When we think of “drugs,” we typically think of two types: controlled substances (illegal drugs like marijuana and cocaine) and prescription drugs.
In the eyes of the law, these two types of drugs aren’t always so different. There are many scenarios where people can be arrested and charged with a crime even if they are caught with drugs that you can get from a health professional.
Moreover, charges related to prescription drugs can be just as serious as charges related to drugs typically considered more “serious.”
How might you potentially get charged with a crime related to a prescription drug in Texas?
Texas Possession Laws and Prescription Drugs
A handful of prescription drugs double as serious controlled substances. Having these drugs in your possession without the permission of a certified health professional (i.e., a valid prescription) is a drug crime.
The state of Texas separates prescription drugs into different penalty categories. These categories come with different sentencing recommendations.
Without the recommendation of a doctor, you could face serious charges for getting caught with the following prescription drugs:
- Penalty Group I: any type of opiates (including Vicodin, OxyContin, Percocet, Opana, morphine, and fentanyl,) Rohypnol, Methamphetamine
- Penalty Group II: Phenylacetone, amphetamine, Vyvanse, Quaalude
- Penalty Group III: Xanax, Ativan, Klonopin, Ritalin, Preludin, barbiturates, appetite suppressants, miscellaneous anabolic steroids
- Penalty Group IV: any compound with limited amounts of codeine, morphine, difenoxin
These drugs are taken seriously because they come with a high risk for abuse and dependence. Beyond which penalty group a drug is in, charges and penalties will also be determined by the amount that you have on you when you are arrested.
For example, if you are accused of possessing less than one gram of a controlled substance under Penalty Group I (i.e., OxyContin that wasn’t prescribed to you,) you could face state jail felony charges. Penalties for this charge include up to two years in jail and $10,000 in fines.
The same type of charges and penalties apply if you are caught with under 28 grams of a controlled substance in Penalty Group III (i.e., Xanax that was not prescribed to you.)
Manufacture or Delivery of Controlled Substances in Texas
If you have a large amount of prescription drugs in your possession at the time of your arrest, you might face manufacture or delivery charges. These charges are more serious than possession, because they involve an intent to make, sell, or traffic the drugs.
Take the delivery or manufacture of opioids, for example. Possession of between 1-4 grams of fentanyl that was not prescribed to you will result in state jail felony charges with up to two years behind bars as a penalty. However, if you are caught selling the same amount of opioids, you could face between 5-99 years in prison.
That’s right. Ninety-nine years behind bars. If you are not a citizen, you may also face deportation.
These aren’t the only ways that you could be charged for taking or possessing prescription drugs, either.
Doctor Shopping in Texas
The nation is facing a public health crisis. Many patients find themselves growing seriously dependent on painkillers and other types of narcotics after an accident. Between 21-29% of all patients who are prescribed opioids, including fentanyl and Vicodin, misuse these drugs. One of the common practices in this misuse is “doctor shopping,” and it comes with both serious health risks and penalties.
“Doctor shopping” is the process of visiting multiple healthcare professionals to gain higher quantities of prescription drugs. A person who is not satisfied with the amount of drugs they receive from one doctor may “shop” for other doctors who will be willing to provide more prescriptions. Often, people who “doctor shop” will lie about their current pain levels or current prescriptions in order to get the drugs that they want.
This falsification of information is fraud, a crime that is illegal under both Texas state law and federal law. If you are accused of doctor shopping, you may face felony charges and years behind bars.
Defenses against Prescription Drug Charges In Texas
Remember, possession of just one gram of a Penalty I controlled substance could result in two years behind bars. Don’t let an addiction or a misunderstanding put you in jail. If you have been accused of prescription drug charges, call up a skilled Texas defense lawyer and start working on your strategy immediately.
If you have a prescription and were unlawfully arrested for possession, you should have a good chance of walking away without penalties. However, if you were arrested on more serious charges (sale, trafficking, doctor shopping, etc.), a prescription will not do it for your defense.
There are other options, though. For example, people who are addicted to prescription drugs may be able to go to rehabilitation instead of jail.
Talk to your attorney about these possibilities and how you can fight for a sentence that helps, rather than hurts, you. Every case is different, but the sooner you can start fighting against charges, the easier it will be to get a positive result that gets you back on track.
About the Author:
Brandon Fulgham has an in-depth understanding of both Texas law and Texans themselves. Before practicing law here, he received his undergraduate degree from TCU, and his law degree from South Texas College of Law in Houston. After graduation, he worked in District Attorneys’ offices as a prosecutor, building cases designed to put people behind bars. Now, he uses that knowledge to protect the rights of people in and around Fort Worth, making sure they receive the strongest possible defense when they find themselves on the wrong side of the law. He has been recognized for his work by The National Trial Lawyers, Fort Worth Magazine, and others.