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Credit Card Fraud is rather common all over the United States, as is the prosecution rate for such crimes. Any form of credit card fraud or abuse — even the possession of someone else’s credit card with the intention of committing fraud or theft — can be charged as a felony and lead to jail time and significant fines upon conviction. Whether you are accused of “borrowing” a friend’s Visa to pay for gas or you actively opened an account in someone else’s name and engaged in thousands of dollars of purchases, if you have been charged with fraud then you need experienced legal counsel.
It is possible to simply be accused of credit card fraud or for there to be circumstances in the case that constitute reduced charges, which means reduced penalties. No matter the case, it is important to have a Houston Credit Card Fraud Attorney to help you from the time you are accused until the end of the case.
If you are investigated for a credit card fraud crime in Houston, do not discuss anything with detectives. Even if you believe that you are innocent of the accusations or think that you can simply “explain what happened” so that the the problem is resolved, it is not wise to say anything to an investigator. Always insist on talking to an attorney first. If you have been arrested for Credit Card Fraud in Houston, TX, take fast action with a skilled and resourceful Houston Criminal Lawyer. Contact the Charles Johnson Law Firm immediately anytime night or day for a free phone consultation at (713) 222-7577 to discuss your case.
Overview of Texas Credit Card Fraud Laws
Performing a variety of fraudulent acts in connection with a credit card amounts to the crime of credit card fraud in Texas. Prosecutors must be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt, that the defendant had an intent to receive some type of benefit by the following means, the most common of which are:
- Using a credit or debit card the defendant knows is not his own;
- The card has expired, been revoked, or cancelled;
- Using a fictitious card, or the pretended number of a fictitious card
- Receiving any benefit that the defendant knows has been obtained by violation of this law;
- Stealing a credit or debit card with the intent to use it, sell it or transfer it to anyone but the cardholder;
- Buying a credit or debit card from someone the defendant knows is not the issuer of the card;
- Selling a credit or debit card;
- Inducing the cardholder to use his/her card to obtain property for the defendant’s benefit when the cardholder is financially unable to pay for it;
- Possessing a credit or debit card that is not the defendant’s own and having the intent to use it.
Credit card fraud is a problem that affects the entire consumer credit industry. It is one of the most common types of fraud and also one of the most difficult to prevent. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), credit-related complaints have consistently ranked among their top 10 complaints for many years. In fact, some organized crime rings and even drug dealers have shifted criminal career paths to engage in this simple, lucrative, and relatively safe form of crime.
Credit card fraud can occur in person or via the Internet. Most consumer action groups, police departments, retail stores, and agencies, such as Better Business Bureaus (BBB) and the FTC, routinely release information for consumers on how to avoid credit card fraud and identity theft. Nevertheless, there are numerous forms of credit card fraud that are committed by enterprising thieves, organized rings, business owners, and even otherwise legitimate cardholders.
One method of obtaining account information or even an actual credit card is through postal theft. Other methods that have proven surprisingly effective in obtaining personal information include impersonating a card or application verifier via telephone, obtaining copies of past bills, or utilizing on-line directories. In some situations, offenders are also able to take advantage of contacts within the various credit bureaus to obtain legitimate bankcard account information for counterfeiting or telephone order purchasing. After having illegally obtained legitimate cards or account information, offenders then create fictitious identification including driver’s licenses, social security cards, and other materials to aid in the commission of credit card fraud.
Once the information is obtained, there are several forms of fraud that can occur. One popular type of credit card fraud is the advance payment scheme. This scheme utilizes counterfeit or stolen credit cards. The offender either makes an advance payment on the card or overpays an existing balance with a fraudulent check. Since the account is credited upon receipt of payment, cash advances can be immediately withdrawn before the payment check has cleared. Through numerous payments on numerous cards, an offender can realize large profits within a relatively short period of time.
Another type of credit card fraud involves the illegal counterfeiting of credit cards. New technology has aided criminals in producing exact replicas of existing cards and in creating fraudulent cards including the so-called “hidden” counter-measures. Illegal counterfeiting may be primarily responsible for the overall upsurge in credit card fraud.
Counterfeiters also buy and sell magnetic strips to produce fraudulent credit cards. The magnetic strips are essential because they contain names, account numbers, credit limits, and other information for legitimate or contrived Visa/MasterCard holders. By using a desktop computer system, source material, and peripheral equipment, a counterfeiter can produce a fraudulent bankcard with relative ease. As technology has improved, counterfeiting credit cards has become a multi-step process. These steps can often include using desktop computer systems and peripherals such as laminators to produce more realistic looking cards. The counterfeited cards come complete with a hologram and fully encoded magnetic strip. Most of the supplies used to manufacture counterfeited bankcards, including the plastic cards and Visa/MasterCard holograms (the Visa dove and the MasterCard interlocking globes) are smuggled into the United States from the Far East.
Costs and Statistics
- It is estimated that the global rate of credit and charge card fraud is seven cents for every $100 transaction. Illegal credit card purchases totaled $788 million in the United States alone for the year 2004, representing 4.7 cents of every $100 worth of total purchases. Similar estimates have been reported in Great Britain, where it is estimated that £535.2 million were lost due to credit card fraud in 2007. In addition, Australia loses an estimated 4 cents per every $100 transaction to fraud.
- According to estimates, over 229 million records containing individuals’ identifying information have been compromised by data breaches since 2005, Although it is difficult to estimate or predict the number of compromised records that will be or may have been utilized for perpetrating fraud, the sensitive nature of the information contained within these records harbors the potential for increasing credit card fraud losses. Estimates of monetary amounts lost from data breaches can reach hundreds of millions of dollars.
- The Federal Trade Commission reports that victims’ information was used to perpetrate credit card fraud in 23% of the cases brought to the attention of the Identity Theft Clearinghouse in 2007.Of online credit/debit card fraud, the Internet Crime Complaint Center(IC3) reports that this type of fraud ranks 4 in the types of fraud committed over the Internet, compromising 6.3% of complaints reported to the IC3 in 2007.
- A report issued by Cybersource shows that, according to a 2007 survey of both small and large online businesses, 1.4% of all online revenue was lost due to payment fraud, with an estimate of $3.6 billion in losses for 2007. Additionally, the survey found that 1.3% of all accepted orders resulted in fraud losses. The median fraudulent order was $200 versus a median of $120 for legitimate purchases. Those retailers which also accept orders not located with the U.S. or Canada reported that international orders were rejected at a rate approximately 2.5 times higher than U.S. and Canadian orders due to suspicion of fraud. Overall, merchants rejected 4.2% of total orders on suspicion of fraud.
The Response/Current Efforts
Merchants are more at risk from credit card fraud than are consumers. Regardless of whether the transaction occurred in person or on-line, the consumer generally only has to face the hassles of reversing a fraudulent charge, canceling their lost or stolen card, or paying the first $50 of the loss (although most credit card companies waive this fee). In contrast, a merchant loses the cost of the product sold, must pay numerous credit card charge-back fees, and even faces the possibility of having their merchant account closed.
Many methods of safeguarding credit card purchases exist. Credit card companies started using holograms in 1981 to identify genuine cards at the time of purchase. At the same time, large-scale hologram counterfeiting operations developed in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and China. A separate market emerged for these holograms, which sell for between $5 and $15, depending on the quality of the hologram. In 1994, the Canadian Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit and the Combined Forces Asian Investigation Unit arrested members of a Chinese syndicate that produced approximately 300,000 counterfeit holograms and had distributed 250,000 of them. Based on the quantity delivered and using an estimate of $3,000 lost per card, Visa and MasterCard estimated that their combined losses caused by this group approached $750 million.
The FTC recommends that consumers sign their cards in a manner that requires the user to show photo identification, carry their cards in a separate compartment of their wallet or purse, destroy carbon copies, void incorrect receipts, reconcile monthly account statements, and shred unsolicited credit card offers. These steps will reduce the likelihood of either fraudulent purchases charged to the victims’ accounts or more severe identity theft.
Credit card fraud is a recognized issue of import. One problem facing the struggle to reduce this type of fraud, however, is the lack of law enforcement resources devoted to this type of crime. Although law enforcement acknowledges the extent of the crime, resources are often such that many agencies are simply not able to allocate the time and manpower needed to police these crimes. This is especially true when a fraudulent transaction may only account for $20-50 loss per victim, such as with the recent cases involving the company Pluto Data. While these fraudulent transactions are noteworthy, they may simply not garner the resources that more salient crimes attract. Additionally, many credit card frauds may suffer from jurisdictional problems; for instance, many of the fraudulent transactions may take place in a city, state, or country other than that in which the victim is residing. Due to the lack of consistent law enforcement involvement and jurisdictional issues, ensuring transaction safety often falls to the individual; as a consequence, many, especially merchants involved with online transactions, utilize a variety of methods for ensuring credit card security and safety.
Internet credit card transactions are referred to as CNP (cardholder not present transactions). In order to validate a card, many on-line merchants use cardholder recognition software, validity checks, and red flag order settings. These “red flags” are based on subtle differences in the card’s information that have also proved fraudulent in past purchases. For example, one red flag arises when the shipping and billing addresses are not the same. This is especially true in situations involving PO Boxes and private, rented boxes (e.g., at Mailboxes Etc.). Other types of red flags are purchases of high dollar items or orders in multiples with requests for rush or expedited shipping. On-line criminals generally like to receive their items quickly for resale purposes and, since they have no intention of paying the bill, they do not mind the higher cost for shipping.
One of the latest technological advancements in the race to foil credit card fraudsters is the employment of new chip-based technology in credit cards. Rather than relying on the standard magnetic strip to divulge card owners’ information, the new technology stores this information on a computer chip embedded within the card which requires a pin to unlock—a practice that is currently underway in Europe and has been going on in France for over ten years, where credit card fraud has dropped 80%. This system is currently being unveiled in Canada and is also being employed by select card issuers in the U.S.
Also, both Visa U.S.A. and MasterCard currently offer state-of-the-art identity check offerings. Visa U.S.A. invited cardholders to link their cards to passwords that would be required when shopping at participating on-line stores. The service, “Verified by Visa,” is designed to raise the level of security and allay fears of fraud that haunt many merchants and consumers. Verified by Visa is a way to authenticate on-line buyers to on-line sellers in which customers register for a password with the bank that issues their credit card. Merchants are linked back to the card issuer that verifies the cardholder’s identity based on that password. In addition to programs such as “Verified by Visa”, Visa is also using a new “advanced authorization” system. By evaluating 40 variable factors (such as whether or not the card being used was part of a known security breach or if items are being ordered at a high-volume quick rate), the system can provide banks with an instant rating of the transaction’s potential for fraud, allowing the issuer to decline the purchase if warranted. This new system is reported to be able to flag up to 40% of false transactions which may have gone undetected previously.
Additionally, many major credit card companies have banded together to help to ensure safety by issuing what is known as the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS). This standard requires all merchants to follow the same guidelines of data security. It is unknown how many retailers are PCI compliant, but Visa estimates that upwards of two-thirds of its large and medium-sized merchants meet requirements as of January 2008. In order to assist business owners in this endeavor, card companies and payment processors are supplying tutorials and Webinars to business owners in order to help navigate the intricate technology regulations. The latest version of the security standard is scheduled for release in October 2008.
Recent initiatives in an effort to battle credit card fraud and identity theft have also emerged on a federal level. A recent amendment to the Fair Credit Reporting Act requires consumer reporting companies to provide consumers with a free copy of their credit report (including information on where you live, how you pay your bills, and whether you’ve been sued, arrested, or filed for bankruptcy) once every 12 months, at the consumer’s request. This went into effect on December 1, 2004 in the Western states and is now available nationwide. This allows consumers the ability to closely monitor their own credit histories without paying charges to reporting agencies.
Defenses to Credit Card Fraud Charges
Police and prosecutors have the technological sophistication to effectively investigate credit card fraud, whether it allegedly occurs via the Internet or in person. The police may be able to follow the trail of an online credit card purchase back to the computer used in the transaction, to find a suspect in an online credit card fraud investigation. For credit card fraud cases occuring inside a store, the police may request security camera footage to show the person who signed for a specific purchase at a specific time.
Houston White Collar Crimes Attorney Charles Johnson will conduct a thorough, independent investigation into the case against you — seeking both exculpatory evidence and possible misconduct by the police investigators.
If you are facing charges for credit card fraud, contact Houston Lawyer Charles Johnson personally anytime night or day at (713) 222-7577. Attorney Johnson will be able to work with you and investigate the case against you, explaining your options along the way.
A defense attorney, who is experienced in this type of law, will be able to look for possible defenses in your case. Sometimes fraud, credit card theft, embezzlement and identity theft are committed due to a drug addiction, psychological issue, or gambling addiction. If you are suffering from an addiction or a mental issue, we may be able to argue for a lesser charge.
Other possible defenses include:
- Lack of knowledge
- Lack of intent
- Duress (being coerced to perform a crime that you otherwise would not perform)
- Age (being a minor may lessen the penalty imposed)
If you are facing charges of credit card theft or any other type of fraud anywhere within the state of Texas, we will:
- Investigate the case against you
- Investigate possible defenses and options
- Work with you and explain your options
- Communicate all charges and information clearly to you
- Prepare the best defense case for your situation
When you hire an experienced Houston Criminal Defense Attorney regarding theft charges you face, we may be able to get your charges lessened or see that you get alternative sentencing for your crime.
Penalties and Sentences
There are various punishments for different types of fraud. The sentences normally depend on the nature of the fraud committed. A few of the penalties that could be assessed under Texas law include:
- Jail or prison time
- Fines and restitution
- Loss of a professional license
- Seizure of property or wage garnishment
It is extremely important that you contact Houston Credit Card Fraud Lawyer Charles Johnson as soon as you are aware of an investigation. Prosecutors often attempt to intimidate ordinary citizens into thinking the state of Texas has a clear cut case against them. Investigators often apply for search warrants in order to look for evidence that a fraud has taken place. These search warrants limit the type of evidence that may be seized, but those who are unfamiliar with how this process works may nonetheless allow law enforcement officers to overstep their bounds when serving one of these warrants.
