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Statutory rape refers to sexual relations involving someone below the “age of consent.” People below the age of consent cannot legally consent to having sex. This means that sex with them, by definition, violates the law.
Statutory rape laws vary by state, with states setting the age of consent differently, as well as using different names to refer to this crime. Many states punish statutory rape under laws addressing sexual assault, rape, unlawful sexual intercourse or carnal knowledge of a child. There are very few federal laws dealing with statutory rape.
No Requirement of Force
Statutory rape differs from other types of rape, and from child molestation, in that the act would not be a crime if all participants were above the age of consent. Unlike “forcible rape,” statutory rape can involve underage participants who willingly engage in sexual relations. However, because those under the age of consent cannot give legal consent to sex, the act is a crime whether or not force is involved. If the act involves force or coercion, many states prosecute the offender under the separate statutes punishing child molestation or aggravated rape.
Age of Consent
Individuals cannot legally have sexual contact with an individual who is not of age. The legal age of consent may vary by state. For instance, the legal age of consent in Texas is 17. Some states have a legal age of consent as low as 14 while other states have a legal age of consent of 18.
An individual who has sexual contact with a person below the age of consent may face punishment. In general, sexual contact is considered any act intended to arouse another person. As such, an individual may be found guilty of statutory rape even if he or she did not have sexual intercourse with a minor.
Historically, statutory rape has been a “strict liability” offense, meaning that it does not matter whether what the perpetrator believed the victim was old enough to consent to sex. Some states now allow the defense that the perpetrator had reason to believe, and did believe, that the minor was above the age of consent. However, in many states this defense is not allowed, meaning that the act was a crime regardless of what the perpetrator believed the victims age to be. In states that do allow such a defense, it often cannot be used if the victim was particularly young, commonly under the age of 14.
Factors Affecting the Level of Offense Charges and Penalties
Laws punishing statutory rape often include a spectrum of offenses, ranging from misdemeanors to high level felonies. In general, two main factors affect the level of offense for an act of statutory rape: (1) the age of the victim; and (2) the age difference between victim and perpetrator. Other factors, including any prior sex offenses committed by the offender, whether drugs or alcohol were involved, and whether pregnancy resulted, can also affect the level of charge imposed.
Statutory rape is a felony offense, so an individual who is found guilty of the crime may face several years in prison. In Texas, for example, the crime is a second-degree felony, so an individual may be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison.
Punishment for statutory rape can include mandatory prison or jail sentences, probation, fines, and mandated treatment services. Many states require those convicted of statutory rape to register as sex offenders.
Exceptions to Statutory Rape Laws
Though statutory rape laws make it illegal for individuals to have sexual relationships with people below the age of consent, some exceptions do exist. Generally, these exceptions include:
- The individuals are within a certain number of years of one another
- The individuals dated before one was above the age of consent
- The younger individual is within so many months of being at the age of consent
These rules may not apply in all circumstances, so individuals should contact a legal authority to learn more about their legal rights regarding relationships with minors.
Professionals Required to Report
Some states require certain classes of professionals to report knowledge or suspicion of statutory rape to authorities. Types of professionals required to report statutory rape often include teachers, medical professionals, public employees, and clergy, among others.
Houston Statutory Rape Defense Lawyer: The Charles Johnson Law Firm
Statutory rape is a state sex crime that can be punishable by incarceration, fine, probation, and/or registry as a sex offender. If you are facing Statutory Rape charges, speak with an experienced and aggressive attorney from the Charles Johnson Law Firm in Houston, Texas.
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If you have been accused of domestic violence, you may be facing an uphill battle. Texas has strengthened their laws on domestic violence, making arrest and prosecution mandatory regardless of what the alleged victim wishes to do. No matter how your state or county handles allegations of domestic violence, it is important to mount a vigorous defense. Speak with an attorney from the Charles Johnson Law Firm in Houston, Texas to discuss your case and develop a strategy for fighting the charges.
Domestic Violence Defined
Domestic violence is most often an assault or battery against a spouse, intimate partner or cohabitant, but it also can occur against a child, elderly relative or other member of the household or family. Domestic assault is both physical violence and emotional abuse, including threats, intimidation and control.
Domestic Assault Arrest
Although the procedures and policies vary by jurisdiction, domestic assault arrests and charges follow a general pattern. When the police are called to a residence, by an alleged victim or someone else, they will assess the situation and determine whether there is probable cause to arrest the person accused of domestic assault.
At the arraignment, the defendant will learn about the specific charges against him or her, and the defendant’s lawyer will consult with the defendant about what kind of plea to enter. The judge will decide whether the defendant should be granted bail and, if so, how much the bail will be.
In many cases, the defendant will be ordered to have no contact — direct or indirect — with the alleged victim. This means that the defendant cannot go home, if that is where the victim lives, and the defendant must not call or communicate with the victim.
In some jurisdictions, even if the victim decides not to go forward with the charges, the case will continue. Numerous reasons, based on both history and public policy, are behind this practice.
A conviction of felony or misdemeanor domestic assault can result in severe penalties. The defendant may serve time in prison or jail; pay steep fines; undergo anger management or other counseling; and suffer personal consequences like divorce, loss of child custody or an unfavorable property settlement during divorce proceedings.
Domestic assault is taken seriously by law enforcement personnel and prosecutors. It is vital to have a competent, experienced defense attorney on your side.
Houston Domestic Violence Defense Lawyer: The Charles Johnson Law Firm
As the justice system has come to recognize the social and legal effects of domestic violence, the penalties for conviction of domestic assault have become steeper. This is why it is so important to consult a lawyer who is familiar with your local court system. Seek the help of an attorney from the Charles Johnson Law Firm in Houston, Texas to learn more about what you can do to assert your rights.
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Have you or a loved one been arrested?
The following are important answers to 50 questions that you may have at this moment. Houston Lawyer Charles Johnson WILL help you reach a resolution to the legal problem that has arisen in your life. At the Charles Johnson Law Firm, we want you to know what you are facing and that we can help you through this challenging time. Give us a call today. We are available 24/7, rain or shine.
How Are Criminal Charges Filed?
Criminal proceedings take place in a series of stages. Usually, the police are responding to a citizen’s complaint that a crime has been committed. Sometimes, the police observe suspicious activity. Once they are called, or see something suspicious, the police investigate, take statements from witnesses, and prepare a report on their findings. At times, they will arrest people during the course of their investigation. At other times, they will complete their report and submit it to the prosecutor’s office for evaluation, and a prosecutor will decide whether charges should be filed against any suspects named in the police report.The exact procedure for how charges are filed varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Some jurisdictions give the police greater discretion in charging defendants with specific crimes, while others place more power with the prosecutor’s office. After being stopped by the police, a person may be ticketed for a “civil infraction,” may be ticketed or arrested for a “misdemeanor,” or may be arrested for a “felony.”While it is common to speak in terms of being “charged by the police,” in many states this is not entirely accurate. The exact procedure for how charges are filed varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, and, although the police may arrest a person and may recommend a specific charge, in many jurisdictions criminal charges is chosen solely by the prosecutor’s office.
What happens if I am stopped by the Police?
Generally, the police may stop a person for committing a traffic violation, for suspicion of being engaged in criminal activity, or to arrest the person for a criminal act. After being stopped by the police, a person will typically be questioned.
Can The Police Stop And Question People Who Are Not Under Arrest?
Yes. The police can stop a person, and ask questions, without “arresting” the person. Upon seeing suspicious activity, the police may perform what is called a “Terry Stop,” and may temporarily detain people to request that they identify themselves and to question them about the suspicious activity. The scope of a “Terry Stop” is limited to investigation of the specific suspicious activity, and if the police detain people to question them about additional matters, the stop can turn into an “arrest.” For their own safety, the police can perform a “weapons frisk” on the outside of a person’s clothes (sometimes called “patting down the suspect”) during a “Terry Stop.” During this frisk, if they feel something that may be a weapon, they may remove it from the suspect for further examination. However, they are not entitled to remove items from person’s pockets that do not appear to be weapons, even if they believe that the items are contraband.
When Is A Person “Under Arrest”?
Many people think of an arrest as being a formal declaration by the police, “You are under arrest,” followed by the reading of the “Miranda rights”. (As seen on TV: “You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed to represent you.”)Reality is a bit more complicated. An arrest occurs when a person no longer reasonably expects that he is free to leave. A “Terry Stop” is not an arrest, even though the person can’t leave during the investigatory questioning, as the detention is of short duration and is limited in its scope. (A “Terry Stop” may involve little more than a short series of questions, such as, “What is your name? Where do you live? Why are you here?”) However, if a person is not allowed to leave the scene for an extended period of time, the person may be considered to be “under arrest,” even though those words are never used. If a person is handcuffed, is locked in the back of a police car, or is otherwise restrained from leaving, the person will ordinarily be considered to be “under arrest.”
If The Police Ask To Search Me, My House, Or My Car, Do I Have
To Say “Yes”?
