Archive for May, 2013

Commercial Drivers May Have a Remedy for a Traffic Violation Under Texas Law

Tuesday, May 21st, 2013

Do you make your living with a Commercial Driver’s License? Did you get a ticket while passing through Dallas? You may think that you do not have any option other than paying the fine and accepting the points on your license. However there are other solutions.

The Texas Department of Public Safety regulates Commercial Driver’s Licenses (CDLs) and imposes penalties on those drivers who violate traffic regulations.  A CDL may be disqualified for various periods of time.  Two serious offenses, which include reckless driving, excessive speeding, improper lane changes, and following another vehicle too closely, within a period of three years may result in disqualification for sixty (60) days.  Three such offenses within the same timeframe may lead to disqualification for 120 days.  A violation involving a railroad-crossing may lead to a disqualification after the first offense.  Although these penalties are serious, the right attorney can make sure that the impact on your livelihood is minimized.

Mailing your payment after receipt of a violation is not your best option.  This will result in a conviction on your record.  This is a worst-case scenario.

  1. Dismissal of the ticket is possible.  Despite the seeming finality of the ticket once the police officer has issued it and walked away, it is possible to challenge the ticket in court.  During the initial meeting, please come prepared with a clear presentation of the facts surrounding the ticket so that any grounds for a dismissal can be explored.
  1. Negotiation of a Fine Only.  If the court will not dismiss the ticket, there is still the opportunity for a negotiated settlement that will result in a fine, but no conviction on your record and not points on your CDL.
  1. Minimization of Points Appearing on Your License.  If a dismissal or a negotiated fine-only result is not achievable, it is possible to minimize the number of points that appear on your CDL.  The disqualifications discussed above are the result of serious violations and limiting the number of points on your license can prevent future issues.

If circumstances have progressed to the point that your license has been disqualified, a hearing may be requested to challenge the result.  This must be done within twenty days of the disqualification.  An administrative hearing will be scheduled in a municipal or justice court.  A denial at this level may be appealed.  Due to the nature of a CDL, in the event of disqualification, there are no reinstatement requirements.  The license will be reinstated automatically after the ascribed disqualification time period.  There is no class or responsible driver course that a driver can take to modify the process.

For additional information, or if you are a commercial driver who has received a ticket while passing through Texas, it is important to work with an experienced Dallas criminal defense lawyer to help you enforce your rights.  For more than thirty years, our office has successfully defended thousands of individuals dealing with all types of criminal related offenses.   If you would like to speak to Mr. Pettit about your case, contact our firm today by calling 214-521-4567.  We accept most major credit cards and provide bilingual services in Spanish.

Expunging Your Record Under Texas Law

Monday, May 13th, 2013

A record of an arrest, charge, or conviction can have a significant impact on your ability to attend school, obtain professional licenses, perform a successful job search, and maximize your employment advancement potential.  Under Article 55.01 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, an individual may obtain an expunction of his or her criminal record of an arrest or conviction under certain circumstances.  This can vastly improve your opportunities and future success.

What matters qualify for expunction?

  1. A person’s record of an arrest, charge, or conviction may be eligible for expunction if that person was acquitted of a misdemeanor or felony.  If the charge was for a felony, or a separate felony charge arose out of the same incident, then a period of three years needs to elapse between the date of the arrest and the filing of the petition for expunction.  Only certain felonies are eligible for expunction.
  2. A record may be expunged if the individual was convicted and subsequently pardoned.
  3. A record may be expunged if the arrest and charge never resulted in an actual conviction, the charge is no longer pending, and the statute of limitations has passed.  There are specific provisions with respect to whether the charge was a misdemeanor or felony that dictate eligibility for expunction.
  4. A record may be expunged if the individual completed an approved intervention program or the charge was dismissed because of the lack of probable cause, false information, or a void original indictment.
  5. A record may be expunged if the person is charged, convicted, and that conviction is subsequently overturned by the court of criminal appeals.
  6. A minor’s alcohol-related arrest or conviction may be expunged after the individual turns twenty-one.

