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Things You Should Look For In A Criminal Defense Attorney
The stakes are infinitely higher in criminal defense cases than they are in most personal injury cases. You are facing potential jail time, stiff fines or both. That is why you must have the best possible defense attorney. So what should you look for in a criminal defense attorney?
Experience Defending The Crime You’re Accused Of
Criminal defense attorneys may take cases ranging from rape allegations to murder cases. However, these cases are rare. They generally criminal charges like theft, DUI and domestic violence. Regardless of the charges against you, you need to find an attorney with experience with cases like yours. This means you want to find an attorney who regularly takes cases like yours. In practical terms, it means you want a DWI attorney if you’re charged with DWI and a lawyer with experience in white collar or drug crimes if that’s what you’re accused of. And you want them to have handled dozens or even hundreds of these cases.
Why do you want the attorney to have a track record like this? First, it results in a track record that you can use to judge their effectiveness. Do they win half of their theft cases or eighty percent of them? How often do they plea bargain and settle the case with lesser charges, and how often do they win when they go to court?
Qualifications For The Courts You’ll Be In
Are you charged with a federal crime? The penalties for federal crimes are more severe than charges levied by the state of Texas. This includes steeper penalties and time in a federal prison. Make certain that the attorney you’re working with is qualified to argue in federal court, if that’s relevant to your case.
You want an attorney who is honest with you, because you don’t want to be left with unrealistic expectations until you’re hauled off to prison. You want an attorney who is honest with you. However, they need to be open, too. You need to feel comfortable discussing the difficult details of your case, and they need to open up to you to discuss the options. They can do more for you if you contact them when you’re first questioned by the police than if you wait until you’re charged to call them. But they need to be available to tell you what you should and shouldn’t do. Furthermore, they need to be available when you have questions.
Rapport is an emotional connection with the attorney. Why do you want to have rapport with your criminal defense lawyer? You need to be able to talk to them about everything related to your case. You need to feel comfortable telling them when you don’t like how something is being handled, too. You would prefer an attorney who genuinely cares about you and the outcome of your case over one that doesn’t, as well. Note that appearing caring and confident does not mean that they are competent. This is why you need to vet the attorney just as you would any other person you hire for important work.
A Good Reputation
Research the attorney’s reputation before you agree to be their client. One resource is online reviews and ratings. Pay particular attention to the negative reviews. Look for serious issues like customers not being available when someone has urgent questions or major billing problems. You want an attorney who is responsive. Does the attorney deliver on the promises that they make? Or do they fall short? However, you should be wary of any attorney who claims to have a personal connection to the judge or district attorney. Being a former prosecutor may give them a unique insight into the county district attorney’s office, but it shouldn’t result in you getting a deal others don’t. On the other hand, an attorney who is overly pessimistic may be taking shortcuts to simply close your case and get paid. That’s a red flag, too.
A Local Presence
You should choose an attorney who is experienced in local courts. This gives them invaluable insight into the behavior and strategies of judges and local prosecutors. And it results in increased odds of success in court. If the lawyer’s office is close to you, that makes it easier to visit them for private consultations, and it increases the odds they will be able to arrive quickly if you’re brought in for questioning.
Punishment For Different Types Of DWI In Texas
DWI stands for driving while intoxicated. It is similar to driving under the influence, but the state of Texas only uses that term to apply to intoxicated drivers under the age of 21. If you’re arrested for DUI, you’re going to have your driver’s license suspended and get sent to jail for several days. But it could be much more than that. How does Texas punish different types of DWI?
First Time DUI For A Minor
Driving under the influence as a minor under 17 is a class C misdemeanor. This is lower than the rating for a DWI, because minors can be convicted of DUI for having any drugs or alcohol in their system. For comparison, a DWI conviction requires having an 0.08 BAC or higher, though you can still be arrested for reckless driving. On the flipside, Texas considers a DUI by someone between 17 and 20 to be a class B misdemeanor. Anyone under 21 will be ordered to attend an alcohol awareness course. A 16 year old offender will lose their driver’s license for at least 60 days and be ordered to do 20 to 40 hours of community service. Drivers between 17 and 20 can be sent to prison for 72 hours to 180 days. Their driver’s license can be suspended for up to a year. That suspension can be reduced to 90 days if the individual does probation and uses an ignition interlock device.
Merely possessing alcohol as a minor is a class C misdemeanor. And someone possessing alcohol in the car is a misdemeanor. This means that a passenger in the back seat holding a beer or who may have been passed the beer when the cops pull up behind the vehicle is guilty, too.
Texas has an implied consent law. This means that those lawfully arrested for DWI/DUI must submit to a breath test or blood sample to determine their blood alcohol level. Underage drivers who refuse these tests can be held in jail until they post bond or appear before a juvenile judge. And refusing to take the test will add another six months to the driver’s license suspension.
