As a criminal defense lawyer in Houston I see many types of cases. Some of the hardest types of charges for my clients to understand are charges where they claim they were not the ones responsible for the action, or they did not know it was going to be as bad as it turned out.
For example, I had a client charged with aggravated robbery with a deadly weapon. My client decided with a few friends that they were going to fight with a kid and steal his shoes. When the person they wanted to fight showed resistance, one of his friends pulled out a gun and robbed him at gunpoint. My client did not understand why they would charge him with a deadly weapon, when he did not have the gun.
Another case I had was a burglary of a habitation. In this case my client was the getaway driver. Her friends broke into a house and stole items, while my client served as a lookout and as the driver. When they were caught, she did not understand why she was being arrested for burglary of a habitation since she never went into the house.
The answer for both lies in section 7.02 of the Texas Penal Code. Section 7.02 states:
§ 7.02. CRIMINAL RESPONSIBILITY FOR CONDUCT OF ANOTHER.
(a) A person is criminally responsible for an offense committed by the conduct of another if
- acting with the kind of culpability required for the offense, he causes or aids an innocent or nonresponsible person to engage in conduct prohibited by the definition of the offense;
- acting with intent to promote or assist the commission of the offense, he solicits, encourages, directs, aids, or attempts to aid the other person to commit the offense; or
- having a legal duty to prevent commission of the offense and acting with intent to promote or assist its commission, he fails to make a reasonable effort to prevent commission of the offense.
(b) If, in the attempt to carry out a conspiracy to commit one felony, another felony is committed by one of the conspirators, all conspirators are guilty of the felony actually committed, though having no intent to commit it, if the offense was committed in furtherance of the unlawful purpose and was one that should have been anticipated as a result of the carrying out of the conspiracy.
So with this section that they often call the “law of parties”, a person can be charged with a crime if they are acting with the individuals who actually committed the crime. These matters can sometimes get very complicated, and if you have a similar situation it is very important that you get assistance from a criminal defense attorney in your area.
Immigration Holds in Harris County Jail
If you are undocumented in the United States and you get arrested in Harris County, there is a good possibility that an Immigration “ICE” Hold will be placed on you once you get to the county jail. From speaking to many of our clients, what usually happens is the intake officers ask you if you are a citizen or legal permanent resident. If you answer “no”, then they put you in a different holding cell so that you can be interviewed by immigration. If immigration determines that you should be placed into deportation proceedings, then an ICE hold will be placed, and you will not be able to bond out.
Sometimes, even if you have an ICE hold, you can still pay the bond, but it is generally not a good idea. What ends up happening is, you pay the bond, and when you are getting released from jail immigration is waiting for you to send you to the immigration detention center. The problem is you never finish your criminal case. Once immigration finds out that you have a pending criminal case, they will usually send you right back to the county jail pursuant to a bench warrant from the criminal court. What tends to happen is the person in custody misses their criminal court date because they are with immigration. Missing criminal court can cause your bond to be forfeited, and that means you (or your bonding company) lose the money from the bond, causing more problems.
It is typically better to finish the criminal case first, and then work on the immigration case. In our office we always sit down with our client and their family and advise them what is the best option for them. Sometimes the best option is to plea guilty quickly to get the individual over to immigration where we can request a bond. Other times, the best thing to do is stay at the county jail and fight the criminal case, because some criminal convictions can essentially be automatic deportations. Either way, when the case is over the person in custody gets transferred to immigration.
There are some exceptions, we have had clients with ICE holds who were not taken to Immigration, and we have had undocumented clients who were not given ICE holds at all. There is no firm system in place, it seems to be a case by case evaluation that immigration makes. Every situation is different, if you find yourself having questions about this issue please feel free to contact us at our office number 713-222-2828 and we will be more than happy to evaluate your case.
Good Lawyers Come in all Shapes and Sizes, Bad Lawyers do too
When looking for a criminal attorney it is very important to do your research, ask the appropriate questions, and be comfortable with the attorney who is representing you.
I became a lawyer when I was 25 years old, and I have been blessed to have enough work to have been in the courtroom almost every work day since I started practicing. Now, as a lawyer in my 30’s, I still sometimes get the “looks” and the questions asking if I am even old enough to be a lawyer. I have heard multiple times that “older is better”, “older equals more experience”, etc…and while it pertains to some attorneys, that could not be further than the truth.
There are many outstanding attorneys who have over 20 years of experience. Attorneys that I would be willing to place my life in their hands if I ever had any legal trouble. But there are also attorneys that have been licensed many years that I would NOT pay $1 to if they were the only attorney available.
On the flip side, there are many young attorneys who are wonderful. Who fight day in and day out, who surround themselves with good mentors, who I would trust if I was a client. And then of course, there are young attorneys who are just starting and simply don’t have a clue what is going on.
It’s tough when you find yourself in a situation where you don’t know who to hire. The best bet is to ask a bunch of question to perspective attorneys, and go with someone who you will feel comfortable with.
