Posted: March 31, 2016
The following information was brought to our attention by Inger Chandler, an Asst. DA in the Harris County DA's Conviction Integrity Unit, and we wanted to share it with you.
It seems that tramadol (an opioid pain reliever commonally prescribed and sold under the brand name "Ultram") was added to Schedule IV in Texas effective November 1, 2014 (a copy of which can be accessed at https://www.dshs.state.tx.us/drugs/controlled-substances.aspx). However, the Texas Legislature never added it to a penalty group, so it lives in drug-prosecution limbo (along with carisoprodol/Soma) as a “miscellaneous substance” that must be prosecuted under Health & Safety Code Sec. 481.119 ("Offense: Manufacture, Delivery, or Possession of Miscellaneous Substances"). As a result, anyone prosecuted for possessing tramadol after November 1, 2014, should have been charged with a Class B misdemeanor under Sec. 481.119 (or a Class A for delivery, with enhancements for repeat offenders). Unaware that tramadol had been scheduled, the Harris County DA's Office had been prosecuting most of their tramadol cases under Health & Safety Code Chapter 483, ("Dangerous Drugs"), which only applies to un-scheduled substances and which carries higher punishments than Sec. 481.119.
We bring this to your attention because other jurisdictions may be making the same mistake. Fortunately, tramadol is not among the list of frequently-abused drugs, but if you filed a tramadol case in the last 18 months, you should review it to make sure it was correctly charged.
We appreciate Inger for bringing this to our attention so that we can prevent other mistakes before they happen.