Archive for February, 2014

Do Criminal Charges Stay on My Record in Texas?

Thursday, February 27th, 2014

A criminal charge can leave you feeling defeated, frightened, and uncertain of what your future holds.  It is not surprising to feel this way, as one of the worst consequences of a criminal charge or conviction is the negative impact this has on your ability to rent an apartment or home, obtain a job, or attend a college or university.  However, keep in mind that simply being charged with a crime does not necessarily mean a potential landlord, employer or school admissions department will have the ability to find this rather sensitive information out.

While some background checks do pull up pending criminal charges, and prior charges that have been dismissed, most of them only pull up prior convictions.  The information extracted from a background check is dependent upon what the potential landlord, employer and/or school admissions department is looking for.  Nevertheless, a simple criminal charge that has been dismissed, or that is pending, can prevent you from being able to rent a home, get a job, or attend school.

When you apply to rent an apartment or home, apply for a job, or apply for admission to a college or university and are required to complete background check forms, you will likely be asked if you have ever been charged with a crime, what the disposition was, as well as whether you have prior criminal convictions.  If you have been charged with a crime before and found to be innocent, or the charge was dismissed, this charge may show up on your background check as “dismissed.”

However, a potential landlord, employer, or admissions office department may still consider you an unfavorable applicant simply because you were charged with a crime.  An employer cannot reject your application for the simple fact that you were charged with a crime that was later dismissed, but the mere fact of potential criminal activity may still have a negative impact on your application.

This one characteristic may set you apart in a negative light from the other applicants, and unfortunately happens frequently.  It is sometimes difficult for landlords, employers and college or university admissions offices to set aside the fact that you were charged with a crime.  They may ask what lead you to being arrested in the first place.  This is an unfair consequence of being wrongfully charged with a crime.

A Dallas criminal defense attorney can provide you with the counsel and advice as to how to handle a prior criminal charge when applying to rent an apartment or home, applying for a job, or applying to attend a college or university.  A skilled Dallas criminal defense attorney can help you address your criminal charge and hopefully move on without a blemish on your record.  Fighting your criminal charge as early as possible will enable your attorney to communicate with the prosecutor to reach a quick resolution to get the charge dismissed.

Contact Dallas County Criminal Defense Attorney Jack Pettit Today

If you have been charged with a crime, your record is at stake even if you are innocent.  It is imperative that you speak with a Dallas County criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to minimize the negative consequences of your criminal charge.  Dallas Criminal Defense Lawyer Jack Pettit has focused the bulk of his more than thirty year career on defending the rights of his clients.  With his prior experience as a prosecutor, Attorney Jack Pettit thoroughly understands the Texas criminal justice system, and his experience as a former prosecutor has helped Jack Pettit provide superior representation to his clients as a criminal defense attorney.  To discuss your criminal matter with Attorney Jack Pettit, please call our office today at (214) 521-4567.  Our office conveniently provides bilingual services in English and Spanish.  We also accept major credit cards.

 

Dallas Criminal Defense Attorney Discusses Differences Between Pleading Guilty and No Contest

Thursday, February 20th, 2014

Most people in Texas are aware of the legal differences between pleading guilty and not guilty.  But what about no contest, or “nolo contendere”?  We hear this from watching television shows, going to the movies, listening to the radio, and simply talking among friends, family members and co-workers.  While the term may seem self-explanatory, it is nonetheless important to understand the difference between these two plea decisions, especially if you have been charged with a crime in Texas.

Many people decide to represent themselves, and this often leads to conviction that may have been lessened or avoided altogether if a Dallas criminal defense attorney had been involved.  By representing yourself, you are at a disadvantage if you do not fully understand the distinction between a plea of guilty and a plea of no contest, and the ramifications for each plea.

By pleading guilty, you are essentially admitting guilt, and accepting punishment.  By pleading no contest, you are not admitting guilt, but you are accepting punishment as if you had pleaded guilty.  A plea of no contest cannot be used against you in a civil lawsuit as an admission of guilt.

It may seem strange to plead no contest if you are innocent, so, why plead no contest if you didn’t commit the crime you are charged with?  Pleading no contest is a decision that is sometimes the best option for your particular situation.  The decision to plead no contest should be discussed with an experience Dallas criminal defense attorney.  A common reason why many individuals charged with a crime plead no contest is because they do not believe they will have a good chance of proving their innocence at trial.  In such cases, by accepting punishment, charged individuals may be able to avoid potentially long jail terms.

