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Do I really need to hire a criminal attorney?


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Assault, DWI, theft, weapons charges? Do I really need to hire a criminal defense attorney to defend me or can I defend myself?

You do not have to hire a criminal attorney to defend you if you have been charged with a misdemeanor or felony — the better question is should you?  The bottom line is yes, you really should.  Sometimes, even when faced with a minor crime such as a traffic violation (class C misdemeanor) – the most important thing you need to consider is do you want this charge on your permanent record?

In today’s competitive job market it is difficult, to say the least, to secure employment even if you have a sterling reputation.  Almost all potential employers will tell you that even if you are lucky enough to make it as a candidate for the job, just one negative item on your background check can and most likely will eliminate you from being considered for the job.

If that is the case for just a class C misdemeanor, consider what implications a DWI or a felony charge will have on your record.  Every employer considers factors such as ethics and liability when hiring a new employee.  They may not be able to obtain insurance for you if you have a DWI or other charges on your record.  If an employer is ever sued and the complainant presents that an employee has a criminal record, it can result in the case being lost (even if the case is based on trumped-up allegations)  All of these factors will weigh against you during the hiring process, making your chances of obtaining a good job very slim.

So think carefully before you walk into a courtroom and face the judge alone.  Criminal defense attorneys that have been in business for a long time, such as Mark Morales & Associates, are in and out of these courtrooms daily.  They know the law, they know the process and they know how to win your case…. Do you?

You can call and get a completely free consultation before you make a decision that will effect the rest of your life.  You can also call and find out how to have a criminal charge removed (expunged) from your record if you or another attorney were unable to prove your innocence in a court of law.

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How Do I Get My Criminal Record Expunged?


 
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Posted by on July 26, 2011 in Expunctions

 

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Pre-Trial Intervention Program


Graffiti in Bucharest, July 2007.

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If you are a first-time offender with a misdemeanor offense in Williamson County, it is possible to have your case dismissed through the Pre-Trial Intervention Program.

The PTI Program is available for offenses such as:

  • Possession of Marijuana
  • Theft
  • Criminal Mischief
  • Driving While License Invalid
  • Assault
  • And other minor misdemeanor charges

The attorneys and staff at Mark Morales & Associates can assist you in the application process by answering any questions and assisting you with the required statements to help increase the possibility that you will
be accepted into the program.

The application includes basic information such s:

  • Name
  • Address
  • Employment Information
  • Education Information
  • Substance Abuse History

The application also requires two short statements:

  1. The applicant’s description of the offense.
    They must accept full responsibility for the misdemeanor offense.
  2. The applicant’s special interests and goals for the future.
    This is so that the county prosecutor and Williamson County Attorney’s office can determine how essential it is for you to get your case dismissed.

Once the application is completed and submitted, the prosecutor makes a determination as to whether or not he believes the applicant would be an appropriate candidate for the program.  If the prosecutor considers the applicant to be a strong candidate, an interview will be scheduled with the Williamson County Attorney’s
office
.  During the interview, the applicant should show remorse and reiterate their acceptance of the charges and take full responsibility for the offense.  At the time of the interview, the applicant must submit to a drug test to ensure compliance with the rules and terms of the program.  If the interview is successful and the applicant passes the drug test, he is admitted to the program pending a contract signing that outlines the rules and
conditions of the program.  It is not uncommon for the application process to take up to two months; the time may vary depending on how quickly the applicant completes the application and the amount of time it takes for the prosecutor to make a determination.

The program is for six months and includes the following requirements:

Successful completion of the program results in a dismissal of the case.  Once the case is dismissed, he is ultimately eligible to apply for an expunction.  Unfortunately, DWIs are not eligible for expunctions after the
successful completion of the Pre-Trial Intervention Program.  Failure to successfully complete any of the
requirements of the program results in a probationary offer that he is required to accept and will not result in a dismissal of the case.

 
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Posted by on July 19, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Do I Have to Talk to the Police?


In the United States, a person who is going to...

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The simple answer is no!

There are different factors in every case, so whether you have to talk to the police if you are detained for any reason, depends on the facts of the situation, the circumstances, the location, etc.  We have a outlined a few guidelines that are smart to follow if you are ever pulled over or detained by the police for questioning.