First Time DWI For An Adult
For adults over 21, a first DWI offense is a class B misdemeanor. This puts it on the same level as possessing an ounce of cannabis or getting arrested for criminal trespass. You could spend up to 180 days in the local jail, and you could be hit with a fine of up to two thousand dollars. First time offenders may or may not be offered deferred adjudication. You must plead guilty or no contest, complete probation and stay clean. But then the case is dismissed, and you won’t have a criminal conviction. Note that this dismissal won’t protect you from serious consequences if you’re found guilty of DUI later, especially if it is within a few months of the first offense.
A second DWI offense is a class A misdemeanor. This is the worst type of misdemeanor. It can result in up to a year in county jail and a fine of up to four thousand dollars. You could be given two or three years on probation in lieu of jail time. Deferred adjudication is rarely an option.
Your third DWI offense is a third degree felony. That can result in a prison sentence of anywhere from two to ten years, though you could get some time off with good behavior. And you can get a fine of up to ten thousand dollars. To put it in perspective, crimes like stalking and deadly conduct with a firearm are third degree felonies.
DWI With Children In the Car
If you’re driving while intoxicated with a child passenger under 15, you’re guilty of a state felony. This category of crime can result in anywhere from 180 to 720 days in prison. You’ll also be considered guilty of child endangerment. This will get Child Protective Services involved.
A DWI With Lethal Results
Murder is when you intentionally take a life. Manslaughter is one of the terms used when you didn’t intend to kill someone but did anyway. Both manslaughter and intoxication manslaughter are second degree felonies. You can end up in prison for up to twenty years. And you could be hit with a fine of up to ten thousand dollars. With intoxication manslaughter, you’ll generally be held for the medical bills of your victims, as well.
Understanding The Differences Between DUI & DWI
In popular language, DUI and DWI are used interchangeably. After all, both mean you’re driving under the influence of something that impairs your judgement. However, there are a number of differences between DUI and DWI. We’ll address some of them here.
The definition of driving while intoxicated is spelled out in Texas Penal Code Section 49.04. It sets one threshold of 0.08 BAC. It also says that you can be found guilty of DWI if the substance impairs normal physical or mental faculties. Note that DWI is not limited to alcohol. You can be convicted of DWI if a dangerous drug or controlled substance is impairing your safe operating of a vehicle. And that could be a combination of prescription drugs as well as use of an illegal drug like cannabis. Note that a DUIA charge means driving under the influence of alcohol, while DUI could include cold medication or prescription drugs taken to the point that it impairs your driving.
The threshold for DUI or driving under the influence is zero, because Texas has a no tolerance policy for younger drivers using substances and then getting behind the wheel. This is why you could be arrested at 20 with a BAC 0.02 and 0.08 one year later, if this is the result of a breathalyzer test at a DUI checkpoint.
The term DUI is only used when someone under the age of 21 and otherwise not allowed to legally consume alcohol is drunk. And the term DUI applies if a driver under 21 is found to be driving impaired with drugs of any kind in their system.
The penalties for a DUI are less than those for a DWI. One reason is that the system hopes to reform younger drivers. Another reason is that the threshold for conviction is so low. An 18 year old can be found guilty of DUI with a BAC at any level. This is why the penalty for a first DUI is a fine of up to five hundred dollars and up to forty hours of community service. Your driver’s is suspended for as long as sixty days. If your personal driver’s license is suspended, you can request an occupation license that lets you do essential driving such as going to school or work. Know that this is only an option for first-time DWI and DUI offenders. Repeat offenders will simply have it suspended.
A first time DWI for someone 21 and older results in at least three days in jail. It could be as long as 180 days. You can lose your driver’s license for up to a year. The court can issue a one-time fine of up to two thousand dollars. However, you will be forced to pay a fee of one to three thousand dollars a year for three years after you get the license back. And you’ll be forced to pay higher auto insurance rates, too. Depending on the situation, an adult may be ordered to take alcohol awareness classes, but they’re rarely ordered to do community service.
If your impaired driving resulted in injuries or property damage, you’re obligated to pay for the damage you’ve caused. That is in addition to any fines issued by the court.
The Impact Of Repeated Convictions
A second DWI is a class A misdemeanor. This doubles the fines and jail time you faced for a first offense. With a second conviction, the driver’s license is suspended for up to 18 months. You’ll have to pay a higher fee to get the license back. You’ll pay higher insurance rates, too.
A third DWI is a felony. This can result in two to ten years in prison and a fine as high as ten thousand dollars. However, intoxication manslaughter is a felony even if it is your first offense.