For example, if you are charged with possession of cocaine, and someone else had put the cocaine in your bag or pocket, you may have a very difficult time proving that the cocaine is not yours.  It is definitely unfair that you, as an innocent person, may have to accept a form of punishment simply to avoid potentially harsher punishment if found guilty at trial.  Therefore, pleading no contest can help you avoid serious punishment and you do not have to admit guilt.

How Do I Know If I Should Plead No Contest?

Before making such an important decision as pleading guilty or no contest to a criminal charge, it is essential that you consult with a Dallas County criminal defense attorney.  Your attorney can evaluate the facts of your case to give you an opinion of what is likely to happen at trial.  If it is more likely that you will be found guilty, your attorney may suggest that you plead no contest to avoid the potential for serious jail time.

However, it is always up to you as the charged individual whether or not you want to plead not guilty, guilty, or no contest.  Whatever decision you make, you need a Dallas criminal defense attorney by your side to ensure you are reaching the best resolution possible to your criminal charge.

Contact Dallas Criminal Defense Attorney Jack Pettit Today

If you or someone you know has been charged with a crime, whether it be drug possession, driving while intoxicated (DWI), assault, battery, or receiving a traffic ticket, you need the help of a Dallas County Criminal Defense Lawyer who will fight to achieve the best outcome possible for your particular situation.  Dallas Criminal Defense Attorney Jack Pettit has over thirty years of experience, both as a prosecutor and as a criminal defense attorney.  Mr. Pettit has the skill and dedication necessary to advocate for you and avoid the detrimental consequences of a criminal conviction.  To schedule an appointment with Mr. Pettit, please call our office today at (214) 521-4567.  We offer bilingual services in English and Spanish and also accept major credit cards.

The Texas Points System and Your Driving Record

Saturday, February 8th, 2014

Traffic tickets aren’t just annoying.  They have the potential to result in a huge financial cost to you unless you are able to amend the traffic ticket (most frequently a speeding ticket) to a violation that does not add points to your Texas driver’s license.  Most states have points systems that provide a way to collect taxes in the form of fines from individuals who have a certain number of points on their driver’s licenses.  In Texas, the accumulation of a certain amount of points on your driver’s license results in the assessment of surcharges and, can also cause your auto insurance premiums to increase.

Along with the accumulation of points comes an increase in your automobile insurance rates.  Being issued citations for speeding or other traffic violations gives notice to your insurance company that you are not as safe of a driver as you are without a speeding ticket on your record.  Therefore, it is in your best interest to do what you can to avoid being pulled over and being issued a speeding ticket (or other traffic violation) in the first place.

How Many Points Are Assessed for Each Traffic Ticket and How Long Do They Stay on My Record?

The amount of points a driver is assessed for a speeding or other traffic ticket conviction depends on the speed of the car, the appearance of unsafe driving and the speed limit where the act occurred.  Points are accumulated separately each time a driver is pulled over, issued a citation, and found guilty of the charge.  Under Chapter 708 of the Texas Transportation Code (called the “Driver Responsibility Program”), a points system assesses points to your driver’s license for traffic convictions as follows:

  • Conviction for moving violation (except speeding less than 10% faster than the posted speed limit in a location other than a school zone): 2 points
  • Conviction for an offense relating to child passenger safety systems: 2 points
  • Conviction for a moving violation resulting in an accident: 3 points

It just takes a few tickets to accumulate enough points to be assessed a surcharge.  Further, if you drive without a valid license, fail to have automobile insurance, or operate an automobile while the registration is suspended in the previous 36 months, you will be assessed surcharges between $100 and $250 each year.

If you accumulate more than 6 points on your driver’s license during a period of 36 months, you will be required to pay a surcharge of $100 for the first 6 points, and $25 for each additional point to the Texas Department of Public Safety.  Traffic tickets have gone from those annoying occurrences that happened once in a while to violations that result in not only fines, but points on your driver’s license, and an increase in your automobile insurance rates.

