Serious Sentences for Drug Offenses

Texas drug related crimes are increasingly prevalent. With the rising rates of addiction and increased access to illicit substances, crimes and penalties related to both drug possession and distribution have likewise been on the rise. This means, if one is facing charges related to a drug offense one could also be looking at some substantial penalties from that charge.

Drug laws and sentencing vary widely from state to state. For instance, penalties for a charge of simple possession can range from a small fine or a few days in jail, to up to several years in State prison, depending on the jurisdiction. In general, penalties for simple possession offenses tend to be less then those for intent to distribute, distribution and trafficking offenses.

Federal law enacted mandatory minimum sentences for many drug offenses. These sentencing laws were designed to target high-level drug distributors, but nevertheless had a significant impact on low-level drug users and offenders.

Many states have adopted similar mandatory minimum sentencing laws for drug offenses. Under these laws, a sentence is set based on the type of drug, drug weight and any prior convictions. These criteria alone will determine the sentence with no other factors being considered, and the court has no discretion in fashioning a different sentence.

As an alternative approach to the drug problem, many states have implemented what are known as drug courts. These are special courts for felony, usually repeat, drug offenders, which aim to rehabilitate, rather then punish these offenders. A person in drug court usually spends 12 to 15 months in treatment, while being under supervision and regularly reporting to the court. Failure to comply with the program may result in imposition of a jail sentence.

Where no mandatory minimum sentence applies, courts can consider a variety of aggravating or mitigating factors in fashioning a sentence for a drug offense. The prosecutor may also consider reducing charges or suggesting a lesser sentence in cases where they seek a defendant’s cooperation, or a defendant demonstrates that he/she is actively engaged in treatment.

While drug charges can carry significant penalties, there are often options for defending against these charges, as well as trying to get a reduced sentence. One should always consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney if they are facing drug charges.

Source: Findlaw.com, “Drug Possession Penalties & Sentencing,” accessed March 20, 2018.

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