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Are you currently in a situation where you are facing criminal charges for Murder? Houston Criminal Homicide Lawyer Charles Johnson represents clients charged with Homicide crimes throughout all of Texas. The Charles Johnson Law Firm can provide legal counsel at virtually any stage of your case, even if formal charges have not yet been filed against you. Currently, Texas has six types of Criminal Homicide charges:
Homicide is the act of killing another person, either intentionally or unintentionally. It is perhaps the most serious crime you could be accused of, and the potential penalties you could face if convicted are equally serious. Your lawyer must be well-versed in Texas and Federal Homicide laws to successfully represent you. If you or someone you love has been charged with any type of Criminal Homicide, you must take these charges very seriously and seek the legal advice of an experienced and knowledgeable Houston Criminal Defense Attorney right away. The Charles Johnson Law Firm will examine all the details of your case and will challenge the evidence against you. Houston Lawyer Charles Johnson has helped his clients either prove their innocence, or obtain a reduction in the charges against them. Whether you or guilty or not, you deserve to have an experienced attorney on your side who will work aggressively, to protect you and your rights. Contact Criminal Defense Lawyer Charles Johnson anytime night or day directly at (713) 222-7577. He is always available to discuss your case.
Texas Penal Code Chapter 19: Four Types Of Criminal Homicide
TPC section 19.01 states that there are four types of Criminal Homicide. They are Murder, Capital Murder, Manslaughter and Criminally Negligent Homicide.
Under TPC section 19.02 there are three basic ways to commit murder:
- intentionally or knowingly causes the death of an individual;
- intends to cause serious bodily injury and commits an act clearly dangerous to human life that causes the death of an individual; or
- commits or attempts to commit a felony, other than manslaughter, and in the course of and in furtherance of the commission or attempt, or in immediate flight from the commission
or attempt, he commits or attempts to commit an act clearly dangerous to human life that causes the death of an individual.
Murder is usually a felony of the first degree, the possible punishment for which is imprisonment in the institutional division for life or for any term of not more than 99 years or less than 5 years and/or by a fine not to exceed $10,000. The only exception to this that the crime is a felony of the second degree if the requirements of TPC sec. 19.02 (d) are satisfied:
At the punishment stage of a trial, the defendant may raise the issue as to
whether he caused the death under the immediate influence of sudden passion arising
from an adequate cause. If the defendant proves the issue in the affirmative by a
preponderance of the evidence, the offense is a felony of the second degree.
During the punishment phase of the trial, a defendant may argue that he caused the death while under the immediate influence of sudden passion arising from an adequate cause. “Sudden passion” is “passion directly caused by and arising out of provocation by the individual killed or another acting with the person killed which passion arises at the time of the offense and is not solely the result of former provocation.”
“Adequate cause” is a “cause that would commonly produce a degree of anger, rage, resentment, or terror in a person of ordinary temper, sufficient to render the mind incapable of cool reflection.” Sudden passion is a mitigating circumstance that, if found by the jury to have been proven by a preponderance of the evidence, reduces the offense from a first degree felony to a second degree felony.
Thus, before defendants are allowed to have the judge or jury consider sudden passion, defendants must prove:
- that there was a adequate (legally recognized) provocation for the emotion or passion;
- an emotion or passion such as terror, anger, rage, fear or resentment existed;
- that the homicide occurred while the passion or emotion still existed;
- that the homicide occurred before there was a reasonable opportunity for the passion or emotion to cool (dissipate); and,
- that there was a causal connection between the provocation, the passion, and the homicide.
A second degree felony is punishable by imprisonment for not more than 20 years nor less than 2 years, and/or a fine not to exceed $10,000. This is where the old offense of “voluntary manslaughter” ended up after amendments to the TPC effective in 1994. Thus, there is currently no offense of voluntary manslaughter in Texas.
A capital murder is a capital felony. The Texas Penal Code specifically defines Capital Murder (and, thus, the possibility of the death penalty as a punishment) as murder which involves one or more of the elements listed below:
- the person murders a peace officer or fireman who is acting in the lawful discharge of an official duty and who the person knows is a peace officer or fireman;
- the person intentionally commits the murder in the course of committing or attempting to commit kidnapping, burglary, robbery, aggravated sexual assault, arson, obstruction or
retaliation, or terroristic threat,
- the person commits the murder for remuneration or the promise of remuneration or employs another to commit the murder for remuneration or the promise of remuneration;
- the person commits the murder while escaping or attempting to escape from a penal institution;
- the person, while incarcerated in a penal institution, murders another:
- who is employed in the operation of the penal institution; or
- with the intent to establish, maintain, or participate in a combination or in the profits of a combination;
- the person:
- while incarcerated for an offense under this section or Sec.19.02, murders another; or
- while serving a sentence of life imprisonment or a term of 99 years for an offense under Sec. 20.04, 22.021, or 29.03, murders another;
- the person murders more than one person:
- during the same criminal transaction; or
- during different criminal transactions but the murders are committed pursuant to the same scheme or course of conduct;
- the person murders an individual under six years of age; or
- the person murders another person in retaliation for or on account of the service or status of the other person as a judge or justice of the supreme court, the court of criminal appeals, a court of appeals, a district court, a criminal district court, a constitutional county court, a statutory county court, a justice court, or a municipal court.
A capital felony is punishable by death or life imprisonment without parole. If the prosecution is not seeking the death penalty, life without parole is the mandatory sentence. Prior to 2005, capital felony life imprisonment was life with the possibility of parole after 40 years.
Under current state law, the crimes of Capital Murder and Capital Sabotage (see below) or a second conviction for the aggravated sexual assault of someone under 14 is eligible for the death penalty.
Note: The Texas Penal Code allows for the death penalty to be assessed for “aggravated sexual assault of child committed by someone previously convicted of aggravated sexual assault of child”. The statute remains part of the Penal Code; however, the Supreme Court of the United State’s decision in Kennedy v. Louisiana which outlawed the death penalty for any crime not involving murder nullifies its effect.
The Texas Penal Code also allows a person can be convicted of any felony, including capital murder, “as a party” to the offense. “As a party” means that the person did not personally commit the elements of the crime, but is otherwise responsible for the conduct of the actual perpetrator as defined by law; which includes:
- soliciting for the act,
- encouraging its commission,
- aiding the commission of the offense,
- participating in a conspiracy to commit any felony where one of the conspirators commits the crime of capital murder
The felony involved does not have to be capital murder; if a person is proven to be a party to a felony offense and a murder is committed, the person can be charged with and convicted of capital murder, and thus eligible for the death penalty.
As in any other state, people who are under 18 at the time of commission of the capital crime or mentally retarded are precluded from being executed by the Constitution of the United States.
Manslaughter (TPC sec. 19.04) is recklessly causing the death of an individual. Manslaughter is a felony of the second degree, which is punishable by imprisonment for not more than 20 years nor less than 2 years, and/or a fine not to exceed $10,000.
Texas does not officially use the term “involuntary manslaughter” or “voluntary manslaughter” which can sometimes be a little bit confusing. Many states do make the distinction between voluntary and involuntary manslaughter. Instead, Texas combines involuntary and voluntary manslaughter together and it is known as just “manslaughter.”
To convict a defendant of manslaughter, prosecutors must be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant recklessly caused the death of another individual. There is no requirement of premeditation to this crime and no requirement for there to be intent or knowledge on the part of the defendant. The only requirement is that the defendant’s conduct was reckless.
Although manslaughter is defined broadly in Texas, there are specific types of manslaughter that are treated separately. For example, intoxication manslaughter is one, and vehicular manslaughter is another. Intoxication manslaughter deals with the defendant recklessly causing the death of another while intoxicated. Cases involving driving while intoxicated would probably be prosecuted under TPC sec. 49.08, Intoxication Manslaughter (see below), rather than under this section. Vehicular manslaughter deals with the defendant recklessly causing the death of another while driving a vehicle or vessel.
Criminally Negligent Homicide
Criminally negligent homicide (TPC sec. 19.05) is causing the death of an individual by criminal negligence. It is a state jail felony under which in general, a person can be confined in a state jail for not more than two years nor less than 180 days. In addition, a fine of not more than $10,000 may be assessed.
Criminally Negligent Homicide differs from Manslaughter only in terms of the culpability or mens rea. Criminally negligent homicide involves criminal negligence. Manslaughter involves recklessness. Thus, Manslaughter involves conscious risk creation (the actor is aware of the risk surrounding his conduct or the results thereof, but consciously disregards that awareness). Criminally negligent homicide involves inattentive risk creation. The actor ought to have been aware of the riskiness of his or her conduct but failed to perceive the risk.
