Criminal Law - Practice area
Criminal Law

DWI, Drugs, Assault, Probation Revocation, Sexual Offenses, Theft, Juvenile Defense. Felony and Misdemeanor Offenses in State and Federal Court

DUI - Practice area
DWI

Driving While Intoxicated, DWI and Your Drivers License Forney, Texas DWI Defense Lawyer.

Juvenile Law - Practice area
Juvenile Law

Sexual Offenses, Drug Offenses, Assault and Violent Crimes, Theft, Truancy/School Related Criminal Charges.

In law, must and shall are important words. Must and shall indicate that an action is required, it has to happen, it is a part of the process, proceeding, or hearing that can’t be ignored. Contrast that with “may”, which implies that it doesn’t matter if the thing happens or not.

One thing that is supposed to happen in a criminal case, is that the Judge must inform the defendant about the range of punishment before he pleads guilty. That is, the defendant must know how much time he’s look at before he says “I’m guilty”.  Here is the shall if you want to read it-

Texas Code of Criminal Procedure 26.13

What is a stacked sentence?

Good question. A stacked sentence is one in which two sentences are to be served consecutively or one after another. So if Bob has two cases for possession, and gets 5 years TDC in each case, then a stacked sentence would require him to serve these sentences back to back.

Contrast that with a concurrent sentence, which lawyers call “CC”. If Bob has two charges for possession and gets the same 5 years in each case, then both sentences run at the same time. So Bob does one 5 year sentence.

What is assault causing bodily injury in Texas? 

A person commits assault if he intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causes bodily injury to another person. TEX. PENAL CODE ANN. § 22.01(a)(1).

“Bodily injury” is broadly defined as “physical pain, illness, or any impairment of physical condition.” Id. § 1.07(a)(8).

Let’s talk about turn signals. Lots of people get pulled over for not using a turn signal. But what does the law require? The short answer is – 100 feet. You have to use them for 100 feet before you turn.

Here is the Texas Transportation Code 545.104

(a) An operator shall use the signal authorized by Section 545.106 to indicate an intention to turn, change lanes, or start from a parked position.

There are a lot of bad ideas in the world. One the worst is going to court alone on a criminal case. One reason people don’t hire lawyers is that they think they are guilty, and it won’t make a difference if they have a lawyer or not.

Here’s the thing, you can be 1000% did-it-on-camera-and-confessed super guilty and it’s still a good idea to hire a lawyer.

Let’s talk about what guilty means first of all. Being guilty means that the fact finder in your criminal case has found you guilty. You can think you “did it” but until you are found guilty, you aren’t guilty. What’s between you and being found guilty is litigation, due process, criminal prosecution, litigation. That’s where the defense lawyer can help you.

We get it

Being a criminal defendant sucks, and one of the reasons why is the huge amount of time the system will steal from you. For example, in most counties (besides Dallas) judges require defendants to appear at every setting, even on who-gives-a-shit misdemeanor cases. Defendants have to miss work and wait around the courthouse just to sign a pass slip and get another court date. It gets frustrating when it feels like the case is moving towards a conclusion, and defendants have to keep investing. The truth of criminal defense lawyering is that the fast result, or plea offer, is usually not the best result, or plea offer.

So what makes a criminal case take so long?

I used to be a solo practitioner. That is, I was the only attorney in my own firm. It was an exciting time and the way many lawyers start out after leaving the DA’s office. It was also an exceptionally challenging way to practice law. Guest Law Firm PC ended in 2011 when Guest and Gray was formed. It marked the end of my solo practice, and it helped me understand the benefits of having a team of lawyers in a criminal defense firm.

When I was solo I had to have all the answers not just for the case, but for the firm. I had to handle all the consultations, attend all the hearings, review all the discovery, watch all the videos, research all the issues etc; as well as attend to the running of a business with all the demands of marketing, accounting, payroll etc. I did not speak Spanish, but I would be appointed clients who did and assigned an interpreter.

I would have issues I hadn’t litigated before and sought the assistance of my peers. If I needed to workshop a case for litigation strategies I usually took another lawyer to lunch. If I got sick or took a vacation, my clients had to wait until I got back to reach me. If I was in trial, I couldn’t help anyone else until the trial ended. That’s the life of a solo lawyer, it’s a great way to get a lot of experience fast. But it also created problems when I couldn’t be two places at once. There are a lot of great solo defense lawyers in Texas, but in my experience practicing defense work alone is no match for a team of experienced defense lawyers.

I’ve been lawyering for 16 years now, and for that entire time, I’ve been telling clients that convictions can be not expunged or sealed in Texas. That is not the case anymore, Texas now allows for some misdemeanor straight probation cases to be sealed (non-disclosed). These cases still can not be expunged (which means the records are destroyed), but they can be sealed (which means hidden from the public, but not from the government).

What is straight probation?

Good question. That is what we called probation that is not deferred. That means you are convicted of the offense when you plead guilty and placed on probation. I’m not sure how it came to be called “straight”, but that decision was made well before I became a lawyer. Straight probation means you plead guilty, and the judge finds you guilty but probates (put offs the sentence for) the jail time. That is, you don’t have to serve the jail part of your sentence if you finish probation. Compare that to deferred probation, where the judge puts off the sentence and the conviction.

If you are facing a trial for an assault family violence case you should be aware that evidence regarding the relationship between the parties may be admissible. This can be powerful evidence for the State or the Defendant depending on the nature of the relationship, and your lawyer should be ready to use this evidence or defend against it.

What’s the law on relationship evidence in family violence cases? 

Texas Code of Criminal Procedure 38.371 allows evidence that “testimony or evidence regarding the nature of the relationship between the actor and the alleged victim”. This is “subject to the Texas Rules of Evidence”, so there are still some rules about what comes in, but think of a relationship and the dynamic between two people. Is there a history of violence? Substance abuse? Lying? Cheating? Emotional abuse? These are all areas where you could find either a motive for an assault or a history of aggressive behavior for the Defendant. Or the defense could present a motive to fabricate a claim or a history of violent behavior by the complaining witness.

You know what’s weird with spam calls? When it shows your own cell phone number. I got a few of those for “extended car warranty” calls and I picked up the first time (I’m not sure why. Did I think I was trying to call myself?). Technology now allows people to spoof their phone number and have it appear as any number on your called ID (including your own number). Texas has now made that illegal, but I’m not sure how this would actually be prosecuted unless the caller and victims are all in Texas.

So what’s the law on phony caller ID? Glad you asked.

Sec. 33A.051. FALSE CALLER IDENTIFICATION INFORMATION DISPLAY.

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