Articles Posted in Criminal Defense

Under the State and Federal constitutions, criminal defendants are afforded numerous rights that protect them at each stage of a criminal proceeding. The rights do not end merely because a defendant is convicted of a crime either, but protect defendants from unjust sentences as well. The Court of Appeals of Texas, Houston, recently analyzed what constitutes an unjust sentence in a case in which the defendant was sentenced to thirty-five years imprisonment for engaging in organized criminal activity. If you live in Texas and are charged with a criminal offense, it is in your best interest to speak with a trusted Texas criminal defense attorney to discuss your case.

Background of the Case

It is reported that the defendant was charged with engaging in organized criminal activity. Specifically, the defendant conspired with seven other individuals to commit armed robbery and theft of property with a total value exceeding $150,000.00. There was evidence presented at trial that the defendant, along with his co-defendants, planned to steal four trucks and sell them in Mexico. The defendant pleaded guilty to the charged offense, after which he was sentenced to thirty-five years imprisonment. The defendant subsequently appealed, arguing, in part, that his sentence was unconstitutional.

Protections Under the Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution

The Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution protects people from unusual or cruel punishment, which includes the preclusion of sentences that are clearly disproportionate to the offense committed. In the subject case, the court noted that the defendant failed to preserve his right to raise the issue on appeal by objecting at trial.

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In many criminal matters, the State’s case hinges on physical evidence. Thus, if a criminal suspect alters or attempts to alter evidence during the course of an investigation for a crime, in addition to any charges arising out of the investigation, the suspect may also be charged with tampering with evidence. The Court of Appeals of Texas, Houston, recently discussed the elements of the crime of tampering with evidence in a case in which the defendant was found not guilty, and the State appealed. If you reside in Texas and are charged with tampering with evidence or any other crime, it is advisable to meet with a knowledgeable Texas criminal defense attorney to talk about your available defenses.

Facts Regarding the Defendant’s Arrest and Trial

It is reported that the defendant was sitting in a truck on the side of the road when a police officer approached him. The officer began questioning the defendant and noticed the defendant trying to shove something under his seat. Ultimately, the officer determined that the item that the defendant was trying to place under the seat was a syringe. The officer forced the defendant from the truck and to the ground, at which point the syringe fell and broke. The officer asked the defendant if he was trying to break or hide the syringe, and the defendant responded that this was his intention.

Allegedly, the police extracted liquid from the syringe, and testing revealed the liquid was methamphetamine. The State subsequently charged the defendant with tampering with evidence and possession of a controlled substance. A jury convicted the defendant on both counts, after which he appealed. On appeal, the court reversed the defendant’s conviction for tampering with evidence. The State then filed a motion for rehearing on the tampering charge, which the court granted.

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Under the protections against double jeopardy provided by the State and Federal Constitutions, a defendant cannot be tried more than once for the same crime. While the concept of double jeopardy is widely understood, the application of the rule is often unclear. For example, collateral estoppel, which is a component of double jeopardy, prevents the government from re-litigating specific facts in criminal cases. The Court of Criminal Appeals of Texas recently discussed the application of collateral estoppel in a case in which the defendant was tried twice for aggravated assault arising out of the same act. If you reside in Texas and are charged with assault or any other violent crime, it is prudent to speak with a trusted Texas assault defense attorney regarding your case.

Factual and Procedural Background of the Case

It is alleged that the two men became involved in a physical argument during which they were rolling on the ground wrestling. At some point, the defendant was advised to stay out of the fight. The defendant ultimately involved himself in the fight, however, and stabbed the first man involved in the fight and the man’s brother, who was standing nearby. The defendant was charged with two separate counts of aggravated assault for stabbing the first man and his brother. The defendant was tried for the assault of the first man in front of a jury. The jury found the defendant not guilty, and he was acquitted.

It is reported that the defendant was then tried on the second assault charge involving the brother. The defendant filed a writ of habeas corpus arguing that because the issues were the same as in the earlier trial, namely whether the defendant was justified in using defending a third party, the second trial was barred by collateral estoppel. The State argued that collateral estoppel did not apply because the issue of whether the use of force was justified against the brother was discrete from the issue of whether it was justified against the first man. The court denied the defendant’s motion. The jury could not reach a verdict, and a mistrial was declared. The defendant appealed, and the court of appeals reversed, after which the State petitioned the court for review.

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Recently, following the eighteen year anniversary of 9/11, the United States Department of Justice Office of Public Affairs issued a press release regarding the sentencing of a resident of North Texas to 240 months’ imprisonment in a federal penitentiary for conspiring to provide support to a terrorist organization overseas. The defendant’s arrest and conviction demonstrate the FBI’s continued efforts to combat terrorism domestically and abroad. If you are a Texas resident charged with conspiracy or any other crime it is in your best interest to meet with a skillful Texas criminal defense attorney to discuss your case and what defenses you may be able to set forth.

