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Tag Archives: texas law

Weed, Texas (a little clarity about marijuana possession in Texas)

I haven’t actually checked, but since Texas has a town or city named after almost everything conceivable (Bacon, Turkey, and Coke just to name a few), there could be a Weed, Texas. But this isn’t a post about some tiny town with one stop sign in the middle of a farm to market road. It’s about pot, weed, grass, ganja, bud, swag, or any of the other myriad of names marijuana goes by. There is one thing we can all agree to call it if you are within the vast borders of Texas, and that is “illegal.” Sorry to the aficionados, those with medical issues, and future and former Coloradans, but there is no legal way to possess marijuana in Texas. De-criminalized? Nope, not that either. While there are some local jurisdictions in Texas that allow ticketing for small amounts of the green stuff, it is still a jail-able offense. Under 2oz, meaning anything from a “usable quantity” on up, is punishable as at minimum a Class B misdemeanor. Meaning the range of punishment is up to 180 days in the county jail and a $2,000.00 fine.

So where does that leave you? Are you really going to jail for a joint? Well, in most jurisdictions in Texas, the answer is yes, at least for the night you get caught anyway. But what about that 180 days? Well, probably not for that long, but that depends on a lot of things.

For now, we will skip past legal defenses to possession, and just go with being guilty. (If you want to know what the legal defenses are, you need to talk to a lawyer about the specifics of your case). So, you did it, you know it, and there is no good way to get around it. What happens now?

This can depend on your attitude at your arrest, your age, your responsibility level, and your willingness to cooperate with the things that the prosecutor’s office wants you to do to prove yourself worthy of a second shot.

Punishments can range from conditional dismissals that require drug screenings, probation where a conviction is deferred or not, all the way up to serving some jail time.  Probation for a class B can be up to 2 years and can include drug classes, reporting, drug screening, community service, and payment of fines and fees.

Some folks, believe it or not, ask for the jail time just to get it over with and move on. They don’t want to do community service, don’t have the money for fines and probation fees, don’t want to be monitored for months or years, they don’t want to quit smoking, or have any number of reasons that it just won’t work for them. Some important things to remember though is that a conviction (which if you choose jail, you will have) can affect you in ways you didn’t imagine for the rest of your life. Potential driver’s license suspensions, being denied federal student loan assistance and the effects on potential employment are just a few.

You may not like that marijuana laws in Texas are this way, you may wish things were different here, you are not alone (check out this poll by the Texas Tribune). If you want things to be different, you have two options, you can vote to change it, or move to Colorado (or Washington State.), but who wants that? Stay to try and change it and maybe one day we will have a Weed, Texas. Until then, know your rights.

by: Ryan Lee

 

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E-Filing in Texas

Apparently, the confusion over e-filing in Texas and House Bill 2302 passed by the legislature is widespread.  There is a concerted effort from the fine people over at the Office of the Court Administration to explain the new system, but since this bill went through the Senate Jurisprudence Committee, where I was General Counsel for the 2013 Regular Session, I figured I would go ahead and address some concerns and hopefully provide some clarity.

In December 2012, The Texas Supreme Court mandated e-filing across the state.  E-filing will be mandatory in the Supreme Court of Texas and in civil cases in the courts of appeals effective January 1, 2014.  E-filing will be mandatory in civil cases in the district courts, statutory county courts, constitutional county courts and statutory probate courts according to the following implementation schedule based upon the counties’ 2010 Federal Census population:

a. Courts in counties with a population of 500,000 or more – January 1, 2014

b. Courts in counties with a population of 200,000 to 499,999 – July 1, 2014

c. Courts in counties with a population of 100,000 to 199,999 – January 1,2015

d. Courts in counties with a population of 50,000 to 99,999 – July 1, 2015

e. Courts in counties with a population of 20,000 to 49,999 – January 1,2016

f. Courts in counties with a population less than 20,000 – July 1, 2016

The Texas Legislature, with the assistance of the Supreme Court and the OCA, drafted and passed House Bill 2302 to address the concerns regarding the costs e-filing.

Currently, e-filing is done as a toll road model, where the filer may have to pay the Electronic Filing Service Provider (EFSP) a fee for every filing and every transaction.

The new law addresses the costly toll road model by providing uniformity and base fees to the e-filing system. First, it provides for a $20.00 filing fee on any civil action or proceeding requiring a filing fee and any counterclaim, cross-action, intervention, interpleader or third party action in the Supreme Court, District Court, County Court, Statutory County Court, or Statutory Probate Court.  If any of these actions are filed in Justice Court, the fee is $10.00

This fee is being instituted to replace the statewide Electronic Filing Manager (EFM) and provide a free option for an Electronic Filing Service Provider (EFSP), which will be the TexFile EFSP. After paying the initial $20.00 (or $10.00 for Justice Court) filing fee, filers will be able to use the TexFile EFSP at no additional charge or fee for ANY subsequent filing. There will still be an option to use a different EFSP that charges their own fees, but there is no requirement to use one of these fee services.

The only other fee is the potential $2 per transaction fee the counties may choose to charge to recoup the costs of integrating with the e-filing system. To charge this $2.00 fee, counties first have to submit an affidavit to the Office of Court Administration (OCA) stating that they have costs to recover. The $2 transaction fee sunsets in 2019.

Widespread concern about the costs of filing cases in Texas skyrocketing due to e-filing are based on understandable misconceptions about the new system set to go into effect.  Hopefully, this post has addressed some of those concerns and ensures lawyers and parties across the state that e-filing will not create unwieldy burdens or limit access to the courts.

Ryan Lee

 

 

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