Archive for November, 2013

The Consequences of Leaving Your Child Unattended in a Vehicle in Texas

Saturday, November 23rd, 2013

We live in a very busy world today where we look to the quickest possible way to take care of something.  If you are running some errands and only want to go into a store for a few minutes, you may decide to leave your car with the flasher lights on at the front curb of the store to avoid a long walk from the main parking lot.  What you may not know is that if you have a child that you leave in your car unattended, you may be subject to criminal penalties.

Under Texas law, if you are aware that your child is in the car and leave your child in the car for even just five minutes, you may be charged with a crime that is considered a class C misdemeanor.  The law states that the child must be less than seven years old and left alone.  If there is another child in the car who is at least fourteen years old, then this older child may lawfully supervise the younger child.  The crime of leaving your young child unattended in a vehicle is part of the least severe class of misdemeanors, but it is still a charge that you may have to face.  Along with a criminal charge comes fines and possibly appearing in court.

We all know how hot Texas summers can be.  There are many safety concerns with leaving your child unattended in your car.  You may only intend to be in a store for a few minutes, but that few minutes could turn into ten, twenty or even thirty minutes if there are long lines in the store or if there’s something else holding you up in the store that is out of your control.  Not only is your child’s health at risk, but your child could be abducted or injured.  Your child may find a way to release the brake on the car or roll the windows up so that there is no ventilation on a hot day.

Even though the law states that your child must be under the age of seven and unattended, don’t read this to mean that it is okay to leave your child unattended if he or she is seven years of age or older.  You still may be charged with a crime if a police officer is unsure of the child’s age and you will have to plead your case in court.  Further, it is still in both you and your child’s best interest to avoid leaving your child unattended, regardless of your child’s age.

Contact an Attorney Who Specializes in Class C Misdemeanor Defense

If you have been charged with leaving your child unattended in a motor vehicle, whether it be a car, van or trailer, and that child is under the age of seven, you should contact an attorney experienced in the area of class C misdemeanor defense.  Attorney Jack Pettit has over thirty years of experience as a criminal defense attorney.  Mr. Pettit has represented thousands of clients in a variety of criminal cases, but he is especially skilled in the area of defending clients charged with class C misdemeanors.  Going to court alone without the comfort and advice of a seasoned attorney may leave you with a criminal record that could have been avoided.  Allow Mr. Pettit to investigate your situation.  No matter how small a criminal charge may be, it could come back to haunt you later on in life.  Please call 214-521-4567 to speak with Mr. Pettit about your case.  We conveniently offer bilingual services in English and Spanish.  We also accept major credit cards.

What’s The Difference Between Deferred Adjudication and Straight Probation?

Monday, November 18th, 2013

The criminal process is stressful and confusing for most people.  Many people convicted of crimes are able to avoid jail time by their case resulting in a deferred adjudication or probation.  While these options allow individuals to freely move about, there are stringent requirements that must be complied with.  So, what’s the difference?

In Texas, probation is known as community supervision.  Community supervision, or probation, allows a defendant to stay in the community and avoid jail time, while being supervised by the court.  Depending on the criminal charge, the supervision period may be as long as two years for a misdemeanor, and ten years for a felony.

There are two types of community supervision in Texas.  The first type is called deferred adjudication, and the second type is called regular community supervision, also known as “straight probation.”  Deferred adjudication is a milder form of community supervision, and straight probation is stricter, as explained below.

Deferred Adjudication

Deferred adjudication is an option generally available for first time offenders.  This form of probation is less serious than straight probation.  If you are found guilty of a crime as a first time offender and are offered deferred adjudication and finish the term successfully, there will be no formal conviction of the crime – the charge is simply dismissed.  The criminal charge against you will be sealed from the public and will not be disclosed. However, if you are given deferred adjudication and violate the terms of the supervision, a judge may then be able to sentence you to jail time within the range of the crime charged.

Straight Probation

Straight probation, also often called regular community supervision is more serious than deferred adjudication.  First, straight probation may result in a conviction and cannot be sealed or expunged as is the case with deferred adjudication.  Second, if a defendant chooses to have a jury trial, straight probation is typically an option for punishment, unlike deferred adjudication, where a jury cannot make that determination.  Third, if you are given straight probation and violate the terms of the probation, it may be revoked, and you may be facing jail time.  But, the maximum possible jail time you may receive for violating your straight probation will be determined at the time you plea.

Why you need to speak with an attorney

As the above information suggests, probation options in Texas are very confusing.  Therefore, it is important that you discuss the possible options available to you prior to being sentenced for a crime you are charged with.  It is never a good idea to go to court alone.  This often results in the judge ordering a sentence right away that may be avoided had legal counsel been with you.  If you have been charged with a crime and are concerned about the possible consequences, you should speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney right away.

If you feel you may be eligible for probation, especially if you are a first time offender, an attorney can look at all aspects of your case and determine what the best course of action is for you.  The most important thing to remember is that if you are giving community supervision/probation, whether by way of a deferred adjudication or straight probation, you must comply with all conditions of the community supervision, or it may be revoked and you may be sentenced to jail time.

If you would like to discuss this matter further with an experienced criminal defense attorney, or simply want more information about the probation process in Texas, contact Attorney Jack Pettit.  Mr. Pettit is a seasoned Dallas criminal defense attorney who can evaluate your case and make sure your rights are being protected.  Contact our firm today by calling 214-521-4567 to discuss your case with Mr. Pettit.  Don’t wait to act, as experienced legal representation can increase the chances of you avoiding jail time.  Our office provides bilingual services in Spanish and accepts most major credit cards.

