Articles Posted in Uncategorized

Prison sucks, and any prison sentence can feel like cruel and unusual punishment in Texas. Can a sentence be too long to be constitutional? Theoretically yes, the Constitution places limits on how long someone can be sentenced, but in practice, it’s an argument that our appellate courts routinely reject.

How can a prison sentence be unconstitutional?

The 8th amendment forbids cruel and unusual punishment. Over the years the Supreme Court has indicated that a sentence could be so long that it is disproportionate to the crime committed, and therefore unconstitutional. However, our Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (kind of a Supreme Court for criminal cases in Texas) is run by former prosecutors who don’t mind how long people rot in prison.

Good news for some marijuana defendants in Texas. It may be more difficult for the government to convict you now that hemp is legal. The issue is in the way the law now defines legal hemp products. Texas recently legalized hemp, and defined hemp as cannabis Sativa l. with a THC % of .3 or under. What’s wrong with that? Well, Texas defines illegal marijuana as cannabis sativa l. with a THC level of over .3%. So when the police find your plant material, or vape oil, or gummies, the only difference between being illegal or not is the % of THC in the product. This is awesome because the drug labs that the State uses to test marijuana don’t have the equipment currently to test for THC %. The State has millions of tax dollars to waste buying new drug lab equipment, so expect the market to supply some solution eventually. Texas Prosecutors are already aware of these issues and are brainstorming how to convict you anyway, at least with plant material cases.

Does this change in the law apply to those currently charged with possession of marijuana?

I’m not sure, that’s going to have to be litigated, but defense lawyers are going to argue it does and prosecutors our going to argue it doesn’t. The law that makes hemp legal in Texas is already in effect. So possession cases after June 14th will be affected. Those before will have some extra litigation on their hands if they want to use a hemp defense.

A new law in Texas is going to make it more difficult to arrest people who fail to complete rent to own contracts. Have you ever bought furniture on a “rent to own” basis? Where you made monthly payments to a store, and then after a year or two owned the item? If you couldn’t afford the payments any longer, would that turn you into a criminal?

In Texas, the answer is yes. Companies do file criminal charges against people who had failed to pay out rental contracts on items, even if they never intended to steal anything. Treating renters behind on their finances as criminals is stupidly evil, but par for the course in Texas criminal justice.

What’s the new law on rent to own theft in Texas?

The Supreme Court held today that a enhancement provision for a “crime of violence” was unconstitutionally vague.

What’s a “crime of violence” enhancement?

18 USC 924(b) allows for harsher penalties if an offense was a “crime of violence”, which is a criminal act “that by its nature, involves a substantial risk that physical force against the person or property of another may be used in the course of committing the offense.”  In US vs Davis, the Defendant was found to have committed a crime of violence (robbery with a shotgun), he appealed his case to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court held, 5-4, that this “crime of violence” language was too vague and therefore unconstitutional.

Texas has some of the countries cruelest and stupidest drug laws. However, as of June 14, 2019 they are a little less stupid with the signing of House Bill 1325 that legalizes Hemp in Texas. Marijuana is still illegal, what’s the difference? Basically, it’s the THC-level.

What is Hemp in Texas?

House Bill 1325 defines “hemp”as “the plant Cannabis sativa L. and any part of that plant, including the seeds of the plant and all derivatives, extracts, cannabinoids, isomers, acids, salts, and salts of isomers, whether growing or not, with a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol concentration of not more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis.”

The offense of compelling prostitution in Texas is a serious felony offense, it’s a more serious charge with an “under 18” enhancement.

What is prostitution in Texas?

Sex for money basically. Texas Penal Code 43.02(a) says that prostitution is knowingly offering or agreeing to receive a fee to engage in sexual conduct with another person.

Most of the local shoplifting cases seem to happen at the Forney Wal Mart. This isn’t really surprising. Wal-Mart has a history of attracting crime and even overwhelming local law enforcement. 

Let’s consider a basic shoplifting charge, what happens? Loss prevention will apprehend a suspected thief, and wait for the local police to show up and either make an arrest or issue a citation. A person charged with shoplifting can expect a civil demand letter from corporate asking them to pay damages. Most people pay when they get the letter, that’s the point, but the ability of a super store to collect on them is spurious at best. A person charged with shoplifting may also get a criminal trespass notice, banning them from the store.

Shoplifting charges increase in degree depending on the total costs of the items taken.

If you are going to trial in a criminal case the State may be calling one or more expert witnesses to the stand. For example, in a DWI case with a blood test, the State may call a toxicologist to explain the blood results to the jury. Defendants have the right to question the expert witness before they testify and ask about the underlying facts or data that form their expert opinion per Texas Rule of Evidence 705(b).

What’s a 705(b) hearing?

The Rules of Evidence also provide that a criminal defendant must be permitted to “examine the expert about the underlying facts or data.” TEX. R. EVID. 705(b).

What’s considered Indecency with a Child by Sexual Contact in Texas?

A person commits this offense if the person engages in sexual contact with a child younger than seventeen years of age or causes a child to engage in sexual contact. TEX. PENAL CODE ANN.§ 21.11(a)(1)

What degree of felony is Indecency By Sexual Contact? 

If you are convicted at trial in Texas, and you don’t reach an agreement for the sentence, your sentence will be decided after a punishment hearing.

What kind of evidence can the State offer at a punishment hearing?

During the punishment phase, both the State and defense may offer evidence as to “any matter the court deems relevant to sentencing,” including the circumstances of the offense for which he is charged. See TEX. CODE CRIM. PROC. ANN. art. 37.07, § 3(a)(1). Relevancy, in the context of punishment, is different than that contemplated by Texas Rule of Evidence 401 because, unlike the guilt/innocence phase where “facts of consequence” are narrowly drawn by the applicable statutes, there are no discrete factual issues to be determined at punishment. See Rogers v. State, 991 S.W.2d 263, 265 (Tex. Crim. App. 1999). Determining what is relevant then should be a question of what is helpful to the jury in determining the appropriate sentence for a particular defendant in a particular case. Id.

Contact Information