecution or to successive punishment of the two.

Double jeopardy issues arise most often in a conspiracy context when a case presents the question of whether the activities of the accused conspirators constitute a single conspiracy or several overlapping conspiracies. Multiple conspiracies may be prosecuted sequentially and punished with multiple sanctions; single conspiracies must be tried and punished once. Asked to determine whether they are faced with one or more than one conspiracy, the courts have said they inquire whether:

  1. the locus criminis place of the two alleged conspiracies is the same;
  2. there is a significant degree of temporal overlap between the two conspiracies charged;
  3. there is an overlap of personnel between the two conspiracies (including unindicted as well as indicted co-conspirators);
  4. the over acts charged are related;
  5. the role played by the defendant relates to both;
  6. there was a common goal among the conspirators;
  7. whether the agreement contemplated bringing to pass a continuous result that will not continue without the continuous cooperation of the conspirators; and
  8. the extent to which the participants overlapped in their various dealings.

Co-conspirator Declarations

At trial, the law favors the testimony of live witnesses — under oath, subject to cross examination, and in the presence of the accused and the jury — over the presentation of their evidence in writing or through the mouths of others. The hearsay rule is a product of this preference. Exceptions and definitions narrow the rule’s reach. For example, hearsay is usually defined to include only those out-of-court statements which are offered in evidence “to prove the truth of the matter asserted.”

Although often referred to as the exception for co-conspirator declarations, the Federal Rules of Evidence treats the matter within its definition of hearsay. Thus, Rule 801(d)(2)(E) of the Federal Rules provides that an out-of-court “statement is not hearsay if . . . (2) The statement is offered against a party and is . . . (E) a statement by a coconspirator of a party during the course and in furtherance of the conspiracy.”

To admit a co-conspirator declaration into evidence under the Rule, a “court must find: (1) the conspiracy existed; (2) the defendant was a member of the conspiracy; and (3) the co-conspirator made the proffered statements in furtherance of the conspiracy.” The court, however, may receive the statement preliminarily subject to the prosecution’s subsequent demonstration of its admissibility by a preponderance of the evidence. As to the first two elements, a co­conspirator’s statement without more is insufficient; there must be ” some extrinsic evidence sufficient to delineate the conspiracy and corroborate the declarant’s and the defendant’s roles in it.” As to the third element, “a statement is in furtherance of a conspiracy if it is intended to promote the objectives of the conspiracy.” A statement is in furtherance, for instance, if it describes for the benefit of a co-conspirator the status of the scheme, its participants, or its methods. Bragging, or “mere idle chatter or casual conversation about past events, “however, are not considered statements in furtherance of a conspiracy.

Under some circumstances, evidence admissible under the hearsay rule may nevertheless be inadmissible because of Sixth Amendment restrictions. The Sixth Amendment provides, among other things, that “in all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right . . . to be confronted with the witnesses against him.” The provision was inspired in part by reactions to the trial of Sir Walter Raleigh, who argued in vain that he should be allowed to confront the alleged co-conspirator who had accused him of treason. Given its broadest possible construction, the confrontation clause would eliminate any hearsay exceptions or limitations. The Supreme Court in Crawford v. Washington explained, however, that the clause has a more precise reach. The clause uses the word “witnesses” to bring within its scope only those who testify or whose accusations are made in a testimonial context. In a testimonial context, the confrontation clause permits use at trial of prior testimonial accusations only if the witness is unavailable and only if the accused had the opportunity to cross examine him when the testimony was taken. The Court elected to “leave for another day any effort to spell out a comprehensive definition of ‘testimonial,’” but has suggested that the term includes “affidavits, depositions, prior testimony, or confessions ,and other statements that were made under circumstances which would lead an objective witness reasonably to believe that the statement would be available for use at a later trial.” Since Crawford, the lower federal courts have generally held that the confrontation clause poses no obstacle to the admissibility of the co-conspirator statements at issue in the cases before them, either because the statements were not testimonial; were not offered to establish the truth of the asserted statement; or because the clause does not bar co-conspirator declarations generally.

Obtain the Best Defense Against Federal Conspiracy Charges

Many people charged with federal drug conspiracies are concerned with predicting the outcome of their cases. They often wonder about the likelihood of a conviction and the length of a potential sentence. The truth is that, if you are charged with a drug conspiracy, your case can be very serious and complicated. A lot may depend on the drug quantity, the testimony of witnesses and on cooperation with the prosecution. Federal Criminal Lawyer Charles Johnson can help you navigate the legal system so that you can make decisions based on in-depth understanding of the consequences you may face.

In federal drug conspiracy cases, a lot has to do with the strength of the evidence. Experienced Attorney Charles Johnson skilled at helping clients evaluate whether to take a case to trial or whether to find other ways to resolve the issue more favorably. At the Charles Johnson Law Firm, we place a large emphasis on honesty with our clients. Although it is often more difficult to be realistic with clients than to promise miracles, we know that our clients and their families deserve the truth about the seriousness of federal drug conspiracy charges.

They also deserve the skilled legal representation we provide. Whether you are charged with criminal conspiracy, a continuing criminal enterprise or with a violation the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (commonly called RICO), we will use our knowledge and experience to strive for the best results possible.

Contact Houston Lawyer Charles Johnson anytime night or day at (713) 222-7577 to speak with him directly. Our law firm is dedicated to helping clients face drug conspiracy charges with confidence and dignity.


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Charged with Possession of Illegal Bath Salts? Protect Your Freedom by Hiring Houston Lawyer Charles Johnson

Top Houston Bath Salts LawyersAnyone can find themselves facing a drug charge. It all depends on what the government decides to make illegal. In 2011 the Texas legislature placed a ban on the chemicals found in bath salts, effectively outlawing bath salts for recreational drug use. Last month the DEA outlawed the drug from being sold. Prior to the ban, certain types of these bath salts were available to buy in stores. Many of the chemicals found in bath salts are now Schedule I controlled substances, based on recently enacted Texas law. Schedule I controlled substances come with a real possibility of jail time and are generally charged as a felony – just for first offense possession.

As with any change in the law, law enforcement authorities can overstep their bounds when it comes to those who are accused of drug possession. People still aren’t sure what to do with bath salts. Unlike marijuana possession, bath salts possession is a new concept in criminal law. If you’ve been arrested for possession of bath salts in Houston or anywhere else in Texas, call Houston Lawyer Charles Johnson anytime night or day at (713) 222-7577 or contact us online to discuss your case. Attorney Johnson will do everything in his power to defend you and your rights if you’ve been accused of Bath Salt possession. Your consultation is free and absolutely confidential.

What are “Bath Salts” (aka synthetic cathinones)

“Bath salts” are not for use in the bath, nor do they contain salt. While the formula of this drug changes regularly, most of the now illegal bath salts refer to commercially available products that have as part of their composition a legal stimulant called 3, 4-Methylenedioxypyrovalerone, or MDPV (sometimes another synthetic stimulant called Mephedrone and less commonly a synthetic stimulant called Methylone). These synthetic stimulants are in a class of drug known as synthetic cathinones.

Synthetic cathinones are related to the parent compound cathinone (found naturally in the plant Khat, which has cathinone producing a mild stimlative effect). Since the mid-2000s, unregulated ring-substituted cathinone derivatives have appeared in the European and American recreational drugs market. The most commonly available synthetic cathinones sold on the recreational market in the period up to 2011 appear to be 3, 4-Methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV), mephedrone, and methylone. These products are usually encountered as highly pure white or brown powders. Cathinone derivatives are claimed to have effects similar to those of cocaine, amphetamine or MDMA (ecstasy), but little is known of their detailed pharmacology.

