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Have you been accused of operating a marijuana grow house? Grow houses have been popping up all over Texas and all over the nation. As a result, law enforcement has intensified investigations. They are reviewing electrical usage and water usage to determine if excessive amounts are being used — creating suspicion that the manufacture/cultivation of marijuana is being carried out on the premises. If you are under investigation or have been arrested and are facing drug manufacturing charges, you need experienced legal counsel on your side. Houston Criminal Lawyer Charles Johnson expertly defends clients who have been charged with marijuana-related crimes through the entire State of Texas, with offices in Houston, Austin, Dallas and San Antonio.
At the Charles Johnson Law Firm, we take marijuana charges seriously. We provide aggressive manufacture/cultivation defense representation to each client. Contact Attorney Johnson directly at (713) 222-7577 anytime night or day to discuss your case with an experienced criminal defense attorney.
Marijuana Cultivation: Defense Lawyers You Can Trust
Our law firm provides exceptional defense representation. We have earned a reputation for our diligence and our commitment to our clients. Clients have come to respect and trust us when they are in need and their future is at stake. We know the law and how to effectively defend our clients.
When clients have been charged with marijuana cultivation or other drug manufacturing, we analyze every aspect of the case.
- How did law enforcement become aware of the use of grow lights?
- Was reviewing the occupant’s electrical bills legal?
- Was a valid search warrant obtained before entering the home?
- Did someone else have access to the home?
- Was the home actually owned by someone else?
In marijuana cultivation cases, penalties are based on quantity. Therefore, if you have possession of a significant amount of plants in your home or an amount of marijuana of substantial weight, you may face a mandatory minimum sentence. Experienced defense counsel is paramount to the success of your case.
We use our knowledge of the law to our client’s benefit. If required procedure was not followed or our clients’ rights were violated, we petition to have evidence suppressed from the record — weakening or destroying the case against you. If you have been arrested for marijuana cultivation, trust the Best Houston Drug Lawyer Charles Johnson to provide the zealous defense representation you need. You can contact Attorney Johnson directly anytime night or day at (713) 222-7577.
About Marijuana Cultivation in Texas
In Texas, it is against the law to possess, distribute, or grow marijuana. The charges for these crimes are serious and the penalties include jail time, probation, prison, and expensive fines. In addition to these consequences, your driver’s license will be suspended even if you are not driving a vehicle at the time of your arrest.
Texas marijuana cultivation laws make it illegal for you to grow and possess certain plants or other organic materials that are used to produce marijuana. This means that if you are found with cannabis seeds, grow lighting systems, or marijuana plants, you will be charged with marijuana cultivation.
Large-scale federal marijuana cultivation charges are serious and carry severe consequences. As a federal offense, your case would be handled in the federal court system, which places strict sentencing guidelines on convictions. It is important that you retain a lawyer who has experience trying cases at the federal level. I can evaluate your case from every angle to determine the best course of action.
Marijuana is derived from the hemp plant called Cannabis sativa, which can be found growing naturally in many parts of the world. Though it may be commonly known as a hallucinogenic drug, the hemp or marijuana plant can be used in many other ways to produce paper, hemp oil, food and clothes. Owning items that are made of hemp is not illegal; however, growing or cultivating a marijuana plant in Texas is punishable as a criminal offense.
Marijuana remains readily available and is considered the most widely used illegal drug throughout the State of Texas. Marijuana in this area is primarily imported from the Texas/Mexico border via privately owned vehicles (POV) and commercial trucks. Large quantities of marijuana are routinely seized by all levels of law enforcement during highway interdiction stops in the North Texas area. In recent years, increased enforcement activity has lead to the seizure of several significant indoor marijuana cultivation operations in North Texas. These operations range in size from 100 to over 1100 plants and have produced marijuana with THC levels as high as 15%. Mexican marijuana is the most predominantly trafficked drug in the Houston Division. It is not uncommon for the US Border Patrol to make multi-hundred pound marijuana seizures from “back packers” at points along the Rio Grande River, and from vehicles at the US Border Patrol secondary checkpoints in Texas. At the Ports of Entry, ton quantity seizures of marijuana are often made from commercial trucking attempting to enter the United States.
Seasonal marijuana growing operations may be conducted on lands of all ownership. Some individuals elect to grow their illegal crops on publicly owned lands where isolation and limited public access lessen the likelihood of accidental detection. Certain things may be indicators of an outdoor growing operation. Some of these are:
- An unusually large purchase of fertilizer,
- garden hoses, PVC pipe, and
- camouflage netting.
- Excessive security measures out of place
- in remote forested areas.
- An unusual structure or out-of-place
- items in remote forested areas, such as
- buckets, garden tools, hoses, PVC pipe,
and fertilizer bags.
Many individuals choose to cultivate marijuana indoors in order to have total control of the environment. These operations may divert power from power companies to circumvent payment of high bills and attempt to avoid detection. This only raises the cost of power for law-abiding citizens.
Certain things may be indicators of an indoor growing operation. Some of these are:
- Covered or blackened-out windows.
- Loud humming sounds (from fans or ballasts).
- An unusually strong musty odor.
- Unusually large amounts of potting soil, containers, fertilizer, hoses, halide light system, and ballasts.
- Excessive security measures and use of guard dogs.
Marijuana possession, sale, and manufacture are regulated by both state and federal law. In Texas, marijuana is classified as a Schedule I substance, which means that it has a high potential for abuse and no generally recognized medical value. (Texas Stat. and Code Ann. § 481.002.)
It is a crime to possess marijuana in Texas. Penalties vary according to the amount possessed, with increased penalties for offenses in a drug free school zone. (Texas Stat. and Code Ann. § 481.121.)
Two ounces or less. Penalties include a fine of up to $2,000, up to 180 days in jail, or both.
More than two ounces, but less than four ounces. Penalties include a fine of up to $4,000, up to one year in jail, or both.
Four ounces or more, up to and including five pounds. Penalties include a fine of up to $10,000, between 180 days and two years in prison, or both.
More than five pounds, up to and including 50 pounds. Penalties include a fine of up to $10,000, between two and ten years in prison, or both.
More than 50 pounds, up to and including 2,000 pounds. Penalties include a fine of up to $10,000, between two and 20 years in prison, or both.
More than 2,000 pounds. Penalties include a fine of up to $50,000, between five and 99 years in prison, or both.
Marijuana Cultivation and Sales
It is illegal to cultivate or sell marijuana (or possess marijuana with the intent to do so) in Texas. Penalties vary according to the amount cultivated or sold, with increased penalties for sales to a minor or within a drug free school zone. (Texas Stat. and Code Ann. § 481.120.)
Gift of one fourth of an ounce or less. Penalties include a fine of up to $2,000, up to 180 days in jail, or both.
Selling one fourth of an ounce or less. Penalties include a fine of up to $4,000, up to one year in jail, or both.
More than one fourth of an ounce, and up to and including five pounds. Penalties include a fine of up to $10,000, between 180 days and two years in prison, or both.
More than five pounds, up to and including 50 pounds. Penalties include a fine of up to $10,000, between two and 20 years in prison, or both.
More than 50 pounds, up to and including 2,000 pounds. Penalties include a fine of up to $10,000, between five and 99 years in prison, or both.
More than 2,000 pounds. Penalties include a fine of up to $50,000, at least ten (and up to 99) years in prison, or both.
It is illegal in Texas to manufacture, sell, or use drug paraphernalia (or possess paraphernalia with the intent to do so). Paraphernalia includes items used in growing, harvesting, processing, selling, storing, or using marijuana. Penalties for possession include a fine of up to $500, but no jail time. Selling paraphernalia may be punished with a fine of up to $4,000, up to one year in jail, or both. (Texas Stat. and Code Ann. § 481.125.)