Hire the Best Houston White Collar Crime Lawyer: The Charles Johnson Law Firm
Don’t make the mistake of waiting until it is too late to do something about it. Just because you have been charged with a theft crime in Texas does not mean that you will get the maximum punishment for that charge. You have a legal right to hire a lawyer who has experience in criminal proceedings who can help represent you and get you the best possible outcome.
Experienced Houston White Collar Crimes Lawyer Charles Johnson represents people on theft and fraud charges including robbery, burglary, petty theft, credit card theft, grand theft, embezzlement, shoplifting, forgery, passing bad checks, and obtaining money by false pretenses. There are many possible defenses for your case. Allow us the time to discuss your case with you and investigate the matter.
The Charles Johnson Law Firm will investigate your case, interview witnesses and present the best possible defense. Don’t let a mistake that you made affect the rest of your life. You may contact Houston Credit Card Fraud Lawyer Charles Johnson at (713) 222-7577 and speak with him directly anytime night or day, 7 days/ week to discuss your case.
Download “Houston White Collar Crime Lawyer: Defending You Against Credit Card Fraud Charges” in PDF Format
Related News Stories – Credit Card Fraud Charges in Houston, Texas
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Over the many years of representing clients in the Houston area, Federal Drug Lawyer Charles Johnson has handled the cases of many individuals charged with drug charges and or drug related offenses and have come to understand that good people fall into bad times and then bad situations. Sometimes people break the law because they wanted to provide a better life for their families. You begin to understand the forces that shape humans, and you better understand why and how someone could end up in the backseat of a cop car, and you want to help.
Houston Drug Possession Lawyer Charles Johnson sees more criminal cases involving drug charges than probably any other criminal offense aside from drunk driving. In times of economic depression people turn to drugs and alcohol as a way of dealing with the stress of job loss and financial insecurity. It is no secret that until the United States Government treats drug use and abuse like a health issue instead of a crime there will always be a need for an Houston Drug Lawyer who specializes in helping people avoid jail time for drug possession charges, drug trafficking charges and/or other drug-related offenses. Our top ranked Federal Drug Lawyers are not only well-equipped to provide you with assistance through your Possession of a Controlled Substance case, but you will also find that they are also willing to listen to what you are going through without judgment or recrimination. We get that no one wakes up and decides to become a heroin or meth addict. It is the end result of a slippery slope that addicts and users have been sliding down for years.
If you are looking at Federal Level cocaine charges or heroin possession that also as related charges of “intent to distribute” or possibly other related offenses that elevate your drug crimes to the level of federal rather than local attention, you need to hire the experienced Houston Drug Trafficking Lawyers at the Charles Johnson Law Firm. There is a huge difference in not only the drug possession charges themselves, but how they must be handled. Courts are sometimes willing to overlook a possession of a controlled substance – even cocaine charges if the amounts imply a “personal use” and if it is your first offense. If your case involves not only a drug possession charge but also with intent to distribute, the courts are looking to put you away for a long time. Houston Drug Crimes Attorney Charles Johnson will mount an aggressive offense to suppress evidence, as well as paint you as a human being with a story that is worth listening to.
Those who have been arrested with large quantities of drugs are without a doubt seen automatically as villains, as opposed to those who have personal use levels. These individuals require that their drug offense lawyer suggest drug rehab or other inpatient program that will satisfy the courts that the person is taking the drug possession charge seriously. When, however, you have been arrested in Houston on drug charges that also involve drug trafficking or intent to distribute you must quickly move to mount an aggressive defense that looks to suppress evidence. The Charles Johnson Law Firm will work tirelessly to move to suppress, to push for discovery, and mount a strategic and hard-hitting defense. This is the type of Federal drug defense lawyer you need, not someone who is rushing from court to court handling arraignments and accepting the first plea deal an ADA throws out.
Moreover, you will find as you look around that many of the cheaper, flat-rate attorney’s are actually only marijuana attorney’s and not the type of aggressive drug defense lawyer who can stand up to the Feds and mount the type of defense that will see you back in your home watching the Superbowl next year. You don’t want to find out once it is too late that your drug lawyer has never handled a case of your size before. When you are looking for lawyers for drug charges, especially in cases of distribution or potential trafficking, you must find an experienced drug defense lawyer. Drug possession charges are one thing, drug distribution or trafficking is another. You need a skilled Federal Drug Trafficking Lawyer to handle this type of case.
Federal crimes such as those involving drug trafficking have high conviction rates. Without a dedicated, experienced Houston drug possession lawyer on your side you could very well be looking at a great deal of jail time for your drug-related offense. Houston Drug Attorney Charles Johnson will work aggressively to suppress evidence, create plea bargains or find grounds for dismissal. He will not rest until he finds some means of mitigating, lowering, or dismissing the charges against you. When you are seeking out lawyers for drug charges look to us!
That’s our promise to you. Call Houston Lawyer Charles Johnson today at 713-222-7577 to see how Houston’s #1 rated Criminal Firm can help your case. Attorney Johnson is directly available 24/7.
About Drug Trafficking
Drug trafficking is generally referred to as the manufacturing, transporting and distributing of large quantities of drugs. It often involves more than one person. Drug trafficking charges are wide and varied depending on the scope of the trafficking. Additionally, if the drug trafficking was directed towards minors, then prosecutors will seek enhancements to the charges. State and federal governments have adopted strict laws and severe penalties regarding the trafficking of drugs. Penalties can approach seven figures and decades in prison for severe cases. Houston Criminal Lawyer Charles Johnson has proven how to successfully approach and handle these types of cases and he should be contacted immediately when an arrest is made for drug trafficking.
Drug Trafficking is probably the most charged offense in federal court and is also quite prevalent in state courts. Because of the severity of the sentences, evidence and all circumstances and conditions regarding your arrest will be thoroughly examined by the Charles Johnson Law Firm and their team of experienced investigators. Drug trafficking cases can be quite involved, and with the vast amounts of drugs coming in from Mexico, prosecutors are aggressively pursuing convictions.
Types of Drug Trafficking Laws
Drug trafficking laws vary by country and region, but generally include distribution, manufacturing, and dispensing certain categories of controlled substances. Usually, the drugs are classified according to type and the addictive nature of the drug. Highly addictive narcotics like heroin and crack typically fall into one class, while marijuana and prescription drugs are considered less harmful. International drug trafficking laws are commonly handled under customs law.
Possession of drugs with the intent to sell routinely falls under drug trafficking statutes. If someone is found with a large amount of narcotics, it may be presumed that he or she intends to distribute the drugs for money. Different regions determine how much and what kind of drug is considered outside limits for personal use. Penalties for violations of these drug trafficking laws are often based on the quantity of the substance and its type.
Those who manufacture drugs may be charged under drug trafficking laws in most places. These sections of the law typically include possession of chemicals or equipment needed to make the controlled substance. Narcotics laws in each country outline the exact chemicals or equipment considered illegal.
Drug trafficking laws may include a provision that allows law enforcement to seize assets used to commit a crime. For example, if drugs are sold from a house or vehicle, a judge may order that those assets be forfeited to the government. The property is typically sold at a public auction, with the proceeds going to fund narcotics operations.
Almost any scheduled narcotic can qualify for a drug trafficking charge. In state courts the amount of drugs (cocaine, cannabis, extasy, crystal meth, acid, heroine, prescription medication) will determine if a possession charges becomes a trafficking charge. Even if you are only going to used the drugs for your personal consumption, the amount that you possess could bring a trafficking charge. You may also qualify for a distribution charge if it appears that a small amount of drugs was packaged for distribution. Each state is different as to the amount necessary for the trafficking charge. Under the federal statute you can be charged for the amount you have and or the amount you were trying to buy from a government agent. You may never actually possess the drugs, but you will be charged.
Supplying drugs to children or using minors to distribute narcotics generally carries tougher penalties than those that apply to adults. In some areas, maintaining a home for the purpose of making or distributing drugs where children live is also considered a more serious drug trafficking offense. Stiffer sanctions might also be imposed for those who sell drugs near schools, playgrounds, arcades, and other areas where children congregate.
Laws also exist that regulate drug trafficking by criminal gangs or organized groups. Penalties might be enhanced if weapons are used in the distribution of a controlled substance. Those with profits from organized sales of narcotics can also be prosecuted under money laundering statutes in some jurisdictions.
Defenses for Drug Trafficking Charges
Houston Criminal Lawyer Charles Johnson will provide skilled advice and representation to clients facing state or federal drug charges. He is considered an expert when defending against charges related to:
- Interception of a drug shipment
- Drug conspiracy charges
- Interstate drug distribution
- Undercover interstate trafficking stings
- Illegal sale and trafficking of prescription drugs
- Illegal sale and trafficking of cocaine, heroin, marijuana, methamphetamine (meth), MDMA (Ecstasy)
Drug trafficking charges often hinge on the prosecution’s illegal search and seizure of your vehicle, undercover drug operations, and confidential informants who are attempting to make a deal. As an expert lawyer skilled in drug cases, Attorney Johnson will thoroughly investigate how the prosecution came upon the evidence collected and determine if the method of collecting the evidence is in violation of your constitutional rights.
The court will have no choice but to keep any illegally obtained evidence out of trial. Attorney Johnson’s ability to thoroughly investigate drug cases and vigorously challenge the factual and constitutional merits of the prosecution’s case has proven effective in his defense of clients facing drug trafficking charges involving cocaine, heroin, marijuana, methamphetamine (meth) or prescription narcotics.
Even if the police find drugs directly in a person’s possession, the drugs and other evidence could be suppressed (thrown away) if the police did not follow the proper procedures required under the U.S. Constitution. One of the first things Attorney Johnson will look for when defending someone accused of a drug offense is whether the police themselves acted in a legal manner. Other defenses include areas such as whether the actual weight of the substance was correct when allowing for hydration, whether the chemical composition of the substance was correct as charged, whether there was joint or constructive possession of the substance which could subject the case to a Motion to Dismiss and whether the accused was entrapped into committing the offense by law enforcement or one of its informants.
Another possible defense for drug trafficking charges would involve a violation of constitutional right to counsel and right to remain silent. Once charged or in custody, you are required to be informed of your rights and given access to legal representation if you request it. Contact Houston Criminal Lawyer Charles Johnson immediately upon arrest before saying anything that could be used against you in the future. This can often mean the difference between a conviction and walking away free of any charges. You would be surprised at how many cases result in a conviction due largely to statements made by the accused.
Other possible defenses may include:
- Lack of knowledge
- Mistake of fact (For example, thinking the drug was sugar when in fact, it was cocaine.)
- Duress (For example, if Bob was forced to transport the cocaine because if he refused, something bad would happen to his family.)
- The substance was not intended for human consumption
Lastly, Federal Drug Lawyer Charles Johnson will determine if inappropriate charges were filed. Drug trafficking is a highly political issue, and you may find yourself facing inflated charges. The right attorney can insure that any charges you do face are appropriate to the acts alleged by the prosecutor.
At the Charles Johnson Law Firm, we have the experience and know-how to guide you through this complicated process from the moment of your arrest through trial, if necessary.
The defense of drug-related crimes can be difficult and complex and requires an attorney with special skills, experience and knowledge. Houston Criminal Lawyer Charles Johnson is highly qualified to defend your case. Whether it is identifying a drug addiction issue so that we may assist in getting them treatment or counseling, negotiating a fair resolution in an effort to have charges or a sentence reduced or preparing and taking a case to trial, the Best Houston Criminal Lawyer is available to assist and defend you.
As an extremely experienced criminal lawyer specializing in drug cases at both the Federal and State level, Houston Criminal Lawyer Charles Johnson is well aware of the strategies, theories and methods employed by prosecutors when they prosecute a drug case. Attorney Johnson will use this knowledge to his client’s advantage while defending their cases to get the best possible outcome on their behalf.
We are proud to represent and care about our clients. We know the devastation that a drug conviction, an addiction or incarceration for a drug offense can bring to an individual or his/her family. We will answer your questions and guide you through the whole process, working to take away some of the confusion and uncertainty that comes along any drug offense charge, while all along seeking the most favorable outcome for you or your loved one.
Drug Trafficking by Criminal Gangs
There are nearly 1 million active gang members in the United States, based on analysis of federal, state, and local data, and the involvement of criminal gangs in domestic drug trafficking is becoming increasingly complex. Since 2001, many gangs have advanced beyond their traditional role as local retail drug distributors in large cities to become more organized, adaptable, deliberate, and influential in large-scale drug trafficking. Much of their growing influence has come at the expense of local independent dealers and small local criminal groups who cannot compete with gangs that establish control in smaller drug markets.
The influence of Hispanic and African American street gangs is expanding as these gangs gain greater control over drug distribution in rural and suburban areas and acquire drugs directly from Drug Trafficking Organizations (“DTOs”) in Mexico or along the Southwest Border.
In 2009, midlevel and retail drug distribution in the United States was dominated by more than 900,000 criminally active gang members representing approximately 20,000 domestic street gangs in more than 2,500 cities. These street gangs vary greatly with respect to their ethnic or racial identities, the types and amounts of drugs that they distribute, their strength and influence, and their adaptability. Their prevalence varies geographically, with the greatest concentration of street gangs occurring in the Great Lakes, Pacific, Southeast, and Southwest Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) Regions.
