Archive for March, 2015

Dallas County Attorney Answers Some General Questions about Misdemeanor Offenses in Texas

Monday, March 30th, 2015

It is not uncommon for the average person to be unfamiliar with the Texas criminal justice system. Especially, if the person has never had a run in with the law or known someone who has. The following are some of the more general questions Dallas County residents have about misdemeanor offenses in Texas:

How do misdemeanor and felony offenses differ?

Generally speaking, offenses that are labeled as “misdemeanors” are considered to be far less serious crimes than those labeled as felony offenses. As such, misdemeanor offenses carry less serve penalties than felony offenses. For example, felony convictions are usually punishable by a sentence of at least one year in a state penitentiary and have stiff fines. Whereas misdemeanors sentences are usually for no more than one year and are served at the county jail. Some misdemeanor offenses carry no jail time and are only punishable by a fine. Unlike certain felony offenses, misdemeanor offenses also cannot not affect a person’s civil liberties. Therefore, a person charged with even a serious misdemeanor offense, will not lose his or her voting rights or right to own a firearm.

Are there different categories of misdemeanor offenses?

Just like felony offenses, they are varying degrees of misdemeanor offenses. The most serious of misdemeanor offenses, are categorized as Class A, and range to the least being Class C. Some examples of the misdemeanor offenses are as follows:

  • Class A: Carrying a gun without a permit, resisting arrest, and second offense DWI
  • Class B: Minor drug possession, vandalism, indecent exposure and first offense DWI
  • Class C: Possession of alcohol in a motor vehicle, public intoxication and disorderly conduct

What are the maximum penalties for a misdemeanor offense?  

Each category of misdemeanor carries with it a different maximum penalty. The penalties are as follows:

Class A: A fine not to exceed $4,000 and/or up to 365 days in jail

Class B: A fine not to exceed $2,000 and/or up to 180 days in jail

Class C: a fine of not more than $500

Does a person charged with a misdemeanor offense have the right to a trial by jury?

Just like with a felony offense, a person charged with a misdemeanor offense has the right to a jury trial. However, whether a person should exercise this right or not, is a decision best made after the person consults with his or her attorney.

Do I need to hire an attorney if charged with a misdemeanor?

While a person charged with a misdemeanor offense has the right to represent him or herself, it is often not a wise decision. While misdemeanor offenses carry less serve penalties than felony charges, the person’s rights are still in jeopardy. Depending on the charges faced, if found guilty the court could impose a sentence of up to a year in jail and the charge will appear on the person’s criminal record.

If you have been arrested and charged with a misdemeanor offense in Dallas County, it is normal to have questions and need someone to explain to you your rights. However, it is important that the only person you trust with providing you with such information is a seasoned Dallas County Criminal Defense Attorney. With more than 30 years of experience, Attorney Jack Pettit is the attorney you can turn to when you have been charged with a criminal offense. To learn how attorney Jack Pettit can help you, contact the Law Office of Jack Pettit today to schedule an appointment by calling (214) 521-4567. Our office is conveniently located in downtown Dallas, across from the courthouse. We provide services to clients in both English and Spanish. Major credit cards are accepted as well.

 

Drugged Driving: How Rx Drugs Can Lead to a Texas DWI

Friday, March 20th, 2015

It is true that most adults can easily enjoy a single 12 oz. beer, 5 oz. glass of wine, or 1.5 oz. of 80-proof liquor and still be able to safely and legally operate a motor vehicle. This is because for most adults, the human body can process the amount of liquor in a standard drink and he or she will still have a blood alcohol concentration below the legal limit of .08. However, if an adult is on a prescription medication that does not mix well with alcohol, he or she may not be able to safely consume any amount of alcohol and drive, even if he or she has a BAC well below the legal limit. This is because, unlike alcohol, there is no “legal limit” when it comes to drugs of any kind.