A stamp tax is a tax imposed on certain types of transactions (such as the transfer of property) that requires a stamp to be purchased and attached either to the item sold or to an instrument documenting the transaction (such as a deed). The federal government imposes stamp taxes on deeds, the issue and transfer of stocks and bonds, and on playing cards.
In Texas, those who buy, transport, or import marijuana into Texas are required to pay a stamp tax and place the stamp (proof of payment) onto the contraband. However, because the possession of marijuana is illegal, people typically don’t pay the stamp tax. When you are convicted for possession, you will also be liable for payment of the unpaid taxes ($3.50 for each gram or portion of a gram). (Texas Stat. and Code Ann. § 159.101A.)
Challenging the Prosecution’s Case – Why You Shouldn’t Give Up Hope
Marijuana cultivation cases often depend on informants. People who have been arrested on drug and related criminal charges may agree to provide police with information in exchange for a reduced sentence. As a result, someone may give your name to the police when in reality you have little, if anything, to do with the cultivation of marijuana. Houston Drug Lawyer Charles Johnson will investigate the background of informants and their relationship to the police in order to expose leads and information ignored by law enforcement in building their case against you.
Facing Possession Charges
Often marijuana possession charges result from police contacts while in your car. Typically, officers will ask the driver if they can search their car. In many cases, drivers agree to a search thinking officers have a right to inspect their car. However, an officer must first have reasonable suspicion that a law has been broken to pull you over. Second, in order to search your car, one of the following must apply: You must give voluntary, informed consent to the officer; the officer must see something in plain sight that gives them probable cause to conduct a search; or the search must be incident to a lawful arrest. Attorney Johnson will review the evidence, dashboard camera footage and the actions of arresting officers to determine if your rights were violated.
The Value of Local Legal Representation
If you have been charged with a marijuana-related offense, consult an experienced criminal defense attorney. While the penalties and consequences of a marijuana charge are governed by statutory law, only a local criminal defense attorney can tell you how cases like yours tend to be handled by prosecutors and judges in your courthouse. As you can see, the penalties for marijuana cultivation in Texas are life changing. Not only is your freedom at stake, your bank account can be cleaned out and you will lose your driving privileges. You need an experienced drug-offense attorney on your side at a critical time like this.
Houston Drug Lawyer Charles Johnson expertly defends clients who have been charged with marijuana-related crimes through the entire State of Texas. Due to his dedication to fighting drug charges, he is familiar with the most effective defense strategies to defend you. If you’ve been arrested on marijuana cultivation charges in Houston or anywhere in Texas, it’s in your best interest to speak with an experienced drug cultivation defense lawyer who can inform you of your legal rights and provide you with the aggressive defense you need against your charges.
When you come to our firm, you can rest assured that a knowledgeable and well-practiced Texas marijuana cultivation defense attorney will thoroughly look into your charges to determine if the police violated your constitutional rights, or conducted an unlawful search and seizure. If we find any evidence that may indicate the police violated the law, we will make it known to the judge immediately, and motion to have the charges dropped.
To learn more about our defense services, please contact Houston Marijuana Cultivation Lawyer Charles Johnson anytime night or day at (713) 222-7577 to speak with him directly.
Download “Marijuana Cultivation Charges: The Best Houston Criminal Lawyer To Represent You” in PDF Format
News Stories Related to Marijuana Cultivation Arrests:
19-year old arrested for marijuana grow
The Polk County Sheriff’s Office arrested a Columbus teenager for growing marijuana plants near his home. Nicholas Scott Baker, 19, of 3030 Houston Rd., Columbus was arrested and charged with felony manufacturing marijuana, felony maintaining a vehicle ...
Tryon Daily Bulletin - Jul 03 2014
Del. Police Uncover 'Sophisticated' Marijuana Growing Operation
HOUSTON, Del.- Delaware State Police said troopers arrested a 25-year-old man after they uncovered a sophisticated marijuana growing operation at his Houston home. Michael W. Fleetwood was charged Monday with trafficking marijuana, possession with intent ...
WBOC - Aug 17 2011
Last of 24 arrested in marijuana grow house case ordered to prison
HOUSTON — Those arrested as a result of the discovery of approximately ... “Today’s sentencing illustrates the seriousness of growing marijuana in Texas,” said Peña. “Whether our investigation leads us to marijuana grow houses operating within ...
Your Houston News - Dec 05 2013
2 arrested for growing marijuana in home
Members of the State Police Bureau of Investigations arrested Dinh Quang Bui, 29, of 116 Warwick St., LaPlace, and Quyet Quang Bui, 32, of 12223 Longbrook St., Houston, for cultivation of marijuana, possession with the intent to distribute marijuana and ...
L'Observateur - Jul 24 2012
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Conspiracy is one of the most often used crimes in the arsenal of the United State’s Attorneys Office.
This all encompassing charge has the ability to touch almost every Federal Crime. Common conspiracy charges include:
- Conspiracy to deal in illegal narcotics,
- Conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute Cocaine, Crack Cocaine, Marijuana, or Methamphetamine.
- Conspiracy to commit Mail Fraud, Wire Fraud, Health Care Fraud, and Tax Fraud and other White Collar Crimes
If you are charged with conspiracy to commit an offense in Federal Court, your rights and your future are in jeopardy. Choosing the right criminal defense attorney to defend your case and protect your rights is critical. If you have been charged with conspiracy, or if you have reason to believe you are under investigation by law enforcement agents, the sooner you hire a criminal defense lawyer, the better positioned you will be. Houston Criminal Lawyer Charles Johnson provides a strong defense to conspiracy charges at both the state and federal level.
It is important to speak to an experienced federal criminal defense attorney as soon as possible if you are being investigated or have been arrested for any federal offense. Why?
- Federal authorities tend to spend a lot of time and money investigating a suspect before they make an arrest.
- They frequently have tape of your telephone conversations with an informant. Both can present significant challenges for the defense.
- Conviction for a federal offense can have extremely serious consequences, including long periods of incarceration and huge fines.
Time Is Not on Your Side
Don’t delay. The earlier you retain legal counsel, the more options we will be able to pursue. For example, we may be able to negotiate with the prosecutor to get the charges dismissed or reduced before a grand jury convenes to issue an indictment. Houston Federal Criminal Lawyer Charles Johnson may be able to intervene on your behalf even before an arrest is made. If you believe you are the target of an investigation by any federal authority, please contact our office immediately.
Effective Defense Against Federal and Conspiracy Charges
In order to prove conspiracy, the government must prove each of the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:
- An agreement between at least two parties to achieve an illegal goal
- That the defendant became a member of the conspiracy knowing at least one of its goals and intending to accomplish it
- At least one conspirator committed an act to further the conspiracy.
As you can see, you can be charged with conspiracy even if you did nothing to actually commit a crime. The “crime” itself does not even have to be completed. In many cases, individuals with a limited role, or no role whatsoever in a criminal scheme, are charged with conspiracy. Suddenly even someone with a minor role in a broader conspiracy may be facing extreme consequences if convicted.
The Charles Johnson Law Firm will fight every aspect of these charges. We will hold the government to its burden of proof and will find any potential evidentiary or Constitutional violations in your case. You can contact Attorney Johnson anytime day or night and talk with him directly about your case. He can be reached at (713) 222-7577 around the clock.
Federal Conspiracy: Summary
Zacarias Moussaoui, members of the Colombian drug cartels, members of organized crime, and some of the former Enron executives have at least one thing in common: they all have federal conspiracy convictions. The essence of conspiracy is an agreement of two or more persons to engage in some form of prohibited misconduct. The crime is complete upon agreement, although some statutes require prosecutors to show that at least one of the conspirators has taken some concrete step or committed some overt act in furtherance of the scheme. There are dozens of federal conspiracy statutes. One, 18 U. S. C. 371, outlaws conspiracy to commit some other federal crime. The others outlaw conspiracy to engage in various specific forms of proscribed conduct. General Section 371 conspiracies are punishable by imprisonment for not more than five years; drug trafficking, terrorist, and racketeering conspiracies all carry the same penalties as their underlying substantive offenses, and thus are punished more severely than are Section 371 conspiracies. All are subject to fines of not more than $250,000 (not more than $500,000 for organizations), most may serve as the basis for a restitution order, and some for a forfeiture order.