Many Hispanic and, to a lesser extent, African American gangs are gaining control over drug distribution outside urban areas that were previously supplied by local independent dealers or small local criminal groups. Around 2007, Hispanic and African American gangs throughout the country, but especially in the Southwest and Great Lakes Regions, began to command greater influence over drug distribution in many rural and suburban areas. This trend continued in 2009. For example, in 2009, the Avenues street gang based in Los Angeles, California, expanded its operations to distribute drugs in suburban and rural locations throughout southern California.
To increase their control over drug trafficking in smaller markets, street gangs have been increasingly acquiring larger wholesale quantities of drugs at lower prices directly from DTOs in Mexico and along the Southwest Border. Several Southwest Border street gangs, such as Shelltown 38th Street, Tri-City Bombers, and Vallucos, smuggle wholesale quantities of drugs obtained in Mexico into the United States. By purchasing directly from Mexican wholesale sources in Mexico or along the Southwest Border, gangs throughout the country realize cost savings that enable them to sell drugs at lower prices than local independent dealers in small communities, driving these dealers out of business. For example, members of the Chicago-based Latin Kings street gang who operate in Midland, Texas, purchase cocaine from Mexican traffickers in south Texas for $16,000 to $18,000 per kilogram, compared with $25,000 to $35,000 per kilogram from wholesale traffickers in Chicago. With this savings, the gang undersells other local dealers who do not have the capacity to buy large wholesale quantities directly from Mexican DTOs in Mexico or along the Southwest Border.
Hispanic prison gangs, primarily in Southwest Border states, are gaining strength by working directly with Mexican DTOs to acquire wholesale quantities of drugs and by controlling most street gangs in areas along the Southwest Border.
Prison gangs are active in all 50 states and are increasing their influence over drug trafficking in areas along the Southwest Border (see Table B4 in Appendix B). Prior to 2001, the criminal influence of prison gangs was limited primarily to retail-level drug distribution. However, since that time, Hispanic prison gangs have become increasingly involved in the transportation and wholesale distribution of drugs.
Hispanic prison gangs such as Hermanos de Pistoleros Latinos (HPL) and Raza Unida operating in Southwest Border states have increased their involvement in wholesale drug distribution activities through cooperative relationships with Mexican DTOs. Through these relationships, Hispanic prison gangs are able to gain access to wholesale quantities of drugs. For example, in September 2009, 21 members of HPL were convicted in the Southern District of Texas (Houston) of conspiring to distribute more than 150 kilograms of cocaine and laundering millions of dollars in drug proceeds. In April 2009, 15 members and associates of the Raza Unida prison gang were indicted for trafficking multikilogram quantities of cocaine and methamphetamine weekly in McAllen and Houston, Texas.
To ensure a consistent profit stream from the wholesale drugs that they purchase from Mexican DTOs, Hispanic prison gangs distribute drugs through street gangs that they largely, if not entirely, control. Through force or intimidation, Hispanic prison gangs exercise significant control over local gangs that distribute their drugs in the Southwest Border region. For example, Barrio Azteca prison gang members operating in El Paso, Texas, collect drug payments and taxes from 47 street-level gangs and independent drug dealers trafficking drugs in El Paso.
Potential Penalties for Drug Trafficking
The penalties for drug trafficking offenses vary and depend on a number of factors. These include the type and amount of illegal drugs (also called “controlled substances”) found in a person’s possession, whether the person is a repeat offender and the state in which the person is charged.
Drug trafficking or distribution in Texas is a felony upon which a wide range of penalties may be imposed. It may be anywhere from a state jail felony, which carries the lightest sentence, to a first degree felony, which carries the harshest. The factors influencing which sentence will be imposed are: (1) the amount of the drug being distributed or delivered; and (2) the type of drug and which of the four groups of drugs it is classified under. The smaller the amount of a drug in a certain group, the lighter the sentence may be.
Texas has some very heavy penalties for drug trafficking. Prosecutors may often offer plea deals to defendants where they may offer a charge with a lesser penalty in exchange for information that would help them gather evidence for a higher priority investigation.
The sentences involved may range anywhere from 180 days to two years in state jail and/or a fine of no more than $10,000 for a state jail felony, to life in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice or a term of 15 to 99 years in prison and/or a fine of not more than $250,000 for the heaviest first degree felony. The harshness of the sentence imposed depends on how much of the drug is being trafficked. For example, trafficking or distributing less than one gram of a substance in the first grouping of drugs carries a state jail felony charge, whereas trafficking 400 grams or more of any one of the same drugs carries a first degree felony charge that may include a life sentence.
At the Federal level, the Controlled Substances Act (PL 91-513, 1970, last amended in 2000) provides penalties for the unlawful manufacture, distribution, and dispensing (or trafficking) of controlled substances, based on the schedule (rank) of the drug or substance. Generally, the more dangerous the drug and the larger the quantity involved, the stiffer the penalty. Trafficking of heroin, cocaine, LSD, and PCP, all Schedule I or II drugs (see Table 2.1 in Chapter 2), includes mandatory jail time and fines. A person caught selling at least five hundred grams but less than five kilograms of cocaine powder (seventeen ounces to just under eleven pounds) will receive a minimum of five years in prison and may be fined up to $2 million for a first offense. (See Table 6.1.) The same penalty is imposed for the sale of five to forty-nine grams of cocaine base (“crack”). Five grams are equal to the weight of six plain M&Ms candies, and forty-nine grams are a little more than a bag of M&Ms candies (47.9 grams). The high penalty for selling crack is an expression of the unusual severity with which legislators are trying to curb the use of this drug.
Penalties double with the second offense to ten years in prison and up to $4 million in fines. When higher quantities are involved (five or more kilograms of cocaine powder, fifty grams or more of crack, etc.), penalties for the first offense are ten years, and fines up to $4 million may be levied. For the second offense, twenty years and up to $8 million in fines are given, and the third offense results in mandatory life imprisonment. These examples are for an individual. Higher penalties apply if an organized group is involved or if a death or injury is associated with the arrest event.
These penalties apply also to the sale of fentanyl (a powerful painkiller medicine) or like-acting drugs, heroin, LSD, methamphetamine, and PCP. The smallest amount, which can earn someone a minimum sentence of five years in prison and a fine of up to $2 million, involves trafficking in LSD, where a one-gram amount carries a five-year minimum sentence in prison.
Special penalties exist for marijuana trafficking, since it may be traded in large quantities or grown in substantial amounts. The lower the amounts sold or the fewer the plants grown, the lower the sentence. A person cultivating one to forty-nine plants or selling less than fifty kilograms of marijuana mixture, ten kilograms or less of hashish, or one kilogram or less of hashish oil may get a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000. Sentences for second offenses involving large amounts of marijuana may earn the trafficker up to life imprisonment.
The penalties for drug trafficking are harsh, and reflect the seriousness of this felony offense and the current political climate. A conviction can lead to jail time, forfeiture of property and fines, but that is only part of the story. It places your current employment in jeopardy, places a severe emotional strain on you and your family, adversely affects your ability to find new work, and places your entire future at risk.
Hire the Best Houston Drug Trafficking Lawyer: The Charles Johnson Law Firm
A drug trafficking conviction can have an extremely adverse effect on a person’s current and future life in many regards. Both state and federal prosecutors have their eye on a conviction of the most severe charges possible and not on your rights. Houston Criminal Lawyer Charles Johnson will work diligently with prosecutors regarding any circumstances or conditions that could result in charges being dropped or reduced. If necessary, our firm can take your case to court and present a strong defense on your behalf.
The Charles Johnson Law Firm expertly handles all types of Texas drug-related offenses, from the less severe, like simple possession of a small amount of certain drugs, to the more serious ones, such as participating in an organized drug trafficking business with sale, distribution and manufacturing activities. We also defend charges involving controlled substances, such as, marijuana, crack, paraphernalia, cocaine, heroin, ecstasy, methamphetamines (meth), hallucinogens such as LSD, oxycontin, oxycodone, hydrocode, xanax, and Rohypnol club drugs. We represent all levels of people charged with drug offenses, from the student or small time person, to the professional, medical doctor or person accused of being a large scale distributor or trafficker.
If you have been arrested for drug trafficking in Houston, TX, take fast action with a skilled and resourceful Houston Criminal Lawyer. Contact the Charles Johnson Law Firm immediately anytime night or day for a free phone consultation to discuss your case.
Houston Lawyer Charles Johnson can be reached directly 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Call us at 713-222-7577 or toll free at 877-308-0100.
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Houston Criminal Lawyer Charles Johnson is a Federal Drug Defense Attorney. He represents clients who have been charged or are about to be charged with drug charges in Federal Court. The Charles Johnson Law Firm has earned an international reputation as a Leading Federal Drug Law Firm.
Regardless of the federal or international drug charge, Federal Drug Lawyer Charles Johnson has the drug defense experience to handle your case. He has successfully handled sophisticated drug defense cases that included Trafficking, Importation, Distribution and many others. When faced with a federal drug crime there is absolutely no substitute for experience. If you have been charged with drug crime and need a Federal Drug Defense Attorney, contact Attorney Johnson directly anytime night or day at (713) 222-7577. In Federal and International Drug Defense, experience makes the difference.
Federal Drug Crimes Overview
The Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970, also known as the Controlled Substances Act, classifies narcotics, marijuana and other drugs into five categories, or Schedules. Besides establishing requirements relating to manufacture and distribution of drugs, the law also defines penalties for violations of the Act. Depending on the nature and quantity of the substance involved, as well as the presence of sentence-enhancing factors, the criminal penalties can be severe. If you are facing federal drug charges, call Federal Drug Crime Lawyer Charles Johnson for advice on the law, your rights and how to proceed. He is available around the clock to take your call.
Offenses at the Federal Level
Federal drug offenses differ from those at the state level, even though the conduct in question might be the same. In defining crimes, Congress’ authority comes from its Constitutionally-granted powers over the areas of commerce, taxation and the postal service.
Some of the drug crimes under the Controlled Substances Act include:
- Drug trafficking: manufacturing, distributing or possessing with the intent to distribute illicit drugs
- Manufacturing: operating places for the purposes of manufacturing, distributing or using illicit drugs, or endangering human life while so doing
- Continuing criminal enterprise crimes: trafficking in illicit drugs by a person in concert with five or more other persons
- Conspiracy: involves attempts and the promoting and facilitating of manufacture, distribution or importation of illicit drugs
- Protected location offenses: distributing illicit drugs to persons under age 21 or within a school or playground zone; employing persons under age 18 in drug operations
- Simple possession: possessing controlled substances without a valid prescription from a licensed medical practitioner (unlike trafficking, simple possession does not involve intent to distribute the drugs)
Other drug offenses under the Act include investing illicit drug profits in businesses affecting interstate commerce and unauthorized importation of controlled substances. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) enforces the federal controlled substances laws and regulations.
In addition, drug crimes at the federal level may include violations of tax law, such as tax evasion, or engaging in activities prohibited by the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO).
Federal Sentencing Guidelines
Federal drug laws specify minimum and maximum terms of imprisonment, based on the type and quantity of drug involved. Likewise, under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, these factors are taken into account, along with:
- Whether the offense involved injury to another person
- Whether a weapon was possessed or used
- The defendant’s criminal history
While judges have discretion to depart from sentencing guidelines, they must still stay within the mandatory minimum and maximum terms specified by statute. Where the offense occurs in a school or other protected zone, penalties may be enhanced.
Hire the Best Federal Drug Crimes Lawyer: The Charles Johnson Law Firm
Drug crimes can be charged and prosecuted under federal law, state law or both. Because federal drug crimes can carry significantly harsher penalties, it is important to contact a knowledgeable lawyer who is familiar with both federal and state drug laws. If you are facing either federal or state drug charges, call Federal Drug Crimes Lawyer Charles Johnson now at (713) 222-7577. He can explain the intricacies of both systems and vigorously represent your interests.
Charged with a Federal Crime? What To Expect
The following is a short summary of what you can expect if charged with a Federal Crime.
By the time you read this material, you or your loved one will have already entered the Federal Criminal Justice System. Whether you are in custody or in the “free world”, one firm rule applies: Do not discuss your case with anyone but your lawyer. Anything you say can and will be used against you. This is true whether you talk to a police officer, a person you just met in a holding cell, or a “friend”.
RELEASE OR DETENTION
The first thing to worry about is whether you are going to be released while waiting for trial. There is no bond set automatically in federal court. Your family cannot simply pay a bondsman to get you out.
Court Appearance: If you were arrested and taken into custody, you will soon appear before a United States Magistrate Judge. This is not the District Judge that will hear your trial. This Magistrate Judge will decide if there are any conditions that would allow your release.
Pretrial Report: In order to assist the Magistrate Judge, a Pretrial Services Officer will interview you and give the Magistrate Judge a written report about your background and criminal history. The Officer will not ask you about the facts of your case and you should not volunteer any information. If you lie to the Officer, it will hurt you later on.
Chance for Release: You are most likely to be released if you have little or no criminal history, if you have solid employment and family ties in your community, if you are a United States Citizen, and if you are not charged with a serious drug trafficking offense or crime of violence. Even if you are not a good risk for release, the Magistrate Judge must still hold a hearing and find reasons to keep you in custody. The only time this hearing is unnecessary is when you are being held in custody for other reasons — such as a sentence in another case, a parole warrant, or a probation revocation warrant.
When you are facing criminal charges, your choice of legal representation is a critical issue. You must ensure that you have legal representation from a proven attorney with a record of successfully defending difficult cases.
In order to protect your rights and to fight a possible Federal drug conviction, it is very important to hire the Best Federal Lawyer you can find. Your future is at stake, and this is not a time to cut corners. A knowledgeable Drug Crime Defense Lawyer will be able to sort out the details of your drug crime charges and diligently work to provide evidence that will benefit you. At the Charles Johnson Law Firm, we have been successful at lowering or dismissing charges against our clients and will look to do the same for you. To counteract the aggressive investigation and prosecution from the federal government, you will need an equally aggressive criminal defense attorney. Federal Drug Crime Lawyer Charles Johnson understands federal drug crime cases inside and out and will provide an unmatched dedication, commitment and an aggressive approach when defending your case.
