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Texas Drug Trafficking / Distribution Laws

Overview of Texas Drug Trafficking/Distribution Laws

Drug trafficking (distributing or delivering illicit drugs) is a violation of the Texas Controlled Substances Act. A person may be found guilty of drug trafficking if he or she is proven to have knowingly delivered marijuana or any other illicit or controlled substance in any of the four groups of drugs defined and listed in the Texas Controlled Substances Act. (Marijuana is classified separately under this law.)

Example: If Bob was transporting a truck full of what he thought was sugar (and it could be proven that he truly believed it was sugar), but it turned out to be cocaine, he would not be found to have knowledge, and therefore, may not be convicted of drug trafficking. However, if Bob decided he would haul some cocaine to his friend in Houston, he would have knowledge and therefore, Bob could face being charged with drug trafficking.

Defenses to Drug Trafficking/Distribution Charges

  • 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

There is some crossover between drug trafficking and drug possession with respect to defenses.

Penalties and Sentences

Texas drug trafficking or distribution laws charge the crime as a felony upon which a wide gamut 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.

Texas Drug Trafficking/Distribution Laws: Statute

Texas Controlled Substances Act (Health and Safety Code, Title 6, Subtitle C, Chapter 481, Section 481.112 - 481.114)

Note: State laws are constantly changing -- please contact a Texas criminal attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

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