What happens if you get caught with a controlled substance in Houston?

By Jose Ceja
Managing Attorney

In the Houston area, one of the most common types of criminal charges involves the possession of controlled substances. Depending on the substance and the amount allegedly possessed, a possession of controlled substance case can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony with potentially severe consequences. The goal of a drug possession case should always be to get the case dismissed and get the charge removed from your record. But what can you expect after an arrest for drug possession? What is the best way to get the case dismissed?

How are possession of controlled substance cases charged in Texas?

In Texas, drugs are placed into one of seven “penalty groups” with related substances based on their potential for addiction and whether the substances have any accepted medical use. The most common charges in the Houston area are based on the possession of THC extracts and concentrates (Penalty Group 2), cocaine (Penalty Group 1), heroin (Penalty Group 1), methamphetamine (Penalty Group 1) and ecstasy/MDMA (Penalty Group 2). Recently, law enforcement in Houston have also been making more arrests for possession of psilocybin mushrooms (Penalty Group 2) and LSD (Penalty Group 1-A). 

The possession of any amount of these substances will lead to a potential felony charge (marijuana flower is not punished under a penalty group and can still be charged as a misdemeanor for amounts under 4 ounces). 

What happens at your first court appearance on a drug possession charge in Houston?

After you are arrested and bonded out of jail on a drug possession charge in Houston, you will be assigned a court date, which will typically take place within two weeks of your arrest. At your first court date, the judge handling your case (which will be different than the magistrate judge you saw at the jail), will review your bond conditions. Bond conditions are rules that you must follow while your case is pending. In a drug possession case, bond conditions can include avoiding drugs and alcohol, random drug testing, and restrictions on travel. It is very important that you understand and comply with any bond conditions issued by the court. 

Other than setting your bond conditions, your first court appearance on a drug possession charge in Houston will be uneventful. You will not have to make a statement or discuss the alleged incident. Although it is a good idea to have a lawyer represent you at your first court date (for one thing, your lawyer can advocate on your behalf regarding any bond conditions the court might want to impose), nothing bad will happen if you do not have an attorney with you. 

How can I get a drug possession charge dismissed in Houston?

If you are facing a drug possession charge, the goal should be to get the case dismissed or to be found “not guilty” at trial and obtain an expunction of the arrest. Under Texas law, an expunction is the best possible result for a drug possession charge as it causes all records relating to the arrest to be destroyed, and even entitles you to deny the existence of the arrest. 

There are many strategies to obtain a dismissal in a drug possession case. In order to maximize your chances of a dismissal or an acquittal, your attorney must thoroughly investigate the case and challenge every step of the police investigation – from the detention or search that led to the discovery of a controlled substance to the laboratory’s identification of the substance. In drug possession cases, the most common defenses are that the police violated a person’s rights through an illegal search or by taking an un-Mirandized confession, or that the defendant did not knowingly possess a controlled substance. Of course, the best defense in a drug possession case will depend on the exact facts of a particular case. 

Attorney Jose Ceja is a former drug prosecutor who has focused his practice on defending citizens accused of crimes for nearly 15 years. He has handled hundreds of drug possession charges and is highly knowledgeable in the law controlling police searches and drug investigations. Mr. Ceja and his staff are fluent in Spanish and regularly help Hispanic clients fight drug possession charges. If you are facing a drug possession charge in the Houston area, call Ceja Law Firm today for a free consultation. 

About the Author
Jose Ceja is the managing attorney of Ceja Law Firm. He has practiced law since 2007 and has devoted his career to the practice of criminal law. Mr. Ceja began his legal career as a felony drug prosecutor, where he prosecuted drug, gang, and violent offenses. Mr. Ceja has first or second chaired almost 100 trials, including murders, drug cases, DWIs, and assaults. In his career as a defense attorney, he has regularly obtained dismissals, not guilty verdicts, and grand jury “no bills” in a wide variety of cases.