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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.

If you are facing a felony DWI trial in Texas, odds are the State will ask the jury to find that your car was used as a “deadly weapon”? If the jury agrees that your car was a deadly weapon and you are sentenced to prison, you eligibility for parole will be limited. You will be required to serve 1/2 your sentence, or a minimum of 2 years before being eligible for parole. It’s an easy trial penalty for the State, which is one of the ways they pressure defendants into taking plea bargains and waiving their right to trial.

What is a deadly weapon finding?

An affirmative deadly weapon finding is the trier of fact’s express determination that a deadly weapon was actually used or exhibited during the commission of the offense. LaFleur vs. State, 106 S.W.3d 91, 94 (Tex. Crim. App. 2003). Generally, an affirmative finding of a deadly weapon may be made when (1) the indictment includes an allegation of a “deadly weapon,” and the verdict states the defendant is guilty as charged in the indictment, (2) the indictment does not allege “deadly weapon,” but does allege a weapon that is per se a deadly weapon, and the verdict states the defendant is guilty as charged in the indictment, or (3) the jury has affirmatively answered a special charge issue on “deadly weapon” use or exhibition. Polk v. State, 693 S.W.2d 391, 396 (Tex. Crim. App. 1985).

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