No. You can refuse the police permission to conduct a search. Remember this – the only reason the police officer wants to perform a search is for evidence of criminal activity, and the fact that he is asking reflects an expectation that he will find some. You are entitled to say “No.” If the police officer has the legal authority to perform the search, he will do so whether or not you agree. However, if he does not have the legal authority to perform a search, your consent gives him that authority.During an investigative stop, or a traffic stop, a police officer may ask if he can search you or your car. However, if you give the police officer permission, he can perform the search even if he otherwise had no legal authority to do so. Some people don’t know, or forget, that they have an “open” bottle of liquor in the car – a bottle with the seal broken, whether or not the cap is off. Sometimes, people have knives or other weapons which can be classified as illegal “concealed weapons.” Sometimes, people forget that they have contraband in their cars, such as illegal drugs, or find to their chagrin that their teenaged child dropped a marijuana cigarette in the car. Unless you are the only person with access to the interior of your car, you may be in for a surprise if you grant permission for a search.
Do The Police Have To “Read Me My Rights” When I Am Arrested?
The police have no obligation to formally announce the arrest when it occurs, or to read a suspect his “Miranda Rights
.” Typically, at some point the police will inform a suspect that he has been arrested. However, many defendants never receive their “Miranda Rights,” which relate to the validity of police questioning of suspects who are in custody, and not to the arrest itself.
What Is The Difference Between A “Terry Stop” And An “Arrest.”
While a “Terry Stop” can be made upon “reasonable suspicion” that a person may have been engaged in criminal activity, an arrest requires “probable cause” that a suspect committed a criminal offense.
Can the Police Arrest Me Without A Warrant?
For most misdemeanor offenses, a police officer can only make a warrantless arrest of a suspect if the offense was committed in the officer’s presence. Officers can arrest people for felonies based upon witness statements, or where a warrant for the person’s arrest has been issued.
What Happens If I am Arrested Without Legal Cause?
It is important to note that an “illegal arrest” does not mean that a person can’t be charged with a crime. If a person is arrested illegally, and is searched or questioned by the police, evidence gained through the search or questioning may be declared inadmissible. However, there are circumstances where that evidence will be admitted into court despite the illegality of the arrest. Further, if a person has outstanding warrants for other charges, he may be detained on those charges, even though his initial arrest was illegal.
If I Am Arrested, Can The Police Search Me?
The police have the authority to perform a search of a suspect and his immediate surroundings, “incident” to the arrest of the suspect. If the police arrest a person who was driving a car, they ordinarily get the authority to search the entire passenger compartment of the car – and will usually also be able to search passengers for weapons. If the car is impounded, the police may perform an “inventory search” of the entire car, including the contents of the trunk.
What Can The Police Charge Me With?
A person who has been stopped by the police may be ticketed for a “civil infraction,” may be ticketed or arrested for a “petty offense” or “misdemeanor,” or may be arrested for a “felony,” or may be released. It is possible for the person to later be charged, when the police complete their investigation.Sometimes, the person will be informed that charges have been filed, and will be asked to present himself at the police station by a particular date and time.At other times, a “warrant” for the person’s arrest may be entered into the state’s computer system, informing police officers to arrest the person if they find him. If the charges are serious, the police may go out to arrest the person.
|A “civil infraction” is not a crime, although it is a charge filed by the state. The state has to prove that you committed a civil infraction by a “preponderance of the evidence,” which is to say; that it is more likely than not that you committed the violation. This is a much lower standard than the “proof beyond a reasonable doubt” standard that applies in civil cases. The typical civil infraction is decided by a judge or magistrate, without a jury, in what is typically a short proceeding.
|Some states have a class of “petty offenses,” where the defendant may be tried without a jury before a judge or magistrate. Typically, the only punishment for a “petty offense” is a fine. However, these offenses may be of a criminal nature. If you are not sure whether you are charged with a criminal offense or a civil infraction, consult a lawyer.
|A “misdemeanor” is a criminal offense, and conviction ordinarily results in a criminal record. Misdemeanors are technically less serious offenses, although the consequences of conviction can nonetheless be quite severe. Possible punishments for misdemeanors include imprisonment, probation, fines, and at times driver’s license sanctions. Some misdemeanors are classified as “sex crimes” and require that a convicted person be registered as a “sex offender”, and keep the police informed of his place of residence — a requirement that may continue for life.
|Felonies are the most serious offenses that can be charged. Sometimes, the distinction between “felonies” and “misdemeanors” seems arbitrary. However, all of the most serious criminal offenses (such as murder, sexual assault, embezzlement, burglary, robbery, arson, and treason) are felonies.
How Do I Know If I Am Charged With A “Civil Infraction” Or A Crime?
Typical “civil infractions” include “moving violations”, such as “speeding” and “failure to yield.” Sometimes people get confused, when they are charged with a traffic misdemeanor, such as having invalid license plates or driving an uninsured automobile, and think that they are being charged with “civil infractions.” Traffic misdemeanors are criminal offenses, and will result in a criminal record. Many traffic misdemeanors also carry “points” which will be added to the defendant’s driving record, and some require the suspension or revocation of a driver’s license. If you are ticketed for a “misdemeanor,” the ticket will likely reflect the nature of the charge, and you will be required to appear in court. If the charge is a “civil infraction,” you typically will not have to go to court if you pay a fine by mail. Read the ticket carefully.
Do Defendants Have The Same Rights When Facing Misdemeanor
And Felony Charges?
A defendant charged with a misdemeanor has fewer legal rights than a defendant charged with a felony. If the defendant will not face imprisonment as a result of conviction, he has no right to an attorney. There is no right to indictment by grand jury, or to a “preliminary examination” to review the basis of the charges filed. In some states, misdemeanor charges are tried before six person juries, whereas felonies are ordinarily tried before twelve person juries. Most other rights are the same, for both felonies and misdemeanors.
If I Have Not Been Arrested, How Do I Find Out If I Am Charged
With A Crime?
If there is reason to believe that you have been charged with a crime, you may wish to have an attorney contact the police or prosecutor to find out if a warrant has been issued for your arrest. Many people who have been charged with criminal offenses do not find out about the charges until they are stopped for traffic violations. The police, while checking their identification, find “outstanding warrants” for the person. Sometimes, the warrants have a “limited pick-up radius,” or the police officer does not believe that an immediate arrest is necessary, and the officer will simply inform the driver that a warrant has been filed and that the driver should report to the police agency that requested the warrant. At other times, the officer will make an immediate arrest, and will take the person into custody.
What Happens After I Am Arrested?
After being arrested, a person is “booked” by the police. Ordinarily, the police obtain identifying information from the suspect, such as his name, address, telephone number and driver’s license number. The person is checked for outstanding warrants for other offenses. Usually, the police take the suspect’s photograph and fingerprints. They make a record of this information, along with the nature of the crime charged, and usually an assessment of the suspect’s physical condition. If a person is under arrest at the time he is booked, he will ordinarily be thoroughly searched. If the arrest was legal, any evidence found in this search can be used as evidence in court.
Should I Consult An Attorney Before I Am Charged?
Yes, if possible. Unless you were arrested on an outstanding warrant, the fact that you have been arrested does not necessarily mean that charges have been authorized. An attorney can advise you of your rights, and how to handle contacts with the police. It can be very helpful to have an attorney intercede on your behalf before a warrant has been issued, as he may be able to influence the prosecutor’s “charging decision.” Sometimes, an attorney will be able to convince a prosecutor to charge a less serious offense, to send the complaint back to the police for more investigation, or even to refuse to authorize a warrant. However, once a warrant is issued, it is very difficult to get a prosecutor’s office to change the charge.
Do I Need A Criminal Defense Lawyer?
Any person who is facing a criminal charge, no matter how minor, will benefit from consulting a competent criminal defense lawyer. Even if the lawyer is not retained to provide representation in court, a consultation will help a criminal defendant understand the nature of the charges filed, available defenses, what plea bargains are likely to be offered, and what is likely to happen in the event of conviction.For serious charges, it will be a rare defendant who does not benefit from having a competent criminal defense lawyer assist with the negotiation of a plea bargain, or to prepare a case for trial.A criminal defense lawyer should also be able to identify important pretrial issues, and to bring appropriate motions which might significantly improve a defendant’s situation, or even result in the dismissal of charges.
How Much Will My Defense Cost?
The cost of a criminal defense lawyer can vary significantly depending upon the jurisdiction, and the nature of the charges which have been filed (or which are expected to be filed) against the defendant. A lawyer will typically require a greater retainer for a complex case than for a simple case. The amount of a retainer will also typically increase with the severity of the charge filed against a defendant. Sometimes, though, a relatively minor charge can require a higher retainer, where the attorney expects to have to engage in extensive motion practice, or where it will be necessary to utilize expert witnesses.In a misdemeanor case, although as previously noted the typical fee will vary significantly between cities, counties, and states, it is not unusual for a lawyer to request a retainer of several thousand dollars. For felony cases, retainers often start at $5,000 – $10,000, and can be $25,000 or more for serious or life felonies, such as sexual assault cases or homicide. The anticipated cost of expert witnesses can also significantly increase a retainer.Be wary of entering into a retainer agreement which calls for additional payments if the case will go to trial. It is not unusual for appellate lawyers to hear clients recite that they entered into guilty pleas after they were unable to come up with the necessary funds to pay their lawyers to proceed with a trial. If you do decide to enter into an agreement whereby you will pay an additional retainer if your case goes to trial, make sure that it is an amount you can afford.
