Drug Crimes

When Does a Drug Offense Become a Federal Charge?

By Peek & Toland on October 26, 2019

State and federal laws largely overlap when it comes to drug crimes. Both state and federal law prohibit the possession, manufacture, and distribution of illegal drugs. As a result, a drug crime typically can be prosecuted under federal or state law. On the whole, however, penalties for a federal drug conviction generally are more severe than those for a state drug conviction.

However, there are some circumstances in which you may end up facing federal drug charges rather than state drug charges. For instance, if federal authorities arrest you instead of state or local authorities, you are more likely to face federal drug charges. If you are arrested on federal property, you also may face federal drug charges. Likewise, if you are caught with a large amount of drugs, federal authorities may seek to prosecute you at the federal level as opposed to the state level.

When Does a Drug Offense Become a Federal Charge?

Another situation in which you may face federal instead of state drug charges is if you crossed state lines in committing the crime. For example, if you allegedly trafficked drugs from Texas into another state, or brought drugs from another state into Texas, the crime arguably affects interstate commerce. Therefore, the federal government has jurisdiction to prosecute the crime. Likewise, if you are accused of participating in a large-scale multi-state drug operation, you likely will face federal rather than state drug charges.

Furthermore, if you allegedly are involved in a drug scheme that goes beyond mere possession, such as trafficking or manufacture of illegal drugs, you may face federal drug charges instead of state drug charges. Similarly, if you are charged with others in a conspiracy to distribute or manufacture drugs, you also routinely may be charged at the federal rather than the state level.

At Peek & Toland, we care about helping you through your criminal proceedings. We will focus our efforts on advocating on your behalf and representing your interests throughout your case. Our knowledgeable criminal defense lawyers know the best strategies for defending you and working toward your desired objective. Allow us to handle your criminal case by sitting down with us today and discussing your situation.

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Can I Be Arrested for Using Controlled Substances if I Have a Prescription for It?

By Peek & Toland on October 18, 2019

Like other states, Texas has strict laws that govern the possession of controlled substances. Some controlled substances, however, are available for legal use. Consumers authorized to possess these controlled substances generally must have a valid prescription for the drugs issued by a doctor or other medical provider. Commonly prescribed controlled substances include Xanax, Valium, Ritalin, Clonazepam, and hydrocodone.

Can I Be Arrested for Using Controlled Substances if I Have a Prescription for It?

Depending on the schedule of the drug, however, a single pill could result in felony charges for possession of a controlled substance. If charged with possession of these substances, however, individuals have a defense if they possess a valid prescription for the drug that they had before their arrest on possession charges. Nonetheless, there are some exceptions in which this defense may not be valid.

For instance, if you possess an extremely large amount of a controlled substance, you may still face possession charges. If your prescription does not match the amount of the controlled substance that you have in your possession, you still could face possession charges.

Furthermore, you can run afoul of DWI laws if taking a prescription drug impairs your ability to drive. As a result, you can face DWI charges even if you are taking a legally prescribed medication. To avoid these charges, you should refrain from driving while taking the medication if it makes you overly sleepy or otherwise impaired. Some prescription medications are known for causing side effects like drowsiness. These medications include Xanax, hydrocodone, and Ambien, among others. While everyone’s body reacts differently to taking medications, you should be cautious when driving after taking these drugs.

If you are prescribed a new drug, you also should avoid driving until you see how the medication will affect you. The criminal defense lawyers of Peek & Toland have handled the legal defense of countless individuals who are facing criminal charges. We are here to protect your rights and advocate on your behalf. Our goal is to get the best outcome possible in your case. Call our office today at (512) 474-4445 to set up an appointment with our criminal defense attorneys.

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Mandatory Minimum Federal Prison Sentences for Drug Trafficking Offenses

By Peek & Toland on October 16, 2019

Federal law has historically provided for harsh mandatory minimum prison sentences for drug trafficking offenses. Judges had no discretion to deviate from these mandatory minimum sentences. The First Step Act of 2018, however, which President Trump signed into law in December 2018, modifies some of these mandatory minimum sentences and other penalties for drug trafficking and related drug offenses.

Individuals with one prior qualifying conviction previously were subject to a 20-year mandatory minimum prison sentence. The First Step Act decreases the mandatory minimum sentence to 15 years. Likewise, for individuals with two prior qualifying convictions, the mandatory minimum prison sentence decreases from a life sentence to 25 years in federal prison.

