A drug free zone is a legal term for an area within 1,000 feet from a school, park, playground, or other designated area where children tend to gather. Offenses that occur in drug free zones negatively impact charges by affecting parole eligibility. Drug free zone possession charges also amplify the punishment range one degree of an offense. For example, a third-degree possession charge in a drug free zone will result in a second-degree charge. Not to mention, charges in drug free zones must run consecutively to other sentences imposed for other crimes. Although it is unwise to face a possession charge in a drug free zone, these types of cases still happen.
How Drug Free Zones Are Defined
In Texas, a Drug Free Zone is defined by Texas law as any location within 1,000 feet of premises owned by either an institute of higher learning, a youth center, or a playground. The definition of a drug free zone can be perplexing. For example, to classify as a playground, an area must contain “three or more” sets of apparatus for the amusement of children. Law enforcement must physically count the number of pieces of playground equipment to determine if an area fits within the definition of playground.
Types of Drug Free Zones
The most common type of drug free zone are school grounds. The drug free zone category, however, includes any institute of higher learning, any youth center, or any play ground. These locations can be either privately or publicly owned. It is important to remember that in addition to drug free zones, certain areas like swimming pools, video arcades, and school bus pick-up/drop-off spots contain a 300-foot area within which one can be charged with a similarly enhanced possession offense.
Defenses to Drug Free Zone Possession Charges
A skilled lawyer will be able to help construct a number of defenses for drug free zone possession charges. One potential defense is if a zone is available to only a limited number of people rather than the public. This offense is inapplicable, however, if the offense is charged at a school because all institutes of higher learning are classified as drug free zones. An attorney might also be able to use evidence to establish that the charged offense did not occur within a drug free zone.
The Consequence of Drug Free Zone Possession Charges
As previously stated, the penalty for drug related crimes in a drug free zone is greater than if the same crime had been committed 1,000 feet outside of the drug free zone. For an individual who is convicted of possession inside a drug free zone of more than one but less than four grams of an illegal substance, the current sentence carries a maximum of up to ten years in jail and a fine of up to $20,000. Individuals who face possession charges within a drug free zone are not eligible for parole until a minimum of five years has elapsed. This chart better explains the effect of possession charges inside of drug free zones.
If you are charged with possession inside a drug free zone, you need the services of a skilled lawyer. At the Wheeler Law office, we are available 24/7. We offer a FREE consultation, with flat fee pricing and payment plans to fit every budget. Call us today at (940)-465-3178. Serving Denton, Collin, Dallas, Tarrant, and surrounding counties.