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

Monday, November 18th, 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.

DWIs and Drunk Driving on Private Property in Texas

Thursday, November 7th, 2013

More often than not, people who are pulled over and have been out drinking and driving are charged with a DWI in a public place.  But, what happens when you are driving drunk on your own property?  It is a common misconception that you are immune from arrest or being charged with a DWI if you are on your own property.  While you may be safe in some cases, you may not be safe in other cases.

In Texas, the law regarding being charged with a DWI technically states that you must be driving under the influence and operating a motor vehicle in a public place.  However, sometimes it is difficult to determine what a public place is.  For example, a parking lot is sometimes considered private property, but open to the public, so this would be considered a public place.  Also, you may live on what is considered a private road where other residents live, so you may believe this is private property.  You may be correct, but if the street is open to the public, or if a non-resident is able to access the road, this road may very well be deemed a public place for purposes of being charged with a DWI.

The police can arrest you if they have probable cause to do so for driving under the influence.  Even if you are operating your motor vehicle on what you believe is your own property, the police still may have probable cause to believe your conduct is a threat to yourself or others.  Therefore, you should not assume that you are completely safe from arrest or conviction if you are driving drunk on your own property.

Oftentimes people may be confused about what public place means and what private place or private property means.  It seems logical to assume that you can do what you want on your own property as long as you are not harming anyone else.  While this may be the case if you are in your own home, this is not always the case if you are outside of your home.  You are less likely to cause harm to others if you are drinking in the comfort of your own home.  But, if you have been drinking and get behind the wheel, even if you do not start the car, you have run the risk of harming someone else, even if you are on your own property.

A key example is where you may get behind the wheel in your driveway and back up while someone is walking across on the sidewalk, or perhaps even through your lawn.  Even if this person walks through your lawn, which is your own property, and you hit this person when leaving your driveway, you may certainly be facing DWI charges in addition to more severe charges for injuring another person.  Don’t take the chance of exposing yourself to criminal charges.  You should assume that no matter where you are when you are driving a motor vehicle, whether on a public street or on your own property, you may be subject to a DWI conviction if you are under the influence.  That is why you should speak with a criminal defense attorney experienced with DWI charges.

If you have been charged with a DWI for driving under the influence on what you believe to be private property, contact our office today to speak with Attorney Jack Pettit.  Mr. Pettit is an experienced criminal defense attorney who has handled thousands of DUI cases in Dallas and the surrounding areas.  Don’t assume that you are immune from Texas law if you were not driving in a public place while intoxicated.  Mr. Pettit will look at every fact available in your case to determine if the police had probable cause to charge you with a DWI.  Contact our office today by calling 214-521-4567.  We conveniently offer bilingual services in both English and Spanish.  We also accept most major credit cards.

Texas Pretrial Diversion Program for Drug Charges

Friday, November 1st, 2013

When you are charged with drug possession, you feel as though your life has been crushed, especially if you have been caught with a very small amount of marijuana or a small amount of a controlled substance.  You have made a mistake and are unsure of just how serious the consequences may be.  You could be facing significant fines and possible jail time.  However, Texas law requires that counties with populations of 200,000 or more people establish drug court programs as a way to rehabilitate drug users as opposed to punishing them with jail time.

In Dallas, the drug court program is known as DIVERT, which means Diversion and Expedited Rehabilitation and Treatment.  The program allows certain individuals to go through a program that educates them about drug abuse, assists individuals in other education and employment services, and helps transition individuals into a drug-free environment.  For first time drug offenders, this option may be considered the best way out of a potentially devastating situation where you may be left with a criminal record.

What Crimes Are Eligible for Dallas County’s DIVERT Program?

Dallas County’s drug court program covers the following drug-related charges:

  • Possession of Marijuana (between five ounces and five pounds);
  • Possession of a Controlled Substance (less than one gram) – this includes cocaine, ecstasy, meth-amphetamine, narcotics, etc.; and
  • Controlled Substances Obtained by Fraud (for example, if you have obtained narcotic pain medication by false means)

If you have been convicted of a prior drug offense, no matter how small, you may not be eligible for the DIVERT program, however, an attorney may be able to negotiate with the prosecutor who charged you in order to show that there are other reasons why you should be eligible for the DIVERT program.

What Crimes Are NOT Eligible for Dallas County’s DIVERT Program?

If you have been charged with distribution or delivery of a controlled substance, a DWI offense, assault or any other prior criminal charge, you may not be eligible for the DIVERT program.  This is why it is extremely important to get stay clean after your first offense, because otherwise, you may be facing serious jail time.

What Happens After I Complete the DIVERT Program?

If you have successfully completed the DIVERT program, the charge against you, whether it was for possession of less than one gram of a controlled substance, or a small amount of marijuana, will be dismissed and will not be on your criminal record.  However, if you do not successfully complete the program, the prosecutor will pursue the original charge against you.  While a lot is at state in the DIVERT program, the process allows offenders to get their lives back on track and walk away from the program with a clean slate.

Contact Jack Pettit Today to Discuss Your Criminal Matter

If you have been charged with possession of drugs, you need to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.  Attorney Jack Pettit has the skill and knowledge to seek the best resolution possible for your particular drug charge.  Depending on your criminal history, you may be eligible for programs that do not require jail time.  The worst thing you can do after being charged with a drug possession crime is to not seek the advice of an experienced attorney.  Mr. Pettit is the seasoned attorney you need to ensure you are not being overly punished for a small drug possession crime.  Contact our office today to schedule an appointment with Mr. Pettit, by calling 214-521-4567.  We offer services in both English and Spanish, and also accept major credit cards.