Archive for June, 2013

What to Do if You are Facing False Criminal Accusations in Texas

Friday, June 28th, 2013

No matter what, it is true that sometimes people can certainly be at the wrong place at the wrong time.  Nowadays, we often hear on the news about an unlucky person who spent years in jail but through DNA evidence, ultimately received an acquittal.  Moreover, it is also possible to face false criminal charges, especially when someone is using them to gain an advantage over another person in a civil case.  This sometimes occurs when a couple is facing a contentious divorce where through retribution, one person files a protective order against the other.  However, whatever the situation presents, it is important to realize that while untrue, these charges can have serious consequences if not handled properly.  That is why it is crucial to consider the following steps should you be forced to have to defend against false criminal accusations:

  1. Understand the severity of the charges that were lodged against you.  Many times, people think that since they are innocent, that the charges are “no big deal”.  However, a jury can convict people of a crime even if they are completely without fault.  This often results when a prosecutor is highly skilled at proving cases, even those that lack truth.  Since a criminal conviction can have serious repercussions, do not ignore your charges. Contact an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately to advise you of your legal options and to fight for your rights.
  2. Prepare to pay for your defense.  Being falsely accused is simply devastating and no matter what, will end up costing you money.  Depending upon the type of criminal charge, some have a higher rate of conviction than others (i.e. rape, sexual abuse and domestic violence).  Meaning, it is crucial for you to hire an attorney immediately to represent you and your legal interests.  Without effective representation, you could end up losing a whole lot more than a few thousand dollars.  With that being said, saving as much money as you can (and as quickly as possible) to afford all of your defense-related expenses is highly recommended.
  3. Write everything down.  Be sure to document all of the details pertaining to your case.  This includes keeping track of the events leading up to the false accusations.  No matter what, this can help support your case and assist your attorney in developing a highly aggressive defense strategy on your behalf.
  4. Know your rights and do your homework.   Be sure to know that you have the right to remain silent and also, to have an attorney present during questioning (and various other stages of the criminal process) should you invoke your right to an attorney.  Also, educate yourself as to the nature of the charges brought against you and also, the potential penalties/punishment that you are facing.  This can help you know what to expect and to launch the strongest defense tactics in your favor.
  5. Compile a list of witnesses.  As a criminal defendant, you have the right to gather witnesses together to help your case.  Therefore, it is highly important that you compile a list of those who can serve as credible witnesses and as such, aid in your defense.

For additional information, or if you are facing any type of criminal charge in Texas, it is important to work with a qualified criminal defense lawyer to help you fight for your rights.  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.

What To Do if You are Arrested for Solicitation in Texas

Monday, June 24th, 2013

Getting arrested for solicitation is one of those situations where you react out of embarrassment rather than careful forethought.  However, taking the time to consider the long-term ramifications that a conviction for solicitation of prostitution will have on your personal and professional life should have you contacting an experienced criminal defense attorney to help you through the process.

There are two different scenarios that can result in arrest for solicitation of prostitution under the Texas Penal Code:

  • Section 43.02 states that a person may be charged with prostitution if he solicits another to engage in sexual conduct for hire in a public place.  The critical component of this provision is that the solicitation must be done in a public setting.  This section of the code also defines prostitution rather than just the solicitation component, which includes an offer to engage, agreeing to engage in, or actually engaging in sexual conduct for a fee.
  • The second charge that one could face surrounding solicitation of prostitution arises under Section 43.03 of Texas Penal Code, which sets forth the provisions of promotion of prostitution.  A person can be charged with solicitation of prostitution if he solicits someone to engage in sexual conduct with another person for financial compensation.  A key factor of which to be aware is that this provision will apply to someone who solicits someone for paid sexual conduct on behalf of another.  This is a penalty for the “John” and not the prostitute.

There are facts that you need to know if you face a charge of solicitation of prostitution.  Specifically, if you are facing a charge under Section 43.03, the location of the solicitation becomes critical.  The following locations may be considered a public place under Texas law:

  • Streets and highways;
  • Hotels;
  • Schools (specifically including colleges);
  • Apartment buildings or complexes;
  • Retail establishments;
  • Hospitals;
  • Office buildings; and
  • Airports, train and bus stations.

