There are a wide variety of state and federal drug crimes. Crimes range from federal conspiracy cases to tickets for possession of drug paraphernalia. Punishments depend on the drug and the amount. For example, punishment ranges for marijuana are substantially lower than punishment ranges for methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin, and ecstasy under both Texas and federal law. It’s important to consult an attorney immediately after being charged with a drug crime because law enforcement doesn’t stop investigating the case after the initial arrest. This makes drug cases distinct from many other offenses. Compare a drug case to a DWI for example. The investigation for a DWI case often ends shortly after the accused is taken into custody. This can be true with some types of drug cases, but others such as federal conspiracy cases, cases involving multiple suspects, typically require investigations that can last for several months after the arrest.
Drug cases have a story. What happened before and after the drugs were found is relevant to your defense. For example drugs found from the search of a house are often found in common areas, shared bedrooms, or hidden in a place where no one has quick access. Whose drugs are they? The state must prove knowing care, custody, and control for a conviction. The same thing applies to vehicle stops. Often the drugs are found in a console, or under a seat where no one has quick access, or in a hidden area with no indication of how long the drugs have been there. Because of this ambiguity officers will often want more evidence than what is available to them at the scene of the arrest. Paraphernalia including baggies, scales, money, pipes, and needles will likely be collected in order to build a more solid case.
Texas law provides defendants some protections in drug cases that are not available under federal law. Texas grants greater protections against unlawful search and seizure than federal law. For example, Texas law protects against unlawful searches from private individuals not just law enforcement. Therefore you have the same protections against your boss searching your car as you would a police officer. Still other examples are the good faith exception, and inevitable discovery rule. Neither apply in Texas which has the effect of increasing the protections Texans have against search and seizure. Additionally, in Texas law enforcement must prove consent to search by clear and convincing evidence rather than just a preponderance of the evidence. Finally, a defendant in Texas facing drug charges, unlike a defendant in a federal case, cannot be convicted solely on the testimony of a co-conspirator or co-defendant.
Federal drug cases are different than state cases in many ways. Convictions in federal court based solely on the testimony of a co-conspirator are valid in federal court. Additionally, a conspiracy case does not require possession of any illegal drugs. All the government has to prove is that three or more people conspired to distribute drugs and that the accused did one or more overt acts in favor of the conspiracy. Additionally, the amounts of controlled substances or total weight is determined differently than in Texas drug cases. In a federal conspiracy case, defendants are criminally responsible for all of the drugs distributed during the conspiracy. The amount is often proven by testimony only. For example a defendant that sells 4oz of methamphetamine every day for 15 months is criminally responsible for distribution of 50,960 grams or 50.960 kilograms of methamphetamine. Obviously no one will be caught with 4oz of methamphetamine every day for 15 months, but amounts in these cases are often proven by testimony only.
Punishment ranges for Texas drug cases are often higher than federal cases. However, the average defendant serves far more time on upon conviction for a federal drug case than a state drug case. This is due to strict sentencing guidelines on federal cases and a lenient parole law affecting people convicted of drug crimes not occurring in drug free zones under Texas law. Convictions for state cases often result in community supervision and there are a variety of treatment options for people in Texas placed on community supervision for a drug offense. In my experience federal drug convictions typically result in incarceration. It’s important to hire an attorney quickly in a federal case since the investigations typically start long before the arrest.