As more and more states legalize recreational marijuana, new forms of getting high are more common in Texas. One of the most popular is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) vape pens and cartridges. Even though THC vapes are readily available the potential punishments of being caught with one are significantly steeper than the punishments for possession of smokeable marijuana. Under Texas law, all THC vape possession cases are charged as felonies. In the Greater Houston area, THC vape pen arrests are one of the most common types of marijuana-related arrests. An experienced THC vape pen attorney can help you maximize your chances of keeping a conviction off of your record.
How does Texas law punish possession of a THC Vape Pen?
Under Texas Health and Safety Code 481.103, tetrahydrocannabinols from sources other than marijuana are considered Penalty Group 2 substances. Many people are surprised to learn that this is the same group that contains substances such as ecstasy, mescaline and PCP. Under Texas Health and Safety Code 481.116, possession of THC vapes is charged in the following way:
- State jail felony with a potential punishment of 180 days to 2 years and a $10,000 fine if the weight of the THC vape is less than one gram.
- Third-degree felony with a potential punishment of 2 years to 10 years and a $10,000 fine if the weight of the THC vape is between one and four grams.
- Second-degree felony with a potential punishment of 2 years to 20 years and a $10,000 fine if the weight of the THC vape is between four and 400 grams.
- First-degree felony with a potential punishment of 5 years to 99 years and a $50,000 fine if the weight of the THC vape is over 400 grams.
In short, if you are accused of possessing a THC vape in Texas, you will be charged with at least a State Jail Felony. Smokeable (flower) marijuana, on the other hand, will be charged as a Class “B” misdemeanor for amounts under 2 ounces. Although it makes no sense that different forms of marijuana would be punished so differently and that a THC vape would be punished as severely as drugs that are far more dangerous, given the current state of the law, it is very risky to get caught with a THC vape in Texas.
What bond conditions can I expect?
If you are charged with possession of a THC vape in the Greater Houston area, the bond conditions you will have to follow will depend on the county and the judge your case is assigned to. In Houston, many judges are far less strict when it comes to THC vape cases. But just north of Houston, in Conroe, you can expect to face more strict bond conditions, including restrictions on travel and random drug testing. Although there is usually not a huge rush to hire an attorney if you are charged with possession of a THC vape, it may be useful to have an attorney present at the first sitting who can advocate on your behalf with respect to bond conditions.
Whatever bond conditions are imposed in your case, it is critical that you follow them closely and not get your bond violated. If you are accused of violating your bond, you could have your bond revoked and put in jail. The most common way a defendant in a THC vape case has his bond revoked is by having a positive drug test. Although judges may not revoke your bond for something you did before you were on bond (like smoking marijuana), if you continue having positive tests a month or two after your arrest, the judge will know that you have violated your bond conditions by continuing to smoke marijuana. In addition to facing a revocation of your bond, violating your bond conditions will also make it less likely that you will get a favorable deal from the prosecutor since the prosecutor will believe that you are a person who has a hard time following the law.
How can I keep a THC Vape Pen Possession Case Off of My Record?
In order to keep a THC vape case off of your record, you must get your case dismissed or be acquitted at trial. In either of these two instances, you would be eligible to have all records of your THC vape arrest expunged from your record. If you are placed on deferred adjudication for a THC vape case, you may be eligible to have your records sealed (also known as a “non-disclosure”). While not as good as an expunction, a non-disclosure makes it so most private entities cannot see a record of your THC vape arrest. Still, dismissal or acquittal should always be the goal.
To get your THC vape case dismissed, your criminal defense attorney will first need to obtain and evaluate all of the evidence in your case. Typically, this includes offense reports, videos, body cameras, and lab reports. To effectively challenge any case alleging the possession of a controlled substance, an effective criminal defense attorney should challenge each phase of law enforcement’s investigation, whether the police exceeded the scope of what was permissible under the law, and whether they can prove that a defendant knowingly possessed the controlled substance or THC vape (if you were unaware that you possessed a THC vape, or if you reasonably believed it was a legal substance, you cannot be found guilty of knowingly possessing a THC vape).
Even where it looks like the prosecutors can prove their case, it may be possible to negotiate a dismissal informally or through a pre-trial diversion. In the Greater Houston area, many District Attorneys’ offices are willing to offer a pre-trial diversion in a THC vape case, particularly where the THC vape was not possessed for the purposes of sale, and the defendant has a minimal criminal history. Although a pre-trial diversion can be a good way to get a possession of marijuana case dismissed, too many attorneys go into these cases thinking that they do not have to work since that is an option. A pre-trial diversion should be a fallback. An effective criminal defense attorney should first look to get an outright dismissal based on the facts alone.
Attorney Jose Ceja is a former drug prosecutor who has handled thousands of drug cases. He is well-versed in search and seizure law, which governs police drug investigations. If you are accused of possessing a THC vape cartridge anywhere in the Greater Houston area, call Ceja Law Firm today to schedule a free consultation.