The War on Drugs is like a bonfire in Texas, and each session of the Legislature pours more gasoline on the fire. Texas Drug Policy needs drastic reform from the top down. Our state’s drug laws defy reason, and the so-called Drug War has failed utterly. Our society is not any safer, and we have too many non-violent offenders serving absurdly long sentences in dark isolation.
Until our state reforms its drug policy, hiring an experienced and capable defense attorney may be the only way to spare the accused from the callous harm and ruin of our criminal justice system.
The Law Office of Phillip W. Goff provides excellent legal defense for those accused of any drug-related offense. Hire only the best. Your future may depend on it.
Texas Marijuana Possession Policy
Texas forbids people to possess any quantity of marijuana. If marijuana was harmful, our hospitals would be overflowing with victims. In fact, the contrary is true. Marijuana users are conspicuously absent from hospital admissions and emergency rooms.
Ironically, we allow people to possess and smoke tobacco in large quantities, causing nearly 500,000 deaths per year. Alcohol kills almost 90,000 people a year; this pales by comparison with the collateral consequences of alcohol abuse, which easily harms millions of people in substantial ways.
So why are small quantities of marijuana forbidden? Few of us would have been alive when Prohibition was in effect. In those days, the Federal government outlawed the consumption, sale, and transport of alcohol. It was repealed in 1933. Now we are living in an era of Marijuana Prohibition in the State of Texas, and the laws here unfairly target minorities. Black and Hispanic people are disproportionately targeted for enforcement and represent an overwhelming proportion of our prison and jail populations.
Policy should be focused on violent traffickers, not end users. A handful of kingpins pull strings, amass billions, and our government turns a blind eye.
When someone in desperate financial circumstances transports a trivial amount of drugs, the government will incarcerate them with serious felons. The punishment is harsh. Until voters force change, a skilled defense attorney may be your only buffer against the cruel and impassionate excesses of our criminal justice system.
Marijuana should be legal to possess and use recreationally; Marijuana Prohibition should end. No demonstrable harm is caused to the user, and marijuana causes no violent, malicious behavior towards others. Over 13% of Americans willingly admit to using marijuana. There can be mild harm in other ways, and while not addictive like cigarettes and alcohol, the humane and rational approach is to provide medical treatment and counseling to those who seek it.
To many prosecutors, drug users are culpable for any crime. “In every prosecutor’s office, drug cases make up a significant portion of the workload. Everyone in law enforcement knows that the use and distribution of drugs is the root cause of many other offenses we handle, and dealing effectively with these cases directly impacts the community’s safety and well-being and reduces the number of other offenses.”
A powerful tool assists prosecutors in their quest for a harsh prison term for drug offenders: an affirmative finding that the offense was committed in a drug-free zone (DFZ). The DFZ finding can, in many cases, rival a deadly weapon finding in effectiveness.
Drug Free Zones
A drug free zone is loosely and very broadly defined. A significant portion of many communities fall within the definition. Schools, day care centers, playgrounds, churches, and many other places are considered drug free zones. The consequences are extreme.
Irrationality is the cornerstone of this law. It is based upon the hypothetical, wild-eyed drug pusher on school grounds enticing innocent school kids into a destructive habit, thus destroying their lives. Realistically, it means something much different.
Whether the school is in session or children are present is not a legal consideration, so it’s not about protecting school children.
Arbitrary boundary lines decide the fate of thousands of people convicted, and no one in the legal system questions whether the Drug Free Zone statute has helped to reduce violent crime.
The person charged could have simply been driving past a church school, completely unaware of the fact the school was located there. A petty pot dealer who happens to live in an apartment located near a playground, selling only to adults and in small quantities, can be charged under the law, even though he never once set foot on the school campus to “hook” unsuspecting youngsters on pot.
Being within 1,000 feet of a school or daycare facility is a legal reason to increase the punishment without good conduct time in the first 5 years of incarceration. Instead of being eligible for parole in 1/4 of their sentence, a sentence of up to 5 years could mean the entire sentence must be served. For example, a person with a 15-year sentence for drug possession could be released before a person charged with a drug free zone enhancement with a four-year sentence. While the law was meant to protect kids from drug pushers at their schools, it has only proven to be an easy way to increase punishment for routine drug cases.