The Professional Penalties
A DUI may be expunged from your record if you complete a mandatory education course and stay out of trouble. The idea is to prevent a single youthful mistake from ruining your life. In contrast, a single DWI may result in a strike on your driver’s license and prevent you from working as a driver. DWI while driving a commercial load will cost you your CDL. Failing a field sobriety test can result in the suspension of both your personal driver’s license and your CDL, though you can appeal this within 15 days with the help of an attorney.
Understanding The Possible Penalties For Using Drugs
The possible penalties for using drugs and being found in possession of them vary widely. The potential punishments depend on the substance you were found with, the circumstances, and how much you had. Let’s learn more about what could happen if you are found to be driving while under the influence of an illegal drug or found to have it when searched.
Under Drug Enforcement Administration schedules, cannabis or marijuana is a controlled substance. This hasn’t changed though a number of states have legalized cannabis for medicinal and even recreational use. And there are states like Texas that have not legalized cannabis. It has only made products containing low levels of non-addictive CBD oil to hit the market.
Marijuana doesn’t fit in the traditional six penalty groups in Texas law. This is why it is covered by its own set of statutes. However, it is treated like other lower-level penalty groups. Possessing a small amount (less than 2 ounces) is a misdemeanor. If you have less than a quarter ounce of marijuana, it is a class B misdemeanor. This becomes a class A misdemeanor if the drugs were for some kind of payment. Possession of more than a quarter ounce is a felony. Selling less than a quarter of an ounce is a class A misdemeanor. Selling between a quarter ounce and five pounds of marijuana is a state felony. If you’re pulled over for DUI and test positive for drugs like cannabis, you can be arrested for DUI or DWI depending on your age.
Some courts like those in Tarrant County have drug diversion programs that let drug offenders go to rehab instead of prison. This is much more likely for cannabis possession than possession of harder drugs.
Prescription Drug Abuse
You can get in trouble with legal prescription drugs in a number of ways. Take a sleep aid like Ambien too late at night and try to drive the next morning, and you could be arrested for DWI if your driving was considered erratic. That is true even if you had a prescription for it.
Prescription drug fraud can take the form of a forged prescription or “doctor shopping” to try to get more pain pills than you need. Prescription drug fraud of a Schedule V drug is a class A misdemeanor. Texas Penal Code 481.129 includes things like using someone else’s prescription to prescribe a drug or unlawfully distributing a schedule I or schedule II drugs. Schedule II drugs include many ADHD drugs and opioids. And the Texas definition of prescription drug fraud includes selling something marked as a legal prescription drug that isn’t the real thing.
Penalty Group 1 Drugs
Penalty 1 drugs are heavily regulated. This includes opioids, opium derivatives, and hallucinogens. Possession of a penalty group 1 drug barring those rare cases where someone has a prescription for something like oxycodone is a felony. For smaller amounts, it is a state felony that could result in 6 to 24 months in prison. For larger amounts, it is a serious felony and could result in up to 99 years in prison.
LSD and its derivatives are penalty group 1A drugs. Possession of these drugs is a felony. The main difference is that LSD is measured by units instead of ounces since LSD tends to be soaked in small paper squares for distribution.
Penalty Group 2 Drugs
This category includes hallucinogenic drugs like PCP and peyote. Possession of them is a felony. Interestingly, penalty group 2A includes artificial compounds that mimic cannabinoids. Possessing small amounts of these substances is a class B misdemeanor, making it similar to how cannabis is treated. Possession of more than four grams is a felony.
Penalty Group 3
Penalty group 3 is rather broad. It includes anabolic steroids that aren’t for medical use and prescription drugs that have either a stimulant or depressive effect. This category also includes opiates and opioids that aren’t in Penalty group 1. Possessing a small amount is a misdemeanor. Possession of 28 grams or more is a felony.
Penalty Group 4
Penalty Group 4 includes a number of prescription drugs and the chemicals required to make them. These drugs have a high potential for abuse that isn’t found in other penalty groups. Possession of less than 28 grams of these drugs is a class B misdemeanor. Possessing more than 28 grams is a state felony.
Definition Of Assault
The classic definition of assault is a brutal physical attack such as hitting someone with a chair or punching them repeatedly. However, the legal definition of assault is much broader than this. And it includes a number of situations many wouldn’t normally consider to be assault.
What Texas Law Considers As Assault
Texas Penal Code Section 22.01 has a fairly broad definition of assault. It includes intentionally, knowingly or recklessly causing bodily injury to another. That definition includes one’s spouse, though domestic relationships take assault charges to another level when it comes to sentencing.
The legal definition of assault includes knowingly causing contact that others find to be offensive or attempting to do so. Attempting to grab a woman’s breasts or buttocks would thus count as assault. And doing the same to a man would be considered assault. In fact, merely attempting to do so can be counted as assault.