Recklessness and criminal negligence are more serious forms of culpability than the negligence that can result in civil liability. Unlike civil or ordinary negligence, recklessness requires some subjective awareness of the risk. Ordinary negligence is a totally objective standard. Criminal negligence requires a “gross” deviation from the standard of care a reasonable or ordinary person would have exercised under the same circumstances. Criminal negligence is roughly equivalent to “gross negligence” which is a more serious form of culpability than ordinary negligence. Ordinary negligence can be made out by showing any deviation from the standard of care that a reasonable person would exercise.
Texas Penal Code Section 49.08 Intoxication Manslaughter
The final type of criminal homicide found in Texas Code is found in TPC ch. 49, “Intoxication and Alcoholic Beverage Offenses.” A person is guilty of intoxication manslaughter if the person operates a motor vehicle in a public place, operates an aircraft, watercraft or an amusement ride, or assembles a mobile amusement ride and “ is intoxicated and by reason of that intoxication causes the death of another by accident or mistake.”
“Intoxicated is defined as having a blood alcohol content of 0.08 or more or
“not having the normal use of mental or physical faculties by reason of the introduction of alcohol, a controlled substance, a drug, a dangerous drug, a combination of two or more of those substances, or any other substance into the body . . .”
This offense is a felony of the second degree. A second degree felony is punishable by imprisonment for not more than 20 years nor less than 2 years, and/or a fine not to exceed $10,000
Note that this is a strict liability offense. Guilt attaches even if the death is caused by accident or mistake. Many observers are critical of strict liability offenses because they arguably punish conduct which is not blameworthy. Supporters of strict liability offenses counter that such offenses are usually fine-only offenses. This is clearly not the case for sec. 49.08 for which a person could be imprisoned for up to 20 years.
Section 49.08 does not apply to injury or death of an unborn child if the offense against the unborn child is committed by the mother of the unborn child. Thus, if a pregnant woman is driving while intoxicated and has an accident which kills her fetus, it is not a crime.
Texas Government Code – Section 557.012 Capital Sabotage
- A person commits an offense if the person commits an offense under Section 557.011(a) and the sabotage or attempted sabotage causes the death of an individual.
- An offense under this section is punishable by:
- death; or
- confinement in the institutional division of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice for:
- life; or
- a term of not less than two years.
- If conduct constituting an offense under this section also constitutes an offense under other law, the actor may be prosecuted under both sections.
Possible Defenses for Murder Charges
Defenses to first degree murder charges fall into two major categories: claims that the defendant did not commit the killing in question, and admission that the defendant committed the killing, but did not commit first degree murder.
Defendants admitting to having killed the victim can assert defenses that they were justified in doing so (in self defense, for example), or that they were somehow incapacitated and thus not legally liable. These defenses require the defendant to put forth proof to support his or her defense.
First degree murder defendants also may simply argue that the prosecution has not proved all elements of a first degree murder charge typically that the defendant killed willfully, deliberately and with premeditation. Though the defendant may support such an argument with evidence, he or she is not required to do so, as proof of all elements of the crime falls on the shoulders of the prosecution.
As with statutes defining crimes, the defenses recognized for a specific crime can vary by state. Furthermore, which defenses a criminal defendant may have depends on the particular facts of the case in question. For guidance, defendants should consult an attorney well versed in his or her state’s criminal laws.
In first degree murder cases, as well as other homicide crimes, defendants often argue mistaken identity i.e., that the prosecution has charged the wrong person with the killing. A defendant arguing mistaken identity often asserts an alibi if possible, which he or she tries to support with evidence of being somewhere else at the time of the killing. Other arguments in a mistaken identity defense include challenges to evidence placing the defendant at the scene of the crime. This can include challenges to witness identification as well as challenges to forensic evidence. A mistaken identity defense may also point to evidence implicating another possible suspect, but courts do not require defendants to do so.
Not all homicides are crimes, let alone first degree murders. The most common legal justification for a killing is self-defense or the defense of others.
To succeed, a defendant arguing self defense must show that the killing resulted from a reasonable use of force to resist a reasonable fear of death or bodily harm. The defendant cannot have instigated the threatening situation. The degree of force used in self-defense must be proportional to the threat perceived, and the threat perceived must be something that would place a reasonable person in fear of death or great bodily harm. Mere words or insults do not suffice.
The defendant’s reaction to the threat cannot take place after the threat of death or bodily harm has passed. Many states require that the defendant attempt to retreat or avoid danger if possible before resorting to the use of deadly force.
For example, if someone incapacitates a mugger with pepper spray, he or she may need to attempt to flee to safety instead of taking out a pistol and shooting the mugger. States differ in the degree to which they require an attempt to retreat if the threat they face occurs in the defender’s home.
Defense of Others
The reasonable and proportional defense of others also justifies some killings. The same requirements as self-defense typically apply: the use of force must be timely and proportional to the threat faced, and the perceived threat of death or bodily harm must be reasonable.
Exercise of Duty
Certain killings by law enforcement and other public officers qualify as justified homicides. If an officer kills someone in the exercise of duty and without an unlawful intent, recklessness or negligence, that killing generally does not constitute murder, let alone first degree murder.
Accident or Misfortune
Killings committed by accident in the course of lawful activities do not constitute murder. Some such killings may result in liability for manslaughter, but unless an accidental homicide takes place during the commission of a crime or as a result of other criminal intentions, they would not be covered by first degree or second degree murder statutes. In certain cases, such as parental discipline of children which results in even accidental death, the use of physical force beyond excepted norms can push the killing into murder and possibly, depending on state law, first degree murder.
Most states recognize an insanity defense to charges of first degree murder. Even states which allow the defense, however, treat it differently and often apply different tests. Most states define insanity, for purposes of determining criminal liability, as cognitively being unable to appreciate the quality of the act being committed, or unable to realize that the act is wrong. Some states also recognize a volitional aspect to “insanity” giving some defendants with disorders affecting impulse control access to the insanity defense.
Hire the Best Criminal Homicide Lawyers: The Charles Johnson Law Firm
Murder charges are of course the most serious of all charges and the most seriously pursued by the State Attorney’s Office or Federal Prosecutors. A person charged with homicide (murder) in Texas risks significant jail time and most convictions will result in never being released from custody. In some cases, they face being sentenced to death. Texas has become infamous in the country for the number of murders.
However not all deaths are criminal, and there are several powerful homicide defenses provided under Texas Law. If you or someone you know is charged with some form of a Homicide charge, then you need the best possible attorney. You are entitled to the best legal defense possible. Houston Criminal Defense Lawyer Charles Johnson can deliver that defense for you. Houston Criminal Homicide Lawyer Charles Johnson is available to discuss your case whenever you need him. Contact him directly at (713) 222-7577. His Law Office is headquartered in Houston, with offices conveniently located in Dallas, Austin and San Antonio.
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If you have been charged with Assault in Houston, you may face serious jail time. When facing criminal charges it is crucial that you act quickly in retaining skilled legal representation to defend you. Your selection of attorneys is a critical choice; few criminal defense attorneys have the background and experience as the legal team at The Charles Johnson Law Firm. With extensive Assault representation experience, our client’s best interests are aggressively protected in court. Each client’s case is carefully analyzed to determine the strategy that will be employed to seek a better outcome for the client, no matter how serious the offense. Houston Assault Lawyer Charles Johnson defends clients facing the following types of criminal charges:
- Assault with a Weapon
- Assault against A Police Officer
- Gang Assault
- Domestic Assault
- Child Assault
- Assault in the First Degree
- Assault in the Second Degree
- Assault as a Hate Crime
- Assault Against a Bus Driver
It does not take much for an altercation or argument to escalate and involve the police. Some people may believe that an Assault charge consists of a violent fight between two individuals but this is not always the case. In Texas, Assault can include an attempt to hurt someone physically. In some instances, prosecutors have decided that the slightest touch is enough to file assault charges. Additionally, the law does not require the alleged victim to sustain an actual injury. Whether you are facing a first assault offense or are charged with a serious felony assault, your case will be carefully reviewed and analyzed to determine if any errors or violations of your rights have taken place during the arrest, through the chain of custody of evidence, in lab procedures or other aspect of the case that opens the door to a successful court challenge. It is vital that you do not engage in any discussions, questioning or interrogations without first contacting Houston Assault Lawyer Charles Johnson to protect you. Make the call immediately after your arrest. You can call Attorney Johnson anytime night or day and speak with him directly at (713) 222-7577. Each assault case has individual circumstances and evidence, and some may consider there is little hope. In fact, we frequently discover viable options to defend the case in court and will vigorously defend our client. Our background in the criminal justice system results in a broad understanding of how the prosecutor in the case will proceed and the strategies for staying one step ahead of the moves they make. Your rights will be aggressively protected and our legal team will seek a “not guilty” verdict, dismissed charges, a reduced charge or alternative sentencing, depending on the exact circumstances of your case. Houston Criminal Lawyer Charles Johnson is here to protect you and to fight for you in court.
