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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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Theft in Texas


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What Constitutes Theft in Texas?

The Texas Penal Code defines theft as taking someone else’s property without consent, either by deception or by physically stealing it. You don’t have to keep the property for it to be considered theft, but only long enough to deprive the owner of its value. And, if you take something, then return it for a reward, that is also theft under Texas law.

To charge you with theft, the police need to show that you acted with criminal intent, meaning you knew the property belonged to someone else and knew you didn’t have their permission to take it, and that you
actually have or had possession of the property. They can do by that using physical evidence, such as security camera video in a shoplifting case, or by statements from a witness, an accomplice, or you.

Types of Theft Under Texas Law

The four most common ways to commit misdemeanor theft or felony theft in Texas are:

  • Shoplifting – Taking items out of a store with the deliberate intention of not paying the store for the full value of the item. This includes taking, say, a shirt and leaving with it, or switching the tag on an
    expensive shirt with the tag on a less expensive one and paying the lower price at checkout.
  • Bad checks – Paying for an item on a closed account or an account that does not enough money to cover the amount of the check. If the check is written on a closed account, that alone is evidence of theft under Texas criminal law. If the check bounces, and you do not reimburse the merchant
    within 10 days of notification, then that is evidence of theft under the law.
  • General theft – Taking an item that belongs to someone else by any means when you do not have permission. Examples of this include taking a woman’s purse from her shopping cart when her back is turned, stealing copper from a construction site, or taking $20 from the cash register at work.
  • Buying/accepting stolen property – Taking possession of an item when you know the person selling or giving it to you is not the rightful owner. If you know a friend shoplifted an item from a store, then passed the item on to you, you have committed theft by taking it, whether you paid for it or it was a gift.

Penalties for theft in Texas

Amount Classification Penalties

Less than $50, or less than $20 if by check

  • Class C misdemeanor
  • A fine of not more than $500

$50 or more but less than $500, or $20 or more but less than $500 if by check

  • Class B misdemeanor
  • Not more than 180 days in a county jail and/or
  • a fine of not more than $2,000

$500 or more but less than $1,500

  • Class A misdemeanor
  • Not more than 1 year in a county jail and/or
  • a fine of not more than $4,000

$1,500 or more but less than $20,000

  • State jail felony
  • 180 days to 2 years in a state jail and/or
  • a fine of not more than $10,000

$20,000 or more but less than $100,000

  • Third-degree felony
  • 2 to 10 years in a state prison and/or
  • a fine of not more than $10,000

$100,000 or more but less than $200,000

  • Second-degree felony
  • 2 to 20 years in a state prison and/or
  • a fine of not more than $10,000

$200,000 or more

  • First-degree felony
  • 5 to 99 years in a state prison and/or
  • a fine of not more than $10,000

Those punishments can also be enhanced under certain conditions. For example, Class B and C misdemeanor theft charges increase one level if you have a previous theft conviction, and a Class A misdemeanor
becomes a state jail felony if you have two previous theft convictions.

Also, the theft of some items such as firearms or metals such as copper or aluminum are felonies no matter the actual value.

Shoplifting charges also automatically become more serious if you are caught using tools to defeat theft prevention devices, or if you are charged with organized retail theft, meaning you were working with others
to steal items for profit.

However, in all likelihood, if you are charged with simple theft by shoplifting and are convicted or enter a plea, you probably will receive only community service and fines, as long as the value is low and it’s a first or second offense. However, you are still stuck with a permanent criminal record which may never go away.

The fact of a permanent, public criminal record is the reason why most people hire a shoplifting defense attorney to fight the charges. Avoiding a criminal record in the internet age can save you tremendous
headaches in the future. It could prevent you from getting a job, a scholarship, or worse.

Civil Penalties for Shoplifting

The criminal shoplifting record for a conviction might not be the end of it, either.  A conviction for the criminal charge of theft frequently includes restitution to the victim, but Texas also has the Texas Theft Liability Act. This civil law allows the victims of theft to sue for damages and is separate from the criminal case.

The suits are typically used in shoplifting cases. The store will send you a letter demanding that you pay the value of the stolen item, as well as costs related to recovery.  The law allows the victim to collect actual damages, plus up to $1,000 against an individual or actual damages, plus up to $5,000 against the parents or guardians if the accused shoplifter is a minor.

You should not try to face either the criminal charge of theft or a civil suit in a shoplifting case without consulting a Texas criminal defense lawyer who knows how to defend shoplifting/theft offenses. We can fight the case against you by challenging the reliability of eyewitness or accomplice testimony, and by questioning the legality of any searches by police or admissions you may have made to them.

