Drug and alcohol use is prevalent in our society. We drink to celebrate and we drink to mourn. We take drugs to make us feel better. In some states, we use marijuana to help with a serious disease and in some states (like ours – Texas), the same marijuana user is a criminal. For better or worse, drugs and alcohol account for many of the criminal cases we deal with on a day to day basis:
- Possession of a Marijuana charges.
- Possession of a Controlled Substance charges (alprazolam, hydrocodone, heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine).
- Driving Under the Influence (DUI) and Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) charges deal with alcohol use.
- Many assault charges (from misdemeanor to felony) start with drug and alcohol use.
- Many theft cases occur because an individual is looking for a way to get more money for drugs.
- A large amount of juvenile charges revolve around minor in possession of alcohol charges.
An Imperfect System
Are all these folks “criminals”? Under the law, many are treated the same way and face the same penalties as crimes that appear to be much worse. Check this out:
- If you possess a small useable amount of marijuana in Texas, you face the same penalties (up to 6 months in jail) as a person who steals $500 worth of items or commits a terroristic threat against another person.
- If you have 1 painkiller pill in your pocket without a prescription, you can face up to 1 year in jail, the same as a person who commits deadly conduct, unlawful restraint, illegally carries a gun, or purposely hurts someone else in a fight.
- If you have an addiction to a more serious drug (methamphetamine, heroin, cocaine) and possess even the smallest amount of it, you can face up to 2 years in jail.
- If you have 1 gram of the same drug (enough for a few individual uses), you can face up to 10 years in prison.
Does this seem fair? Appropriate? My take – the criminal justice system needs a major overhaul when it comes to dealing with drug and alcohol use. Many of these individuals are not “criminals,” but rather have an addiction where they simply need help. They don’t need to be locked up with the same people accused of real crimes, where there is a real victim. And they don’t need to be sent to prison for 10 years because they cannot stop a dangerous addiction.
As a Fort Worth criminal defense attorney, my goal is to continue to advocate for individuals facing drug and alcohol charges; continue to show the prosecution and the Judge that these individuals are not criminals, but rather good people who need help and don’t deserve to go to jail or prison. Hopefully, as our fight and advocacy continues, we can make a difference and make the system better for those in need.
If you need help for a drug or alcohol case, you can contact our office at 877-208-3382 for a free consultation.
Attorney Bryan Hoeller is a trial lawyer and former prosecutor in the Tarrant County and Dallas County District Attorney offices. He manages a litigation law firm and specializes as a Fort Worth criminal defense attorney, DWI attorney, and personal injury lawyer (car accidents, 18 wheeler accidents, truck accidents, drunk driving accidents, and wrongful death lawsuits).