As part of the “war on drugs,” the District Attorney’s Office for Tarrant County and the Tarrant County Sheriff’s Department have begun focusing heavily on investigating and prosecuting drug-related crimes. If you believe you are under investigation for a drug crime or have already been arrested, you need to consult with a skilled drug crimes attorney immediately to discuss your options. Drug convictions not only result in prison time, fines, and parole but may also limit your ability to obtain government benefits, seek employment, attend school, and file for child custody or visitation. It is imperative that you seek the experienced and knowledgeable guidance of a Fort Worth drug crimes lawyer who understands how to tailor a defense strategy to the unique facts of your case.
I strive to provide all clients with a comprehensive and personalized approach to drug crimes and charges. This involves keeping clients fully informed and updated, analyzing the facts and evidence from every cognizable avenue, aggressively defending against all allegations, and ensuring that my clients’ constitutional rights are protected. Prior to opening my boutique drug crimes defense law firm, I worked as a prosecutor for the District Attorney’s Office in Collin and Tarrant Counties. Over the years, I have gained a profound understanding of the Texas court system, the Texas Penal Code, and most importantly – how Texas judges and juries approach testimony and evidence. I provide all prospective clients with a free initial consultation. Call the Fulgham Law Firm at (817) 886-3078 to learn about my unique style of representation and to discuss possible strategies and defenses.
Common Tarrant County Drug Crimes
Drug crimes can be felonies or misdemeanors depending upon the activity, type of drug, and amount of drug. Drug crimes are classified into three categories: possession, delivery, and manufacturing. The Texas Penal Code defines the various drug crimes.
- Possession: The knowing or intentional possession of a controlled substance. There are two types of possession: (1) actual possession– direct, physical possession, such as in the pocket or hand and (2) constructive possession – the drugs are in a place under the custody and control of the individual, such as home or car.
- Delivery: The knowing or intentional transfer of a controlled substance from one person to another. Delivery encompasses drug sales, trafficking, distribution, transfer, and gifts.
- Manufacturing: The growing, production or preparation of a controlled substance. Manufacturing can involve simply harvesting marijuana, mixing chemicals, or purchasing or possessing chemicals commonly used to create controlled substances such as methamphetamine.
What Is a Controlled Substance?
The Texas Controlled Substances Act of the Texas Health and Safety Code enumerates which drugs are banned in the state of Texas. In addition to controlled substances, drug paraphernalia and counterfeit substances are also illegal in Texas. Drug paraphernalia includes tools used to sell, deliver, or consume drugs such as pipes, bongs, or scales. Counterfeit substances are non-controlled substances that are disguised as and marketed as controlled substances.
Common controlled substances in Texas include street drugs such as:
Prescription medications can become controlled substances when the individual does not possess a valid prescription. These pharmaceutical drugs include:
- Painkillers such as Oxycontin
- Depressants such as Xanax
- Sleeping pills like Lunesta and Ambien
- Stimulants for ADHD like Adderall
Defending Against Texas Drug Crimes Requires a Lawyer with a Background in Possession, Delivery, and Manufacturing
Drug crimes in Fort Worth are unfortunately often associated with 4th and 5th Amendment violations by the police and prosecutor. Following a stint with the District Attorney’s Office, I have developed a keen eye for spotting constitutional issues involving illegal stops, pat-downs, and search warrants. For assistance with determining whether your rights have been violated, call me at the Fulgham Law Firm now at (817) 886-3078.T IN
Probable Cause Questions on Your TX Drug Charge? Read This!
Anyone who has watched a police show on television or seen a movie has heard the term “probable cause.” However, it probably does not have a lot of impact on your life until it is being used against you.
Of course, something as important as probable cause in the criminal justice system has undergone quite a bit of scrutiny.
In a federal court case, the United States v. Christian, for instance, the accused attempted to parse the collective facts out individually and challenge each one to prove there was no probable cause to search his home.
Unfortunately, the court dismissed his challenge to the search warrant because that’s not how probable cause works. In fact, the Supreme Court of the United States expressly forbids what his legal team did, evaluating each element of the reasoning for the warrant line-by-line.
You may not be a high-stakes drug trafficker like the one in this case, but law enforcement’s explanation of probable cause can still play a big role in a case against you.
Learn more here about what it is and how the court determines whether there was probable cause in your case or not so that, together, you can build your strongest defense.
Probable Cause: What Is It?
Under the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States, you are protected as a citizen against unreasonable search and seizures. The Texas Constitution also protects you. Of course, therefore probable cause exists.
The police are required to have probable cause before you are subjected to a valid search or seizure. The interpretation by the courts of this is that every arrest, detention, search, or seizure of people or property must be supported by probable cause for it to be valid.