Assault Charges in Texas
There are several different types of assault charges including but not limited to:
- Assault Causing Serious Bodily Injury
- Assault On A Public Servant, Sexual Assault
- Assault With A Deadly Weapon
- Aggravated Assault
- Sexual Assault
- Assault Family Violence
- Assault On A Child Or Elderly
Assault charges can range from Class C misdemeanors (e.g. assault by contact) to a 1st degree felony; all cases will vary based on the facts and criminal history of each defendant. On the lower end of the spectrum (Class C misdemeanor), the punishment may result in implementation of fines, attendance of anger-management or marriage counseling classes, or deferred adjudication. Higher level misdemeanors could result in jail time or probation. Felony cases may result in probation or prison time. Depending on your criminal history and the actual charge, you may be eligible for special programs like the Pre-Trial Intervention Program that could result in a dismissal of your case.
Any charge involving sex crimes, whether it is a date rape claim or a sexual assault accusation, is a serious one, with possible long-term life-altering consequences, including the possibility of jail, prison, fines, restitution and strict “sex offender probation” and lifetime supervision with severe restrictions on employment, residence, and lifestyle. Sexual assault charges also bring notable social stigma, embarrassment and humiliation. The ongoing effects of a sex charge can be devastating to one’s family, career, and financial security.
Like many states, Texas has reconceptualized rape as an assaultive or violent offense rather than a sexual offense. Like these other states, Texas no long utilizes the term “rape” in its Penal Code. Both types of “rape”, forcible and statutory ,are found in TPC sec. 22.01. and are forms of “Sexual Assault.” These are in ch. 22 “Assaultive Offenses” rather than ch. 21 “Sexual Offenses.”
Both are first degree felonies if the offender and victim are closely related. Otherwise the offenses are second degree felonies. First degree felonies are punishable by imprisonment for life or for any term of not more than 99 years nor less than 5 years. In addition, punishment can include a fine of not more than $10,000. A second degree felony is punishable by imprisonment for not more than 20 years nor less than 2 years, and/or a fine not to exceed $10,000.
Sexual Assault (non-consensual)
If you have been arrested for sexual assault, aggravated sexual assault, criminal sexual contact, or any other sexual offense charge in Houston, you need straight answers from an attorney you can trust. Sex crime cases may contain circumstances that make them more volatile than other types of criminal cases. That is why it is so crucial that you have an attorney you can trust. For most people, being accused of a sex offense is extremely embarrassing and devastating. Many times the accuser is a young child who is suggestible and therefore not always reliable. If the victim is related to the accused, division may occur within the family. Additionally, false accusations of sexual abuse are sometimes invented by one parent attempting gain an advantage over the accused parent in custody disputes.
The offense that formerly would have been called forcible rape is now found in 22.011 (a) of the TPC.
§ 22.011. SEXUAL ASSAULT. (a) A person commits an offense if the person:
(1) intentionally or knowingly:
(A) causes the penetration of the anus or sexual organ of another person by any means, without that person’s consent;
(B) causes the penetration of the mouth of
another person by the sexual organ of the actor, without that
person’s consent; or
(C) causes the sexual organ of another person, without that person’s consent, to contact or penetrate the mouth, anus, or sexual organ of another person, including the actor;
Note that unlike the common law definition of rape, this statute is gender-neutral, includes sex acts in addition to vaginal intercourse, and has no exemption for rape of a spouse.
Without consent is defined in subsec. (b) in 11 different ways:
A sexual assault under Subsection (a)(1) is without the
consent of the other person if:
(1) the actor compels the other person to submit or participate by the use of physical force or violence;
This is the classic forcible rape scenario. Prior law required the victim to resist and the force had to be such as would overcome “such earnest resistance as might be reasonably expected under the circumstances.” There is no requirement of any resistance in the current statute.
(2) the actor compels the other person to submit or participate by threatening to use force or violence against the other person, and the other person believes that the actor has the
present ability to execute the threat;
(3) the other person has not consented and the actor knows the other person is unconscious or physically unable to resist;
(4) the actor knows that as a result of mental disease or defect the other person is at the time of the sexual assault incapable either of appraising the nature of the act or of resisting it;
(5) the other person has not consented and the actor knows the other person is unaware that the sexual assault is occurring;
Drugging the victim is covered in (6) below and, at first glance, it might appear that subsec. 5 is not possible. This portion of the statute is aimed primarily at physicians who exceed the scope of a proper gynecological examination, and the victim is not aware of what is really going on.
(6) the actor has intentionally impaired the other person’s power to appraise or control the other person’s conduct by administering any substance without the other person’s knowledge;
(7) the actor compels the other person to submit or participate by threatening to use force or violence against any person, and the other person believes that the actor has the ability
to execute the threat;
The final four subsections deal with the situation where a person has control or unusual influence over the victim and takes advantage of that relationship:
(8) the actor is a public servant who coerces the other person to submit or participate;
(9) the actor is a mental health services provider or a health care services provider who causes the other person, who is a patient or former patient of the actor, to submit or participate by
exploiting the other person’s emotional dependency on the actor;
(10) the actor is a clergyman who causes the other person to submit or participate by exploiting the other person’s emotional dependency on the clergyman in the clergyman’s professional character as spiritual adviser; or
(11) the actor is an employee of a facility where the other person is a resident, unless the employee and resident are formally or informally married to each other under Chapter 2,
Sexual Assault (Statutory Rape)
Forcible rape was a common law offense. Consensual sex with a child was criminalized by a statute by Parliament, and is thus termed “statutory” rape. The Texas version is found in TPC sec. 21.011 (2). It provides that an actor commits an offense if he or she
2) intentionally or knowingly:
(A) causes the penetration of the anus or sexual organ of a child by any means;
(B) causes the penetration of the mouth of a child by the sexual organ of the actor;
(C) causes the sexual organ of a child to contact or penetrate the mouth, anus, or sexual organ of another person, including the actor;
(D) causes the anus of a child to contact the mouth, anus, or sexual organ of another person, including the actor; or
(E) causes the mouth of a child to contact the anus or sexual organ of another person, including the actor.
Note that like the forcible rape version, the statute is gender neutral and includes sex acts other than vaginal intercourse. There is no element of lack of consent .
A child is defined as someone younger than 17 years of age who is not the spouse of the actor. Because the acts are consensual, there is, unlike in the forcible rape version, a spousal exception. Persons under 17 are presumed incapable of giving a valid consent, except when married. Age 17 is referred to as the “age of consent,”–the age at which the law assumes a valid consent can be given.
There is a defense of medical care: “(d) It is a defense to prosecution under Subsection (a)(2) that the conduct consisted of medical care for the child and did not include any contact between the anus or sexual organ of the child and the mouth, anus, or sexual organ of the actor or a third party.”
There is also a defense if the offender and victim are close in age, are not close relatives, and the offender does not have certain prior convictions for certain sex offenses. In these situations it is less likely that there is some form of improper exploitation of a young victim by an older predator.
(e) It is an affirmative defense to prosecution under Subsection (a)(2) that:
(1) the actor was not more than three years older than the victim and at the time of the offense:
(A) was not required under Chapter 62, Code of Criminal Procedure, to register for
life as a sex offender; or
(B) was not a person who under Chapter 62, Code of Criminal Procedure, had a reportable conviction or adjudication for an offense under this section; and
(2) the victim:
(A) was a child of 14 years of age or older; and
(B) was not a person whom the actor was prohibited from marrying or purporting to marry or with whom the actor was prohibited from living under the appearance of being married under Section 25.01.
The statute does not say that the defendant must know that the victim is under 17, and Texas courts have not created such a requirement. Thus, (as in a majority of states) mistake of fact about the victim’s age is not a defense.
Aggravated Sexual Assault
If a sexual assault under sec. 22.011 involves any of the following acts by the offender, the offense is Aggravated Sexual Assault (sec. 22.021 (2):
(i) causes serious bodily injury or attempts to cause the death of the victim or another person in the course of the same criminal episode;
(ii) by acts or words places the victim in fear that death, serious bodily injury, or kidnapping will be imminently inflicted on any person;
(iii) by acts or words occurring in the presence of the victim threatens to cause the death, serious bodily injury, or kidnapping of any person;
(iv) uses or exhibits a deadly weapon in the course of the same criminal episode;
(v) acts in concert with another who engages in conduct described by Subdivision (1) directed toward the same victim and occurring during the course of the same criminal episode; or
(vi) administers or provides flunitrazepam, otherwise known as rohypnol, gamma hydroxybutyrate, or ketamine [so-called “date rape drugs”] to the victim of the offense with the intent of facilitating the commission of the offense;
It is also an aggravated sexual Assault if the victim is under 14 or an elderly or disabled individual. Aggravated Sexual Assault is a felony of the first degree.