The law makes several exceptions for conspiracy because of its unusual nature. Because many united in crime pose a greater danger than the isolated offender, conspirators may be punished for the conspiracy, any completed substantive offense which is the object of the plot, and any foreseeable other offenses which one of the conspirators commits in furtherance of the scheme. Since conspiracy is an omnipresent crime, it may be prosecuted wherever an overt act is committed in its furtherance. Because conspiracy is a continuing crime, its statute of limitations does not begin to run until the last overt act committed for its benefit. Since conspiracy is a separate crime, it may be prosecuted following conviction for the underlying substantive offense, without offending constitutional double jeopardy principles; because conspiracy is a continuing offense, it may be punished when it straddles enactment of the prohibiting statute, without offending constitutional ex post facto principles. Accused conspirators are likely to be tried together, and the statements of one may often be admitted in evidence against all.
In some respects, conspiracy is similar to attempt, to solicitation, and to aiding and abetting. Unlike aiding and abetting, however, it does not require commission of the underlying offense. Unlike attempt and solicitation, conspiracy does not merge with the substantive offense; a conspirator may be punished for both.
Terrorists, drug traffickers, mafia members, and corrupt corporate executives have one thing in common: most are conspirators subject to federal prosecution. Federal conspiracy laws rest on the belief that criminal schemes are equally or more reprehensible than are the substantive offenses to which they are devoted. The Supreme Court has explained that a “collective criminal agreement – a partnership in crime – presents a greater potential threat to the public than individual delicts. Concerted action both increases the likelihood that the criminal object will be successfully attained and decreases the probability that the individuals involved will depart from their path of criminality.” Moreover, observed the Court, “group association for criminal purposes often, if not normally, makes possible the attainment of ends more complex than those which one criminal could accomplish. Nor is the danger of a conspiratorial group limited to the particular end toward which it has embarked.” Finally, “combination in crime makes more likely the commission of crimes unrelated to the original purpose for which the group was formed.” In sum, “the danger which a conspiracy generates is not confined to the substantive offense which is the immediate aim of the enterprise.” Congress and the courts have fashioned federal conspiracy law accordingly.
The United States Code contains dozens of criminal conspiracy statutes. One, 18 U. S. C. 371, outlaws conspiracy to commit any other federal crime. The others outlaw conspiracy to commit some specific form of misconduct, ranging from civil rights violations to drug trafficking. Conspiracy is a separate offense under most of these statutes, regardless of whether conspiracy accomplishes its objective. The various conspiracy statutes, however, differ in several other respects. A few, including Section 371, require at least one conspirator to take some affirmative step in furtherance of the scheme. Most have no such overt act requirement.
Section 371 has two prongs. One outlaws conspiracy to commit a federal offense; a second, conspiracy to defraud the United States. Conspiracy to commit a federal crime under Section 371 requires that the underlying misconduct be a federal crime. Conspiracy to defraud the United States under Section 371 and in several other instances has no such prerequisite. Section 371 conspiracies are punishable by imprisonment for not more than five years. Elsewhere, conspirators often face more severe penalties.
These differences aside, federal conspiracy statutes share much common ground because Congress decided they should. As the Court observed in Salinas, “When Congress uses well-settled terminology of criminal law, its words are presumed to have their ordinary meaning and definition. When the relevant statutory phrase is ‘to conspire,’ we presume Congress intended to use the term in its conventional sense, and certain well-established principles follow.”
These principles include the fact that regardless of its statutory setting, every conspiracy has at least two elements: (1) an agreement (2) between two or more persons. Members of the conspiracy are also liable for the foreseeable crimes of their fellows committed in furtherance of the common plot. Moreover, statements by one conspirator are admissible evidence against all. Conspiracies are considered continuing offenses for purposes of the statute of limitations and venue. They are also considered separate offenses for purposes of sentencing and of challenges under the Constitution’s ex post facto and double jeopardy clauses. This is a brief discussion of the common features of federal conspiracy law that evolved over the years, with passing references to some of the distinctive features of some of the statutory provisions.
Although it is not without common law antecedents, federal conspiracy law is largely of our own making. It is what Congress provided, and what the courts understood Congress intended. This is not to say that conspiracy was unknown in pre-colonial and colonial England, but simply that it was a faint shadow of the crime we now know. Then, it was essentially a narrow form of malicious prosecution, subject to both a civil remedy and prosecution. In the late 18 and early 19 centuries, state courts and legislatures recognized a rapidly expanding accumulation of narrowly described wrongs as ” conspiracy.” The patchwork reached a point where one commentator explained that there were “few things left so doubtful in the criminal law, as the point at which a combination of several persons in a common object becomes illegal.”
Congress, however, enacted few conspiracy statutes prior to the Civil War. It did pass a provision in 1790 that outlawed confining the master of a ship or endeavoring revolt on board. This, Justice Story, sitting as a circuit judge, interpreted to include any conspiracy to confine the prerogatives of the master of ship to navigate, maintain, or police his ship. The same year, 1825, Congress outlawed conspiracies to engage in maritime insurance fraud. Otherwise, there were no federal conspiracy statutes until well after the mid-century mark.
During the War Between the States, however, Congress enacted four sweeping conspiracy provisions, creating federal crimes that have come down to us with little substantive change. The first, perhaps thought more pressing at the beginning of the war, was a seditious conspiracy statute. Shortly thereafter, Congress outlawed conspiracies to defraud the United States through the submission of false claim, and followed that four years later with a prohibition on conspiracies to violate federal law or to defraud the United States.
Subsequent conspiracy statutes, though perhaps no less significant, were more topically focused. The Reconstruction civil rights conspiracy provisions, the Sherman Act anti-trust provisions,and the drug and racketeering statutesmay be the best known of these. All of them begin the same way — with an agreement by two or more persons.
Two or More Persons
There are no one-man conspiracies. At common law where husband and wife were considered one, this meant that the two could not be guilty of conspiracy without the participation of some third person. This is no longer the case. In like manner at common law, corporations could not be charged with a crime. This too is no longer the case. A corporation is criminally liable for the crimes, including conspiracy, committed at least in part for its benefit, by its employees and agents. Moreover, a corporation may be criminally liable for intra-corporate conspiracies, as long as at least two of its officers, employees, or agents are parties to the plot. Notwithstanding the two-party requirement, no co-conspirator need have been tried or even identified, as long as the government produces evidence from which the conspiracy might be inferred. Even the acquittal of a co-conspirator is no defense. In fact, a person may conspire for the commission of a crime by a third person though he himself is legally incapable of committing the underlying offense.
On the other hand, two people may not always be enough. The so-called Wharton’s Rule placed a limitation on conspiracy prosecutions when the number of conspirators equaled the number of individuals necessary for the commission of the underlying offense. Under federal law, the rule “stands as an exception to the general principle that a conspiracy and the substantive offense that is its immediate end do not merge upon proof of the latter.” And under federal law, the rule reaches no further than to the types of offenses that birth its recognition — dueling, adultery, bigamy, and incest.
It is not enough, however, to show that the defendant agreed only with an undercover officer to commit the underlying offense, for there is no agreement on a common purpose in such cases. As has been said, the essence of conspiracy is an agreement, an agreement to commit some act condemned by law either as a separate federal offense or for purposes of the conspiracy statute. The agreement may be evidenced by word or action; that is, the government may prove the existence of the agreement either by direct evidence or by circumstantial evidence from which the agreement may be inferred. “Relevant circumstantial evidence may include: the joint appearance of defendants at transactions and negotiations in furtherance of the conspiracy; the relationship among codefendants; mutual representation of defendants to third parties; and other evidence suggesting unity of purpose or common design and understanding among conspirators to accomplish the objects of the conspiracy.”