Seriousness of Theft Charges

In Texas, theft charges can run the gamut from a class C misdemeanor to a serious felony, based on the value of what was allegedly taken, whether force was used and whether the property was entered.  It is possible to face the legal equivalent of a traffic ticket or a charge that can lead to a life prison term.

The Texas theft statute is very broad.  The theft statute covers many types of criminal conduct involving the misuse of another’s property.  All of these crimes however, have one thing in common – that is, the taking of the property without the owner’s consent.  Examples of crimes that are covered by the Texas theft statute include shoplifting, writing bad checks or hot checks, receiving stolen property, possessing stolen property and auto theft.

Even a minor theft conviction can have a devastating impact on your future.  Do not make the mistake of believing that a misdemeanor theft charge is not a serious situation. Theft cases are crimes of moral turpitude.  That is, they are crimes that reflect on one’s character.  Shoplifting and the other theft charges, because they are crimes of moral turpitude, can have lifelong and far reaching consequenses.  Any misdemeanor or felony conviction for a theft charge will result in a permanent criminal record, even if you receive probation.  Since employers routinely conduct background checks, a theft conviction will make it much harder for you to find a good job.

Theft cases can become more serious crimes with the danger of harsher sentences depending on the facts and circumstances under which the alleged theft occurred. If you are accused of entering someone’s property with the intention of committing theft, you can be charged with burglary, a felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison. Theft can also become a felony if it is alleged that force was used to take an item or money. Theft committed with a weapon is aggravated robbery, a felony that can result in a lifetime prison sentence.

At the Law Offices of Mark Morales and Associates we represent people facing all types of theft and theft related charges in Texas, including:

If you have any questions about what theft in Texas or have been charged with any kind of theft 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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This is the guy that refused….


 

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Types of Assault Charges in Texas


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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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Criminal Records: Expunged or Sealed?


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Having a criminal record can be a huge obstacle when doing many things that most people take for granted. Most companies run background checks on all prospective employees so having a criminal record can prevent you from being hired for a job you may otherwise be perfect for. Depending on what type of case and disposition you received it is possible that a Texas attorney can help you expunge your criminal record.

Figuring out whether you can have your criminal record sealed or expunged can be a complicated issue and it is essential that you hire an attorney that is knowledgeable about the different methods of criminal record sealing. Depending on the results of your case; whether you were convicted, arrested, detained or if your case was dismissed – there are many factors to consider. Here are the two options available when it comes to having your criminal record sealed.

Expungement vs. Sealing

Most people believe that expunging and sealing criminal records have the same meaning, but there are a few differences. When a criminal record is sealed the court file is hidden from the general public but may still be available to certain government agencies and law enforcement. When a criminal record is expunged the criminal record is completely destroyed as if the crime never occurred. All of the records associated with the offense, such as the court records, arrest record and the criminal history are erased. Not every criminal offense can be expunged. The only circumstances in which you can get an expunction is if you were acquitted of the crime and found not guilty, or if your case was dismissed.

Expunction vs. Non-Disclosure:

The legal term for having your criminal record sealed is called a non-disclosure. A motion for a non-disclosure is normally granted after you have completed a deferred adjudication, which would make you ineligible to have your record expunged. Non-disclosure normally requires a certain waiting period after your conviction. These waiting periods normally range from two to five years depending on the nature of your offense and whether you were charged with a felony or misdemeanor. There are also some minor offenses that are eligible for non-disclosure immediately. If your petition for non-disclosure is granted, government and state agencies are prohibited from disclosing the information to the general public, but can be used if you are prosecuted again for another crime.

State Laws vs. Texas Laws:

Depending on where you live it is possible that your state does not allow any records to be sealed or expunged. Some states only allow criminal records to be sealed but not expunged and others allow expunction and non-disclosure but not for more serious felony offenses such as murder, kidnapping, rape and other sex-related crimes.

Below are the current Texas Laws that deal with destroying and concealing criminal records. Legislature can change at any time, so it is very important that you find a knowledgeable attorney in your state that can guide you through the complex laws and give you peace of mind that your past is completely behind you!  If you have any other questions or would like a free evaluation of your case, find us on Facebook and we would be happy to address your concerns immediately!

TEXAS STATUTES REGARDING EXPUNCTION AND NON-DISCLOSURE

 
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Posted by on June 16, 2011 in Legal Rights

 

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