By Collin County Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal
If you are charged with drug possession with intent to distribute or drug trafficking — you are being called a drug dealer.
How People Get Charged with Selling Drugs
Most drug trafficking cases are far from what we see on TV. In my unscientific view, the vast, vast majority of people accused of selling drugs live very humble lifestyles and aren’t like Tony Montana from scarface (though prosecutors don’t mind jurors thinking this).
People are arrested often selling small amounts of drugs such as marijuana, cocaine, or prescription pills like xanax or hydrocodone. Most people accused are normally users themselves.
Many arrests are through confidential police informants (generally someone facing drug charges themselves). Other arrests occur in places like schools when one student is accused of bringing and sharing their parent’s prescription pills.
Federal or State Prosecution
Selling drugs can either be prosecuted by the Federal or State authorities. The prosecutions differ greatly. This blog mainly focuses on the State of Texas’ and it’s prosecution of drug trafficking cases. Here and here are good resources on Federal drug conspiracy charges.
The Law on Possession with Intent to Distribute
When police charge someone with selling drugs instead of just possessing them, the charge acts to enhance the original charge normally by one degree. For example, someone charged with possession of less than 1 gram of cocaine with intent to distribute is facing 3rd degree felony charges. Here’s the math:
Cocaine possession >1 gram = State Jail Felony + intent to distribute = 3rd Degree Felony
Here’s another example:
Possession of between 80 and 400 tablets of LSD = 2nd Degree Felony + intent to distribute = 1st Degree Felony.
What Constitutes Intent to Distribute?
Courts look to several factors when deciding what constitutes whether someone is selling drugs:
(1) where the defendant was arrested and the nature of the location;
(2) the quantity of controlled substance in defendant’s possession;
(3) the manner of packaging;
(4) the presence of drug paraphernalia associated with use or sale;
(5) the defendant’s possession of large amounts of cash; and
(6) the defendant’s status as a drug user.
None of these factors is conclusive, but all play a role in the analysis. An effective and experienced advocate can help explain a situation that doesn’t look good to a jury.
What to Do if You’re Charged with Being a Drug Dealer?
These are serious charges. The enhancements can and often do turn what might normally be an understandable drug charge into a felony where prison is possible. The charge is also stigmatizing and can be a serious blow to future goals and plans.
If you are being charged with or investigated for selling drugs, you must have competent counsel.
*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 is intended to be legal advice. For legal advice about this topic or any specific situation you should contact an attorney directly.