Expert Criminal Defense in the Houston area, including Brazoria, Ft. Bend, Galveston, Harris & Montgomery Counties
No one ever plans on needing to hire a criminal defense attorney. Most of us don’t think that we’ll ever need such legal representation. After all, you and the people around you probably aren’t career criminals. And indeed, most of the people who do need such representation would agree with you. They’re ordinary law-abiding citizens who through a set of extraordinary circumstances have run afoul of the law.
While many folks have little sympathy for those who get into legal trouble and claim “It’s not my fault” or “I didn’t know that wasn’t allowed,” it can happen all too easily. As wonderful as our legal system is, our many rules and regulations can entrap the most minor and unwitting of lawbreakers in an endless nightmare.
Convictions requiring a prison sentence can result in the loss of homes and employment or the ability to find either. And given that those convicted may have been falsely accused, or given a sentence out of proportion to their actions, one sees how the services of a qualified criminal defense attorney can be very helpful. Such an attorney can:
- Help clients enter pleas and arrange for bail if needed
- File paperwork and documents for clients and collect evidence
- Attend meetings and hearings as a representative of the client
- Represent the client in court and negotiate settlements
Often individuals think that if a criminal defense attorney is representing a client in a non-serious criminal action, it must be vehicle related. It’s certainly true that this is a good lawyer to have on your side in a DUI case or when accused of “driving while texting,” but there are many other ways in which a lawyer can assist an “unintentional criminal.” Look below to see just a few examples.
Disorderly conduct, sometimes called disturbing the peace or breach of the peace, refers to any intentional action creating an unreasonable and significant breach of the peace, disturbs the public order, or infringes on the rights and privacy of others. When disruptive behavior cases go to court, they are not always dismissed easily.
Charges can stem from verbal abuse, excessive noise, or fighting, such as a physical altercation between two people at a birthday party. An individual can be arrested in public or private, including during riots devolving from a public demonstration or protest. In general, an individual can serve up to one year in jail and/or up to six months of probation for disorderly conduct. Fines can reach $2,000 and include mandatory anger management classes or substance abuse treatment.
Early Termination of Probation
Under certain circumstances, the court may decide to end an individual’s probation early. The person makes a petition for early termination before the same judge who convicted and sentenced them. However, the probationer must serve at least one-third of the probation term, pay all fines and restitution, and complete all counseling programs.
Early termination is not available in cases of crimes against minors, first-degree solicitation of a crime, aggravated robbery, DWI, or a second or subsequent offense of indecent exposure. A judge may choose to apply judicial clemency. Also, a person’s criminal records may be sealed under some circumstances.
In Texas, evading arrest means someone flees from a law enforcement officer attempting to arrest them. A charge of evading arrest amplifies or worsens the penalties of the original crime.
Evasion includes any attempt to prevent an officer from carrying out an arrest. An individual can flee on foot, in a motor vehicle, or by any other means. Evading arrest also includes hiding their identity or forging documents to get around restrictions to things like travel that may be a criminal offense if performed under their true identity.
Depending on the specific circumstances of the evasion, criminal history, how they attempted to flee, and whether anyone was injured during the attempt, they could be charged with a Class B or Class A misdemeanor with up to $4,000 in fines and one year in county jail. If they have prior convictions and evade arrest in a motor vehicle, they could be charged with a third-degree felony with up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
Expunction is a procedure for getting arrest and jail records, police and prosecution records, and court files destroyed. Once done, an individual can legally answer in the negative if asked whether they have ever been arrested or charged with committing a crime.
The individual files a petition with the district court where the criminal trial was held or originated. Eligible crimes include non-violent misdemeanors, arrests that did not lead to conviction or offenses that lead to deferred adjudication.
Crimes not eligible for expunction include prostitution, child molestation, and fleeing the scene of an accident. Also, the record of a guilty plea cannot be expunged since it is equivalent to a conviction.
False Allegations or Accusations
A false allegation is a wrongful accusation of a crime made by another person, whether known to the accuser or not. A false accusation can be made for any crime, but the most common allegations are for crimes of a sexual nature and child abuse.
Being the victim of a false allegation can damage a person’s reputation due to a criminal conviction for a crime that was not committed. Juries tend to err on the side of caution because why would anyone falsely accuse another of committing a terrible crime when it didn’t happen?
Some examples of false allegations include:
- Accusations from a former dating partner, co-worker, or another person for revenge
- Allegations from a former spouse pursuing additional support lying to create pain
- Allegations of the use of a date rape drug
If you are falsely accused of a crime, contact an expert false allegation attorney.
First Time Offenders
When someone who has never been arrested or charged with a crime before is suddenly thrown into the criminal justice system, early intervention is critical. Hire an attorney to negotiate with the prosecutor before arraignment or the filing of charges. Charges can be reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor, or the attorney can prevent the filing of any charges at all.
After charges are filed, a first offender with a clean record has options for a successful resolution through a pretrial diversion program or plea bargaining. Skilled representation is critical, especially if charges have been filed.
In Texas, a person can be prosecuted in juvenile court if they commit a crime while under the age of 17, even if they turn 18 before the juvenile court trial. Unfortunately, a juvenile conviction can result in more severe punishment later if the person violates the law as an adult.
