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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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TX defense lawyerIf you drive a vehicle, chances are you have driven over the speed limit at some point in time. Speed limits have long been the nemesis of speed demons throughout the country. Unlike Germany, which has the Autobahn, the world’s most famous speed-limitless highway, nearly every single road in the United States has a set speed limit designed to protect drivers from the dangers that speeding can bring. According to information from the Texas Crash Records Information System, there were more than 40,600 traffic accidents involving a speeding driver since January 2020. Of those accidents, more than a third (33 percent) involved at least one injury. Because speed has such an effect on the severity of a crash, speed limits are taken seriously in Texas.

Texas Speeding Laws

Many states have what is known as an “absolute speeding” law. This means that a person can be ticketed for speeding if they are driving at all above the posted speed limit. In Texas, there is no absolute speeding law, but rather a “presumed” or prima facie speeding law. This means that even though there are posted speed limits, there may be situations in which speeding over that limit could be considered legal. For example, driving 75 mph on a highway that has a posted speed limit of 70 mph on a day with clear weather conditions may be considered legal. The presumed speed limit law gives drivers more leeway than an absolute speeding law, however, it leaves much of the discretion up to the officer who pulls you over. In short, no - you cannot be arrested for speeding.

Potential for More Serious Charges

However, if the officer believes you were driving unsafely or endangering others, they can choose to charge you with a more serious crime, such as reckless driving. Reckless driving is also a law that can be open to interpretation by the officer. Under Texas law, reckless driving occurs when a person operates a vehicle in a manner that willfully disregards the safety of other people on the road. Reckless driving is a misdemeanor in Texas, with potential penalties of up to $200 in fines and up to 30 days in jail.

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TX defense lawyerAbuse is unfortunately common in many families across the U.S. Whether it be physical, emotional, or financial, victims of abuse can often continue to suffer under the hands of their abuser for years, some without even recognizing that what they are enduring is considered abuse. Making the decision to leave an abusive relationship is a courageous one to make, and sadly many victims of abuse believe that they have no way of escaping their relationship due to the possibility of their abuser lashing out. The state offers orders of protection for those who have endured abuse. But what about when false accusations of abuse are made? How can someone being accused of domestic violence defend themselves?

What Does a Protective Order Do?

A protective order, commonly known as a restraining order, is a court order that requires the listed party to stay away from the petitioning party and any family members included in the order. Victims of domestic violence, stalking, or sexual abuse are able to request a temporary or permanent protective order to make themselves feel safe. A court can include the following requirements in a protective order:

  • Not to hurt, threaten, or harass the petitioner or your children
  • To keep your distance from the petitioner or your children’s home, workplace, and school
  • Not to carry a weapon, even if you have the proper licensing
  • Require the payment of child or medical support
  • Require supervised visitation with your children

In addition to these restrictive terms, those who have a protective order against them must be listed on the Texas Protective Order Registry.

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TX defense attorneyWhen one commits a crime that is premeditated, they often have an escape route planned to avoid being caught for their actions. This is especially true when the crime is at the felony level. The moments after the crime has been committed are critical to the criminal charges that are bound to follow. Did they freely give themselves up to law enforcement? Did they attempt to run from the officers? Or did they disappear completely? For those who try to blend into the woodwork to avoid facing penalties for their actions, a single mistake, such as driving over the speed limit, can be enough for a Texas law enforcement officer to pull the person over and notice that something is off.

Lubbock Bar Fight Gone Wrong

It is no secret that alcohol tends to heighten people’s emotions and reactions to what is going on around them. Recently, an argument at a sports bar in Lubbock, Texas escalated from the heated exchange of words to a shooting outside of the bar’s doors. Several men were sitting inside the bar were asked to leave after an argument between the men was beginning to get out of hand. Things only escalated as the men left the bar, so much so that one 28-year-old man in the group was shot and killed in the bar parking lot. The incident is under investigation to find the man responsible for the man's death, though some believe that the shooter has already been caught.

