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Drew Prisner Oct. 25, 2018

Imagine that you’ve been arrested for a drug crime in Texas. You’re stressed out, you’re worried about what kinds of penalties you’ll be facing, and then to top it all off, you discover that you’re being slapped with some insane-sounding charge, like a 2nd Degree Felony for a Schedule III Drug, which happens to fall under Penalty Group 1.


If these legal terms sound like a bunch of nonsense to you, trust me — you’re not alone. Fortunately, you’ve come to the right place for help. My name is Drew Prisner, and I have been defending my fellow Texans against drug charges for more than 13 years.

The rest of this article is intended to help you understand the way Texas categorizes and punishes drug crimes so that, no matter what kind of charge you’re facing, you’ll have a better idea of what to expect. After giving it a read, I encourage you to call my office and set up a meeting so we can work on your defense together. For now, let’s start with the basics: controlled substances, drug schedules, and penalty groups.

What Are Controlled Substances?

You probably already know that “controlled substances” is another way of saying “drugs,” but the term actually goes a little deeper. Drugs classified as “controlled” are those that the U.S. government views as harmful, addictive, and/or prone to user abuse.

In other words, the government sets out to control how these drugs are used by passing laws that limit how and when everyday people can get their hands on them. As you can imagine, more harmful drugs are more strictly controlled and, as a result, more harshly punished by the American justice system.

What Are Drug Schedules?

In the U.S., drugs are divided into five categories called “schedules.” Which schedule a drug belongs to depends on how likely it is that a drug user will abuse it:

  • Schedule I: These are considered the highest-risk drugs in the schedule system and have no legal medical uses. Some popular drugs in this category are heroin, LSD, ecstasy, and bath salts.

  • Schedule II: Like Schedule I drugs, these have a high potential for abuse. However, they do have some acceptable medical uses. Among the Schedule II substances are opium, codeine, hydrocodone, oxycodone, fentanyl, amphetamine, methamphetamine, and morphine.

  • Schedule III: Schedule III drugs are considered less harmful than those in Schedules I or II. They have legitimate medical uses but are often used illegally for recreational purposes. This schedule is home to benzphetamine, phendimetrazine, ketamine, anabolic steroids, substances containing codeine, and much more.

  • Schedule IV: Schedule IV drugs include medicines commonly prescribed by doctors. They are among the least harmful or addictive as far as the schedule system is concerned and include barbital, phenobarbital, chloral hydrate, clorazepate, and Xanax.

  • Schedule V: The lowest risk for abuse, Schedule V substances include everyday medicines like buprenorphine and propylhexedrine.

Now that you have a clearer picture of America’s drug schedule system, we can take a closer look at the Lone Star State’s approach to punishing drug crimes.

What Are Drug Penalty Groups in Texas?

Here’s where it gets confusing: Texas has its own unique way of punishing drug crimes. Rather than strictly relying on the schedule system, the courts here consider other factors, as well. Namely:

  • The type of drug. Even though Texas doesn’t follow the schedule system point-by-point, it still makes a difference whether the drug in question falls under Schedule I, II, III, IV, or V. Generally speaking, Schedule I penalties are going to be the most severe, whereas Schedule V will be the least.

  • The amount of the drug. Were you found with an ounce? A gram? A pound? When it comes to drug charges and penalties, weight makes a big difference.

  • Your perceived intent. Does it appear that you were planning to use the drug? Sell it? Distribute it? Give it to a minor? Penalties become harsher as more people (and especially minors) are affected by your alleged crime.

  • Your criminal record. Criminal penalties — drug-related or otherwise — get more severe if you’re caught committing the same crime more than once. If this isn’t your first offense, expect your punishment to be worse than it was the last time around.

Based on these factors, the court will decide whether to place your crime in Penalty Group 1, 1A, 2, 2A, 3, or 4. However, knowing which penalty group you’re in isn’t going to help you all that much right now. Calling an experienced lawyer is.

With an experienced criminal defense lawyer on your side, not only can you get clear answers to your legal questions, but you can also begin to strategize the best way to fight the charges against you. In many cases, having a strong defense can mean the difference between going to jail and getting your penalties reduced or dismissed. Don’t take that chance. Contact the Law Office of Drew Prisner today and get the legal support your case deserves.