Furthermore, threatening to commit assault is considered to be assault. Threatening to beat them up could result in charges just as if you literally beat them.
Punishment Range For Assault Offenses
Intentionally or knowingly causing contact that causes harm is considered assault. This is generally a class A misdemeanor. However, there are conditions that can make it a third degree felony. For example, assaulting a police officer doing their job is a third degree felony, whereas the same attack on a random stranger is a misdemeanor. Attacking a CPS worker in retaliation for taking your child would be a felony, too. The rules also make attacking a security guard on duty a felony, whether they’re trying to stop you now or you’re attacking them in retaliation for restraining you and handing you over to the police.
If the person is in a relationship outlined by Section 71.0021B, 711.003 or 71.005 of the Family Code, it is a third degree felony. Those sections of the Family Code determine when the assault is considered to be domestic violence. The public understands that assaulting your spouse or lover is domestic violence. Most know that attacking a former lover and the other parent of your child is domestic violence. They may not know that assaulting your current roommate or your minor child is also considered domestic violence. And attacking your ex’s current partner can result in domestic violence charges. Assaulting a pregnant woman is a felony, and it is a felony to use force to try to make her get an abortion.
Enforced Penalties For Assault Charges
If the victim is considered to be vulnerable, it becomes a more serious offense, as well. For example, the assault becomes a class A misdemeanor if the crime is against an elderly individual or disabled individual. If you attack a sporting participant like a coach or player, it is a class B misdemeanor.
Knowingly interfering in their breathing or their circulation takes the crime to the next level. This rule is intended to discourage choking victims, because this can lead to brain damage and death. Repeat offenders are given harsher sentences, as well.
Texas Penal Code 22.01 describes what constitutes sexual assault in the state of Texas. Sexual assault is a second degree felony in Texas. Raping a child under the age of 14 or a disabled individual is a more serious offense. Aggravated sexual assault such as when you threaten the victim with a gun is a first degree felony. Texas is unusual for having enhanced penalties if you are married and sexually assault someone other than your spouse. Intentionally impairing someone’s judgement such as giving them date rape drugs can lead to greater penalties, as well.
Those who abuse their position for sexual favors can be given additional penalties. For example, a public servant or medical professional who sexually assaults someone they are supposed to be helping can be given a harsher sentence. The law creates an exception when the two parties are married to each other, such as when a nurse is married to the patient. Clergymen can be hit with additional penalties. The sexual assault statutes in Texas also include artificial insemination without someone’s consent or using donor material without the donor’s consent.
Those convicted of sexual assault must register as a sex offender on completion of their prison sentence.
Levels Of Felony In Texas
Texas has five levels of felonies. The most severe are capital felonies. These are the only crimes for which you could be sentenced to death, though most people get life without the possibility of parole. First degree felonies are the next most severe. This category includes aggravated sexual assault and armed robbery. They can result in life imprisonment but require you to serve at least five years. Second degree felonies come with a two to twenty year sentence. This category includes assault with a weapon and reckless injury to a child. Third degree felonies can result in a prison sentence of two to ten years. This includes theft of property worth 20,000 to 100,000 dollars and drive by shootings that didn’t injure anyone. And then there is the lowest level of felonies in the state of Texas: the state felony.
Definition Of State Felony
A state felony is a felony. It is called a state felony, because the crimes that fall into this category may not be a felony in other states. The category called state felonies was created to spell out the fines and jail terms for crimes called felonies in the Texas Penal Code that did not have a “degree” or sentence associated with them.
Types Of Crimes Considered As State Felony
Most types of theft are a felony. However, Texas considers the theft of livestock up to 30,000 dollars and theft of other property worth between 1,500 and 30,000 dollars to be a state felony. Stealing property worth less than 1500 dollars is a class A misdemeanor. Stealing a firearm is a state felony regardless of its value. Credit card abuse, debit card abuse and check forgery are state felonies. Child endangerment DWI is a state felony. A DWI is generally only a misdemeanor until your third offense, unless you severely injure or kill someone while drunk driving.
Difference Between State Felony & Conventional Felony
You cannot get time off for good behavior with a state felony. This makes up for the fact that you may be sentenced to just six months in prison for a felony. That is comparable to a class A misdemeanor. For comparison, other felonies by definition have a minimum one year sentence. But you could be given the same ten thousand dollar fine as could be levied if charged with another type of felony.
The judge can use a 12.44 and downgrade the crime to a class A misdemeanor. In these cases, you’re sent to county jail for up to a year.
State Felony Becomes A Third Degree Felony
If you commit a crime that is considered a state felony but use or exhibit a deadly weapon during the crime, the offense becomes a third degree felony. If you have been previously convicted of a felony specified in the Texas Penal Code such as human trafficking, burglary or sexual assault, the state felony becomes a third degree felony. If you have been convicted of two state felonies in the past, then the third offense becomes a third degree felony. Those convicted of a 3G offense are also punished just like a third degree felony.