Even as a somewhat young attorney, I am always honest about what my strategy would be, my experience on a particular type of case, etc. I have hired co-counsels in past to help me on difficult cases, even if it means some of the money isn’t coming my way. Because at the end of the day, it’s not about me, it’s about the person whose life is on the line.
Recently I was fired on a case where my client was facing a range of punishment of 25 years to life in prison. The facts were not great, I did my research, worked the case, and was finally given an offer well under the minimum of 25 years. The client fired me on good terms, stating that he appreciated everything I have done, but that, “he needed an old lawyer on his case, someone with more experience.”
His family told me the same thing and later I saw the name of the attorney who took the case over. I had never heard of him so I looked him up and I saw that he was an older gentleman in his late 50s, but I also noticed that he went to law school and graduated in 2011. So he has only been an attorney for 2 years, with much less experience than I have.
Now this attorney might be one of the wonderful recent graduates who surrounds himself with the right mentors, and does an excellent job for his clients….or he might be horrible. Of course I don’t know for sure, but I am assuming that this client hired him simply because of his age, because that is what he told me. But the point is, you should not judge a book by its cover. Do your research, ask your questions, and make sure you are properly represented.
When charged with a crime, especially in Harris County, it is very important to remain drug and alcohol free while on bond. This could potentially be the case even if you are not charged with a crime that involves alcohol and/or drugs.
Of course drugs are illegal, so you shouldn’t be doing them anyway. But it seems silly to tell people that they shouldn’t be drinking when it’s legal. I agree, but unfortunately, some judges do not care if it is legal, if they know you are drinking they could potentially take your bond away and put you back in jail.
One particular case I worked on recently was a possession of Marijuana case. I warned my client ahead of time to not do drugs and to always be on time to court. In an effort to try to get the case dismissed, I sent my client to take a drug test (which he passed). He took this test on a Friday, and his court date was Monday. Since he was clean and passed his drug test on Friday, he figured it was ok to do drugs during the weekend.
Fast forward to Monday, and my client shows up late to court. The judge asked about the status of the case, and then he sent my client to get drug tested (warning him that a failed drug test would result in his bond being revoked). My client sits in the probation department for hours, claiming that he doesn’t have to urinate, and then eventually leaves. He doesn’t go back to court, and now he has a warrant for his arrest. I have not heard from him since. He went from having the opportunity to get his case dismissed, to making his problems three times as bad.
Alcohol related cases sometimes carry a pre-trial consequence of having an ignition interlock placed in your vehicle. If you do not have a vehicle, an at home interlock might be assigned. If you end up in a bad court, you could possibly even have a SCRAM device (an ankle monitor which takes a reading from your sweat glands to see if you have been drinking) installed on your person.
Similar to the consequences listed above, if you blow into your interlock device with alcohol, or if you SCRAM monitor reads alcohol, you run the risk of your bond being revoked.
While most of the time interlocks are used for alcohol related cases (DWI mostly), I have seen them used on cases such as Failure to Stop and Give Information (Hit and Run) and Domestic Violence Cases.
Whether or not this happens on your case depends a lot on the court you are placed in, and the judge who is hearing your case. Most criminal attorneys in Houston who work consistently in the Criminal Justice Center can give you an idea of the tendencies of the judge handling your case.
As a Criminal Defense Attorney in Houston I often get asked, “What can I do to screw myself up in court?” There are multiple things that you can do to call negative attention to yourself in court. In this blog I am going to talk about a few of the things you can do wrong. And yes, these things do happen….frequently.
- Not Dressing Appropriately. You would not believe how many times I have had clients show up in shorts. Shorts are not appropriate for court. Neither is wearing your pants below your butt. If you walk into any court you will usually hear a bailiff giving a speech telling someone to pick up their pants and tuck in their shirt. Its court, not the club. Dress nice or you run the risk of being singled out.
- Being Late. People are late every single day, in every single court. It’s nothing new, and the judges get sick of it. You will usually get one free pass, but the second time you run the risk of getting your bond revoked. If that happens you could possibly be taken into custody and be forced to post another bond. Your bond company will not be happy with you either. And don’t say, “I had a flat tire”, or “my car broke down”….even if it’s true, just trust me.
- Your Phone Rings, You Fall Asleep, You Talk To Much, PDA! These are pretty much self-explanatory. If your phone rings everyone stares at you. If you fall asleep the bailiff wakes you up, you get scared, and everyone laughs. If you talk, they tell you to shut up or to sit in the jury box, if you are kissing on your significant other, they will call you out and kick your “sweetie” outside. All of these things do the one thing you do not want…call attention to you. Just lay low in court and be quite. There will be plenty of time for all of that once you leave court.
- Do Drugs On Bond. This usually comes into play for the people who break the rules above. If you run into a judge in a bad mood, you run the risk of being sent for a drug test. If that drug test is positive you could wind up locked up once again. You shouldn’t be doing drugs in the first place, but you especially shouldn’t be using when there is a chance that you could be sent for a drug test by a criminal judge.