So, what is a reasonable cause? In Texas, it is a combination of circumstances and facts that lead a law enforcement officer to think that a crime is being committed or would be committed. That can mean they directly observed the circumstances or facts that lead to the arrest or search.
Probable cause is a vital element to any type of arrest, which is why it’s vital to ensure that your Fourth Amendment rights have been upheld and probable cause had been established.
Probable Cause Determined by the Court
There are typically three times when probable cause comes into play: prior to making an arrest, after an arrest has been made, or after charges have been filed.
Prior to Making an Arrest
In some cases, police will get a warrant before making an arrest. In this case, the Fourth Amendment requirement involving probable cause is satisfied. In cases without a warrant, a judge will need to determine if probable cause existed in the case before the defendant was arrested based on the facts of the case.
After an Arrest Has Been Made
Probable cause hearings are also quite often the first appearance a defendant has in front of a judge after they’ve been arrested. In this hearing, a judge determines whether the arrest was supported by probable cause. If it was determined probable cause was not established, then law enforcement cannot hold a defendant in custody.
After Charges Are Filed
Another type of probable cause hearing can occur after charges have been filed. It involves the judge hearing testimony about whether a crime was committed. If it is determined that there was probable cause, then the case moves forward in the courts to trial.
In any case, probable cause hearings must occur at least 48 hours after an arrest according to the United States Supreme Court.
Law enforcement cannot postpone a hearing for probable cause for improper reasons, such as trying to find evidence to support an arrest and determine probable cause. If the court deadline is not met, then a suspect is normally released.
Drug charges are never to be taken lightly. In severe cases, conviction can result in years in prison and extremely high fines. However, just as there are laws that regular people must follow to avoid being arrested and prosecuted, police officers have rules and regulations that must be obeyed as well. If this does not happen, your case can be dismissed.
This is exactly what happened recently in Houston, where more than 160 cases were dismissed due to faulty arrests and police corruption. Moreover, as ABC News describes, “Prosecutors expect more cases will be dismissed. Earlier Wednesday, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals declared that one of the individuals whose case was dismissed earlier this year…was innocent.” The unsurprising kicker — according to US News, the bulk of these 160 cases are “minorities and the majority are African American.”
The situation has stoked the flames of a social debate regarding:
- The care being given to accuracy in these cases.
- A question of police integrity
- And a demand for improvement from this legal mismanagement
Clearly, there is a reckoning going on right now over how law enforcement officers handle themselves, and what it means to the validity of arrests, charges, and convictions. If you find yourself charged with possession of drugs, you should not rely on police misconduct to get you out of the trouble you are in.
Why? First off, these kinds of dismissals generally only make up a small percentage of overall cases. Despite police corruption getting big headlines, most cases simply do not involve it. Second, even if the police do “cheat” in your case — or simply make mistakes — that is not a guarantee that your charges will be dropped or dismissed. Depending on the errors in question, they may only be something the judge takes into consideration when looking at the bigger picture of your case. Or perhaps it will result in certain pieces of evidence being disregarded, but not others.
Bottom line, you still need to fight back, because the penalties can be surprisingly serious — especially if the drugs in question fall into one of the more severe penalty groups. Thankfully, there are numerous other defenses available to you.
Defending yourself against drug possession charges in Texas starts with knowing the law. Understanding how the law works tells you what is required of the prosecution to convict you of the crime in question. Your job is to raise doubts about whether the definition of drug possession as written fits your circumstances.
Some of the most common and successful defenses against Drug Possession charges include:
Not Your Drugs
There are all kinds of situations where the person in possession of the drugs can be called into question. Say, for example, you were at a party where drugs were present. Or they were found in your car or apartment. A skilled Texas criminal attorney will demand that prosecutors offer definitive proof that the drugs were yours and did not belong to another partygoer, car passenger, or houseguest.
Not Actually a Controlled Substance
This one may seem crazy, but it is not all that uncommon for people to be arrested for substances that look like illegal drugs even though they are not illegal. Do not assume that this is a simple error that will correct itself. If you were arrested or charged for possessing a substance that is not actually illegal, fight to make sure it is tested in a lab and those results are admitted into evidence.
Drugs Have Gone Missing
The state cannot convict you of a drug crime if they don’t have the drugs they say they found on you. Experienced lawyers know to ask for the drugs to be presented, because more often than law enforcement would like to admit, drugs get lost somewhere along the evidence chain as they are moved from place to place.
Illegal Search and Seizure
This is the one type of police “misconduct” that does come up in a lot of cases. Essentially, there are specific procedures that must be followed by police when searching suspects, and these rules are often bent — if not broken — in drug possession cases.
