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Are there any defenses to drug possession charges?

The Texas Controlled Substances Act makes it illegal to possess certain controlled or illicit drugs. There are four different categories of illegal drugs under state law; marijuana is classified separately, constituting a fifth class. Prosecutors have the burden of proof in criminal cases; they are required to prove the elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt.

In drug possession cases, the defendant may offer evidence of one or more defenses in rebuttal to the prosecution narrative. For example, a defendant or a defense attorney may argue a lack of knowledge regarding the possession or that the drug was not intended for consumption by humans. In some situations, a defendant may be able to put forth a defense based on the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, under which substances may be approved for limited purposes.

If the charges stem from possession of medical marijuana or another drug for which the defendant has a prescription issued by a medical doctor, the prescription may be sufficient to defend against possession charges as well. Possession charges in Texas carry some of the strictest penalties in the U.S. Possession of marijuana in an amount less than two ounces, a Class B misdemeanor, may be punishable by up to 180 days in jail, a fine of up to $10,000 or both. Possession of other drugs may result in Class A misdemeanor charges, meaning up to one year in jail if convicted, or felony charges that carry still harsher penalties.

Each criminal case presents unique circumstances that may affect defense strategy. This blog is meant to provide a general overview only and is not legal advice. A criminal defense attorney may be able to assist a person who is facing drug possession charges by examining documentary evidence or interviewing witnesses. An attorney may be able to argue against the admissibility of evidence if the defendant's constitutional rights were violated by law enforcement.

Source: Findlaw, "Texas Drug Possession Laws", October 17, 2014

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