You Can’t Avoid Jail for Drug Charges By Avoiding the Court

May 14th, 2018 by Tad Nelson in Criminal Defense, Drug Crime

“Running away won’t solve your problems.” Perhaps your parents told you that when you were a kid. It is certainly sage advice, especially if you find yourself charged with a drug crime in Texas. While you understandably want to avoid a potential jail sentence for drug possession or distribution, running away will not help. To the contrary, it will only make things worse for you and your family in the long run.

Houston Court Re-Imposes 35-Year Sentence for Heroin Possession

Consider this recent case from here in Harris County. A man was sentenced to 35 years in prison after he was found in possession of heroin. Keep in mind, heroin-based drug offenses are treated much more seriously than those involving “recreational drugs” like marijuana. While most pot charges are simple misdemeanors, possession of any amount of heroin is automatically a state jail felony. And if you are found in possession of more than 400 grams of marijuana, you could be facing life in prison.

But what’s notable about this particular case is not the length of the defendant’s drug sentence, but rather the fact that he avoided facing his sentence for nearly 30 years. Indeed, the defendant was initially arrested for heroin possession back in 1989. In August 1990, the defendant agreed to plead guilty to possession of between 28 and 200 grams of heroin, which under the law at the time was punishable by a prison term of between 5 and 99 years.

But the defendant never showed up for his sentencing hearing. So the judge sentenced the defendant “in absentia” to 35 years in prison (plus a $50,000 fine) and issued a bench warrant for his immediate arrest. This warrant was not executed until 2017, when a sheriff’s deputy arrested the defendant. Before the court last June, the defendant said he never showed up for the sentencing because his attorney misinformed him that he received probation “and that he did not need to appear.” The judge said he did not believe the defendant and re-imposed the original 35-year sentence.

The Texas 1st District Court of Appeals upheld the trial court’s ruling. The appeals court said the judge at the 2017 hearing was not required to reconsider the defendant’s original punishment. “[W]hen a defendant voluntarily absents himself after pleading to the indictment,” the Court noted, “the trial may proceed to the conclusion of trial without the defendant personally being present.” And as the trial judge explained, the fact the defendant may have lived for the past 27 years as a “good citizen” had no bearing on his liability for the 1991 sentence.

Do Not Run–Call a Houston Criminal Defense Lawyer

Had the defendant shown up for the first sentencing hearing, the judge at the 2017 hearing pointed out, the original trial judge might have been lenient and given the defendant probation. By running away, however, the defendant forfeited any special consideration then and now.

As serious as conviction of a drug-related felony may be, there is nothing to be gained by trying to avoid the criminal justice system. Your best chance at a favorable outcome is to work with an experienced Houston drug crimes defense lawyer who understands the system and can fight on your behalf within the bounds of the law. If you have been charged with a drug offense and need help, call the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates today at (281) 280-0100.

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