The Investigation and the Defendant’s Arrest

Reportedly, the defendant, who is 18 years old, was arrested and charged with conspiring to prove material support to LeT, a foreign terrorist organization based out of Pakistan, following an extensive investigation by the FBI. The defendant pleaded guilty as charged. Specifically, he admitted he communicated with his co-conspirator online, encouraging the co-conspirator to join  LeT and providing him with contact information of a facilitator who could help the individual travel to Pakistan to join LeT. The defendant then contacted the facilitator, who was an undercover FBI agent, to advise that he would kill the co-conspirator if he was a spy. The defendant also stated that he would recruit additional fighters for LeT, and made arrangements with the facilitator to go to Pakistan and join LeT.

The Defendant’s Sentencing

It is alleged that during the defendant’s sentencing hearing, the FBI presented evidence that the defendant’s recent acts were consistent with a pattern of ongoing behavior. For example, the defendant repeatedly posted online statements in support of violent extremism. He also made several posts threatening to harm people who opposed his extreme beliefs and searched the internet for methods of carrying out such attacks.

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When a person is accused of a crime, he or she has the constitutional right to confront any witnesses relied upon by the prosecution. If the prosecution is permitted to rely upon testimony from witnesses the defendant has not had a chance to cross-examine, it may constitute a violation of the defendant’s rights and any conviction based on that testimony may be unjust. In a recent case decided by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, the court ruled that a defendant’s right to confront witnesses was violated by testimony from a police officer regarding information about a drug transaction involving the defendant that was provided by a confidential informant. If you are charged with drug trafficking or any other crime it is critical to retain a seasoned Texas drug crime defense attorney to assist you in presenting a vigilant defense.

Facts of the Case and Procedural Background

Reportedly, the defendant was arrested following an investigation regarding methamphetamine trafficking. Specifically, the police received a confidential tip that a drug transaction was going to take place in a parking lot. A surveillance team monitored the lot and observed the defendant pull up next to another person in a different vehicle, after which the two vehicles drove off together. An officer observed the drivers of the two vehicles meeting briefly, then driving off separately. The police began following the defendant, and after he committed a traffic violation, attempted to stop him.

It is alleged that the defendant sped up and drove away, temporarily evading arrest. The police searched the area and found a gun and a bag of methamphetamines on the side of the road. The defendant was charged with possession of methamphetamines with the intent to distribute. During the trial, the arresting officer testified that he did not actually see a drug deal happen between the defendant and the other driver. The officer then stated, however, that after the alleged drug transaction he called his confidential source, who confirmed that the transaction occurred. The defendant was convicted. He appealed, arguing in part that the officer’s testimony regarding his confidential source violated his rights pursuant to the Confrontation Clause.

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Sex crimes are often hard to prove, as they largely rely on circumstantial evidence regarding whether the defendant had consent. Many statutes defining sex crimes include lack of consent as an element of the crime the State must prove to obtain a conviction, but do not require the defendant to set forth any proof. Recently, the American Bar Association weighed in on the issue of whether the criminal statutes should be overhauled to impose a burden on the defendant to prove affirmative consent. If you are a resident of Texas charged with a sex crime it is crucial to retain an assertive Texas sex crime defense attorney to help you protect your rights.

The Proposed Resolution

The American Bar Association (ABA), is not a governing body but is a voluntary association that sets academic standards for law schools and adopts policies on legislative issues. Recently, the ABA was presented with a controversial issue via Resolution 114, which originally recommended that criminal codes be modified to include “affirmative consent” as an element of sexual offenses. In other words, the burden of proof would essentially shift from the State, who is required to prove each element of a crime beyond a reasonable doubt, to the defendant, who presently does not have a burden of proof in criminal trials. Requiring proof of affirmative consent means that the defendant must prove that he or she obtained consent from his or her partner before and during any sexual activity. Additionally, any change or advances in the activity may require renewed consent.

Prior to the vote, the language of the resolution was modified in part, to change the word assent, which was deemed unclear, to consent, and to include a phrase indicating that the defendant was still presumed innocent and the burden of proof remained with the State. While the modifications would mirror the consent standard of many colleges the standard would be impossible to meet on a practical level, and would likely lead to increased plea bargains.

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In many states, a person can face criminal and civil penalties if he or she falsely accuses another person of a crime. One high profile example of the consequences you may face if you are suspected of making false accusations is the recent case involving an actor who alleged he was a victim of a hate crime earlier this year in Chicago. While the actor was cleared of all criminal charges arising out of the incident, he now faces civil liability for the purported costs of investigating the crime. Currently, the actor is attempting to have the civil claims dismissed, arguing that they are unfounded. If you live in Texas and are charged with making a false police report you should consult a knowledgeable Texas criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to discuss your case.

Criminal and Civil Allegations Against The Actor

Reportedly, in January of 2019, the actor reported to Chicago police that he was attacked outside of his apartment by men making racist and homophobic comments. The incident was initially treated as a hate crime, with numerous political and entertainment figures speaking out against the crime. Shortly after the alleged crime was reported, however, the two men who were named as people of interest in the crime by the Chicago police alleged that the actor  hired them to stage the attack.

