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San Antonio Criminal Law Blog

New policy eases penalties for marijuana possession

A Texas county is rolling out a new policy to decriminalize low-level possession of marijuana. Harris County is where Houston is located, and the policy will allow those found to be in possession less than four ounces of marijuana to resolve their case by taking a four-hour drug education course. If these people complete the course, they will not receive a ticket or be taken into custody. Furthermore, they will not be required to appear in court.

The policy takes effect on March 1, and the rationale behind it is to reduce the number of cases that courts have to hear and the number of people housed in county jails. According to the district attorney in Harris County, $25 million was spent per year over the last 10 years putting people in jail for possessing four ounces or less of marijuana.

Police find marijuana in apartment search

Two 19-year-old Texas men were taken into police custody after a search warrant was executed at an apartment on Feb. 8. Police reportedly obtained the search warrant for the College Station apartment while they were conducting an investigation into alleged marijuana sales. Both of the men were held at the Brazos County Detention Center before they were released on bond.

When police entered the apartment, they reportedly discovered 84.8 grams of concentrated THC as well as 17 vaping cartridges designed to be used with an electronic cigarette. Three jars with 2.08 ounces of marijuana were also discovered, and police said that the jars belonged to one of the men. In the other man's bedroom, police found less than one ounce of marijuana and two grams of THC. The refrigerator in the apartment allegedly contained 20.4 grams of liquid psilocybin.

Man returns to custody following commutation of life sentence

On Feb. 2, a 68-year-old man whose sentence was commuted by Barack Obama in 2015 was detained by police in San Antonio on a number of new drug-related charges. Obama in that year had commuted the sentences of many federal inmates who were serving sentences in connection with nonviolent drug crimes.

At the time that the commutation of sentence was granted, the man had served an estimated 23 years of a life sentence on a cocaine conspiracy conviction. Now, he is facing up to 40 years in prison on charges of possession and intent to distribute 500 grams or more of cocaine. Sources indicate that the charges carry a mandatory minimum sentence of five years.

Law enforcement searches for reliable marijuana impairment test

Lawmakers in Texas passed a medical marijuana bill in 2016, but the recreational use of the drug remains illegal in the state. States including California, Colorado and Washington have approved recreational marijuana use, presenting law enforcement agencies across the country with a serious challenge. While field sobriety, breath and blood tests are scientifically proven ways to detect alcohol impairment, there is currently no reliable method police can use to determine whether an individual is under the influence of marijuana.

Drunk driving charges generally hinge on blood alcohol levels, but blood tests are of little use in marijuana impairment cases. This is because the human body processes marijuana very differently than it does alcohol, and THC levels can remain elevated months after the drug has been consumed and its intoxicating effects have diminished.

How your personal hygiene products influence breath test results

If there is one device or object that has become synonymous in people's minds with driving under the influence, it is likely to be the portable breath testing device. These hand-held units have become almost ubiquitous for law enforcement, along with their larger and more rigorous counterparts housed in police stations around the country. As more data is gathered on their operation and use, it's becoming apparent that they are not as accurate as was once believed.

Obama takes one final action before leaving office

Texas residents may have heard that Barack Obama commuted the sentences of 330 people convicted of drug crimes on his last day as president. The federal sentences were cut short as part of his final act before leaving office on Jan. 20. In total, Obama commuted the sentences of 1,715 people, which was the most by any president. While in office, he commuted the sentences of 568 inmates who had been sentenced to life in prison.

It was the largest number of commutations in a single day, and it was part of Obama's goal to make up for what he saw as the consequences of unjust drug sentencing laws in the past. One man who had his sentence commuted was scheduled to serve another 10 years in prison. His conviction stemmed from a 2002 incident in which he and his brother sold cocaine and marijuana to undercover police officers.

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.

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