In order to prevent the expensive consequences of accumulating points on your driver’s license, you need a Dallas traffic ticket attorney to amend your ticket to a charge that does not result in the accumulation of points.  Only an experienced Dallas County traffic ticket attorney can help you avoid the costly aftermath that could even lead to the suspension of your driver’s license if you accumulate a substantial amount of points.  For these reasons it is extremely important to consult with a Dallas traffic ticket attorney immediately following any traffic ticket you have been issued.

Contact Dallas Traffic Ticket Attorney Jack Pettit Today

The consequences of accumulating points on your driver’s license from multiple traffic tickets can cost you money from fines to an increase in your insurance rates to the suspension of your driver’s license.  It is better to take care of a traffic ticket with the help of a Dallas County Traffic Offense Lawyer instead of just paying the fine.  Dallas Traffic Ticket Defense Attorney Jack Pettit has helped hundreds of clients avoid getting points on their driver’s license by amending a traffic ticket to a lower violation that will not stay on their record as a moving violation.  To schedule an appointment with Mr. Pettit, contact our office today by calling (214) 521-4567.  Our office conveniently offers bilingual services in both Spanish and English.  We also accept major credit cards.

The 411on Reasonable Suspicion and DWI Stops in Texas

Saturday, February 1st, 2014

Being charged with driving while intoxicated (DWI) in Texas can be very serious and  may leave an irreversible blemish on your criminal record.  You may also have trouble getting a job or being accepted to a college or university.  Every step that takes place after being pulled over by a police officer is crucial.  Accordingly, if you are facing DWI charges, or have been arrested under the suspicion of driving while impaired, you should ask yourself the following:  did the police officer have the power to pull you over in the first place?  This is a question that everyone should ask immediately after being charged with driving while intoxicated.

Oftentimes, people believe that the second they are pulled over, they are automatically in trouble, whether guilty or not.  Police officers are in a position to intimidate the person who they have pulled over.  The act of being pulled over itself can create fear and anxiety.  With all of this anxiety, many people forget that police officers must follow a certain set of important rules to protect your constitutional rights.

Under Texas law, an officer may pull a driver over if he or she has “reasonable suspicion” that the driver is committing a crime.  Reasonable suspicion is subjective in that an officer’s feeling or opinion about a driver’s conduct is what gives him or her the authority to pull the driver over for a limited investigation.  While officers are supposed to have a strong basis for their reasonable suspicion that a driver is committing a crime, such as driving while intoxicated, many officers find nearly any reason to pull someone over.  If no reasonable suspicion exists, then a DWI charge may be dismissed.

What Are Some Examples that Give Rise to “Reasonable Suspicion” in Texas?

 Officers may believe they have reasonable suspicion that a driver is driving while intoxicated when they observe the following conduct:

  • Weaving across lanes;
  • Turning without a signal;
  • Erratic driving, with frequent changes in speed;
  • Failing to stop at a stop sign, or coming to a rolling stop;
  • Running a red light; and
  • Causing an accident, or making contact with objects along the roadside (such as light polls or signs).

An officer’s interpretation of reasonable suspicion could be legitimate if any of the above behaviors are obvious, but he or she has a huge amount of discretion to determine if a driver appears to be driving while intoxicated.  While all officers should act in accordance with the law, respecting your constitutional rights, some officers take advantage of a driver being unaware of the law.

With the help of a seasoned Dallas DWI Defense Attorney, you may be able to have your charge dismissed completely if the officer who pulled you over did not have reasonable suspicion.  If you have been charged with a DWI, it is important to act fast so that your attorney can quickly address the officer’s misconduct in pulling you over.  The longer you wait, the less likely you will be able to avoid a DWI on your record.

Contact Dallas Criminal Defense Attorney Jack Pettit Today

If you or someone you know has been charged with a DWI, it is imperative that you consult with a Texas Criminal Defense Attorney as soon as possible.  Your constitutional rights are at stake and you need someone by your side to protect those rights, no matter what!  Attorney Jack Pettit has more than thirty years of experience and focuses a large portion of his criminal defense law practice on defending clients charged with a DWI.  Mr. Pettit has helped his clients receive the best possible outcome to a DWI charge, whether that be having the charge dismissed or resolving the matter with very little punishment.  Mr. Pettit will defend your rights to the fullest.  Contact Dallas DWI Defense Attorney Jack Pettit today at (214) 521-4567 to schedule an initial consultation.  Our office provides bilingual services in both English and Spanish, and also accepts major credit cards.