Police and prosecutors have many tools at their disposal to try and enhance drug cases to higher punishments. Because many off them still believe the only way to fight the war on drugs is to load our jails and prisons with everyday people — they can and do get very creative with how they attempt to maximize charges.
Drug Free Zones
Drug charges can be increased if the offense is alleged to have occurred in a “drug free zone.” Drug free zones can be very complicated under the Health and Safety Code 481.134(a). They obviously includes schools, but also includes playgrounds where there are three or more apparati. Also included are facilities such as private day-care centers and even places such as public gyms that supervise children for an hour or so while their parents exercise! There are other technical issues such as the degree of public access which make these issues very legally intensive.
Police can and do go to great measures to show that a drug offense was committed in a “drug free zone” even where the zone may be coincidental to the case. Again, the code is complicated and merely because the police think it qualifies as a drug free zone doesn’t make it so.
Intent to Distribute
Although the statutory language differs with regards to the quantities and the substances involved, generally speaking, charges can be increased where a person, “knowingly manufactures, delivers, or possesses with intent to deliver” the contraband in question. [See e.g. Health and Safety Code 481.112(a) dealing with penalty group 1.]
Police and prosecutors typically try to demonstrate this through surrounding circumstances such as quantity of the drugs found, whether there is paraphernalia which would suggest sales such as plastic baggies, scales, excessive cash, etc. Obviously, sometimes police will attempt to observe actual drug transactions as well.
In summation, aggressive law enforcement and prosecutors can and do find many ways to try and increase punishment ranges for criminal drug cases. Often times they over-reach, and this is where an experienced criminal drug defense lawyer can be of great assistance.
Jeremy F. Rosenthal, Esq.
*Jeremy Rosenthal is Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and licensed by the Supreme Court of Texas. Nothing in this article should be considered legal advice. For legal advice you should directly consult an attorney.