In The Event Of Being Convicted Of A State Felony
All felony cases are heard in district courts. Let’s suppose you’re found guilty, and you go to prison. You’ll be sent to a state prison instead of serving your time in the city or county jail. This could be anywhere from six months to twenty-four months.
Do I Have To Check The Box if I am Found Guilty Of A State Felony?
A state felony in the state of Texas is a felony, even if you only spend six months in prison. This means you must check the box on job applications and housing applications that ask “Have you ever been convicted to a felony?”
The state felony conviction affects you the same way any other felony conviction would. You lose the right to vote unless and until you can petition for it to be restored. You lose the right to carry a firearm. State and federal law conflict over whether you’d be allowed to retain a gun in your own home for self-defense. You certainly can’t take it hunting, and you won’t qualify for a concealed carry license.
You may be blocked from certain professions such as working as a police officer or postal worker. You could lose various professional licenses; many of these are limited to those of “good moral character”.
Theft: The Surprisingly Complex Legal Matter
Definition Of Theft In TX
Texas defines theft as when someone unlawfully appropriates property with the intent to deprive the owner of the property. This means that you’ve committed theft if you take something that doesn’t belong to you without the consent of the owner and no justification such as “my child is starving”.
The state of Texas has many different categories of theft, and the potential penalties range from fines and probation to felony convictions and years behind bars. Let’s look at how Texas categorizes various types of theft.
Class C Misdemeanor
This is what is popularly known as petty theft. Steal a pack of gum or other items worth less than a hundred dollars in total, and it is a class C misdemeanor. Theft of services can fall into this category, such as when you leave without paying for a $50 meal. The maximum fine is 500 dollars. The judge could also sentence you to community service.
Class B Misdemeanor
As the value of the items goes up, so does the classification. Steal items worth 100 to 750 dollars, and it becomes a class B misdemeanor. Repeat offenders will get a class B misdemeanor, too. You could spend up to six months in prison or be hit with a fine of up to two thousand dollars plus restitution.
Class A Misdemeanor
This is the highest level of a misdemeanor in Texas. Stealing items worth 750 to 2500 dollars results in a Class C misdemeanor. Note that this is everything together, so stealing five 500 dollar dresses lands you in this category. On the other hand, shielding or deactivating theft deterrent devices is a class A misdemeanor in and of itself.
A state felony is the lowest level of a felony. This category includes felonies that weren’t given a “degree” when the statutes making it a felony were written. These offenses can be punished like a misdemeanor, though the crime goes on your record as a felony. For example, a state felony can result in a prison sentence as short as six months. That is comparable to how long you’d serve for a misdemeanor.
The theft of any property worth more than 2500 dollars is a felony. If the total is less than 30,000 dollars, it will probably count as a state felony. Stealing a gun is a state felony, regardless of its value. Stealing livestock worth up to thirty thousand dollars is a state felony.
Identity theft and the associated financial crimes are at least a state felony. For example, check fraud and credit card fraud are state felonies. To simply record someone’s financial sight information such as their credit card number, bank account number and expiry date is a class B misdemeanor if you don’t use it. That makes skimming credit card data without actually using it yourself a crime if you’re doing it in addition to the proper processing of the person’s payment. If you pass the information to a third party, then it is a class A misdemeanor. If you pull the money out of their bank account or charge their card, then the theft is punished based on the value of the items you bought in their name.
Third Degree Felony
If you steal property worth between 30K and 150K, it is a third degree felony. You could face up to ten years in prison. It is surprisingly easy to fall into this category. For example, many new cars are worth more than 30,000 dollars, so stealing it is a third degree felony. Fail to return a rental car, and you might end up in this category if it is worth enough.
If you’re going to return the property, you may not face charges, though you might be hit with other penalties. For example, going for a joyride in a car you were going to return could result in charges like Unauthorized use of a vehicle”. That can be prosecuted as a state felony.
Second Degree Felony
Stealing property worth between 150K and 300K is a second degree felony. Home equity fraud can fall into this category, especially if you’re doing it via identity theft. Lying on a mortgage application is theoretically a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the value of the property.
Carjacking, taking a car by threat of force, is a second degree felony. That is because threatening to cut or shoot someone takes it literally to the next level.
First Degree Felony
Any theft of over 300K is a first degree felony. This is the highest felony theft charge. Aggravated robbery such as when you exhibit a deadly weapon is a first degree felony.
Capital felonies are the most severe felonies. It generally involves murder. This category includes killing a policeman or a child under 15. If you intentionally kill someone during a burglary or robbery, it becomes a capital felony. The state does this to discourage criminals from killing their victims to avoid prison.