Finding a Criminal Defense Lawyer
It is unfortunately not always easy to find a good criminal defense lawyer. Here are some suggestions:Referrals
– It may be possible to find a criminal defense lawyer from somebody who is familiar with the lawyer’s practice. For example, if you regularly work with a lawyer or law firm, that lawyer may be able to suggest a competent criminal defense lawyer in your area. If your county is served by a public defender’s office, sometimes a defender’s office will be willing to suggest a competent are defense lawyer. If you have a friend or family member who has been in trouble with the law, that person may be able to make some suggestions.
– You may wish to sit through some public sessions of court while criminal cases are being argued. If you find a particular lawyer’s performance to be impressive, you may take note of the lawyer’s name and later contact the lawyer about the possibility of representing you.
State versus Federal Charges
– There are additional factors you may wish to consider when hiring a federal criminal defense attorney.
After you have located one or more attorneys whom you wish to consult about your case, call them to schedule appointments. (Find out at that time if they offer a free initial consultation, or if you will be charged for the meeting.) Try to speak with the criminal defense lawyer over the phone before scheduling the appointment. Ask about the lawyer’s general experience with criminal defense, and any specific experience with cases like yours.
Trust your instincts – if you aren’t comfortable with an attorney you consult, try a different office. You do not have any obligation to hire a lawyer merely because you consulted with that lawyer. If your lawyer is promising you that your case is easy, or makes promises that you won’t go to jail, speak to other lawyers before signing a retainer agreement – some lawyers misrepresent the gravity of a defendant’s situation or the complexity of a case in order to entice the defendant to pay a retainer, and then blame the judge or prosecutor when the rosy scenario they initially promised turns out to be a nightmare.
Read the entire fee agreement with the lawyer before you sign it, and make sure you get a copy for your own records.
Private Defense Counsel or Appointed Counsel?
People who are charged with felony offenses, and many individuals who are charged with misdemeanors, may be eligible for appointed counsel or for assistance through a public defender’s office. When a defendant petitions for a court-appointed lawyer, the trial judge will typically make an assessment of the defendant’s resources to determine if the defendant will qualify for an appointment of a criminal defense lawyer. When an appointment is made, although the defendant may be ordered to repay certain attorney fees following a guilty plea or conviction, there will not ordinarily be any fee in the event of acquittal or dismissal of the charges.Some people assume that a court appointed criminal defense lawyer will offer services which are inferior to a privately retained lawyer. While it is certainly true that some public defenders, some appointed lawyers and some private attorneys will prove to be insufficiently skilled or dedicated to their work to provide an effective defense, it is generally asserted that the average public defender will provide better representation than the average private criminal defense lawyer. The primary reasons for this include experience, as a professional public defender will typically have much more experience with criminal cases than a private lawyer, the ability to collaborate with other experienced lawyers within the office, and also due to the resources and systems available to a typical public defender’s office. Many private criminal defense lawyers take appointments – meaning that if you are charged in a jurisdiction that appoints private lawyers to represent criminal defendants, many of the lawyers you might otherwise retain will be among those to whom a court might assign your case. And even if you are ordered to repay legal fees, the cost of an appointed lawyer is almost always significantly lower than the cost of a retained lawyer.In short, if you can hire an effective criminal defense lawyer you should not hesitate to do so. But, if your means are limited, you should also not hesitate to request an appointed defense lawyer, and should not fear that you will receive inferior representation just because your lawyer was appointed.
It is important to note that your constitutional right to effective assistance of counsel relates almost exclusively to the performance of appointed counsel. It is virtually impossible to convince an appellate court that the incompetence of counsel of your own choosing constitutes an error requiring reversal. If you are not comfortable with the competence of your lawyer, retained or appointed, consult with a second lawyer to have your situation reviewed. It may well turn out that your lawyer is competent – but it is you who could go to prison, not your lawyer, if the lawyer is inept.
What Happens When I Go To Court For The First Time?
Typically, a criminal defendant’s first court hearing is an “arraignment” before a judge or magistrate. An “arraignment” is an appearance in court where charges are formally read to a defendant. The judge or magistrate may also evaluate whether there was probable cause for an arrest, and may compel the prosecutor to allege additional facts to support the arrest. If probable cause is not established, the defendant must be released.If bail has not previously been set, it is often set at the same time as the arraignment. Bail (or “bond”) is often granted in a standard amount, depending upon the crime charged.In some jurisdictions, there is a subsequent “formal” arraignment, where the formal charges (“indictment” or “information”) are presented to the defendant. These charges are drafted by the prosecutor, and may vary from any original charges that were drafted by the police.
Do I Enter A Plea At The Arraignment?
At arraignment, the defendant is offered the opportunity to enter a formal plea. Sometimes, a defendant will plead “guilty” or “not guilty.” In some circumstances, the defendant may enter a “no contest” plea, which is treated by the court in the same manner as a guilty plea. Sometimes, the defendant will “stand mute,” and a “not guilty” plea will be entered by the court on his behalf. If a “not guilty” plea is entered, the court will ordinarily advise the suspect of his right to remain silent and his right to an attorney. If a defendant is indigent, he will usually be given the opportunity to petition the court for an appointed attorney.Usually, a defendant should speak to an attorney (even if only for a free consultation) before deciding whether or not to enter a plea of “guilty” or “no contest.” There is no need to rush into a plea to “get it over with” — particularly given that a bad decision can haunt you for the rest of your life.
Can I Get Released From Jail?
If bail is granted, and the defendant posts the required bail, he will be released. Sometimes, a defendant will be released on his own recognizance — his promise that he will appear for the next court hearing. Sometimes, bail is set in a very high amount. A defendant who is accused of very serious crimes may be denied bail, or have bail set in the millions of dollars. A defendant who is released on bail must attend all subsequent court hearings, or risk having his bail forfeited. (Keep this in mind — if you put your house or your car up as collateral for somebody else’s bail, you risk losing it if that person does not appear in court.)
What Happens After The Arraignment?
If you are charged with a misdemeanor, the next hearing is likely to be a “pretrial,” where the case is scheduled for trial. Sometimes, a defendant will enter a plea at the pretrial. At other times, the case will be scheduled for a “bench trial,” “jury trial,” or “plea hearing.”If a defendant is charged with a felony, but has not been “indicted” by a “grand jury,” the next step will likely be a “preliminary examination” where the prosecution must demonstrate to the satisfaction of a judge that there is reason to believe that a crime was committed, and that the defendant was the person who committed the crime. The defendant is allowed to question witnesses at this hearing. While the defendant ordinarily can present evidence, and may choose to testify, most defendants choose not to do so. If the Court is satisfied by the prosecutor’s evidence, the felony charges will be approved. Depending upon your state’s rules of criminal procedure, a defendant may be transferred to a different court for all further proceedings. He may be arraigned again, after the preliminary examination, and subsequently will have a pretrial.
What Do The Attorneys Do Between The Arraignment And The Trial?
During this time, the prosecutor and the defense attorney will likely demand “discovery” from each other. Often, this means nothing more than that the prosecutor gives the defense a copy of the police report, and perhaps some laboratory reports if the case involves drugs or drunk driving. While defense attorneys may differ, many prosecutors argue that this meager discovery fulfills their duties. The prosecution is obligated to provide the defense with the names and addresses of all relevant witnesses, and with copies of written or recorded statements made by the defendant or by co-defendants. The prosecution may be compelled by statute or court rule to provide additional information upon request, such as copies of witness statements, and reports from expert witnesses. The specific materials and information that must be exchanged will vary from state to state. Increasingly, the defense is required to provide certain information to the prosecutor, including witness lists, and may also be required to provide expert witness reports. In some states, the parties can conduct depositions of witnesses, where the witness testifies under oath before a court reporter, prior to trial. However, most states do not allow for depositions in criminal cases.Depending upon state law, a defendant will have to notify the prosecution if he plans to bring certain defenses to the criminal charges, such as an alibi defense, an insanity or diminished capacity defense. The purpose of the notice requirement is to allow the prosecutor to prepare for the defense, and to collect evidence and interview witnesses to challenge the defense. A defendant who is claiming insanity will ordinarily be examined by a state psychiatrist, and the refusal to submit to examination will usually prevent the defendant from raising that defense.
What If I Can’t Find A Witness?
The defendant generally has the right to request that the prosecutor’s office assist him in procuring witnesses for trial. Indigent defendants usually receive the greatest assistance, which may include issuance of subpoenas. However, due to the prosecutor’s access to information and police assistance that is not available to the defendant, the prosecutor is ordinarily obligated to help any defendant locate a missing witness.
What Is Involved In Pretrial “Motion Practice”?
Prior to the trial, either the defendant or the prosecutor may file motions with the trial court. Typical motions include motions to suppress evidence, motions in limine, and motions to dismiss. A motion to suppress evidence asks the trial court to exclude evidence from the trial, usually on the basis that it was collected in violation of the defendant’s constitutional rights. For example, if the defendant is arrested illegally, and is searched after his arrest, the evidence found during that search may be inadmissible. Similarly, a defendant may seek to exclude a statement or confession that he made to the police. A motion in limine asks the court to limit the issues or evidence at trial. For example, a defendant may wish to ask the court to exclude certain inflammatory allegations about him, which are not related to the charges against him, or portions of the defendant’s criminal record which are not properly admitted under the rules of evidence. The prosecutor may also wish to introduce evidence which cannot properly be linked to the defendant or the alleged crime, due to the circumstances or manner in which it was collected. A motion to dismiss asks the court to dismiss the charges against the defendant, usually on the basis of a procedural deficiency. A motion to dismiss may be filed following an illegal arrest, where all of the evidence presented by the prosecution was found as the result of that arrest.
