Texas Drug Charges & Penalties + Statute Of Limitations

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Texas has very strict laws when it comes to the possession, trafficking, distribution and manufacturing of controlled substances and narcotics. In most cases, people face fines, custodial sentences, probation and loss of driver’s license.

The information below should serve as a general guideline only, as the drug charges laws in Texas are subject to change. Most violations come under the Texas Penal Code, the Health and Safety Code and the Texas Controlled Substances Act. However, various parts of these laws and acts are used in different ways, depending on the judge and the circumstances of the case.

Texas Laws and Penalties

  • Possession of controlled substances – a fine of up to $250,000 and/or a jail term of up to 99 years. The minimum jail term is 180 days.
  • Manufacturing or delivery of controlled substances – a fine of up to $250,000 and/or a jail term of up to 99 years. The minimum jail term is 180 days.
  • Possession of marijuana – a fine of up to $250,000 and/or a jail term of up to 99 years. The minimum jail term is 180 days.
  • Delivery of marijuana – a fine of up to $100,000 and/or a jail term of up to 99 years. The minimum jail term is 180 days.
  • Possession of drugs under federal law – a fine of up to $5,000 plus investigation costs and/or a jail term of up to 20 years.
  • Manufacturing, distribution and dispensing of drugs under federal law – a fine of up to $8,000,000 and/or up to life imprisonment with the possibility of parole.
  • Distribution of drugs to those under the age of 21 – between two and three times the penalty under federal law.

Cocaine Possession and Related Crimes in Texas

One of the most common drug possession crimes in Texas is for cocaine. Per the Texas Health and Safety Code 481.115, it is illegal to possess any quantity of cocaine. You must have possessed the cocaine knowingly and intentionally. As with all other illegal drugs, if you can prove that you did not know or intend to possess the drug, you can avoid conviction.

The punishment for possessing cocaine depends upon how much you have. Possession of less than one gram of the drug is a state jail felony. The range of sentence for a state jail felony is six months to two years in prison. It also is possible that you could receive deferred adjudication or regular probation for this small amount of cocaine. Also, if you were never convicted of a felony in the past and have been accused of state jail cocaine possession, you must receive probation under state law.

Possession of one to four grams of cocaine is a third degree felony. Between four and 200 grams is a second degree felony and between 200 and 400 grams is a first degree felony. If you have more than 400 grams of cocaine in Texas, you will receive a sentence between 10 and 99 years, and up to $100,000 in fines.

If you are convicted of delivering cocaine under Texas law, you can receive 180 days to two years in jail for less than a gram of the drug. If you are found delivering more than 400 grams, you can receive life in prison, or from 15 to 99 years and a fine of $250,000.

If convicted of manufacturing cocaine, you can receive 180 to two years in jail for manufacturing less than one gram, and up to life in prison for manufacturing more than 400 grams of cocaine.

There also are possible enhancement to penalties for cocaine related crimes in Texas. It will depend upon where the crime took place and if it was conducted for money. Activities with cocaine that take place on school grounds or within 1000 feet of said property can increase the elevation of the felony offense by one level. This can lead to higher prison sentences and fines.

Marijuana Possession in Texas

If you possess less than two ounces of marijuana in Texas, this is a Class B misdemeanor, and you can receive up to 180 days in jail and a fine of $2000. If you possess two to four ounces of marijuana, you may receive one year in jail and a fine of $4000. Possessing more than four ounces elevates the crime to a felony in this state. For possessing up to five pounds, you can get 180 days to two years in jail and fine of $10,000. For 50 to 2,000 pounds, you will get a fine of $10,000 and jail time from two to 20 years.

Texas Drug Charges Penalties

Texas has a no tolerance attitude when it comes to drugs and it enforces harsh penalties. There are minimum and maximum sentences, depending on the amount of drugs are involved in the crime. The sentence is much harsher if a person under the age of 21 is involved in receiving the drugs.

Texas Drug Charge Defenses

If you have been charged with drug possession in Texas, either for your personal use or with intent to sell, your Texas criminal defense attorney can determine the most likely successful defenses if you plead not guilty. Drug possession defenses are fairly universal regardless of the state in which the alleged crime occurred. Some defenses may challenge the facts of the case, evidence and testimony. Others may look at possible procedural errors. Others could challenge the charges based upon an affirmative defense, such as the right to legally use medical marijuana in some states.

