Monthly Archives:' September 2011

Assault on a Family Member in Texas

Assault-Family Member is a unique charge. You definitely need a Houston Criminal Defense Attorney to help you. What makes it so unique is the person really doesn’t even need to be a family member. It can be a roommate, a girlfriend, or even someone that you used to live with. Of course it also applies to other family members such as children, wives, brothers/sisters, etc.

One thing that usually accompanies a charge of Assault of a Family Member is a Magistrates Order of Emergency Protection (a restraining/no-contact order). Typically (in Harris County) they are 61 days for a misdemeanor and 91 days for a felony. However, if someone goes through a civil court to get the order, it can be up to 2 years. The ones that are given in court can be signed by the judge even if the family members are no longer mad at one another. It is very difficult for a lawyer to remove this order within the 2 or 3 months that it is intact.

For this particular type of crime the elements are…

  1. Intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causing bodily injury to someone else
  2. Intentionally or knowingly threatening someone else with imminent bodily injury
  3. Intentionally or knowingly causing physical contact with another when the person knows or should reasonably believe that the other will regard the contact as offensive or provocative

Assault – family member is a Class A Misdemeanor. A Class A misdemeanor carries a range of punishment of up to one year in jail and up to a $4000 fine. If found guilty, you will get what the state likes to call “an affirmative finding of family violence” on your record. That will be on your record for the rest of your life. Basically what that means is if you ever pick up a Class A Assault-FM in the future it will be enhanced to a felony.

But, if during the alleged assault you cause serious bodily injury or use a weapon against the “victim” you could be charged with Aggravated Assault on a family member which is a 2nd degree felony. A 2nd degree felony carries a range of punishment of 2 to 20 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine. More commonly in Harris county, we see Aggravated Assault-FM by impeding breath. This is the typical charge you will see when there is an allegation of “choking”.

It is very important to have a competent Criminal Lawyer in Houston when handling one of these cases. They are defendable, and there are many potential avenues to keep this from going on your record. A Houston Criminal Defense Attorney that has seem multiple Assault-FM cases should have no problem explaining what possible defenses and outcomes they see in your particular case.

New "Extreme" DWI Law in Texas

Starting this month (September 2011), every Houston DWI Attorney has started receiving their first “Extreme” DWI cases.  The new “Extreme DWI” law went into effect this month, and changes the charge from a class B misdemeanor to a class A misdemeanor for all first time DWI offenders who have a blood alcohol level of .15 or more.

Before this change, any first time DWI was a class B misdemeanor which carries a maximum punishment of 6 months in jail and/or a $2000 fine.    A class A misdemeanor on the other hand is punishable by up to 1 year in the county jail and/or a $4000 fine.  So this law essentially doubles the possible punishment for a first time DWI.

I think that any DWI lawyer in Houston would agree that this doesn’t make much sense.  What is the purpose of the new law? To punish?  To keep people from driving drunk?  Why .15 and not .149?

First of all, most people who are drinking are not going to be thinking about their blood level.  If they are going to drive, they are going to drive.  So this law isn’t going to change anyone’s mind about getting behind the wheel.  Chances are, 99% of drunk drivers are not going to have a clue this law even exists.

If this was meant to “punish”, then we will just have to see exactly what the state plans to do with these cases before we know if that makes any sense.  One thing this law does do is give individuals accused of DWI another reason to refuse a breath test.  I think officers should have to explain this to everyone before they offer a breath test.  The conversation should go something like this:

Officer: “I am requesting a specimen of your breath.  If you refuse you are going to be charged with a class b misdemeanor punishable up to 6 months in jail.  If you take the breath test and blow over .15 then you are going to be charged with a class a misdemeanor and you can get up to 1 year in jail.  Either way, you are not going home…at least until someone posts your bond.”

Arrestee: “I refuse!!!”

Yeah, wishful thinking!  Bottom line is, the law is in effect and you have to be aware of it and the consequences that surround it.  Make sure to hire a Houston DWI Attorney who is willing to work hard for you.

Hiring an Out of County Attorney

Some people say you should never hire a Criminal Lawyer in Houston to handle a case in another county.  The people who argue this usually say that it is better to hire someone who is well connected in the other counties court house.  I think that is a complete myth, and that defendants should be more concerned about hiring someone that cares about them and about their case.