What Is A “Diversion Program”?
At times, prior to trial, a defendant may be found eligible for a “diversion” program. These programs are not available in all communities. Typically, they are aimed at young offenders who have no significant criminal records. If a person successfully completes the conditions of a “diversion” program, which may include such requirements as counseling, attendance of “crime impact” classes, and regular attendance at school, either no charge is filed, or the charge is dismissed. If the defendant violates the terms of the diversion program, the charges are reinstated.
What Is The Significance Of My “Speedy Trial” Right?
A defendant has a constitutional right to a “speedy trial.” The meaning of “speedy,” and the benefits of demanding a “speedy trial,” varies from state to state. In some states, most defendants have to waive their right to a “speedy trial” in order to get sufficient time to prepare their defenses. If a defendant demands a “speedy trial,” he cannot later claim that he did not have time to prepare his defense. However, if a defendant demands a “speedy trial” and the prosecutor is not prepared to proceed to trial, the charges against the defendant may be dismissed.
What Is The Difference Between A “Bench Trial” And A “Jury Trial”?
A case that goes to trial will be heard by a judge in a “bench trial,” or by a judge and jury in a “jury trial.” In a jury trial, the judge decides the law, while the jury decides the facts. In a bench trial, the judge decides both the law and the facts. Both the prosecutor and the defendant have the right to demand a jury trial, although prosecutors are usually happy to consent to bench trials.
What Is “Jury Selection” And “Voir Dire”?
If a case is scheduled for jury trial, the parties engage in “jury selection.” During jury selection, a panel of jurors is questioned by the judge, by the attorneys, or both, in a process called “voir dire.” The purpose of this hearing is to determine if the jurors will be fair and impartial, and will decide the case based upon the evidence presented in court. Both the prosecution and defense can challenge jurors “for cause,” claiming that the jurors are prejudiced against their side. The judge determines if there is valid cause to exclude a particular juror from hearing a case. Both the prosecution and defense also receive a limited number of “peremptory challenges,” which allow them to remove jurors without any reason or explanation.
What Happens At Trial?
Typically, at the start of a trial the jury will be given preliminary instructions. The jury is instructed at this time that the defendant is presumed innocent, and that the presumption of innocence does not change until the jury begins deliberations. Jurors are not supposed to abandon the presumption of innocence before hearing all of the evidence in the case.Next, the attorneys will present opening statements. Witnesses are presented first by the prosecution, and next by the defense. At times, the defense will not present any witnesses, either because the prosecution called all of the relevant witnesses during its case, or because the defense wishes to argue that the prosecutor’s case is insufficient to justify conviction. The defendant cannot be compelled to testify against himself, but he has the right to testify in his own defense if he chooses to do so.At the conclusion of the defendant’s case, the prosecutor may present “rebuttal” witnesses to respond to arguments or evidence introduced by the defendant. Sometimes, the defendant will be allowed to present “rebuttal” to the prosecutor’s “rebuttal.”After all of the testimony has been taken, the attorneys will present their closing arguments. The jury is then given additional instructions, and commenced deliberations. Sometimes the defense attorney will request a “directed verdict” of not guilty, meaning that the judge will instruct the jury that the only verdict it can return is “not guilty.” These motions are commonly made, but are rarely granted. If the jury cannot reach a verdict, the judge will eventually discharge the jury. The prosecutor must then decide whether to dismiss the charges or to seek a new trial.
What Happens If The Jury Acquits The Defendant?
If the jury acquits the defendant, finding him not guilty, the case is usually over. (In the United States, the prosecutor cannot appeal an acquittal. However, in some other nations, the prosecutor has a limited right to appeal.)
What Happens If The Jury Convicts The Defendant?
A jury can also return a verdict of guilty. If a defendant is charged with more than one offense, the jury may convict the defendant of some charges while acquitting of others. At times, the jury will choose between related offenses. For some offenses charged, the jury may convict of a “lesser included” offense. For example, if a defendant is charged with “open murder,” the jury may convict him for first degree murder, second degree murder, voluntary manslaughter, involuntary manslaughter, or negligent homicide. (Please note that the names and elements of the various homicide offenses may vary from state to state.)After being convicted, a defendant may file post-trial motions, such as a motion for a new trial. These motions are rarely granted. The defendant may also file an appeal.
What Are The Possible Sentences For A Criminal Offense?
After sentencing, a defendant may simply be ordered to pay fines and costs, and be released. A defendant may also be ordered to participate in community service, or to spend time on a work crew. A defendant may be placed on probation, and may even be placed on “house arrest,” while wearing a “tether,” an electronic monitoring device. A defendant may also be sentenced to jail or prison. Courts can combine these various options, in fashioning a sentence for a defendant.
What Happens If I Am Placed On “Probation”?
A defendant may also be placed on probation. A defendant on probation will ordinarily meet with his probation officer monthly and at times more frequently. Sometimes, a defendant will be placed on “non-reporting” probation, where he does not meet with a probation officer.Typically, at the end of his probation, such a defendant will be asked to demonstrate that he complied with the terms of probation (such as by submitting attendance records from court-ordered Alcoholics Anonymous meetings), and his record will be checked for any further criminal activity. Sometimes, a defendant will be allowed to report by mail. This usually happens in cases where a defendant has been on probation without any problems for a long time, but his probation officer still wants periodic information on his activities.A defendant who has been convicted of a drug conviction may have to report to the probation office frequently for drug testing. A court may also order drug or alcohol counseling, or attendance of Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcaholics Anonymous meetings. During probation, a probationer must typically seek permission from his probation officer before moving or changing jobs. He may be restricted from leaving the state without his probation officer’s permission.
How Long Does Probation Last?
Probation usually lasts between one and three years, but can last longer depending upon the offense committed and state policies. Some states have “life probation” for certain drug offenses, where a person is placed on probation indefinitely. After a probationer has paid off his fines and other court assessments, and has completed other requirements of his probation (such as community service), a probation officer will sometimes consider an early discharge from probation. However, most probationers complete their entire terms of probation. Many, upon violating the terms of their probation, are in fact ordered to report to probation more frequently. If violations are of a serious or repeated nature, a probationer can be charged with violating his probation, and be ordered to appear before a judge for a hearing.
What Is A “Tether,” or “Electronic Monitoring”?
Tethers are increasingly sophisticated devices. A typical tether has a portable unit which is strapped to the probationer’s leg, and a “base unit” which is connected to the probationer’s telephone line. The portable unit sends a constant signal to the base unit. The base unit keeps a record of when that signal is interrupted, and transmits that information by telephone to the probation office. The probationer on “house arrest” is placed on a strict schedule, and must account for any absences from his home that are not pre-approved by his probation officer. If a probationer is not home at the times he is supposed to be, the probation officer may contact the probationer to inquire why he was not at home, or may contact the police and have the probationer arrested.
What Happens If I “Violate” My Probation?
A probation officer has the discretion to give a probationer a warning, or to make him appear before a court for a “probation violation” hearing. If you go to a hearing, the probation officer will typically ask that you face additional punishment, usually involving incarceration. There is no “hard and fast” rule for what type of probation violation will result in a probation violation hearing. One violation that is almost always considered serious is failing to appear for scheduled meetings with the probation officer. Being caught in possession of illegal drugs, or being arrested for another crime, will also typically result in a hearing before a judge. At times, the seriousness of the violation may depend upon the facts of the underlying offense — for example, if a person is convicted of being involved in a gang-related offense, the violation of probation through “association with known criminals” may be viewed more seriously than if the person is on probation for driving a car while his driver’s license was suspended.
What Are My Rights At A “Probation Violation” Hearing?
It is important to note that probation violations are typically tried under a “preponderance of the evidence” standard, where the prosecutor must show only that it is more likely than not that the probationer violated the terms of his probation. There have been many cases where a person’s probation was violated for engaging in new criminal activity, despite the fact that he was acquitted of the new charge, or was in fact never charged with a new offense.
What Happens If I Am Convicted Of A Probation Violation?
If a person is convicted of a probation violation, sometimes the court will extend his probation, or impose additional terms. Often, the court will sentence the probationer to a period of time in jail, followed by the continuation of his probation. Sometimes, the probationer will be resentenced to jail or prison, or will be ordered to complete a term that was previously “suspended.”
When Are Defendants Sentenced To Jail?
If the court feels that a more serious punishment is required than a term of probation, the offender may be sentenced to jail. “Jails” are typically run by County governments, and are used to house defendants prior to trial, and to punish people who have been convicted of less serious crimes. Although the exact terms vary from state to state, typically the maximum jail sentence is one year. At times, the offender will simply be sentenced to jail, while more typically the defendant will have to serve a term of probation after completing his jail sentence.
What If The Judge Thinks That Jail Is Not Enough?