Sentencing is usually less harsh for juveniles than adults because the individuals are arrested more often for a less serious crime. Juvenile detention is less severe and restrictive than has a greater focus on rehabilitation than confinement.
The legal system recognized minors might be more likely to break the law due to inexperience, impulsive behavior, or susceptibility to peer pressure. For that reason, juvenile offenders are more likely to be given a chance to clear or seal their records after the case is closed. In some cases, deferred adjudication may be offered if the individual meets specific requirements to get the charges dropped.
In serious cases for serial offenders, an adolescent may be “certified” as an adult and prosecuted in the adult justice system. A family law attorney is not the best choice, even though most cases are handled in family court. A juvenile defense attorney understands the differences between the juvenile and adult criminal justice systems.
Orders of Non-Disclosure
An order of non-disclosure is also known as sealing criminal records. It is not the same as expunction because the records are not destroyed. They are merely hidden from public view. Certain law enforcement agencies, school systems, government agencies, and financial institutions may still access those records.
However, the presence of a non-disclosure order may be perceived more favorably than a criminal sentence. With an order of non-disclosure, a person can deny the occurrence of their arrest and prosecutions. They may also have opportunities that may be blocked by a public conviction. However, the record can be used against you in future criminal proceedings.
A person is eligible for an order of non-disclosure if they receive deferred adjudication probation for certain misdemeanor or felony offenses and successfully complete a probation term. Other requirements apply, too, including the type of offense. Many felony offense convictions are not eligible for non-disclosure.
Probation is an alternative to incarceration in which the individual is supervised by a probation officer and abides by certain restrictions during the probation period. If the person violates any terms of probation, they can be required to finish the sentence behind bars.
A defendant can violate probation by failing a drug screen, failing to report to the probation officer, committing another crime, or a list of other reasons. Probation has both special and general conditions. Two people committing the same crime might not get the same probation conditions.
The penalties for a probation violation include revoking probation, returning to prison to complete the sentence, or have more time or a fine added to the sentence. The court can require probation for months or years, although someone may shorten it by petitioning the court.
Reckless driving is defined as operating a vehicle with willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property. Reckless driving charges can result on public roads and highways, parking lots, garages, or private roads and areas open to the public. Some examples of reckless driving include driving too fast for the conditions, weaving in and out of traffic, or texting while driving.
Reckless driving can result in additional violations such as hit-and-run, speeding, street racing, or driving while intoxicated. It can also be accompanied by a manslaughter or homicide charge.
Penalties for reckless driving range from a misdemeanor with up to 30 days in jail and/or a $200 fine to civil liability for harm caused to another person or property. The individual may lose points off their license or have the license revoked or suspended. They may receive probation or orders to perform community service or attend traffic school.
A terroristic threat is considered an expressed desire to kill or injure another person. It is not limited to extremists who try to kill or injure large groups of people. Terroristic threats include death threats, threats of bodily harm, public utilities and transportation system threats, and shootings, stabbings, or bombings.
Even if the individual shows no intent to act on their statements, law enforcement takes the threats seriously and press charges whenever possible.
Here is an example: Mark approaches his neighbor Mary and demands that she turn down her loud music. He tells her he will choke her, and she is placed in fear for her safety. Even though he never touched Mary, Mark has committed assault because he intentionally issued a credible threat to another person, making them fear for their safety.
Depending on the type of threat and whether it was carried out, the penalties range from incarceration for six months to ten years. The convicted may be fined up to $10,000, lose the right to carry a concealed weapon, and be denied eligibility for housing assistance or student loans. Months or years of probation may also be in store.
Criminal trespass is defined as an individual intentionally entering, occupying, or using a property despite the express wishes of the property owner. In Texas, the property owner can do this by issuing verbal and written warnings, erecting fencing, or by making it obvious that the land is being used specifically for agricultural purposes. Under Texas statutes, criminal trespass is considered a misdemeanor, with various classifications that can affect penalties. A defense lawyer can help here both in having sentencing reduced, and challenging trespass notifications and having charges dismissed.
Criminal mischief is defined under Texas law as an act by an individual that results in damage to property either public or private. This is a tricky law that can be classified as either a misdemeanor or felony depending on circumstances. Penalties can range from fines of under a hundred dollars to a lifetime in prison. Further complicating matters in Texas, statutes here vary between counties. The services of legal council are essential here to make sure that charges are being correctly applied or getting them dismissed, and in helping to find alternatives to traditional sentencing like community service.
Failure to Appear in Court
There could be many reasons why an accused party fails to attend a court date, ranging from a family emergency to not being informed in writing of a changed hearing date. But Texas law considers all non-appearances to be criminal actions with penalties ranging from misdemeanors to felonies depending on circumstances. Your attorney can help here by getting special exemptions granted and charges dismissed in some cases.
Experienced Criminal Defense
The Law Office of Greg Tsioros knows that many accused of being “criminals” are anything but, and deserve the best legal representation and guidance that they can get. If you or a family member have been accused of a criminal action, contact us today and get the justice that you deserve.