Honesty: Defendants often believe it is better not to tell their lawyers the truth about their case. This is not a good idea. Everything you tell your lawyer is privileged and cannot be told to others. The best defense is one that prepares for all the bad evidence the prosecutor may present against you at your trial. Your lawyer must know all the facts. It is foolish to ignore the dangers and simply hope everything will turn out all right. That is the sure way to be convicted.
Bad Advice: If you are in custody, you will probably get a lot of free advice from other inmates. Unfortunately, much of that advice will be wrong. Many of the other inmates are in state custody and know nothing about federal criminal law. Even the ones facing federal charges may give you bad advice; they may not know any better, or they want to mislead you.
Respect: Treat your lawyer with respect and that respect will be returned to you. Lawyers are human beings who tend to work harder for clients who do not mistreat them.
When people talk about “rights” in the federal criminal justice system, they are usually talking about the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth and Eighth Amendments to the United States Constitution. These rights include freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures, the right to remain silent, the right to legal counsel, due process of law, equal protection under the law, protection from double jeopardy, a speedy and public trial, the ability to confront one’s accusers, subpoenas for witnesses, no excessive bail, and freedom from cruel and unusual punishment.
Caselaw: There are many books and thousands of cases that discuss what these rights mean. The law is always changing. A court opinion written in 1934 by a Montana court of appeals is probably no help in your case. Your case will mostly be affected by recent published opinions of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit and the United States Supreme Court.
Application: Not all of these rights apply in all cases. If you never made a statement to the police, then it will not matter whether you were told of your right to remain silent. If you consented to a search of your car, then it will not make a difference whether the police had a search warrant.
There are no benefits to being locked up. Jail has many rules and regulations. Some of those rules are made by the jailers. Some of these rules are made by the United States Marshal.
Clothing: You can get clothing two ways. The way to get underwear, tennis shoes, socks, etc, is to buy them through the jail commissary. Despite what others tell you, your lawyer cannot simply bring you these items. In most instances, trial clothing can be brought to the U.S. Marshal’s office shortly before your court appearance. You will be allowed to change in the holding cell at the federal courthouse.
Other Possessions: Sometimes the jail may allow you to receive magazines by subscription or books mailed from a store. It depends on the jail’s rules. Most other items need to be purchased through the commissary. All jails prohibit your lawyer from bringing you any items, such as cigarettes. You may keep legal documents in your possession.
Visits: Your friends and relatives must follow the jail’s rules when making appointments to visit you. You must put the names of these persons on your visitation list.
At some point you will come to court for an arraignment. This is the time when you enter a plea of “Not Guilty”.
Indictment: Before the arraignment, you will have been indicted by a Grand Jury. Neither you, nor your attorney, has a right to be present at the Grand Jury session. A Grand Jury decides if there is enough evidence to have a trial in your case. If there is not, then the case is dismissed. If there is, the Grand Jury issues an Indictment. An Indictment is the document that states what the charges against you are. The Grand Jury sessions are rarely transcribed, so it is usually not possible to receive a transcript of their sessions.
Hearing: The arraignment takesplace before a Magistrate Judge,notthe DistrictJudge who will hear your case. The Magistrate Judge will ask you several questions:
- Do you understand what you are charged with?;
- Do you understand the potential penalties if you are convicted?; and
- How do you plead to the charges?
Since you will have discussed the case with your lawyer by this time, you will be able to answer the first two questions “Yes”. Your answer to the third question is “Not Guilty”. You cannot plead “Guilty” at an arraignment. Pleading “Not Guilty” will never be used against you.
Discovery: Federal law provides only limited access to the government’s evidence against you. Under local rules, you and your attorney are permitted to have copies of only certain types of documents in the government’s file. The rules of discovery must be strictly adhered to, and your attorney will discuss these rules with you more thoroughly as your case progresses.
Motions: Before or after investigating your case, your attorney may feel it appropriate to file a motion(s), which may be heard before or at trial. You should never file your own motions without fully discussing the proper procedures with your attorney. If you have ideas about specific motions that could be filed your case, you should discuss with your attorney whether those particular motions would be appropriate or beneficial to your defense.
Many defendants want a quick trial. This is usually for two reasons. First, defendants who are in custody want to get out of the county jail as soon as possible. Second, defendants believe that if they are not tried within the Speedy Trial Act’s 70-day time limit, then their cases will be dismissed.
Pretrial Detention: There is no question that conditions in the county jail are not good. However, a defendant is rarely ever helped by going to trial as soon as possible. The prosecutor is prepared to try the case when it is filed. Your lawyer is only then beginning to investigate the case. Your lawyer does not have access to offense reports of the law enforcement officers that have already investigated the case. Also, “aging” a case has other benefits — the case becomes less important over time, witnesses’ memories fade, etc.
Dismissal: There are many exceptions to the Speedy Trial Act. Generally, a prosecutor can get a continuance of the trial whenever requested. The usual reason why a prosecutor requests a continuance is because there are codefendants who have not been arrested yet. The speedy trial deadlines do not begin to run until all charged defendants have appeared in court. Also, any time any of the defendants file motions, the time until those motions are decided is not counted toward the speedy trial deadline.
A felony trial in federal court is decided by twelve jurors. The jurors only decide if you are “Guilty” or “Not Guilty” of the charges in the Indictment. Jurors do not decide punishment. The District Judge decides punishment.
Jury Selection: The trial begins with the selection of the jury. A panel of potential jurors is called to court from voter registration lists. The District Judge, the prosecutor, and your lawyer talk to the panel and ask questions. The lawyers are allowed to keep certain members of the panel from sitting on the jury. The first twelve of the remaining panel members become jurors.
Opening Statements: Before the evidence is presented, the lawyers may make opening statements. Opening statements are when the lawyers tell the jury what they believe the evidence will show.
Order of Proof: The prosecutor presents evidence first. You are presumed to be innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. You do not have to present any evidence or testify. If your lawyer does put on evidence, it will happen after the prosecutor has finished presenting evidence.
Rules: During the trial, the lawyers must follow the rules of evidence and procedure. These rules are complicated. The rules can both help and hurt you. For instance, the rule against hearsay evidence prohibits a prosecutor from calling a witness to testify how he heard about what you did. The same rule will stop your lawyer from introducing an affidavit made by some person who is unwilling to come to court and testify.
Prior Acts: Although you are only on trial for the charges in the Indictment, there are two ways the jury can learn about other accusations against you. First, if you testify then the prosecutor will be able to introduce your prior convictions. Second, the prosecutor can introduce your prior acts –even if they are not convictions — if they are similar to the crime you are charged with (for example, prior drug sales in a drug distribution case).
Final Arguments: After all the evidence has been presented, the lawyers argue the facts to the jury.
Jury Deliberations: Jurors are usually average working people from the community. They are not specially trained in law. They use their common sense when deciding the case. Although the District Judge will instruct them about “the presumption of innocence” and “proof beyond a reasonable doubt”, jurors rely on many things in coming to a decision in a case. Jurors often rely on things such as: the appearance of the defendant, the defendant’s character, and their own biases and prejudices. They cannot be questioned about how they reached their decision.
Verdict: If you are found “Not Guilty”, you will be released. If there is a “Guilty” verdict, then the District Judge will order the Probation Department to prepare a Presentence Investigation Report to assist the District Judge at sentencing. It takes approximately two months between a conviction and sentencing.
Release: If you were previously on pretrial release,the District Judge may continue thatrelease until sentencing, unless you were convicted of a crime of violence or a serious drug trafficking offense.
Statistics show that most defendants plead guilty. You make the decision to plead guilty. That decision is never simple. Some possible benefits of a guilty plea are that:
- the prosecutor may dismiss some charges;
- the prosecutor may not file new charges;
- the prosecutor may recommend a favorable sentence;
- you may get credit for accepting responsibility, etc.
Plea Agreement: Any promises the prosecutor makes for your guilty plea will be stated in a written plea agreement. That agreement is signed by you, your lawyer, and the prosecutor.
Plea Hearing: You must enter a guilty plea in court before the District Judge. The District Judge must ask you many questions so the record shows you understand what you are doing. During the hearing, the prosecutor will briefly tell the District Judge the facts of the case. You must agree to those facts for the District Judge to accept your guilty plea.
Effect of Plea: Once the District Judge accepts your guilty plea, you are just as guilty as if a jury returned that verdict. Once you are convicted of a felony, you lose certain civil rights, including the right to vote; the right to sit on a jury; and the right to possess firearms.
After Plea: The procedure after a guilty plea is the same as after a conviction at trial. A Presentence Investigation Report will be ordered and you will either be released or detained until sentencing (see “Trial” section).
Some defendants give prosecutors information against other persons for the possibility of a reduced sentence. There is no guarantee that a defendant will get a lower sentence for “giving people up”. Cooperation usually requires a defendant to testify in court or before a Grand Jury.
Many times, federal defendants are first arrested by state officers on state charges. Sometimes, even when federal charges are filed, the state charges are not dismissed. It is possible to be convicted of both state and federal charges for the exact same offense. This is not “double jeopardy”. It is also possible to receive “stacked time” (a consecutive sentence), by pleading guilty to an unrelated state or federal case before being convicted in your federal case. Be careful not to do anything about your other cases without telling your attorney. If you are summoned to “jail call”, do not agree to plead guilty to your state charge in exchange for “time served” without telling your lawyer. Despite what the state prosecutor may tell you, this conviction will affect your federal sentence.
Sentencing takes place approximately three (3) -six (6) months after you have been convicted by a jury or guilty plea. The District Judge decides the sentence. Unlike state court, you cannot simply agree with the prosecutor to serve a particular amount of time or probation.
Federal Sentencing Guidelines: The District Judge decides your sentence based upon a book called the “Federal Sentencing Guidelines Manual”. That book works on a point system. You get points for the seriousness of the offense and your role in the offense. Points may be subtracted if you accept responsibility for the offense or if you were only a minor participant. The Manual also considers your criminal history. Your criminal history is the record of your prior convictions in state and federal courts. A chart at the back of the Manual determines your sentencing guideline range, based upon your criminal history points and the points you received for the offense conduct.
Mandatory Minimum Punishments: Some drug and firearms cases have mandatory minimum punishments. These minimum punishments apply even if the Federal Sentencing Guidelines would otherwise give you a lower sentence. For instance, anyone possessing over 280 grams of crack cocaine after August 3 2010, with the intent to deliver it, must receive at least ten (10) years in prison; even if that person is a first offender.
Departures: If the District Judge sentences you to more or less time than your sentencing guideline range, it is called a “departure”. Departures are unusual. The District Judge must have a good legal reason for a departure. The District Judge cannot depart downward below a mandatory minimum punishment, unless the reason is that you have provided substantial assistance to the government in the prosecution of others or you qualify for the “safety valve” provision as a first offender. Only drug cases qualify for the “safety valve”.
Presentence Investigation Report: Before the sentencing hearing,the District Judge will review a Presentence Investigation Report prepared by a Probation Officer. That report summarizes the offense conduct, your criminal history, and other relevant background information about you. Most importantly, the report calculates a range of punishment for the District Judge to consider in your case. The Probation Officer creates the report based upon information from the prosecutor, independent investigation, and an interview with you in the presence of your lawyer.
Interview: It is important to be honest with the Probation Officer at the presentence interview. If you mislead the officer you may increase your sentence for “obstruction of justice”. Also, you will not get credit for accepting responsibility unless you talk truthfully about your crime. Do not talk about any other conduct for which you have not been convicted, unless your lawyer tells you to.
Objections: Before the District Judge gets the Presentence Investigation Report, it will be sent to your lawyer. The probation office will also mail a copy directly to you for your inspection. Review it carefully. If there is anything incorrect about the report, your lawyer can file objections. Some mistakes are more important than others. If the report says your car is red rather than blue, that is probably not important. If the report says you have five (5) prior felonies when you do not, that is important.
Sentencing Hearing: At the sentencing hearing, the District Judge will review your objections to the Presentence Investigation Report and make findings about any facts or legal issues that cannot be agreed upon. Your lawyer will address the legal issues and point out the facts in your favor. District Judges do not want to hear from witnesses who are just there to plead for a reduced sentence. Letters of recommendation and other helpful evidence should be provided to your lawyer well before sentencing so the District Judge can see them before the hearing. Before the District Judge pronounces sentence, you can make a statement.
Concurrent and Consecutive Sentences: No area of law is more confusing to defendants and lawyers than whether multiple sentences (more than one) may be served at the same time (concurrent) or one after another (consecutive).
Present Charges: If your federal Indictment has several related charges, and you are convicted of them, you probably will serve these sentences at the same time. However, it is possible for the District Judge to “stack” unrelated convictions so each must be served before another begins.
Other Charges: Sometimes a defendant is already serving a sentence before being convicted in a federal court. Unless the District Judge specifically orders the new sentence to run at the same time as the previous sentence, they will be stacked and will run consecutively. You would have to finish your other sentence before the new one begins. Even if the District Judge runs the new sentence at the same time as your previous sentence, you will not get credit for the time you served prior to sentencing.
If you were on release until sentencing, you may be allowed voluntary surrender. This means about 45 days later you report directly to the federal prison designated for sentence. Otherwise, you would go directly into custody if you received a prison sentence.