It is important to remember that the prosecutor has the burden of proof and must prove every element of the charge of solicitation of prostitution beyond a reasonable doubt.  The difficulty of meeting the burden of proof may result in a reduction of the charge, or an outright dismissal.  Experienced criminal attorneys can help you obtain the best possible result.

An individual facing a first-time charge of solicitation of prostitution faces a Class B misdemeanor charge, which can result in a fine of up to $2,000.00 and/or a possible jail term up to 180 days.  If this is not the first time you have been charged, the analysis becomes more complex, with the possibility of being charged with a state jail felony, larger fines, and increased jail time.  Of course, there are many other considerations and if the individual being solicited is under the age of eighteen then there are far more factors and complexities.

For additional information, or if you are facing a charge of solicitation of prostitution, it is important to work with an experienced Dallas criminal defense lawyer to help you fight for 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 214-521-4567We accept most major credit cards and provide bilingual services in Spanish.

Frequently Asked Questions about Facing Domestic Violence Charges in Texas

Friday, June 21st, 2013

 As a highly experienced criminal defense attorney, I have successfully represented thousands of people facing serious domestic abuse charges.  Oftentimes, they come into my office assuming that their lives are over, or, that they are completely defenseless.   They also ask a number of very important and often highly similar questions when they meet with me for the first time.   As such, I felt that it would be helpful to post the most common questions that are raised during initial consultations, which may be beneficial to you in determining the next steps you should take in your case.   These are as follows:

1.      Can my domestic violence charges be dropped?

It depends.  Even if your accuser has second thoughts about prosecuting your case, once it goes to the state, it is out of their hands.  In Texas, domestic violence cases are taken very seriously.  Specifically, most District Attorney’s offices within the State follow a “no drop” policy, meaning that if the state chooses to follow through with the case, there is nothing your accuser can do (even if they have a change of heart).  Generally speaking, for a domestic violence case to be lowered, dropped or even dismissed, it often takes the involvement of an attorney to present the case to the prosecutor and aggressively represent your interests.

2.      Can a domestic violence case be charged as a felony?

In Texas, a first-time offense committed against a qualifying person is usually considered a Class A misdemeanor however, if this is your second or third charge, you could face a serious felony conviction.  Keep in mind that a first-time offense can be charged as a felony in the event that the offender intentionally, knowingly or recklessly impedes a victim’s breathing (via pressure asserted to a person’s throat or by blocking his or her nose or mouth).

3.      Can I get probation rather than jail time?

Depending upon the circumstances, you may be eligible for probation. However, it is important to understand that probation may result in additional requirements for an offender to follow, which could leave people at a disadvantage.  Speaking with a qualified defense attorney is highly recommended to help you determine whether this option is right for you.

4.      Will I definitely go to jail?

Not necessarily however, it is possible.  Most domestic violence cases in Texas involve an arrest at the time the police receive a complaint.  Keep in mind that if you were not arrested yet a complaint has been filed against you, there may be a warrant subsequently issued for your arrest.  Contact a qualified defense attorney immediately to assess your case and examine your legal options in this regard.

5.      What does a “family member” mean under the law?

A family member pertains to any person that is related to you, an individual with whom you have had an intimate relationship, or someone you live or lived with.  Speak with an attorney to learn more about the applicable law and, your rights and responsibilities in light of your charges.

For more information, or if you are facing domestic violence charges in Texas, it is important to work with a seasoned criminal defense lawyer to represent you.  For more than three decades, our office has successfully defended thousands of people located throughout the Dallas-Fort Worth area facing domestic violence charges.   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.

 

What Does a Violation of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code Mean for You?

Monday, June 17th, 2013

The Alcoholic Beverage Code (ABC) of Texas DUI enforcement is implemented and managed by the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC).  The TABC also regulates all business involving the sale or consumption of alcoholic beverages.  The commission issues and regulates permits and licenses for bars, restaurants, pubs, wholesalers, and distributors.  Violations of the Texas Alcoholic Beverages Code can result in the loss of your license and your livelihood.  In addition to the administrative enforcement actions that the TABC brings before a special adjudicatory body, the commission also can bring criminal charges in Texas criminal courts.  Part of its duties includes investigation into an establishment that has served alcohol to an individual who has then received a DUI violation or has gotten into an accident.  Experienced Texas criminal attorneys can help you understand the unique provisions of the code, navigate the various legal avenues, and preserve your business.

