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TX defense lawyerThe definition of a “burglary” can vary wildly between states. The general consensus is that burglary is a felony committed when a person breaks into a structure intending to commit another crime inside. Some states are very specific about what type of structure is covered under the burglary statute. Others are particular about what type of crime the offender must be planning to commit once inside. If you have been accused of committing burglary, you may have a lot of questions about why you have been charged with this crime. It is best to speak to a criminal defense attorney who can assess how the Texas burglary statute applies to your case and begin preparing your defense.

What Is the Legal Definition of Burglary in Texas?

In Texas, burglary means unlawfully entering or staying in a building with the intent to commit theft, assault, or any felony. Traditionally, people think of burglaries as being limited to home invasions for the purpose of stealing a family’s things. However, the legal definition of burglary in Texas is not nearly so limited. The building or structure targeted need not be a residential dwelling - retail stores, financial institutions, office buildings, or any other public or private building may count for the purposes of a burglary charge. Even a vehicle like an RV or camper that is designed for use as temporary accommodations.

Intending to commit a crime inside is another important element of burglary. Theft, assault, or any felony can count as the planned crime for purposes of a burglary charge. This is where some defendants may become confused about why they are charged with burglary. Many believe that if they did not mean to take anything or hurt anyone, they are not committing burglary. However, felonies like selling narcotics and stalking-related offenses are routinely committed inside structures that no one had a legal right to be in. In Texas, that could be a burglary.

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TX defense lawyerFamily violence accusations are serious. Even if it is charged as a misdemeanor assault family violence rather than a felony, the stigma associated can limit your future career, educational, and social opportunities. False accusations of intimate partner violence are extremely common, however. The reasons people make these kinds of allegations are numerous. Whatever happened, you are now facing a very serious charge - for something you did not do. If this is happening to you, you will need to get in touch with an aggressive criminal defense attorney soon to give you the best chances of clearing your name.

Why Do People Make False Family Violence Claims?

You may have been completely blindsided by your arrest. You know you did nothing wrong, but you are still facing a terrifying prosecution. There is no good reason for filing a false police report alleging an assault that never happened, but common reasons include:

  • Divorce - Angry spouses looking to get an edge in the divorce proceedings sometimes falsely claim that their partner was violent. This is especially likely when there are children involved, as one parent may accuse the other of violence in an effort to gain sole custody.
  • Self-defense - Police officers arriving on the scene have extremely limited background information. It is not uncommon for them to make a big mistake and arrest the victim, who was merely trying to defend herself.
  • Spite - After a difficult breakup, or even during a big fight, people will sometimes accuse their partner of attacking them out of sheer spite. In this type of situation, the accuser often calms down the next day and wants the charges dropped - but it might be too late for that.

What You Can Do if You Are Falsely Accused of Family Violence

Facing this type of accusation is frightening, and the situation may feel hopeless. There are, however, a few steps you can take to minimize your risk, such as:

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Posted on in Criminal Defense

TX defense lawyerTexas boasts some of the nation’s harshest laws regarding prostitution. As of September 1, 2021, we became the first state to make the crime of purchasing sex from a prostitute a felony. As for prostitution, it can be charged as a felony or as a misdemeanor depending on the circumstances. Either way, a prostitution charge will have a serious impact on your life. Undercover stings where police pose as interested buyers (“johns”) are one of the most common ways people get arrested for prostitution in Texas.

Many people who are caught up in a prostitution sting, whether they are guilty or not, immediately think of entrapment as a possible defense. However, the defense of entrapment requires a very high bar to be met. If you were arrested during a prostitution sting operation, you will want a strong legal advocate to stand between you and the prosecutor. Texas sentencing can be notoriously harsh for sex crimes.

What is Entrapment?

In Texas, an entrapment defense can be raised when “engaged in the conduct charged because he was induced to do so by a law enforcement agent using persuasion or other means likely to cause persons to commit the offense.” This means that the crime must have been the police officer’s idea, not the alleged prostitute’s. Merely offering someone the opportunity to commit the crime of prostitution - for example, by offering cash in exchange for a sex act - is not enough. If you accept such an offer, the court will assume that had your client not turned out to be a police officer, you would have engaged in prostitution with a different, legitimate client.