Currently illegal in Texas, they are sold mostly on the internet but can also be found in select shops locally. They’re known by a variety of names, including “Red Dove,” “Blue Silk,” “Zoom,” “Bloom,” “Cloud Nine,” “Ocean Snow,” “Lunar Wave,” “Vanilla Sky,” “Ivory Wave,” “White Lightning,” “Scarface” “Purple Wave,” “Blizzard,” “Star Dust,” “Lovey, Dovey,” “Snow Leopard,” “Aura,” and “Hurricane Charlie.” While they have become popular under the guise of selling as “bath salts”, they are sometimes sold as other products such as insect repellant, or the latest iteration of products called jewelry cleaner or IPOD screen cleaners, pump-it-up powder, IPOD cleaner, etc.

Much like the marketing of Synthetic Cannabinoids (Spice/K2) as incense, MDPV has been market as “bath salts” and just like Spice/K2 MDPV is specifically labeled “not for human consumption.”
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What are MDPV and Mephedrone?

As stated before, MDPV is a legal stimulant who’s chemical name is 3, 4-Methylenedioxypyrovalerone, and is the active ingredient in “Bath Salts”. A DEA report from December 2010 states that “preliminary testing indicates that the active ingredients in many brands [of bath salts] contain MDPV (3,4-methylenedioxypyrovalerone) and/or mephedrone.” Mephedrone, also known as 4-methylmethcathinone (4-MMC), or 4-methylephedrone, is a synthetic stimulant drug of the amphetamine and cathinone classes. Slang names include “meph,” “drone,” “MCAT,” and “meow, meow.”

Mephedrone is reportedly manufactured in China and is chemically similar to the cathinone compounds found in the khat plant of eastern Africa. It comes in the form of tablets or a powder, which users can swallow, snort or inject, producing similar effects to MDMA, amphetamines and cocaine. Because of the emergent nature of this class of substances, there has been some questioning as to what is in the composition of ‘bath salts’, though most evidence is leaning towards MDPV as being the compound of choice currently in ‘bath salts’.

In the United States, MDPV was packaged as “bath salts” but easy research from the internet showed that “bath salts” such as ‘Ivory Wave’ were being packaged as legal alternative stimulant drugs, and avoid prosecution by putting “Not For Human Consumption” on the packaging. However, some of these can barely contain themselves for what they really are, with one brand having a picture of Al Pacino’s ‘Scarface’ on its packaging.

They are sold over the internet, and on the street, in convenience stores, discount tobacco outlets, gas stations, pawnshops, tattoo parlors, and truck stops, among other locations. The various brands are sold in 50-milligram to 500-milligram packets. Prices range from $25 to $50 per 50-milligram packet.

What are will be in Generation 2 and 3 of Bath Salts?

Generation 2 of Bath Salts have been hitting the internet market already, with the DEA’s temporary ban of MDPV, Mephedrone and Methylone. Naphyrone has been found in samples of what is being labeled online as “Cosmic Blast” a “jewelry cleaner”. There are products (of substances unknown) that are on the internet labeled as “IPOD/Phone Screen Cleaner” and other various covers, as it appears that “bath salts” became too viral of a product name and drug dealers have now moved on to other, more obscure product naming schemes.

Cosmic Blast, marketed as a jewelry cleaner, is a stimulant/hallucinogen that is being marketed in the same way bath salts were. Drug sellers don’t seem to care about US drug law in that samples of Cosmic Blast that have been tested in toxicology laboratories which came up positive for not only Naphyrone, but also MDPV. Naphyrone (which became popular in the UK after their ban of Mephedrone in 2010), is also known as O-2482 and naphthylpyrovalerone, is a drug derived from pyrovalerone that acts as a triple reuptake inhibitor, producing stimulant effects and has been reported as a novel designer drug. No safety or toxicity data is available on the drug). Anecdotal reports of Naphyrone are it can stay in your body for long periods and since it is a reuptake inhibitor of Serotonin, which is implicated in body heat regulation, body temperatures can soar upwards of 107-108 degrees.

Bruce Talbot, a former police officer and expert on emergent drug trends expressed the following concerns regarding MDPV and what could likely happen now that MDPV, Mephedrone and Methylone have become illegal. He suspects that now that MDPV, Mephedrone and Methylone have finally been added to an emergency ban, they will likely “be replaced by 4′-methyl-a-pyrrolidinopropiophenone (MPPP) and 3′,4′-methylenedioxy-a-pyrrolidinopropiophenone (MDPPP).”

What has been seen with K2/Spice is the U.S. government pushing to ban certain of the synthetic cannabinoids (JWH-018, JWH-073, JWH-200, CP 49,479 and CP 49,479 C8, though they are trying a global sweep of this class by banning anything that binds to the CB1 receptors), but the companies making K2/Spice came out with the same product sprayed with chemicals not covered by state or national bans.

The same pattern is possible with the chemicals in “bath salts” (despite the drug using community moving on from the term “bath salts” it has become the name of recognition for this class of syntethic drugs). The following drugs would likely replace MDPV, Mephedrone and Methylone now that these three are banned nationally. These “chemical cousins include: a-pyrrolidinopropiophenone (a-PPP) little is known about this compound, but it has been detected by laboratories in Germany as an ingredient in “ecstasy” tablets seized by law enforcement authorities; 4′-methyl-a-pyrrolidinopropiophenone (MPPP) is a stimulant drug. It is very structurally similar to a-PPP. MPPP was sold in Germany as a designer drug in the late 1990s and early 2000s, although it has never achieved the same international popularity as its better-known relations a-PPP and MDPV; and 3′,4′-methylenedioxy-a-pyrrolidinopropiophenone (MDPPP) which is a stimulant designer drug. It was sold in Germany in the late 1990s and early 2000s as an ingredient in imitation ecstasy (MDMA) pills. It shares a similar chemical structure with a-PPP and MDPV.

MDPV Timeline

MDPV was developed in the 1960s, and has been used for the treatment of chronic fatigue, but caused problems of abuse and dependence.
1969: Boehringer Ingelheim files a patent application for MDPV.
2005: MDPV appears as a recreational drug; first mention on Drugs-Forum.
2007: First seizure of MDPV as a recreational drug, by customs officials in the German state of Saxony. The drug had been shipped from China.
2008: First seizure of MDPV in the United States.
2009: MDPV made illegal in Denmark.
2010: MDPV made a controlled drug in the UK, Sweden, Germany, Australia and Finland. First reports of the widespread retail marketing of ‘bath salts’ containing MDPV in the US. The US considers both Mephedrone (July, 2010) and MDPV (December, 2010) “a drug and chemical of concern”.
2011: MDPV sale and possession are banned in the US states of Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, Washington State (as of November 3, 2011), West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming, with legislation being introduced in many other states. The DEA moved to temporarily ban MDPV, Mephedrone and Methylone on October 21, 2011. This ban will last 12 months with the possibility of an additional 6 month extension while the DEA deatermines whether these 3 synthetic stimulants should be permanently classified as scheduled substances.
2012: Permanent US ban is imminent on few, select chemicals. In 2012 the Congress passed the Food and Drug Administration Safety and Innovation Act – Synthetic Drugs, which will list MDPV and Mephedrone, but not Methylone.