There are many different code violations that can impact a bar or restaurant owner.  These include:

  • Serving or selling alcohol to minors;
  • Serving an intoxicated individual;
  • Failing to report a breach of the peace;
  • Subterfuge;
  • Unlawful marketing practices; and
  • Lying or engaging in illegal actions on the premises.

These violations can result in complete loss of a license to operate the facility, loss of a permit to operate late-night, loss of the right to cart alcoholic beverages, suspension of permits or licenses, or fines.  The procedure for adjudicating violations of the TABC is different than typical court actions as the case is heard before the State Office of Administrative Hearings (SOAH) – this is different than criminal actions brought by the TABC.  These hearings follow different procedural rules and an experienced attorney is critical to protecting your rights.  An appeal of an adverse decision must be filed within a very limited period of time.

Possible penalties include:

  • A misdemeanor charge and a $100 to $500 fine for serving alcohol to an intoxicated individual;
  • A license holder can have his permit suspended or revoked; and
  • Criminal charges.

Another liability that a bar, restaurant, or other establishment that serves alcohol faces is the Dram Shop Act.  This Act codifies the situations in which a drinking establishment can be responsible for the actions of one its patrons.  This Act does establish that an establishment only can be responsible in the event of a serious violation of ABC provisions.

There are defenses that an establishment licensed by the TABC can assert to avoid or mitigate liability.  The Trained Server (Safe Harbor) Defense is one of these.  In order to assert this defense, the licensed facility must prove:

  • The establishment must have TABC certification;
  • Employees must have attended and passed TABC training classes; and
  • The bar cannot establish any rules or policies that encourage employees to violate the rules of the TABC.

If the establishment can show these elements, it can move for summary judgment in order to obtain a dismissal of the charges.  This is an incredibly valuable tool for bars and restaurants.  Consulting experienced attorneys before a violation of the Texas ABC has occurred can help create and maintain an environment where the Safe Harbor defense remains an effective mechanism to protect permits, licenses, and livelihoods.

For additional information, or if you are the owner of a drinking establishment facing a charge for a violation of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code, it is important to work with an experienced Dallas criminal defense lawyer to help you enforce your rights.  For more than three decades, 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.

Rules to Follow if You are Facing Domestic Violence Charges in Texas

Friday, June 14th, 2013

Being convicted of domestic abuse in Texas can have serious repercussions, including damage to your personal and professional reputations, facing a permanent criminal record, experiencing difficulty finding a job, and, being subjected to potential jail time and harsh monetary fines and penalties.  With this in mind, it is important to speak with a qualified domestic abuse attorney to help you.  Only an attorney who knows the judges, prosecuting attorneys and the applicable court system is in the best position to fight for your rights and potentially have your case lowered (if not dismissed).   During the time that you are trying to find the right attorney, it is important to consider some helpful rules when facing domestic abuse charges.  Following these rules can help avoid further complication and also, potential legal mistakes that can ultimately cost you your freedom.  These are:

  • Rule #1.  Realize that no matter what you say, there is likely nothing you can do to convince the prosecutor that the alleged abuse did not occur.  With this in mind, it is important to consult with an experienced domestic abuse attorney to review your case and advise you of your legal options.
  • Rule #2.   Do not expect your case to be dismissed, even if your accuser has a change of heart.  Due to strict Texas public policy laws against domestic violence, a prosecutor will likely not drop your case even if the alleged victim recants his or her story.  For example, Texas’ “no drop” policy as well as a prosecutor’s need to meet certain case quotas, receiving an outright dismissal of your case is highly unlikely.  It is critical that you speak with an attorney who can review your case and review the scope of defense strategies that effectively address your charges.
  • Rule #3.  Do not talk to your prosecutor without having your attorney present.  Everything you say and do can be used against you when speaking with a prosecutor.  That is why it is important to remain silent and to have your attorney by your side when speaking with anyone who can use information to potentially incriminate you.
  • Rule #4.  Never try to reason with a prosecutor.  This also includes making sure that your loved ones avoid doing so on your behalf.  Unknowingly, things people say, even in your defense, can not only be used against you in court, they may also be recorded.  Only an attorney who knows the criminal system both inside and out can put you (and your witnesses) in the best position to cooperate with the prosecution without incriminating yourself.
  • Rule #5.  Do not represent yourself.  Understandably, legal fees can be expensive. However, a domestic abuse case, without effective representation, can cost you a lot more than just money.  You could face a litany of serious consequences, including extended jail time and the inability to see your children.  Don’t take unnecessary chances.  Even if you have to borrow money from friends or family, it is always a good idea to have a qualified criminal defense attorney to ensure that your rights are protected from day one.