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TX defense lawyerHalloween can be tough for teenagers - they are too old to trick-or-treat but too young to join the costumed crowd in the local bar. Every year, there is an uptick in juvenile crime around Halloween as teenagers celebrate the holiday in their own way. Most teen lawbreaking around the fall holiday involves minor crimes, like vandalism, but petty crime can progress into more serious criminal activity.

Unfortunately for parents, there is no worse Halloween night trick than getting a phone call saying their son or daughter is in jail. If your minor child gets arrested for any reason this Halloween season, getting them a lawyer should be your main priority - a skilled attorney can potentially help avoid a criminal record that could follow your teen for life.

What Crimes Do Juveniles Often Commit Around Halloween?

Teen mischief has been a Halloween tradition for a long time. However, some teens go too far and end up committing crimes. It does not help that many costumes include masks, which may lead teens to feel emboldened to break the law. Around Halloween, teens often get arrested for:

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TX defense lawyerMurder is perhaps the most serious crime a person can be charged with in Texas. Sentencing can go all the way up to life in prison or even the death penalty. Anyone facing homicide charges needs an experienced and capable criminal defense lawyer to minimize your chances of facing these harsh penalties - whether you are guilty or not.

If you have been accused of murder, finding good representation should be your top priority. A defense attorney will look at all the facts and circumstances surrounding the crime and see if there are any applicable defenses, then decide on a defense strategy. In some cases, a murder charge can be reduced to a lesser crime.

What Is Manslaughter in Texas?

Manslaughter is still a serious crime, but it is not quite as serious as homicide. Rather than a first-degree felony, manslaughter is a second-degree felony and carries less severe penalties. Defense attorneys may sometimes fight to have a murder charge reduced to manslaughter in cases where the defendant caused another person’s death, but did so as a result of recklessness rather than intent to kill. In Texas, there are two types of manslaughter: voluntary and involuntary.

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TX defense lawyerA murder charge in Texas is very serious indeed. Not only could a person convicted of certain types of homicide face life in prison, but they could be facing the death penalty. The state of Texas is notoriously harsh in murder sentencing. If you have been charged with any form of homicide in Texas, it is critical that you immediately contact an experienced and knowledgeable criminal defense attorney. You may have a defense available, but it will take the commitment of a skilled attorney to put forward your best defense.

An attorney will start by listening to your story and examining all available facts in your case to determine what defense strategy will give you the best chance of avoiding an overly harsh outcome. This multi-part article will touch on some strategies your lawyer may use to defend your murder case.

What Is Justifiable Homicide?

Police arrive on the scene of a murder with no understanding of what may have taken place in the moments leading up to the killing. In some cases, a person who was merely defending themself can be erroneously arrested and charged with murder. Texas law carves out a number of situations where a homicide can be considered justifiable.

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Wilson County criminal defense lawyerThe term “continuous family violence” brings to mind the idea of ongoing abuse within a family—for example, a husband who routinely hits his wife or child. However, in Texas, continuous family violence just means that there were two or more allegations of family violence within a 12-month period. Because continuous family violence is a third-degree felony, as opposed to misdemeanor family violence, this charge needs to be taken much more seriously. Having a felony on your record can have a major negative impact on your life, so it is important to have an attorney who will defend you aggressively.

What Situations Can Lead to a Continuous Family Violence Charge?

The name of this offense can be misleading. The requisite two incidents of alleged family violence can occur on the same day. The state does not need to prove that family violence was an ongoing problem in the home. Here are some common ways the felony of continuous family violence can be charged:

  • Multiple victims - Family violence can be deemed “continuous” even if there was only one single incident of violence when two or more alleged victims are involved.

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Atascosa County DUI defense lawyerIn Texas, a driver under 21 years of age does not need to be legally intoxicated to be charged with—and convicted of—a criminal offense. This may seem counterintuitive, but Texas takes underage drinking seriously out of recognition that a minor’s chances of getting into an accident go up significantly after just one drink. If you are under 21 and you have been charged with an alcohol-related driving offense, the penalties can be severe. A qualified lawyer can help you protect your rights and build a strong defense.

What is the “Legal Limit” for Persons Under 21 in Texas?

Texas applies what is often called the “not a drop” rule, or the “zero tolerance” rule to persons under 21 when it comes to DWI. This means that if you are not yet 21 years of age, you can face criminal charges if you are found to have any amount of alcohol in your system while operating a motor vehicle. Even if you only drank half a beer or a few sips of a cocktail and do not feel intoxicated, blood alcohol concentration (BAC) test results indicating anything above 0.00 may be sufficient to justify an arrest and conviction.