Details of defenses for drug possession charges are as follows:

Unlawful Search and Seizure

The US Constitution guarantees you the right to due process of law. This includes the right to lawful search and seizure procedures during the arrest process. Search and seizure problems are very common in Texas drug possession cases. Illegal drugs that are in plain view in a vehicle, such as on the dashboard after a legal police stop, can be seized and entered into evidence. But drugs that are in the trunk of a car after after it is opened with a crowbar, if the suspect did not provide permission, cannot be put into evidence. If the Fourth Amendment rights of the person were violated, then the drugs may not be used as evidence in the trial.

Drugs Belong to Another Party

A common line of defense for any crime charge, including drug crimes, is that the property in question belongs to someone else. In some cases, the drugs could belong to another party. You could claim you did not know they were in your car or apartment. A good defense attorney may put pressure on prosecutors to prove that the drugs found in your car actually belonged to you and not someone else. The prosecution must be able to show beyond a reasonable doubt that the drugs were yours.

Crime Lab Mistakes

Just because it looks like an illegal substance does not mean it is. The prosecution must show that the substance that was seized is an illegal drug by sending the sample to a crime lab to be analyzed. The analyst must then offer testimony in court that the substance in question is an illegal narcotic. There have been cases in other states where a crime lab made mistakes in drug testing and some of the samples could no longer be entered into evidence. These problems have caused some sentences to be thrown out.

Drugs Are Missing

A strong defense attorney will ensure that prosecutors will actually produce the drugs for which you are being charged. It is not uncommon for prosecutors to lose or lack the drugs for which you are being charged. Seized drugs can be transferred several times before ending up in the locker where state evidence is stored. So it should not be assumed that the drug evidence is in existence until the trial takes place.


Law enforcement in Texas can set up a sting operation, but entrapment may occur when the police officer induces you to commit a crime that you would not have otherwise committed. If the informant encourages you to pass drugs to another person, this could be looked at as entrapment. Generally, entrapment has occurred when the state is providing the drugs that are being bought or sold.

Other possible defenses to drug possession charges in Texas are:

  • The drug in your possession is a prescription from a licensed medical professional.
  • The drug was not in a large enough quantity to make the arrest a valid one.
  • You were in possession of a drug that was not going to be consumed by a person
  • The drug has an approved new drug application per the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act

Statute of Limitations in Texas

The statute of limitations exist to ensure criminals are trialed within a set period of time. Almost all charges have a statute of limitation, with the exception of manslaughter, murder, sexual assault, offenses against children, leaving the scene of an accident that resulted in death and trafficking people. The statute of limitation for drug charges varies. If it is a “victimless” crime, which would be the case under a possession charge for instance, the statute of limitations is three years. If, however, the charge involves supplying a controlled substance to a minor, the statute of limitation does not apply. Furthermore, it is important to understand that the statute of limitation can be officially tolled or suspended if the alleged perpetrator is out of state, in prison or otherwise unable to stand trial.

Key Texas Drug Charge Cases

  • Texas-Palm Beach County cocaine route busted; 8 facing federal charges – Eight people from Texas and Florida have been arrested on federal drug charges. They are currently in custody. The group was known as the Alvarez-Diaz Organization and they are alleged to have moved as much as 200kg of cocaine across the border into Palm Beach County each and every month.
  • DNA Match helps solve brutal code case rape – Donald R. Shores was recently arrested in Temple, Texas on a drug charge. Upon collecting his DNA, it was found that he was a match for a crime of violence and aggravated sexual assault some 20 years earlier. The rape case had gone cold, but thanks to the drug charge, he will now be able to stand trial.
  • Suspect In Deadly Stabbing Has Drug Charges Added To Case – Brock Atkins, 19, has been accused of stabbing a woman to death. In a separate case, he has also been charged with felony possession of drug paraphernalia for cocaine or meth. The prosecutor’s office has decided to combine both of the charges together. Atkins has plead not guilty to both charges.
  • Man gets 40 years in South Texas drugs, guns case – Arnoldo Lopez, 25, has been handed down a 40 year prison sentence for selling crack cocaine and smuggling guns for a Mexican drug cartel. Upon his arrest, drugs, guns and assault rifles were confiscated. Lopez pleaded guilty to all charge. For his drug charge – conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine – Lopez received a 35 year sentence. Additionally, as he was in possession of a firearm during his arrest, he received a further five years. He was also charged with making false statements while buying firearms on six different occasions, for which he receive a further five years. This sentence will run concurrent.