What Ultimately Happens to the Drugs Confiscated by Police?
Every day there are dozens of people arrested for drug crimes in Houston and throughout Texas. Most of these charges relate to simple possession of illegal drugs allegedly found on the defendant. So what happens when the police actually confiscate something they believe to be illegal narcotics?
Using Drugs as Evidence
First and foremost, the seized drugs are evidence and must be handled in a certain manner. Local police will generally take suspected drugs to a crime laboratory. There the substance can be weight and tested to confirm it is in fact an illegal drug.
Weighing is important because the nature of a drug charge often depends on the amount. For example, in Texas a person caught possessing two ounce or less of marijuana faces a maximum fine of $2,000 and up to 180 days in jail. But if she is caught with three ounces, as opposed to two, those maximum penalties are doubled.
After weighing and testing, the drugs must be kept in a secure lockup facility. It is critical that police restrict access and keep a detailed log of who has handled the drugs at all times. If there is any gap in the “chain of custody,” a defense lawyer may cite that as grounds to exclude the drugs as evidence at the defendant’s trial.
Incinerating Drugs After Trial
But what about once the trial is over and the defendant has either been acquitted or convicted? Obviously the defendant will not get the drugs back even if he is found not guilty. Depending on the case, Texas law enforcement agencies will generally keep any illegal drugs in storage for 2 to 3 years or until a judge orders their destruction.
Drugs are typically destroyed by incineration. The actual process takes place once or twice a year depending on local policy. Special incinerators must be used to ensure compliance with federal and state environmental laws. For this and other reasons, many Texas police departments use outside contractors who are licensed to handle hazardous materials.
Holding Prosecutors Accountable in League City or Galveston
If you have been arrested and charged drug possession or drug trafficking, it is important to make sure the police handle all evidence against you in a legal manner. Improper testing, handling, and storage of purported drugs may taint the prosecution’s case against you. An experienced Houston drug crimes defense lawyer knows how to hold police and prosecutors accountable for their actions. Contact the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates if you require immediate legal assistance.