Mandatory Minimum Federal Prison Sentences for Drug Trafficking Offenses

The First Step Act also modifies mandatory minimum prison sentences for some drug traffickers with prior convictions. The Act increases the threshold for prior convictions that trigger higher mandatory minimum sentences for repeat offenders. Now, for mandatory minimum sentences to apply, the prior convictions must qualify under the Act’s new definitions for “serious drug felony” or “serious violent felony.” Previously, mandatory minimum sentences applied if individuals had a prior conviction for any felony drug offense. This change can lead to lower mandatory minimum prison sentences for some drug traffickers.

Another feature of the First Step Act is that it eliminates the “stacking” provision. This provision allowed federal prosecutors to charge individuals with a second and subsequent use of a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking or a violent crime in the same criminal incident. The stacking provision led to a 25-year mandatory minimum prison sentence. Now, prosecutors only can impose this mandatory minimum sentence if they have a prior conviction for the use of a firearm in a drug trafficking or a violent crime from a previous criminal incident.

If you or a family member is facing accusations of drug trafficking or any other criminal charges, we may be able to help. As experienced Texas criminal defense attorneys, we have the knowledge needed to help you navigate through often-complex criminal proceedings. Call us today at (512) 474-4445 and schedule an appointment with one of our criminal defense lawyers and learn how we can assist you.

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Defending Yourself Against Drug Charges

By Peek & Toland on September 10, 2019

Drug possession and trafficking charges can result in extremely severe penalties in the event of a conviction. Trafficking offenses tend to cause harsher sanctions than those for drug possession. However, possession of some drugs, such as heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine, can result in first-degree felony charges, which carries the potential for a life prison sentence.

Fortunately, various defenses to drug charges may apply to your case. By taking advantage of these defenses, you may be able to reduce the charges and penalties that you are facing, or even achieve an outright dismissal of the charges in appropriate cases.

For instance, to be convicted of drug possession, you must have knowing control over the illegal drugs. If you were riding in a vehicle belonging to another person in which police found drugs, you might not have known that the drugs were in the car. Likewise, if a friend hands you a backpack containing drugs, but you didn’t realize that it contained drugs, then you arguably didn’t knowingly possess the drugs.

Defending Yourself Against Drug Charges

Another potential defense to drug charges may be if you have a valid prescription for a controlled substance from a licensed doctor. If you legitimately possess the drug to treat a medical condition, then you may have a valid defense to any drug possession charges.

Furthermore, when police search and seize drugs from you or your vehicle during a traffic stop or similar circumstances, they must do so legally. You have a constitutional right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. If the police fail to respect your constitutional rights, you can argue that any drugs that they found were the result of an illegal search and seizure. In many cases, this can result in the court rejecting the drugs as inadmissible evidence. When a search is unlawful, then the products of that search are illegally obtained and cannot be used against you in court.Peek & Toland dedicates a large part of its practice to assisting individuals in resolving their criminal charges. We know that criminal proceedings can be intimidating and overwhelming for those who are facing potential penalties for criminal charges. We will work with you to achieve the most favorable outcome possible in your situation. Call our office today and set up a consultation with our skilled criminal defense attorneys today.

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Can Officers Make Me Wait for a Drug Dog After They Pull Me Over?

By Peek & Toland on September 5, 2019

The introduction of drug dogs to search vehicles is a relatively recent development in the war on drugs. Nonetheless, using dogs as a tool to detect drugs has become more and more common. However, drivers need to be aware of their rights when it comes to traffic stops and drug-sniffing dogs.

Police officers only may stop a vehicle if they have reasonable suspicion to believe that a driver has committed a crime. Often, this alleged crime is some traffic violation. However, even a legitimate traffic stop does not automatically give police the right to search your vehicle. You have a Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures.

Can Officers Make Me Wait for a Drug Dog After They Pull Me Over?

For police to legally search your vehicle, you either must give consent to the search, or they must have reasonable suspicion to believe that you have committed a crime. The crime must be some offense other than the traffic violation that the police stopped you for in the first place. You should understand that under no circumstances are you required to consent to police searching your vehicle. Once you give your consent, they legally can search your car. If police then find anything illegal in your vehicle, you could face other criminal charges.

If a police officer pulls you over for speeding and has a reasonable suspicion that you may be carrying drugs, then the officer can delay you long enough to bring in a drug-sniffing dog. This sort of delay and resulting search by a drug-sniffing dog does not violate your Fourth Amendment rights. The immigration attorneys of Peek & Toland have the experience that you need when you are seeking any relief or benefit under federal immigration laws. We will determine the facts and evidence that are relevant to your case, evaluate your options, and help you decide the best course of action for your situation. We intend to place you in the best position possible to achieve your goals. Contact our Texas immigration attorneys at our office today and learn how we can assist you through this complicated situation.

