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San Antonio Criminal Law Blog

Drug charges dismissed due to field test errors

Drug possession charges against a 24-year-old Texas man were dismissed by a Harris County judge on Jan. 4 after forensic tests revealed that he had been arrested for possessing about a pound of what turned out to be quite legal cat litter. The Harris County Sheriff's Office did not immediately respond to the news or offer an apology to the man for releasing his mugshot and name in a press release following his arrest on Dec. 5.

Deputies say that they pulled the Houston resident's vehicle over after it failed to stop before making a right hand turn in the city's Copperfield area. Deputies claim that the man admitted to possessing a small amount of marijuana when they said that they smelled the drug's odor emanating from his car. During a subsequent search, deputies uncovered a sock containing what they believed to be about a pound of illegal drugs on the floor of the vehicle.

Texas police arrest man for possessing medical marijuana

On Jan. 1, Texas police officers arrested a man from out of state for possessing medical marijuana. The 67-year-old grandfather, who lives in California, was initially pulled over for speeding. During a search of his vehicle, police found 4 ounces of marijuana and edible cookies in his trunk. The man has been charged with two felonies. He was released from jail after posting bond.

The man has had a prescription for medical marijuana for 10 years. He says it has helped him deal with a number of medical conditions, including complications from heart surgery, and has improved his health. He was in Texas to visit his granddaughter, who has cancer.

U.S. drunk driving rate hits new low

Texas motorists may find it interesting to learn that the U.S. drunk driving rate fell to a 13-year low in 2014, according to statistics released by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Meanwhile, the number of people driving while under the influence of drugs also dipped slightly.

The survey found that 11.1 percent of American drivers told federal interviewers they had driven while drunk over the past 12 months. Another 4.1 percent said they had driven while under the influence of drugs, while 2.4 percent admitted they had gotten behind the wheel while under the influence of both drugs and alcohol. There is some give in the survey numbers, as they are self-reported. Some of the participants may have different concepts for what constitutes "impairment" or be reluctant to admit potentially illegal behavior. However, the survey has been conducted using the same methodology since 2002, so it is reasonable to believe that it is a fairly accurate measure of trends. In 2002, 15.3 percent of U.S. drivers said they drove while drunk, 5 percent said they drove under the influence of illicit drugs and 3.3 percent said they drove after consuming both.

About forgery laws in Texas

In Texas, forgery, or making a writing with the purpose of deceiving or harming another person, is a type of fraud. There is an assumption that an individual who has been charged for forging more than one writing had the specific intent to defraud, which is an essential element of the crime.

For the purposes of forgery, a writing can include trademarks, seals, tokens, credit cards, paper and coin money, badges and stamps. It can also include any type of recorded or printed information, such as a signature, and any symbols that depict rights, value, identification or privileges.

How are jury members chosen?

Jury selection happens at the very beginning of a criminal trial and is a crucial part of the process that has a major impact on the outcome. As the finder of fact, the jury will decide what pieces of evidence and testimony are credible and will deliver its verdict based on what it determines the facts of the case to be. Of course, no human being is perfectly objective, and each member of the jury comes with his or her own background that influences his or her perception of credibility. The task of an effective defense attorney is to aim for the inclusion of jurors able to be fair to the defendant and to challenge any improper actions on the prosecution's part.

Law enforcement deals with a wave of synthetic drugs

Texas residents may have read media reports about synthetic drugs with street names including bath salts and spice. A list of banned substances is maintained by federal authorities, but narcotics makers often alter the formulas of their products in order to skirt the rules and offer intoxicating compounds legally. Federal lawmakers generally act quickly to reclassify these dangerous drugs, and state legislators have also passed laws banning substances like cannabinoids and cathinones.

There are three basic types of illegal drugs. Substances like peyote and marijuana that are generally not processed before being consumed are known as natural drugs, and compounds such as cocaine and heroin are known as derivatives because they still closely resemble the plants they are based on. The third category are known as synthetic drugs, and they are made following complex chemical formulas and bear little resemblance to any substances found in nature. Examples of synthetic drugs include methamphetamine, MDMA and LSD.

NFL team releases star player after drunk driving charge

Texas NFL fans may have read that Michael Floyd was released by the Arizona Cardinals after being charged with DUI. The 27-year-old receiver was cut by the team less than 48 hours after being taken into custody during the early morning hours of Dec. 12. Floyd faces a two-game suspension should he be picked up by another team in addition to any criminal sanctions handed down.

According to a police report, Floyd's SUV was spotted by officers idling in a left turn lane in Scottsdale at about 2:48 a.m. The officers claim that the standout athlete was passed out in his vehicle and only persistent banging was able to rouse him. Floyd was said to be unable to maintain his balance after exiting his vehicle, and officers say that he showed signs of intoxication including slurred speech and bloodshot ans watery eyes. Reports indicate that Floyd refused to submit to a breath test at the scene and a blood test after being transported to a nearby police facility.

Potential penalties for a first-offense DUI

Drivers in Texas and around the country who are taken into custody and charged with their first DUI may face serious penalties. Depending on a driver's blood alcohol content when he or she is pulled over, an individual may serve time in jail or be required to perform community service. While a first DUI charge is usually a misdemeanor offense, it could be a felony if there were aggravating circumstances.

For instance, if a driver caused bodily injury to another person, that may be grounds for a felony charge. This could result in spending time in prison as opposed to jail. Even if an individual avoids jail or prison time, a license suspension may restrict an individual's freedom of movement. A suspension could last up to 90 days or longer if a driver failed to take a chemical test.

Common reason for false drug charges

Drug-related charges remain a leading cause for fines and jail time in Texas and across the United States. An Arkansas case sheds some unsettling light on how these charges are sometimes erroneous, and it serves as a warning to motorists about taking steps to avoid them.

InMay 2016, a man and a woman driving a truck and making a delivery to an Army base were inspected by authorities at the gates. The two men commonly purchased bulk amounts of baking soda, which they kept in unmarked plastic bags in their truck. Inspectors suspected the bags contained cocaine. Their suspicions were confirmed by multiple tests with an inexpensive roadside kit. The two were held for two months in jail on drug possession charges. This was disastrous for their business and personal lives, and it took them quite a while to recover.

Texas and the decriminalization of marijuana

Texas may follow the route of the several states that legalized marijuana in the 2016 elections. In addition, the newly-elected Harris County district attorney announced plans to decriminalize marijuana after taking office. She explained that she did not want to incarcerate non-violent offenders, especially those who committed marijuana-related offenses. Texas state lawmakers have announced six bills related to regulating marijuana. Most of the bills focus on reducing punishments for individuals found with small quantities of marijuana in their possession.

House Bill 58 would create a specialty court for those who have been found with marijuana in their possession for the first time, freeing up law enforcement resources for other matters. House Bill 81 would impose civil fines rather than criminal penalties for those caught with less than an ounce of marijuana. House Bill 82 classifies the possession of less than an ounce of marijuana as a Class C rather than a Class B misdemeanor. Senate Joint Resolutions 17 and 18 allow voters to decide whether they wish to legalize recreational and medical marijuana respectively.

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