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Drug Free Zones

Drug Free Zone Defense Attorney

If you or your child has been arrested for drug possession or drug delivery in a drug free zone, then you need to hire an aggressive defense attorney experienced in handling drug free zone cases. A drug free zone enhancement can take an otherwise lower level offense, elevate it to a more serious offense, and create minimum terms of confinement for otherwise probation eligible offenses. It may even lead to stacked sentences.

Understanding the Texas Drug Free Zone Laws

The Texas Drug Free Zone statute is contained in Chapter 481 of the Texas Health & Safety Code. Section 481.134 defines the areas that constitute drug free zones and the enhanced penalties for committing certain drug offenses within those zones. The statute is intended to create safe zones around protected places where children and students tend to congregate.

Drug Free Zones generally include areas that are in, on, or near one of the following:

  • playgrounds;
  • video arcades;
  • youth centers;
  • public swimming pools;
  • daycare centers;
  • school buses;
  • elementary, middle and high schools;
  • public and private colleges and universities;
  • community colleges, junior colleges, and technical schools; and
  • any institution of higher education.

Location Based Enhancement

The Drug Free Zone law is a location based enhancement to drug offenses contained within other statutes. It may elevate the level of the offense or it may increase the punishment for a given offense. Either way it makes for a more harsh prosecution of your drug offense. The following are the more common locations on which a Drug Free Zone charge may be based:

  • within 1000 feet of any school property;
  • within 1000 feet of a playground;
  • within 1000 feet of a youth center;
  • within 300 feet of public swimming pool;
  • within 300 feet of a video arcade; or
  • on a school bus (regardless of the location).

Inaccurate Evidence of Location

The Drug Free Zone statute allows for the use of maps created by city and county government officials as evidence in the trial of a Drug Free Zone offense. In the investigation phase of these cases, it is not unusual to find that law enforcement has made broad and inaccurate assumptions regarding the actual location of a prohibited drug free zone. Online mapping tools can help determine whether an alleged offense actually occurred within the proscribed drug free zone. A reasonable prosecutor will generally abandon the drug free zone allegation when we are able to provide credible evidence that the alleged offense occurred outside the drug free zone.

Examples of Drug Free Zone Cases

Example 1: A young man is sitting on some bleachers at a city park watching friends play soccer. The soccer field is next to a children's playground. Two men in the soccer game get into a fight. The police are called and interview witnesses which included the man. The officer says he can smell the odor of burnt marijuana on the man. The officer asks the man if he has marijuana, and the man admits that he does. The man is arrested, and because the offense occurred within 1000 feet of a playground, he is charged with possession of marijuana in a drug free zone.

Example 2: Two boys ride to school together on the school bus. One boy tells the other boy that he has some Xanax in his backpack. At school the other boy tells his teacher, and the first boy's locker is searched. School officials find the Xanax and confront the boy. The boy admits that he brought the Xanax to school and put it in his locker. The school resource officer is called, and the boy is arrested. Because the offense was committed on the premises of a school, he is charged with possession of a controlled substance in a drug free zone.

Defenses to Drug Free Zone Charges

We will work with you to identify the potential defenses available to you in your Texas Drug Free Zone case. The following are some of the more common defensive issues that arise in Drug Free Zone cases:

  • There was no reasonable suspicion to stop and detain the suspect;
  • There was no probable cause to arrest and search the suspect;
  • The offense was committed outside the proscribed drug free zone;
  • The offense was committed within a private residence.

The Texas Drug Free Zone statute provides a specific exception for people who may be in a residence near a drug free zone. The drug free zone statute generally does not apply to an offense committed within a private residence as long as there are no children present in the residence at the time the offense is committed.

Not Guilty

If you did not commit the underlying drug offense which has been enhanced by a drug free zone allegation, then you should not plead guilty to that offense. Law enforcement will commonly arrest everyone in the area of a drug offense when they can't figure out who is actually responsible. Mere presence at the scene of someone else's criminal offense is not proof of guilt. If you were charged with possession or delivery in a drug free zone and you are not guilty of that offense, then we want to see your entire drug case thrown out or you found Not Guilty. Let our experienced criminal defense attorney defend your Texas Drug Free Zone case for you.

Hire an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney

If you or a loved one is charged with committing a drug offense within a Drug Free Zone, then you need to hire a lawyer experienced in handling these cases. Drug Free Zone allegations carry enhanced penalties that can lead to dramatically longer jail sentences. Our criminal defense attorney has prosecuted and defended these cases. He has taken these cases to trial. He knows what to do to defend against and attack the State's case. He can help you with your Texas Drug Free Zone charge.

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