The Effects of MDPV/Mephedrone (“Bath Salts”)

“Bath salts” are taken in many forms. Users may snort, shoot, eat or drink them. MDPV is a powerful stimulant that functions as a dopamine-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (NDRI). It has stimulatory effects on the central nervous system and cardiovascular system. Physical symptoms include: rapid heartbeat, increase in blood pressure, vasoconstriction, sweating. Mental symptoms include: euphoria, increases in alertness & awareness, increased wakefulness and arousal, anxiety, agitation, perception of a diminished requirement for food and sleep, and intense desire to re-dose. MDPV reportedly has four times the potency of Ritalin and Concerta. MDPV is sometimes labeled online as legal cocaine or legal amphetamines.

The effects have a duration of roughly 3 to 4 hours, with after effects such as tachycardia, hypertension, and mild stimulation lasting from 6 to 8 hours. High doses have been observed to cause intense, prolonged panic attacks in stimulant-intolerant users, and there are anecdotal reports of psychosis from sleep withdrawal and addiction at higher doses or more frequent dosing intervals. It’s addiction potential is not fully known at this time. However, one of the effects of MDPV is an intense desire to redose and there have been online reports from both professionals and users that MDPV is “strongly addicting”.

New research by scientists at the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) indicates that the active compounds in “bath salts” (mephedrone and methylone) bind to monoamine transporters on the surface of some neurons. This in turn leads to an increase in the brain chemical serotonin, and to a lesser extent, dopamine, suggesting a mechanism that could underlie the addictive potential of these compounds.

Are There Any Dangers Involved in Using “Bath Salts” (MDPV, Mephedrone)

Yes. Until a drug is tested, it cannot be considered safe. MDPV and its ‘chemical cousins’ have not been tested by the FDA and thus little is known as to the harm potential. Some anecdotal stories involving ‘bath salt’ usage and their potential for harm come in news stories from across the nation, local emergency room reports and data collected from the American Association of Poison Control Center.

In 2010 there were 303 calls about MDPV (bath salt) products according to the American Association of Poison Control Centers’ National Poison Data System (NPDS).

As of April 30, 2012 poison centers reported 1007 calls for all of 2012 (6,138 calls in 2011). This shows the trend of how popular this class of drug has become, but it also shows that since the national ban, decreased usage, in the form of poison control center calls, is evident (1,007 calls in the first 4 months of 2012 and 2,027 calls in the same time period of 2011).

Since the National ban MDPV, Mephedrone and Methylone on October 21, 2011, November 2011 saw 231 calls reported, December 2011 – 222 calls, January 2012 – 222 calls, February 2012 – 230 calls, March 2012 – 264 calls, and April 2012 saw 285 calls. This is clear evidence that the national and state bans are having an impact on the use of, and medical necessity reasons to contact emergency rooms, for the chemicals that comprise “bath salts”.

The effects of synthetic cathinones can be wide ranging and in many instances dangerous. Here is a listing of the effects:

  • Aggression
  • Agitation
  • Breathing difficulty
  • Bruxism (grinding teeth)
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Extreme anxiety sometimes progressing to violent behavior
  • Fits and delusions
  • Hallucinations
  • Headache
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Increased alertness/awareness
  • Increased body temperature, chills, sweating
  • Insomnia
  • Kidney pain
  • Lack of appetite
  • Liver failure
  • Loss of bowel control
  • Muscle spasms
  • Muscle tenseness
  • Vasoconstriction (narrowing of the blood vessels)
  • Nausea, stomach cramps, and digestive problems
  • Nosebleeds
  • Psychotic delusions
  • Pupil dilation
  • Renal failure
  • Rhabdomyolysis (release of muscle fiber contents [myoglobin] that could lead to kidney problems)
  • Severe paranoia
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Tachycardia (rapid heartbeat)
  • Tinnitus

How Legal/Illegal is MDPV, Mephedrone and Methylone (“Bath Salts”) Nationally?

On October 21, 2011 the DEA finalized a move to enact a temporary emergency control (ban) of three synthetic stimulants. The United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is using its emergency scheduling authority to temporarily control three synthetic stimulants (Mephedrone, 3,4 methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV) and Methylone). Except as authorized by law, this action will make possessing and selling these chemicals or the products that contain them illegal in the U.S. for at least one year while the DEA and the United States Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) further study whether these chemicals should be permanently controlled. This emergency action was necessary to prevent an imminent threat to the public safety.

On March 1st, the DEA announced the ban of 5 synthetic cannabinoids (JWH-018, JWH-073, JWH-200, CP 47,497 and CP 47,497 C8), however, before the ban was in place, generation 2 of synthetic cannabinoids were already being sold in convenience stores with the makers touting none of the banned substances being in their product.

In Pennsylvania (on June 23, 2011), SB 1006 was passed by the House, Senate and approved by the Governor. This bill SB 1006 bans 6 synthetic stimulants including MDPV and Mephedrone (this PA bill bans the same 6 synthetic stimulants that NJ banned on April, 28, 2011). This bill is also proposing to ban sativa and 8 synthetic cannabinoids and their analogues.

An amendment added to the PA SB 1006 also includes language barring all chemicals that are similar to the substances that are currently found in bath salts, synthetic cannabinoids and 2C (hallucinogens such as 2C-E, 2C-I, 2C-P, 2C-H and their analogues, congeners, homologues, isomers, salts and salts of analogues, congeners, homologues and isomers), and prohibits those chemical compounds from being used to create the same effect as the current bath salts, sytnthetic cannabinoids and 2C chemical structures. This addition to the law will make Pennsylvania’s the strongest such law in the nation.

As historical perspective, these drugs got on the US Government radar in December, 2010, when the DEA published a report listing MDPV as a drug of concern. On February 1, 2011 Gil Kerlikowske, Director of National Drug Control Policy, released the following statement following recent reports indicating the emergent threat of these synthetic stimulants, stating that he was “deeply concerned,” and that “public health officials are working on this emerging issue.” These drugs have been around long before then, and very few of them are being banned 2 years after this first statement by the US Government.

When a federal ban is finally enacted on a drug, it does not mean local authorities will take action on this drug. States still need to enact legislation to ban the substances in order for state (then local) authorities to take action. Federal bans will go after larger distributors, but it will be locally determined as to whether users and smaller, local distributors (such as non-chain convenience stores and gas stations) will be sought after without a state ban.

The Facts: MDPV, Mephedrone, and other synthetic cathinones can cause serious psychiatric symptoms in people who have never exhibited such symptoms prior to usage. This can happen for some, while others will never experience these symptoms under the influence of these chemicals. However, the prevalence of people having abreactions is evident in Poison Control Center data, and in these types of anecdotal stories linked above. For those who have pre-existing psychiatric problems, ingesting these substances can further fracture and intensify these pre-existing psychiatric symptoms, which can be expressed in violent ways by some. There is no evidence of continued “zombiefication” of bath salt users after the drugs have left their system. Thus any zombie like tendencies (i.e., aggression leading to the severe mutilation of oneself or others) that could possibly exist, would only do so while under the influence, and wouldn’t persist after the effects of the drug have left a person’s system. Sorry, no Hollywood zombie apocalypse is evident with “bath salts” ingestion, only tragic consequences.