An appeal is not a new trial. An appeal is a review of your case by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, which is located in New Orleans, Louisiana. You may only appeal after you have been sentenced. A notice of appeal must be filed within 10 days after judgment (your sentencing order) is entered, or you lose that right. Transcripts of all testimony, and all the legal documents in your case, are sent to the Court of Appeals. The Court of Appeals decides whether the District Judge made any mistakes in ruling on the law in your case. If the Court of Appeals decides there were some important mistakes made by the District Judge in your case, the usual remedy is that you will be allowed to have a new trial or a new sentence. That is called a “reversal”. It does not happen often. It is nearly impossible to be released while your appeal is being decided. The decision to appeal should be made only after a careful discussion with your lawyer. The Fifth Circuit is strict about accepting cases that raise legitimate issues. A claim that you received “too much time” will not prevail in the Fifth Circuit. The Fifth Circuit will dismiss your appeal if you do not present an issue they consider meritorious. Also, you and your lawyer can be sanctioned (punished) if you present a “frivolous” issue on appeal.
Probation means your term of imprisonment is suspended, you must follow restrictive conditions, and report to a probation officer. Probation is not available for federal drug trafficking crimes. Except for minor fraud cases, most federal defendants do not get probation. “Shock Incarceration” or “Boot Camp” is not probation. That is a military discipline program followed by time in a halfway house. It is available mostly to young, nonviolent, first-time offenders.
Most defendants who are sentenced to prison go directly into custody or continue to remain in custody. Where the sentence will be served depends on several factors.
State Custody: If the reason you first came into custody was a state charge, parole warrant, or probation revocation warrant, then you are in state custody, not federal custody. Neither the United States Marshal, nor the District Judge, has the authority to take you from state custody so that you may begin serving your sentence in a federal institution. This means you will remain in the county jail, or the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, until your State of Texas (or whatever other jurisdiction you owe time) sentence is completely served. Even if you got a federal sentence that is to run at the same time as your previous sentences (see “Sentencing” section), you will do that time in the other jurisdiction’s prison.
Jail Credit: In the federal system, the district judge does not have the authority to award jail credit at your sentencing hearing. See United States v. Wilson , 112 S.Ct. 1351 (1992); 18 U.S.C. §3585(b). Under the statute giving a defendant convicted of federal crime the right to be credited for time spent in official detention before sentence begins, the Attorney General is required to compute credit after the defendant has begun to serve his sentence, rather than the district court at time of sentencing. Statute giving defendant convicted of federal crime right to receive credit for time spent in official detention before sentence begins does not authorize district court to award credit at sentencing.
Federal Custody: You are in federal custody if you were brought in on a federal warrant. It does not matter that you are being held in the county jail or that state charges or revocations are later filed. It is always better to be in federal custody, because the State of Texas will give you credit for serving your state sentences no matter who has custody of you.
Designation: If you are in federal custody, then a federal institution must be designated for your sentence. This designation takes about one (1) month and is made by the Federal Bureau of Prisons. During that month, you will probably remain in a county jail. The decision about where you will go depends upon the seriousness of the crime, your criminal history, the location of your family, among other things. A recommendation by the District Judge to send you to a particular place is not binding on the Bureau of Prisons.
Good Time Credit: The Bureau of Prisons can give you up to 54 days a year of “Good Time Credit”. This is time subtracted from your sentence. The credit is a privilege for good behavior, not a right. It does not begin to be counted until after your first year in prison.
Release: There is no parole in the federal criminal justice system. You will serve the majority of your sentence, minus Good Time Credit. You will receive a term of supervised release that begins after you are released. Like probation or parole, supervised release means you have to follow rules and report back to a probation officer. Violating supervised release can mean going back to prison.
You must use your own judgment about writing letters. You should not write about the facts of your case to anyone other than your lawyer. If you have any questions about your case or suggestions about it, you should contact your attorney immediately.
Federal Drug Charges in Houston, TX
Houston is in a unique position because of its convenient location. It is a criminal hotbed for illegal drug activity and because of its reputation, law enforcement; the FBI and the DEA are on high alert when it comes to detecting and convicting those guilty of trafficking or other federal drug crimes. Because drug activity is so rampant in Texas, the state has exceptionally harsh penalties for those who commit federal drug crimes. How one is prosecuted will depend on whether or not they have any priors on their record, the type of drug, and the quantity. A prison sentence for a federal drug crime can be as little as five years or it can be as long as life in prison.
The state of Texas has long been involved in a “war on drugs.” Federal prosecutors in the state of Texas come down hard on criminals involved in selling, distributing and trafficking large amounts of drugs. Not only do you face years in prison if convicted, non-citizens face deportation from the United States. At The Charles Johnson Law Firm, we are here to defend you against Federal Drug Charges.
Houston Federal Drug Crimes Lawyer Charles Johnson comprehends the differential factor between State and Federal drug crimes. If in fact you or a loved one are under investigation for a drug crime, or if you have been apprehended for or charged with a drug crime in Texas or Houston, you could face harsher punishment than you expect. If you or a loved one’s alleged crime is based upon large amounts of illegal drugs, transporting or distributing drugs over state lines or over and across the border, or other specific details, you could face federal drug crime charges rather than state charges.
The significant thing to know pertaining federal drug crimes is that a conviction will carry a much harsher punishment, a longer mandatory at the very least sentence, and the possibility of no bond or bail. Attorney Johnson defends cases at the Federal Level that involve drug crimes such as:
- Federal drug trafficking
- Federal drug manufacturing
- Federal drug sales and distribution
- Internet drug distribution
- Federal drug importation and transportation
- Mailing drugs over and across state lines or national borders
- Drug smuggling into or out of the United States
- Other crimes related to drugs and money laundering
Contact Houston Lawyer Charles Johnson anytime night or day to discuss your case. You can speak with him directly by calling (713) 222-7577. If in fact you or a loved one think you are part of a federal drug investigation, don’t wait to contact a lawyer you can trust. Rest assured that The Charles Johnson Law Firm will zealously defend you against any type of Federal Drug Charge.
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Any DWI arrest carries the potential for significant penalties and requires the attention of a highly experienced lawyer. But when that DWI arrest involves serious injury or a fatality, there is simply no room for error. The question is no longer as simple as getting your license back or avoiding some time in the county jail.
Accidents do happen and tragically, someone can die. Mitigating factors are thoroughly checked out such as whether the person broke any traffic laws, was driving with a suspended license, or if the person was negligent in some way. These are usually tried as misdemeanors. However, if a person is found to be intoxicated or under the influence of something, it is treated in Texas as a second degree felony and the prosecution goes after the person diligently. In intoxication manslaughter cases, the prosecution only has to prove that the driver was indeed, intoxicated. The term of incarceration could be anything from two years to twenty years.
If you have been charged with DWI after being in an accident that involved a death, you may be facing very serious charges of intoxication manslaughter. It is imperative that you speak with Houston Criminal Lawyer Charles Johnson as soon as possible after you have been charged, or think you may be charged. Attorney Johnson has the experience you can rely on for aggressive and effective defense strategies against the charges. The skilled attorneys at the Charles Johnson Law Firm do not believe there is any such thing as being slam-dunk guilty. No one truly intends to commit intoxication manslaughter. They do not wake up and say “I’m going to get drunk tonight and drive and see who gets in my way.” No matter what the circumstances of the accident are, your personal story is behind the charges and will make a difference in the outcome of your case. We will make sure that the judge and jury know that this isn’t just about an intoxication manslaughter case. It is about you and your family.
Intoxication manslaughter is a Second Degree felony which holds people liable for any death which occurs because of criminal negligence, or a violation of traffic safety laws. A common use of the vehicular manslaughter laws involves prosecution for a death caused by driving under the influence (determined by excessive blood alcohol content levels set by individual U.S. states), although an independent infraction (such as driving with a suspended driver’s license), or negligence, is usually also required.
Intoxication manslaughter, vehicular manslaughter and other similar offences require a lesser mens rea (Latin for “guilty mind”. In criminal law, it is viewed as one of the necessary elements of a crime) than other manslaughter offenses. Furthermore, the fact that the defendant is entitled to use the alcohol, controlled substance, drug, dangerous drug, or other substance, is no defense. For example, in Texas, to prove intoxication manslaughter, it is not necessary to prove the person was negligent in causing the death of another, nor that they unlawfully used the substance that intoxicated them, but only that they were intoxicated, and operated a motor vehicle, and someone died as a result.
Types of Intoxication Manslaughter
In Texas, intoxication manslaughter does not only apply to automobile drivers. Individuals may be charged with this crime under any of the following circumstances:
- If they are operating a car, truck, motorcycle, or any other type of motorized vehicle in a public place
- If they are operating a boat, airplane, or amusement park ride
- If they assemble an amusement park ride
If the alleged offender has done any of these things while intoxicated, and someone was killed by the vehicle they were operating or had assembled, they can be convicted of intoxication manslaughter. There is no requirement that the prosecutor prove negligence, that their intoxication was the direct cause of the crash, or that they were behaving unlawfully by using the substance that caused their intoxication.
Defenses For Intoxication Manslaughter
Intoxication manslaughter cases should be attacked on two fronts if the case is going to trial. Notwithstanding whether a person is or is not intoxicated, a good lawyer would examine the Texas Peace Officer collision report which was completed as part of the investigation. Just because a driver may be intoxicated does not mean that he should be held criminally liable for the death of another.
There have been cases where the deceased driver was as much at fault if not more at fault than the accused. Examples could include the deceased having run a red light, the deceased having operated his motor vehicle at night without lights, the deceased also being intoxicated, the deceased merging improperly into traffic, and the list goes on. A lawyer familiar with crash reconstruction and who has worked with reconstruction experts should be able to present this defense if it is available. The issue is one of causation and is set forth in Tex. Penal Code Section 6.04. In a nutshell, what 6.04 states is that if an accused’s conduct is insufficient in itself to cause the result, and the conduct of another contributed to the result and the contributing cause was sufficient to cause the result, the accused cannot be held liable.
A good accident reconstruction expert’s report may convince a prosecutor to agree to probation if causation is questionable. That in itself may be worth the investment in hiring both a reconstruction expert and a lawyer who knows how to present such findings.
The second line of defense is whether a person is intoxicated. Scientific evidence can be compelling for a jury. However, the State is allowed to rely upon opinion evidence based upon observations such as lack of coordination, blood shot eyes, smell of intoxicants on breath, slurred speech etc. Some of these symptom could be explained by lack of sleep, allergies, injury, but not all.
Most police departments have on board video cameras and video may very well have been used in this case. Video can be a two-edge sword. Many a video has convinced a defendant to make the best deal possible, while other videos have convinced an accused to take it to trial
In blood draws/test results, there are several considerations. A blood sample can be lost, yet there can be a medical record from a laboratory stating what the test result is. In fact, most hospitals don’t retain the blood samples, but for a very short period. If the blood draw was for medical treatment, sometimes there is a chain of custody problem that makes admission of the medical records unreliable. Most courts, when dealing with a chain of custody issue on medical records as the result of medical treatment rule that any problems goes to the weight of the evidence, not the admissibility, that is, the records gets admitted but the defense lawyer gets to argue that it is not reliable because of the poor chain of custody.
Mandatory blood draws can be attacked, however, you should hire a lawyer familiar with the statutory and administrative requirements for blood draws.
Houston Intoxication Manslaughter Defense Lawyer: The Charles Johnson Law Firm
When you are charged with intoxication manslaughter or intoxication assault, you have more than just the prosecutor against you. You have the victim’s family and the public screaming for your head. You don’t have to go through this alone. The Charles Johnson Law Firm will fight aggressively to protect your rights and your future.
After a car accident in which there has been a fatality, it is an extremely upsetting situation for everyone involved. Law enforcement will collect evidence at the scene and this evidence is an important part of the documentation of the case. It is crucial that if you have been charged with intoxication manslaughter that you contact The Charles Johnson Law Firm quickly. The evidence in the case can be reviewed and an attorney can advise you what can be done in your case. Houston Criminal Lawyer Charles Johnson can offer a free evaluation of your case, and it is advised that you take advantage of this so it can be determined what can be done and what options may be possible in your case.
Houston Lawyer Charles Johnson can be reached 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Call us at 713-222-7577 or toll free at 877-308-0100.
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For questions about Texas expungement laws, or to discuss your case confidentially with Houston Expungement Lawyer Charles Johnson, do not hesitate to contact us at the Charles Johnson Law Firm. We offer free expungement consultations via phone anytime day or night to see if you qualify to expunge your criminal record.
A criminal conviction can certainly change your life. Even after you’ve paid your debt to society, your criminal record may make it hard to get your life back. Fortunately, Texas provides a way to set the record straight: expungement.
Houston Record Expungement Defense: Hire the Most Effective Houston Criminal Lawyers
Expungement is a legal process through which a charge or conviction could very well be erased from a person’s criminal record. Below you will discover links to in-depth knowledge on expungement.
- Expungement Basics – Introductory advice on expungement and its legal consequences.
- Eligibility for Expungement – An arrest or conviction usually must meet certain standards in order to be eligible for expungement.
- The Expungement Process – A number of steps must be taken before an expungement is granted.
- Expungement isn’t Always an Option – Expungement isn’t available in all jurisdictions, and may not be an option for certain arrests or convictions.
Expungement (also called “expunction”) is a court-ordered process in which the legal record of a charge or a criminal conviction is “sealed,” or erased in the eyes of the law. When a conviction is expunged, the process may perhaps also be often called “setting aside a criminal conviction.” The availability of expungement, and the procedure for getting an arrest or conviction expunged, will vary according to the state or county in that the arrest or conviction transpired.
Legal Effect of an Expungement
An expungement ordinarily means that an arrest or conviction is “sealed,” or erased from a person’s criminal record for most purposes. After the expungement process is complete, a charge or a criminal conviction ordinarily doesn’t necessarily need to be disclosed by the individual who has been arrested or found guilty. For instance, when completing an application for a job or apartment, an applicant whose charge or conviction has been expunged doesn’t need to disclose that arrest or conviction.
