Houston Criminal Defense Blog

Alternative Sentencing Options for Drug Crimes

BillySkinner-1000-ffccccccWhite-3333-0.20.3-1[1]Throughout the years, numerous opponents have voiced boisterous, thought-provoking concerns as to the efficacy of our nation’s drug policies. For many, America’s War on Drugs has been a losing battle, particularly for those who are first-time, non-violent offenders. By enforcing harsh criminal penalties for minor drug crimes, many have argued that valuable resources, time, and energy are being poorly used. To support these claims, opponents of harsh drug policies have pointed to our nation’s overcrowded jails and prisons and the fact that a large percentage of inmate populations are comprised of non-violent drug offenders.

Whatever the arguments will focus on in the future and regardless of what policy changes will come, many states across the country have already implemented change. Among these changes are a reworking of drug policies and a rethinking of the way in which we view punishment for non-violent drug offenders. What was once a system that focused exclusively on crime and punishment is now one that leans more toward understanding, leniency, and more effective, durable solutions to difficult problems.

The fact is that drug crime is symptomatic of larger issues – drug addiction and dependency. As a leader in the global pharmaceutical and illegal drug industry, America has depended on the use of drugs in many different ways. This, inevitably, has led to a cyclical problem of addiction, which in turn – many believe – can lead to crime. By addressing the underlying problems of addiction rather than simply punishing those who violate statutory law, criminal justice jurisdictions hope to reduce recidivism – the term used to describe a convicted individual’s return to incarceration and a life of crime. Not only does this new approach have the potential to reduce crime in communities and provide help to those in need, it may also be the most fiscally responsible approach our cash-strapped society can take.

What sentencing alternatives are available in Texas drug crime cases?

Texas has followed suit with a number of other states in taking this new approach toward the rehabilitation of drug offenders. While cases will always be handled on an individual basis, and while serious drug offenses will always be a concern, individuals accused of lesser drug crimes in Harris County or in other communities of Texas now have more sentencing options than jail or prison alone.

Although our Houston drug crime attorneys’ ultimate goals are to help our clients avoid convictions through effective defense and eventual dismissals, favorable resolutions can still be obtained using other defense strategies. In drug crime cases, these other strategies may include alternative sentencing options that aim to preserve an accused individual’s freedom and in many cases, avoid a criminal conviction entirely. Depending on the unique circumstances involved in your case, there may be several alternative sentencing options. When it comes to drug offenses, an individual’s eligibility to pursue these options will depend largely on a few important elements:

  • The nature and severity of a charge
  • The type of drug
  • The accused’s prior criminal record

In qualifying cases, courts may offer accused individuals various alternatives to jail or prison, including:

Deferred Adjudication
Deferred adjudication is somewhat of a special type of probation. Individuals accused of a non-violent drug crime – typically a first or in some cases second offense – must complete all terms handed down by the court. If done properly, this alternative option can lead to a case dismissal.

Drug Court
Drug court is another alternative option that acts as a form of intensive supervision. Individuals can attend judicially-led drug or alcohol treatment programs that provide them with the help they need and while preserving their freedom. If done as a pretrial program, an accused individual’s case may be dropped.

Imprisonment is not the only option for those who face drug crime allegations. Deferred adjudication, drug court, community service, and other alternative sentencing options are available. Each of these options may also pose unique pros and cons for each accused individual. As cases are always unique and because these options may be different for everyone, it is advised that you seek a personalized review of your case from an experienced Houston criminal attorney from Billy Skinner & Associates. Learn more about the charges you face, your defense, you eligibility for alternative sentencing, and the various options our legal team can help you explore.