Houston Criminal Lawyer Charles Johnson handles a large number of Assault Family Violence cases, both misdemeanors and felonies. These types of cases typically involve family members but may also include former spouses, domestic partners, roommates, and present/former boyfriends/girlfriends.
Frequently, assault family violence cases involve police officers responding to a call about a disturbance. The police will likely talk to both parties and make an arrest based on whose story they believe or what the evidence indicates. Unfortunately, sometimes, the person arrested is actually the victim and not the aggressor. Other times, a mere accusation of violence may be enough for a criminal case to be filed. Sometimes, penalties for assault family violence may be harsher than normal assault cases and may result in temporary or permanent loss of parental rights.
Unfortunately, having an assault family violence conviction on your record can be used to deny child custody and limit your visitation rights if you are undergoing a divorce or other child custody hearings.
Affidavits of Non-Prosecution
Unlike in TV shows and movies, an assault case cannot be dropped in Texas simply because the victim requests that the charges be dropped. Instead, the right to drop the case belongs to the prosecutor and judge. However, not all hope is lost. Frequently, criminal defense attorneys help the victims in assault cases prepare Affidavits of Non-Prosecution, which express the victims wish that the case be dismissed and may shed some light on the altercation or argument that led to the arrest and filing of charges. While these affidavits can’t guarantee that a case is dismissed, they certainly help in persuading the prosecutor to dismiss the case or reduce the charges.
Protective Orders and Court Ordered Injunctions
In some cases of assault, the prosecutor will request that a court impose temporary protective orders or an injunction to place restrictions on contact between the accused and the victim, or in the case of assault family violence on the other family members. Protective orders may vary, ranging from no contact with the alleged victim, which frequently results in the accused having to find another place to live until the case is resolved or the protective order lifted, or could result in a temporary loss of child custody. A violation of a Court Ordered Protective order is also a serious criminal matter and may result in additional criminal charges filed against the accused.
Aggravated Assault & Assault with a Deadly Weapon
Aggravated assault consists of two different charges: aggravated assault causing serious bodily injury and assault with a deadly weapon, both of which are typically second degree felonies. An aggravated assault causing serious bodily injury occurs when during the course of an assault the victim was seriously injured. It is escalated from a mere slap to the face to a more severe resulting injury. Assault with deadly weapon occurs when the accused is alleged to have exhibited a deadly weapon during the commission of the assault. Deadly weapons can include but are not limited to: baseball bats, BB guns, bottles, clubs, drugs, firearms, knives, motor vehicles, nail guns, and even dustpans and hot water. However, if you are accused of committing an aggravated assault against someone with whom you have a domestic relationship, or against a security guard, witness, police officer, or public official the charge may be elevated to a first degree felony. If you have any questions about what constitutes assault in Texas or have been charged with assault, feel free to visit us on Facebook and post a question, leave a comment or fill out a free case evaluation form with no obligation
List of Common Texas Assault Charges
- Sexual assault
- Aggravated assault
- Aggravated sexual assault
- Injury to a child, elderly individual, or disabled individual
- Abandoning or endangering child
- Deadly conduct
- Consent as defense to assaultive conduct
- Terroristic threat
- Aiding suicide
- Tampering with consumer product
- Leaving a child in a vehicle
- Harassment by persons in certain correctional facilities; harassment of public servant
- Applicability to certain conduct
Possible Defenses for Assault Charges
Despite what the police might say, being charged by the Police with an offense does not mean that you will be found guilty of that offense. It is also true to say that Police are human and do make mistakes. In some domestic violence cases they may be bound to take action against someone even though they would prefer not to and in other cases they may be biased or act illegally. There are many reasons why you may be found not guilty by the court, some of which include:
- The police don’t have enough evidence to prove that you committed the offense;
- The police have acted illegally or improperly;
- A witness may not attend court;
- The Police have charged you with the wrong offense;
- Where applicable the Police cannot prove that the injuries amount to actual or grievous bodily harm;
- You are able to rely on a recognised defense.
Self-defense claims are made when a defendant agrees that act of assault occurred, but it also that it was justified by the other person’s threatening actions. A jury must decide that the person accused of the crime acted reasonably. The questions which must be asked include:
- Who was the aggressor?
- Was the defendant’s belief that self-defense was necessary a reasonable one?
- Did the defendant use only the force necessary to combat the aggressor?
Defense of Others
Defense of Others claims are similar to self defense claims. When making such a claim, a defendant agrees that act occurred, but claims that it was justified by the other person’s threatening actions to a third person.
Again, to succeed, a jury must determine that the defendant acted reasonably under the circumstances.
An alibi defense is simply the argument that the defendant could not have committed the crime because that defendant was somewhere else.
One of the best and most common defenses is to challenge the credibility of witnesses including the police. A good attorney will examine all aspects of a witnesses statements, the inconsistencies and the omissions. Witness testimony may be undermined by prior inconsistent statements or rebuttal witnesses that tell a different story.
In any criminal case it is very important to preserve evidence before it gets cold. That means you should hire an experienced and aggressive attorney for your representation as soon as possible. If you do not, your rights could be impaired.
An investigation must be performed which would involve photographing the scene, examining critical evidence and interviewing potential witnesses while their memory is fresh. (A defendant cannot perform these functions by themselves since they may be viewed as tampering with a witness).
Because sexual charges are often based on the word of the accuser, the motivations and background of the accuser are highly relevant to sex crimes defense. Proper investigation and use of psychological experts can uncover facts that can be helpful to your defense.
- Lying about consensual sex. Some may make false charges of sexual assault or rape to cover up consensual sex in order to protect their own reputation from damage to hide casual sexual encounters from friends and family.
- Child custody disputes. A parent may make false accusations of molestation or inappropriate sexual behavior against his or her spouse in order to gain an advantage in family court. Such false charges are a common tactic in divorce and custody cases.
- Financial advantage. A sexual charge is an easy way for an accuser to extort money from a defendant. Celebrities are not the only targets of these schemes. An employee can easily bring such a charge against an employer. We have also seen extortion associated with extramarital affairs.
Suppression of Evidence
If photographs, computer files or other records were obtained from you, there are very strict search and seizure guidelines that the police must follow. Illegally obtained evidence cannot be used against you in court. In sex crimes cases, there are limited circumstances in which incriminating evidence can be suppressed. A motion to suppress is a Constitutional Right and an effective weapon in the hands of an experienced sex crimes defense attorney.
“Taint” can occur when children are subjected to biased and suggestive interviews. Parents, teachers, police and even therapists can ask leading questions such as “daddy touched you there, didn’t he?” Often, the adult conducting the interrogation is not consciously aware of the suggestive nature of the question. Young children, who are eager to please adults, often answer “yes” and even build false memories about events that did not actually occur.
Fighting a criminal case can be very complicated. Did you know that many cases are dismissed on technicalities? The Best Houston Assault Attorney must have knowledge of the court system and know the different personalities of Judges and Prosecutors.
Hire the Best Houston Assault Lawyer: The Charles Johnson Law Firm
Do not hesitate to contact Attorney Johnson if you or one of your loved ones could even possibly be facing any type of Assault charge. Don’t make the huge, regrettable mistake of acting without legal representation, the most foolish course of action when dealing with the criminal justice system.
It is important that you seek legal counsel if you have been arrested for Assault in Houston as soon as possible. Houston Lawyer Charles Johnson is an experienced and skilled lawyer who can help you protect your rights, investigate the evidence, and negotiate with the state to get the charges filed against you reduced or dismissed.
Acting promptly and aggressively is the key to protecting your freedom and ultimate well being. Houston Criminal Lawyer Charles Johnson is available by phone 24 hours a day at (713) 222-7577. He knows how important your case is, and wants to protect you from the very outset.
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The Charles Johnson Law Firm is one of the foremost criminal defense law firms in Houston in defending people from drug convictions, including the possession and sale of marijuana. Expert Houston Drug Lawyer Charles Johnson skillfully defends clients who have been charged with marijuana-related crimes through the entire State of Texas, with offices conveniently located in Houston, Austin, Dallas and San Antonio. Our unique strategy gives our clients the best opportunity to avoid criminal penalties, and our criminal defense law firm’s familiarity with drug laws, both felonies and misdemeanors, is unrivaled. We provide each client a high-quality legal defense that is superior. Houston Criminal Lawyer Charles Johnson can defend against any criminal drug charge in both federal and state courts, and our firm’s track record of success continues to grow.
