Archive for September, 2013

What Happens at an Arraignment in Texas after Being Charged with a Crime

Sunday, September 29th, 2013

Being arrested and charged with a crime, whether minor or serious, is a frightening experience.  The criminal process can be very confusing, and many people don’t know what to expect after being charged with a crime.  After being charged with a crime, an arraignment will be scheduled for you to appear in court where you are formally charged and meet face to face with the prosecutor and a judge.

What is an arraignment?

In Texas, an arraignment is a brief hearing that is conducted after being arrested.  You will appear before a judge, and the prosecutor will read the charges that have been filed against you.  The most important aspect of this short hearing is that the judge will ask you whether you want to plead guilty, not guilty, or no contest.  You will be asked to acknowledge that you are in fact the person that has been charged.  The judge will tell you what the maximum penalty for your charge is.  This scares many people because the alleged crime may not be deserving of the maximum punishment.

How should I plead?

The most important thing to remember about an arraignment is that you do not have to plead guilty if you in fact committed the crime.  This is confusing because it seems logical to plead guilty if you committed the crime you are charged with.  However, most people plead not guilty because this gives your attorney and the prosecutor time to negotiate.  Oftentimes, crimes can be reduced and negotiated out of court.  If you do decide to plead guilty, the judge may enter a sentence at that time.

Why it is important to seek legal representation?

Because the process of pleading guilty, not guilty, or not contest to a crime you are charged with is extremely confusing and also very important to the outcome of your case, it is imperative that you seek legal counsel immediately.  An experienced attorney will ensure that the police followed all of the proper procedures, and can do so by looking at what is called “discovery.”  This typically consists of the complaint and the police report.

While you certainly can appear for the arraignment without an attorney, this often is not advisable because you are not giving yourself the opportunity to allow an attorney to look at your case and prepare you for what to expect.  Having an attorney stand by your side will provide you with comfort and confidence that you simply will not have by appearing alone.  It is also important not to wait until the last minute to hire an attorney.  If you miss your arraignment, this will result in a warrant being issued for your arrest.

If you have been charged with a crime, no matter how severe the charge is, and you have an upcoming arraignment hearing, contact our offices as soon as possible.  Attorney Jack Pettit is an experienced Dallas criminal defense attorney who will defend your rights to the fullest.  Mr. Pettit will guide you through the arraignment process, advise you of your plea options, and will work diligently to achieve the best outcome possible in your case.  Don’t go through this process alone.  Allow Mr. Pettit to evaluate every single fact of your case, from the time leading up to arrest, to any potential searches.  Sometimes the police make mistakes.  Mr. Pettit will investigate to make sure the charge against you is legitimate.  If you would like to speak with Mr. Pettit to discuss your case, please contact his office at (214) 521-4567.  We offer services in both English and Spanish.  We also accept major credit cards.

Hiring a Dallas Criminal Defense Attorney for Charges of Electronic Solicitation

Sunday, September 22nd, 2013

A man was recently sentenced to 176 months in prison after he pled guilty to the charges of electronic solicitation. The 44 year old male was arrested after a 37-year old man saw his ad on Craigslist which appeared to solicit teenage boys for sex.  The 37-year old responded to the ad, pretending to be a 13-year old teen.  A detective, posing as a high school freshman arranged to meet the ad poster in a park, where he was later arrested and charged with electronic solicitation.  In light of this story, what can we take away from it?

Changes in State and Federal Laws

In recent years, the federal government has encouraged local law enforcement personnel to set up online sting operations such as this one as a means of cracking down on Internet solicitation.  Electronic solicitation can consist of contact via cell phone, Facebook, Twitter or other cell phone text messages and can be prosecuted in cases of suggestive communications between two teenagers who are only a couple of years apart in age. In other cases, “evidence” can easily be blown out of proportion or even misunderstood completely.

Further, under the provisions of Jessica’s Law, law enforcement is actively seeking to make as many arrests for sex crimes regarding teens or children as possible. State and federal laws have been tightened up in order to invalidate previously successful defenses to Internet solicitation; under these new laws a simple transcript of a chat room conversation could result in a conviction of electronic solicitation. Prior to the advent of these new laws when the state prosecutor charged the alleged perpetrator with attempted indecency with a minor the defense could raise a number of legitimate defenses. Some of those defenses included:

  • Whether the Defendant made an apparent step toward completing the underlying offense.
  • Whether the Defendant actually traveled to the meeting location agreed upon in chat room or email conversations.
  • Whether the Defendant actually had the intent of completing a sexual act.
  • Whether a minor was actually ever involved.

