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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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