Hire the Best Houston Marijuana Possession Law Firm: The Charles Johnson Law Firm
Criminal Marijuana Penalties
Texas has a reputation as being extremely severe in its imposition of penalties for drug use and possession, and it is well earned. Minor marijuana possession is not decriminalized in Texas, as it is in several states, which means that even a minuscule amount can land you in jail. Marijuana possession and sale charges can be either misdemeanors or felonies, but both carry serious penalties. Jail time, heavy fines, probation, mandatory rehab programs and more are all possible penalties for drug charges. Skillful Drug Attorney Johnson’s finely tuned defense techniques have evolved from years of experience, and he brings that knowledge and experience to those facing marijuana-related criminal charges.
Of all the marijuana laws in Texas, possession of marijuana may be the most unfair. It punishes otherwise responsible citizens merely for keeping some pot for personal use and who have no intention of ever doing anything hurtful with it or profiting from it. Nonetheless, it is an offense to possess, distribute or cultivate marijuana in Texas. Depending on the quantity, possession of marijuana can be charged as a misdemeanor of felony in both state and federal court.
The prosecution may argue that you’re “in possession” of marijuana in Harris County, TX, if you’re found smoking marijuana or if you knowingly “exercised control” over the marijuana. Therefore, the location of the marijuana is very important:
- If the marijuana is found on your person, in your car, in or around your home, in a storage unit belonging to you, or in any other place that you have some authority over, the prosecution will argue that you were in possession of the marijuana since you had some control over the location.
- Furthermore, if marijuana is found in your system during a drug test or you were caught driving under the influence of marijuana in Texas, the prosecution may try to use that to prove you’ve been in possession of marijuana since you presumably “exercise control” over your body.
Marijuana Possession Penalties in Texas
- Two ounces or less include a fine up to $2,000, up to 180 days in jail or both
- More than two ounces, but less than four ounces. Penalties include a fine of up to $4,000, up to one year in jail, or both.
- Four ounces or more, up to and including five pounds. Penalties include a fine of up to $10,000, between 180 days and two years in prison, or both.
- More than five pounds, up to and including 50 pounds. Penalties include a fine of up to $10,000, between two and ten years in prison, or both.
- More than 50 pounds, up to and including 2,000 pounds. Penalties include a fine of up to $10,000, between two and 20 years in prison, or both.
- More than 2,000 pounds. Penalties include a fine of up to $50,000, between five and 99 years in prison, or both.
Sale of Marijuana
Various states have different marijuana laws, and Texas is no different. Texas treats marijuana sales as a much more serious crime than possession, which is reflected in the penalties. The sale of any amount of marijuana can lead to prison time, even for small amounts.
Sale of Marijuana Penalties in Texas
- 1/4 oz – 5 lbs: 6 months – 2 years, $10,000 fine
- 5 lbs – 50 lbs: 2 – 20 years, $10,000 fine
- 50 lbs – 1 ton: 5 – 99 years, $10,000 fine
- 1 ton or more: Mandatory minimum of 10 – 99 years, with a $100,000 fine
These are for either the sale OR delivery, meaning it is irrelevant whether or not you are actually paid or just just giving it to someone. On top of that, if the delivery or sale is to a minor (in ANY amount), that is punishable by an additional 2 – 20 years in prison. Also, sale within 1,000 feet of a school or within 300 feet of a youth center, public pool or video arcade increases the penalty classification to the next highest level (which in some cases is a difference of many years).
The Houston Lawyer Charles Johnson understands the unique nature of Texas marijuana laws, and can provide a skilled defense. His unparalleled knowledge of state and federal drug laws gives him a unique ability to provide excellent legal services for you and your loved ones. If you are in need of criminal defense legal representation in the Houston area, contact Attorney Johnson anytime day or night at (713) 222-7577 to discuss your situation.
What Is Marijuana?
Cannabis sativa: There are two species of Cannabis. One species is Cannabis sativa, originally cultivated to make hemp. The stalks of the plant contain fibers that are woven to make rope, cloth, and paper. The other species is Cannabis indica, known for its psychoactive properties. Hashish is derived from Cannabis indica. In Africa, cannabis is know as “dagga,” in China as “ma,” and in India as “ganga” or “bhang”. Marijuana is the Mexican colloquial name for Cannabis sativa. Marijuana is a greenish-gray mixture of dried, shredded leaves, stems, seeds, and flowers of the hemp plant.
THC is the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. THC or delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol is found in the plant’s resin. The amount of THC determines the potency of the marijuana. The resin is mostly concentrated in the flowers of the plant. Because of various cultivation techniques the amount of THC varies considerably in the flowers of individual plants.
Other Chemicals: Marijuana is a complex drug and is made up of 420 chemical components. Sixty-one of these chemicals are called cannabinoids and are unique to marijuana. Many scientific studies focus on the primary psychoactive chemical, THC but don’t know how these other cannabinoids affect the various organs, brain, and behavior.
Grades of Marijuana
- Low-grade marijuana is made from leaves of both sexes of the plant.
- Medium-grade marijuana is made of the flowering tops of female plants fertilized by male plants.
- High-grade marijuana is made of the flowering tops of female plants raised in isolation to male plants. This marijuana is called sinsemilla because it does not produce a seed.
- Hashish is produced when resin is collected from the Cannabis indica plant. The THC-rich resin is dried and then compressed into a variety of forms, such as balls, cakes, or cookie-like sheets. Pieces are then broken off, placed in pipes, and smoked or rolled into a cigarette along with tobacco or low-grade marijuana. The Middle East, North Africa, Pakistan, and Afghanistan are the main sources of hashish. THC content of hashish can vary from 8% to 20%.
What are the Physical Effects of Marijuana usage?
When marijuana is smoked, the affects are felt in minutes. The high usually peaks within a couple of hours. Marijuana affects users differently. The “high” can include a feeling of relaxation, improved sense perception, and emotional well-being. Music and visual images may seem more vibrant and intense. Time seems to slow down. Some people experience physical hunger and a range of emotion from laughter to introspection. Marijuana does not always produce pleasant feelings and may cause paranoia and hallucinations. Emergency room visits have increased because some people feel anxious or fearful after smoking high-grade marijuana. Whether the marijuana is smoked or eaten, THC can remain in the body for days. About half the THC is in the blood 20 hours after smoking. Although the initial high has disappeared, physical and mental functions may be affected for days.
The physical effects of marijuana depend on many individual factors such as personal health, the time of day that marijuana is used, the problems it causes, and how well a person is able to control his or her use. Research studies have shown that one of the primary concerns for those who use marijuana is cardiovascular damage. Marijuana causes damage to lungs that is similar to that caused by cigarettes. For people who inhale deeply or hold the smoke in their lungs longer, the risk can be greater. One study that compared cigarette and marijuana smokers found that marijuana smokers absorbed five times the amount of carbon monoxide, and had five times the tar in their lungs, as compared to cigarette smokers. For those who smoke both marijuana and cigarettes, the damage can be exponentially greater than that caused by marijuana or cigarettes alone.
Research shows that people who use marijuana more than one time during the day tend to have more social and physical problems than those who only use in the evenings. Those who use at multiple times may also be more likely to be smoking to avoid problems they feel unable to confront. A person who uses marijuana in addition to alcohol or other drugs can be at additional risk. The effects of some drugs become exponentially greater when taken together. In addition, the physical tolerance that one drug produces can sometimes affect another drug, and lead to dependence on multiple substances.
Is Marijuana Addictive?
While marijuana is not in the same addictive league as cocaine, heroin, and even alcohol, recent studies raise the possibility that THC affects the level of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is a chemical in the brain that affects the pleasure circuits. Many addictive drugs cause the release of dopamine from the neurons. One report by the National Institute of Drug Abuse states that long-term marijuana use can lead to addiction for some people. This report concludes that along with craving, withdrawal symptoms can make it hard for long-term marijuana smokers to stop using the drug. People trying to quit report irritability, difficulty sleeping, and anxiety.
Texas does not prosecute possession of drugs only. In fact, Texas will prosecute a person for possession of drug paraphernalia. Thus, it is a separate criminal charge classified as a Class C Misdemeanor and typically carries a penalty of $500. Normally, if one is charged with a possession of controlled substance, then a possession of drug paraphernalia will be charged against the person, as well.
Under federal law the term drug paraphernalia means “any equipment, product or material of any kind which is primarily intended or designed for use in manufacturing, compounding, converting, concealing, producing, processing, preparing, injecting, ingesting, inhaling, or otherwise introducing into the human body a controlled substance.”