The Expanding Definition of Domestic Violence
Stereotypical domestic violence includes assaulting one’s spouse or one’s lover. In fact, around half of all domestic violence cases include legal spouses and common-law partners. However, the number of relationships that are considered “domestic” is much broader than this. Let’s look at a few of the scenarios that would count as domestic violence.
Domestic violence includes anyone who lives with you. This means that assaulting your roommate is domestic violence, though you’re not related by blood, marriage, or an intimate relationship.
Texas law does not require you to be paying half the rent for there to be a “domestic” relationship. If you’re simply a guest in their home, assaulting the person can be considered domestic violence.
Furthermore, domestic violence includes any relationship by blood, marriage, or adoption. This is why you could be hit with domestic violence charges for attacking your mother-in-law or brother-in-law.
Your Ex’s Significant Other
Most people know that assaulting your ex is domestic violence, whether it is an ex-lover or ex-wife. What most don’t know is that assaulting your ex’s current partner is also considered domestic violence. This is true whether you were married or merely dated.
Children Associated With You
Domestic violence includes assault against a child in your household. This makes child abuse a form of domestic violence. However, you can be found guilty of domestic violence even if it is not your child. Assaulting your current partner’s child, whether or not it is legally your step-child, is domestic violence. Threatening to harm the child to coerce your current partner into doing something is also domestic violence. Assaulting a foster child is considered domestic violence. Furthermore, a child assaulting their foster parent is domestic violence. If the foster child’s biological parents arrive and attack the foster parent, domestic laws could be applied. There are already stiff penalties for attacking a social worker taking the child or anyone else acting as an agent of the state.
Texas recognizes that there are people who have had children without having had a formal relationship. This is why it is domestic violence to assault someone with whom you have had children, even if there is no dating, romantic or marital relationship.
Other Family Relations
Child abuse tends to involve an adult and their child. However, an adult child physically and emotionally abusing a parent is also domestic violence. Many cases of violence against elders are by family members. Even fewer cases involve a grandchild assaulting a grandparent, though they do occur. Additional penalties could be levied if the person is disabled, such as when a grandchild attacks a grandparent with dementia living with their parents.
Legal Definition Of Domestic Violence
The classic definition of domestic violence is literal physical assault, be it hitting, slapping, or kicking. Domestic violence, also called family violence, includes any act intended to cause physical harm, physical pain, or damage to the body. This means that throwing items at someone or intentionally making them ill can count as domestic violence. Threats of physical harm and damage are also counted as domestic violence. Sexual assault within a domestic relationship is also domestic violence. Threatening to rape your ex would be domestic violence. This also makes marital rape a crime.
Penalties Of Domestic Violence
The first conviction for domestic violence is a class A misdemeanor. If someone has had prior domestic violence convictions, the later charges are a third-degree felony. If the assault resulted in serious bodily injury, then it is a second-degree felony. Examples of serious bodily injury include broken bones, loss of limbs, and head injuries. The penalties level up if you choke or strangle the target. The use of a deadly weapon like a knife, gun, or baseball bat makes it a second-degree felony. Note that this includes merely threatening someone with the gun or bat, not just injuring them with it.
Texas created a charge called “continuous violence against the family”. This charge applies if someone commits two or more domestic assaults in the span of two months, whether they’re against the same person or different people. This charge applies whether there were arrests or convictions in the prior cases. A third conviction will be a felony.
Felonies, Misdemeanors & State Felonies
In most states, you have misdemeanors and felonies. Texas ended up with a category of crime called the state felony. While a state felony is a felony, the consequences are somewhere between that of a misdemeanor and a felony. What is a state felony? And how does it compare to misdemeanors and felonies?
State felonies in Texas are crimes classified as felonies in the statutes but the law fails to identify it as a specific type of felony or spell out the sentence. For example, crimes that are classified as felonies but not named as a first, second- or third-degree felonies can end up becoming state felonies. However, there are no separate categories of classes of state felonies. Third degree felonies are the lowest level. This includes things like jumping bail for a felony arrest, indecent exposure with a child and the third offense of violating a protective order. Second degree felonies include indecent contact with a child, soliciting minors online, and marijuana possession of up to 2000 pounds. First degree felonies are the most severe barring capital offenses. This category includes human trafficking of children under fourteen, aggravated robbery, and aggravated kidnapping. Soliciting capital murder is a first-degree felony.
Misdemeanors are broken down into classes. There are class A, class B and class C misdemeanors. Class C offenses are the lowest level of misdemeanors.
Misdemeanors are by definition less severe than felonies. Traffic citations are class C misdemeanors unless it is something serious like repeated drunk driving or intoxicated manslaughter. Class B misdemeanors include possessing a small amount of marijuana, prank calls to 911, and criminal trespass. Class A misdemeanors include second offense DWI, burglarizing a car, and resisting arrest. Possessing a more serious controlled substance is a felony.
