Texas Criminal Punishment Levels

May 18, 2013

Criminal Defense Lawyer | DWI, Drug, Theft & Assault Charges

By Collin County Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal

(972) 562-7549

www.thecollincountylawyer.com

Offense Levels in Texas:

Class C Misdemeanors:  Punishable by a fine not to exceed $500:

Traffic offenses

  • Assault by contact
  • Drug paraphernalia
  • Disorderly conduct
  • Theft under $50 (unless theft committed by check)
  • Insufficient funds

Class B Misdemeanors: Fine not to exceed $2,000 and not more than 180 days confinement in county jail:

  • DWI (72 hours minimum jail; 6 days minimum with open container)
  • Possession of Marijuana (less than 2 oz.)
  • Theft over $50 but less than $500
  • Theft by check (over $20 but less than $500)
  • Criminal mischief over $50 but less than $500 (vandalism)
  • Violation of a protective order
  • Indecent exposure
  • Racing on a public road
  • Prostitution

Class A Misdemeanors:  Fine not to exceed $4,000 and not more than 180 days confinement in county jail:

  • DWI (2nd offense) (minimum 72-hours jail)
  • DWI over o.15 BAC

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How do I select a lawyer in a Criminal case?

May 18, 2013

Criminal Defense Lawyer | DWI, Drug, Theft & Assault Charges

By Collin County Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal

www.rosenthalwadas.com

(972) 369-0577

In Texas, if you have been charged with an offense you have three basic choices.  You have the choice to plead guilty or not guilty, the choice to testify on your own behalf, and the choice to select a judge or jury to asses punishment if trial is unsuccessful.  These are not simple choices, fun choices,  or easy choices.

Your lawyer should be able to give you as complete a picture as possible with regards to the facts, the law, and the probable outcomes so that you are comfortable making these important decisions.  Additionally, your lawyer should make it their business to be a skilled advocate for trial and/or dealing with the prosecutor or law enforcement.  You need to be comfortable with your attorney and no one attorney is perfect for everyone.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions in…

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How Do You Appeal A Texas Driver’s License Suspension For A DWI?

May 18, 2013

Criminal Defense Lawyer | DWI, Drug, Theft & Assault Charges

By Collin County Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal

www.thecollincountylawyer.com

(972) 369-0577

Texas DWI’s have two sides.  There is a criminal side and the administrative side (i.e., the driver’s license suspension.)  Today I’m only discussing the administrative driver’s license suspension side.

Texas has an “implied consent” law.  This means when you got your driver’s license, you implied to the Department of Public Safety (“DPS”) that if an officer ever offered you a breath-test, you would comply.  If you fail to comply – or you do comply and blow over 0.08 – then your driver’s license can be suspended.

What the DPS media blitz omits is that this isn’t automatic.  You have 15 days from the date of arrest to submit an appeal.  The instructions are on the sheet of paper they should have given you when they confiscated your driver’s license.

You are appealing the officer’s decision to ask you to…

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How the Michael Morton Act Overhauls the Texas Criminal Discovery Process

May 17, 2013

By Collin County Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal

(972) 369-0577

www.rosenthalwadas.com

Governor Perry signed the Michael Morton Act into law on May 16, 2013.  It’s intent is to broaden the amount and ease with which a criminal defendant is entitled to access information about a case.  The law goes into effect on January 1, 2014.

You can read the specific changes made to Texas Code of Criminal Procedure 39.14 here.

“Open-File Policies”

Though the effects of new legislation are never known until the law is put into practice and courts have had a chance to wrestle with the issues — this new law mandates a de facto “open-file policy” for all District and County Attorney Offices across the state only a bit broader.

D.A.’s offices in Texas typically have their own individualized policies about how they share information with the accused.  Many counties such as Dallas and Tarrant have had long-standing open-file policies meaning the Defendant had access to practically anything they requested from the prosecutors with certain exceptions.  Collin County began to have it’s open-file policy in 2011.

Previous Open-File Policies Offered No Guarantees or Real Protections

Even with open-file policies, the state was/is never truly bound to share certain information under the lame duck version of 39.14 unless formally ordered to produce information by a Judge.  Prosecutors frequently request Defendant waive certain rights in exchange for information about the case.  For example, in exchange for a police-report a Defendant would have to waive the ability to complain to the court about certain unrelated types of information not turned over or about when information would be due to be turned over.  Waiving rights is often a part of pleading guilty — but is difficult for those asserting their right to trial.

Open-file policies generally give Defendant’s no assurances as to when information would be disclosed.  Understanding police and prosecutors are human too — they often learn new information the Friday before a Monday trial or even after the trial has started.  The new information might not be given to the defense in time for meaningful use.

What the Michael Morton Act Changes

Easier Application Process:  Previously a Defendant would have to petition the Court and show “good cause” in order to get a limited amount of information — and a police report actually wouldn’t have been one of the things a court would order to be given over under 39.14.  Now a Defendant only needs to make a timely request directly to the prosecutor.  The Defense no longer needs to apply to the Court to order disclosure and attempt to prove “good cause” — a maneuver which would typically engender resistance from prosecutors.