If you are currently facing domestic violence charges in Texas, it is important to work with a seasoned criminal defense lawyer to represent you.  For more than three decades, our office has successfully defended thousands of people located throughout the Dallas-Fort Worth area in all types of criminal matters – regardless of how challenging or complex.  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.

What To Do if You are Facing Misdemeanor Theft Charges in Texas

Monday, June 10th, 2013

In Texas, a misdemeanor charge of theft covers a wide variety of actions, including shoplifting, buying stolen property, writing bad checks, larceny, embezzlement, theft of services, and other actions that result from the taking and keeping of property belonging to another.  Under the Texas Penal Code, theft is defined as taking the property of another person without consent, either by stealing it or taking it by deception.  In order to prove theft, a prosecutor must show:

  • The individual being charged acted with criminal intent.  Basically, this means that the person knew the property belonged to another, he did not have the right to take possession of it, but took the property anyway; and
  • The individual accused of theft had actual possession of the stolen property.

Although the burden of proof to demonstrate these facts beyond a reasonable doubt lies with the prosecutor, he can do this by witness testimony, photographic or video evidence, or statements against interest made by the person being accused of the theft.

There are four common charges of theft that a person is most likely to face in Texas:

  • General Theft – This involves the taking of somebody else’s property without permission.  This can include picking up a waitress’ tip off of another patron’s table, stealing the bike of the child up the street, or taking someone’s laptop at the library.
  • Writing a Bad Check – This is one that may not be as obvious to some.  While this does apply to a check that is written on a closed or invalid account, it also includes writing a check on your personal account when you do not have sufficient funds to cover the check.  If you do not correct the situation of writing a check with insufficient funds in your account by tendering the owed amount to the person who received the bad check within ten days, you may be charged with theft.
  • Shoplifting – This is a broad category of theft involving removing property from a store without tendering the full value of the property.  A person can be charged with shoplifting if he takes an item and attempts to leave the premises with the item without paying for it at all.  However, shoplifting charges also will apply if you switch tags between a more and less expensive piece of merchandise in order to deprive the merchant the true value of the property.
  • Accepting Stolen Property – Taking possession of property when you know that the person offering the item is not the legal owner of the property will support a charge of theft, even if you do not pay for the stolen item.

There is a sliding scale of charges if you are accused of theft.  The more valuable the item or property, the more serious the charge will be.  This ranges from a Class C misdemeanor to a first-degree felony.  The theft of certain items will automatically qualify for a felony charge, regardless of the value of the item being stolen – this includes firearms, copper, or other specially-protected property.  Penalties for theft include fines and possible jail time.  Texas has an added protection for the victims of theft victims, titled the Texas Theft Liability Act.  This permits the victims to bring a civil action to recover damages.  This means that a person accused of theft can face criminal and civil legal action.  An experienced criminal attorney can help get criminal charges reduced or dismissed and negotiate a settlement in a civil action, easing the burden of the accused tremendously.

For additional information, or if you are accused of theft, it is important to work with an experienced Dallas criminal defense lawyer to help you minimize the impact that a conviction will have on your personal and professional life.  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.

What to do Right After Being Arrested for a DWI in Texas

Tuesday, June 4th, 2013

Although being arrested in Texas under suspicion of a DWI is a very serious matter, it certainly does not mean that you are without legal options.  In addition to finding a qualified DWI defense attorney to represent you, there are also a number of steps you can take following your arrest that can maximize your chances of obtaining a more favorable result in your case.  These are as follows:

  • Take detailed photographs of the scene of your arrest.  Pay particular attention to tire marks, property damage (if applicable), and any unusual characteristics of the street and surrounding area.  Perhaps the lighting was bad, or, the road surface was uneven, which can call into question the fairness and accuracy of your field sobriety test.
  • Consider everything you did within 24-hours leading up to your arrest.  This includes considering how much sleep you had the night before, what you ate and drank during the day, any health issues you experienced, any medication that you may have taken, and who you were with both before and during your arrest.  Any of these issues can be used to defend against your charges (i.e. if you appeared to be visibly intoxicated yet you were taking medication, this can certainly help your case).
  • Return to the place where you had been drinking.  This includes speaking with all people that served you on the night of your arrest, as they are often more than willing to testify that you did not consume enough alcohol to cause you to become intoxicated.
  • If you were out with friends or anyone else, it is important to record where you were at, who drove to each location, the specific routes taken, and the timing at which each person arrived throughout the night.  Trials can be won through detailed testimony in this regard, which requires diligence and hard work on your part to put all of the right pieces together in your defense.
  • Within 15 days of your arrest (or 15 days after you receive a driver’s license suspension notice), be sure to request a hearing from the Texas Department of Public Safety.  This will be forfeited if you do not take this crucial step within the aforementioned timeframe.
  • Try and have your witnesses write down their recollection of what happened within 24-hours following your arrest.  Chances are, such evidence will be used in your favor and also, enable each witness to be deemed credible enough to testify on your behalf.
  • Do not hire the first criminal defense lawyer that comes along.  Not every attorney is qualified to handle your case, as DWI matters take time, experience and knowledge of the court, the judges and the prosecutor.  Being comfortable with your attorney is also crucial; if an attorney seems distracted or uninterested when meeting with you, it is time to move on and find a better fit.

For more information, or if you are facing DWI charges in Texas, it is important to work with a capable criminal defense lawyer to help you fight for your rights.  For more than three decades, our office has successfully defended thousands of individuals who have been charged with a full range of DWI-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.

Resisting Arrest Charge in Texas: What You Need to Know

Monday, June 3rd, 2013

Regardless of whether you were guilty of the underlying charge that prompted the attempted apprehension, resisting arrest is a serious charge in Texas.  You can face a significant fine and jail time.  An experienced criminal attorney can help you minimize the impact that this charge has on your life.

Although you may feel like you were charged inappropriately and therefore were justified in protesting the arrest, it does not matter if you were innocent.  If you resisted arrest and were charged with a crime, you may be facing a serious fight.  However, there are many instances of Texas police officers acting aggressively in serving an arrest warrant because there is a presumption of guilt in the minds of most peace officers; therefore, you should contact an attorney because there may be cause for a reduction or dismissal of the charge.

Section 38.03 of the Texas Penal Code regulates the charges of resisting arrest.  In Texas, resisting arrest involves an action by an individual who prevents or obstructs the ability of a law enforcement officer, or any individual acting under the authority of that law enforcement officer from:

  • Effectuating an arrest;
  • Carrying out a search; or
  • Transporting a person accused of a crime.

The action of resisting arrest must include the use of force and may be in response to an attempt by peace officers to arrest the person charged or another individual.  The circumstances that could lead to a resisting arrest charge include fighting against the attempt of a peace officer to place handcuffs on a person, refusing to get into a vehicle, running away from the arresting officers, or fighting against being placed in a jail cell.

A person facing an indictment of resisting arrest most likely will be charged with a Class A misdemeanor, which entails a fine of up to $4,000 and up to a year in jail.  However, this charge will be upgraded to a third-degree felony if the individual actively resisting makes use of a firearm or other deadly weapon in the resistance.  Under these circumstances, the accused could face a jail term of two to ten years and a fine of up to $10,000.

There are defenses that can be asserted in a case of resisting arrest:

  • The peace officers used excessive force;
  • The accused did not use actual force to resist;
  • The law enforcement personnel did not identify themselves as peace officers (this is different from the accused not recognizing them as such);
  • The alleged actor acted recklessly or negligently in responding to the attempts of the peace officers to arrest him, rather than with the intent necessary to satisfy the statutory requirements of resisting arrest; or
  • The prosecutor did not meet his burden of proof as there were inaccuracies in the state’s evidence, false testimony was given, or evidence was not presented to prove the accusation beyond a reasonable doubt.

There are many different arguments to be made in order to get the charged reduced or dismissed, but it is critical to get in touch with an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.  Charges like this hinge on witness statements and an examination into the history of the officers involved in the arrest, so it is important to provide sufficient time to adequately investigate all the facts surrounding the incident.

For additional information, or if you are facing a charge of resisting arrest, it is important to work with an experienced Dallas criminal defense lawyer to help you enforce your rights.  For more than thirty years, our firm 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.