The Conclusion: “Bath Salts” are man made derivatives (i.e., synthetics) of naturally occurring stimulants, created and popularized by “armchair chemists” driven by profit potential and whose business acumen is much more developed than their chemistry abilities. The people ingesting these substances are what are known as in the gaming community as “beta testers” of products which cause such volatile reactions in some, that this “beta stress test” is obviously failing with oft-times gruesome, tragic (yet sadly “popular” and “trending”) results. But this unfortunately will not stop many from continuing down this path of using these potentially dangerous, untested, unregulated (in terms of the actual making of the drugs), synthetic drugs. Thus while the popularization, and light-heartedness of the “zombie apocalypse” is shedding a new light on the potential dangers of these class of drugs, it is quite possible that message gets lost due to the glib way it is being presented in the (social) media.

If I have been accused of selling or buying “bath salts” in Texas is there anything I can do?

First of all, you will want to immediately seek the legal advice of an experienced criminal law attorney. Only an attorney who works to keep up on current drug laws and trends can help you after an arrest. Do not let recent changes in the law make you vulnerable to being arrested for bath salts possession, use or distribution. Being arrested for any charge involving bath salts will change the course of your life immediately. Depending on the actual charge you may face misdemeanor or felony drug charges, you will face heavy fines, possible probation, house arrest and a possible jail sentence.

It is not advisable to confront these charges by yourself. Please do not hesitate to contact a Houston Bath Salts Defense Attorney to discuss your rights and how to protect them. For experience you can trust, contact the Charles Johnson Law Firm today at (713) 222-7577 to discuss your case. With his many years experience handling drug crimes in Texas he will thoroughly protect your rights, your freedom as well as your reputation.

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Arrested for Marijuana Possession or Sales? The Best Houston Lawyer

Finest Houston Criminal Defense Attorney

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.

Marijuana Possession

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.

Drug Paraphernalia

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

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

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.

Marijuana-Related Crimes

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

 

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Houston Lawyer: Arrested For Illegal Prescription Drugs?

Top Houston Drug Crimes LawyersA drug can be legal when prescribed by a doctor, yet it can be illegal when someone uses it without a valid prescription. If you are being investigated for a prescription drug crime, you cannot afford to be poorly represented. Houston Criminal Lawyer Charles Johnson has expertly defended prescription drug charges in Houston and throughout Texas.
The Charles Johnson Law Firm regularly assists clients with drug cases involving illegal prescription medications, such as:

  • Forging of prescriptions
  • Pharmacy fraud and prescription fraud
  • Illegal possession of prescription medications
  • Transportation of drugs
  • Distribution of drugs
  • Illegal buying prescription drugs online
  • Drug delivery, manufacturing and trafficking

If you have been charged with one or more of these offenses, you could be facing jail time and other significant consequences. It is important to know what to do in the days following an arrest and how an experienced attorney can build a vigorous defense for your charges. In many cases he will be able to have your case dismissed entirely. Call Houston Lawyer Charles Johnson at (713) 222-7577 to discuss your case. Attorney Johnson answers the phone 24 hours per day and offers you a free initial consultation.

Hire the Best Houston Drug Attorney: The Charles Johnson Law Firm

Prescription drug abuse is on the rise in Texas. There are many possible ways for someone to acquire prescription drugs for illegal use. Some people obtain the prescription drugs from a person who has a valid prescription. Others steal a doctor’s official prescription pad and forge the doctor’s signature for the medication, while some create a counterfeit prescription that resembles a doctor’s official prescription. There are some who do what is called “Doctor Shopping,” which entails going to many different doctors complaining about a medical condition to get prescriptions from each of them.

What is prescription drug abuse?

Prescription drug abuse is the use of a medication without a prescription, in a way other than as prescribed, or for the experience or feelings elicited. According to several national surveys, prescription medications, such as those used to treat pain, attention deficit disorders, and anxiety, are being abused at a rate second only to marijuana among illicit drug users. The consequences of this abuse have been steadily worsening, reflected in increased treatment admissions, emergency room visits, and overdose deaths.

How many people abuse prescription drugs?

According to results from the 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), an estimated 2.4 million Americans used prescription drugs nonmedically for the first time within the past year, which averages to approximately 6,600 initiates per day. More than one-half were females and about a third were aged 12 to 17. Although prescription drug abuse affects many Americans, certain populations, such as youth, older adults, and women, may be at particular risk.

Who abuses prescription drugs?

Individuals of all ages abuse prescription drugs — data reported in the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse indicate that an estimated 36 million U.S. residents aged 12 and older abused prescription drugs at least once in their lifetime. The survey also revealed that millions of teenagers and young adults abuse prescription drugs — 2.7 million individuals aged 12 to 17 and 6.9 million individuals aged 18 to 25 abused prescription drugs at least once. Prescription drug abuse among high school students is a particular concern. According to the University of Michigan’s Monitoring the Future Survey, more than 10 percent of high school seniors in the United States abused narcotics (other than heroin) at least once in their lifetime. Nearly 17 percent abused amphetamines (a type of stimulant), 10 percent abused barbiturates, and 11 percent abused tranquilizers at least once.

Adolescents and young adults

Abuse of prescription drugs is highest among young adults aged 18 to 25, with 5.9 percent reporting nonmedical use in the past month (NSDUH, 2010). Among youth aged 12 to 17, 3.0 percent reported past-month nonmedical use of prescription medications.

According to the 2010 MTF, prescription and OTC drugs are among the most commonly abused drugs by 12th graders, after alcohol, marijuana, and tobacco. While past-year nonmedical use of sedatives and tranquilizers decreased among 12th graders over the last 5 years, this is not the case for the nonmedical use of amphetamines or opioid pain relievers.

When asked how prescription opioids were obtained for nonmedical use, more than half of the 12th graders surveyed said they were given the drugs or bought them from a friend or relative. Interestingly, the number of students who purchased opioids over the Internet was negligible.

Youth who abuse prescription medications are also more likely to report use of other drugs. Multiple studies have revealed associations between prescription drug abuse and higher rates of cigarette smoking; heavy episodic drinking; and marijuana, cocaine, and other illicit drug use among adolescents, young adults, and college students in the United States.

Older adults

Persons aged 65 years and older comprise only 13 percent of the population, yet account for more than one-third of total outpatient spending on prescription medications in the United States. Older patients are more likely to be prescribed long-term and multiple prescriptions, and some experience cognitive decline, which could lead to improper use of medications. Alternatively, those on a fixed income may abuse another person’s remaining medication to save money.

The high rates of comorbid illnesses in older populations, age-related changes in drug metabolism, and the potential for drug interactions may make any of these practices more dangerous than in younger populations. Further, a large percentage of older adults also use OTC medicines and dietary supplements, which (in addition to alcohol) could compound any adverse health consequences resulting from prescription drug abuse.

What prescription drugs are commonly abused?

The prescription drugs that are commonly abused in the United States fall into several broad categories: opioids/narcotics/pain relievers, CNS (Central Nervous System) depressants, and stimulants. Individuals abuse these drugs because they are an easily accessible and inexpensive means of altering a user’s mental and physical state; the effects vary depending upon the drugs they abuse.

What are some of the commonly abused prescription drugs?

Although many medications can be abused, the following three classes are most commonly abused:

Opioids—usually prescribed to treat pain;

Central nervous system (CNS) depressants—used to treat anxiety and sleep disorders; and

Stimulants—most often prescribed to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

What are opioids?

