Although progress has been made in terms of how Harris County prosecutes and punishes minor marijuana charges, it doesn’t mean offenders are 100% off the hook when caught with a few ounces. Houston drug crime lawyer Mark Thiessen with Thiessen Law Firm explains how full decriminalization has yet to be applied here, so marijuana users need to make sure they know the penalties before taking any unnecessary risks.
Decriminalization may have finally made it to Houston, but its reach is actually rather limited right now. Not everyone caught with marijuana necessarily qualifies to see his or her offense erased. Individuals found to be in possession of small amounts of the drug will only be able to escape prosecution if they meet specific criteria:
- First-time drug offender
- Carrying less than two ounces
Even then, they will still be arrested if caught holding. Offenders fitting the rather narrow definition of who is worthy of having these charges jettisoned (about 2,000 people annually – not bad, though we could be doing better) must either perform eight hours of community service or attend a drug awareness class.
Failure to complete either of these requirements leads to a trial and, in the event of a guilty verdict, the regular penalties outlined under the law.
In the event an offender does not qualify for the decriminalization benefits, he or she will have to face fines and possible jail time if prosecuted. When it comes to marijuana, the penalties for possession are as follows:
- Up to 180 days in jail for 0-2 ounces, and a class B misdemeanor charge
- Up to a year in jail for 2-4 ounces, and a class A misdemeanor charge
- Between six and 24 months in state prison for 4 ounces-5 pounds, and a 4th degree felony charge
- Between two to 10 years in prison for 5-50 pounds, and a 3rd degree felony charge
- Between two to 20 years in prison for 50-2000 pounds, and a 2nd degree felony charge
It must be noted, penalties for dealing and trafficking are far more severe than the ones listed here, and your sentence can also be compounded with additional charges for possessing drug paraphernalia or driving while under the influence – which is interesting, considering how Colorado has proven that operating a motor vehicle under the influence of marijuana is far safer than alcohol. Fines and driver’s license suspensions may also be meted out.
Long story short, “decriminalization” here in Harris County is not the same thing as a “free for all.” Be cognizant of what the laws actually say; getting a little too excited might lead to misunderstanding, and misunderstanding might lead to mistakes.
Houston Drug Offense Attorney
If you have been charged with a drug-related offense, you deserve the best possible representation. The award-winning Thiessen Law Firm has the experience necessary to fight for you. Contact us today for your free case evaluation.