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CBD Legalization

By Peek & Toland on July 30, 2019

A Texas law has legalized hemp and popular hemp-derived products, like CBD oil. In doing so, the legislation redefined marijuana from certain parts of the cannabis plant to only those parts that contain more than a certain percentage of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, which is the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana that allows users to get high.

According to the Texas District and County Attorneys Association, however, the change in the law has made it almost impossible to detect whether drugs found on a person is marijuana or hemp. Most, if not all Texas crime labs have no equipment or resources that employees can adequately detect the difference between the two substances. While the equipment that is necessary to determine the potency of a substance exists, the labs currently don’t have access to it. The requisite equipment costs an estimated $300,000 to $500,000, and over 20 labs would need the equipment. The quick tests that labs used to detect the presence of any cannabinoids in marijuana no longer are useable.

CBD Legalization

As a result, district attorneys statewide have begun dismissing hundreds of marijuana charges and declining to prosecute misdemeanor possession of marijuana cases in the absence of evidence proving that the substance contains more than 0.3% THC. This THC percentage is what differentiates legal hemp from illegal marijuana. Some counties also are dismissing felony-level possession marijuana charges.

In contrast, however, the Tarrant County District Attorney reported recently that she had found at least two labs that can provide the necessary technology. The sponsor of the bill, state Sen. Charles Perry, also argues that even if the hemp law hadn’t redefined marijuana at the state level, the 2018 Farm Bill would have affected the definition across all states, since it is a federal law.   An experienced Texas criminal defense attorney can help you build a strong defense against any criminal charges. We are here to evaluate the facts surrounding your case, present your options, and help you make the decisions that will be most beneficial to you, based on your circumstances. Contact Peek & Toland at (512) 474-4445 today and see how we can help.

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Marijuana Possession and Work in the Cannabis Industry May Lead to Denial of Naturalization

By Peek & Toland on July 12, 2019

One of the requirements for naturalization as a U.S. citizen is to establish good moral character (GMC). U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently published a policy memorandum stated that any violation of federal controlled substance laws could be a conditional bar to establishing GMC, including offenses related to marijuana. Although USCIS acknowledges that simple possession of marijuana may not be illegal under some states’ laws, it is still illegal under federal law. Despite the decriminalization of marijuana to specific degrees in many states, all conduct that involves the possession, manufacture, cultivation, or distribution of marijuana remains illegal under federal law and thus can impact the establishment of GMC.

Marijuana Possession and Work in the Cannabis Industry
May Lead to Denial of Naturalization

Under federal law, marijuana remains a “Schedule I” controlled substance. Schedule I drugs are among those controlled substances that have the highest risk of misuse, are most dangerous to the public and have no accepted medical uses. Many states have removed marijuana from this category of controlled substances under state law, but Congress has not followed suit. This has resulted in many state laws that are in direct conflict with federal law on the issue of marijuana. Texas law does classify marijuana differently than other controlled substances but has not taken steps to decriminalize marijuana in any amount, except for a recent expansion of medical marijuana usage for various illnesses and medical conditions.

As a result of this conflict between state and federal law in some states, marijuana possession that would not result in a criminal conviction in some states remains illegal under federal law. A criminal drug conviction not only can put individuals at risk of deportation, depending on their immigration status but also can endanger their ability to obtain naturalization. Therefore, an activity not illegal under state law, but illegal under federal law, can threaten one’s immigration status and lead to a denial of naturalization. When you have any criminal conviction on your record, even for minor marijuana possession, you may not only be at risk of denial of naturalization, but also of deportation. In these circumstances, you need an experienced immigration attorney to represent your interests from the very beginning of your case. Taking steps to get you the relief that you are seeking at the outset of your case is typically easier than waiting until it’s too late. Contact Peek & Toland at (512) 474-4445 today and set up an appointment to speak with our legal team.

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Marijuana Decriminalization in Texas

By Peek & Toland on July 10, 2019

Ten bills related to marijuana decriminalization were before the Texas legislature during the most recent legislative session, one of which was successful and many others that were not. The only piece of legislation that survived this session was a slight expansion of the eligibility criteria for medical marijuana usage, in the form of cannabis oil. CBD oil from dispensaries under the medical use program has a maximum THC level of 0.5, which is not significantly different from CBD oil sold in retail stores, which is to contain a maximum THC level of 0.3.

Previously, the only condition eligible for legal medical marijuana usage was intractable epilepsy. The new legislation recognizes that other medical conditions may benefit from medical marijuana, including autism, epilepsy and seizure disorders, multiple sclerosis (MS), spasticity, terminal cancer, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and some incurable neurological diseases, including Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease, and Huntington’s Disease.