If the defendant’s offenses are more serious, most states have a “boot camp” programs, which are intense, military-style facilities. Incarceration typically lasts about ninety days. Participants may be cautioned that if they drop out of the program, or are kicked out, they will be sent to prison. Some states reserve these programs for young offenders. As these programs can be physically strenuous, some people cannot participate in “boot camp” programs due to health conditions.If all else fails, the defendant will be sentenced to prison.
What Happens If I Go To Prison?
The most serious punishment for most crimes involves sentencing the defendant to prison, the “state penitentiary.” Following serving his “minimum term,” a portion of his sentence that varies from state to state, a defendant who is in prison will usually qualify for parole. Many defendants who are incarcerated can earn “good behavior” or “good time” credits, which allow them to qualify for an earlier release date by behaving. The idea is that model prisoners are less likely to re-offend, and that prisoners will behave better if they have an incentive not to cause trouble. Some prisoners will not be eligible for “good time,” due to the nature of their offenses. Often “habitual offenders” are not eligible for “good time” credits. Some jurisdictions have abolished “good time” for all prisoners.
Do All Prisoners Get Parole?
Parole is a privilege, not a right, and many prisoners are refused parole when they first apply. Parole boards expect to hear a prisoner admit responsibility for his crimes. They also expect that the prisoner will take advantage of the programs made available in prison, such as, if appropriate, GED programs, Alcoholics Anonymous, and vocational training. They will also look at the prisoner’s conduct during incarceration, and whether the prisoner has been cited for misconduct. (Typically, prisoners will be “ticketed” for their violations of prison rules, with offenses classified as “major” or “minor.” A prisoner who was involved in a fight would likely be ticketed for a “major” offense, while a prisoner who yelled at a guard might be ticketed for a “minor” offense, depending on the circumstances. These “tickets” can be challenged through administrative hearings, but are usually upheld as valid.) They may also look at the prisoner’s age, the amount of time he has served, the remaining time in his sentence, and his mental health. The exact criteria for parole vary from state to state.Perhaps the most important assessment that the parole board attempts to assess is the likelihood that the prisoner will re-offend. Parole boards have no interest in releasing people into society who will commit more crimes, particularly given that the media will sometimes hold the parole board as responsible as the criminal in such cases. Increasingly, potentially dangerous offenders, such as sex offenders, are finding that they are never granted parole, even in states where they are eligible.Some prisoners are not eligible for parole, either because of state policy, or because of the crime they committed. Some crimes carry a flat term of years, which must be completed without the possibility of parole. A defendant who is sentenced to “life” in prison will either be sentenced to “parolable life,” or to “non-parolable life.” If a person serving a “life” term is eligible for parole, he typically must serve fifteen or twenty years of his sentence before he can request parole. If a person is serving non-parolable life, he never becomes eligible for parole.
How Long Are People Kept On Parole?
The length of the parole will depend upon the nature of the crime committed, the length of the defendant’s sentence, and how well the defendant performs while on parole. A defendant who repeatedly gets into trouble or breaks the conditions of his parole may find that he is returned to prison. (Many states have jail-like facilities for “technical rule violators,” where they can send parolees who violate the terms of their paroles, but not to the level that the parole board wishes to return them to prison.) In most states, after a long enough period of good conduct, it is possible for a defendant to be discharged from parole.
Are Prisoners Simply “Released” From The Prison When They Receive Parole?
Release into the community may occur in stages. First, as the criminal nears his release date, he may be moved into less secure prison facilities. If he abuses the privileges at the less secure prison, he will be returned to a more secure facility. Prisoners in less secure facilities are sometimes allowed to work outside of the prison, either through a state program or sometimes through a private employer. If the prisoner continues to behave well, he may eventually qualify for placement in a half-way house, a residential facility where he can have a job, and may even qualify for day or weekend passes where he is free to do what he wants. If a prisoner successfully completes a term in a half-way house, he is usually paroled into the community.
What Happens After A Prisoner Is “Paroled Into The Community”?
A prisoner on parole is not without restriction. Sometimes, the prisoner will spend time on a “tether,” an electronic monitoring device that allows his parole officer to monitor his movements, and be restricted from doing much other than going to work. A parolee will typically not be allowed to move without permission from his parole officer. Sometimes, it will be a parole violation to get fired from a job. Parolees are typically restricted from associating with known criminals. If the parolee has drug or alcohol problems, he may be subjected to periodic testing for use. If the parolee has mental health problems, he may be ordered to participate in counseling or to obtain psychiatric treatment. (Increasingly, prisoners with mental health problems are refused parole, and simply serve out their time in prison.) Parolees may be surprised to learn how much control their parole officers exercise over their lives, and, depending upon the state, the extent of the parole officer’s powers to search the parolee or his residence upon suspicion that the parolee has engaged in illegal activities. Parolees often cannot move or change jobs without permission.
If I Am On Parole, Can I Leave The State?
Parolees are typically not permitted to leave the state without permission from their parole officers. Permission may be granted for short trips out of state, for example to attend funerals, or for longer trips, such as to assist a sick relative. However, some parolees are surprised to learn that, due to the nature of their offenses or a perceived risk of flight, their parole officers refuse to allow them to leave the state. If a parolee wishes to move to another state, and is granted permission to do so, his parole will typically continue, and will typically be transferred to the Department of Corrections in his new home state.
What Happens If A Person “Violates” His Parole?
If a parolee is accused of violating his parole, he is typically given the opportunity to challenge the accusation at an administrative hearing before the parole board. There will typically be two hearings, the first to determine if the parolee should be held in custody pending the full hearing, and the second to determine if the parolee violated the terms of his parole. Parolees who fail to report for meetings with their probation officer, who are caught with illegal drugs or concealed weapons, who associate with known criminals, or who are arrested on new criminal charges, are particularly likely to be returned to prison. It should be noted that being arrested can be enough to violate a person’s parole, even if no charges result from that arrest.
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A probation or parole revocation can severely impact your life and send you to jail or prison. If you face revocation, Houston Criminal Lawyer Charles Johnson can fight the allegations and/or assist you in getting an alternative to revocation. Attorney Charles Johnson is experienced with revocation proceedings. He will provide you with the information and legal representation you need to fight the revocation, get an Alternative to Revocation (ATR), or limit the jail or prison time.
The Charles Johnson Law Firm can expertly assist you with any of the following:
- Probation or Parole violations
- Extended supervision violations
- Probation or Parole revocation hearings
- Reconfinement hearings
- Negotiating with probation/extended supervision agent
Revocations are often based on new charges but sometimes just on mere allegations. It is important to contact the experienced Houston Probation Attorney at the Charles Johnson Law Firm early on in your case so we can work to negotiate an alternative to revocation or seek lower re-confinement recommendations.
The use of probation and parole is governed in part by competing philosophies, classicalism and positivism. In short, classicalists believe that offenders choose their actions and, therefore, in order to prevent (or deter) future criminal acts, such individuals should be punished. Conversely, positivists believe that individuals are forced into the choice of committing crime through no fault of their own and, therefore, the conditions and/or behaviors that caused the action should be remedied, ultimately resulting in rehabilitation of the offender.
Legislative acts and public sentiment further dictate the application of probation and parole. Therefore, universal and consistent definitions and applications of probation and parole are not available as the methods of punishment and governing philosophies have evolved and moved toward the twenty-first century.
While these factors contribute to a lack of consistency when dealing with probation and parole, the primary obstacle to detailing specific state protocols is that the practice of granting probation and/or parole at the state level is dependent on the discretionary powers of select individuals, such as the prosecutor, the judicial authority, and the parole board, to name just a few.
Probation is a court-imposed sanction that “releases a convicted offender into the community under a conditional suspended sentence.” This practice assumes that most offenders are not dangerous and will respond well to treatment. In fact, the average probationer is a first time and/or non-violent offender who, it is believed, will be best served by remaining in the community while serving out the sentence. Probation is a form of punishment issued by a criminal court in place of incarceration. The probationer is generally considered to be a non-violent offender who has been convicted of a crime but is not considered a danger and is believed to be better served by being placed on probation instead of in a jail cell. Probationers are typically convicted of misdemeanor offenses, have already served partial jail time for the offenses or are first time offenders or minors. Probationers are often forced to modify their lifestyle by reporting to a probation officer, living in certain locations, abiding by a set curfew and avoiding association with known criminal offenders.
Historically, probation does not involve incarceration, making it a front-end solution to address the overcrowding problem in U. S. prisons and jails. While the immediate goal of any probation program is rehabilitation, in reality it is more a necessity than an instrument. As a result, other programs have been developed under the umbrella of community corrections that utilize elements of conditional release resulting in the expansion of probation-type programs.
Probation developed as a result of the efforts of philanthropist, John Augustus, to rehabilitate convicted offenders, although references to similar practices exist as early as 437-422 BC. It was favored because it allowed judicial authorities a great deal of discretion when imposing sentences, thereby providing the opportunity to tailor sentences to a particular offender, in theory allowing for the greatest possibility of rehabilitation. While sentences of probation vary widely across and within jurisdictions, the maximum length of time that one can be under supervision is 5 years (60 months).
The functions of probation are difficult to state definitively. It is known that at its inception, John Augustus’ goal was behavioral reform. This reflects the sentencing goal of rehabilitation. Fundamentally, it is believed that by allowing the offender to remain in the community, the system is providing a second chance. Further, support and guidance from probation officers may achieve the aim of guiding the offender towards a law-abiding existence.