There are limitations, including if there was a separate charge that resulted in a conviction that arose out of the same series of events making up one defined criminal episode. Bringing all the information related to the record in question will enable the criminal defense attorney to provide informed advice.

If a matter does qualify for expunction, what is the procedure to obtain the result?

In order to expunge a record, a petition seeking that relief must be filed with the district clerk for the judicial district in which the offense occurred.  There will a filing fee that has to be submitted with the petition.  All law enforcement agencies and departments that have information about the arrest and charge must be included in the petition.  A copy of the petition must be served on the relevant District Attorney’s office.  Frequently, as long as all of the criteria are met, the expunction can be accomplished with an agreed order.

For additional information, or if you were charged with a crime in Texas that you believe is eligible for expunction, it is important to work with an experienced Dallas criminal defense lawyer to help you enforce your rights.  For more than thirty years, our office has successfully defended thousands of individuals dealing with all types of criminal related offenses.   If you would like to speak to Mr. Pettit about your case, contact our firm today by calling 214-521-4567.  We accept most major credit cards and provide bilingual services in Spanish.

Dealing with a Charge of Public Lewdness in Texas

Monday, May 6th, 2013

Under Texas law, in title 5 of the penal code dealing with offenses against a person, section 21.07 sets forth the provisions under which a person can be charged with public lewdness.  A person who knowingly engages in certain behavior in a public place, or in a non-public place with reckless disregard to whether there is another person present who might be offended or alarmed, may be charged with public lewdness.  The actions that fall within this category are:

  1. Sexual intercourse;
  2. Deviate sexual intercourse;
  3. Sexual contact;
  4. Sexual contact between a person and an animal.

A charge of public lewdness is a Class A misdemeanor that can lead to up to one year in jail and a $4000.00 fine.

It is possible to get charged with public lewdness while engaging in a consensual act in a place where you thought you had some privacy.  A couple who engages in sexual activity at a party and leaves the house for the backyard may find themselves facing charges and a looming arrest because a neighbor had a deck overlooking the yard.   The situation becomes further complicated if the offended witness is a minor.  The couple does not have to engage in actual intercourse.  Despite the general understanding that the action has to be offensive or in bad taste, the law is written in such a manner that there does not have to be actual nudity.  An experienced attorney can offer valuable solutions in this situation.  A charge of public lewdness does not have to be the reason for canceling all club memberships and committing to a monastic life of solitude.

One of the main problems with a charge and subsequent arrest based on public lewdness is the stigma attached to the allegation.  This becomes much worse if the witness was a minor.  Many times, the charge arises out of a lack of judgment rather than intentional malice.  However, there are prosecutors building a tough-on-crime profile who will zealously prosecute a public lewdness charge even if there is no evidence of malicious intent.  Although prosecutors do pursue public lewdness actions with regularity, a good criminal defense attorney can make the difference between imprisonment and a more favorable result.

A criminal defense attorney can negotiate the dismissal of the charges.  If the prosecutor does move forward with the action, a motion to quash the charging instrument may be successful.  Even if the prosecutor re-files the action after a defense victory, the previous win can make the case more difficult to bring to a conviction.  Moreover, an experienced criminal defense attorney can negotiate a reduced charge, specifically one that involves probation rather than jail time.  In the event that a jail sentence is ordered, an attorney may get the sentence suspended.   A knowledgeable attorney is critical to a positive resolution.

For additional information, or if you are facing a charge of public lewdness or inappropriate behavior, it is important to work with an experienced Dallas criminal defense lawyer to help you enforce your rights.  For more than thirty years, our office has successfully defended thousands of individuals dealing with all types of criminal related offenses.   If you would like to speak to Mr. Pettit about your case, contact our firm today by calling 214-521-4567.  We accept most major credit cards and provide bilingual services in Spanish.