During the time spent investigating outside of the local bar, another man was arrested and charged with unlawful carrying of a weapon by a licensed holder. He was pulled over for the failure to use a turn signal, and during their conversation, the officer noticed that He seemed nervous, rolling up his windows to keep the law enforcement officer from seeing inside his vehicle. The officer then requested the man step outside of his vehicle and noticed that he was using his feet to attempt to conceal a weapon on the floorboard of his car. The man was arrested and charged with a class A misdemeanor for his actions. Many social media users are wondering if he is connected to the bar killing based on his proximity to the location and his attempt to conceal a weapon. At this time, police have not identified anyone for the murder charge, though many suspect that he may be a person of interest.

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TX defense lawyerWhen one is convicted of a crime, the illegal activity that they have been deemed guilty of committing falls within a set of categories based on severity, also known as a classification. Not all crimes are one and the same, for instance, stealing a few items off a store shelf and killing another individual are held on completely different playing fields. For obvious reasons, petty theft and murder are granted much different penalties which are determined by the classification of the crime. So how do you know which classification your crime falls under and what are the penalties?

Classification of Misdemeanors

There are three classifications of misdemeanors, which include common offenses such as a traffic violation and span all the way to assault. The following are the three misdemeanor classifications, with Class A as the most serious and Class C as the least.

  • Class A Misdemeanor: Those found guilty of a Class A misdemeanor will receive a fine of up to $4,000 and/or confinement in jail for up to one year.
  • Class B Misdemeanor: Those found guilty of a Class B misdemeanor will receive a fine of up to $2,000 and/or confinement in jail for up to 180 days.
  • Class C Misdemeanor: This classification is reserved for the least serious crimes, such as speeding tickets, and is typically the default classification. In other words, if you commit a minor crime that is deemed a misdemeanor without being given a specific punishment or category, the crime is considered a Class C misdemeanor, which results in a fine of up to $500.

Classification of Felonies

Once a crime exceeds a certain level of severity, such as physically injuring someone, taking the life of a person, or committing property damage of a high value, the classification escalates to a felony. There are five felony classifications, all of which result in time in prison. The following are the five felony classifications, with a capital felony being the most severe:

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Karnes County juvenile criminal defense attorney

A parent’s worst nightmare is seeing their child hurt in any way, even if they have done wrong. For minors who are convicted of a crime, the consequences that follow the trial can be devastating for both the child and their parent. The child will be held accountable for their actions through the juvenile justice system, either through fines, probation, or even time behind bars, and the parent is left uncertain of how to proceed. Unless you or your child have been previously convicted by the juvenile court, you likely have little knowledge of what the proceedings entail and what rights you have as a parent. If it is your first experience with the Texas juvenile justice system, there are some things that you should know, including how your actions can lead to your own set of criminal charges.

Entry of Orders Against Parents

In Texas, those tried through the juvenile justice system are 17 years or younger. At this age, children have limited capabilities to earn enough money to pay off fines, court costs, and any other fees associated with facing a criminal conviction. Because minors lack the ability to fully support themselves, the court can order the minor’s parents to do, or not to do, certain actions throughout the trial, including:

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Pleasanton criminal defense attorney

When it comes to the criminal justice system, once you are in it, you quickly begin to feel trapped. Once a criminal charge is added to your record, a certain stigma begins to follow you around. Criminal charges are public records, meaning anyone and everyone can look up your background. For many academic institutions and professional businesses, conducting a background check is simply part of the protocol and any evidence of criminal activity can immediately eliminate you from the pool of applicants. While this may seem fair for those with a past riddled with violent crimes, what about first-time offenders or those with substance abuse issues?

What Is Pretrial Diversion?

Pretrial diversion programs are voluntary alternatives to traditional criminal justice processing, such as large fines and spending time behind bars. As the criminal justice system has evolved, professionals have noticed that offenders have a tendency to re-offend once they are looped into the criminal justice system. This is known as recidivism. The stigma that comes along with a criminal background can keep offenders from securing a stable job and income, often leading them back to what they know best: a life of crime.