Marijuana Decriminalization in Texas

Various issues remain problematic with the new legislation. For instance, Texas law requires a prescription for medical marijuana and CBD oil from a dispensary. However, federal law prohibits doctors from prescribing Schedule I controlled substances, which includes marijuana. While Texas law provides a workaround, doctors are still somewhat at risk if they prescribe medical marijuana.

A lack of regulation still exists as to CBD oil. Although many oils are labeled as being free of THC, there is the chance that they still contain trace amounts of THC, as there are no standard regulations that apply to the production and distribution of CBD oil. Furthermore, law enforcement officers in different parts of the state still consider CBD oil differently. Some counties consider CBD oil illegal unless produced by state-sanctioned dispensaries for medical purposes. This stance has led to raids and seizures of CBD oil in retail stores in some Texas counties.

The Peek & Toland criminal defense lawyers are here to represent your interests and advise you of the best course of action in your situation. Set up an appointment to talk to us today and discover how we can assist you with your criminal proceedings.

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Marijuana Arrests Still Dominate in Some Counties and States

By Peek & Toland on July 2, 2019

According to a recent article relying on FBI data, marijuana possession led to six percent of all arrests nationwide in 2017. This arrest rate, however, is not consistent from one state to the next, or even from one county to the next within the same state. In some counties, the arrest rate for marijuana possession is in the 20 percent range, which tops out at 55 percent in one Georgia county.

Various reasons support these high rates of arrest. First, the federal government provides generous funding for drug task forces. Forfeiture laws also often allow law enforcement agencies to seize and keep money and other assets from those accused of drug crimes. Furthermore, marijuana may be easier for law enforcement authorities to spot, simply because it is bulky, meaning that individuals cannot easily conceal it, and has a strong and distinctive odor, especially in comparison to other controlled substances.

Marijuana Arrests Still Dominate in Some Counties and States

With the legalization of marijuana occurring rapidly in many states, however, the emphasis that some law enforcement agencies place on prosecuting individuals who use marijuana may be unwarranted and a waste of precious resources. Moreover, law enforcement efforts to stop drug activity most commonly result in the prosecution of drug users and small distributors who deal solely to support their habit, as opposed to the major distributors or those who run high-level drug dealing enterprises.

Nationwide, more conservative states, including Texas, who have not legalized any marijuana usage, have had higher arrest rates for marijuana possession than the national average. Two counties in Texas had the third and fourth highest arrest rates for marijuana possession in the U.S. In contrast, states that have legalized marijuana to some degree have much lower than average arrest rates for marijuana possession. When facing any criminal law issue, you are likely to need the legal advice that only experienced Texas criminal defense attorneys can offer you. Peek & Toland provides strong legal representation regularly for individuals who are dealing with criminal law problems. It is our priority to represent your interests and protect your rights.  Call us at (512) 474-4445 and schedule an appointment to speak with us today.

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CBD: Legal in Texas?

By Peek & Toland on June 24, 2019

State lawmakers in the two largest states, California and Texas, are pushing bipartisan legislation that would legalize CBD products, even though the federal government continues to consider it illegal. Despite efforts in some localities in both states to pull CBD products from store shelves, including CBD oil-infused gummies, foods, drinks, and dietary supplements, there is an enormous push to legalize what many see as a boon to their overall health.

At the federal level, Congress members also are pushing the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to reconsider its stance on the popular cannabis compound. Recently, the FDA announced that it will conduct a public hearing to solicit more information on the subject. The FDA maintains oversight over CBD because it is the active ingredient in a prescription drug that treats two rare seizure disorders and contends that it has insufficient information to determine whether CBD is safe or effective to add to food and drink products.

Nonetheless, the FDA has limited enforcement to companies that make false health claims about their products. Federal authorities also have largely failed to take any action against companies producing CBD products in states in which marijuana has been legalized on a recreational or medical level. Instead, state or local authorities have headed up most enforcement efforts.

Legislation in both Texas and California is pending that lawmakers hope will end consumer confusion and allow individuals to purchase products containing CBD oil. The pending legislation in Texas, HB 1325, as amended, most recently went to the governor’s office for his signature. In addition to legalizing CBD oil containing less than three percent THC, the bill also would permit farmers to grow hemp. The Peek & Toland criminal defense lawyers are here to represent your interests and advise you of the best course of action in your situation. Set up an appointment to talk to us today and discover how we can assist you with your criminal proceedings.

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