I have heard clients express concern over hiring out of town attorneys a ton of times.  As a matter of fact I heard it today in my office.  A lady (who lives in Houston) came in with a case in Galveston County and mentioned that she had met with a couple of Galveston attorneys.  She mentioned that those Galveston attorneys both warned her not to hire a Houston Criminal Defense Attorneybecause they didn’t know the prosecutors and judges like they do.

I personally think that personal connections mean very little when it comes down to defending a criminal case.  The attitude of the Galveston attorneys probably stems more from the fact that they are concerned that a lot of “their” cases are going to out of town attorneys.  I have worked in more counties than I can remember and I honestly think the results of the cases have been fairly consistent with what I thought would happen on each case.

Each case is very fact specific, so it’s hard to give dismissal percentages, etc.  But almost everyCriminal Lawyer in Houston will probably tell you that they have a gut feeling whether or not a case is getting dismissed or going to trial from the first time they hear the story.  And I can honestly say that I do not think I have ever had a prosecutor treat a case unfairly because it was an “out of town” lawyer.

Bottom line, if you are charged with a crime it is your life, your record on the line.  You need to go with the person who you feel the most comfortable with; the person who you think will fight to get you the best possible outcome.  Not the person who you think is most likely to play golf with the judge.

The Importance of Requesting an ALR Hearing

As a Houston DWI Attorney, the biggest (and one of the most costly) mistakes I see is individuals waiting too long to hire an attorney.  The problem is, when you are charged with DWI in the state of Texas you have 15 days to request an Administrative License Revocation (ALR) hearing.  If you do not do this within the first 15 days, then your license is automatically suspended for a set number of days depending on certain factors.

Houston DWI Attorney can fax the Texas Department of Public Safety and request a live hearing for you.  It is almost always better to have a live hearing as your attorney can subpoena the arresting officer to be there.  Many times the officer does not show up and you win your license case automatically.  A “win” in an ALR hearing simply means that DPS will not suspend your license.

If you procrastinate in hiring an attorney you MUST call DPS and request the hearing yourself.  Once you hire an attorney, the attorney can call DPS and take the case over.  The number to call to request the hearing is very simple to find.  When you were arrested you should have received a paper called a “Temporary Driving Permit”, on the bottom of this page in the fine print will be the instructions and the number you must call.

If you lose your hearing, or never request it, you will have your license suspended and you will have to get an occupational license.  You will also have to pay a reinstatement fee in order to get your license back at the end of the suspension period.  Not acting quickly when you are charged with DWI ends up costing you more in the long run!  So if you or someone you know are in the unfortunate position of being accused of DWI, contact a DWI Lawyer in Houston as soon as possible.  Your license and your checkbook will thank you later.

Finding the Right Attorney for YOU!

Finding the right Criminal Lawyer in Houston is important to anyone with a pending case.  I am a believer that no one attorney is right for every defendant.  I think it is important to visit with at least a few attorneys and go with the person who you feel most comfortable with.

Every Houston Criminal Defense Attorney is different.  Some are young, some are old, some are fit, and some not so much.  But none of this matters as much as the gut feeling you get while talking to them.  Unfortunately some people think 30 years of experience means someone is a better lawyer than 10 years of experience.  The truth is, it is hard to know who is a good lawyer and who isn’t.

There are lawyers in Houston who haven’t even thought about taking a case to trial in 20 years and there are those who want to take every case to trial.  Honestly, both types can be dangerous.  You need to talk to a variety of lawyers, get a variety of opinions, and go with the person you feel is the most sincere in wanting to truly help you.

I know young attorneys who are awesome and some who are just starting. I know old attorneys who are awesome, and some who are burned out.  A lawyer’s “stats” (40 years experience!) don’t necessarily tell you everything you need to know.

So bottom line, make sure you are diligent in your research, and make sure you meet with every lawyer you are interested in in person!  If you can’t reach a lawyer when you are trying to hire them, how likely are you to be able to reach them when they are officially representing you?  If you are arrested, it is definitely a stressful time, but I guarantee you that there is a Criminal Lawyer in Houston that is right for you!