In the majority of cases, no record of an expunged charge or conviction will appear in cases where a potential employer, educational institution, or other company conducts a public records inspection or background search of an individual’s criminal history.
An expunged arrest or conviction isn’t really necessarily completely erased, in the literal sense of the word. An expungement will ordinarily be an accessible part of a person’s criminal history, viewable by certain government agencies, such as police officers and the criminal courts. This limited accessibility is in some cases known as a criminal record being “under seal.” In many legal proceedings, that include during sentencing for any type of crimes committed after an expungement, or in immigration / deportation proceedings, an expunged conviction that is “under seal” may possibly still be considered as proof of a past conviction.
When expungement of an arrest or conviction is an option in a state or county, more often than not a person’s criminal record should meet certain standards in order to qualify for the process.
Whether or not an individual is eligible for expungement will commonly depend on a number of factors, including:
- The amount of time which has passed since the arrest or conviction
- The severity and nature of the event for that expungement is sought (i.e. a conviction for a sex criminal offense could possibly lead to a denial of expungement)
- Events within the applicant’s criminal record (such as arrests or convictions in virtually all jurisdictions, not only the offender’s state/county)
- The severity and nature of various other events within the applicant’s criminal record
Special eligibility rules might exist for expungement of arrests or convictions that transpired when the offender was a juvenile, and arrests or convictions for sex offenses. Please contact the Finest Criminal Lawyer in Houston TX to talk about your readily available options.
The Expungement Process
Where available to persons who have been arrested or found guilty, expungement does not happen automatically, and is never guaranteed. A person looking to have an arrest or criminal conviction expunged from their record has to in most cases fill out an application or request, and submit the paperwork to the appropriate criminal court for a judge’s review and ruling. In most jurisdictions, a fee must be paid in conjunction with the filing of the application.
The expungement process might be complex. By way of example, a few jurisdictions require an applicant to deliver (or “serve”) papers on district attorneys, while others require the applicant to put together the legal document (or “Order of Expungement”) which will probably be signed by the judge. In certain cases, a court hearing is required, after which a judge will decide whether to grant the expungement.
The Best Houston Criminal Lawyers at the Charles Johnson Law Firm can certainly advise you regarding this challenging process.
Expungement is not Always an Option
It is very important to understand that expungement of an arrest and/or a criminal conviction is not really an option in virtually all states and counties (named “jurisdictions”). Depending on the jurisdiction in that the arrest or conviction transpired:
- Expungement may not be available at all
- Expungement may be an option for arrests, but not for convictions
- Expungement may be an option only for certain criminal convictions
- Expungement may be an option only for arrests and/or convictions that occurred while the offender was a juvenile
- Expungement may be available only after a person is acquitted (cleared) of an offense (i.e. charges are dismissed)
- Expungement may be possible only when a criminal conviction is reversed (i.e. after a successful appeal of the conviction).
Hire The Most Respected Houston Criminal Lawyers! The Charles Johnson Law Firm
In Texas, criminal record expunction or an action to seal your criminal record may help you move on with your life. There are many benefits which flow from misdemeanor or felony expunction or record sealing, including no longer needing to list a prior conviction on a job application or worrying about the possible consequences of an employer’s discovery of your criminal record. The Charles Johnson Law Firm will do everything possible to clear a client’s record. If you are interested, contact the Best Houston Expungement Attorney today.
Need Help Acquiring an Expungement? Hire the Best Houston Criminal Lawyers
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The Leading Houston Criminal Lawyers at the Charles Johnson Law Firm aggressively defend clients charged with a sexual offense. The firm handles all sexual offense charges, whether in state or federal court, and whether the sex crime allegations are against children or adults.
Parties in contentious divorce or custody proceedings have been known to encourage children to say the other parent “touched” them a certain way or otherwise imply molestation. Child care workers, pastors, teachers, coaches, and others are frequently falsely accused. Parents have even been known to target individuals for extortion by coaching children. They may be coached by well-meaning social service and health care professionals, law enforcement officers, and prosecuting attorneys who want to make sure they obtain a conviction regardless of the truth.
Allegations of sex crimes are taken very seriously in Texas, and across the nation. With more stringent penalties being imposed, a false claim unchallenged or a single error in judgment can require you to be a lifelong member of the sex offenders’ registry and database. Before your reputation is devastated, invoke your right to an attorney and your right to remain silent. Contact the Charles Johnson Law Firm for a free phone consultation when you are under investigation for sex crimes or if charges have been brought against you for anything from possession and distribution of child pornography to sexual assault and rape.
How is Child Pornography Defined?
Federal and state laws make it a crime to produce, possess, distribute, or sell pornographic materials that exploit or portray a minor. Increasingly, child pornography laws are being utilized to punish use of computer technology and the Internet to obtain, share, and distribute pornographic material involving children, including images and films.
Under federal law (18 U.S.C. §2256), child pornography is defined as any visual depiction, including any photograph, film, video, picture, or computer or computer-generated image or picture, whether made or produced by electronic, mechanical, or other means, of sexually explicit conduct, where
- the production of the visual depiction involves the use of a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct; or
- the visual depiction is a digital image, computer image, or computer-generated image that is, or is indistinguishable from, that of a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct; or
- the visual depiction has been created, adapted, or modified to appear that an identifiable minor is engaging in sexually explicit conduct.
- Federal law (18 U.S.C. §1466A) also criminalizes knowingly producing, distributing, receiving, or possessing with intent to distribute, a visual depiction of any kind, including a drawing, cartoon, sculpture or painting, that
- depicts a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct and is obscene, or
- depicts an image that is, or appears to be, of a minor engaging in graphic bestiality, sadistic or masochistic abuse, or sexual intercourse, including genital-genital, oral-genital, anal-genital, or oral-anal, whether between persons of the same or opposite sex and such depiction lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.
Sexually explicit conduct is defined under federal law (18 U.S.C. §2256) as actual or simulated sexual intercourse (including genital-genital, oral-genital, anal-genital, or oral-anal, whether between persons of the same or opposite sex), bestiality, masturbation, sadistic or masochistic abuse, or lascivious exhibition of the genitals or pubic area of any person.
Who Is a Minor?
For purposes of enforcing the federal law (18 U.S.C. §2256), “minor” is defined as a person under the age of 18.
Is Child Pornography a Crime?
Yes, it is a federal crime to knowingly possess, manufacture, distribute, or access with intent to view child pornography (18 U.S.C. §2252). In addition, all 50 states and the District of Columbia have laws criminalizing the possession, manufacture, and distribution of child pornography. As a result, a person who violates these laws may face federal and/or state charges.
Where Is Child Pornography Predominantly Found?
Child pornography exists in multiple formats including print media, videotape, film, CD-ROM, or DVD. It is transmitted on various platforms within the Internet including newsgroups, Internet Relay Chat (chatrooms), Instant Message, File Transfer Protocol, e-mail, websites, and peer-to-peer technology.
What Motivates People Who Possess Child Pornography?
Limited research about the motivations of people who possess child pornography suggests that child pornography possessors are a diverse group, including people who are
- sexually interested in prepubescent children or young adolescents, who use child pornography for sexual fantasy and gratification
- sexually “indiscriminate,” meaning they are constantly looking for new and different sexual stimuli
- sexually curious, downloading a few images to satisfy that curiosity
- interested in profiting financially by selling images or setting up web sites requiring payment for access
Who Possesses Child Pornography?
It is difficult to describe a “typical” child pornography possessor because there is not just one type of person who commits this crime.
In a study of 1,713 people arrested for the possession of child pornography in a 1-year period, the possessors ran the gamut in terms of income, education level, marital status, and age. Virtually all of those who were arrested were men, 91% were white, and most were unmarried at the time of their crime, either because they had never married (41%) or because they were separated, divorced, or widowed (21%).3
Forty percent (40%) of those arrested were “dual offenders,” who sexually victimized children and possessed child pornography, with both crimes discovered in the same investigation. An additional 15% were dual offenders who attempted to sexually victimize children by soliciting undercover investigators who posed online as minors.4
Who Produces Child Pornography?
Based on information provided by law enforcement to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children’s Child Victim Identification Program, more than half of the child victims were abused by someone who had legitimate access to them such as parents, other relatives, neighborhood/family friends, babysitters, and coaches.
What is the Nature of These Images?
The content in these illegal images varies from exposure of genitalia to graphic sexual abuse, such as penetration by objects, anal penetration, and bestiality.
Of the child pornography victims identified by law enforcement, 42% appear to be pubescent, 52% appear to be prepubescent, and 6% appear to be infants or toddlers.
Possible Punishment for Sexual Exploitation of a Minor/Child Pornography
If the photographs include children who are fourteen (14) years of age or younger, it is a Dangerous Crimes Against Children (DCAC) and carries a very severe penalty. A first offense carries the following punishment for each and every conviction: ten (10) years minimum in prison; seventeen (17) years presumptive in prison; twenty-four (24) years maximum incarceration.
If convicted of one previous predicate felony (which includes a prior DCAC, among other serious felonies), the range of punishment increases to a minimum twenty-one (21) years, presumptive twenty-eight years (28), and maximum thirty-five (35) years. Because this is a DCAC, 100% of the prison time must be served before being eligible for release. In addition, if the person is convicted of two (2) counts, they must be run consecutive to each other (i.e., the minimum is now twenty (20) years in prison, and all other ranges double). This is why these charges are sometimes referred to as “life enders”.
The maximum penalty on a Sexual Exploitation charge actually carries more time than the maximum penalty on a Second Degree Murder charge. A conviction will require you to register as a Sex Offender for the rest of your life, and you are not allowed to have any contact with anyone under the age of eighteen (18) (this includes your own children), without going through numerous testing procedures and only with the consent of your Probation Officer.
If the child was ages fifteen – seventeen (15-17), it is not sentenced pursuant to the DCAC statute. A first offense class two (2) felony, carries punishment of probation with zero (0) days in jail up to one (1) year in jail, or prison of three (3) years to twelve and one half (12.5) years of incarceration. If the person has one (1) allegeable historical prior conviction, then the “prison only” range is four and one half (4.5) years to twenty-three and one quarter (23.25) years in prison. If the person has two (2) allegeable historical prior convictions, then the “prison only” range is ten and one half (10.5) to thirty-five (35) years of incarceration.
Possible Defenses for Sexual Exploitation of a Minor/Child Pornography
The critical defenses to Child Porn charges involve showing that the person did not “knowingly” possess, receive, or do any of the listed actions with the images. One way of asserting this defense is by presenting evidence that the defendant was not the person who accessed the images. If it can be shown that there were multiple users who had access to the computer, and who did in fact use the computer often, then it is much more difficult for the State to prove the defendant actually accessed the images, rather than some other person. This defense is especially appropriate when the defendant lacks any other sexual crime convictions. In order to assert this defense, we need to present a variety of our own evidence to contradict whatever has been presented by the prosecution. Typically, the State would normally have executed a search warrant and confiscated the computer involved, then searched for the “IP address” and passwords that were used to trace the activates to a particular time, date, and user. Before they do any of this they will have “cloned” the hard drive in order to avoid any accusations that they have somehow tampered with the computer by adding images.
Another typical defense is that the defendant inadvertently came across the images on his computer, and thus it was not a “knowing” exchange. It is an affirmative defense to Child Pornography charges if a person timely reports that they have received unsolicited images on their computer. Usually, reporting within three (3) days of discovering the child pornography is considered to be “timely reporting.”
The Top Houston Criminal Lawyers at the Charles Johnson Law Firm handles a very high percentage of the “Sex Crimes” cases. They have one of the largest libraries with research materials devoted to challenging accusations involving sex crimes. Registering as Sex Offender has drastic consequences and leaves a black mark on your record; do not underestimate the potential severity of this charge.
Additionally, because the Charles Johnson Law Firm fights conviction from all angles, they will assert a wide range of defenses and challenges to constitutional violations that apply in all criminal cases. The possibilities are numerous and diverse. One of those that is frequently asserted is a “Miranda rights violation.” In Texas, the standard of whether any incriminating statement (i.e., a statement which tends to admit guilt) is admissible into evidence is based upon a “voluntariness” standard. If we can demonstrate that the police coerced you (i.e., intimidated or tricked you) into making a confession or inculpatory statement, or that they did not properly read you your Miranda Rights, then we can suppress those statements and any evidence gathered as a direct result of those statements.
In addition, the “denial of right to Counsel” is another common defense which is often raised. This occurs when a suspect is in custody and requests to speak to their attorney, but is denied and questioning continues. Other defenses may include challenging the validity of any search warrant, or whether there were any “forensic flaws” during the investigation of your case. Depending on what else you have been charged with, this could include exposing flawed procedures regarding blood, breath, and urine testing; fingerprints analysis; DNA testing; computer analysis/cloning hard drive procedures; forensic financial accounting reviews; etc. Lastly, one of the most common defense tactics is exposing sloppy or misleading police reports which include everything from misstatements, false statements, flawed photo line-ups and inaccurate crime scene reconstruction. It is important to hire a skilled lawyer to defend you who has knowledge of all the possible defenses to assert in your case.
Do Not Make Statements. Obviously, the best defense begins before a defendant is ever charged. Often, in a misguided attempt to help law enforcement, defendants make statements that are twisted and turned into prosecutorial evidence. It is important to remember not to allow yourself be interviewed government agencies without an attorney present.
Any interview will be sent to the police and the county attorney’s office and can be used against you. An obvious corollary is do not let yourself be interviewed again by the police without your attorney present.