Opioids are medications that relieve pain. They reduce the intensity of pain signals reaching the brain and affect those brain areas controlling emotion, which diminishes the effects of a painful stimulus. Medications that fall within this class include hydrocodone (e.g., Vicodin), oxycodone (e.g., OxyContin, Percocet), morphine (e.g., Kadian, Avinza), codeine, and related drugs. Hydrocodone products are the most commonly prescribed for a variety of painful conditions, including dental and injury-related pain. Morphine is often used before and after surgical procedures to alleviate severe pain. Codeine, on the other hand, is often prescribed for mild pain. In addition to their painrelieving properties, some of these drugs—codeine and diphenoxylate (Lomotil) for example—can be used to relieve coughs and severe diarrhea.

Drug Type:

Opioids/Narcotics/Pain Relievers

Common Brand Names:

  • Dilaudid (Dust, Juice, Smack, D, Footballs)
  • Lorcet (Pharmies, Beans, Hydro, Painkillers, Happy Pills)
  • Lortab (Tab, Hydro, Norco, Vikes, Viko)
  • Oxycontin (Hillbilly Heroin, Oxycet, Oxycotton)
  • Oxycodone which includes Percocet, Percodan & Tylox (Percs, Paulas, Roxicotten, Roxi’s, Blue Dynamite, 512s)
  • Vicodin (Happy Pills, Vikes)

What are CNS depressants?

CNS depressants, sometimes referred to as sedatives and tranquilizers, are substances that can slow brain activity. This property makes them useful for treating anxiety and sleep disorders. Among the medications commonly prescribed for these purposes are the following:

Benzodiazepines, such as diazepam (Valium) and alprazolam (Xanax), are sometimes prescribed to treat anxiety, acute stress reactions, and panic attacks. The more sedating benzodiazepines, such as triazolam (Halcion) and estazolam (ProSom) are prescribed for short-term treatment of sleep disorders. Usually, benzodiazepines are not prescribed for longterm use because of the risk for developing tolerance, dependence, or addiction.

Non-benzodiazepine sleep medications, such as zolpidem (Ambien), eszopiclone (Lunesta), and zalepon (Sonata), have a different chemical structure, but act on some of the same brain receptors as benzodiazepines. They are thought to have fewer side effects and less risk of dependence than benzodiazepines.

Barbiturates, such as mephobarbital (Mebaral), phenobarbital (Luminal Sodium), and pentobarbital sodium (Nembutal), are used less frequently to reduce anxiety or to help with sleep problems because of their higher risk of overdose compared to benzodiazepines. However, they are still used in surgical procedures and for seizure disorders.

Drug Type:

  • CNS Depressants
  • Tranquilizers
  • Sedatives

Common Brand Names:

  • Barbiturates which include Amytal, Nembutal, Seconal And Phenobarbital (Barbs, Blue Birds, Phennies, Tooties, Yellows, Reds, Yellow Jackets, Amytal, Downers, Nembutal, Phenobarbital, Red Birds, Red Devils, Seconal, Tuninal)
  • Benzodiazepines which include Ativan, Halcion, Librium, Valium Or Xanax (Candy, Downers, Sleeping Pills, And Tranks)
  • Flunitrazepam which includes Rohypnol (Known as a leading ‘date-rape’ drug, Forget-Me Pill, Mexican Valium, R2, Roche, Roofies, Rope)
  • Ketamine which includes Ketalar (Kat, Valium K, Special K, Vitamin K)

What are stimulants?

As the name suggests, stimulants increase alertness, attention, and energy, as well as elevate blood pressure, heart rate, and respiration. Stimulants historically were used to treat asthma and other respiratory problems, obesity, neurological disorders, and a variety of other ailments. But as their potential for abuse and addiction became apparent, the medical use of stimulants began to wane. Now, stimulants are prescribed to treat only a few health conditions, including ADHD, narcolepsy, and occasionally depression—in those who have not responded to other treatments.

Drug Type:

Stimulants

Common Brand Names:

  • Amphetamines which include Adderall, Dexedrine, Dextrostat, Desoxyn, ProCentra, Vyvanse and Biphetamine (Bennies, Black Beauties, Crosses, Hearts, LA Turnaround, Speed, Truck Drivers, Uppers)
  • Methylphenidate which includes Ritalin (Jif, Mph, R-Ball, Skippy, The Smart Drug, Vitamin R, Kiddy Cocaine, West Coast)

How are prescription drugs abused?

Prescription drugs are abused in a variety of ways. Many of the prescription drugs that are commonly abused are available as tablets. Typically abusers either consume the tablets orally or crush them into a powder, which they then snort. In some instances, abusers dissolve crushed tablets in water and then inject the solution.

How many people suffer adverse health consequences from abusing prescription drugs?

The Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN), which monitors emergency department (ED) visits in selected areas across the Nation, reported that approximately 1 million ED visits in 2009 could be attributed to prescription drug abuse. Roughly 343,000 involved prescription opioid pain relievers, a rate more than double that of 5 years prior. ED visits also more than doubled for CNS stimulants, involved in nearly 22,000 visits in 2009, as well as CNS depressants (anxiolytics, sedatives, and hypnotics), involved in 363,000 visits. Of the latter, benzodiazepines (e.g., Xanax) comprised the vast majority. Rates for a popular prescribed nonbenzodiazepine sleep aid, zolpidem (Ambien), rose from roughly 13,000 in 2004 to 29,000 in 2009. More than half of ED visits for prescription drug abuse involved multiple drugs.

Houston Drug AttorneyOne in five teens nationwide were reported abusing a prescription pain medication and one in ten reported abuse of a prescription stimulant. (The Partnership for a Drug-Free America)

More teens abuse prescription drugs than any other illicit drug, except marijuana—more than cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine combined. (The Partnership for a Drug-Free America)

Local school officials privately express concern about the selling and easy access of prescription drugs in their schools. School administrators, however, are reluctant to speak publicly about the problem.

Experts don’t know exactly why this type of drug abuse is increasing. The availability of drugs is probably one reason. Doctors are prescribing more drugs for more health problems than ever before. Online pharmacies make it easy to get prescription drugs without a prescription, even for youngsters.

Houston Drug Attorney

How are they obtained?

Prescription drugs are obtained in various ways. In some cases, unscrupulous pharmacists or other medical professionals either steal the drugs or sell fraudulent prescriptions. In a process known as doctor shopping, abusers visit several doctors to obtain multiple prescriptions. Individuals also call pharmacies with fraudulent prescription refills, or they alter prescriptions. Prescription drugs occasionally are stolen from pharmacies. Young people typically obtain prescription drugs from peers, friends, or family members. Some individuals who have legitimate prescriptions sell or give away their drugs. Young people also acquire prescription drugs by stealing them from relatives and other individuals with legitimate prescriptions or from school medicine dispensaries.

Is abusing prescription drugs illegal?

Yes, it is illegal to use prescription drugs without a valid prescription or to distribute them. The penalties associated with the abuse or illegal distribution of prescription drugs vary depending upon the drug type.

What are the penalties for possessing illegal prescription drugs in Texas?

Prescription drugs are offered legally through a prescription, however, possession of prescription pills without a legal prescription can land you in jail in Texas.

Sec. 481.115. OFFENSE: POSSESSION OF SUBSTANCE IN PENALTY GROUP 1. (a) Except as authorized by this chapter, a person commits an offense if the person knowingly or intentionally possesses a controlled substance listed in Penalty Group 1, unless the person obtained the substance directly from or under a valid prescription or order of a practitioner acting in the course of professional practice.

Sec. 481.117. OFFENSE: POSSESSION OF SUBSTANCE IN PENALTY GROUP 3. (a) Except as authorized by this chapter, a person commits an offense if the person knowingly or intentionally possesses a controlled substance listed in Penalty Group 3, unless the person obtains the substance directly from or under a valid prescription or order of a practitioner acting in the course of professional practice.