There are many important points to remember during any interactions with law enforcement, whether you have committed a crime or not. Most importantly you should always remain polite and courteous.

What You Should Never Do When Dealing with Law Enforcement:

  • Do not interfere with or obstruct the police during any investigation as this could lead to criminal charges being filed against you. 
  • Never lie or give false documents to the police as this is also a crime.
  • Do not run from the police. 
  • Do not argue or resist arrest, even if you are innocent or you believe the police are violating your rights. 

Your Legal Responsibilities to the Police When Being Questioned:

  • Sometimes an officer may stop and question you on the street for no apparent reason; this is perfectly legal. 
  • You are not required to answer their questions so long as it remains a voluntary exchange. 
  • You are permitted to end the interview and walk away at any time as the conversation is consensual. 
  • If you are unsure about the encounter, you are permitted to ask the officer if you are free to leave.  If you are free to leave, calmly and politely walk away.  
  • If an officer however pulls you over while driving or makes it clear that you are not permitted to leave, you should not leave but remain where you are and act politely and courteously.  If you do leave, you could be charged with evading arrest.  

What are My Legal Rights?

If you are stopped and the police ask to search your car/vehicle, you are permitted to say no and you should.  However, the police may ultimately search the car either by obtaining a warrant or if they believe your car contains evidence of a crime.

You have the right to remain silent.  Use it.  Police may tell you that they want to hear your side of the story or that by not talking to them you are making yourself look guilty.  You should not listen to this. You should invoke your right to remain silent and ask for an attorney.  Remaining silent will not make you look guilty, nor does asking to have an attorney present.

Having an attorney with you at an interview with the police will help your case, as the attorney will be able to instruct you as to what questions you should answer and as how to answer the questions while still telling the truth.  When you express your desire to remain silent and to have an attorney present, it is important to remain civil and polite to the police.  Whether you are guilty or innocent, in most cases you should remain silent.

If you are arrested and taken to jail, make sure not to discuss your case over the phone as your phone call may be recorded; only your phone conversations and meetings in jail with your attorney are not allowed to be listened to by the police.  However, if you have been detained or arrested and an officer asks you for your name, address, or birth date, you should provide him with this information as your refusal to do so would be a crime for Failure to I.D.

What About My Miranda Rights?

A lot of times people are concerned about being read their Miranda rights/warnings.  Miranda warnings are required to be read when a person is in custody and is subject to interrogation.  This means that Miranda warnings are only required to be read to a person when they have been arrested and officers are either expressly questioning them or saying things to the person to elicit an incriminating response from the person.  However, just because you may not have been read your Miranda rights does not mean your case will automatically be thrown out.  Miranda warnings deal with the admissibility of confessions.  If you confessed to a crime while in custody and you weren’t read your Miranda rights, then the confession may be considered inadmissible in court.  In order to invoke your Miranda right to an attorney you have to be clear and unambiguous that you do not wish to talk to the officers any further until you have spoken with an attorney.  Once a person invokes their right to an attorney, the police must listen to their request and cease interrogation immediately.  However, an officer may ask you standard booking questions such as your name and address without it being considered a violation of your Miranda rights.  Unfortunately, anything a person who is not in custody or under arrest voluntarily says to the police may still be used during court proceedings despite the fact Miranda warnings were not issued.

What If I’m a Juvenile and I get Stopped by the Police?

Questions also arise in the case of juveniles and whether a parent or guardian’s presence is required.  A common misconception is that a parent/guardian has to be present whenever officers wish to speak to juveniles.  However, police may speak to a juvenile at school without the presence of a parent/guardian.  A parent or guardian’s presence is only necessary if the child is being talked to at a juvenile center.

If you or someone you know has been contacted by the police about a potential charge or if you have any questions about what you should say to the police, contact our office immediately so that we may help you fight your case or even prevent you from being charged.