Since most states have recently made amendments to electronic solicitation laws, the appearance of soliciting sexual activity through Internet channels from a child the solicitor believes to be under the age of 16 may be sufficient for charges and even a conviction.  In many cases, the nature of the charges coupled with a Defendant’s computer hard drive may mean that the state has hard evidence which can be difficult to defend. Even so, Internet solicitation cases resulting from police sting operations bring into question the issue of entrapment, particularly when the police officer was only posing as a teenager or child. An experienced Dallas criminal defense attorney with a solid background in defending those charged with electronic solicitation may also be able to argue such issues as:

  • Were “lines crossed” with regard to the police officers’ chat dialogue which could lead to a reasonable conclusion of entrapment?
  • Was the Defendant under significant mental or emotional stressors at the time which were exacerbated under the police sting operation?
  • In the transcripts of chats or emails between the Defendant and the alleged victim, was sexual activity clearly proposed or was the language vague enough that a statute was not violated?
  • Did officers purposely choose an age for their “victim” which would increase the penalties for the Defendant in the event of a conviction?

Obviously no reasonable adult condones true electronic solicitation of teens or children, however there are many cases in which mistaken identity or entrapment may come into play. In other cases, maybe one bad decision led to the charges of electronic solicitation. Whether you are absolutely innocent of the charges of electronic solicitation or you made a mistake you now greatly regret, you need to ensure you have an experienced Dallas criminal defense attorney by your side from the very beginning.

Jack Pettit is a Dallas criminal defense attorney who has substantial experience defending those charged with sex crimes. Mr. Pettit understands what is at stake in your case; aside from being sentenced to jail or prison, you could end up having to register as a sex offender for the remainder of your life. Whether your specific situation warrants working to get the charges dropped altogether or negotiating a lighter sentence, Jack Petitt truly cares about your future and will provide zealous representation on your behalf. Call (214) 521-4567 today for a confidential free consultation.

What Happens at an Arraignment in Texas after Being Charged with a Crime

Friday, September 20th, 2013

Being arrested and charged with a crime, whether minor or serious, is a frightening experience.  The criminal process can be very confusing, and many people don’t know what to expect after being charged with a crime.  After being charged with a crime, an arraignment will be scheduled for you to appear in court where you are formally charged and meet face to face with the prosecutor and a judge.

What is an arraignment?

In Texas, an arraignment is a brief hearing that is conducted after being arrested.  You will appear before a judge, and the prosecutor will read the charges that have been filed against you.  The most important aspect of this short hearing is that the judge will ask you whether you want to plead guilty, not guilty, or no contest.  You will be asked to acknowledge that you are in fact the person that has been charged.  The judge will tell you what the maximum penalty for your charge is.  This scares many people because the alleged crime may not be deserving of the maximum punishment.

How should I plead?

The most important thing to remember about an arraignment is that you do not have to plead guilty if you in fact committed the crime.  This is confusing because it seems logical to plead guilty if you committed the crime you are charged with.  However, most people plead not guilty because this gives your attorney and the prosecutor time to negotiate.  Oftentimes, crimes can be reduced and negotiated out of court.  If you do decide to plead guilty, the judge may enter a sentence at that time.

Why it is important to seek legal representation?

Because the process of pleading guilty, not guilty, or not contest to a crime you are charged with is extremely confusing and also very important to the outcome of your case, it is imperative that you seek legal counsel immediately.  An experienced attorney will ensure that the police followed all of the proper procedures, and can do so by looking at what is called “discovery.”  This typically consists of the complaint and the police report.

While you certainly can appear for the arraignment without an attorney, this often is not advisable because you are not giving yourself the opportunity to allow an attorney to look at your case and prepare you for what to expect.  Having an attorney stand by your side will provide you with comfort and confidence that you simply will not have by appearing alone.  It is also important not to wait until the last minute to hire an attorney.  If you miss your arraignment, this will result in a warrant being issued for your arrest.

If you have been charged with a crime, no matter how severe the charge is, and you have an upcoming arraignment hearing, contact our offices as soon as possible.  Attorney Jack Pettit is an experienced criminal defense attorney who will defend your rights to the fullest.  Mr. Pettit will guide you through the arraignment process, advise you of your plea options, and will work diligently to achieve the best outcome possible in your case.  Don’t go through this process alone.  Allow Mr. Pettit to evaluate every single fact of your case, from the time leading up to arrest, to any potential searches.  Sometimes the police make mistakes.  Mr. Pettit will investigate to make sure the charge against you is legitimate.  If you would like to speak with Mr. Pettit to discuss your case, please contact his office at (214) 521-4567.  We offer services in both English and Spanish.  We also accept major credit cards.