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In Texas criminal courts, the state must advise the jury of the charges a defendant faces and the elements of any charge. If the charges submitted to the jury are improper, it can result in an unjust conviction or inappropriate sentence. In Walker v. Texas, the Court of Appeals of Texas held that instructing a jury on the issue of assault with a deadly weapon in a case where the defendant only used his hands during the assault was not an error, because hands could be used as deadly weapons. If you face assault charges, it is important to obtain an experienced Texas criminal defense attorney to thoroughly explain all the charges and help you prepare a strong defense.

Facts of the Case

Reportedly, the defendant and his alleged victim lived together for three years. They began arguing, after which the defendant allegedly grabbed the victim, threw her across the room, and placed his arm across her neck. The defendant only used his hands during the assault. The victim later testified that she wanted the defendant to stop hurting her but she was not fearful that he was going to kill her. The day after the assault, the victim met with police and sought treatment for her injuries. The police investigated the incident and ultimately charged the defendant with third-degree felony assault family violence. During the trial, the investigating officer testified that hands could be used as deadly weapons.

Allegedly, at the end of the trial, the jury was provided with instructions that included an issue regarding the defendant’s use of a deadly weapon. During deliberations, the jury stated it reached a unanimous decision on the assault charge but not on the deadly weapon issue. The state ultimately waived the deadly weapon issue and the jury convicted the defendant on the assault charge. The defendant appealed. On appeal, his conviction was affirmed.

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WASHINGTON (CN) – Justices Neil Gorsuch and Sonia Sotomayor teamed up for a dissent Monday after the Supreme Court rejected an appeal over forensic witnesses in criminal trials.

breathalyzerEarly on in the 4-page opinion, Gorsuch quotes precedent to laud cross-examination as possibly “the greatest legal engine ever invented for the discovery of truth.”

“The Constitution promises every person accused of a crime the right to confront his accusers,” Gorsuch wrote.

Under the laws of Texas and the United States Constitution, a person cannot be tried more than once for the same offense. While the court can hold a second trial if the first trial results in a mistrial, the state cannot re-try a defendant who has been acquitted during a trial on the charges for which he or she was acquitted. In Traylor v. Texas, the Court of Criminal Appeals of Texas clarified that a jury note stating the jury unanimously agreed the defendant was not guilty on a charged offense did not constitute an acquittal, and therefore, it found a second trial was permissible.  If you are accused of a crime, it is vital to retain a Texas criminal defense attorney to advise you of your rights and potential defenses for the charges against you.

Facts of the Case

Reportedly, the defendant was charged with first-degree burglary of a habitation. His indictment alleged that he intentionally entered the home of his ex-mother-in-law and assaulted her. During his trial, the jury was charged on both first-degree burglary and the lesser offense of second-degree burglary. A conviction for first-degree burglary required a finding that the defendant used a deadly weapon, while a conviction for second-degree burglary did not. After some deliberation, the jury advised the court via a note that the votes were unanimous for a finding of not guilty on the first-degree burglary charge and that there were five votes for guilty and seven for not guilty on the lesser charge. The court asked the jury to continue deliberating.

Under Texas law, a sentence must be orally pronounced in the presence of the suspect. When an oral sentence conflicts with a written judgment, the oral sentence generally prevails. In Ette v. Texas, however, the Court of Criminal Appeals of Texas held that this general rule does not apply when the written judgment includes a sentence imposed by a jury. If you face criminal charges, you should seek the assistance of a Texas criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to analyze the facts of your case and assist you in formulating a defense.

Facts of the Case

Reportedly, a jury found the suspect guilty of misapplication of fiduciary property. The jury assessed the suspect’s penalties as ten-year confinement and a $10,000.00 fine, and recommended a suspension of the confinement but not of the fine. The trial court read the verdict aloud, after which the judge verbally sentenced the suspect to ten years of confinement, but no fine. The suspect appealed the imposition of the fine, arguing it should not be imposed because the judge did not orally pronounce it at the time of sentencing, and oral pronouncements had previously been held to override written judgments. The court of appeals rejected the suspect’s argument and held that the fine should be imposed. The court stated the oral and written pronouncement should be combined to reflect the jury’s verdict. The court of appeals further stated that the suspect had notice that the court intended to impose a fine due to the jury verdict. The suspect then petitioned the Court of Criminal Appeals of Texas for review.