 

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License Suspension in Texas


Texas law requires that the department shall suspend a person’s driver’s license if the department determines that the person had an alcohol concentration of .08 in accordance with Section 49.01 (2)(B) of the Texas Penal Code, while operating a motor vehicle in a public place or while operating a watercraft; or (2)  the person was a minor on the date that the breath or blood specimen was obtained and had any detectable amount of alcohol in the minor’s system while operating a motor vehicle in a public place or while operating a watercraft.

Being arrested for a DWI in Texas does not necessarly result in having your driver’s license suspended.  There are options available to contest the suspension or to allow you to continue to drive legally despite the suspension.  Remember that each state has different laws regarding DWI’s and suspensions so it is important to find an attorney in your state that is knowledgable about DWI laws.

To assist you with the process of a license suspension in Texas, here is a break-down of what happens after a DWI arrest in Texas:

  • After you are arrested for a DWI, you have 15 days to request an ALR hearing.
  • A criminal defense attorney may request the hearing for you or you may request one yourself prior to hiring an attorney.  ALR hearings are used to contest driver’s license suspensions.
  • At an ALR hearing, license suspensions may be overturned completely or the suspension may be postponed until a later time pending the outcome of the hearing.

Driving is a necessity to life, so of course it’s important to ensure that you can continue driving legally. If an ALR hearing is not successful in overturning your license suspension, another option available in Texas counties, such as Williamson, Travis, and Hays, is to file a petition for an Occupational Driver’s License.  An Occupational Driver’s License is an incredibly helpful option that allows you to maintain the ability to drive as needed despite your license being suspended as a result of a DWI arrest or other offense.

Here is a list of items you will need in order to have the petition granted and continue driving after your license suspension:

  • A letter from your employer explaining your need to drive.  The letter should include a list of all counties in which you may need to drive during your license suspension along with the times of day and days of the week that you would need to drive.
  • An SR-22 insurance form from either your insurance company or another insurance company.  An SR-22 is a supplement to the insurance that you currently have.
  • Filing Fee’s.  Fees vary by county in which the offense was committed
  • A copy of your three-year driving record.  This can be obtained from Texas DPS. You can visit their website and download the application at http://www.txdps.state.tx.us/InternetForms/Forms/DR-1.pdf
  • A personal letter listing any activities in which you need to attend outside of work, i.e:
    • School classes,
    • church,
    • court settings,
    • AA meetings,
    • doctor appointments,
    • childcare,
    • carrying out essential household duties, etc.
    • This list must also include all of the counties in which you may need to drive during your license suspension along with times of day and days of the week

Once all of the requirements have been submitted, a petition is drafted and filed with the court.  Once your petition is filed in court, a hearing may be required, depending on where the petition is filed.  If the court grants you an Occupational Driver’s License you will be eligible to drive for the reasons and times approved by the judge in your petition and outlined in the order resulting from the court’s approval.

IMPORTANT POINTS TO REMEMBER:

  • While driving with an Occupational Driver’s License the order should always be in your possession. 
  • If you are pulled over and do not have the order in your possession you will be arrested. 
  • Once your suspension period is over, you simply have to pay a reinstatement fee and you will receive your regular license back. 

If you have any questions or have been charged with an alcohol related offense, feel free to visit us on Facebook and post a question, leave a comment or fill out a free case evaluation form with no obligation.

 

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Texas Statewide No-Refusal Weekend – first of its kind in the nation ever!


Fireworks display at the UT tower during Diwal...
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Everyone loves the Fourth of July.  It has become the unofficial celebration of summer as people across the United States enjoy the very essence of independence and freedom.  Everywhere you go you see families’ barbequing, neighborhood block parties and friends hanging out wherever it’s cool – lakes, pools, rivers, beaches – everyone enjoying a good time just waiting for the sun to go down and the fireworks to start. Unfortunately, the days following the Fourth of July, many of those same people reunite at hospitals, police stations, attorney offices – and even more unfortunate, funerals.

