The Texas State House of Representatives passed House Bill 441 that would lower the criminal penalties for possession of up to an ounce of marijuana. If passed, this bill would have carried far-reaching consequences, making it easier for those charged with minor marijuana offenses to move forward with their lives after a conviction. HB 441 did not make it through the Senate to Governor Abbott’s desk this legislative session, but we will certainly see another proposal for decriminalization in the near future.
If you are charged under current Texas marijuana laws, learn how the Austin criminal defense attorneys at Granger and Mueller PC can help protect your constitutional rights before, during and after a criminal case.
This bill would have reduced the penalties for possession of up to an ounce of marijuana by lowering it from a Class B misdemeanor to a Class C misdemeanor. This means that those convicted of the Class C misdemeanor would not face any jail time whatsoever. It also means that law enforcement officers would not have the authority to arrest a person for possession of up to an ounce of marijuana.
The bill would also have created a path to expungement for certain minor marijuana convictions. Expunging a criminal record can help create opportunities for employment, housing, and even child custody. Expungement can also make it easier for defendants to restore certain civil rights, such as driving privileges and firearm licenses.
The Current Law on Lawful Marijuana Use in Texas
It was predicted that this bill would face stiff opposition in the State Senate, and it did. As it did not pass, Texans should understand the current law on marijuana possession in the Lone Star State, which will stand.
We do have a limited medical marijuana program. Those who are registered with the program can lawfully possess and use marijuana within the legal guidelines of the program. Interestingly, the State House of Representatives and Senate succeeded in passing a bill to expand the medical marijuana program at the same time that HB 441 failed. If you intend to participate in this program, be sure to consult with an attorney to be sure you understand your legal rights before using marijuana. If you possess too much marijuana, or do not use it as allowed, you could still face criminal penalties.
Currently, possession of up to two ounces of marijuana is classified as a Class B misdemeanor. This means that a person convicted of this offense faces up to 180 days in jail and a $2000 fine. (The proposed bill would have only applied to possession of up to an ounce. Even if it had passed, a person would still face a Class B misdemeanor for possessing between one and two ounces of marijuana.) Class B misdemeanors can also prevent you from obtaining a firearm license for five years and automatically suspend your driver’s license. But these direct penalties are not the only consequences that Texans face for minor marijuana charges.
The collateral consequences of a misdemeanor marijuana conviction can follow you for years. You might face discipline from your employer or academic program. You could find that your opportunities for employment, housing and financial resources are limited. In some cases, a misdemeanor conviction can also be evidence against you in a child custody case. The loss of parental rights is one of the most devastating collateral consequences that can come out of a misdemeanor drug conviction.
A conviction could prevent you from obtaining security clearance for classified work or military service. You might also have difficulty obtaining a professional license (which is required for many, many jobs in Texas, from a barber to an accountant). This is why it is so important to protect your legal rights from the very beginning of a criminal case.
There are many ways that a defense attorney can protect your constitutional rights before, during and after a marijuana conviction. An attorney can challenge unlawful arrest, and in some rare cases, prevent wrongful charges from being filed in the first place. An attorney can also prevent unlawful convictions by proving that evidence is inadmissible, challenging the government’s witnesses and evidence, or making other valid legal challenges. A good lawyer can also mitigate the collateral consequences through an effective plea deal or post-conviction relief.
Experienced, Aggressive Austin Criminal Defense Lawyers for All Marijuana Cases
Granger and Mueller PC has the best defense lawyers in Texas. You don’t have to spend hours searching for “marijuana lawyers near me,” as our attorneys have years of experience handling marijuana cases. Visit our website or call (512) 474-9999 to schedule a consultation with one of our experienced Austin criminal defense attorneys.