Possession of cocaine is one of the most frequently charged drug offenses in Houston. In Texas, the possession of any amount of cocaine is a felony, which could potentially lead to prison time and have a damaging effect on your record. If you have been arrested for possession of cocaine in Houston, it is critical that you hire an experienced drug possession attorney to maximize your chances of keeping a conviction off of your record. This article discusses what you can expect if you are arrested for possession of cocaine in Houston.
Almost all cocaine cases involve the search of a person, home or vehicle. If the police discover that you are in the possession of any amount of cocaine, then you will be placed under arrest. “Possession” under the law is not necessarily limited to items in your direct possession (like the items in your pocket). For purposes of the possession of controlled substances, you can be considered to “constructively possess” items that are not in your immediate possession, but over which you have control. A good example would be the trunk of your car. Even though a person may not have direct possession of cocaine in the trunk of his car in a strict sense, he can be charged if he is pulled over and cocaine is discovered in the vehicle, as it will frequently be assumed that the person was in control of the items in the trunk.
As noted above, all possession of cocaine cases will be charged as felonies in Texas. Under Texas law, different controlled substances are placed into different penalty groups and typically (though not always) punished based on the alleged weight of the substance.
Cocaine is considered to be a Penalty Group 1 and the sentencing range (the potential punishment) is based on the weight of the substance, including anything the cocaine is diluted with. Under Texas Health and Safety Code 481.115, the sentencing ranges are as follows:
-Less than 1 gram: a State Jail Felony with a minimum jail sentence of 180 days up to 2 years and a possible fine of up to $10,000.
-1-4 grams: a 3rd-degree felony with a minimum sentence of 2 years in prison up to 10 years and a fine of up to $10,000.
-4-200 grams: a 2nd-degree felony that carries a minimum sentence of 2 years in prison up to 20 years and a fine of up to $10,000.
-200-400 grams: a 1st-degree felony which carries a minimum jail sentence of 5 years in prison up to 99 years plus a fine of up to $10,000.
-Over 400 grams: an enhanced 1st-degree felony that carries a minimum penalty of 10 years up to 99 years in prison plus a fine of up to $10,000.
If you are arrested for possession of cocaine in Houston, you will be processed through the Harris County Jail, where you will see a magistrate judge who will set some initial bond conditions and a bond amount. If you are charged with possession of less than 1 gram of cocaine, it is possible that you will get a “PR” bond (a personal recognizance bond, which is essentially a free bond). Otherwise, once bond is set, you will have to post a bond in order to be released from jail. With a bond, you can either pay the entire amount of the bond yourself at the Harris County Bail Bond Window (located at 700 N San Jacinto), or use a bondsman. Bondsman typically charge 10% of the total value of the bond. So if your bond is set at $10,000 you would typically have to pay $1000 to get out of jail on a cocaine charge.
If you are charged with possession of a larger amount of cocaine, your bond may be very high. Our office recently represented a person who was charged with possession of more than 400 grams and the bond was set at $100,000 by the jail. If this happens, it is possible to ask the judge where your case is assigned to reduce the bond.
No matter how your pay your bond – or if you stay in jail – your case will be assigned to a Harris County District Court at 1201 Franklin St. On a possession of cocaine charge, you will typically be given a court date soon after you bond out of jail. Once you get out of jail you will likely receive text messages and phone calls from attorneys trying to pressure you to hire them. Do not fall for these high-pressure tactics (it is actually illegal for an attorney to directly call a defendant in a criminal case who has not contacted them).
In most instances, there is no rush to hire an attorney as a possession of cocaine case will take many months to resolve. At the first setting, it can be useful to have an attorney on your side to advocate for you with respect to bond conditions, but a modification of your bond conditions can be requested at any point during your case. In a possession of cocaine case, some judges may order bond conditions like travel restrictions, random drug testing, or even a curfew in serious cases. The types of conditions you can expect in a possession of cocaine case will vary from court to court, the facts of the case and the criminal history of the defendant.
Once you hire a cocaine possession attorney, your attorney can begin the process of gathering evidence. In a possession of cocaine case, the evidence typically consists of police reports, videos, search warrants, lab reports, and documentation from the lab regarding chain of custody and the reliability of testing. An experienced cocaine possession attorney should attack the case from every angle. This includes challenging the basis for the stop or detention, the search, the element of knowing possession of cocaine, the chain of custody, and the reliability of any lab work that was done. One critical area in cocaine possession cases is the law of search and seizure. If a cocaine possession attorney can prove that the police obtained evidence or a statement illegally, that could lead to the dismissal of the charges against you. Drug possession cases can be highly specialized and complex so it is critical to hire an attorney with experience with drug cases in particular.
The process of gathering evidence in a possession of cocaine case can take many months. During that time, it is critical that you carefully obey any bond conditions that have been set in the case. If you do not follow your bond conditions, your bond could be revoked and you could be put back into jail. Additionally, obtaining the best possible result becomes more challenging as getting your bond revoked might make prosecutors and judges view your case much less favorably.
Possession of cocaine cases are resolved by either trial, dismissal or plea agreement. Of course, the goal is the dismissal of a cocaine case. But if your case is not dismissed, you may have to choose between a trial and a plea agreement. Once the evidence is complete, your cocaine possession attorney should review the evidence with you in detail and make a recommendation regarding the best way to resolve the case.
If you are charged with a small amount of cocaine in Houston, your case may be transferred to a special court that only handles low level, personal use amount of cocaine cases. This court is known as “RIC” court. This court is more oriented to counseling and treatment, rather than criminalization. If your case is transferred to RIC court, it may be possible to obtain a dismissal of the cocaine case through a program known as pre-trial diversion. This may be a good option for many defendants. However, a cocaine possession attorney should still do a thorough job of investigating the case, as it is much better to get a dismissal due to a legal problem with the case, such as an illegal search.
Attorney Jose Ceja is a former drug prosecutor who has handled thousands of drug cases in his career. He regularly defends possession of cocaine cases throughout the Greater Houston area. If you are charged with possession of cocaine, call Ceja Law Firm for a free