Last year in Texas alone, officers responded to 337,000 crashes over the Fourth of July weekend.  In 2009, the “no refusal holiday program” was created to enforce Texas DWI laws in order to help lower alcohol related accidents.  The program allows law enforcement and prosecutors to designate a holiday weekend, such as New Year’s Eve, Halloween, or Super Bowl weekend, where law enforcement officers can stop a driver for DWI suspicion and take a blood sample to test for Blood Alcohol Content (BAC).  According to a press release Tuesday in Austin regarding the statewide program— “drivers also can be arrested with a BAC below 0.08 when a law enforcement officer has probable cause, based on the driver’s behavior, to believe the driver has lost the normal use of mental or physical faculties due to the introduction of alcohol or any substance into his or her body.”  Along with extra patrol on the road, there will also be additional enforcement on the water all across the state enforcing no refusal.  So not only are you at risk drinking and driving, but drinking and boating as well.

The concept of this program is simple – you cannot refuse.  If you are stopped for a busted tail-light, not using your blinker, not wearing a seatbelt, speeding or any other minor traffic violation and the officer suspects that you are intoxicated you will be required to have your blood drawn or take a breathalyzer test .  During “No Refusal Weekends,” judges are on standby to sign a warrant permitting the police to take a blood sample after a suspected driver refuses to submit to a breath or blood test.  Basically, if you drive on a “No Refusal Weekend,” and an officer suspects you have been drinking, he can obtain a sample of your blood to test for BAC whether you like it or not.

You might wonder how law enforcement is able to do this without violating your rights.  When you obtain a Texas driver’s license, you have implicitly consented to provide a sample of breath or blood when it is requested by law enforcement agents during a DWI arrest but you may refuse until the law enforcement agent obtains a valid search warrant.  Under normal circumstances, an officer has to wait for a warrant to obtain a sample of your blood and judges are not always readily available… unlike “No-Refusal Weekends” when judges are standing by to issue these warrants at a moment’s notice.

The best thing you can do if you have been drinking during a “No Refusal Weekend” is to call a cab or have a designated driver.   If you have any questions about your arrest or rights after a DWI, DUI, BWI or any other alcohol related offense in Texas please join us on Facebook or post a comment anywhere on this blog and an experienced Texas attorney will be happy to assist you.

KEY MESSAGES:

  • During the July 4th holiday, alcohol is a major factor in fatal crashes.
  • Motor vehicle traffic crashes killed 410 people during the Fourth of July holiday period in 2009.  Of that number, 40 percent involved drivers with blood alcohol concentrations (BAC) of .08 grams per deciliter or higher.
  • Alcohol-impaired-driving crashes killed 10,839 people in 2009, accounting for 32 percent of all traffic-related deaths in the United States.  That’s an average of one alcohol-impaired-driving fatality every 48 minutes.
  • Beware: the rate of alcohol impairment among drivers involved in fatal crashes in 2009 was four times higher at night than during the day.

Drunk Driving. Over the Limit. Under Arrest.

  • This summer don’t let your 4th of July end in an arrest—or even worse, death. Make smart decisions. Plan ahead so you can ensure a safe way home.
  • Cops are cracking down, and there will be no second chances.  If you are caught driving with a BAC of .08 or higher, you will be arrested.
  • Remember, don’t ever get behind the wheel of a vehicle when you are impaired, and don’t ride with a driver who has been drinking.
  • Whether way too many or just one too many, it’s not worth the risk. Drunk driving creates serious consequences.
  • Alcohol impairs many of the skills that safe driving requires, including judgment, concentration, comprehension, coordination, visual acuity and reaction time.
  • Driving with a BAC of .08 or higher is illegal in every state. Yet too many people still ignore the law. According to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report, more than 1.44 million people were arrested for driving under the influence during 2009.
  • The tragedies and costs from drinking and driving impaired do not just end at the potential death, disfigurement, disability and injury caused by impaired drivers.
  • People who break the law often face jail time, the loss of their driver licenses, higher insurance rates, and dozens of other unanticipated expenses from attorney fees, fines and court costs, car towing and repairs, lost time at work, etc.
  • Driving impaired or riding with someone who is impaired is not worth the risk. The consequences are serious and real. Not only do you risk killing yourself or someone else, but the trauma and financial costs of a crash or an arrest for driving while impaired can be really significant and not the way you want to celebrate the July 4th holiday.