The police then ceased investigating any crime against the actor to turn the investigation on the actor himself. While it seemed that the actor may be convicted for filing a false police report, the case against him was dropped and the file was sealed. The actor was ordered to pay the City of Chicago for the costs of investigating the crime by April 4th but failed to do so. Subsequently, the City of Chicago filed a civil lawsuit against the actor seeking the costs associated with investigating the attack, as well as penalties for making a false report.

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Most people are familiar with the phrase “double jeopardy” and generally understand it to mean that you cannot be convicted twice for the same criminal offense. While many people understand the basic concept of double jeopardy, the precise protections the Double Jeopardy Clause of the United States Constitution provides is not always entirely clear. Recently, the United States Supreme Court made great strides towards narrowing and defining the Double Jeopardy Clause, in a case in which the Court analyzed whether similar crimes charged by the state and federal government constitute the “same offense.” If you are charged with one or more crimes, you should speak with a skilled Texas criminal defense attorney to discuss whether you may be afforded protection from multiple convictions under the Double Jeopardy Clause.

Factual Background of the Subject Case

Reportedly, the defendant was driving his car in Mobile, Alabama when he was stopped by a police officer due to a damaged headlight. The police officer searched the defendant’s car and found a loaded gun. The defendant was previously convicted of second-degree robbery, a violent felony, and therefore was prohibited from owning a firearm under Alabama law. He was subsequently charged with violating the state law barring him from possessing a gun and pleaded guilty. The defendant was then indicted for the same crime under federal law. He filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that the federal charge was the same as the state offense and therefore, exposed him to double jeopardy. The district court denied his motion and the issue was ultimately appealed to the United States Supreme Court.

What Constitutes the Same Offense?

The Court affirmed the district court ruling, upholding the separate sovereigns doctrine. Under this doctrine, the state and federal government are considered separate sovereigns, and therefore, a state criminal charge and a federal criminal charge do not constitute the same offense. The Court noted that while the separate sovereignty doctrine is often referred to as an exception to the Double Jeopardy Clause of the Fifth Amendment, it is not an exception but is explicitly provided for in the text. Specifically, the Court noted that the Double Jeopardy Clause prohibits more than one prosecution for the “same offense”, not for the same actions or conduct. The court explained that “offense” is the term used to refer to a violation of a law, and sovereigns draft laws. Therefore, if the same conduct constitutes a violation of distinct laws from separate sovereigns, it is not the same offense.

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An arrest record can follow a person for years and may cost him or her employment opportunities and financial hardship, even if the person was not convicted or was ultimately pardoned. In certain cases, however, a person can seek an expunction and have all records and files relating to the arrest removed.  Expunction is not available in all cases, however, as illustrated in a recent Texas appellate court case, where the court reversed a prior order granting an expunction, on the basis it was improperly granted. If you were previously arrested and would like to seek an expunction you should consult a skilled Texas criminal defense attorney to discuss whether you may be able to request the removal of any records relating to your arrest.

Facts Regarding the Defendant’s Arrest

Reportedly, the defendant was arrested for, and charged with, larceny and theft by check. She pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of issuance of bad checks. She was subsequently convicted and fined and ordered to pay court costs. Almost thirty years later, she filed a petition to expunge her arrest records, stating she was not convicted of an offense relating to her arrest. The Texas Department of Public Safety filed a response stating that the arrest resulted in a final conviction. Following a hearing, the court issued an order granting expunction. The Department of Public Safety appealed.

Grounds for Expunction

Expunction is a right provided for under the Texas Criminal Procedure Code. Under the applicable statute, a person who was arrested for a felony or a misdemeanor is entitled to have the records and files relating to his or her arrest expunged if he or she was tried for the offense for which he or she was arrested and was subsequently acquitted. A person is also entitled to an expunction if he or she was convicted of the offense for which he or she was arrested but was then pardoned. Lastly, a person may seek an expunction if he or she has been released and the charge did not result in a final conviction and is no longer pending.
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In the legal realm, “negligence” typically refers to a civil claim in which an injured party alleges that another person breached a duty of care owed to the injured party and thereby caused the injured party harm. In Texas, however, there are certain instances in which a person can face criminal charges due to negligence. For example, a Texas bartender is currently facing criminal negligence charges for allegedly serving an intoxicated patron.  If you are charged with criminal negligence or another crime it is critical to engage a skillful Texas criminal defense attorney to assist you in formulating a strong defense.

Facts Regarding the Alleged Criminal Negligence

Reportedly, the bartender was working at a bar in Plano in 2017, when she served alcoholic beverages to a 32-year-old man, despite evidence that he was already intoxicated. Text messages obtained from the bartender’s phone indicate that the man had a knife in the bar and stated he was going to “go do some dirty work.” The bartender also texted a friend about the man’s excessive drinking. The bartender, who socialized with the man outside of the bar, called the police after the man left the bar to report his behavior.

It is alleged that after the man left the bar, he went to the home of his estranged wife where a party was being held. He then fatally shot his wife and seven other individuals. The man was killed by police who responded to the shooting. Following his death, it was determined that his blood alcohol level was over four times the legal limit for driving in Texas.
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