Getting “Caught” Doesn’t Mean You’re Guilty
The Government Makes Mistakes
Drug cases frequently are not as clear-cut as people think. Illegal police tactics, as well as routine law enforcement mistakes, could improve the outcome of your case. Warrantless searches may have been improper. Even searches authorized by a warrant could have been illegal. The reason you were stopped in the first place may have violated your Constitutional rights. Consent to search could have been coerced or otherwise illegally induced. How and where drugs were found could determine whether the evidence should be thrown out.
If evidence was illegally obtained, it may be excluded from evidence in your trial as a way to discourage police from violating other people’s rights. This is known as the “Exclusionary Rule”.
Arrest Does NOT Equal “Guilty”
Many people believe the system will pronounce them guilty, regardless of the veracity of the charges. They may feel that they have no chance at being vindicated, simply because they believe the word of a police officer is more trusted than their own. In fact, the opposite is often true. The government’s burden also includes proving you knew or intended to possess drugs. Sometimes, the proof for this is tenuous, at best.
One common scenario is when police find a single marijuana joint inside a car during a traffic stop. Police often arrest every person in the car for possession of marijuana. Even if the innocent people in the car have their cases dismissed, their arrest records remain. To clear up their criminal records, they must file a lawsuit to erase or destroy the records, a procedure known as expunction or expungement. Police are not the least bit concerned about this serious harm.
Police often ask someone to “take responsibility”. They use this threatening tactic to coerce a confession. This tactic may be employed because they have insufficient “affirmative links” to any particular person to show knowledge or intent to possess.
Possession of a Drug
Possession is defined as exercising care, custody, or control. Possession can be actual, such as holding a joint in your hand. Possession can also be constructive. An example of constructive possession is having an ounce of marijuana in the trunk of your car. Your control over the vehicle establishes possession.
However, possession itself is not enough. The state must prove you possessed it knowingly or intentionally. If you borrowed a friend’s jacket, and there was a marijuana joint in the pocket, but you didn’t know it was there, you are not guilty of possession of marijuana. It is the state’s burden to prove you knowingly or intentionally possessed it.
Affirmative links establish a connection between the drugs found and a person. For example, if you own the car where the drugs are found, your ownership of the car can be considered an affirmative link to you and the drugs. Location of the drugs in the car matter, as well. Marijuana in plain view within inches of your hand is different than marijuana found under the last bench seat of a large vehicle in a small, locked box with someone else’s name on it.
Many facts may establish affirmative links, and they may be considered together for stronger effect. If you own the car, the drugs are in plain sight, the drugs are within your reach, and they are next to your personalized smartphone cover, these affirmative links combine to strengthen the state’s case against you.
Ultimately, a jury gets to determine what is sufficient to convict you. The state must prove every element of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt. Much of your success depends upon the skill, knowledge, and experience of the criminal defense attorney defending you. A great criminal defense attorney will dissect the state’s case and identify improper police tactics and invoke the exclusionary rule.
Legal Effects of Drug Possession Cases
The legal effects of a drug conviction can last a lifetime. A drug possession charge from your youth in Corpus Christi can produce collateral consequences in addition to the punishment received. Incarceration, probation, and fines are just the beginning of how you will be treated.
You may not realize it, but your drug possession case could lead to denial of federal benefits, public housing, student financial aid, deportation, acceptance as a tenant, admission into certain schools, being banned from many jobs, and loss of your driver’s license.
Being branded as a criminal drug user also lasts a lifetime. It is critical for you to choose your Corpus Christi criminal defense lawyer wisely. The ultimate disposition of your case is critical.
End The War on Drugs in Texas
The War on Drugs is the biggest encroachment against constitutional rights ever. By creating exception after exception, our courts have eroded our rights, and judges are to blame for being on board with the War on Drugs. Gross violations of peoples’ rights are excused for a concocted threat. Fortunately, some of our constitutional protections have survived, and a jury can even overrule a judge’s ruling to allow evidence. Juries can even find people “not guilty” simply because they disapprove of the charge being brought to court, and there is no law to punish jurors for doing so.
Drug addiction is a health issue, not a criminal one. Literally millions of lives are ruined by the governments’ efforts to criminalize a health problem, rather than trying to help the people involved. Some problems are imagined or inflated by government officials and politicians to the point of absurdity. It is time to end The War on Drugs. It is time to legalize Marijuana and reform our other drug laws. It is time to treat drug abusers not as felons, but as people suffering from a health problem.