Archive for December, 2013

Sage Advice Regarding the Drug “Salvia Divinorum”

Monday, December 30th, 2013

This past September, Texas added a new name to its list of Class III controlled substances. Salvia Divinorum, commonly known as “Seers Sage, Salvia, or Ska Maria Pastora”, became a Class III controlled substance upon the passage of House Bill 124. The bill made its third and final appearance before the Texas Legislature this year after two other attempts to pass the bill failed in 2007 and 2009. Under the new law, the possession, sale, or use of any part of the Salvia Divinorum plant including leaves, seeds, extracts, or other compounds, is now a crime.

The enactment of House Bill 124 makes Texas one of a growing number of states to criminalize the possession and sale of Salvia Divinorum. In Texas, as in other places, the legislation which made Salvia Divinorum illegal was tied to efforts to regulate synthetic marijuana, even though the two substances are not similar. Interestingly enough, the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has yet to list Salvia Divinorum as a controlled substance, despite the fact that it is a known hallucinogen.

There are a few things that make the Texas Salvia law interesting, from an attorney’s perspective. For example, the penalties for possession of Salvia are more severe than the penalties for possessing marijuana. If you are found to be in possession of any amount of Salvia up to 28 grams, you are guilty of a Class A misdemeanor which is punishable by one year in jail and a maximum fine of $4,000.00. If you had twice that amount of marijuana in your possession, you would be guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by incarceration of 180 days, and a fine of $2000.00. Both substances are sold as dried plants, which users smoke in order to get high, but the laws which penalize the use of each plant involve different units of measurement. In fact, the unit of measurement which is used in the Salvia law (grams) is used to measure quantities of controlled substances that are sold in pill or powder form. The effect of this discrepancy between the laws that regulate Salvia and marijuana is that individuals who use Salvia instead of marijuana can be punished much more harshly for possessing a much smaller amount.

It is also worth noting that the Texas Salvia law is written so broadly that it may not pass muster under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Some people use Salvia Divinorum as a part of their spiritual practice, and when they do this, they chew on the leaves of the plant. This practice originated with the Mazatec people in Mexico, and has been incorporated into other religions where vision quests or divination are part of spiritual practice. Recreational users of Salvia smoke the plant, instead of chewing it. Both activities are covered by the law, which prohibits the use or possession of any part of the plant.

Perhaps the most puzzling thing about the criminalization of Salvia Divinorum is that there is no apparent reason for it to be classified as a Class III controlled substance. Although Salvia is a hallucinogen, there are no reports of Salvia-related health concerns coming from the medical community. There are also no reports coming from law enforcement regarding any danger to the public as a result of Salvia use. Salvia is usually used in a quiet place, away from people, so it is not a “party” drug, like many of the substances that cause problems for law enforcement.

If you have been charged with the possession of Salvia Divinorum or any other controlled substance, you need the assistance of a seasoned criminal defense attorney. Schedule a free consultation with Alex Tyra, a Longview, Texas criminal defense attorney, today. Call our law office at (903) 753-7499, or contact us through our website.

The Game is Not Over Until You are Safe at Home

Wednesday, December 25th, 2013

Although you might think that the concept of “making it home safe” applies more to baseball than it does to football, recent statistics regarding drunk-driving-related accidents and Texas football games indicate that a refresher course on the topic is in order. Attending football games, tailgating, and getting together with friends to watch football games on television are favorite fall activities for many Texans. Enjoying a few drinks while watching the game is also a favorite pastime of many Texas football fans, and unfortunately, not everyone is playing it safe when it comes to getting home after the game.

According to a recent press release from the Texas Department of Transportation, game day drinking has increasingly become associated with drunk-driving-related accidents. Last year, during football season, there were 1,612 alcohol-related car accidents in Texas on days when one or more Texas college or professional football games were played. As a result of those accidents, fifty-seven people died and many more were injured.

The Texas Department of Transportation is making an effort to increase awareness of the risks of driving under the influence on game day. If you have been to a football game lately, you may even have seen the TxDOT “Fan Van”, a football-shaped vehicle which has been making the rounds to stadiums throughout the state. The “Fan Van” combines an anti-drunk-driving message with an opportunity for football fans to win prizes by making a pledge not to drink and drive this football season.