For example, while police can seize illicit substances that are in plain sight (such as if you are smoking a joint in front of them), it is illegal for them to search the trunk of your car without your permission. This is a right protected under the Fourth Amendment of the United States.
These are just a few of the possible defenses available to you. The best one for you will depend upon the specific circumstances of your case. Highlighting the way you were treated by the police may be an option that makes sense, but if not, there are other arguments you can use.
Get Convicted of a Texas Drug Crime, Face Deportation
Within days of his 2017 inauguration, the President had already drawn up and signed an executive order to strengthen the enforcement of U.S. immigration laws targeting immigrants deemed a threat to public safety, and particularly “aliens who engage in criminal conduct in the United States.”
Houston Public Media reported less than a month later that 680 arrests were made during raids within a single week, and that 75 percent of the detainees had convictions – including convictions on drug-related offenses. U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro of San Antonio confirmed around the same time that ICE agents across Texas were conducting these targeted raids.
All of them fall under the ongoing domestic operation known as Operation Cross Check, which was originally intended to search for and apprehend undocumented immigrants who had been convicted of serious crimes.
Of course, “serious” is in the eye of the beholder.
If you or someone you care about is being unfairly deported because of a drug-related conviction, connecting with an experienced Texas drug crime attorney is your first step in slowing what can seem like a runaway train.
In the meantime, read on for information regarding how deportation is handled when a Texas drug crime conviction is involved.
Terms Texans Should Know
Combing through legal jargon for information you need when facing deportation due to drug-crime conviction can be difficult – particularly when it is in a language that may not be your first. So, before we get into the law and what can happen when it has been violated, here are the key terms most commonly included in these matters:
Alien. All non-citizens or non-nationals residing in a country, including but not limited to immigrants.
Immigrant. All aliens who have been granted the right to reside permanently and work without restrictions in a particular country.
Inadmissibility. Originally referred to as “excludability,” it is a set of grounds under which someone could be excluded from this country, including drug-related crimes and convictions.
Waiver of Inadmissibility. Forgives a crime for immigration purposes and allows the person to remain in the country, gain entry, or return to the U.S.
What the Law Says in Texas
The Immigration and Nationality Act (Sections 212 and 237) provides specifics regarding those immigrants who are inadmissible into this country and/or qualify for deportation, but generally speaking, any immigrant who is a) determined to be a drug abuser or addict or b) has been convicted of a drug-related crime is inadmissible and/or eligible for deportation.
Four examples of grounds of inadmissibility:
- Immigrants with conviction(s) for violation of any law or regulation related to a controlled substance.
- Immigrants with multiple criminal convictions from offenses that arose from a single scheme of misconduct or multiple incidents, and for which incarceration lasted five-plus years.
- Immigrants reasonably believed to be trafficking controlled substancesor listed chemicals, or who knowingly assisted or conspired with others to traffic them.
- Any immigrant spouse or child of an immigrant inadmissible due to anything above.
There are many additional grounds that can be indirectly linked to drug-related convictions, and just as many exceptions to these guidelines. A knowledgeable Texas criminal defense attorney will be able to review your personal circumstances and guide you through the general classes of inadmissibility.
Removal Proceedings in Texas
Once you are accused of violating U.S. immigration laws, a process of removal begins. First, the court system will schedule you to appear before an immigration judge to determine whether you may remain in the country.
Then, you will receive a charging document or “Notice to Appear,” stating why the Dept of Homeland Security believes you have violated U.S. immigration laws. The date and time of your first hearing will be included or mailed separately.
From there, it becomes a bit more complex depending on your circumstances, but it can require as many as 10 hearings total. Note the following:
- The court does not appoint you a lawyer, but the judge will ask if you have one. If not, you may be granted additional time to locate an experienced criminal defense attorney.
- The court does provide an interpreter. If you do not understand your interpreter, tell the judge.
- You will be a) asked whether you received your charging document (or Notice to Appear), and b) required to enter a plea to each charge in that notice.
- If the judge finds you have violated immigration laws, you will need to tell that judge whether you are applying for relief from removal.
Keeping U.S. citizens safe is certainly a priority, but reports continue to surface that deportations are unfairly happening for even minor drug-related crimes and to people who were convicted years ago and have not committed another crime since.
Not every person convicted of a drug-related crime deserves to face deportation, and this is not a matter that should be handled in broad sweeps, but rather on a case-by-case basis. Regardless of officials’ intents, each person building a life in the U.S. has rights and is entitled to fair treatment – including you and your loved ones.
Call us right now to get help
We’ve helped hundreds of people in Texas and we can help you too. We’ll set you up with a free conversation with Mr. Fulgham which will help you know what to do next. The Fulgham Law Firm serves Fort Worth and Tarrant county areas.
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