Given that probation is no longer limited to first-time, non-violent offenders who pose minimal risk to the community, the reality is significantly different. Coupled with low confidence in the effectiveness of rehabilitative success and a burgeoning offender population, actual practices tend to be dictated by conflicting goals on both an individual and administrative level. In an aggressive bid to prevent jail or prison overcrowding, several alternatives to incarceration have developed. Some such programs enable offenders traditionally incarcerated to be released into the community, thereby forcing a shift in focus from rehabilitation to control and supervision.
Intensive Supervised Probation (ISP)
ISP is a form of release into the community that emphasizes close monitoring of convicted offenders and imposes rigorous conditions on that release, such as the following:
- Multiple weekly contacts w/officer
- Random and unannounced drug testing
- Stringent enforcement of conditions, i.e.,: maintaining employment
- Required participation in treatment, education programs, etc.
Individuals on ISP are those who most likely should not be in the community. The restrictions placed on them are often excessive and the level of direct, face-to-face contact required is believed to significantly deter, or at least interfere, with any ongoing criminal activity.
Shock Probation and Split Sentencing
Shock probation/split sentencing is a sentence for a term of years, but after 30, 60, or 90 days, the offender is removed from jail or prison.
While these terms are used interchangeably, they are actually two different activities. In shock probation, the offender is originally sentenced to jail, then brought before the judge after 30, 60, or 90 days and re-sentenced to probation. In split sentencing, probation is part of the original sentence requiring no additional appearance before the judge.
Probation revocation occurs when an offender who has been sentenced to serve his punishment in the form of probation rather than incarceration violates the terms of his probation and is imprisoned. Probation can be revoked for a variety of reasons and may have varying consequences for the individual who has had his probation revoked, depending location and the regulations of the law enforcement agency involved.
Probation revocation means that the offenders probation officer has decided that the offender is not complying with the terms that were set for his probation and should be imprisoned for the remaining length of his sentence. Probation officers have to meet with a judge during a hearing and present evidence that the probationer is not fulfilling the terms of the probation before the probation will be revoked. Individuals are notified when their probation is revoked. If they do not turn themselves in to the court or police, a warrant will be issued for their arrest.
Reasons for Probation Revocation
Probation revocation occurs when an probationer violates the terms of her unique probation sentence. This could mean going outside a specified area such as a state or county, not being home prior to a specified time, failing to pay fines, check in with a probation officer or complete community service. Probation may also be revoked if the probationer commits or is accused of committing another crime during the time of their probation.
Consequences of Probation Revocation
When probation is revoked, the offender is sent to jail to serve out the remainder of his sentence. This means that the offender is completely incarcerated for an amount of time that will be decided by the judge during a probation revocation hearing where the probation officer reports why he believes the offender’s probation should be revoked. In some instances, depending on the crime and the severity of the issue that caused probation to be revoked, an offender’s time on probation will be taken into consideration. She may receive a jail sentence that is shorter than her original sentence, since the time spent on probation can be considered to have been part of the time served for the crime.
Since probation is a conditional release, it can be revoked, or taken away, if the conditions governing release are not met (technical violation) or if a new crime is committed during the probationary period (new offense).
Probation revocation is initiated by the probation officer’s belief that a violation warranting revocation has occurred. As a result of the 1973 case Gagnon v. Scarpelli (411 U.S. 778), the Supreme Court decided that where “liberty interests” are involved, probationers are entitled to retain certain due process rights. Such rights include: (1) written notification of the alleged violations; (2) preliminary (or probable cause) hearing at which a judicial authority will determine whether sufficient probable cause exists to pursue the case; and (3) if warranted, a revocation hearing.
If a revocation hearing is scheduled, probationers have the right to testify in their own behalf, may present witnesses, and may have an attorney present. While the Gagnon court was vague regarding the right to court appointed counsel at a revocation hearing, most jurisdictions do provide the right to appointed counsel.
The standard of proof required at a revocation hearing is a “preponderance of the evidence”, lower than that required at a criminal trial. Possible outcomes include return to supervision, reprimand with restoration to supervision, or revocation with imprisonment.
If you were placed on deferred adjudication probation, a probation revocation could result in a conviction on your criminal record or possibly a jail or prison sentence. Houston Criminal Lawyer Charles Johnson provides aggressive and thorough representation for clients facing a revocation of probation. His primary goal when representing a client in a probation revocation proceeding is to explore all defenses and possible alternatives that could avoid revocation of your probation.
Early Intervention in Houston Probation Violations
If a motion to revoke probation has been filed against you or if you are potentially facing the possibility of probation revocation, the time to act is now! Early intervention in a probation violation matter can often make the difference between facing a probation revocation hearing, or indeed whether or not a motion to revoke probation is filed at all. Houston Criminal Lawyer Charles Johnson has the experience necessary to make the court, probation officer, and the District Attorney’s Office aware of all circumstances regarding your case and to explore all defenses and possible alternatives to avoid revocation of your probation.
Parole is the “conditional early release from prison or jail, under supervision, after a portion of the sentence has been served.” This practice assumes that the offender successfully demonstrated conformity to the rules and regulations of the prison environment and shows an ability to conform to society’s norms and laws.
The word, parole, derives from the French “parol” meaning “word of honor” and references prisoners of war promising not to take up arms in current conflict if released. How that concept came to apply to the early release of convicted, often violent, offenders is less clear. The first documented official use of early release from prison in the United States is credited to Samuel G. Howe in Boston (1847), but prior to that, other programs using pardons achieved basically the same outcome. In fact, as late as 1938, parole was simply a conditional pardon in many states.
Alexander Maconochie (England) ran the Norfolk Island prison. During his tenure, he instituted a system whereby inmates would be punished for the past and trained for the future. He believed that inmates could be rehabilitated so he implemented an open-ended sentencing structure where inmates had to “earn” their release by passing through three stages, each stage increased their liberty and responsibilities. Inmates had an open time frame in which to earn the next level. Compliance advanced them; infractions resulted in a return to the previous stage, thereby lengthening the sentence. The open-ended sentences (today known as indeterminate sentencing) allowed the administration to ensure that when finally released, an offender’s behavior had been successfully reformed. Eventually, Maconochie was removed from his position under criticism that his program “coddled” criminals.
At about the same time, Sir Walter Crofton was developing a similar program in Ireland using “tickets of leave”. The “Irish System” as it came to be known, employed a similar practice of allowing inmates to earn credits towards early release. However, once the “ticket of leave” was achieved, release from custody was conditional. The releasees were supervised in the community by either law enforcement or civilian personnel who were required to secure employment and to conduct home visits. These “supervisors” represented the forerunner to today’s parole officer.
In the United States, Zebulon Brockaway (Superintendent) employed elements from both the Irish and Great Britain models in managing the Elmira Reformatory during the 1870s. Brockaway is credited with the passage of the first indeterminate sentencing law in the United States as well as introducing the first good time system to reduce inmates’ sentences. However, releasing the offenders was only part of the problem and initially, the greatest challenge was providing adequate supervision once release had been granted.
By 1913, it was clear some independent body was required to supervise inmates in the community and by 1930, Congress formally established a United States Board of Parole. It appeared, at least for awhile, that initiatives and programs were developing that could make parole a viable and useful tool of the criminal justice system. But unfortunate timing contributed ultimately to its downfall.
In 1929, the Great Depression hit the United States. An immediate result was a sharp increase in prison populations. However, the high cost of maintaining prisons as well as a lack of available personnel to staff them made new construction prohibitive and contributed to the popularity of parole. While alleviation of the overcrowding problem is often cited as a secondary (or latent) goal, the reality is that as a back-end solution, parole is vital to the maintenance of the correctional system.
With the onset of the twentieth century, philosophers began to examine the social and psychological aspects of criminal behavior. This heralded a shift from classicalist thinking towards positivism. Under positivism, actions are believed to be caused by forces beyond one’s control (such forces could be psychological, biological, or sociological in origin). Therefore, parolees were now viewed as “sick” and the parole department was charged with the responsibility of “fixing” them.
Positivism is consistent with a less punitive approach to sentencing and generally involves an indeterminate sentencing structure allowing for the possibility of early release if the offender demonstrates that they have been successfully rehabilitated. As such, it fit well with the Elmira system and the timing afforded officials the opportunity to use parole as a means to relieve the overcrowded conditions that had developed during the depression.
The fact that parole involves some incarceration suggests that the average parolee has committed a more serious crime than the average probationer and, hence, poses a greater risk to the community. Therefore, primary goals of parole must include crime deterrence and offender control. And given that most offenders will eventually return to the community, a rival goal is reintegration, or the facilitation of an offender’s transition from incarceration to freedom.
Unfortunately, it appeared during the 1980s that parole was failing. Street crime rates during this period skyrocketed and in many cases, the crimes were perpetrated by individuals who were released into the community prior to the official expiration of their sentence. This reality led to the development of penal philosophies espousing “tough on crime” approaches and demanding “truth in sentencing”. Such philosophies warned criminals, “do the crime, do the time” and resulted in radical changes to sentencing practices across the country that indicated a return to a more punitive sentencing structure.