Many Texans are unaware that the same medications that they rely on to keep them feeling well, could very well land them in hot water with the law. It is a very dangerous notion to rely on the assumption that if you are simply “following doctor’s orders” that will be okay. This is simply not true. If you are pulled over and arrested for “drugged driving”, being able to prove that you were taking all of your medications exactly as prescribed by your physician, is not a valid defense in Texas. Instead you can and most likely will be charged with DWI.

If you are taking any prescription or even over the counter medications, you need to be aware that the law does not care, so to speak, if you were doing so properly or if you were abusing the drug. Plain and simple, drugged driving is against the law. To avoid a possible arrest for DWI, remember the following before taking any medication(s) and driving:

  • Never drive until you know how a particular medication will affect you. Whenever you receive a new medication, whether over the counter or prescription, it is important to learn how the medication will affect you. While a list of possible side effects and warnings usually accompanies all medications, different medications can affect different people quite differently. If you experience any side effects that would impair your ability to operate a motor vehicle safely, do not drive while taking this medication. You may also want to speak with your physician or pharmacist about prescribing a different medication.
  • Medications and alcohol do not mix well. While you may be able to take a particular medication without experiencing any side effects that would interfere with your ability to safely operate a motor vehicle, this could change if you mix that same medication with alcohol. Since alcohol is itself a drug, it should not be mixed with any medication(s) without consulting first with your pharmacist and/or physician.
  • Before combining medications consult with your physician and/or pharmacist. Just like alcohol, combining a prescription drug with another prescription drug or over-the-counter drug can be a big mistake. Again, the best rule of thumb is to always consult with a physician and/or pharmacist before mixing medications and/or changing your medication routine.

If you have been arrested and charged with drugged driving, the first thing you need to do is to meet with an experienced Dallas County DWI Defense Attorney. Only a seasoned DWI Defense Attorney will be able to thoroughly review your case and determine if you have any defenses to the charges against you. As a former prosecutor, Dallas County DWI Defense Attorney Jack Pettit understands exactly what needs to be done to fight a DWI and win. To determine how Mr. Pettit can help you, call The Law Office of Jack Pettit today at (214) 521-4567 to schedule a free and completely confidential consultation. Our office provides services to clients in both English and Spanish. Major credit cards are accepted as well.

Dallas County Criminal Defense Attorney Answers the Most Frequently Asked Questions about Public Intoxication

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2015

It is not against the law to have a drink and walk up and down the streets of Dallas or any other Texas town for the matter. However, if you have a few too many drinks and trip and fall or become rowdy while out in public, you may have crossed the line between legal behavior and “public intoxication.” While public intoxication is not a serious offense in Texas, it can be quite embarrassing and have damaging outcomes. The following are some of the most frequently asked questions Dallas residents have about public intoxication:

What does it mean legally, to be publically intoxicated?

According to the Texas Penal Code, a person is considered to be publically intoxicated if he or she appears to be intoxicated to such a degree, that he or she poses a serious risk to him or herself or others.

What is considered a “public place”?

Texas law defines a public place as any location that is open to the public. This includes commonly thought of public places, like streets, sidewalks and parks. However, the definition of “public places” also includes, places like bars, clubs and restaurants. Even the common areas of apartment complexes, hotels and hospitals meet the law’s definition of “public places.”

What penalties can a person charged with public intoxication face?

A first time offense of public intoxication is considered to be a Class C misdemeanor. As such, a person who pleads guilty to this offense can face a maximum fine of up to $500. If a person charged with public intoxication has three or more prior convictions for the offense within the previous 24 months, he or she could be charged with a Class B misdemeanor. This more serious charge is punishable by a fine of up to $2,000 and/or up to 180 days in the local jail.

Are DWI and public intoxication different?

Public intoxication and driving while intoxicated are completely separate offenses. If a person is charged with DWI and the prosecutor is unable to prove its case against the person, the charges cannot be reduced to ‘public intoxication.’

Should I hire an attorney if I am charged with public intoxication?