Computerized Evidence. Internet child pornography is a growing offense across the nation. Often files can be downloaded to a computer without the user knowing the content of the download. In such cases the electronic file will often include tell tale electronic evidence about the file, where it came from and its date of download. Using this evidence or challenging law enforcement’s sloppy investigation and acquisition of potentially exculpatory information is the best way for a defense lawyer to prove actual innocence.
Examine Prosecution Expert’s Background. An important part of every case is the ability to counter the reports and testimony of computer professionals, caseworkers and “experts” who examine pornographic evidence. To effectively counter a prosecution expert, the defense attorney must be well educated on the expert’s education, work history, published works and testimony in prior cases.
Use a Polygraph. When it is advantageous to the defense against a sexual assault, defense attorneys should obtain a credible polygraph examination from a respected professionals.
Texas Sex Offender Registration
In addition to the prison terms and fines one can face when convicted of any of these offenses, you may be required to register as a sex offender. This means you will be tracked for the rest of your life.
Knowing where to turn when facing charges as dark as these can be difficult. You have likely already seen people turn their backs on you because of the charges and you haven’t even gone to trial. You need someone in your corner fighting for your good name.
You are innocent until proven guilty. The Best Houston Criminal Lawyers will see to it that you get the best possible results on your day in court.
Hire the Best Houston Child Pornography Defense Lawyer: The Charles Johnson Law Firm
The Top Houston Criminal Defense Lawyers at the Charles Johnson Law Firm defend against sexual assault allegations throughout Texas, no matter how small or large the city. They have developed a unique understanding of the dynamics of these very serious cases. Their competent, aggressive and thorough representation has made them a leading criminal defense firm in dealing with sex and pornography related criminal charges.
Defending in these areas is a very specialized area of criminal defense. Unfortunately, the very accusations themselves are often treated as conclusive proof of criminal activity. If Attorney Charles Johnson is retained at an early stage in the investigation, he is sometimes able to avoid charges altogether. At a minimum he will be able to avoid the trauma and embarrassment of his client being arrested at home or at the workplace by contacting law enforcement and the court in order to make the necessary arrangements.
Depending on the facts of your case and the evidence against you, the Leading Houston Criminal Defense Lawyers will work to help you beat a false accusation or try to lessen the punishment. We understand your freedom is at stake and that a conviction of possession of child pornography may result in lifetime registration as a sex offender. To protect your rights and liberty, we conduct thorough investigations to prepare for trial or to minimize the consequences or sentence.
Call today for your free consultation.
Houston Lawyer Charles Johnson can be reached 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Call us at 713-222-7577 or toll free at 877-308-0100.
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Houston Criminal Lawyers: Coping With An Arrest For Child Porn?
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Domestic Violence is a difficulty that affects virtually every town, city, country and nation. Domestic Violence covers a broad spectrum of abuse between partners, spouses, members of the family or various other people who live together. Family Violence charges are quite severe. If you are convicted, you could confront prison time and other criminal penalties. A conviction will not only destroy your reputation, but your future as well. You could be refused future employment, housing, academic loans and worse, access to your home and children. At the Charles Johnson Law Firm, we see our clients falsely accused of Domestic Violence all the time. Whether you are innocent or guilty, Houston Family Violence Lawyer Charles Johnson will battle aggressively on your behalf in order to help protect your rights and your future. Contact us Twenty-four Hours A Day, Seven Days A Week for a free of charge consultation.
All too often the news bombards us with news regarding a high-profile Family Violence case, wherein a man or woman is suspected of murdering their wife or husband, with or without a prior history of domestic abuse.
Violence. How can a individual turn from loving and living with a person to beating them up or murdering them? What kind of a person resorts to Domestic Violence against their spouse or domestic intimate partner? What kind of person thinks it is okay to continually humiliate or talk down to their life intimate partner? What kind of an individual has sex with their partner without the person’s consent and desire to participate?
A common pattern of domestic abuse is that the perpetrator alternates between violent, abusive behavior and apologetic behavior with apparently heartfelt promises to change. The abuser may perhaps be quite pleasant most of the time. Therein lies the perpetual appeal of the abusing partner and why many men and women are unable to leave the abusive relationship.
Domestic abuse is most often one of the following:
- child abuse
- abuse of a spouse or domestic intimate partner
- elder abuse
In this article, we examine domestic abuse between spouses and intimate partners: the sorts of domestic abuse, signs and symptoms, causes, and consequences. Family Violence and abuse are popular. The initial step in ending the misery is recognition that the situation is abusive.
What is the definition of domestic abuse between intimate partners?
Domestic abuse between spouses or intimate partners is when one individual in a marital or intimate relationship tries to control the other individual. The perpetrator uses fear and intimidation and will likely threaten to use or may possibly actually use physical violence. Domestic abuse that involves physical violence is designated Domestic Violence.
The victim of domestic abuse or Family Violence may be a man or a woman. Domestic abuse takes place in traditional heterosexual marriages, as well as in same-sex partnerships. The abuse may perhaps occur during a relationship, while the couple is breaking up, or after the relationship has ended.
Domestic abuse often escalates from threats and verbal abuse to physical violence. Family Violence may perhaps even end up in murder.
The key elements of domestic abuse are:
- humiliating the other person
- physical injury
Domestic abuse isn’t really a result of losing control; domestic abuse is purposely trying to control another person. The abuser is purposefully using verbal, nonverbal, or physical means to acquire control over the other person.
In many cultures, command over women by men is accepted as the norm. This article speaks from the orientation that control over intimate partners is domestic abuse within a culture where such control isn’t the norm. Nowadays we see many cultures moving from the subordination of women to increased equality of women within relationships.
What are the sorts of domestic abuse?
The types of domestic abuse are:
- physical abuse (domestic violence)
- verbal or nonverbal abuse (psychological abuse, mental abuse, emotional abuse)
- sexual abuse
- stalking or cyberstalking
- economic abuse or financial abuse
- spiritual abuse
The divisions between these kinds of domestic abuse are somewhat fluid, but there is a strong differentiation between the various forms of physical abuse and the various types of verbal or nonverbal abuse.
What is physical abuse of a spouse or intimate partner?
Physical abuse is the use of physical force against another person in a way that ends up injuring the individual, or puts the person at risk of being injured. Physical abuse ranges from physical restraint to murder. When someone talks of Domestic Violence, they are often referring to physical abuse of a spouse or intimate partner.
Physical assault or physical battering is defined as a criminal offense, whether or not it occurs inside a family or outside the family. The police are empowered to protect you from physical attack.
Physical abuse includes:
- pushing, throwing, kicking
- slapping, grabbing, hitting, punching, beating, tripping, battering, bruising, choking, shaking
- pinching, biting
- holding, restraining, confinement
- breaking bones
- assault with a firearm that include a knife or gun
What is emotional abuse or verbal abuse of a spouse or intimate partner?
Mental, psychological, or emotional abuse could be verbal or nonverbal. Verbal or nonverbal abuse of a spouse or intimate partner consists of more subtle actions or behaviors than physical abuse. Although physical abuse may seem worse, the scars of verbal and emotional abuse are deep. Studies show that verbal or nonverbal abuse may be much more emotionally detrimental than physical abuse.
Verbal or nonverbal abuse of a spouse or intimate partner may possibly include:
- threatening or intimidating to obtain compliance
- destruction of the victim’s personal property and assets and possessions, or threats to do this
- violence to an object (such as a wall or piece of furniture) or pet, within the presence of the intended victim, as a way of instilling fear of further violence
- yelling or screaming
- constant harassment
- embarrassing, making fun of, or mocking the victim, either on your own within the household, in public, or in front of family or friends
- criticizing or diminishing the victim’s accomplishments or goals
- not trusting the victim’s decision-making
- telling the victim that they are worthless on their own, without the abuser
- excessive possessiveness, isolation from friends and family
- excessive checking-up on the victim to make sure they are at home or where they said they would be
- saying hurtful things when under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and using the substance as an excuse to say the hurtful things
- blaming the victim for how the abuser acts or feels
- making the victim remain on the premises subsequent to a fight, or leaving them somewhere else after a fight, just to “teach them a lesson”
- making the victim feel that there’s no way out of the relationship
What is sexual abuse or sexual exploitation of a spouse or intimate partner?
Sexual abuse includes:
- sexual assault: forcing another person to participate in unwanted, unsafe, or degrading sexual activity
- sexual harassment: ridiculing another person to try to limit their sexuality or reproductive choices
- sexual exploitation (most notably forcing someone to look at pornography, or forcing someone to participate in pornographic film-making)
Sexual abuse often is linked to physical abuse; they can occur together, or the sexual abuse could possibly occur subsequent to a bout of physical abuse.
What is stalking?
Stalking is harassment of or threatening another person, especially in a way that haunts the person physically or emotionally in a repetitive and devious manner. Stalking of an intimate partner can take place during the relationship, with intense monitoring of the partner’s activities. Or stalking can take place after a partner or spouse has left the relationship. The stalker may very well be trying to get their partner back, or some might wish to harm their partner as punishment for their departure. Regardless of the fine details, the victim fears for their safety.
Stalking can take place at or near the victim’s home, near or in their workplace, on the way to the store or another destination, or on the Internet (cyberstalking). Stalking could be on the phone, in person, or online. Stalkers may possibly never show their face, or some may be everywhere, in individual.
Stalkers employ a number of threatening tactics:
- repeated phone calls, in some instances with hang-ups
- following, tracking (possibly even with a global positioning device)
- finding the person via public records, online searching, or paid investigators
- watching with hidden cameras
- suddenly showing up where the victim is, at home, school, or work
- sending emails; communicating in chat rooms or with instant messaging (cyberstalking: see below)
- sending unwanted packages, cards, gifts, or letters
- monitoring the victim’s phone calls or computer-use
- contacting the victim’s buddies, family, co-workers, or neighbors to find out about the victim
- going through the victim’s garbage
- threatening to hurt the victim or their family, friends, or pets
- damaging the victim’s home, car, or various other assets
Stalking is unpredictable and should always be regarded as dangerous. If another person is
- tracking you,
- contacting you when you do not wish to have get in touch with,
- attempting to control you, or
- frightening you,
then obtain assistance immediately.
What is cyberstalking?
Cyberstalking is the use of telecommunication technologies including the Internet or email to stalk another person. Cyberstalking may be an additional form of stalking, or it could possibly be the sole method the abuser employs. Cyberstalking is deliberate, persistent, and personal.
Spamming with unsolicited email differs from cyberstalking. Spam doesn’t necessarily focus on the individual, as does cyberstalking. The cyberstalker methodically finds and contacts the victim. Much like spam of a sexual nature, a cyberstalker’s message may possibly be disturbing and inappropriate. Also like spam, you cannot stop the contact with a request. In fact, the more you protest or respond, the more rewarded the cyberstalker feels. The recommended response to cyberstalking is not to respond to the contact.
Cyberstalking falls in a grey area of law enforcement. Enforcement of a good number of federal and state stalking laws requires that the victim be directly threatened with an act of violence. Very few law enforcement agencies can act if the threat is only implied.
Regardless of whether you can get stalking laws enforced against cyberstalking, you must treat cyberstalking seriously and protect yourself. Cyberstalking in some instances advances to genuine stalking and to physical violence.
How likely is it that stalking will turn into violence?
Stalking can end in violence regardless of whether or not the stalker threatens violence. And stalking can turn into violence even if the stalker doesn’t have any history of violence.
Women stalkers are just as likely to become violent as are male stalkers.
Those around the stalking victim are also in danger of being injured. For example, a parent, spouse, or bodyguard who makes the stalking victim unattainable could very well be injured or killed as the stalker pursues the stalking victim.
What is economic or financial abuse of a spouse or domestic partner?
Economic or financial abuse involves:
- withholding economic resources that include money or credit cards
- stealing from or defrauding a partner of money or assets
- exploiting the intimate partner’s resources for personal gain
- withholding physical resources including food, clothes, necessary medications, or shelter from a partner
- preventing the spouse or intimate partner from working or choosing an occupation
What is spiritual abuse of a spouse or intimate partner?
Spiritual abuse includes:
- using the spouse’s or intimate partner’s religious or spiritual beliefs to manipulate them
- preventing the partner from practicing their religious or spiritual beliefs
- ridiculing the other person’s religious or spiritual beliefs
- forcing the children to be reared in a faith that the partner has not agreed to
How do I know if I am in an abusive relationship? What are the signs and symptoms of an abusive relationship?
The more of the following questions that you answer Yes to, the more likely you are in an abusive relationship. Examine your answers and obtain guidance if you find that you respond positively to a large number of the questions.
Your inner feelings and dialogue: Fear, self-loathing, numbness, desperation
- Are you fearful of your partner a large percentage of the time?
- Do you steer clear of certain topics or spend a lot of time figuring out how to discuss certain topics so that you do not arouse your partner’s negative reaction or anger?
- Do you ever feel that you can’t do anything right for your partner?
- Do you ever feel so badly about yourself that you think you deserve to be physically hurt?
- Have you lost the love and respect that you once had for your partner?
- Do you in some instances wonder if you are the one who is crazy, that maybe you are overreacting to your partner’s behaviors?
- Do you in some cases fantasize about ways to kill your partner to get them out of your life?
- Are you afraid that your partner could possibly try to kill you?
- Are you afraid that your partner will try to take your children away from you?
- Do you feel that there is nowhere to turn for guidance?
- Are you feeling emotionally numb?
- Were you abused as a child, or did you grow up with Domestic Violence within the household? Does domestic violence seem normal to you?
Your partner’s lack of control over their own behavior
- Does your partner have low self-esteem? Do they appear to feel powerless, ineffective, or inadequate in the world, although they are outwardly successful?
- Does your partner externalize the causes of their own behavior? Do they blame their violence on stress, alcohol, or a “bad day”?
- Is your partner unpredictable?
- Is your partner a pleasant person between bouts of violence?