The lower federal appellate courts have acknowledged that evidence of a mere buyer-seller relationship is insufficient to support a drug trafficking conspiracy charge. Some do so under the rationale that there is no singularity of purpose, no necessary agreement, in such cases: “the buyer’s purpose is to buy; the seller’s purpose is to sell.” Others do so to avoid sweeping mere customers into a large-scale trafficking operation. Still others do so lest traffickers and their addicted customers face the same severe penalties. All agree, however, that purchasers may be liable as conspirators when they are part of a large scheme.
Again, in most cases the essence of conspiracy is agreement. “Nevertheless, mere association, standing alone, is inadequate; an individual does not become a member of a conspiracy merely associating with conspirators known to be involved in crime.”
One or Many Overlapping Conspiracies
The task of sifting agreement from mere association becomes more difficult and more important with the suggestion of overlapping conspiracies. Criminal enterprises may involve one or many conspiracies. Some time ago, the Supreme Court noted that “thieves who dispose of their loot to a single receiver – a single ‘fence’ – do not by that fact alone become confederates: They may, but it takes more than knowledge that he is a ‘fence’ to make them such.” Whether it is a fence, or a drug dealer, or a money launderer, when several seemingly independent criminal groups share a common point of contact, the question becomes whether they present one overarching conspiracy or several separate conspiracies with a coincidental overlap. In the analogy suggested by the Court, when separate spokes meet at the common hub they can only function as a wheel if the spokes and hub are enclosed within a rim. When several criminal enterprises overlap, they are one overarching conspiracy or several overlapping conspiracies depending upon whether they share a single unifying purpose and understanding—one common agreement.
In determining whether they are faced with a single conspiracy or a rimless collection of overlapping schemes, the courts will look for “the existence of a common purpose . . . (2) interdependence of various elements of the overall play; and (3) overlap among the participants.” “Interdependence is present if the activities of a defendant charged with conspiracy facilitated the endeavors of other alleged co-conspirators or facilitated the venture as a whole.”
If this common agreement exists, it is of no consequence that a particular conspirator joined the plot after its inception as long as he joined it knowingly and voluntarily. Nor does it matter that a defendant does not know all of the details of a scheme or all of its participants, or that his role is relatively minor.
Conviction under 18 U. S. C. 371 for conspiracy to commit a substantive offense requires proof that one of the conspirators committed an overt act in furtherance of the conspiracy. In the case of prosecution under other federal conspiracy statutes that have no such requirement, the existence of an overt act may be important for evidentiary and procedural reasons. The overt act need not be the substantive crime which is the object of the conspiracy, an element of that offense, nor even a crime in its own right. Moreover, a single overt act by any of the conspirators in furtherance of plot will suffice.
Conspiracy to Defraud the United States
Federal law contains several statutes that outlaw defrauding the United States. Two of the most commonly prosecuted are 18 U. S. C. 286, which outlaws conspiracy to defraud the United States through the submission of a false claim, and 18 U. S. C. 371, which in addition to conspiracies to violate federal law, outlaws conspiracies to defraud the United States of property or by obstructing the performance of its agencies. Section 371 has an overt act requirement; section 286 does not. The general principles of federal conspiracy law apply to both.
The elements of conspiracy to defraud the United States under 18 U. S. C. 371 are (1) an agreement of two or more persons; (2) to defraud the United States; and (3) an overt act in furtherance of the conspiracy committed by one of the conspirators. The “fraud covered by the statute reaches any conspiracy for the purpose of impairing, obstructing or defeating the lawful functions of any department of the Government” by “deceit, craft or trickery, or at least by means that are dishonest.” The plot must be directed against the United States or entity; a scheme to defraud the recipient of federal funds is not sufficient. The scheme may be designed to deprive the United States of money or property, but it need not be so; a plot calculated to frustrate the functions of an entity of the United States will suffice.
In contrast, a second federal statute, 18 U. S. C. 286, condemns conspiracies to defraud the United States of money or property through submission of a false claim. The elements of a section 286 violation are that “the defendant entered into a conspiracy to obtain payment or allowance of a claim against a department or agency of the United States; (2) the claim was false, fictitious, or fraudulent; (3) the defendant knew or was deliberately ignorant of the claim’s falsity, fictitiousness, or fraudulence; (4) the defendant knew of the conspiracy and intended to join it; and (5) the defendant voluntarily participated in the conspiracy.” Conviction does not require proof of an overt act in furtherance of the conspiracy.
When Does It End
Conspiracy is a crime which begins with a scheme and may continue on until its objective is achieved or abandoned. The liability of individual conspirators continues on from the time they joined the plot until it ends or until they withdraw. The want of an individual’s continued active participation is no defense as long as the underlying conspiracy lives and he has not withdrawn. An individual who claims to have withdrawn bears the burden of establishing either that he took some action to make his departure clear to his co-conspirators or that he disclosed the scheme to the authorities. As a general rule, overt acts of concealment do not extend the life of the conspiracy beyond the date of the accomplishment of its main objectives. On the other hand, the rule does not apply when concealment is one of the main objectives of the conspiracy.
Imprisonment and Fines
Section 371 felony conspiracies are punishable by imprisonment for not more than five years and a fine of not more than $250,000 (not more than $500,000 for organizations). Most drug trafficking, terrorism, racketeering, and many white collar conspirators face the same penalties as those who committed the underlying substantive offense, e. g. , 21 U. S. C. 846 ( “Any person who . . . conspires to commit any offense defined in the Controlled Substances Act shall be subject to the same penalties as those prescribed for the offense, the commission of which was the object of the . . . conspiracy” ); 18 U. S. C. 2339B ( “Whoever knowingly provides material support or resources to a foreign terrorist organization . . . . or conspires to do so, shall be fined under this title, or imprisoned not more than 15 years, or both” ); 18 U. S. C. 1962(d), 1963(a)( “(d) It shall be unlawful for any person to conspire to violate any of the racketeering provisions of subsection (a), (b), or (c) of this section. . . . (a) Whoever violates any provision of section 1962 . . . shall be fined under this title, or imprisoned for not more than 20 years. . . or both ” ); 18 U. S. C. 1349 ( ” Any person who . . . conspires to commit any offense under this chapter relating to mail fraud, wire fraud, etc. shall be subject to the same penalties as those prescribed for the offense, the commission of which was the object of . . . the conspiracy” ).
The United States Sentencing Guidelines greatly influence the sentences for federal crimes. Federal courts are bound to impose a sentence within the statutory maximums and minimums. Their decision of what sentence to impose within those boundaries, however, must begin with a determination of the sentencing recommendation under the guidelines. Reasonableness standards govern review of their sentencing decisions,and a sentence within the Sentencing Guideline range is presumed reasonable.
The Sentencing Guidelines system is essentially a scoring system. Federal crimes are each assigned a numerical base offense level and levels are added and subtracted to account for the various aggravating and mitigating factors in a particular case. Thus, for example, providing material support to a terrorist organization, 18 U. S. C. 2339B, has a base offense level of 26, which may be increased by 2 levels if the support comes in the form of explosives, U. S. S. G. §2M5. 3(a), (b) and may be increased or decreased still further for other factors. The guidelines designate six sentencing ranges of each total offense level; the appropriate range within the six is determined by extent of the offender’s criminal record. For instance, the sentencing range for a first-time offender with a total offense level of 28 would be imprisonment for between 78 and 97 months (Category I); while the range for an offender in the highest criminal history category (Category VI) would be imprisonment for between 140 and 175 months.
