“Drug-free zones” are areas designated by statute. The intent of designating an area as a “drug-free zone” is two-fold: to protect individuals, usually children, and to provide greater punishment for individuals who engage in illegal conduct in these zones.
Drug-free zones include schools, daycare centers, and institutes of higher education, such as colleges, medical schools, junior colleges, and technical institutes. Public swimming pools are also protected by this statute. A playground is also considered a drug-free zone if the playground is both open to the public and intended for recreation. To be covered under the drug-free zone statute, the playground must include three or more play stations intended for children, such as slides, teeterboards, swing sets, etc.
Video arcades also qualify as drug free zones if they are both open to the general public, including minors, intended for the use of common video arcade equipment such as pinball or video machines, and contain at least three video or pinball machines. Finally, youth centers, primarily for those 18 and under, which provide athletic, cultural, or civic activities on a regular basis are considered drug free zones.
Different types of drug cases have different “enhanced” consequences if committed in a drug-free zone. In some cases, the minimum prison term is increased by five years, and the fine can double if the offense is committed in a protected zone. In other cases, the offense can be enhanced from a state jail felony to a felony in the third degree. This increases the minimum jail term from 180 days to two years. Similar enhancements cover crimes otherwise considered misdemeanors under the law.
Because of the severity of these potential penalties, it is important for anyone who has been charged with possession in a Fort Worth drug-free zone to reach out to an attorney for help.
For more information, please reference the Health and Safety Code Section 481.134