In Texas, this offense pertaining to underage drivers is typically referred to as DUI, or driving under the influence, to distinguish it from the offense of DWI (driving while intoxicated), which typically requires a BAC of at least 0.08 or other clear signs of intoxication. A minor who is arrested for DUI can face Class C misdemeanor charges, with a possible sentence including fines and driver’s license suspension. However, if a driver under the age of 21 is found to have a BAC above 0.08, they can also face DWI charges. DWI is a Class B misdemeanor, which comes with more serious consequences that may include jail time.

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Floresville criminal defense attorneyIf you have been charged with a criminal offense, the outcome of your case is not a foregone conclusion. Even if you know you are going to plead guilty, or that a conviction is likely, there is still much that a skilled defense attorney can do to improve the outcome. Texas uses a determinate sentencing structure, meaning there are sentencing standards based on the crime. However, the actual sentence you receive can still vary quite a bit depending on the circumstances surrounding the crime and your personal history. Whether you are facing felony or misdemeanor charges, our attorneys are committed to seeking the best possible results for our clients.

What Factors Affect Sentencing?

No matter the offense for which you have been charged, there are a variety of factors a judge or jury can consider before your sentence is decided. Your attorney will be able to present any mitigating circumstances and make an argument for giving you a lighter sentence. In some misdemeanor cases, you may even be able to avoid jail time. However, the prosecutor will have the same opportunity to present evidence of circumstances that may work against you. The judge or jury determining your sentence can consider:

  • Your criminal history, or lack thereof. If this is your first offense, and it is a misdemeanor, you could be eligible for what is called deferred adjudication. This means that you will enter a plea of guilty or no contest and be put on probation. If you complete probation without violating the terms, your case will be dismissed and you will have a clean criminal record. On the other hand, if you have prior convictions, there is a higher chance of receiving a greater sentence.

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jourdanton criminal defense lawyerBeginning next month, Texas will be the first state in the country to make soliciting a prostitute a felony. The measure, packaged in House Bill 1540, was introduced by state Rep. Senfronia Thompson, a Democrat from Houston, to combat human trafficking and curb “modern-day slavery.” She’s championed the issue for more than a decade. 

The bill received bipartisan support and received unanimous support in committee votes in both the House and Senate. After the Republican governor signed it into law in June, the Texas attorney general Ken Paxton called it “a substantial step towards curbing the demand for commercial sex” and explained that the measure will protect “vulnerable men, women, and children in our communities.” He added, “I commend our legislature for passing laws that fight this inexcusable offense.”

House Bill 1540

Before the passage of HB 1540, the Texas Penal Code equated the solicitation of a prostitute with prostitution itself, meaning the state saw both the John and the sex worker as equally guilty for the crime. The charge for either was a Class B misdemeanor, but it became a Class A misdemeanor if you were caught a second time, and a state felony if you were caught a third time. 

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texas defense lawyerLike in most states, Texas considers aggravated assault to be worse than just assault. However, where it gets confusing is that there are grades of assault, and depending on the details, an assault charge could be either a misdemeanor or a felony. With such a wide range of charges, when does assault become aggravated assault in Texas?

What is Assault?

According to the Texas Penal Code, an assault could be one of three things: when you threaten to cause bodily harm to another person, when you actually harm them, or when you cause offensive or provocative physical contact with them. 

There are other specific circumstances as well like an attack involving an elderly or disabled person, or a referee at a sporting event. Under any of these conditions, the charge would be a Class A misdemeanor, which carries up to a year in jail and a $4,000 fine.

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texas gun lawyerIn an unprecedented move, the country of Mexico sued a number of gun companies in the United States, alleging the gunmakers’ negligent and illegal practices enabled drug cartel violence. However,some legal experts say the case is unlikely to succeed, leaving many to believe Mexico instead filed suit to raise awareness of the bloodshed that has resulted in upwards of 150,000 homicides between 2006 and 2018. 

The reason the case is unlikely to succeed, according to some experts, is because gun stores are the ones that actually sell guns, not gun companies. Additionally, gun stores are required by law to comply with certain checks and balances.

Firearm Smuggling

According to the Texas Penal Code, firearm smuggling is when you transport or transfer a firearm that has been acquired through illegal means more than once and for profit. If you are arrested for firearm smuggling, you could face a third-degree felony, which carries a sentence of 2- to 10-years in prison. If you are arrested for smuggling three or more firearms in a single event, you could face a second-degree felony, which carries two to 20 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. 