The base offense level for conspiracy is generally the same as that for the underlying offense, either by operation of an individual guideline, for example, U. S. C. §2D1. 1 (drug trafficking), or by operation of the general conspiracy guideline, U. S. S. C. §2X1. 1. In any event, conspirators who play a leadership role in an enterprise are subject to an increase of from 2 to 4 levels,
U. S. S. G. §3B1. 1, and those who play a more subservient role may be entitled to reduction of from 2 to 4 levels, U. S. S. G. §3B1. 2. In the case of terrorism offenses, conspirators may also be subject to a special enhancement which sets the minimum total offense level at 32 and the criminal history category at VI (regardless of the extent of the offender’s criminal record), U. S. S. G. §3A1. 4.
The Sentencing Guidelines also address the imposition of fines below the statutory maximum. The total offense level dictates the recommended fine range for individual and organizational defendants. For instance, the fine range for an individual with a total offense level of 28 is $12,500 to $125,000, U. S. C. §5E1. 2. The recommended fine range for an organization with a total offense level of 28 is $6,300,000 (assuming the loss or gain associated with the organization offense exceeds the usual $500,000 ceiling), U. S. S. G. §8C2. 4.
A conspirator’s liability for restitution is a matter of circumstance. Most conspiracy statutes do not expressly provide for restitution, but in most instances restitution may be required or permitted under any number of grounds. As a general rule, federal law requires restitution for certain offenses and permits it for others. A sentencing court is generally required to order a defendant to make restitution following conviction for a crime of violence or for a crime against property (including fraud), 18 U. S. C. 366A(a), (c). Those entitled to restitution under Section 3663A include those ” directly and proximately harmed ” by the crime of conviction and “in the case of an offense that involves as an element a scheme, conspiracy, or pattern of criminal activity, any person directly harmed by the defendant’s criminal conduct in the course of the scheme, conspiracy or pattern,” 18 U. S. C. 3663A(b).
Otherwise, a court is permitted to order restitution (a) following conviction for an offense prescribed under title 18 of the United States Code or for drug trafficking, 18 U. S. C. 3663; (b) as a condition of probation or supervised release, 18 U. S. C. 3563(b)(2), 3583(d); or (c) pursuant to a plea agreement, 18 U. S. C. 3663(a)(3), 3663A(c)(2).
The treatment of forfeiture in conspiracy cases is perhaps even more individualistic than restitution in conspiracy cases. The general criminal forfeiture statute, 18 U. S. C. 982, authorizes confiscation for several classes of property as a consequence of a particular conspiracy conviction, for example, 18 U. S. C. 982(a)(2)(calling for the confiscation of proceeds realized from “a violation of, or a conspiracy to – (A) section . . . 1341, 1343, 1344 of this title relating to mail, wire and bank fraud, affecting a financial institution” ); 18 U. S. C. 982(a)(8)(calling for the confiscation of proceeds from, and property used to facilitate or promote, “an offense under section . . . 1341, or 1343, or of a conspiracy to commit such an offense, if the offense involves telemarketing” ).
In the case of drug trafficking, forfeiture turns on the fact that it is authorized for any Controlled Substance Act violation, 21 U. S. C. 853, of which conspiracy is one, 21 U. S. C. 846. The same can be said of racketeering conspiracy provisions of 18 U. S. C. 1962(d).
Relation of Conspiracy to Other Crimes
Conspiracy is a completed crime upon agreement, or upon agreement and the commission of an overt act under statutes with an overt act requirement. Conviction does not require commission of the crime that is the object of the conspiracy. On the other hand, conspirators may be prosecuted for conspiracy, for any completed offense which is the object of the conspiracy, as well as for any foreseeable offense committed in furtherance of the conspiracy.
Aid and Abet
Anyone who “aids, abets, counsels, commands, induces, or procures” the commission of a federal crime by another is punishable as a principal, that is, as though he had committed the offense himself, 18 U. S. C. 2. If the other agrees and an overt act is committed, they are conspirators, each liable for conspiracy and any criminal act committed to accomplish it. If the other commits the offense, they are equally punishable for the basic offense. “Typically, the same evidence will support both a conspiracy and an aiding and abetting conviction.” The two are clearly distinct, however, as the Ninth Circuit has noted:
The difference between the classic common law elements of aiding and abetting and a criminal conspiracy underscores this material distinction, although at first blush the two appear similar. Aiding and abetting the commission of a specific crime, we have held, includes four elements: (1) that the accused had the specific intent to facilitate the commission of a crime by another, (2) that the accused had the requisite intent to commit the underlying substantive offense, (3) that the accused assisted or participated in the commission of the underlying substantive offense, and (4) that the principal committed the underlying offense. As Lopez emphasized, the accused generally must associate himself with the venture . . . participate in it as something he wishes to bring about, and sought by his action to make it succeed.
By contrast, a classic criminal conspiracy as charged in 18 U. S. C. § 371 is broader. The government need only prove (1) an agreement to engage in criminal activity, (2) one or more overt acts taken to implement the agreement, and (3) the requisite intent to commit the substantive crime. Indeed, a drug conspiracy does not even require commission of an overt act in furtherance of the conspiracy.
Two distinctions become readily apparent after a more careful comparison. First, the substantive offense which may be the object in a § 371 conspiracy need not be completed. Second, the emphasis in a § 371 conspiracy is on whether one or more overt acts was undertaken. This language necessarily is couched in passive voice for it matters only that a co-conspirator commit the overt act, not necessarily that the accused herself does so. In an aiding and abetting case, not only must the underlying substantive offense actually be completed by someone, but the accused must take some action, a substantial step, toward associating herself with the criminal venture. United States v. Hernandez-Orellana, 539 F. 3d 994, 1006-1007 (9th Cir. 2008).
Conspiracy and attempt are both inchoate offenses, unfinished crimes in a sense. They are forms of introductory misconduct that the law condemns lest they result in some completed form of misconduct. Federal law has no general attempt statute. Congress, however, has outlawed attempt to commit a number of specific federal offenses. Like conspiracy, a conviction for attempt does not require the commission of the underlying offense. Both require an intent to commit the contemplated substantive offense. Like conspiracy, the fact that it may be impossible to commit the target offense is no defense to a charge of attempt to commit it. Unlike conspiracy, attempt can be committed by a single individual. Attempt only becomes a crime when it closely approaches a substantive offense. Conspiracy becomes a crime far sooner. Mere acts of preparation will satisfy the most demanding conspiracy statute, not so with attempt. Conspiracy requires no more than an overt act in furtherance; attempt, a substantial step to completion. Moreover, unlike a conspirator, an accused may not be convicted of both attempt and the underlying substantive offense.
An individual may be guilty of both conspiring with others to commit an offense and of attempting to commit the same offense, either himself or through his confederates. In some circumstances, he may be guilty of attempted conspiracy. Congress has outlawed at least one example of an attempt to conspire in the statute which prohibits certain invitations to conspire, that is, solicitation to commit a federal crime of violence, 18 U. S. C. 373.
Section 373 prohibits efforts to induce another to commit a crime of violence “under circumstances strongly corroborative” of intent to see the crime committed, 18 U. S. C. 373(a). Section 373′s crimes of violence are federal “felonies that have as an element the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against property or against the person of another,” id. Examples of “strongly corroborative” circumstances include “the defendant offering or promising payment or another benefit in exchange for committing the offense; threatening harm or other detriment for refusing to commit the offense; repeatedly soliciting or discussing at length in soliciting the commission of the offense, or making explicit that the solicitation is serious; believing or knowing that the persons solicited had previously committed similar offenses; and acquiring weapons, tools, or information or use in committing the offense, or making other apparent preparations for its commission.” As is the case of attempt, “an individual cannot be guilty of both the solicitation of a crime and the substantive crime.” Although the crime of solicitation is complete upon communication with the requisite intent, renunciation prior to commission of the substantive offense is a defense. The offender’s legal incapacity to commit the solicited offense himself, however, is not a defense.