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Atascosa County criminal defense attorney DWI

Law enforcement always comes down hard on those found driving while intoxicated (DWI). Not only did the driver make the conscious decision to become intoxicated and get behind the wheel, but they also decided to place other drivers in the direct line of danger. So, what if your DWI leads to another person’s injury or death? The injured driver may pursue a personal injury case in addition to the criminal charges that come along with a DWI. But what about the other factors at play? Can the person who provided you with alcohol also be held accountable? 

The Effects of Alcohol on Driving

A few drinks may not seem to leave a big impact, but there are a number of effects that alcohol can have on the average driver. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) cites four ways in which alcohol can affect your driving capabilities, the first being judgment. Adding alcohol to your system can alter your sense of judgment, in turn leading you to go 20 mph over the speed limit, blow a red light, and more. Your vision is also impaired, making it challenging to see traffic lane lines, speed limit signs, and the distance between you and the cars around you. Your reaction time will be delayed as well, making it very likely that you will be unable to properly react to all of the unpredictable occurrences that can happen while on the road. Finally, your ability to perceive color can also be affected. You may struggle to tell the difference between green, yellow, and red lights, which can easily lead to a dangerous accident. 

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Atascosa County criminal defense attorney DWI

There is no worse feeling than seeing blue and red flashing lights in your rearview mirror. You pull over, get out your driver’s license and insurance cards, and anxiously await for the police officer to come to your window. Typically, drivers know what they are being pulled over for, but in some cases, you may be uncertain. Do you remember speeding? Did you properly use your turn signal? Did you blow a stop sign? If you do not remember disregarding the laws of the road, there is a chance that you did not actually do what the officer is accusing you of. Policemen understandably make mistakes, just like anyone else, which is why you have the opportunity to challenge traffic violation tickets.

Common Traffic Offenses

There are a number of traffic violations that are common on Texas roadways, some that seem fairly innocent while others blatantly place the driver and others on the road in danger. The following are the most common traffic offenses in Texas:

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Jourdanton criminal defense attorney drug charges

As a state bordering Mexico, cities in Texas can become havens for crime. Not only can Mexican criminals make it over the border and continue committing offenses in the United States, but Texas criminals can also escape into Mexico to avoid facing criminal penalties for their actions. The border has held a dangerous reputation for years and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott recently released a five-year plan to increase security along the border to keep all Texans safe. Gov. Abbott noted human trafficking and drug cartels as his two primary targets in the Texas Homeland Security Strategic Plan 2021-2025.

Primary Security Goals

The Texas governor released a 93-page report at the end of January that outlines 25 objectives and 123 priority actions that he would like to see accomplished in the next five years. In regards to the state’s overall security, the following four goals stand out:

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Atascosa County criminal defense attorney sex crimes

There is no question why the label “sex offender” creates a negative stigma for the person who is associated with it. Those who classify as sex offenders may have been convicted of a number of offenses—some of which may involve inappropriate behavior with children. An unfortunate, yet common example includes teachers having inappropriate relationships with students. Even though high school students may be nearing adulthood, anyone under the age of 18 is still considered a minor and a sexual relationship with them can lead to sexual offense charges. Those who are convicted of sex crimes involving a minor will face more serious consequences than others; some can last a lifetime even after a sentence has been served. 

Kyle, Texas Takes Action

Most states have blanket restrictions regarding where registered sex offenders can live and work. For those convicted of a sexual offense involving a child, they are no longer able to live within a certain distance of where children gather, such as a school or a daycare center. The state of Texas was actually the first state to pass a sex offender residency restriction law back in 1994, restricting child sex offenders from living within 500 feet of where children gather. Most cities, however, have tacked on additional ordinances for those living within city limits. 

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Atascosa County criminal defense attorney fraud

When you think of scammers, you likely picture pickpockets on city streets or anonymous faces hacking your computer from the other side of the world. Scammers can come in all shapes and sizes, including outsiders targeting companies. While the payoff may be big upfront, the legal ramifications most certainly outweigh the large check. One Ohio woman recently pleaded guilty to participating in a defraud scheme three years ago. Though she was not in charge of the scheme, her actions with Texas companies still left her facing serious criminal charges.