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texas defense lawyerTexas lawmakers often profess the importance of Second Amendment rights and try to advance legislation supporting citizens’ right to possess a firearm. Texas politicians recently did this with the passage of “permitless carry,” which will allow you to open or conceal carry without a license or training when the law goes into effect in September. 

Texas is known for having gun laws that are less restrictive than laws in other states. However, there are still important restrictions that gun owners should be aware of. Violating firearm laws can lead to significant criminal penalties.

Texas Gun Laws

Presently, Texas laws governing the carry of firearms are fairly simple and straightforward. You need a permit to concealed carry a weapon (though that will change in September), you cannot shoot your gun unnecessarily, you cannot carry prohibited firearms, and there are certain places off limits if you have a gun on you.

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Posted on in DWI

Jourdanton dwi defense laywerDWI arrests are a high priority for law enforcement in cities, counties, and municipalities across the country. The belief is that heavy enforcement of DWI laws along with public education campaigns will widely discourage people from driving drunk. In turn, these jurisdictions also prioritize DWI training, which coaches officers to evaluate drivers for signs of driving under the influence. So, what are police actually looking for when they evaluate a driver for signs of intoxication?

To answer that question, we look to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a federal agency that sets the standards and creates instruction materials for DWI training.  

Personal Contact

According to NHTSA training materials, there are three phases to a DWI traffic stop: vehicle in motion, personal contact, and pre-arrest screening. In the first phase, the officer is essentially looking for a traffic violation, and in the third phase, they are administering standard field sobriety tests. In between is phase two: personal contact. 

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atascosa county criminal defense lawyerThe Atascosa County Sheriff’s Office said they recently broke up a theft ring after stopping two men who allegedly stole a mower. Deputies arrested and charged them with theft of property over $30,000. Since the item in question had such a high value, it seems to imply the theft was more egregious than stealing something of lesser value. It begs the question what are the grades of theft?

Theft in Texas

The law defining “theft” in Texas is relatively simple. You commit theft when you unlawfully take property from its owner, or when you accept property knowing that it was stolen. The punishment for theft varies depending on the value of the item stolen, the item itself, your criminal history, and the victim. 

Misdemeanor Theft

  • Theft of property valued at less than $100 is a Class C misdemeanor and could result in a $500 fine. 

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TX defense lawyerAs it is in all 50 U.S. states, drinking and driving is against the law in Texas. When a police officer suspects that a driver is under the influence of alcohol, he or she may use various techniques to test the extent of the driver’s impairment. Breath alcohol tests or “breathalyzers” determine an individual’s blood alcohol content (BAC) by analyzing a sample of the driver’s breath. Field sobriety tests are used to assess a person’s attention, balance, and coordination – functions that are heavily influenced by alcohol intoxication. However, failing a breath test or field sobriety test does not necessarily mean that a person is impaired.

Problems with Breathalyzers That Can Lead to Inaccurate Readings

The portable, roadside breath tests police officers may administer at a traffic stop differ significantly from the breath alcohol tests used at the police station. Handheld breath tests are not as accurate or reliable as the machines used at the police station. The results of a roadside BAC test may be used to justify an arrest for suspected drunk driving, but these results alone do not justify a driving while intoxicated (DWI) conviction.

Both roadside and police station breath tests can be inaccurate. These machines must be regularly calibrated, cleaned, and maintained to function properly and yield accurate results. Mouthwash, medicines, or even belching during the test can also lead to inaccurate results. Studies have also shown that the popular ketogenic diet, a diet in which a person consumes little to no carbohydrates, can also yield false-positive breathalyzer tests. Because a number of issues can lead to inaccurate BAC results, failing a breathalyzer does not automatically mean that a person will be convicted of DWI.

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TX defense lawyerIn the United States, the Second Amendment to the Constitution states that each citizen has the right to bear arms or to own guns. However, individual states are permitted to interpret that in nearly whatever way they see fit by creating and enforcing laws that govern the sale, distribution, use, and possession of firearms in the state. In Texas, you must have a permit to carry a handgun, either concealed or unconcealed. If you violate Texas firearm laws, you can expect to be charged with a crime depending on the circumstances surrounding your case.