Drug paraphernalia is any legitimate equipment, product, or material that is modified for making, using, or concealing illegal drugs such as cocaine, heroin, marijuana, and methamphetamine. Drug paraphernalia generally falls into two categories:
User-specific products are marketed to drug users to assist them in taking or concealing illegal drugs. These products include certain pipes, smoking masks, bongs, cocaine freebase kits, marijuana grow kits, roach clips, and items such as hollowed out cosmetic cases or fake pagers used to conceal illegal drugs.
Dealer-specific products are used by drug traffickers for preparing illegal drugs for distribution at the street level. Items such as scales, vials, and baggies fall into this category. Drug paraphernalia does not include any items traditionally used with tobacco, like pipes and rolling papers.
With the rise of the drug culture in the United States in the 1960s and 1970s, the country began to see the appearance of “head shops,” which were stores that sold a wide range of drug paraphernalia. While some of the paraphernalia was crude and home-made, much was being commercially manufactured to cater to a fast-growing market. Enterprising individuals even sold items openly in the street, until anti-paraphernalia laws in the 1980s eventually ended such blatant sales. Today, law enforcement faces another challenge. With the advent of the Internet, criminals have greatly expanded their illicit sales to a worldwide market for drug paraphernalia. For example, in a recent law enforcement effort, Operation Pipedreams, the 18 companies targeted accounted for more than a quarter of a billion dollars in retail drug paraphernalia sales annually. Typically, such illicit businesses operate retail stores as well as websites posing as retailers of legitimate tobacco accessories when in reality the products are intended for the illegal drug trade.
Identifying drug paraphernalia can be challenging because products often are marketed as though they were designed for legitimate purposes. Marijuana pipes and bongs, for example, frequently carry a misleading disclaimer indicating that they are intended to be used only with tobacco products. Recognizing drug paraphernalia often involves considering other factors such as the manner in which items are displayed for sale, descriptive materials or instructions accompanying the items, and the type of business selling the items.
The Charles Johnson Law Firm is experienced in marijuana-related matters involving:
- Marijuana Possession
- Marijuana Cultivation
- Marijuana Distribution
- Drug Paraphernalia
- Search and seizure laws
- Asset seizure
- Search warrants, wiretapping and surveillance
Contact the Leading Houston Marijuana Possession Lawyer: Drug Attorney Charles Johnson
Before someone can be convicted of marijuana possession in Houston, the state must prove that the accused actually had possession or took action to control the drug. Drug possession cases are complicated and depend the police’s adherence to strict guidelines concerning search and seizure of the drug.
As you could be facing fines, probation, drug classes, community service, and jail, it is crucial that you speak with an experienced Houston criminal attorney if you have been accused of this crime. Our team at the Charles Johnson Law Firm is well-equipped to handle any type of drug crime, including those involving possession of marijuana and/or drug paraphernalia. We understand that mistakes can happen and not everyone who has been accused of a crime is guilty. No matter how serious you may believe your case to be, contact The Houston Lawyer Charles Johnson personally by calling (713) 222-7577 anytime, day or night to discuss your case.
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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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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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A charge of drug conspiracy or intent to distribute drugs carries much harsher penalties than a drug-possession charge. Federal and state drug laws are more strict when the prosecutor has reason to believe that a drug sale or distribution was going to occur.
The Charles Johnson Law Firm, located in Houston, TX, is experienced in defending against drug conspiracy and intent to distribute charges. Contact Houston Criminal Lawyer Johnson anytime day or night to speak with a skilled attorney who has a proven record of success with drug cases.
Intent to Distribute Drugs Criminal Defense
Possession of a large amount of cash, baggies, paraphernalia or a scale all could lead to a charge of drug conspiracy or intent to sell drugs. The prosecutor will use that evidence to argue your possession could only mean you had the intent to distribute the drugs to someone else.
With our significant criminal defense experience in federal and state court, we know how to prepare a successful defense against drug crimes. We may be able to challenge the search or seizure to suppress the evidence against you if you are charged with intent to distribute the following drugs:
- Meth or methamphetamine
- Prescription drugs
If the evidence against you was lawfully obtained, Houston Drug Lawyer Johnson is also an experienced negotiator. Through negotiating and plea-bargaining, you may receive a less-serious punishment or an alternative punishment. Either in trial or in negotiations with the prosecutor, Attorney Johnson will provide personalized service aimed at obtaining an outcome favorable to your situation.
Experienced Drug Crimes Defense Attorney
With a thorough investigation and aggressive defense, we pursue the dismissal or reduction of the charges. Our goal is to preserve your freedom while minimizing any jail time or fines.
Definition of Conspiracy
A conspiracy is an agreement between two or more persons to commit a crime, and in order for a conspiracy to exist, the conspirators would have to perform at least one “overt act” in an attempt to accomplish the purpose of the conspiracy. It is not necessary for the conspiracy to be successful, that is, for the object of the conspiracy to have been accomplished, and it is only necessary that one overt act be completed (even if the overt act is actually a failure in terms of what the overt act was supposed to accomplish).
Federal Indictments for drug cases most usually allege a conspiracy under Title 21, U.S. Code §846, the conspiracy statute for Title 21 violations. Such a conspiracy is usually plead in the Indictment as a conspiracy to distribute controlled substances, a conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute controlled substances, a conspiracy to manufacture controlled substances, or a combination of all of these. Quite often, Indictments in federal drug trafficking cases will allege these two allegations/objects of the conspiracy: 1) to distribute, and 2) to possess with intent to distribute.
Generally, conspiracy is considered a common law offense. A civil conspiracy is an agreement between two or more parties to deprive a third party of legal rights or deceive a third party to obtain an illegal objective. The essence of civil conspiracy is damages. The main elements constituting a civil conspiracy are:
- An object to be accomplished,
- Meeting of minds on the objective or course of action,
- One or more overt acts,
- Further, proof of malice or an intent to injure, can be included as essential elements.
However, conspiracy is treated as a crime under many jurisdictions when a conspiracy to commit a particular offense occurs. The crime of conspiracy is defined as two or more persons conspiring to commit any crime, together with proof of the commission of an overt act to effect an objective of the agreement.
A conspirator remains a participant in the conspiracy unless and until s/he communicates a decision to renounce the agreement. Likewise, a person who joins a conspiracy after its formation is equally guilty with the original conspirators. It is to be noted that a conspirator is liable for the acts of his/her co-conspirators.
There are various elements that constitute conspiracy. A criminal conspiracy will be complete if it fulfills the following main elements:
- An agreement about the objective of the conspiracy;
- Specific intent to achieve that object;
- An overt act in furtherance of the agreement.
- Conspirators are jointly liable in conspiracy. If a defendant claims that s/he was not present at the time of the alleged conspiracy, or if s/he was unaware about the means to be employed for committing conspiracy, or defendant was put under coercion by the co-conspirator to commit conspiracy, these will not amount to a defense in criminal conspiracy.
By definition, as referenced above, a conspiracy necessarily includes an agreement between persons to perform, or attempt to perform, an illegal act, i.e., possess large quantities of an illegal drug with the intent to distribute it to others (possess with intent to distribute), or actual transactions where the illegal drugs are transferred to other persons (distribution). Because of the nature of such allegations, it is common place for some defendants to know other defendants in the Indictment, and to even have had contact with them regarding the allegations.
However, it is also common to find that many defendants of a multi-defendant Indictment do not even know many other defendants, especially those “down the line” in the Indictment. That is, if many persons, say, twenty (20) or more, are indicted, often a defendant anywhere in the Indictment may not know those who are listed as say number ten (10) or lower. Frequently, the U.S. Attorney’s Office will include many persons who are allegedly involved in the distribution chain of the controlled substances, and those who are allegedly involved in the collection of monies for the same. This scenario often leaves one, two, or three persons named near the top of the Indictment as the supposed common link(s) between them and various others in the Indictment.
A conspiracy allegation is generally easier for the government to prove than substantive counts, as the evidence needed to prove a conspiracy would have to show that there was an agreement and at least one person performed or attempted to perform an overt act to further the object of the conspiracy. A conspiracy count often is more attractive to a federal prosecutor who has some, but limited evidence, on a defendant.
Elements of the Crime
The crime of conspiracy is defined as two or more persons conspiring to commit any crime, together with proof of the commission of an overt act in furtherance by one or more of the parties to such agreement. However, mere association of two or more persons will not constitute a criminal conspiracy. The main elements of conspiracy are a specific intent, an agreement with another person to engage a crime to be performed, and the commission of an overt act by one of the conspirators in furtherance of the conspiracy.
An unlawful agreement is an element of a criminal conspiracy. Generally, the crime of conspiracy is complete when parties enter into a conspiratorial agreement. Moreover, if there is an agreement between two or more persons for an unlawful purpose, it is considered a criminal conspiracy even where there is no agreement regarding the details of the criminal scheme or the means by which the unlawful purpose will be accomplished. The agreement will determine whether single or multiple conspiracies exist between the parties. A single conspiratorial agreement will constitute a single criminal conspiracy and multiple agreements to commit separate crimes will constitute multiple conspiracies.