More Information:  The Michael Morton Act requires production of offense reports, recorded statements, witness statements, and police statements.  The act even appears to allow discovery of work product of prosecutors and their investigators that are not “otherwise privileged.”

Ease in Production:  The bill allows for electronic discovery and duplication which typically eases the process for everyone.

Post Conviction Discovery:  The bill imposes production of exculpatory or mitigating evidence to the Defense which is not a new requirement.  What is new is required production of exculpatory or mitigating evidence even after a person is convicted.  This would almost certainly assist a person in clearing their name even after being convicted.

What the Bill Means for Those Charged with Crimes

It depends on where the charges are being brought.  As discussed above, many counties already had “open-file policies” which went a large way to alleviating many of the problems 39.14 previously presented.  For counties previously with a closed-file policy this act presents a tremendous change.

The act alleviates the Defense from some of the leverage prosecutors had in they will no longer have to waive unrelated rights in exchange for basic information.

While the act re-codifies the State’s obligation to produce exculpatory or mitigating evidence (called Brady material), this area remains a struggle because Defense lawyers and prosecutors frequently disagree about what constitutes Brady material due to it’s subjective nature.

*Jeremy Rosenthal is an attorney licensed to practice in the State of Texas.  Nothing in this article is intended to be legal advice.  For legal advice about any situation you should contact an attorney directly.


Defending Assault Charges in Texas — Who is the Victim Anyway?

May 8, 2013

By Collin County Criminal Defense Attorney Jeremy Rosenthal

(972) 369-0577

www.thecollincountylawyer.com

Many family assault arrests follow a predictable pattern.  The police are called to a situation where a husband and wife are frazzled, breathing heavily, and at opposite ends of the house.  Many officers are bound by department policy to make an arrest if someone makes an allegation of assault simply to do nothing more than diffuse a possibly more violent situation.

But how do the police determine who was the aggressor and who was the victim… or if both are the aggressors, then who should go to jail?

If you think about it, it is an extremely tough call.  It’s not as if the officers can watch an instant replay like a football game.  They have to use the information they’re given which is often conflicting and from highly emotional people suffering from either mental disorders or who could be intoxicated.

Sometimes one person may have left the scene.  This person obviously can’t give their side of the story so it’s not uncommon this is the person who ultimately gets charged.

Obviously police are subject to the same biases and prejudices we all carry.  They may be more prone to blame an angry husband simply because they just think it’s more likely a male is assaultive.

Juries must be taught to see behind the police reasoning.  Once jurors see the police don’t have an omniscient vantage point of the situation — the charges can be demystified greatly.  Once the jury sees a family assault situation is confusing, intense, and emotional — they can also see how it’s possible the wrong person went to jail.

*Jeremy Rosenthal is an attorney licensed to practice in the State of Texas.  Nothing in this article should be considered as legal advice.  For legal advice about any situation you should contact an attorney directly.

 


Can I Serve My Child Alcohol in Texas?

May 8, 2013

By Collin County Criminal Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal

www.thecollincountylawyer.com

(972) 369-0577

Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code Section 106.104 makes it a criminal offense for a minor to consume alcohol.  The minor, however, has an affirmative defense if the alcohol is consumed in the visible presence of the minor’s adult parent, guardian, or spouse.

“Minor in consumption” is a class c misdemeanor carrying a maximum fine of $500.  Additionally, there are several ways to become eligible for expunction following a Minor in Consumption arrest.”

*Jeremy Rosenthal is an attorney licensed to practice in the State of Texas.  Nothing in this article is intended to be legal advice.  For legal advice about any situation you should contact an attorney.

 


Getting Help for Addiction

May 8, 2013

By Collin County Criminal Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal

(972) 369-0577

www.thecollincountylawyer.com

I pride myself on being a zealous advocate for the accused.  I’m a lawyer — not a therapist, drug counselor or judge.  My first view of any legal problem is to look for legal and factual defenses for my client’s benefit.  If I can ethically acquit my client based on the facts and the law I will do my best to do so.

When clients confide in me they have a substance abuse issue with drugs or alcohol, this is secondary in my analysis of their case.  This is for several reasons.  First, my client’s personal life is honestly none of my business and mature lawyers recognize people come for legal help and not therapeutic or spiritual help.  Secondly, when a person is in my office for help, they generally have enough people judging them already and they simply don’t need one more.  Finally — and most importantly — criminal convictions and/or state-mandated treatment don’t necessarily equal justice nor do they assure addressing the underlying addiction any more than private treatment does.

Make no mistake — being clean and sober helps your lawyer in a case involving drugs or alcohol abuse.  For clients who show an interest, I’m happy to recommend any and every form of treatment available.  

I frequently tell clients that getting treatment allows me to fight for them on two-fronts and not just one.  I can always fight the legal case and if we don’t get our way with the judge or jury — we have a great argument for leniency.

*Jeremy Rosenthal is an attorney licensed to practice in the State of Texas.  Nothing in this article is intended to be legal advice.  For legal advice about any situation you should contact an attorney directly.