In recent years there has been an increase in the use of synthetic “designer drugs.” Sold as bath salts, incense or plant food, under names like “Bliss,” “Ivory Wave” and “Vanilla Sky,” the substances reportedly have effects similar to cocaine or methamphetamine. Users have reported a number of effects including paranoia, disorientation and violent behavior. Because these drugs are relatively new on the market, they have only recently been outlawed.

In late July, federal agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration raided a covert Houston laboratory that was allegedly manufacturing the designer drugs. Agents also raided local stores that were allegedly selling the substances. The Houston raids were part of a series of raids and arrests in 109 cities across the country. In all, over 90 people were arrested on drug charges and $36 million was confiscated. The DEA claims that the Houston lab was at the center of the operation, supplying the drugs across the country.

Drug charges can result in serious consequences in Texas, especially where an intent to distribute or sell is alleged. But it is important to remember that those accused in these cases, as in any criminal case, are presumed innocent until proven guilty.

Often these kinds of charges can be overcome by showing that the search of the accused’s business, residence or vehicle was unreasonable under the U.S. Constitution. If the search was made pursuant to a warrant, defense counsel can challenge whether police made the necessary showing of probable cause before a judge issued the warrant. Finally, prosecutors frequently build cases like this on the testimony of paid informants, often criminals themselves whose character and credibility can be challenged in court.

Source: Houston Chronicle, “Houston at center of major synthetic drug bust,” Dane Schiller, July 26, 2012