Unlawful Carrying Weapons Charges

Under Texas law, a person who wishes to carry a firearm is required to have a valid permit to be in legal possession of the gun. In some cases, it is not legal for a person to be carrying a handgun. You can be charged with unlawful carrying of a weapon if you intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly carry a handgun and you are not on your own property, inside of your vehicle, or directly en route to your vehicle.

If you are charged with unlawful carrying of a weapon, you face a Class A misdemeanor. This means that an unlawful carrying of a weapon charge can come with up to one year in jail and up to $4,000 in fines.

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TX defense lawyerIn everyday conversation, the words “robbery,” “theft,” and “burglary” are often used to mean the same thing. However, in a legal setting, these words are not necessarily able to be used interchangeably. In most states, there are distinct differences between all three charges, as well as different punishments for committing each. If you have been charged with any of these crimes in Texas, you should understand exactly what that crime is.

Theft

There are various situations that can constitute a theft crime. In general, however, theft occurs when a person “unlawfully appropriates property” with the intent of depriving the owner of the property of the item’s use. Texas law states that property is unlawfully appropriated when:

  • It occurs without the owner’s consent.
  • The property is stolen and the perpetrator knows that such property is stolen, but still appropriates it.
  • The property is in the custody of law enforcement under suspicion it has been stolen and the perpetrator appropriates the property.

The value of the stolen property is usually one of the biggest factors in determining a sentence for a theft conviction, but it is not the only factor. For example, a person can be charged with a Class C misdemeanor if the value of the stolen items was less than $100, which carries a fine of up to $500. However, a person can also be charged up to a first-degree felony if the value of the stolen items was $300,000 or more. This means a person could face between five and 99 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines.

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TX defense lawyerArguably, the worst sentence that a person can receive for being convicted of a crime is execution. Execution, also called capital punishment, is a hotly debated topic. Many people believe that we should not have the authority to decide whether a person lives or dies. Others believe that execution is the only appropriate punishment for crimes such as murdering another human. Texas is notorious for its attitudes and actions surrounding the execution of prisoners. Recently, the state made headlines when it executed its first prisoner in nearly a year, only the third execution since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

Man Is Executed by Lethal Injection

The state of Texas added another inmate Wednesday to its extensive list of executions performed since 1976. The 41-year-old man was executed by lethal injection at the Texas State Penitentiary at Huntsville after spending more than two decades in prison. He was convicted of murdering his 83-year-old aunt in her home in 1999 after he demanded that she lend him money and she refused. The man was also convicted of stealing property from his aunt’s home at the same time as the murder. He was 20 years old at the time of the offense.

Texas Sentences Resulting in the Death Penalty

In Texas, the death penalty can only be imposed if the person is convicted of a capital felony, the most serious classification of felonies in Texas. Capital felonies do not automatically come with a death sentence. A capital felony can also result in a life sentence without parole, but the prosecution can seek the death penalty if they feel it is necessary. Only the most heinous crimes are charged as capital felonies. Murder of a police officer, murdering for money or paying someone to murder another person, murdering a child, and murdering a person during the commission of another felony - like burglary - are all charged as capital felonies in Texas.

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IL defense lawyerIn most cases, the lives of those who are convicted of murder are essentially over. A lifetime in prison with or without the possibility of parole is a common sentence for those who have been convicted of murder. In Texas, the death penalty is still a possiblity for those convicted of the most serious crimes, such as murder. In fact, the state of Texas holds the record for the most people executed since 1976. According to the Death Penalty Information Center, Texas has executed a total of 570 prisoners since 1976, as of March 2021. Even though a death sentence is a possible penalty for murder, there are several types of murder that you could be charged with in Texas; the specific crime you are charged with will determine what type of sentence you face.

Murder

According to Texas law, a person commits murder if they:

  • Intentionally and knowingly cause the death of a person
  • Intend to cause serious bodily harm to a person by committing an act that dangerous to human life and results in that person’s death
  • Commit or attempt to commit a felony during the course of which they commit an act that is dangerous to human life and results in a person’s death

Murder is charged as a first-degree felony, which carries a possibility of a minimum of five years in prison or up to life in prison. If the person committed the murder under “sudden passion,” meaning they committed the act in response to an action from the victim, they can be charged with a second-degree felony, which carries a possible sentence of a minimum of two years to a maximum of 20 years in prison. Both charges carry the possibility of up to $10,000 in fines.

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