Group 1: Includes Opium, Oxycodone and some Prescription Pills
Weight of Drug
Type of Offense
Punishment
Less than one gram
State jail felony
180 days to 2 yearsin a state jail
1 gram or more, less than 4 grams
Third-degree felony
2 to 10 yearsin a state prison
4 grams or more, but less than 200 grams
Second-degree felony
2 to 20 yearsin a state prison
200 grams or more, but less than 400 grams
First-degree felony
5 to 99 yearsin a state prison
400 grams or more
Enhanced first-degree felony
10 to 99 yearsin a state prison
Group 3 & 4: Many Prescription Pills like Xanax, Valium, Ritalin, & Drug Compounds
Weight of Drug
Type of Offense
Punishment
Less than 28 grams
Class A misdemeanor
Not more than 1 year in a county jail
28 grams or more, but less than 200 grams
Third-degree felony
2 to 10 yearsin a state prison
200 grams or more, but less than 400 grams
Second-degree felony
2 to 20 yearsin a state prison
400 grams or more
EnhancedFirst-degree felony
5 to 99 yearsin a state prison

Possession With Intent to Distribute

Some states have laws making it illegal to be in possession of your own prescription drugs under certain circumstances. Most states have laws that make it illegal to carry around pills that are not in their labeled prescription bottle.

In other words, if you are carrying around pills that your doctor prescribed to you, but have them loose in your pocket or purse, that is illegal. The presumption is that you are carrying them in that manner so that you can distribute them.

Purchasing Prescription Drugs over the Internet

Federal law prohibits buying controlled substances such as narcotic pain relievers (e.g., OxyContin®, Vicodin®), sedatives (e.g., Valium®, Xanax®, Ambien®), stimulants (e.g., phentermine, phendimetrazine, Adderall®, Ritalin®) and anabolic steroids (e.g., Winstrol®, Equipoise®) without a valid prescription from your doctor. This means there must be a real doctor-patient relationship, which by most state laws requires a physical examination. Prescriptions written by “cyber doctors” relying on online questionnaires are not legitimate under the law.

Buying controlled substances online without a valid prescription may be punishable by imprisonment under Federal law. Often drugs ordered from rogue websites come from foreign countries. It is a felony to import drugs into the United States and ship to a non-DEA registrant.

Buying drugs online may not be only illegal, but dangerous. The American Medical Association and state boards of medicine and pharmacy have all condemned the practice of cyber doctors issuing online prescriptions as unacceptable medical care. Drugs delivered by rogue websites may be the wrong drugs, adulterated or expired, the wrong dosage strength, or have no dosage directions or warnings.

Hire the Best Houston Prescription Drugs Attorney: The Charles Johnson Law Firm

Some people believe that crimes that involve prescription drugs are treated less seriously than crimes that involve marijuana, cocaine and other illegal drugs. This is not true, however, and the penalties for prescription drug crimes in Houston can be just as severe as penalties for illegal drug crimes. Depending on the type and amount of drug, the consequences could be significant.

If you have been charged with an offense involving illegal prescription medications, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney who can successfully represent you and protect your rights. Houston Lawyer Charles Johnson has expertly defended prescription drug charges for many years. In many cases he will be able to have your case dismissed entirely. Contact him now for your free consultation.

Houston Lawyer: Arrested For Illegal Prescription Drugs?
by Charles Johnson


Houston Lawyer: Arrested For Illegal Prescription Drugs?

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Houston Criminal Lawyer: Arrested for Ecstasy Possession or Distribution?

Top Houston Criminal Defense Attorney

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
  • Adam
  • Beans
  • Candy
  • Dancing Shoes
  • Disco Biscuits
  • Doves
  • E-bomb
  • Egg Rolls
  • Happy Pill
  • Hug Drug
  • Love Drug
  • Malcolm (or Malcolm X)
  • Scooby Snacks
  • Smartees
  • Sweets
  • Skittles
  • Thizz
  • Vitamin E or Vitamin X
  • Vowels

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
  • Thizzing
  • Flip or Flipping
  • Roll, Rolling
  • Cuddle Puddle, E-Puddle
  • E-tard
  • 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:

Ecstasy - Woodpeck
Ecstasy - Smiley
Ecstasy - Stern
Ecstasy - Woodpeck
Ecstasy - Pinocchi
Ecstasy - Snoopy
Ecstasy - Dino
Ecstasy - Love

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
  • Confusion
  • Depression
  • Sleep problems
  • Severe anxiety
  • Paranoia
  • Drug cravings
  • Muscle tension
  • Faintness and chills or swelling
  • Involuntary teeth clenching
  • Blurred vision
  • Nausea

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
  • Hemorrhaging
  • Psychosis
  • Cardiovascular collapse
  • Convulsions
  • Death

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.

Addictive Potential

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:

  • depression
  • anxiety
  • panic attacks
  • sleeplessness
  • “de-personalization”
  • “de-realization”
  • paranoid delusions

Ecstasy Distribution

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 Charles Johnson
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.


Houston Criminal Lawyer: Arrested for Ecstasy Possession or Distribution?

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Houston Criminal Lawyer: Facing An Arrest For Drug Trafficking?

Recommended Houston Drug Trafficking Lawyer

Drug trafficking is generally referred to as the manufacturing, transporting and distributing of large quantities of drugs. It often involves more than one person. Drug trafficking charges are wide and varied depending on the scope of the trafficking. Additionally, if the drug trafficking was directed towards minors, then prosecutors will seek enhancements to the charges. State and federal governments have adopted strict laws and severe penalties regarding the trafficking of drugs. Penalties can approach seven figures and decades in prison for severe cases. Houston Criminal Lawyer Charles Johnson has proven how to successfully approach and handle these types of cases and he should be contacted immediately when an arrest is made for drug trafficking.

Drug Trafficking is probably the most charged offense in federal court and is also quite prevalent in state courts. Because of the severity of the sentences, evidence and all circumstances and conditions regarding your arrest will be thoroughly examined by the Charles Johnson Law Firm and their team of experienced investigators. Drug trafficking cases can be quite involved, and with the vast amounts of drugs coming in from Mexico, prosecutors are aggressively pursuing convictions.

Types of Drug Trafficking Laws

Drug trafficking laws vary by country and region, but generally include distribution, manufacturing, and dispensing certain categories of controlled substances. Usually, the drugs are classified according to type and the addictive nature of the drug. Highly addictive narcotics like heroin and crack typically fall into one class, while marijuana and prescription drugs are considered less harmful. International drug trafficking laws are commonly handled under customs law.

Possession of drugs with the intent to sell routinely falls under drug trafficking statutes. If someone is found with a large amount of narcotics, it may be presumed that he or she intends to distribute the drugs for money. Different regions determine how much and what kind of drug is considered outside limits for personal use. Penalties for violations of these drug trafficking laws are often based on the quantity of the substance and its type.

Those who manufacture drugs may be charged under drug trafficking laws in most places. These sections of the law typically include possession of chemicals or equipment needed to make the controlled substance. Narcotics laws in each country outline the exact chemicals or equipment considered illegal.

Drug trafficking laws may include a provision that allows law enforcement to seize assets used to commit a crime. For example, if drugs are sold from a house or vehicle, a judge may order that those assets be forfeited to the government. The property is typically sold at a public auction, with the proceeds going to fund narcotics operations.