Statute of Limitations
The statute of limitations for most federal crimes is five years, 18 U. S. C. 3282. The five-year limitation applies to the general conspiracy statute, 18 U. S. C. 371, and to the false claims conspiracy statute, 18 U. S. C. 286. Section 371 requires proof of an overt act; section 286 does not. For conspiracy offenses with an overt act requirement like those under Section 371, the statute of limitations begins with completion of the last overt act in furtherance of the conspiracy. For conspiracy offenses with no such requirement like those under section 286, the statute of limitations begins with the abandonment of the conspiracy or the accomplishment of its objectives.
The presence or absence of an overt act requirement makes a difference for statute of limitations purposes. For venue purposes, it apparently does not. The Supreme Court has observed in passing that “this Court has long held that venue is proper in any district in which an overt act in furtherance of the conspiracy was committed, even where an overt act is not a required element of the conspiracy offense.” The lower federal appellate courts are seemingly of the same view, for they have found venue proper for a conspiracy prosecution wherever an overt act occurs — under overt act statutes and non-overt act statutes alike.
Joinder and Severance (One Conspiracy, One Trial)
Three rules of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure govern joinder and severance for federal criminal trials. Rule 8 permits the joinder of common criminal charges and defendants. Rule 12 insists that a motion for severance be filed prior to trial. Rule 14 authorizes the court to grant severance for separate trials as a remedy for prejudicial joinder.
The Supreme Court has pointed out that “there is a preference in the federal system for joint trials of defendants who are indicted together. Joint trials play a vital role in the criminal justice system. They promote efficiency and serve the interests of justice by avoiding the scandal and inequity of inconsistent verdicts.” In conspiracy cases, a ” conspiracy charge combined with substantive counts arising out of that conspiracy is a proper basis for joinder under Rule 8(b).” Moreover, “the preference in a conspiracy trial is that persons charged together should be tried together.” In fact, “it will be the rare case, if ever, where a district court should sever the trial of alleged co-conspirators.” The Supreme Court has reminded the lower courts that “a district court should grant a severance under Rule 14 only if there is a serious risk that a joint trial would compromise a specific trial right of one of the defendants, or prevent the jury from making a reliable judgment about guilt or innocence.” The Court noted that the risk may be more substantial in complex cases with multiple defendants, but that “less drastic measures, such as limiting instructions, often will suffice to cure any risk of prejudice.” Subsequently lower federal appellate court opinions have emphasized the curative effect of appropriate jury instructions.
Double Jeopardy and Ex Post Facto
Because conspiracy is a continuing offense, it stands as an exception to the usual ex post facto principles. Because it is a separate crime, it also stands as an exception to the usual double jeopardy principles.
The ex post facto clauses of the Constitution forbid the application of criminal laws which punish conduct that was innocent when it was committed or punishes more severely criminal conduct than when it was committed. Increasing the penalty for an ongoing conspiracy, however, does not offend ex post facto constraints as long as the conspiracy straddles the date of the legislative penalty enhancement.
The double jeopardy clause of the Fifth Amendment declares that no person shall “be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb.” This prohibition condemns successive prosecutions, successive punishments, and successive use of charges rejected in acquittal.
For successive prosecution or punishment, the critical factor is the presence or absence of the same offense. Offenses may overlap, but they are not the same crime as long as each requires proof of an element that the other does not. 130 Since conspiracy and its attendant substantive offense are ordinarily separate crimes — one alone requiring agreement and the other alone requiring completion of the substantive offense — the double jeopardy clause poses no impediment to successive prosecution or to successive punishment of the two.
Double jeopardy issues arise most often in a conspiracy context when a case presents the question of whether the activities of the accused conspirators constitute a single conspiracy or several overlapping conspiracies. Multiple conspiracies may be prosecuted sequentially and punished with multiple sanctions; single conspiracies must be tried and punished once. Asked to determine whether they are faced with one or more than one conspiracy, the courts have said they inquire whether:
- the locus criminis place of the two alleged conspiracies is the same;
- there is a significant degree of temporal overlap between the two conspiracies charged;
- there is an overlap of personnel between the two conspiracies (including unindicted as well as indicted co-conspirators);
- the over acts charged are related;
- the role played by the defendant relates to both;
- there was a common goal among the conspirators;
- whether the agreement contemplated bringing to pass a continuous result that will not continue without the continuous cooperation of the conspirators; and
- the extent to which the participants overlapped in their various dealings.
At trial, the law favors the testimony of live witnesses — under oath, subject to cross examination, and in the presence of the accused and the jury — over the presentation of their evidence in writing or through the mouths of others. The hearsay rule is a product of this preference. Exceptions and definitions narrow the rule’s reach. For example, hearsay is usually defined to include only those out-of-court statements which are offered in evidence “to prove the truth of the matter asserted.”
Although often referred to as the exception for co-conspirator declarations, the Federal Rules of Evidence treats the matter within its definition of hearsay. Thus, Rule 801(d)(2)(E) of the Federal Rules provides that an out-of-court “statement is not hearsay if . . . (2) The statement is offered against a party and is . . . (E) a statement by a coconspirator of a party during the course and in furtherance of the conspiracy.”
To admit a co-conspirator declaration into evidence under the Rule, a “court must find: (1) the conspiracy existed; (2) the defendant was a member of the conspiracy; and (3) the co-conspirator made the proffered statements in furtherance of the conspiracy.” The court, however, may receive the statement preliminarily subject to the prosecution’s subsequent demonstration of its admissibility by a preponderance of the evidence. As to the first two elements, a coconspirator’s statement without more is insufficient; there must be ” some extrinsic evidence sufficient to delineate the conspiracy and corroborate the declarant’s and the defendant’s roles in it.” As to the third element, “a statement is in furtherance of a conspiracy if it is intended to promote the objectives of the conspiracy.” A statement is in furtherance, for instance, if it describes for the benefit of a co-conspirator the status of the scheme, its participants, or its methods. Bragging, or “mere idle chatter or casual conversation about past events, “however, are not considered statements in furtherance of a conspiracy.
Under some circumstances, evidence admissible under the hearsay rule may nevertheless be inadmissible because of Sixth Amendment restrictions. The Sixth Amendment provides, among other things, that “in all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right . . . to be confronted with the witnesses against him.” The provision was inspired in part by reactions to the trial of Sir Walter Raleigh, who argued in vain that he should be allowed to confront the alleged co-conspirator who had accused him of treason. Given its broadest possible construction, the confrontation clause would eliminate any hearsay exceptions or limitations. The Supreme Court in Crawford v. Washington explained, however, that the clause has a more precise reach. The clause uses the word “witnesses” to bring within its scope only those who testify or whose accusations are made in a testimonial context. In a testimonial context, the confrontation clause permits use at trial of prior testimonial accusations only if the witness is unavailable and only if the accused had the opportunity to cross examine him when the testimony was taken. The Court elected to “leave for another day any effort to spell out a comprehensive definition of ‘testimonial,’” but has suggested that the term includes “affidavits, depositions, prior testimony, or confessions ,and other statements that were made under circumstances which would lead an objective witness reasonably to believe that the statement would be available for use at a later trial.” Since Crawford, the lower federal courts have generally held that the confrontation clause poses no obstacle to the admissibility of the co-conspirator statements at issue in the cases before them, either because the statements were not testimonial; were not offered to establish the truth of the asserted statement; or because the clause does not bar co-conspirator declarations generally.