The United States and Texas Constitutions both afford protection against double jeopardy, which means a person cannot be tried more than once for the same crime. There are some exceptions to the rule preventing double jeopardy, such as when a suspect either explicitly or impliedly consents to a mistrial. In Ex Parte Elizabeth Ann Garrels, the Court of Criminal Appeals of Texas recently explained that while consent to a mistrial may be implied, a failure to object does not constitute implied consent. If you are charged with a crime it is important to retain an experienced Texas criminal defense attorney to advise you of your available defenses and prevent you from waiving your rights.

Facts of the Case

In Ex Parte Elizabeth Ann Garrels, the suspect was allegedly charged with driving while intoxicated. A jury was chosen, which placed her in jeopardy for the purposes of double jeopardy. The officer who stopped the suspect testified regarding the circumstances surrounding her arrest. The suspect objected asking the court to preclude the officer from testifying on the grounds he was not disclosed as an expert in a timely manner prior to the trial, as required under the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure. The state conceded the officer was not disclosed in a timely manner but requested a continuance rather than precluding the officer from testifying. The judge declined to preclude the testimony or grant a continuance and declared he would order a mistrial. The state objected, stating manifest necessity must be present for a mistrial, otherwise the state would not be able to try the suspect again due to double jeopardy. The judge ordered a mistrial regardless.

In a Texas criminal trial, a jury deliberating on a suspect’s guilt is given instructions as to the elements of the crime the suspect is charged with, and advised they must find each element is satisfied to find the suspect guilty. As shown in Niles v. Texas, where a jury is not properly informed of the charges a suspect faces, a suspect can be wrongfully convicted and unjustly sentenced for a crime he or she did not commit.  As such, if you are facing criminal charges, it is essential to retain a Texas criminal defense attorney who will ensure the jury is properly instructed as to the crimes alleged, to prevent an inappropriate conviction.

Facts of the Case

The suspect was a Houston firefighter. Allegedly, during a shift it was revealed that the suspect did not have a valid driver’s license, and he was ordered not to drive and directed to get a valid driver’s license before his next shift. In response, he purportedly stated he was going to start shooting people, and later stated he was going to kill everyone in the fire station. The suspect had several guns in his vehicle and explained in detail the manner and order in which he would kill people. The suspect made similar comments on other occasions, after which he was advised not to return to the fire station.

As with any contract, parties drafting a pre-marital agreement prior to getting married should take the utmost care to ensure they fully understand the terms of the agreement and how their conduct can affect their right to recover under the agreement. The Texas courts favor the right to contractual freedom, and it is very difficult to get them to overturn a pre-marital agreement. In the Matter of the Marriage of I.C. and Q.C., the Texas Supreme Court recently denied a wife’s request to rescind a pre-marital agreement due to husband’s failure to make required payments, and found that her effort to rescind the agreement resulted in a forfeiture of her right to certain assets. If you are held to a pre-marital agreement and are considering ending your marriage, a Texas family law attorney can assist you in understanding the terms of your agreement and how certain actions can impact your right to distribution of marital assets.

In The Matter of the Marriage of I.C. and Q.C., wife and husband signed a pre-marital agreement that stated wife would receive a lump sum payment of $5 million if the parties divorced. The agreement contained a clause that stated, in part, if wife tried to invalidate the agreement she would forfeit her right to the lump sum payment.