Since parole is a conditional release, it can be revoked or taken away, if the conditions governing release are not met (technical violation) or if a new crime is committed during the probationary period (new offense). In this manner, it is similar to probation; however, it differs in that probation is governed by judicial decisions whereas parole is governed by administrative procedures. As a result of the administrative nature of parole, the revocation process is so varied among the jurisdictions.
In large part, however, most minor infractions are dealt with by the parole officer and may not necessitate involvement of the parole board. Some jurisdictions empower the parole officer to immediately take a parolee into custody for 24 (New York) to 48 hours (Pennsylvania) for purposes of obtaining an arrest warrant. This practice is typically employed when the offender represents an immediate threat to public safety.
With respect to the legal protections afforded to parolees, the first case to explore this issue was Morrissey v. Brewer (1972). The Morrissey case explored the extension of due process rights of (1) written notice to parolee prior to general revocation proceeding; (2) identification of the violations being presented and any evidence being used to prove that the violation took place; (3) the right of the parolee to confront and cross-examine accusers (subject to exceptions) and (4) a written explanation for the decisions regarding the revocation of the parole and what evidence was employed in making that decision. Perhaps the greatest contribution of the Morrissey case was the creation of a two-stage process wherein first, probable cause that violations had occurred had to exist in order to go to the second stage, which was the actual revocation hearing.
Interestingly, the Supreme Court did not choose to create a bright line rule for the right to court-appointed counsel at a revocation hearing. For the most part, however, most jurisdictions have followed the decision in Mempa v. Rhay (1967). While this case specifically dealt with the rights of probationers, it has been applied recently to parolees as well. Basically, the Supreme Court wrote that “any indigent is entitled at every stage of a criminal proceeding to be represented by court-appointed counsel, where substantial rights of a criminal accused may be affected.” In sum, the Supreme Court considered the liberty interests of the probationers and decided that a probation revocation hearing constituted a “critical stage” which dictated adherence to due process protections. This rationale has consistently been extended to include parole revocation hearings as well.
As of 2001, 15 states (Arizona, California, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Maine, Minnesota, Mississippi, Ohio, Oregon, New Mexico, North Carolina, Virginia and Washington) and the Federal government have eliminated parole programs in lieu of a determinate model of sentencing reflective of a more retributive approach to punishment. (New York Gov. George Pataki proposed making New York the sixteenth state)
Such an action may seem warranted given the apparent inability of the system to guarantee the protection of the citizens and the end result is predictable. Overcrowding still represents the greatest challenge to the correctional industry. In fact, three states (Connecticut, Colorado, and Florida) reinstituted the parole boards after eliminating them due to the unforeseen overcrowding problems. The reality is that removal of parole ultimately leads simply to a shift in power from parole boards to prosecutors, in that the option most often exercised in states without parole, is probation.
Contact Houston Probation Lawyer Charles Johnson if You are Not Ready to Give Up – Jail is not the Only Option
Once we have dissected your probation revocation complaint, we will mount an aggressive defense, knocking out many of the counts against you. In the end, if you do have some counts that are proven to the court, we can often have probation reinstated, provided you accomplish some heroic steps at our direction prior to the revocation hearing. We will consult with you and our team of treatment experts to build a track record of success prior to your probation revocation hearing. These efforts will show the District Attorney and the judge that you are worthy of another chance at probation, and that you are not a danger to the community. With a well thought out and implemented plan, you have more options than jail or prison if the judge revokes your probation.
If you are accused of violating the terms of your parole or probation or have questions regarding a potential probation offense, please call at anytime for a free initial consultation.
Houston Lawyer Charles Johnson can be reached 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Call us at 713-222-7577 or toll free at 877-308-0100.
Major Credit Cards Accepted.
Related News Stories – Probation Revocation in Houston
Waller County District Attorney
Waller County District Attorney’s Office felony cases disposed of January ... Curtis Ray Williams, 22, of Hempstead, robbery (revocation of probation), 5 years in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice Institutional Division; $318 court costs ...
Your Houston News - Apr 20 2011
Judge Cherry presides at recent session of revocation court
Cherry presided over a session of revocation court on May 18 ... Spillia violated his probation by failing to refrain from the use of alcohol. • Edward J. Houston, 31, 41 Pine Air Court, Clearfield, had his parole revoked and street time taken.
The Progress - May 26 2015
One out of 7 county probationers returns to jail
Roughly one of every seven Harris County probationers was put behind bars last year for failing to comply with court-ordered conditions, the highest revocation ... 25-year-old Houston woman who was sentenced to two years' probation Wednesday.
Chron - Jun 26 2005
Saunders County Courthouse Records
Huggins, $500, 6 months probation, 60 days driver’s license revocation, interlock device ... Frank, $25. Speeding: Houston L. Hendricks, $75; Matthew M. Lillig, dismissed. UCR-no registration/payment: Charles W. Kennedy, $100. Saunders County Sheriff ...
Wahoo Newspaper - Feb 03 2015
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No one truly intends to commit intoxication manslaughter. They do not wake up and say “I’m going to get drunk tonight and drive and see who gets in my way.”
Accidents do happen and tragically, someone can die. Mitigating factors are thoroughly checked out such as whether the person broke any traffic laws, was driving with a suspended license, or if the person was negligent in some way. These are usually tried as misdemeanors. However, if a person is found to be intoxicated or under the influence of something, it is treated in Texas as a second degree felony and the prosecution goes after the person diligently. In intoxication manslaughter cases, the prosecution only has to prove that the driver was indeed, intoxicated. The term of incarceration could be anything from two years to twenty years.
If you have been charged with DWI after being in an accident that involved a death, you may be facing very serious charges of intoxication manslaughter. It is imperative that you speak with Houston Criminal Lawyer Charles Johnson as soon as possible after you have been charged, or think you may be charged. Attorney Johnson has the experience you can rely on for aggressive and effective defense strategies against the charges. The skilled attorneys at the Charles Johnson Law Firm do not believe there is any such thing as being slam-dunk guilty. No matter what the circumstances of the accident are, your personal story is behind the charges and will make a difference in the outcome of your case. We will make sure that the judge and jury know that this isn’t just about an intoxication manslaughter case. It is about you and your family.
Intoxication manslaughter is a Second Degree felony which holds people liable for any death which occurs because of criminal negligence, or a violation of traffic safety laws. A common use of the vehicular manslaughter laws involves prosecution for a death caused by driving under the influence (determined by excessive blood alcohol content levels set by individual U.S. states), although an independent infraction (such as driving with a suspended driver’s license), or negligence, is usually also required.
Intoxication manslaughter, vehicular manslaughter and other similar offences require a lesser mens rea (Latin for “guilty mind”. In criminal law, it is viewed as one of the necessary elements of a crime) than other manslaughter offenses. Furthermore, the fact that the defendant is entitled to use the alcohol, controlled substance, drug, dangerous drug, or other substance, is no defense. For example, in Texas, to prove intoxication manslaughter, it is not necessary to prove the person was negligent in causing the death of another, nor that they unlawfully used the substance that intoxicated them, but only that they were intoxicated, and operated a motor vehicle, and someone died as a result.
Types of Intoxication Manslaughter
In Texas, intoxication manslaughter does not only apply to automobile drivers. Individuals may be charged with this crime under any of the following circumstances:
If they are operating a car, truck, motorcycle, or any other type of motorized vehicle in a public place
If they are operating a boat, airplane, or amusement park ride
If they assemble an amusement park ride
If the alleged offender has done any of these things while intoxicated, and someone was killed by the vehicle they were operating or had assembled, they can be convicted of intoxication manslaughter. There is no requirement that the prosecutor prove negligence, that their intoxication was the direct cause of the crash, or that they were behaving unlawfully by using the substance that caused their intoxication.
Defenses For Intoxication Manslaughter
Intoxication manslaughter cases should be attacked on two fronts if the case is going to trial. Notwithstanding whether a person is or is not intoxicated, a good lawyer would examine the Texas Peace Officer collision report which was completed as part of the investigation. Just because a driver may be intoxicated does not mean that he should be held criminally liable for the death of another.
There have been cases where the deceased driver was as much at fault if not more at fault than the accused. Examples could include the deceased having run a red light, the deceased having operated his motor vehicle at night without lights, the deceased also being intoxicated, the deceased merging improperly into traffic, and the list goes on. A lawyer familiar with crash reconstruction and who has worked with reconstruction experts should be able to present this defense if it is available. The issue is one of causation and is set forth in Tex. Penal Code Section 6.04. In a nutshell, what 6.04 states is that if an accused’s conduct is insufficient in itself to cause the result, and the conduct of another contributed to the result and the contributing cause was sufficient to cause the result, the accused cannot be held liable.
A good accident reconstruction expert’s report may convince a prosecutor to agree to probation if causation is questionable. That in itself may be worth the investment in hiring both a reconstruction expert and a lawyer who knows how to present such findings.
The second line of defense is whether a person is intoxicated. Scientific evidence can be compelling for a jury. However, the State is allowed to rely upon opinion evidence based upon observations such as lack of coordination, blood shot eyes, smell of intoxicants on breath, slurred speech etc. Some of these symptom could be explained by lack of sleep, allergies, injury, but not all.