Obtain the Best Defense Against Federal Conspiracy Charges
Many people charged with federal drug conspiracies are concerned with predicting the outcome of their cases. They often wonder about the likelihood of a conviction and the length of a potential sentence. The truth is that, if you are charged with a drug conspiracy, your case can be very serious and complicated. A lot may depend on the drug quantity, the testimony of witnesses and on cooperation with the prosecution. Federal Criminal Lawyer Charles Johnson can help you navigate the legal system so that you can make decisions based on in-depth understanding of the consequences you may face.
In federal drug conspiracy cases, a lot has to do with the strength of the evidence. Experienced Attorney Charles Johnson skilled at helping clients evaluate whether to take a case to trial or whether to find other ways to resolve the issue more favorably. At the Charles Johnson Law Firm, we place a large emphasis on honesty with our clients. Although it is often more difficult to be realistic with clients than to promise miracles, we know that our clients and their families deserve the truth about the seriousness of federal drug conspiracy charges.
They also deserve the skilled legal representation we provide. Whether you are charged with criminal conspiracy, a continuing criminal enterprise or with a violation the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (commonly called RICO), we will use our knowledge and experience to strive for the best results possible.
Contact Houston Lawyer Charles Johnson anytime night or day at (713) 222-7577 to speak with him directly. Our law firm is dedicated to helping clients face drug conspiracy charges with confidence and dignity.
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Many men and women wonder why an individual arrested for a criminal offense probably would not testify in their own court trial. The most appropriate answer is that testifying can open the flood gates to virtually all kinds of detrimental evidence. Such evidence would otherwise be inadmissible. This dangerous step is designated “opening the door”. Whether or not a defendant’s past conviction is admissible in a brand new criminal case is determined by a variety of factors. These are the criminal offenses of which the defendant is currently accused, whether or not the defendant within the existing case testified in a prior case, as well as the purpose for which the conviction is asked to be admitted.
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In many situations, anytime a defendant loses at trial or takes a plea offer, a judge could very well use a defendant’s previous conviction to enhance the individual’s sentence. Theoretically, this doesn’t count as admitting the past conviction into evidence. The judge has not put the conviction on the record to determine whether or not the defendant committed the criminal offense within the existing case. The judge has the discretion to use a previous conviction to enhance the sentence for the defendant within the existing case. If the defendant goes to trial, the sentencing can occur separately from the trial. If the jury leaves before the sentence is imposed, they might never find out that the defendant had a past conviction.
In many situations, most notably DWI cases, a judge will likely be required by law to enhance a sentence if the defendant has a past conviction for the same type of criminal offense on their record. Generally, prosecutors are incredibly zealous. The State often seeks to introduce particularly old previous out-of-state convictions to encourage, or require, the judge to enhance a sentence. Many prosecutors also seek to introduce past convictions of significant out-of-state felonies to ask a judge to enhance a sentence.
Except in a few instances, a criminal defendant can often prevent admission of a previous conviction by refusing to testify at trial. Typically, when a prosecutor or a defense lawyer would like to introduce a defendant’s previous conviction, they need to notify the court, meaning the judge, of their intention. A prosecutor generally succeeds in getting a previous conviction admitted into evidence if the defendant makes the decision to testify or if the defendant decides to make their character an issue in their case. Generally, a prosecutor can’t introduce a criminal conviction to establish that the defendant has a bad character if the defendant hasn’t made their character an issue. Additionally, the prosecutor generally can’t introduce a criminal conviction to demonstrate that a defendant has or had a propensity to commit criminal offenses.
If the criminal defendant decides to testify, their previous conviction could very well become admissible for purposes of impeaching their credibility. This kind of impeachment asks the judge or jury to question the truthfulness of the defendant’s testimony. The general rule is in cases where a prosecutor or defense lawyer wants to use a previous conviction to impeach a defendant’s testimony, the past conviction has to be for a felony or a criminal offense involving dishonesty. This indicates that a defendant may perhaps not be impeached with a past conviction for a minor criminal offense, most notably possession of drug paraphernalia, which has nothing to do with dishonesty.
Whether or not the defendant makes a decision to testify, a judge won’t necessarily rule that a past conviction is admissible. A good number of courts use a balancing test to figure out if the past conviction will be admitted. The judge weighs the probative value of permitting the criminal offense to be introduced contrary to the prejudicial impact on the defendant. If the previous conviction is for a similar criminal offense, the judge could possibly determine that the risk is too great. Within these situations, the judge uses the reasoning that the jury will decide, “If this individual did it previously, this individual probably did it on this occasion.”
Usually, a prosecutor or defense lawyer can ask that a past conviction or set of convictions be admitted as evidence of motive, opportunity, intent, preparation, plan, knowledge, identity, or absence of mistake or accident.
Given that the admissibility of previous convictions is an issue of evidence, it becomes an issue of law. Constitutional amendments and proposed bills may affect the evidence rules. If you are defending criminal charges, it is imperative that you speak to a qualified criminal defense attorney. Houston Lawyer Charles Johnson is going to be able to evaluate your record and he will understand how the rules pertaining to past convictions might affect you. Lawyer Johnson is going to be able to advise you on the benefits and drawbacks of testifying. Only you can make the final decision.
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Should you have past convictions and have been arrested or are under investigation for a criminal offense in Texas, get in touch with Houston Criminal Attorney Charles Johnson ASAP – and protect your legal rights and reputation.
Houston Criminal Attorney Charles Johnson can be reached 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Contact us at 713-222-7577 or toll free of charge at 877-308-0100.
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Consult the Finest Houston Lawyer at the Charles Johnson Law Firm as soon as possible if you or a loved one has been arrested or charged with a criminal offense. Getting legal guidance is essential to make certain that a defendant’s legal rights are safeguarded.
Certain constitutional protections apply to an individual arrested for a criminal offense. Additionally, there are certain procedures that are generally identical from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Here is a concise explanation of what occurs when an individual has been arrested for a criminal offense.
A person could very well be charged with a criminal offense before they are arrested. If this transpires, a judge is going to issue a warrant for the individual’s arrest. A law enforcement officer will try to find the individual who is the subject of the warrant. If the individual is found by the authorities and arrested, police officers must give the individual a copy of the warrant that declares the charge for which they are being arrested. The authorities do not necessarily have to have a copy of the warrant with them at the time of the arrest, however they must provide a copy to the arrested individual within a reasonable amount of time afterward.
After an individual is arrested, they will be “booked” at the police department. This involves taking fingerprints and completing other procedural requirements. The individual will then be held in police custody pending a court hearing. This hearing will generally take place within 48 hours.
When an individual is taken into police custody, they have the right to contact a lawyer. The individual will likely be permitted to get in touch with a criminal defense attorney. The individual should have at least a brief opportunity to meet with their criminal defense lawyer prior to their preliminary court hearing.
At the court hearing, the judge will read the criminal charges against the individual, who is designated the defendant. If the individual was arrested without an arrest warrant, this will likely be the first time they are told the criminal charges against them. The judge will attempt to ensure that the defendant comprehends the criminal charges. The judge will then ask the defendant to enter a plea. A defendant can enter a plea of “not guilty”, of “no contest”, or of “guilty”.
Even if the defendant is guilty, they are able to enter a plea of not guilty, should they think there is not enough evidence to establish their guilt. In any case, a plea of not guilty may result in a trial where the federal government will be required to establish, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the defendant is guilty of the criminal offense for which they are being charged.
A jury will need to decide, dependent on the evidence introduced by both sides, whether or not the defendant is to be found guilty or not guilty. In many cases, a defendant may possibly waive their priviledge to a jury trial, and the judge will determine if they are guilty or not guilty primarily based on the evidence which is offered. The defendant should speak with their criminal defense lawyer about whether or not they should waive their priviledge to a jury trial.
If the result of the trial is that the defendant is found not guilty of the violations charged, they can be released from police custody. If the result of the trial is that the defendant is found guilty or if there isn’t a trial due to the fact that the defendant entered a plea of no contest or of guilty, then there will be a sentencing hearing.