Husband filed for divorce. Wife petitioned to enforce the agreement, which required husband to make certain payments to wife. Husband fell behind in payments, and wife petitioned the court to require him to pay past due amounts, which the court granted. Wife then filed a counter-petition for breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty and requested rescission of the agreement. In response, husband filed a declaratory judgment asking the court to rule that by seeking rescission wife waived her right to the lump sum payment, and filed a motion for summary judgment on his declaratory judgment. Following a trial, a jury found wife’s request to rescind the agreement was excused due to husband’s breach by failure to make payments. Husband requested a new trial, which the court granted. The court subsequently granted husband’s motion for summary judgment on the issue of whether wife waived her right to the lump sum payment. Wife petitioned the Supreme Court of Texas for review, which they granted.

Under Texas law, a party seeking to introduce evidence at a trial must comply with statutory requirements. Texas criminal defense attorneys frequently object to the admission of evidence that was obtained illegally, and are able to prevent such evidence from being used against their client. Recently, the question arose as to whether the state has to prove statutory compliance where there is no inference the evidence it seeks to introduce was obtained in violation of a statute. The Court of Criminal Appeals of Texas addressed this issue in White v. Texas, and ultimately held that the question could not be answered with a bright-line rule. As such, it remains unclear who bears the initial burden of proof regarding whether evidence was obtained in compliance with applicable statutes.

In White, Defendant was charged with organized criminal activity and money laundering. At his trial, the prosecution introduced an audio recording of a conversation between Defendant, his co-defendant, and an individual named Brandon, in which they discussed a plan to steal funds from a client. Defendant objected that the recording was inadmissible because it was obtained in violation of illegal wiretapping laws. The court overruled his objection and Defendant was convicted. He appealed, arguing that because the state failed to prove the recording was obtained legally his conviction should be overturned. The Fifth Court of Appeals affirmed his conviction. On further appeal, the Court of Criminal Appeals of Texas found the recording was not barred by the rule of criminal procedure prohibiting illegally obtained evidence and affirmed Defendant’s conviction.

In evaluating whether Defendant’s conviction should be overturned, the Court of Criminal Appeals stated that while the proponent of evidence generally must prove to the court the basis for its admissibility, the burden is not triggered unless a specific objection is made to the evidence.  The court noted that the court of appeals erroneously placed the burden of proof regarding the admissibility on Defendant rather than the state, but nevertheless held the recording was admissible based on the evidence as a whole. Specifically, the state presented uncontroverted witness testimony regarding the fact that Brandon, one of the parties to the conversation in the recording, made the recording and provided it to the state, prior to any objection as to its admissibility. As such, since the state presented evidence the recording was obtained legally and Defendant did not present any evidence to the contrary, the court held the recording was properly admitted.

Some people in Texas may have avoided executing a will not because they don’t want to think about their ultimate demise, but because they simply don’t think it’s necessary. They may think they do not have enough assets to make a going through the time and expense of creating a will worthwhile. However, what they may not understand is that, whether there is a will or not, when they pass away their estate will go through the probate process, in which the distribution of their estate will be left entirely up to the state.

Through probate, state laws of “intestate succession” will dictate who is to inherit the deceased’s estate. Those heirs not be the ones the deceased would’ve chosen, but without a will or trust, the deceased has no say in the matter. Moreover, even if a person only has modest assets, there are still items that have a great deal of sentimental value, which a person would want to leave to a specific individual. If a person has a will in place, their assets will go down to the people of their choosing.

In addition, in a will one can also assign a person to be the executor of one’s estate. The executor is responsible for settling the estate. This could include paying debts and taxes out of the estate’s assets, and then distributing the remainder of the estate to named heirs in the will. Wills can also name a person or people who would serve as guardians of any minor children, should both parents pass away before the children are grown.

It doesn’t matter where you are driving at rush hour, there’s a good chance you’ll find yourself in quite a bit of traffic. Although this is something you expect at certain times of the day, it doesn’t make it any easier to remain safe.

Unfortunately, in addition to creating traffic jams and making it more difficult on everyone else on the road to reach their destinations, rush hour accidents have the potential to cause injuries and damage to vehicles.

Here are several rush hour driving safety tips to keep in mind:

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