Similarly, conspiracy is considered a specific intent crime. A specific intent crime is one in which a person acts with knowledge of what he/she is doing and also with the objective of completing some unlawful act. The intent can be determined from words, acts, and conduct. If the conspirators agree or conspire with specific intent to kill and commit an overt act in furtherance of such agreement, then they are guilty of conspiracy to commit express malice murder.
Another element that constitutes criminal conspiracy is knowledge. To be more specific, to make a person liable for criminal conspiracy as a coconspirator, he/she must have knowledge of the existence of the conspiracy and knowledge of the illegal object of the conspiracy. At the same time, a person having no knowledge of a conspiracy cannot be considered a conspirator.
Hire the Best Drug Conspiracy Criminal Defense Lawyer in Houston
Similarly, in order to satisfy the statute, the government must prove that a conspirator committed an overt act in furtherance of the conspiracy. A conspiracy conviction requires proof of the commission of at least one overt act by one of the conspirators within the five-year statutory period in furtherance of the conspiratorial agreement.
In federal Indictments, in addition to conspiracy counts, often the government charges specific events of transfers of illegal drugs, referred to in the federal system as “distribution(s).” In various state court Indictments, such transfers of drugs are known as “deliveries.” These charges are much more specific as to what occurred and when it happened. That is, a distribution count in the federal Indictment concisely alleges that on a certain date, a named defendant distributed a certain amount of a controlled substance to another named person or a government agent.
Possession With Intent to Distribute Charges
Like a specifically-pled distribution count, a substantive count alleging possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance more specifically (than the wording in a conspiracy) states the date, quantity, persons involved and sometimes the location. The element of the crime “with intent to distribute” has to be proven just as the other elements of the alleged crime, including possession and controlled substance. The government will attempt to prove the element “with intent to distribute” in one of two ways: 1) the quantity alone can show that it was much more than personal use amounts; and/or 2) testimony from cooperators who have knowledge of the discussions and plans of the co-defendants.
A person can be charged with manufacturing a controlled substance under Title 21 of the United States Code, but more commonly any allegation of manufacturing will be alleged in a conspiracy.
Defenses for a Conspiracy Charge
Entrapment is a defense available in conspiracy cases. A defendant can make an entrapment defense by stating that s/he was persuaded and induced by a law enforcement officer or agent to participate in a conspiracy and that s/he had no previous intention to conspire. In such cases, the conviction is excluded by the court as a matter of policy.
However, the defense of entrapment will not be available to a defendant who avails him/herself of the benefit of the opportunity provided to him by the government official with an intention to commit conspiracy. But if there is evidence to show that the intention to participate in a conspiracy was the result of the persuasion or inducement from the government official then a defendant will not be convicted.
A defendant who takes the defense of entrapment must show the following:
- that the idea of conspiracy came from the government official and not from the defendant;
- that the government official persuaded or induced the defendant to commit the crime; and
- that before inducement, the defendant was not ready to commit the crime.
- A defendant who becomes successful in proving an entrapment will be exempted from being punished for conspiracy. However, the defendant will not be exempted if the defendant was part of a conspiracy group of more that two persons. In this case, the defendant can get an exemption only if the other conspirators testify to the defendant’s entrapment.
If the objective of the conspiracy is of a nature that it was to be performed by the government official alone in exercise of his/her official duty, then the defendant will be exempted from punishment. However some courts have refused to accept this principle on the ground that it is the agreement that constitutes the crime of conspiracy and not the attainment of the objective.
When a defendant makes the defense of entrapment, it is the duty of the government to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the defendant was not entrapped by the government official.
Abandonment or Withdrawal From Crime
Abandonment or withdrawal from conspiracy is a defense available to a conspirator to escape liability. In cases of conspiracy requiring an overt act for conviction, a defendant can escape from the liability if s/he proves that they have withdrawn from the conspiracy prior to the performance of an overt act. Any withdrawal or abandonment taken subsequent to an overt act’s performance will not protect a defendant from liability. The defense of withdrawal or abandonment is not applicable in the case of a conspiracy that does not involve an overt act.
To make the defense of withdrawal or abandonment, a defendant must satisfy the following conditions:
- a defendant must take some positive action to withdraw from conspiracy;
- a defendant must make a timely communication of the withdrawal with the co-conspirators;
- a defendant must make the withdrawal prior to completion of conspiracy’s object; and
- a defendant must prove that there was a sufficient interval between the withdrawal or abandonment and commission of the conspiracy.
- When a defendant makes the defense of withdrawal or abandonment, s/he must prove the withdrawal or abandonment before the court. However, withdrawal or abandonment will not be fulfilled by the mere cessation of activities of the co-conspirators[ix]. A conspirator’s arrest or incarceration also will not constitute a withdrawal or abandonment.
But if a defendant, after withdrawal, stays in touch with the co-conspirators and takes part in the goals of the conspiracy, then the defense of withdrawal or abandonment will be nullified by the court.
Former jeopardy is a defense available for a conspiracy offense. Generally a conspiracy to commit a crime and commission of a crime are considered two separate offenses. Prosecution for conspiracy and commission of a crime are treated as separate proceedings and they do not qualify under the double jeopardy prohibition. Thus, a former conviction or acquittal for a crime will not bar a subsequent prosecution for conspiracy to commit that crime. Similarly, a former conviction or acquittal for conspiracy to commit a crime does not bar a subsequent prosecution for that crime. The order of acquittal passed in prosecution proceedings of the crime and a subsequent order of conviction for the offense of conspiracy to commit the same crime will not be treated as inconsistent. The conviction of a person for both the crime and conspiracy will not be treated as prosecuting a person twice for the same offense.
The commission of an overt act which forms an element of a conspiracy can by itself constitute a crime. In such cases, an acquittal for the crime on the ground that the overt act was not committed will operate as an acquittal for the offense of conspiracy of that crime. In like circumstances, the defendant can take the plea of former jeopardy to defend against a conviction for conspiracy. However, if the acquittal was rooted on some other ground, that will result in a conviction for the offense of conspiracy.
In some circumstances a person may be accused for two separate crimes done in one action and for conspiracy to commit both crimes. For example, person A committed murder and lurking house trespass under a conspiracy. Here A is liable for the offense of murder and its conspiracy and for lurking house trespass along with its conspiracy. Convicting such a person severally for two conspiracies would amount to convicting a person twice for the same crime. However, person A who is charged with the offense of murder in pursuance of a conspiracy cannot claim jeopardy on the basis of the prior conviction or acquittal for the offense of lurking house trespass that is committed under the same conspiracy.
However, a state court is not barred from convicting a person against an order of acquittal by the Federal court on identical facts involved in the case which came before the state court. Similarly if any case comes before the Federal court with facts identical to the facts of a state case that granted a conviction, the Federal court can grant an acquittal in such a case without considering the state court’s decision for conviction.
The plea of res judicata is a defense available in conspiracy cases. Although the defense of res judicata appears to be similar to the defense of former jeopardy, the former differs from the later in its legal implications.
An order of acquittal passed in a former case will operate as res judicata on a subsequent case only if the matter in the former case was tried and adjudicated properly. A verdict can be said to be a properly adjudicated one only if the issues involved in the case were fully considered and determined.
An order of acquittal made in a prosecution of a crime will not operate as res judicata to bar the subsequent prosecution for conspiracy to commit that crime. However an order of acquittal resulting from a prosecution for conspiracy of a crime will operate as a bar on the prosecution for the commission of the crime on the ground that there is re-litigation of the same question of fact that was already determined in the previous prosecution. Whereas if an order of acquittal results from a conspiracy prosecution where the prosecution attorney was unable to convince the jury on the conspiracy, this proceeding will not operate as res judicata to a subsequent proceeding to prosecute the commission of the crime.
However, an order of acquittal for conspiracy will operate as a bar to a subsequent proceeding against the defendant for aiding and abetting the commission of a crime, if evidence of the agreement between the abettor/defendant and the abetted is essential to prove the crime.
The following arguments will not constitute a defense to a criminal conspiracy:
- that it was the co-conspirators who committed the conspiracy’s objective;
- that the defendant was not present at the time and place of an alleged conspiracy(plea of alibi);
- that the co-conspirator is an undercover police agent who extended cooperation and made the agreement for conspiracy;
- that a conspiracy’s object was not achieved due to impracticability in performance;
- that the defendant had withdrawn from the conspiracy before any overt act is performed in furtherance of the conspiracy agreement which did not require an overt act;
- that the defendant was unaware about the means to be employed for committing conspiracy; and
- that the defendant was put under coercion by the co-conspirator to commit conspiracy, if there is evidence supporting the defendant’s willful knowledge and participation in a conspiracy.