In addition to the “Fan Van”, the Texas Department of Transportation is broadcasting its messages on the radio, on television, and through other media like mobile ads. The message is clear – if you are going to drink while you enjoy the game, make sure that you have a sober ride home. Some options for sober transportation include designating a driver, taking a taxi, and using public transportation. If you are unsure of what the sober transportation options are at the place where you will be watching the next game, visit the Texas Department of Transportation’s mobile-friendly website, www.SoberRides.org, to see what options are available.

Despite the concerning statistics and the renewed efforts that are being made to promote sober transportation as an alternative to driving under the influence on game day, not all Texas football fans are likely to heed the Texas Department of Transportation’s warning. Many well-intentioned football fans might go tailgating or to watch a game thinking that they have a ride home, only to have their plans fall through. Others might drink more than they had anticipated that they would, and they may find themselves without a sober ride home at the end of the game. For whatever reason, some people will still probably drive home from watching the game after they have had too much to drink.

If you have been accused of driving under the influence of alcohol, whether on game day or any other day, it is important that you seek counsel from an experienced East Texas DWI defense attorney. To learn more, schedule your free consultation with Longview DWI defense attorney Alex Tyra by calling (903) 753-7499, or visit our website and submit an online contact form.

Why Should I Settle My Texas Divorce Case?

Sunday, December 1st, 2013

Did you know that most divorce cases, whether they take place in Texas or elsewhere, are resolved through settlement instead of by trial? It is estimated that around ninety five percent of divorce cases settle, with a remaining 5% to be handled in the courtroom.  If you are currently convinced that your divorce case will be a part of the five percent of divorce cases that go to trial, keep reading to find out why so many divorce cases settle, and why your case is very likely to end up being one of them.

The parties in a divorce proceeding are certainly adverse to one another, at least in many cases. After all, if things were workable between them, then they would not be filing for divorce. There is one thing, however, that even the most adversarial of spouses can often agree on. That one thing is that each of them will be better off if they design their own divorce settlement than if they let a judge design it for them.

The reason for this is simple. The parties to a divorce know what property they have, and which items are most important to each of them. If they have children, they know what kind of a schedule will work for their family, and what things they consider important with regards to the children. Any property settlement and parent child contact schedule that the parties arrive at through settlement is going to reflect this knowledge about what is important to the parties and what will work for them much better than a divorce order that is created by someone who does not know the family.

With this in mind, you may be wondering how you will ever be able to reap the benefits of settling your divorce if you cannot so much as have a simple conversation with your soon to be former spouse without the conversation quickly dissolving into yelling, tears, or silence. If communication between you and your soon to be former spouse is difficult, you are not alone. Most couples who are divorcing have at least some degree of difficulty communicating with each other at least some of the time. Despite this, most of them are able to go on to settle their divorces without a trial.

How do they do it? By getting attorneys involved. An experienced Texas divorce attorney can help you to bypass communication difficulties and obtain a settlement that is based upon what is important to you. It may seem counterintuitive that bringing attorneys into what is already an adversarial situation could actually make communication better, because usually when people retain an attorney for the purpose of filing a lawsuit based upon a dispute that they cannot resolve, it is viewed as taking the conflict between the parties to the next level.

In a divorce, the attorneys provide a sort of filter, or buffer, between the feuding parties. For example, if you wrote up a settlement offer and presented it to your spouse, he or she may reject it regardless of what it says, simply because it came from you. If that same exact offer was sent from the desk of your attorney to the desk of their attorney, and their attorney presented it to them as an option, they are much more likely to accept it. At the very least, they will read through it without tearing it up, and if it is not to their liking they will work with their attorney to present a counter offer.

A knowledgeable East Texas divorce attorney can help you to obtain the divorce settlement that you deserve, without the stress and expense of a trial. Schedule a free consultation with Longview divorce attorney Alex Tyra today, by calling (903) 753-7499, or visit our law firm website to submit an online contact form.