Texas Companies Defrauded of $600k

Bintu Toure, a 26-year-old woman from Canton, Ohio, faces a possible three-year prison sentence after pleading guilty to defrauding two Texas companies of over $600,000. The scheme? Tricking the company by using false invoices. Toure was one of three individuals who sent false invoices to companies pretending to be their suppliers, then moving the money overseas once the cash was in their possession. The group of scammers claimed to be collecting payment for “frozen chicken parts” for two Brazilian poultry suppliers. This white-collar scheme ran from November 2018 through May 2019 and Toure accumulated $629,000 throughout the seven months. Based on the details of her case, Toure faces a maximum sentence of 20 years for both wire fraud and money laundering conspiracy, though her plea deal asks for a sentence on the low end of the spectrum, meaning three to four years in prison.

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Atascosa County criminal defense attorney traffic violation

The drivers of commercial motor vehicles (CMV), also known as semi-trucks, 18-wheelers, and big rigs, play an important role in the U.S. economy. From transporting important cargo across the country to keeping online businesses alive, truckers keep the economy going, especially this past year. The job may seem fairly straightforward—drive from one destination to another—but truckers have a large responsibility to uphold to both the companies that they work for and others on the road. Because these 18-wheelers are so large and powerful, the drivers of these massive vehicles are required to obtain a special license, known as a commercial driver’s license (CDL), and run the risk of facing harsher criminal penalties than the average driver for committing traffic violations

CDL Disqualifications

It is no secret that semis take up a large portion of the road and make other drivers nervous due to their large size and fast speed on Texas highways. This fear of CMVs is not unwarranted, as 39,193 crashes involving semi-trucks occurred in 2019 in Texas alone. That year, 613 Texans were killed by these massive vehicles. Law enforcement recognizes that CMVs can easily place other drivers at risk of injury or death as soon as they join the road. In an effort to keep commercial drivers in check, there are a number of traffic offenses that can leave drivers without their CDL, including the following:

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Atascosa County criminal defense attorney homicide

Austin is one of the largest cities in Texas, housing the University of Texas, and seeing a recent growth in population. This up-and-coming city is not typically known for the violence that exists in dark corners, but over the past year, Austin has seen a spike in violent crimes. Similar to many cities across the country, Austin has experienced an increase in homicides and aggravated assaults. Lawmakers and officials have speculated on the cause of this violence and hope that the new year does not follow suit.

Increase or Decrease Police Supervision?

The year 2020 has come with its fair share of challenges, including social unrest from all ends of the political spectrum. Peaceful protests have quickly turned to dangerous gatherings in streets across the country for a variety of reasons. Like many cities, local officials decided to cut a portion of its police department funding, amounting to $20 million. This was done in an attempt to reallocate resources and responsibilities away from the police to other parts of city government so officers could focus on fighting crime, thus increasing public safety throughout Austin. Despite these efforts, 45 homicides were reported by mid-December of 2020 which is a significant jump from the 29 total homicides in Austin that occurred during the previous year. Additionally, aggravated assaults have risen 12 percent in the past year. Based on these numbers, Austin now ranks 43rd in the country in homicide rates among U.S. cities.

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Atascosa County criminal defense attorney DWI

Attending holiday parties is often the highlight of the year. Whether you are celebrating with coworkers, seeing distant family members, or enjoying yourself at home, alcoholic beverages are bound to be present and potentially consumed in excess. While there is nothing wrong with enjoying the holiday season, some drivers may place others at risk by drinking before getting behind the wheel. Holiday gatherings look a bit different this year; some have opted to cancel their gatherings, others have reduced the number of people invited to the party, while many have decided against joining the annual party altogether. Because large gatherings have been strongly cautioned or completely off-limits for almost a year now, the opportunity to have some fun may lead to overindulgence and poor decisions. The Texas Department of Safety (DPS) recognizes the annual holiday threat of speeding and intoxicated drivers, especially during these unprecedented times, and is honing its focus on keeping roads safe. 