DWI with just yourself in the car is a misdemeanor, but it becomes a state felony if you have a child passenger. Financial crimes like forging a check, identity theft and credit card abuse are state felonies. Filing a false report or false alarm is a state felony.
Class C misdemeanors cannot result in jail time. Class B misdemeanors can result in up to 180 days in jail, though you can be sentenced to just probation, instead. In the latter case, you’d face up to three years of probation. Yet you may not be sent to prison for Class B misdemeanors such as first offense DWI or possessing two ounces of cannabis. You may be given deferred adjudication instead. Class A misdemeanors are the most serious misdemeanors. They can result in up to a year in county jail and up to three years of community supervision.
The punishment for state felonies can be anywhere from six months to two years. You can’t get time off for good behavior with state felonies the way you could for other felonies.
Third-degree felonies come with a minimum sentence of two years. This is why you may want to work with an attorney who can get state felonies reduced to misdemeanors based on the criteria outlined in Texas Penal Code Section 12.44. Second-degree felonies can result in up to twenty years in prison. First-degree felonies can result in up to ninety-nine years in prison. They can also result in life in prison. Only capital felonies like capital murder can result in a death sentence.
The lowest level of misdemeanor, the class C misdemeanor, comes with a maximum fine of 500 dollars. Class B misdemeanors can result in maximum fines of up to two thousand dollars, though you could also be forced to pay restitution for property damage due to DUI or rioting. Class A misdemeanors can result in a fine of up to four thousand dollars. You may owe additional restitution such as when you leave someone with medical bills after assaulting them.
If you’re found guilty of a third-degree felony, you could be hit with a fine of up to ten thousand dollars. That value applies to all felonies.
You have the right to a trial no matter what you’re accused of. If you’re accused of a misdemeanor, it can be tried in a municipal court, justice of the peace court or traffic court. If you’re found guilty of any felony, you’ll serve time in state prison instead of the county jail.
Marijuana possession is a crime in Texas, because we haven’t legalized it for medicinal or recreational use. Here, we’ll provide an overview of Texas laws on marijuana possession, though you should always seek the counsel of an experienced attorney if facing drug charges.
Driving Under The Influence Of Cannabis
The term DUI means driving under the influence. DWI is driving while under the influence or driving while intoxicated. While both of these terms classically refer to drunk driving, you can be arrested for driving under the influence of any substance that alters your judgment or affects your safe operation of a vehicle. This means that the police can pull you over for erratic driving such as when you’re having trouble staying in your lane. They can demand a field sobriety test, too, if they think you look drunk.
Let’s suppose you are pulled over by the police. They can order you to take a breathalyzer test. You have the right to refuse, but it will cost you your driver’s license. If you’re found to be drunk driving, refusing the breathalyzer test results in the license being suspended longer than if you took the test and failed. But what if you’re high on marijuana? Cops can order you to get a blood test or provide a urine sample. If it shows that there are illegal drugs in your system, you’re guilty of DUI/DWI.
If you possess less than two ounces of marijuana, this is a class B misdemeanor. In theory, that is punishable by up to six months in prison and a fine of up to two thousand dollars. A number of cities have drug rehab programs combined with deferred adjudication. Complete the drug rehab and stay clean, and the drug conviction is wiped from your record at the end of the program.
Possession of two to four ounces of cannabis is a class A misdemeanor. This can result in up to a year in prison. And you could be hit with a fine of up to four thousand dollars. Possession of anywhere between four ounces and five pounds is a state felony. This could result in a six-month to a two-year jail term. And you could be fined up to ten thousand dollars. Selling cannabis to a minor is a felony, as well, even if it would otherwise be a misdemeanor.
Possession of 50 to 2000 pounds is a felony that could land you in prison for up to two decades. If you are found to be in possession of more than 2000 pounds, you could face five to ninety-nine years in prison.
Possession of cannabis hash and concentrates is also a crime. Possessing even a gram of it is a felony in Texas. Possession of drug paraphernalia is a misdemeanor. This is a minor crime that can result in a five hundred dollar fine but not jail time. The sale of paraphernalia is a misdemeanor for the first offense. This could result in up to a year in prison. A second offense would be a felony. Selling drug paraphernalia to a minor is also a felony.
Sale & Distribution
Texas increases the penalties for drug possession if you are intending to sell or distribute it. For example, if you have seven grams for distribution without remuneration, you are guilty of a misdemeanor. That can result in six months in prison and a 2K fine. If you have seven grams or less and were paid for it, you could be sent to prison for a year. Possession and sale of seven grams to five years is a felony. You could serve six months to twenty-four months. The sale of five to fifty pounds is a serious crime. You could be sentenced to up to twenty years in prison.