Remember: Drunk Driving. Over the Limit. Under Arrest.
(information provided by Traffic Safety Marketing
a program sponsored by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration)

 

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Types of Assault Charges in Texas


Fighting Cats

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It does not take much for an altercation or argument to escalate and involve the police.  Some
people may believe that an assault charge consists of a violent fight between two individuals but this is not always the case.   In Texas, assault can include an attempt to hurt someone physically.  In some
instances, prosecutors have decided that the slightest touch is enough to file assault charges.  Additionally, the law does not require the alleged victim to sustain an actual injury.

There are several different
types of assault charges including but not limited to:

We could probably write a novel discussing the different types of assault charges and what they all mean and how each charge may come about.  As a result, we thought it might be helpful just to provide a general overview of assault charges.

Assault charges can range from Class C misdemeanors (e.g. assault by contact) to a 1st degree felony; all cases will vary based on the facts and criminal history of each defendant. On the lower end of the spectrum (Class C misdemeanor), the punishment may result in implementation of fines, attendance of anger-management or marriage counseling classes, or deferred adjudication.  Higher level misdemeanors could result in jail time or probation.  Felony cases may result in probation or prison time.  Depending on your criminal history and the actual charge, you may be eligible for special programs like the Pre-Trial Intervention Program in
Williamson County that could result in a dismissal of your case.

Assault Family Violence

We handle a large number of Assault Family Violence cases, both misdemeanours and felonies.  These
types of cases typically involve family members but may also include former spouses, domestic partners, roommates, and present/former boyfriends/girlfriends.

Frequently, assault family violence cases involve police officers responding to a call about a disturbance.  The police will likely talk to both parties and make an arrest based on whose story they believe or what the evidence
indicates.  Unfortunately, sometimes, the person arrested is actually the victim and not the aggressor.  Other times, a mere accusation of violence may be enough for a criminal case to be filed. Sometimes, penalties for assault family violence may be harsher than normal assault cases and may result in temporary or permanent loss of parental rights.

Unfortunately, having an assault family violence conviction on your record can be used to deny child custody and limit your visitation rights if you are undergoing a divorce or other child custody hearings.

Affidavits of Non-Prosecution

Unlike in TV shows and movies, an assault case cannot be dropped in Texas simply because the victim requests that the charges be dropped.  Instead, the right to drop the case belongs to the prosecutor and judge.
However, not all hope is lost.  Frequently, criminal defense attorneys help the victims in assault cases prepare Affidavits of Non-Prosecution, which express the victims wish that the case be dismissed and may shed some light on the altercation or argument that led to the arrest and filing of charges. While these affidavits can’t guarantee that a case is dismissed, they certainly help in persuading the prosecutor to dismiss the case or reduce the charges.

Protective Orders and Court Ordered Injunctions

In some cases of assault, the prosecutor will request that a court impose temporary protective orders or an injunction to place restrictions on contact between the accused and the victim, or in the case of assault family
violence on the other family members. Protective orders may vary, ranging from no contact with the alleged victim, which frequently results in the accused having to find another place to live until the case is resolved or the protective order lifted, or could result in a temporary loss of child custody.  A violation of a Court Ordered Protective order is also a serious criminal matter and may result in additional criminal charges filed against the accused.

Aggravated Assault & Assault with a Deadly Weapon

Aggravated assault consists of two different charges:  aggravated assault causing serious bodily injury and assault with a deadly weapon, both of which are typically second degree felonies.  An aggravated assault
causing serious bodily injury occurs when during the course of an assault the victim was seriously injured.  It is
escalated from a mere slap to the face to a more severe resulting injury.  Assault with deadly weapon occurs when the accused is alleged to have exhibited a deadly weapon during the commission of the assault.  Deadly weapons can include but are not limited to:  baseball bats, BB guns, bottles, clubs, drugs, firearms, knives, motor vehicles, nail guns, and even dustpans and hot water.

However, if you are accused of committing an aggravated assault against someone with whom you have a domestic relationship, or against a security guard, witness, police officer, or public official the charge may be
elevated to a first degree felony.

We are experienced as criminal defense attorneys in handling all types of assault cases and are able
to help whether you are being charged with assault by contact or assault with a deadly weapon.  We have successfully handled various forms of assault cases and are here to help.

List of Common Texas Assault Charges

 

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