School is in session again and even if you’re not a student or parent, there are important things that criminal defense attorneys want you to know about school zones and the behaviors that are not permitted within them.
One such restriction is the use of any type of illegal drug within the school zone, as schools and other areas where students and other people of all ages congregate are considered drug-free zones in the state of Texas.
Entering one with an illegal substance could result in substantial fines that are double the standard penalties given for drug-related crimes.
Criminal defense lawyers stress that avoiding serious drug charges involves knowing the details about drug-free school zones and how the laws apply.
All Schools Are Drug-Free Zones
The state of Texas and most other states recognize school properties as drug-free zones where illegal drugs are not permitted; those found in possession could be arrested and face severe penalties if convicted.
What many may not realize is that all schools, whether preschool or university, are considered drug-free zones in Texas.
This is a critical detail to understand, as it applies not just to students on the school grounds but everyone else entering them, whether a parent, an employee of the school, a delivery person, or anyone else.
Criminal defense attorneys find it especially significant at the college and university level, where young adult students are accompanied by a large number of teachers, professors, and other institutional staff.
Drug-Free Zones Can Expand Beyond the School Property
Another critical detail is that in Texas, drug-free zones extend 1,000 feet around any school facility, no matter what else is within that area.
This means the zone could encompass other buildings where adults work and live that may have no connection to the school itself.
An example of this is a house or business next door to a school property or even an apartment building.
If any properties fall within 1,000 feet of the school property, they are technically subject to the same drug-free zone laws, so anyone possessing, using, or selling drugs in that building could be charged because the building is within the drug-free zone even if they had no intention of making drugs available to a student.
Stiff Penalties for Crimes in Drug-Free Zones in Texas
According to criminal defense attorneys, drug-free zones pose another serious problem for anyone committing a drug crime within the zone in the form of serious penalties that can be incurred.
Drug crimes committed within drug-free school zones can raise charges to the next level, resulting in up to an additional five years of incarceration and thousands more in penalty fines.
Exceptions to the Rule In Texas
Because the drug-free zone can extend to other properties, Texas law does occasionally allow for exceptions to the rule in cases where outside drug crimes are technically committed within the zone.
To receive an exception and avoid higher penalties, it’s essential that those charged with drug-related crimes work with a criminal defense lawyer who can build a strong defense showing that there were no children present where drug crimes occurred, it happened inside a private residence or commercial building, and no profit was made through the sale of drugs.
Texas Takes Drug-Free School Zones Seriously
Drug crimes committed in Texas drug-free school zones incur serious penalties if a conviction is made.
To avoid this, attorneys who defend individuals accused of drug-related crimes stress the importance of recognizing where school zones are and how far they extend to avoid dealing with inflated penalties.
If you have any questions about drug-free zones and/or are charged with committing a drug-related crime in a drug-free zone, contact an experienced lawyer who can help you interpret expanded drug-free zone laws in Texas and work to provide you with a valid defense.
Reynaldo Garza, III
680 East St. Charles St, Suite 600
Brownsville TX 78520