Punishment and Sentencing
Penalties for convictions of federal drug statute violations are driven by the type of controlled substance, and by the quantities involved. Usually in federal drug prosecutions, the statutory range of punishment is either five (5) to forty (40) years, or ten (10) years to life. Title 21, U.S. Code, §841 sets forth the drug and quantity listings for these statutory penalties. Some, but fewer, federal prosecutions are for charges that carry from zero (0) to twenty (20) years.
Also, more significantly, the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines (“U.S.S.G.”) play a huge role in sentencing a defendant in federal courts. In summary, the U.S.S.G. function as a point system, driven by drug quantities and other point enhancements, such as the use of a weapon or organizer/leader. The more points accumulated, then the higher the prison range exists for a defendant’s potential sentence. A defendant can receive points subtracted from the total offense level for acceptance of responsibility upon a plea of guilty, and cooperation with the government provides an avenue for the possibility of a reduced sentence.
Punishment and sentencing in a conspiracy conviction depends on the evidence set forth in the case. Punishment will be given in conformity with the applicable statutes.
While imposing a sentence, a court can use its discretion reasonably to consider various factors. An appropriate sentence considers a defendant’s age, social and cultural background, past criminal record if any, education, and experience. The defendant’s manner and attitude are also taken into consideration. The motive to commit the offense and the nature of the offense are additional factors considered when imposing a sentence.
The maximum penalty for conspiracy is usually limited to the maximum punishment fixed for the crime that the conspirators conspired to commit. A court can grant a sentence in a crime of conspiracy to the extent of the maximum punishment fixed for the crime. Some state laws do not require a strict ratio between crime and sentence. However, the sentence must not be extremely inconsistent with the severity of the crime.
An enhanced sentence can be given considering the nature and circumstances of the offense committed. A conspiracy to kill or injure a person is a crime of violence and the conspirator to that crime would be sentenced based on the rules of sentencing related to a crime based on the use of physical force. The gravity of the offense will be considered and the conspirators are subject to enhanced punishment. Likewise, if the crime was not due to a sudden provocation but planned, the crime is more severe and the sentence could be more severe.
Under some state laws, the trial court’s sentence can be reversed only on appeal:
- if it violates constitutional requirements;
- if a judge was influenced by ill-will, prejudice, or impermissible considerations; or
- if the sentence exceeded the limit prescribed by a statute.
- Generally, criminal procedures permit multiple sentencing. Hence it does not violate the Constitution. For example, a federal statute provides that, whoever is being prosecuted for any crime of violence or drug trafficking, if he/she uses or carries a firearm in relation to that crime, they may be sentenced to an additional period apart from the sentence for the original crime.
The Best Houston Conspiracy Lawyer: The Charles Johnson Law Firm
Drug crime convictions are serious and can result in jail time, heavy fines, asset seizure, and a permanent criminal record. Not to mention the additional penalties that can result from a charge of conspiracy. Houston Drug Attorney Charles Johnson has significant experience investigating and defending drug conspiracy crimes and will fight to ensure the protection of your freedom. Depending on your crime and the particular facts of your case, there may be many defenses available against your charge.
Contact Houston Lawyer Johnson today for a Free Consultation at (713) 222-7577 anytime day or night and learn which defenses may work for you.
Facing An Arrest for Conspiracy? Hire the Best Houston Criminal Lawyer
by Charles Johnson
News Stories Related to Conspiracy in Houston, TX:
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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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Drug offenses may be charged against a single individual with just a minimal quantity of marijuana, or perhaps a college student selling ecstasy or an individual trafficking considerable amounts of crack across state lines. Because drug violations cover an extremely wide array of criminal acts, almost no one can avoid the possibility of being found guilty, regardless if they are an upstanding citizen or possibly a career criminal. Anyone that has been charged with a crime should certainly consult the advice and the representation of the Top Houston Criminal Lawyers at the Charles Johnson Law Firm to help understand the nature of the charge, what defenses are available for the crime, if plea bargains are available, and what could happen if the defendant is convicted of the crime.
Drug offenses range in severity with the possession of a small quantity of marijuana for individual use being a “lesser” drug crime, and operating an entire drug trafficking business being a significantly greater criminal offense. The violations may be tried as a misdemeanor or a felony, based on a number of elements. For instance, the type of drug, quantity and motive are all considered when making an arrest. The prosecution and the judge may also consider whether or not the suspect has a past criminal history, and they’ll examine the circumstances associated with the criminal case. Competent Houston Criminal Lawyers can help you fight for your legal rights and ensure that the more positive aspects of the scenario don’t get go unnoticed by the prosecution. These strategies will help make sure that you aren’t sentenced with more severe consequences than necessary. Drug offenses are taken extremely seriously within the state of Texas and a skilled defense attorney might be the difference between your liberty and a felony conviction.
According to the elements of one’s case, you might discover your self dealing with a jail sentence. More serious cases of sales or sizable amounts of drug possession could put you behind bars. An experienced drug violations attorney can keep you from contending with prison time. Drug offenses fall within the jurisdiction of both federal and state laws, based on the nature of the criminal offense. Smuggling illegal substances and substantial quantity narcotic conspiracy cases are usually prosecuted on the federal level. Some other drug violations, like possession, manufacture and illegal drug trafficking inside state boundaries, are generally prosecuted by the State of Texas. Drug violations criminal charges consist of possession, use, sale or furnishing of any type of unlawful drug or drug paraphernalia that’s prohibited by law, also as the illegal possession of legal drugs (like prescribed pharmaceutical misuse).
Drug offenses in Texas are taken extremely seriously by federal and state prosecutors. When you have been arrested for simple marijuana possession, you could confront elevated criminal charges if you’re caught in possession of 4 oz . or more. If you’re found guilty of violating the Texas Controlled Substance Act, you might lose the privilege of your driver’s license for as much as 6 months. Drug violations are extremely severe in nature and must by no means be taken casually. An individual who’s arrested for a drug offense deals with life-changing legal repercussions. In Texas, drug offenses are prosecuted harshly by law enforcement officials and District Attorneys. Because of a continual growth in drug associated violations, the federal and state government now utilize more rigid drug regulations and legal punishments.
Drug violations may be considered as infractions, misdemeanors, or felonies based on a host of elements which includes:
What types of controlled substances had been involved (for example, heroin and PCP are usually seen as much more “serious” illegal drugs than marijuana).
The quantity of drugs concerned.
Whether or not the drugs had been procured for private use exclusively or to sell to other individuals.
Whether or not the accused was concurrently concerned within the commission of various other felonies or misdemeanors.
The defendant’s prior criminal history, if any exists.
Drug violations consist of numerous activities forbidden by federal or state statute, which includes possession, sale, manufacture, distribution and trafficking, together with prescription fraud and forgery. Drug offenses consist of attempts and conspiracies to commit any type of of these acts. On the federal level, involvement in a continuing criminal enterprise additionally exposes a person to criminal accountability. These offenses are extremely precisely defined, and therefore the government is expected to prove to the court a particular set of facts before a charged individual may be declared guilty of them.
Hire the Top Houston Criminal Lawyers: The Charles Johnson Law Firm
Additionally, drug cases often involve the issue of whether or not the proof was correctly attained by the authorities. Evidence acquired in violation of an defendant’s constitutional legal rights isn’t admissible in the courtroom. The majority of challenges to the admissibility of evidence are dependent within the Fourth Amendment, that protects Americans from unreasonable searches and seizures.
Drug courts currently operate or are being structured in virtually all 50 states. Although they differ among states, these specialized courts focus on therapy more than time in jail for defendants with substance abuse problems. Compliance with all the enforced stipulations (e.g., frequent drug screening, participation in a rehabilitation program) could possibly lead to dismissal of criminal charges, or suspended or lowered sentences.
When prison time is required, on the other hand, possible penalties escalate based on the type and amount of the drug at issue and also the defendant’s previous criminal history. Particular crimes are sorted into classes and minimum and maximum sentences of these classes are stipulated based on a defendant’s criminal background. Utilization of these sentencing recommendations in state and federal court have long been debatable; proponents maintain that recommendations make sure uniformity and equity in penalties, although opponents debate that they are not able to provide the flexibility required to take into account a defendant’s specific situations.
When you have Been Charged with a Drug Criminal offense
Drug charges can certainly have significant consequences, such as forfeiture of property and assets and time in jail. Talking to Attorney Charles Johnson, one of the Top Houston Criminal Lawyers, for guidance on how you can proceed is important. If you’re fighting drug criminal charges, a knowledgeable lawyer will assist you with navigating through the problems concerned in this complicated area of legislation.
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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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