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Texas lawmakers propose reducing penalties for marijuana

Signs of a softening attitude toward marijuana have emerged from the Texas House of Representatives. A bill meant to switch possession of one ounce of marijuana or less to a civil infraction instead of a criminal offense has been approved by the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee.

If the bill becomes law, then a person could not be arrested for possessing marijuana alone. People in possession of a small amount of the botanical substance would face a fine that could be as high as $250 on the first or second offense. A third offense would increase the fine to $500 and at that point become a criminal offense classified as a Class C misdemeanor.

The bill could now come under consideration by the full House of Representatives. The likelihood of the governor signing the bill if it passes legislative votes remains small because of his unwillingness to legalize marijuana for recreational or medicinal use.

Although the future might present a less punitive environment to users of marijuana, a person currently facing a drug charge could suffer serious consequences if convicted. A criminal defense attorney could supply important advice after an arrest. The attorney could explain the meaning of the charges and the potential penalties. A defense strategy might also be organized by an attorney. A review of the evidence might reveal that the charges exceed what the evidence can support, and then an attorney could request that the prosecutor drop or reduce charges. Evidence gathered in violation of the defendant's constitutional protections against unreasonable searches and seizures could be used in an attempt to have the case dismissed where appropriate.

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