Most police departments have on board video cameras and video may very well have been used in this case. Video can be a two-edge sword. Many a video has convinced a defendant to make the best deal possible, while other videos have convinced an accused to take it to trial
In blood draws/test results, there are several considerations. A blood sample can be lost, yet there can be a medical record from a laboratory stating what the test result is. In fact, most hospitals don’t retain the blood samples, but for a very short period. If the blood draw was for medical treatment, sometimes there is a chain of custody problem that makes admission of the medical records unreliable. Most courts, when dealing with a chain of custody issue on medical records as the result of medical treatment rule that any problems goes to the weight of the evidence, not the admissibility, that is, the records gets admitted but the defense lawyer gets to argue that it is not reliable because of the poor chain of custody.
Mandatory blood draws can be attacked, however, you should hire a lawyer familiar with the statutory and administrative requirements for blood draws.
Houston Intoxication Manslaughter Defense Lawyer: The Charles Johnson Law Firm
When you are charged with intoxication manslaughter or intoxication assault, you have more than just the prosecutor against you. You have the victim’s family and the public screaming for your head. You don’t have to go through this alone. The Charles Johnson Law Firm will fight aggressively to protect your rights and your future.
After a car accident in which there has been a fatality, it is an extremely upsetting situation for everyone involved. Law enforcement will collect evidence at the scene and this evidence is an important part of the documentation of the case. It is crucial that if you have been charged with intoxication manslaughter that you contact The Charles Johnson Law Firm quickly. The evidence in the case can be reviewed and an attorney can advise you what can be done in your case. Houston Criminal Lawyer Charles Johnson can offer a free evaluation of your case, and it is advised that you take advantage of this so it can be determined what can be done and what options may be possible in your case.
Houston Lawyer Charles Johnson can be reached 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Call us at 713-222-7577 or toll free at 877-308-0100.
Major Credit Cards Accepted
Download “Arrested for Intoxication Manslaughter? Avoid Conviction by Hiring the Best Houston Intoxication Manslaughter Attorney” in PDF format
News Stories Related to Intoxication Manslaughter Arrest in Houston:
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The first phase, which starts Aug. 31, will include the Brenham, Houston and Austin areas in Texas and ... vehicle.Cops say the driver of the vehicle Botello was in is facing intoxication manslaughter charges. Botello's family is having a benefit to ...
Action 10 News - Aug 17 2015
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Hire the Leading Houston Attorney!
Being charged with a crime in Houston is a extremely scary moment in your life. The federal government has the power to take away your liberty for the rest of your life. A quite complex process starts to operate the minute that you are arrested by the police. It truly is frightening and bewildering.
In this article we will give you a good idea of the criminal process and what you might expect should you are ever charged with a crime. Nevertheless, these are generalities only. The real answer is determined by the form of criminal offense you were charged with, the circumstances surrounding it, the county you are in, etc. Only those who understand the criminal law process, and realize how to make it work, will be able to genuinely tell you what to anticipate in your particular case. This is certainly an area of the law you do not ever want to handle all by yourself.
Experienced Houston Lawyer: The Charles Johnson Law Firm
The Charles Johnson Law Firm will always provide a free of charge consultation to anyone charged with a criminal offense. You should take advantage of that free consultation asap. Having a criminal defense attorney is extremely important to successfully getting through the criminal process. Receive a complimentary initial consultation by calling Houston Criminal Defense Lawyer Charles Johnson now, 24 / 7, 365 days a year.
The following are the steps you might expect to happen, and what each step in the process means to you:
Stop and Arrest
The whole process starts with a stop or a charge by the authorities. A stop isn’t as formal as an arrest. A police officer will stop you to make inquiries. They cannot stop you unless they have a reasonable belief that you violated what the law states. What is a valid “reasonable suspicion”? There are a million court cases answering that question and Houston Criminal Defense Attorney Charles Johnson will be capable of giving you many examples during your no charge consultation.
Nevertheless, understand that you always have the right to remain silent, even if you are merely stopped and questioned. You do not have to answer questions from law enforcement at any time. The truth is, everyone ought to know their constitutional rights relating to criminal law.
If you are in a vehicle, the law enforcement officer may very well ask to search it. The authorities cannot search your automobile unless they have “probable cause”, or you consent. Some might seek your consent mainly because they do not quite have “probable cause.” You do not have to provide your consent to a search of your automobile. Some may search your automobile later, nevertheless your attorney will be able to then challenge the probable cause law enforcement asserted as being a reason to search the automobile. Should you give your consent, the authorities do not need any other reason to search your vehicle, and your attorney will have considerably less to challenge in the courtroom.
“Probable cause” is more serious than “reasonable suspicion”, however there are a million court cases explaining it too and a Houston Lawyer will explain those during your consultation. You cannot challenge a law enforcement officer’s assertion of probable cause until later, in the courtroom. Once again, let your lawyer handle that question later.
Typically, a police officer is able to charge you should they have probable cause to believe you committed a crime, or if there is a warrant out for your arrest. If a stop and search lead to an arrest, you must in no way resist it. If it isn’t really valid, you may wish to do so, however you cannot legally challenge it until later. Resisting arrest is a crime itself. The optimal advice if you are arrested is to be calm, be silent, and demand a lawyer before they ask you any type of questions.
After being arrested, the police officer will “book” you. This is the process where they take your fingerprints, get your mug shot, do a background check, and ask you questions. Remember, you have the right to remain silent and the right to demand an attorney. You do not need to respond to questions. They aren’t going to let you out of jail even should you respond to all their questions. Just always be calm, always be silent, and let Attorney Johnson deal with things later. That’s the best you can do.
The charge originates from the prosecutor, not police officers. The victim does not get to charge you, and contrary to popular belief, they don’t get to drop the criminal charges either. The prosecutor will often take into account the wishes of the victim, nevertheless they do not have to. You are within the hands of the state subsequent to being arrested. They cannot hold you indefinitely, however. You must be arrested for a criminal offense within a certain limited amount of time or they have got to release you.
This is where the Judge or Magistrate will formally read your criminal charges and let you know your rights. You should have asserted your priviledge to an attorney before now. If not, do so now. If you are asked how to plea, and you do not have a Houston criminal defense lawyer, you must say “not guilty.”
The Magistrate will determine whether or not you ought to be released, and if so, how much your bail will be. Bail is the amount of cash you, or another person else, must post with the court so they can be sure you will reappear. In the event you do not, your bond is going to be forfeited, and the county retains it.
If bail is set, another person has to post it for you or hire a bail bondsman to do so. If you hire a bail bondsman, and you run off, the bondsman loses the bail money to the court. In the event that happens, they send another person after you – a bounty hunter. Furthermore, there will be a warrant out for your arrest. In some cases you might be released on your own “recognizance”, which just means there is absolutely no bail. Nevertheless you are now in the system and will have to appear for additional proceedings.
Discovery is a pre-trial process where the prosecutor needs to give certain information and facts to your criminal defense lawyer. Attorney Charles Johnson will be permitted to see all of the evidence against you before trial. There aren’t any secret, last minute witnesses permitted.
This is the top reason to remain silent, not give your consent to a search, and demand an attorney in the event you are arrested. Your lawyer might prepare any number of pre-trial motions. They frequently ask the Court to exclude certain evidence from trial if it was gained in an illegal or impermissible fashion. It is difficult to suppress evidence if you spoke voluntarily or gave consent to a search.
This is known as a fancy word for negotiations. If the two sides reach an agreement, you will usually be required to plead guilty to one or more of the charges to obtain the deal which has been reached. This involves going to court, answering several questions from the Judge, and indicating to the court on the record that you are guilty to the charge agreed upon by your criminal defense attorney and the prosecutor.
If the prosecutor and your lawyer are unable to reach an agreement on a plea bargain, you will normally go to trial. Trial is where the government needs to put on evidence that you committed a transgression, in most cases including producing witnesses live in court to testify. You do not have to testify. You do not need to put on any type of evidence whatsoever. The government has to demonstrate its case, and it needs to demonstrate it beyond a reasonable doubt.
If you are found guilty, or if you enter a plea of guilty based on a plea bargain, you will undoubtedly be sentenced by the Court. The Judge will make a decision on the suitable punishment. This might end up being anything from probation to active prison time. There are guidelines that apply and allow the Judge a general range of punishment choices.
Houston Criminal Defense Attorney Charles Johnson can do a lot for you personally at sentencing, including making sure that all the procedures are followed, arguing for lesser guidelines, and arguing circumstances which would allow the Judge to sentence you to lower than that called for in the guidelines. Also, Attorney Johnson will help you before sentencing by informing you what measures you might take to make the Judge more likely to be lenient on you. For instance, if you are charged with drunk driving, and take a class or go to rehab, the Judge may take that into consideration when sentencing you.
Aggressive Houston Attorney: The Charles Johnson Law Firm
I have tried to provide you with a good overview of the criminal process, with a few tips on how best to deal with important things at each stage. But I should repeat my first and most important advice here: call Houston Lawyer Charles Johnson whenever a criminal charge is made against you. It is no joke, and you could lose your protection under the law, your money, and your independence.
Remember, we offer a no cost consultation for any individual charged with a criminal offense. You should take advantage of that no charge time to better understand the exact nature of your situation, and what is likely to take place at trial or sentencing.
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