Juvenile Heroin Arrests: When Your Child is Busted for Heroin in Texas
Some may be shocked to think that there are active heroin users here in Texas, especially here in the Dallas – Fort Worth area, that are minors or juveniles and kids under the age of 18 years. The general public (and potential jurors) may not understand that heroin use isn’t like it was in years past. No longer is heroin being used by addicts in alleys using dirty needles and always desperate for their next fix.
As we’ve discussed in past posts, heroin no longer carries a social stigma for many; it’s cheap and easy to find; more and more it’s sold in easy-to-take forms and with kid-friendly marketing; and it’s extremely popular as an alternative to prescription pain medications that aren’t as readily available today.
Kids Are Using Heroin Socially Here in the Dallas – Fort Worth Area
Parents may not realize that their children — ranging in age from middle schoolers to college students — are exposed to the opportunity to try heroin and that for many, it’s the first illegal drug they may try. Heroin can be shared and “enjoyed” at parties, sporting events, concerts, even proms and after-the-game celebrations.
Heroin is a popular drug in our part of the state and it’s growing in popularity here among those who are kids still in school.
Thing is: how old someone is when they are busted for drugs is a big deal — age at the time of arrest can make a big difference to someone arrested for possession of heroin.
1. Heroin is a Felony under Texas Law
Possession of heroin is a serious felony under our state law. The Texas Penal Code, for example, finds that someone caught with even a tiny bit of heroin (up to one gram) faces a sentence of up to 2 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
What is one gram? It’s the equivalent of 0.035274 ounce.
That is minuscule amount.
The Texas heroin laws only get more severe. Found with 1 gram – 3.99 grams of heroin, and you’re facing up to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
2. Juveniles Treated Differently In The System
Of course, kids are treated differently than adults in the criminal justice system. In Texas, there is a separate criminal system — the “juvenile justice system” — established to deal with people who are arrested and under the age of legal adulthood.
The juvenile justice system (the “juvie system”) has its own criminal rules and procedures and its own goals — specifically, the juvie system in theory works to keep someone’s childish behavior and stupid mistake from ruining the rest of their lives and permanently altering their futures.
Punishment in the juvie system often includes education, including college preparation, as well as psychological therapy strategies. (They’re still incarcerated here.)
Of course, there are exceptions to every general rule and there are times when prosecutors can seek to have someone eligible for the juvenile justice system remain in the adult system by “certifying” them as an adult for trial.
3. Juvenile Heroin Arrests
In Texas, someone under the age of 17 years is considered to be a “juvenile.” Juveniles in Texas are those individuals who are between the ages of 10 and 16 as a general rule. A child who is under the age of 10 is not considered an adult or a juvenile, but someone without the capacity to have criminal intent and therefore not to be processed within either justice system procedure (adult or juvenile). If you are 17 years old here in Texas, then you’re considered to be an adult for purposes of criminal justice.
Some argue that kids who are 17 years old should not be considered adults and there is a movement to pass legislation that changes the age marker for the juvenile justice system from 17 years to 18 years of age. Right now, if a kid is one day over his 17th birthday, he’s going to be treated much differently upon arrest here in Dallas than his buddy who is still 16 years old.
Juveniles are considered to be minors still learning about life and without an adult’s ability to fully comprehend right from wrong. Children in middle school and high school have their whole lives ahead of them and state legislatures have considered this reality as the state penal code has developed.
Still, being caught by police as a juvenile is serious. Juveniles can still be arrested. They can be handcuffed in front of their friends and taken away in a squad car. And they can still face serious consequences when they are arrested for serious felony charges, like possession of heroin.
Many young heroin users (as well as their parents) do not understand the ramifications of felony heroin laws on their lives. For instance, most teenagers and high school students do not understand that they can be arrested for possession, custody, or control of that tiny bit of heroin. A teenager is risking felony arrest if they have even a tiny bit of heroin in their school locker; their glove compartment; their gym bag; or their car’s trunk.
If they have control over the area where the police find the heroin, they can be arrested for heroin possession.
4. New Laws Being Passed to Deal with Skyrocketing Heroin Popularity Among Teens
Recognizing the growing popularity of heroin among young adults and teenagers and children, law makers around the country are trying to find ways to cope with this trend and protect kids from the harsh reality of heroin use.
Selling Heroin to Kids Under 14 Years Old as a Separate Felony
For instance, a law is being proposed in New York where those who sell heroin to kids under the age of 14 years will face stiffer punishments and sentences. If the new law is passed, selling any amount of heroin to a child who is 14 years old or younger will be a separate felony.
Think about that: heroin use is so widespread among kids under the age of 14 years in the State of New York that this legislation is being offered there and has already passed in its state senate.
Overdose Good Samaritan Laws
Twenty-one states have passed “Overdose Good Samaritan Laws” dealing with heroin use among young people. These laws protect people who call for emergency assistance (911) to get help for someone who is or may be suffering a heroin overdose.
The Good Samaritan law means that those calling to get help for the heroin user cannot be arrested for heroin possession or other drug crimes. These laws try and get medical care to the heroin overdose victim as soon as possible, because it is known that if help can arrive soon enough to administer a drug called Naloxone, many heroin overdose deaths can be thwarted.
Naloxone will keep the heroin overdose from killing the young person.
These Good Samaritan Laws are needed because too many young people are dying from heroin overdoses because of kids being afraid of calling adults or getting help because they are going to get caught or get in trouble. Kids are dying because other kids are afraid of being arrested for heroin possession or even manslaughter.
Right now, Overdose Good Samaritan Laws exist in New Mexico; Washington; Connecticut; New York; Massachusetts; Rhode Island; California; Illinois; Colorado; Florida; Delaware; North Carolina; New Jersey; Vermont; Georgia; Wisconsin; Louisiana; Maryland; Minnesota; Alaska; and Pennsylvania.
Texas does NOT have a Overdose Good Samaritan Law. (Although it’s been discussed here for years.)
If Your Child Is Arrested on Heroin Charges in Texas What Can You Do?
Right now, if your child or teenager or college kid is arrested on heroin-related charges, then you need to get criminal defense representation for your kid as soon as you can. It’s important to have someone advocating for your child that is knowledgeable not only about heroin use and abuse but also about the intricacies of both the juvenile justice courts here as well as the adult criminal justice system.
The goal here is not only to deal with the immediate criminal charges and negotiating with the prosecution on your child’s behalf, it is also dealing with the social realities that children face when they have been arrested on heroin crimes. These can be serious and life-altering crises in a young person’s life and aggressive representation with compassionate understanding is invaluable here.
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