Almost any scheduled narcotic can qualify for a drug trafficking charge. In state courts the amount of drugs (cocaine, cannabis, extasy, crystal meth, acid, heroine, prescription medication) will determine if a possession charges becomes a trafficking charge. Even if you are only going to used the drugs for your personal consumption, the amount that you possess could bring a trafficking charge. You may also qualify for a distribution charge if it appears that a small amount of drugs was packaged for distribution. Each state is different as to the amount necessary for the trafficking charge. Under the federal statute you can be charged for the amount you have and or the amount you were trying to buy from a government agent. You may never actually possess the drugs, but you will be charged.

Supplying drugs to children or using minors to distribute narcotics generally carries tougher penalties than those that apply to adults. In some areas, maintaining a home for the purpose of making or distributing drugs where children live is also considered a more serious drug trafficking offense. Stiffer sanctions might also be imposed for those who sell drugs near schools, playgrounds, arcades, and other areas where children congregate.

Laws also exist that regulate drug trafficking by criminal gangs or organized groups. Penalties might be enhanced if weapons are used in the distribution of a controlled substance. Those with profits from organized sales of narcotics can also be prosecuted under money laundering statutes in some jurisdictions.

Defenses for Drug Trafficking Charges

Houston Criminal Lawyer Charles Johnson will provide skilled advice and representation to clients facing state or federal drug charges. He is considered an expert when defending against charges related to:

  • Interception of a drug shipment
  • Drug conspiracy charges
  • Interstate drug distribution
  • Undercover interstate trafficking stings
  • Illegal sale and trafficking of prescription drugs
  • Illegal sale and trafficking of cocaine, heroin, marijuana, methamphetamine (meth), MDMA (Ecstasy)

Drug trafficking charges often hinge on the prosecution’s illegal search and seizure of your vehicle, undercover drug operations, and confidential informants who are attempting to make a deal. As an expert lawyer skilled in drug cases, Attorney Johnson will thoroughly investigate how the prosecution came upon the evidence collected and determine if the method of collecting the evidence is in violation of your constitutional rights.

The court will have no choice but to keep any illegally obtained evidence out of trial. Attorney Johnson’s ability to thoroughly investigate drug cases and vigorously challenge the factual and constitutional merits of the prosecution’s case has proven effective in his defense of clients facing drug trafficking charges involving cocaine, heroin, marijuana, methamphetamine (meth) or prescription narcotics.

Even if the police find drugs directly in a person’s possession, the drugs and other evidence could be suppressed (thrown away) if the police did not follow the proper procedures required under the U.S. Constitution. One of the first things Attorney Johnson will look for when defending someone accused of a drug offense is whether the police themselves acted in a legal manner. Other defenses include areas such as whether the actual weight of the substance was correct when allowing for hydration, whether the chemical composition of the substance was correct as charged, whether there was joint or constructive possession of the substance which could subject the case to a Motion to Dismiss and whether the accused was entrapped into committing the offense by law enforcement or one of its informants.

Another possible defense for drug trafficking charges would involve a violation of constitutional right to counsel and right to remain silent. Once charged or in custody, you are required to be informed of your rights and given access to legal representation if you request it. Contact Houston Criminal Lawyer Charles Johnson immediately upon arrest before saying anything that could be used against you in the future. This can often mean the difference between a conviction and walking away free of any charges. You would be surprised at how many cases result in a conviction due largely to statements made by the accused.

Other possible defenses may include:

  • Lack of knowledge
  • Mistake of fact (For example, thinking the drug was sugar when in fact, it was cocaine.)
  • Duress (For example, if Bob was forced to transport the cocaine because if he refused, something bad would happen to his family.)
  • The substance was not intended for human consumption

Lastly, Attorney Johnson will determine if inappropriate charges were filed. Drug trafficking is a highly political issue, and you may find yourself facing inflated charges. The right attorney can insure that any charges you do face are appropriate to the acts alleged by the prosecutor.

At the Charles Johnson Law Firm, we have the experience and know-how to guide you through this complicated process from the moment of your arrest through trial, if necessary.

The defense of drug-related crimes can be difficult and complex and requires an attorney with special skills, experience and knowledge. Houston Criminal Lawyer Charles Johnson is highly qualified to defend your case. Whether it is identifying a drug addiction issue so that we may assist in getting them treatment or counseling, negotiating a fair resolution in an effort to have charges or a sentence reduced or preparing and taking a case to trial, the Best Houston Criminal Lawyer is available to assist and defend you.

As an extremely experienced criminal lawyer specializing in drug cases at both the Federal and State level, Houston Criminal Lawyer Charles Johnson is well aware of the strategies, theories and methods employed by prosecutors when they prosecute a drug case. Attorney Johnson will use this knowledge to his client’s advantage while defending their cases to get the best possible outcome on their behalf.

We are proud to represent and care about our clients. We know the devastation that a drug conviction, an addiction or incarceration for a drug offense can bring to an individual or his/her family. We will answer your questions and guide you through the whole process, working to take away some of the confusion and uncertainty that comes along any drug offense charge, while all along seeking the most favorable outcome for you or your loved one.

Drug Trafficking by Criminal Gangs

There are nearly 1 million active gang members in the United States, based on analysis of federal, state, and local data, and the involvement of criminal gangs in domestic drug trafficking is becoming increasingly complex. Since 2001, many gangs have advanced beyond their traditional role as local retail drug distributors in large cities to become more organized, adaptable, deliberate, and influential in large-scale drug trafficking. Much of their growing influence has come at the expense of local independent dealers and small local criminal groups who cannot compete with gangs that establish control in smaller drug markets.

The influence of Hispanic and African American street gangs is expanding as these gangs gain greater control over drug distribution in rural and suburban areas and acquire drugs directly from Drug Trafficking Organizations (“DTOs”) in Mexico or along the Southwest Border.

In 2009, midlevel and retail drug distribution in the United States was dominated by more than 900,000 criminally active gang members representing approximately 20,000 domestic street gangs in more than 2,500 cities. These street gangs vary greatly with respect to their ethnic or racial identities, the types and amounts of drugs that they distribute, their strength and influence, and their adaptability. Their prevalence varies geographically, with the greatest concentration of street gangs occurring in the Great Lakes, Pacific, Southeast, and Southwest Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) Regions.

Many Hispanic and, to a lesser extent, African American gangs are gaining control over drug distribution outside urban areas that were previously supplied by local independent dealers or small local criminal groups. Around 2007, Hispanic and African American gangs throughout the country, but especially in the Southwest and Great Lakes Regions, began to command greater influence over drug distribution in many rural and suburban areas. This trend continued in 2009. For example, in 2009, the Avenues street gang based in Los Angeles, California, expanded its operations to distribute drugs in suburban and rural locations throughout southern California.

To increase their control over drug trafficking in smaller markets, street gangs have been increasingly acquiring larger wholesale quantities of drugs at lower prices directly from DTOs in Mexico and along the Southwest Border. Several Southwest Border street gangs, such as Shelltown 38th Street, Tri-City Bombers, and Vallucos, smuggle wholesale quantities of drugs obtained in Mexico into the United States. By purchasing directly from Mexican wholesale sources in Mexico or along the Southwest Border, gangs throughout the country realize cost savings that enable them to sell drugs at lower prices than local independent dealers in small communities, driving these dealers out of business. For example, members of the Chicago-based Latin Kings street gang who operate in Midland, Texas, purchase cocaine from Mexican traffickers in south Texas for $16,000 to $18,000 per kilogram, compared with $25,000 to $35,000 per kilogram from wholesale traffickers in Chicago. With this savings, the gang undersells other local dealers who do not have the capacity to buy large wholesale quantities directly from Mexican DTOs in Mexico or along the Southwest Border.

