Marijuana Legalization Faces an Uphill Battle in Texas

By Peek & Toland on February 6, 2017

Legislation seeking marijuana legalization has been submitted in Texas over the last few years. It has made little headway.

However, with a change in the national climate that was demonstrated in the November election when more states voted to legalize marijuana, the tide may eventually turn in Texas.

In 2016 bills intended to legalize cannabis in Texas failed. Another push is likely in 2017.

That’s not to say Texas hasn’t taken small steps toward change and decriminalization. For example, two years ago, Harris County’s district attorney brought in a “First Chance” policy in Houston. It allowed people who were picked up with small amounts of marijuana on them to be ticketed rather than arrested, assuming they were non-violent offenders.

Bills have been filed to legalize marijuana

The pressure is on to legalize marijuana in Texas

Recently, Texas Senator Jose Menendez filed a bill to legalize medical marijuana in the Lone Star State.  People who suffer from chronic medical conditions such as cancer and Parkinson’s would benefit from the legislation.

The bill is not specific about quantities of pot that would be legal. A network of private dispensaries would distribute the drug to needy patients.

Texas Faces Pressure for Marijuana Legalization

National pressures may have a bearing on Texas. On election day California, Nevada Maine, and Massachusetts joined Colorado and Washington in voting to legalize marijuana.

More than 20 states in the United States have legalized medical marijuana. However, the U.S. Supreme Court reaffirmed the illegality of medical cannabis in a 2016 ruling.

Marijuana is classified as an illegal “controlled substance” under federal law. In a unanimous 8-0 ruling, the Supreme Court ruled that patients with serious diseases who use the drug for pain release are doing so illegally, reported ABC News.

Many people who suffer from serious diseases say medical marijuana helps them cope with their conditions.  The medical community remains divided over the issue. An ABC report noted a government study concluded cannabis does ease pain and nausea but also delivers “harmful substances.”

If you are caught with marijuana on you in Texas, you can still face a serious sentence. However, the climate may be changing, depending on the success of bills in 2017.

Contact our Austin drug defense lawyer today for a consultation at (512) 474-4445.

Posted in Criminal Defense, Drug Crimes

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What Are the Penalties for Drugged Driving in Texas?

By Peek & Toland on November 9, 2016

It’s no secret that law enforcement cracks down on drunk driving in Texas. But there’s less publicity about drugged driving. Although it has a lower profile there’s also a zero tolerance policy to drugged driving dealt with under state’s driving while intoxicated (DWI) statute.

Our Texas driving drugged defense lawyers also help clients who are charged with driving under the influence of drugs. There are even more inconsistencies and greater potential for miscarriages of justice here than with driving under the influence of alcohol.

Drugged driving in Texas can entail serious penalties

Texas’ drugged driving law is found under Chapter 49 of the Texas Penal Code. You commit a criminal offense if you operate a vehicle while intoxicated. You are intoxicated if you lack the normal use of mental or physical faculties because of alcohol, a drug, a controlled substance, a dangerous drug, or a combination of alcohol and drugs.

In Texas, there is no fixed amount of drugs within your blood that determines a conviction. A prosecutor will determine whether or not you are impaired on a case-by-case basis. There’s a lot of discretion.

The Penalties for Drugged Driving in Texas

A DUID can be met with the same serious penalties as drunk driving. You could face a fine of up to $2,000; be jailed for anything from 72 hours to 180 days. Your license could be suspended for up to 100 hours and you could face community service.

Texas also imposes surcharges for certain traffic offenses including DWIs and DUIDs. You can face paying $1,000 or $2,000 a year for three years. That’s just for a first offense. There is mounting opposition against driving surcharges in Texas. However, they remain in place for now.

Issues with Drugged Driving Prosecutions in Texas

The laws on driving drugged are very wide and open to interpretation. A driver could be arrested for drugged driving for taking their daily medication while going to work if there was evidence of impairment.

Drugged driving lacks a specific test as in the case of drunk driving. The fact there is no hard number means your future rests in the discretion of a prosecutor.

A driver with a high drug tolerance may get away with taking a large dosage whereas another driver could be judged to be impaired after taking a small quantity of a drug.

The arbitrary nature of the law is a concern to us as experienced Austin DWI defense lawyers.

If you have been charged with drugged driving it’s important to contact us as soon as possible for assistance with your case.

Posted in Criminal Defense

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Supreme Court Decides Fourth Amendment Search Case in Favor of Police

By Peek & Toland on August 1, 2016

The U.S. Supreme Court has decided an important Fourth Amendment search case in favor of investigators after a suspect challenged the discovery of drugs, arguing police had no reasonable suspicion to stop him.

In the case of Utah v. Strieff, the justices considered search and seizure under the Fourth Amendment.

The long-running case followed a 2006 incident in which police received an anonymous tip that narcotics were for sale at a house in Salt Lake City in Utah. A drug detective became suspicious after he saw a considerable number of people making brief visits to the house over the course of a week. While the police had the house under surveillance they stopped Edward Strieff, Jr. for questioning.

Supreme Court cases explored fourth amendment search rights

At Peek and Toland, PLLC, we represent many defendants who are accused of drug crimes in Texas. In some cases, the charges have been brought after illegal stops and searches. We were, therefore, interested in the result of this important case.

In Salt Lake City, Officer Douglas Fackrell apprehended Strieff at a nearby parking lot. The narcotic detective identified himself and asked Strieff what he was doing at the home. He asked to see his identification and gave the information to a police dispatcher, who told him that Strieff had an outstanding arrest warrant for a traffic violation.

Police Search Found Drugs on Suspect

The officer searched Strieff and discovered methamphetamines and drug paraphernalia. He was then arrested.

Strieff later challenged the legality of the search and the arrest, claiming Fackrell lacked reasonable suspicion to stop him. He argued that the evidence recovered from the search should be suppressed.

The state claimed that the exclusionary rule, which decrees evidence obtained after an unlawful stop is tainted and cannot be used, did not apply because the discovery of the traffic warrant broke the chain of causation between an unlawful stop and the discovery of evidence.

The trial court denied the defense motion. The Utah Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of the lower court. However, the case went to the Utah Supreme Court which reversed the decision of the trial court, ruled there was not an exception to the exclusionary rule, and ordered the evidence to be suppressed

The U.S. Supreme Court considered the attenuation exception which finds investigators can use evidence obtained through unlawful government action if there is a sufficiently weak connection between the misconduct in question and the discovery of the evidence.

The Supreme Court considered whether the Fourth Amendment bars the use of evidence if police learn about an outstanding warrant for a suspect’s arrest after a stop that is later revealed to be illegal.

The Justices concluded that while the short time between the unlawful stop and the search of Strieff, seemed to favor the drug evidence being suppressed, the presence of a valid arrest warrant against Strieff was an “extraordinary intervening circumstance.”

The justices also alluded to the absence of any fragrant misconduct by the arresting officer who they pointed out was engaged in a legitimate investigation of the drug house.

The U.S. Supreme Court reversed the finding of the Utah Supreme Court 5-3, in an opinion written by Justice Clarence Thomas on June 20 and found the meth and paraphernalia evidence was admissible. Justice Sotomayor filed a dissenting opinion in which she blasted the majority which she accused of trampling on Fourth Amendment freedoms.

If you or a family member has been charged with a drug related offense, you are likely to be facing serious consequences. It’s important to contact a Texas criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Call us at (512) 474-4445.

Posted in Drug Crimes

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