What About CBD?
Hemp doesn’t contain psychoactive compounds like THC. That was legalized in 2019. Cannabidiol or CBD is a non-psychoactive compound in cannabis. Texas law allows CBD products to be sold as long as the THC concentration is less than 0.3 percent. If it has less than 0.3%, then it is legally classified as hemp.
These products are sold with the promise of relieving pain or anxiety, though these claims are not recognized by the Food and Drug Administration. The only drug based on cannabis that’s legal in the United States is Epidiolex. It treats two rare forms of epilepsy. People with epilepsy are allowed to access cannabis oil with 0.5% THC. That law was signed by Greg Abbott in 2015.
Fort Worth is often overshadowed by its larger neighbor Dallas, Texas. The TV show “Dallas” made the city world-famous, though it is based on the real-life location of South Fork Ranch 25 miles north of Dallas. The Dallas Cowboys are a national team, though their stadium is located in the Fort Worth suburb of Arlington, Texas. But how does Dallas differ from Fort Worth aside from having name recognition?
The population of Dallas is 1.3 million. Fort Worth is significantly smaller. It is home to around 900,000 people. For comparison, the entire Dallas-Fort Worth metro area is home to roughly 7.5 million people.
Fort Worth covers 355 square miles. Dallas is barely any bigger; it covers 383 square miles. This gives Fort Worth a significantly lower population density. The real density in Dallas is even greater because there are large areas like the Trinity River Forest and Dallas Love Field that don’t allow for new construction. This gives Fort Worth an edge over Dallas because infill development could allow Fort Worth’s population to grow.
Downtown Dallas and south Dallas are the oldest neighborhoods in the city. For example, Reunion Tower is named after a French colony that was founded there in the 1850s. Dallas expanded north along I-75 as soon as it was built. Then it surrounded University Park and Highland Park before continuing growth through annexation. Far North Dallas stretches from Loop 635 to the George Bush Tollway. It is mostly contained within the Dallas North Tollway and Highway 75. Then you hit established suburbs like Plano and Frisco.
Fort Worth didn’t aggressively expand north until after the development of Alliance Airport. The cargo-only airport north of Fort Worth became a shipping hub, and that in turn led to an influx of manufacturers and residential construction. That has occurred in the past twenty years.
Development around Dallas-Fort Worth Airport is still going on. That’s understandable given that the airport was originally built on empty farmland equidistant between the two cities.
The top industries in Dallas are technology, financial services and defense. The Texas Instruments plant that invented the microchip is located in Dallas, and there are a number of microchip wafer fabrication plants in north Dallas. Telecom company AT&T is headquartered in Dallas. McKesson is a healthcare IT and medical supply distributor. They are headquartered in the DFW area.
The presence of several large airports affects the area’s economy. The headquarters of Southwest Airlines is in Dallas, while the headquarters of American Airlines’ parent company is in Fort Worth. CBRE Group is one of the largest commercial real estate services firms in the country. Its headquarters are in Dallas.
Fort Worth’s economy is more closely tied to oil and gas. Exxon Mobile’s headquarters are in Irving. However, Energy Transfer Equity, a top 100 company, is based in Dallas, as is petroleum refiner HollyFrontier Corporation. Smaller energy firms fill the suburbs. This includes Pioneer Natural Resources, Fluor Corporation and Vistra Energy.
Defense is another major player in the Fort Worth economy. This is mostly due to the large Lockheed Martin factories in Fort Worth and the Naval Air Station Fort Worth Joint Reserve Base. But there are major defense contractors like Raytheon in the Dallas area.
In both cities, health and education are major employers. Texas Health Resources is located in Fort Worth and runs several hospitals. But Dallas has several major hospitals in downtown including world-class children’s hospitals. The Dallas and Fort Worth School districts both employ more than ten thousand people. And the DFW area has a number of universities. The University of Texas Arlington campus is closer to Fort Worth than Dallas, but the University of North Texas is just north of Dallas. There are a dozen smaller colleges in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Then there are quirks such as the Texas A&M law school is located in Fort Worth.
Dallas and Fort Worth both have ballets and symphony centers. Fort Worth is notable for having a science and history museum, modern art museum, American art museum, and the Kimbell Art Museum that has works that don’t fall into any of those categories. Fort Worth is also home to the National Cowgirl Museum and Sid Richardson Museum. This showcases Fort Worth’s Western heritage.
Dallas has its own museum of art. Ross Perot founded the Perot Museum of Nature and Science. Dallas has a holocaust museum and the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealy Plaza to memorialize where JFK was killed. The Frontiers of Flight Museum is located in Dallas. The CR Smith Museum documents this history of American Airlines; that’s located in Fort Worth.
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