Hispanic prison gangs, primarily in Southwest Border states, are gaining strength by working directly with Mexican DTOs to acquire wholesale quantities of drugs and by controlling most street gangs in areas along the Southwest Border.

Prison gangs are active in all 50 states and are increasing their influence over drug trafficking in areas along the Southwest Border (see Table B4 in Appendix B). Prior to 2001, the criminal influence of prison gangs was limited primarily to retail-level drug distribution. However, since that time, Hispanic prison gangs have become increasingly involved in the transportation and wholesale distribution of drugs.

Hispanic prison gangs such as Hermanos de Pistoleros Latinos (HPL) and Raza Unida operating in Southwest Border states have increased their involvement in wholesale drug distribution activities through cooperative relationships with Mexican DTOs. Through these relationships, Hispanic prison gangs are able to gain access to wholesale quantities of drugs. For example, in September 2009, 21 members of HPL were convicted in the Southern District of Texas (Houston) of conspiring to distribute more than 150 kilograms of cocaine and laundering millions of dollars in drug proceeds. In April 2009, 15 members and associates of the Raza Unida prison gang were indicted for trafficking multikilogram quantities of cocaine and methamphetamine weekly in McAllen and Houston, Texas.

To ensure a consistent profit stream from the wholesale drugs that they purchase from Mexican DTOs, Hispanic prison gangs distribute drugs through street gangs that they largely, if not entirely, control. Through force or intimidation, Hispanic prison gangs exercise significant control over local gangs that distribute their drugs in the Southwest Border region. For example, Barrio Azteca prison gang members operating in El Paso, Texas, collect drug payments and taxes from 47 street-level gangs and independent drug dealers trafficking drugs in El Paso.

Potential Penalties for Drug Trafficking

The penalties for drug trafficking offenses vary and depend on a number of factors. These include the type and amount of illegal drugs (also called “controlled substances”) found in a person’s possession, whether the person is a repeat offender and the state in which the person is charged.

Drug trafficking or distribution in Texas is a felony upon which a wide range of penalties may be imposed. It may be anywhere from a state jail felony, which carries the lightest sentence, to a first degree felony, which carries the harshest. The factors influencing which sentence will be imposed are: (1) the amount of the drug being distributed or delivered; and (2) the type of drug and which of the four groups of drugs it is classified under. The smaller the amount of a drug in a certain group, the lighter the sentence may be.

Texas has some very heavy penalties for drug trafficking. Prosecutors may often offer plea deals to defendants where they may offer a charge with a lesser penalty in exchange for information that would help them gather evidence for a higher priority investigation.

The sentences involved may range anywhere from 180 days to two years in state jail and/or a fine of no more than $10,000 for a state jail felony, to life in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice or a term of 15 to 99 years in prison and/or a fine of not more than $250,000 for the heaviest first degree felony. The harshness of the sentence imposed depends on how much of the drug is being trafficked. For example, trafficking or distributing less than one gram of a substance in the first grouping of drugs carries a state jail felony charge, whereas trafficking 400 grams or more of any one of the same drugs carries a first degree felony charge that may include a life sentence.

At the Federal level, the Controlled Substances Act (PL 91-513, 1970, last amended in 2000) provides penalties for the unlawful manufacture, distribution, and dispensing (or trafficking) of controlled substances, based on the schedule (rank) of the drug or substance. Generally, the more dangerous the drug and the larger the quantity involved, the stiffer the penalty. Trafficking of heroin, cocaine, LSD, and PCP, all Schedule I or II drugs (see Table 2.1 in Chapter 2), includes mandatory jail time and fines. A person caught selling at least five hundred grams but less than five kilograms of cocaine powder (seventeen ounces to just under eleven pounds) will receive a minimum of five years in prison and may be fined up to $2 million for a first offense. (See Table 6.1.) The same penalty is imposed for the sale of five to forty-nine grams of cocaine base (“crack”). Five grams are equal to the weight of six plain M&Ms candies, and forty-nine grams are a little more than a bag of M&Ms candies (47.9 grams). The high penalty for selling crack is an expression of the unusual severity with which legislators are trying to curb the use of this drug.

Penalties double with the second offense to ten years in prison and up to $4 million in fines. When higher quantities are involved (five or more kilograms of cocaine powder, fifty grams or more of crack, etc.), penalties for the first offense are ten years, and fines up to $4 million may be levied. For the second offense, twenty years and up to $8 million in fines are given, and the third offense results in mandatory life imprisonment. These examples are for an individual. Higher penalties apply if an organized group is involved or if a death or injury is associated with the arrest event.

These penalties apply also to the sale of fentanyl (a powerful painkiller medicine) or like-acting drugs, heroin, LSD, methamphetamine, and PCP. The smallest amount, which can earn someone a minimum sentence of five years in prison and a fine of up to $2 million, involves trafficking in LSD, where a one-gram amount carries a five-year minimum sentence in prison.

Special penalties exist for marijuana trafficking, since it may be traded in large quantities or grown in substantial amounts. The lower the amounts sold or the fewer the plants grown, the lower the sentence. A person cultivating one to forty-nine plants or selling less than fifty kilograms of marijuana mixture, ten kilograms or less of hashish, or one kilogram or less of hashish oil may get a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000. Sentences for second offenses involving large amounts of marijuana may earn the trafficker up to life imprisonment.

The penalties for drug trafficking are harsh, and reflect the seriousness of this felony offense and the current political climate. A conviction can lead to jail time, forfeiture of property and fines, but that is only part of the story. It places your current employment in jeopardy, places a severe emotional strain on you and your family, adversely affects your ability to find new work, and places your entire future at risk.

Hire the Best Houston Drug Trafficking Lawyer: The Charles Johnson Law Firm

A drug trafficking conviction can have an extremely adverse effect on a person’s current and future life in many regards. Both state and federal prosecutors have their eye on a conviction of the most severe charges possible and not on your rights. Houston Criminal Lawyer Charles Johnson will work diligently with prosecutors regarding any circumstances or conditions that could result in charges being dropped or reduced. If necessary, our firm can take your case to court and present a strong defense on your behalf.

The Charles Johnson Law Firm expertly handles all types of Texas drug-related offenses, from the less severe, like simple possession of a small amount of certain drugs, to the more serious ones, such as participating in an organized drug trafficking business with sale, distribution and manufacturing activities. We also defend charges involving controlled substances, such as, marijuana, crack, paraphernalia, cocaine, heroin, ecstasy, methamphetamines (meth), hallucinogens such as LSD, oxycontin, oxycodone, hydrocode, xanax, and Rohypnol club drugs. We represent all levels of people charged with drug offenses, from the student or small time person, to the professional, medical doctor or person accused of being a large scale distributor or trafficker.

If you have been arrested for drug trafficking in Houston, TX, take fast action with a skilled and resourceful Houston Criminal Lawyer. Contact the Charles Johnson Law Firm immediately anytime night or day for a free phone consultation to discuss your case.

 can be reached 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Call us at 713-222-7577 or toll free at 877-308-0100.
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Houston Criminal Lawyer: Facing An Arrest For Drug Trafficking?

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We can be reached 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Call us at 713-222-7577 or toll free at 877-308-0100.
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