What happens if you get charged with a first-time possession of controlled substance case in Houston?

One of the most common types of arrests in Houston is for possession of a controlled substance. The exact charge you may be facing for possession of a controlled substance will vary depending on the substance and the amount you are alleged to have possessed. But whether a possession of a controlled substance case is charged as a misdemeanor or felony, being arrested can be extremely stressful as you may not know what to expect from your court case. If you are charged with any criminal offense in Texas, it is a good idea to speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. The information below can be useful in answering basic questions about a possession of controlled substance case in Houston.  

What are the penalties for possession of a controlled substance? 

As noted above, the penalty for possession of a controlled substance will vary depending on the substance that you are alleged to have possessed, and the amount. In Houston, the most common possession of controlled substance arrests involve cocaine, marijuana, methamphetamine, MDMA (ecstasy), and prescription drugs. 

With the exception of the possession of marijuana flower and certain prescription drugs, the possession of any amount of a controlled substance is a felony in Texas. In general, the type of felony is determined by the weight of the substance although certain substances (like LSD) are punished by “abuse unit” and not by weight. 

What happens when you go to court on a possession first-time possession charge? 

If you have been arrested for possession of a controlled substance in Houston, you will have a court appearance soon after your arrest, typically in a week or so. Your first court appearance will generally be an opportunity for the court to formally inform you of the charge against you and to set bond conditions that you must follow while the case is pending. 

You should not be overly worried about your first court appearance in a drug possession case. You will typically not be asked to say or do anything, other than acknowledge the charge against you and promise to obey your bond conditions. You will not be asked to discuss the charges or the allegation and your case will not be resolved at the first setting. 

If you have not hired an attorney, the court will ask you whether you intend to hire your own attorney, represent yourself, or apply for a court-appointed attorney. The main advantage of having an attorney with you at your first court date is that your attorney will be able to advocate on your behalf regarding bond conditions. 

How long will a possession of controlled substance charge take to resolve?

When many people go to court for the first time to face a drug possession case, they can be surprised at how slowly cases are resolved. In the Houston area, a possession of drug possession case can take 6 months or more. This is because it can take several months for a drug possession attorney to obtain all of the evidence in the case and then conduct his own investigation. In a typical drug possession case, the evidence can include police reports, lab reports, videos, search warrants and witness statements. 

How are possession of controlled substance cases defended? 

An effective criminal defense attorney should have a plan “a” and a plan “b” to defend a case and obtain the best possible result. Plan “a” should always be challenging the facts of a case. This can include challenging the “affirmative link” between the substance and the person, and challenging whether the person knowingly possessed the substance. 

Drug possession cases are somewhat specialized as they frequently involve an area of law that deals with rules regarding traffic stops and searches. Even if the State can prove that a person knowingly possessed a controlled substance, there could still be illegal actions on behalf of the police that could cause evidence to get thrown out. 

How can I keep a possession of controlled substance case off of my record? 

The best way to keep a drug possession charge off of your record is to obtain an expunction. An expunction of a drug possession charge results in all records of the case being physically destroyed. Once the case is expunged, then the charge will not appear on most criminal history searches and you can even deny the existence of the arrest in most instances. 

However, in order to obtain an expunction of a drug possession charge, you must either have the case dismissed or be found “not guilty” at trial. If you are placed on any kind of probation, you will not be eligible for an expunction of a drug possession charge (you may be eligible to have your records sealed if you successfully complete a deferred adjudication probation, however).

Attorney Jose Ceja is a former drug prosecutor who regularly handles drug cases throughout the Greater Houston area. He has handled thousands of drug cases in his career and has the knowledge and experience to maximize your chances of obtaining the best possible result. Call Ceja Law Firm today for a free consultation.