Unfortunate Holiday Statistics

Holidays have consistently been a high time for severe accidents. According to the Texas Department of Transportation, there were a total of 24 fatalities within a 30-hour period surrounding New Year’s in 2019—not counting the additional accidents that lead to injuries rather than death. Surprisingly, Memorial Day and Fourth of July racked up the most fatalities when compared to other holidays throughout 2019. This year, law enforcement is on high alert as the pandemic reduced the number of parties throughout the year, leading to even more anticipation—and likely celebrating—in the upcoming winter holidays. According to news reports from December 22, Austin surpassed the total number of people killed on area roadways in 2019, with 89 fatalities before the Christmas and New Year’s Eve celebrations this year. 

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Wilson County criminal defense attorney felony

Anyone found guilty of committing a crime may see their life flash before their eyes. Whether you have to pay exorbitant fees, are concerned about how your criminal record will impact your future, or have been sentenced to time in prison, it can quickly feel as if your future is spiraling out of your control. This is especially true for those who have the possibility of facing the death penalty, which is still a sentencing option in Texas. However, one legislator is fighting to abolish it. Depending on the decision made by the government, those found guilty of crimes in 2021 may not face this sentencing possibility.

Senate Bill 188

This past September, a 25-year-old man named Victor Godinez had a virtual hearing regarding the criminal charges that he is facing. From Hidalgo County Detention Center, Godinez learned that if he is convicted of killing Texas Department of Public Safety Trooper Moises Sanchez, prosecutors will seek the death penalty for his actions. Godinez is just one of many who are facing this same reality. 

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Atascosa County criminal defense attorney juvenile crime

Similar to parental rules or regulations set by schools, minors have more legal restrictions than those over the age of 18. This is meant to protect the children and keep them on the right track while moving toward adulthood. According to Texas law, there are two types of misconduct that can place a child under the jurisdiction of the juvenile court. Conduct Indicating a Need for Supervision (CINS) cases and delinquent conduct can both leave a stain on the minor’s record. It is important to know the difference between the two and understand what conduct falls within each category to keep your child out of the criminal justice system.

Minor Criminal Offenses

CINS cases include minor criminal offenses, aside from traffic violations, and these offenses will be tried by the juvenile court. There are six types of CINS offenses listed by the Texas legislature, including any fineable offense, running away, inhalant abuse, school expulsion, prostitution, and sexting. As you can see, not all of these offenses would apply to those over the age of 18. Because these offenses are considered relatively minor, the child will face varying levels of probation, but they cannot be sentenced to jail or prison. 

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Karnes County criminal defense attorney drug possession

The legalization of marijuana has historically been viewed as a more liberal approach to drug laws, but more and more states across the country are legalizing the substance in one form or another. After recognizing the medical benefits that cannabis has to offer, as well as the lack of sufficient harm that the drug has on users’ health, many lawmakers have accepted that marijuana may not be as bad as history has painted it. Texas has continued to stand its ground on legalizing recreational marijuana use but has offered some leniency regarding medical marijuana—Democratic State Rep. Joe Moody aims to change that.

Two Bills to Change Texas

Over the past few Texas legislature sessions, Moody has been pushing for the change in regard to drug laws throughout the state. He authored House Bill 63, which aimed to decriminalize possession charges of small amounts of marijuana. Though the bill passed with a supermajority in the Texas House of Representatives, the bill was never taken up by the Senate, not even making it to the floor for discussion. This response did not discourage Moody but led him to file another bill this session that will legalize marijuana if it is passed. House Bill 447 would make recreational marijuana legal for those 21 years and older. The bill would continue to outlaw driving under the influence (DUI) of marijuana and would create a taxable market to improve the community. The cannabis products would be taxed by the state at 10 percent, and the revenue would go toward cities, counties, and the Teacher Retirement System. 

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