Your partner’s violent or threatening behavior
- Does your partner have a bad temper?
- Has your partner ever threatened to injure you or kill you?
- Has your partner ever physically hurt you?
- Has your partner threatened to take your children away from you, especially if you try to leave the relationship?
- Has your partner ever threatened to commit suicide, especially as a way of keeping you from leaving?
- Has your partner ever forced you to have sex when you didn’t want to?
- Has your partner threatened you at work, either in person or on the phone?
- Is your partner cruel to animals?
- Does your partner destroy your belongings or household objects?
Your partner’s controlling behavior
- Does your partner try to keep you from seeing your pals or family?
- Are you embarrassed to invite buddies or family over to your house mainly because of your partner’s behavior?
- Has your partner limited your access to money, the telephone, or the car?
- Does your partner try to stop you from going where you would like to go outside of the house, or from doing what you would like to do?
- Is your partner jealous and possessive, asking where you are going and where you have been, as if checking up on you? Do they accuse you of having an affair?
Your partner’s diminishment of you
- Does your partner verbally abuse you?
- Does your partner humiliate or criticize you in front of others?
- Does your partner often ignore you or put down your opinions or contributions?
- Does your partner always insist that they are right, even though they are clearly wrong?
- Does your partner blame you for their own violent behavior, saying that your behavior or attitudes cause them to be violent?
- Is your partner often outwardly angry with you?
- Does your partner objectify and disrespect those of your gender? Does your partner see you as property or a sex object, rather than as a person?
In my workplace, what are the warning signs that an individual is a victim of Family Violence?
Domestic Violence often plays out within the workplace. For instance, a husband, wife, girlfriend, or boyfriend might make threatening phone calls to their intimate partner or ex-partner. Or the worker could very well show injuries from physical abuse at home.
In the event you witness a cluster of the following warning signs in the workplace, you can reasonably suspect domestic abuse:
- Bruises and other signs of impact on the skin, with the excuse of “accidents”
- Depression, crying
- Frequent and sudden absences
- Frequent lateness
- Frequent, harassing phone calls to the individual while they are at work
- Fear of the partner, references to the partner’s anger
- Decreased productivity and attentiveness
- Isolation from friends and family
- Insufficient resources to live (money, credit cards, car)
If you do recognize signs of domestic abuse in a co-worker, consult your Human Resources department. The Human Resources staff ought to be able to assist the victim without any your further involvement.
Who abuses their spouse or intimate partner?
Domestic abuse knows no age or ethnic boundaries.
Domestic abuse can occur during a relationship or after a relationship has ended.
Most psychological, medical, and legal specialists agree that the vast majority of physical abusers are men. However, women can also be the perpetrators of Family Violence.
The majority of stalkers are also men stalking women. But stalkers can also be women stalking men, men stalking men, or women stalking women.
Houston Domestic Violence Defense Lawyer: The Charles Johnson Law Firm
As the justice system has come to recognize the social and legal effects of domestic violence, the penalties for conviction of domestic assault have become steeper. This is why it is so important to consult a lawyer who is familiar with your local court system. Seek the assistance of an competent attorney from the Charles Johnson Law Firm in Houston, Texas to learn more about what you can do to assert and protect your rights.
Houston Criminal Lawyer Charles Johnson can be reached 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Call us at 713-222-7577 or toll free at 877-308-0100.
Major Credit Cards Accepted.
Best Houston Criminal Lawyer: Struggling With A Domestic Violence Arrest?
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If someone in your family has been arrested for assault, you probably aren’t sure where to turn or what to do next. While your loved one’s criminal arrest is a daunting situation, you might do several things right away to obtain advice and control. In the event you (or another family member) happen to be the victim of the assault, that only complicates the situation.
A positive starting point is to speak to the Best Houston Criminal Lawyers at the Charles Johnson Law Firm in Houston, Texas who will guide you through the complicated maze of the justice system.
You may take several straightforward measures which will provide the support you and your loved ones need.
- Contact an Attorney
As pointed out, securing a criminal defense attorney for your arrested family member is the first order of business. The sooner you obtain legal advice, the more effective it may be. A knowledgeable lawyer will strive to preserve the legal rights of your family member, thereby aiding you in looking out for your family’s best interests. Attorney Charles Johnson will first want to know where your family member is being held (if he or she remains in jail) and may perhaps want to meet with you to discuss the situation. Attorney Johnson will then need to gather the relevant facts to prepare a defense.
- Take Care of Your Family
Your family may be strongly affected by the charge, particularly if you have children. If one of you was the victim of the assault, it is very important to seek medical attention right away. Whether or not or not the assault happened within the family, you may possibly wish to obtain assistance; local social services or mental health professionals might provide valuable advice. Friends and extended family members can offer comfort — and assistance with child care, household tasks and other duties.
- Support Your Arrested Family Member
Being arrested is usually an unsettling experience, and your family member will probably need to have your support. If you are able to get in touch with each other after the arrest, remind your relative not to answer questions until an experienced criminal defense attorney is present; everything he or she says may be used against him or her in court. Try to help your family member remain calm. Tell your family member what you are doing on their behalf.
- Contact the Jail
If your relative is still in custody, contact the jail to discuss visiting hours; whether or not you need to supply additional information; any prescription drugs your loved one is taking; any sort of physical or mental illness that your family member may possibly have; and whether assignment to a mental health unit is appropriate. Find out whether or not your family member will stay in this jail and if there is a pending court date.
- Make a Bail Decision
In most cases, the judge will set bail at a hearing. If you cannot pay cash, you may possibly be able to post a bond for the amount of the bail; this may, however, require that you pledge your home or other valuable property to secure the bail bond. If your loved one does not show up for court dates, your property may then be seized by the bond company. It is your responsibility to decide whether or not the benefits outweigh the risks.
Dealing with the assault arrest of a family member is difficult and time consuming. A skilled and experienced attorney from the Charles Johnson Law Office in Houston, Texas will help you plan your next move and expertly guide you through this challenging ordeal.
Houston Criminal Lawyers: Coping with a Domestic Assault Arrest
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The Top Houston Criminal Lawyers at the Charles Johnson Law Firm can decide which defenses might pertain to your case should you be arrested for possession of illegal drugs, either for private use or with intent to sell, in the event you plead not guilty. Various states deal with the issue of unlawful drugs in various ways, while the federal government has a tendency to have the most stringent drug sentencing regulations. Nevertheless drug possession defenses are rather standard across state lines. Several defenses challenge the stated information and facts, testimony or evidence within the case, whilst others focus on procedural mistakes, frequently search and seizure infractions.
The following are a few defenses to drug possession criminal charges, several much more typical than others:
Illegal Search and Seizure
The 4th Amendment of the United States Constitution guarantees the privilege to due process of law, such as legal search and seizure methods before a charge. Search and seizure challenges are very typical in drug possession cases. Unlawful drugs discovered in “plain view,” including a vehicle’s dash panel following a legal traffic stop, might be seized and utilized as evidence. However illegal drugs discovered within the trunk of your vehicle after prying it open with a crowbar, presuming the suspect didn’t provide authorization, can’t be put into evidence. In the event the accused’s 4th Amendment rights had been breached, then the illegal drugs can’t be utilized at trial and the criminal charges usually are dismissed.
Illegal Drugs Belong to Another Individual
A typical defense to any type of criminal offense arrest would be to merely state that you did not do it. The drug possession equivalent would be to state that the illegal drugs are not yours or that you simply had no idea they had been inside your apartment, for instance. The Finest Houston Criminal Lawyers at the Charles Johnson Law Firm will compel prosecutors to demonstrate that the marijuana cigarette discovered within the automobile really belonged to their client rather than another individual within the automobile.
Crime Lab Assessment
Merely because it appears to be crack or Ectasy does not necessarily mean that it is. The prosecution needs to establish that a seized material is actually the illegal drug it claims it is by submitting the evidence for crime lab analysis. The crime lab analyst then needs to testify at trial in order for the prosecution to prove its case.
Missing Illegal Drugs
Attorney Charles Johnson will make certain prosecutors have the ability to provide the actual illegal drugs for which their client has been arrested. Comparable to the requirement for analysis by a crime lab, prosecutors who misplace or otherwise don’t have the actual drugs risk getting their case dismissed. Seized drugs frequently are transferred a number of times prior to ending up within the evidence locker, therefore it should by no means be presumed that the evidence continues to exists throughout the trial.
Illegal Drugs Had Been Planted
This might be challenging to establish, because a law enforcement officer’s sworn testimony carries a great deal of weight within the courtroom. Moreover, other police officers might hesitate to blow the whistle on a fellow police officer. However, The Charles Johnson Law Firm will file a motion that, if authorized by the judge, demands the department to produce the complaint file of the given police officer. This file references the names and contact details of those that produced the complaints, who may then be interviewed by the lawyer or his private detective.
While police are free to operate sting operations, entrapment happens when police officers or informants cause a suspect to commit a criminal offense this individual otherwise might not have committed. If the informant pressures a suspect into giving illegal drugs to a 3rd party, for instance, then this might be regarded as entrapment. Usually, entrapment happens when the state offers the illegal drugs involved.
Do I Need A Criminal Lawyer?
If you’re arrested for any sort of of these or some other drug related criminal offense you should get in touch with The Finest Houston Criminal Lawyers as soon as you possibly can. The consequences of carrying out a drug offense may be very serious, such as actual jail time, in some cases for several years in significant high profile drug cases. Being found guilty for a drug-related crime could not just harm your personal and professional stature, but may lead to actual termination from a good job or even the suspension or revocation of one’s professional licenses. It is not whether or not you’ll acquire an attorney, rather, it is who you’ll find to handle your case at your most susceptible time.
Top Houston Criminal Lawyers: The Charles Johnson Law Firm
Do not let drug charges spoil your future. The Top Houston Criminal Lawyers will expertly defend drug charges in the courtroom. If you’re struggling with misdemeanor or felony drug possession charges after having a drug arrest in Texas, safeguard your legal rights and future. Contact the Charles Johnson Law Firm 24/7 to schedule a free initial consultation.
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Virtually all drug charge convictions bear severe consequences, but the state of Texas makes every effort to crack down on drug manufacture cases. From meth laboratories to marijuana grow houses, in the event you or a loved one faces criminal charges surrounding the cultivation of drugs; you need to speak to the Finest Houston Attorney at the Charles Johnson Law Firm prior to taking any sort of legal action on your own.
The Top Houston Drug Crimes Attorney Charles Johnson will have many years of experience protecting the accused within the courts throughout Texas and is going to be willing to respond to your questions and reduce the damages facing you following your drug manufacture arrest.
When you initially step into their office, the Top Houston Drug Crimes Attorney at the Charles Johnson Law Firm will talk about your case, talk about what happened, and how the criminal charges you face might be affected by a prior criminal record. Listening to your side of the story, they’ll help you explore any and all potential defenses.
Understanding your side of the story is important. They will tell you about the court in which your charges are being heard. In all instances, they will want to hear your side of the story before beginning to fully evaluate your choices.
Hire The Recommended Houston Drug Crimes Attorney at the Charles Johnson Law Firm
Texas defense attorneys see many drug distribution cases due to the sheer volume of interstate highway traffic. Sadly, it’s all-too-easy to move drugs along the interstate highway system in all directions. In particular within the Houston area, our law enforcement officers have noticed patterns when searching for drug traffickers. It is common for vehicles to be stopped along northbound interstates and for big amounts of drugs to be found. When suspect automobiles are stopped heading southbound, big amounts of currency are occasionally found. Whether the criminal arrest will be sale, distribution, or drug trafficking depends upon the kind and also the amount of drugs in question. However the difference you face in penalties is substantial.
A first degree felony drug conviction usually results in a minimum five-year prison term, but in large-scale drug manufacturing or drug distribution cases, jail terms can jump to a minimum of 15 years.
If excessively big sums of U.S. currency are found inside your vehicle (or perhaps a vehicle you are riding in), you may face charges of money laundering. Amazingly, the penalties at the federal level for possessing big amounts of money are similarly severe to those for possessing big amounts of drugs.
You might also discover yourself dealing with conspiracy charges, something federal prosecutors might add on to drug crime cases.
The Recommended Houston Criminal Defense Attorney Charles Johnson will have handled numerous state and federal drug cases in Texas courts, from drug manufacturing cases involving meth laboratories and marijuana grow houses to international drug trafficking. No case is too big or complicated for their firm to handle.
Seizure of Assets
Law enforcement officers doing drug interdiction work have the legal right to seize assets that had been utilized in furtherance of a criminal offense or purchased using the proceeds of criminal activity. This indicates they not only confiscate drugs; they also seize money, cars, boats, various other personal property and even real estate. The police or law enforcement agency is able to then sell the assets and keep the proceeds or just keep the property altogether for their own purposes. This is especially typical with vehicles.
Asset forfeiture sometimes goes too far, with the police taking property that doesn’t belong to anybody charged with the criminal offense, property and assets that in fact belongs to totally innocent family members or third parties. The Most Dedicated Houston Drug Crimes Attorney at the Charles Johnson Law Firm handles asset forfeiture cases, helping customers fight to recover seized assets .
Creating Your Drug Manufacture Defense
Most drug manufacturing criminal charges, whether they involve marijuana or methamphetamines, are heard in state court. Quite often, marijuana grow houses and meth houses are discovered following informants report activities to the authorities.
If you have been turned in by a third party, the Best Houston Drug Crimes Attorney at the Charles Johnson Law Firm will attack the reliability of the source. Nevertheless, in every case the quality of the evidence is different. That is why we analyze possible actions on a case-by-case basis.
Contact the Recommended Houston Drug Crimes Attorney Charles Johnson for a free consultation. They’ll fight hard to protect your rights throughout the legal process.
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