Unfortunately, often people who are charged with public intoxication think that there is no point in hiring an attorney to challenge the charges because they face no jail time and the fine is minimal. But, while the offense may only be a misdemeanor, it can pose some serious consequences. If found guilty, the charge will appear on the person’s criminal record. Which means that a person may have to disclose the offense to potential employers on job applications, on forms to receive government or financial assistance, and even to college or universities on admissions applications. In choosing to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney, the attorney will not only fight to protect your rights, he or she will also work to keep your criminal record clear.

If you have been arrested and charged public intoxication it is important that you understand your rights. Only an experienced Dallas County Criminal Defense Attorney can review the charges against you and determine your best course of action. For more than 30 years Attorney Jack Pettit has provided aggressive representation for clients charged with both misdemeanor and felony criminal charges. As a former prosecutor, attorney Jack Pettit can provide you with the superior legal representation you need when facing criminal charges. To schedule a free and confidential consultation contact the Law Offices of Jack Pettit today at (214) 521-4567. Our office provides services to clients in both English and Spanish. Major credit cards are accepted as well.

What a Dallas County Criminal Defense Attorney Wants You to Know about Class C Misdemeanors

Sunday, March 1st, 2015

In Texas, the least serious category of criminal offenses are known as Class C misdemeanor offenses.  While Class C misdemeanors carry the least possible amount of punishment of any criminal offense, the charges should not be taken lightly. All too often persons charged with Class C misdemeanors treat them more like mere traffic violations, than like criminal charges. Not taking a criminal charge seriously can be a big mistake and one that can have a detrimental impact on a person’s life.  Crimes that are classified as Class C misdemeanors, include the following offenses:

  • Assault
  • Bail jumping
  • Criminal trespass
  • Disorderly conduct
  • Gambling
  • Leaving a child unattended in a vehicle
  • Minor in possession of drugs, alcohol or tobacco
  • Minors driving under the influence
  • Operating a motor vehicle with an open container
  • Shoplifting
  • Writing bad checks

If you have been charged with a Class C misdemeanor, there are several things you need to know, before you decide to simply pay the fine:

  • Paying the fine is not your only option. When charged with a Class C misdemeanor, paying the fine is not your only option. In fact you may even have defenses to the charge, which could lead to a dismissal of the charges or a finding of not guilty. But you will never know if you could have beaten the charges, if you do not consult with a criminal defense attorney.
  • A conviction means a criminal record. Whether you simply pay the fine or are found guilty, a conviction of even a Class C misdemeanor offense means that you now have a criminal record. Having a criminal record can impact a person in many different ways. Certain employers will not hire a person with a criminal record, which cost a person his or her job or potential job prospects. A person with a criminal record may also find it difficult to obtain admission into certain college or vocational programs. Once on your record, a criminal conviction can stay there forever.
  • Hiring a local experienced criminal defense attorney can make a big difference. Anytime you are charged with a criminal offense, your rights and future are at stake. The difference between representing yourself pro se (or even hiring just any attorney) and hiring a local experienced criminal defense attorney can be the difference between acquiring a criminal record and walking away without a record. To make sure you receive the best possible representation, you want to hire an attorney that not only has vast experience handling misdemeanor charges, but who is also familiar with the local rules and courtroom procedures.
  • You may be eligible to file for an expunction. Certain Class C misdemeanor charges can be expunged from a person’s record. This means that the arrest and/or the conviction will not appear on the person’s criminal record. An experienced criminal defense attorney can determine if your record can be expunged.

 If you have been arrested and charged with a Class C misdemeanor it is important that you speak with an experienced Dallas County Criminal Defense Attorney as soon as possible. While a Class C misdemeanor is the least serious category of criminal offenses, a conviction still means a blemish on your criminal record. For more than 30 years Attorney Jack Pettit has worked diligently to protect the rights of clients charged with both misdemeanor and felony offenses. As a former prosecutor, Jack Pettit brings a special level of experience to his clients. Call the Law Office of Jack Pettit today at (214) 521-4567 to schedule a free and confidential consultation. Our office provides services to clients in both English and Spanish. Major credit cards are accepted as well.