There will be evaluations of the defendant that are performed prior to the sentencing hearing. By way of example, if the criminal offense is DWI, the defendant may be evaluated to determine if they have a substance abuse issue. The court will also prepare a pre-sentencing report, which is basically an investigation into the previous criminal history of the defendant. This knowledge helps the judge determine an appropriate sentence.
At the sentencing hearing, there will be an opportunity for individuals to speak with the court about what factors they feel the court should take into account in determining a sentence. These individuals can include the victim of the criminal offense, the victim’s family, the defendant, the defendant’s family, and any other interested party.
The judge will take into consideration all of the evidence shown and any sentencing requirements. The judge will then enter a sentence for the defendant. If the criminal offense was fairly minor, and the defendant has been in custody throughout the entire court process, some may have already served the jail time that has been imposed by the judge. If the criminal offense is more severe, the defendant could possibly face substantially more prison time. Furthermore, a criminal sentence may involve more than serving time in jail. The defendant may be ordered to pay fines, to provide restitution to the victim, to undergo treatment for substance abuse or mental problems, to perform community service, or many other things.
Any person who is arrested for a criminal offense should hire an experienced Houston Lawyer with practical experience in criminal defense to represent them. This is the most effective way to make certain that their legal rights are defended, and that they obtain the finest possible outcome.
If you or someone you love has been arrested, you probably aren’t sure where to turn or what to do next. A positive first step is to contact the Charles Johnson Law Firm as soon as possible, 24 hours/day. Houston Lawyer Charles Johnson will guide you through the complicated maze of the justice system and help you to remain calm during this stressful time.
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Houston Criminal Lawyer Charles Johnson will be available round the clock, seven days a week to take your call. He will make himself accessible to meet with you for an initial free consultation to discuss your case at a time and date and location that is handy for you.
Consulting with Houston Attorney Johnson is suggested for individuals charged having a crime, simply because persons accused of crimes will probably be able to much better comprehend the charges that have been brought against them and what defense is available for those charges. It’s a constitutional right for anyone charged with a crime in the United States to have fair and competent legal counsel in a court of law or to have the ability to represent themselves in a court of law, according to the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments.
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Anyone that has been charged with a crime should consult the advice and the representation of the Best Houston Criminal Lawyer to help understand the nature with the charge, what defenses are available for the crime, if plea bargains are obtainable, and what could happen if the defendant is convicted of the crime. They are able to also help to identify pretrial problems and bring about essential motions either prior to or during the trial that can help to have the charge dismissed or have the charges lessened. Consulting with your attorney can mean the difference between serving a 20 year jail term and getting your case dismissed. Mr. Johnson is experienced in defending those charged with a variety of various crimes and studies the ever altering laws.
If You Are Charged with a Felony or Misdemeanor
Waiting to consult a criminal defense attorney until a person is charged with committing a crime can be detrimental to that person’s case. A person suspected of committing a crime, whether or not they actually committed the crime, should consult with the Most Dedicated Houston Drug Crimes Attorney immediately. Immediacy is an important factor when creating a defense to a criminal charge and the Most Respected Houston Attorney will start working on a defense as soon as feasible.
State vs. Federal Crimes
There are differences in between becoming charged having a state criminal offense or a federal criminal offense. Any individual charged for a crime ought to inform their attorney as to which level crime they have been charged simply because the defense that the lawyer prepares will be different if the crime is a state level charge or a federal level charge.
Contact Attorney Charles Johnson for a free consultation. He’ll fight hard to protect your rights throughout the legal process.
We can be reached 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
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Marijuana is regarded as the frequently abused unlawful drug in the United States. Marijuana is defined as a Schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act, classified as having a very high potential for abuse. Street names for marijuana include grass, pot, weed, Mary Jane, dope, indo, and hydro. Marijuana possession laws can certainly impose strict penalties under specific situations.
Possession of marijuana (sometimes often called simple possession) is among the most common drug criminal offenses in the United States. Considered a misdemeanor in a majority of states, marijuana possession penalties include fines, probation, and/or community service. Criminal possession of marijuana is the next level up in marijuana possession crimes and consists of possession of marijuana in a public place where it is either burning or in open public view in quantities greater than 2 oz, but less eight oz. Criminal possession of marijuana is also a misdemeanor but the repercussions increase as does the probability of jail time.
Technically, under federal drug law, the possession of marijuana, in any amount, is punishable by up to twelve months in jail and a minimum fine of $1,000 for a first conviction. Additional convictions and greater amounts bring about much stiffer penalties. Comparatively few marijuana possession court cases give rise to a felony level crime. Marijuana distribution, however, is invariably a felony under federal law. The sale of under 50 kilograms of marijuana (the smallest amount category) is punishable by five years in jail along with a $250,000 fine.
Marijuana is usually consumed in its organic state, the plant by itself utilized in various ways to produce a hallucinogenic effect on the user. Abuse and use of the cannabis plant as a means for getting high dates back to biblical times. The advent of laws criminalizing the use of the drug occurred sometime during the 20th century, with fights to legalize the use of marijuana debated ever since, its use among Native Americans in religious ceremonies and the utilization of the drug by cancer patients to relieve nausea being the most recurrent arguments used for its legalization, including a significant change in the marijuana possession laws.
Marijuana production’s principal supply is Mexico. Virtually all foreign-produced marijuana available within the United States is smuggled into the country from Mexico over the Mexico border by criminal groups. Mexican criminal groups control nearly all of wholesale marijuana distribution in the U.S., with Asian criminal groups which bring in the product over the Canadian border running a close second. The potency of Canadian marijuana being deemed finer quality than the Mexican version has resulted in an increase in Asian control of marijuana production and distribution. According to the National Drug Threat Assessment 2007, high potency Canada-based smuggling, distribution and production groups are increasing, giving rise to large-scale cannabis cultivation in large outdoor sites by both Mexican and Asian groups. In addition, in an effort to remain competitive in the higher potency marijuana distribution trade, Asian groups have started operating indoor grow sites in homes throughout the Pacific Northwest and California. The trend is to buy or lease a residence, modify the residence for the purpose of producing two to four crops of cannabis and abandoning the property after the crops are harvested.
Challenges to current marijuana production and distribution laws are ongoing, with quite a few states decriminalizing certain marijuana usage for specific medical ailments. Nonetheless , in United States v. Oakland Cannabis Club, the United States Supreme Court ruled that marijuana doesn’t have any medical value as determined by Congress. The court’s opinion stated that: “In the case of the Controlled Substances Act, the statue reflects a determination that marijuana has no medical benefits worthy of an exception outside the confines of government-approved research projects.”
In 2002, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit issued a ruling which upheld the Drug Enforcement Act’s determination that marijuana should remain a Schedule I controlled substance, the most restrictive schedule under the Controlled Substance Act. The marijuana debate and court battles will doubtless continue to occasionally appear in the United States Court system for many years.
Defenses for those guilty of breaking marijuana possession laws, and distribution of marijuana laws, normally revolve around the misuse of police power to search and seize assets . Illegal search and seizure, unlawful surveillance, and entrapment are the primary means of defending an arrest of marijuana possession or marijuana distribution.
Texas courts take marijuana possession criminal charges seriously, and so should you. Multiple convictions of marijuana possession can bring about felony charges. Hence, you want to battle every arrest you confront , not just right away , but to safeguard your legal rights in the future as well. Considering that possession criminal charges might very easily bring about growing and cultivation charges, you want a lawyer who can lower virtually all potential damages.
The Most Respected Houston Lawyer will defend your legal rights and fight for you against marijuana possession criminal charges.
The seriousness of the criminal charges you confront is dependent on the quantity of marijuana. Should you are caught with under two ounces, you will have to deal with minor misdemeanor charges, but the consequences go up steeply from there. Possession of two to four ounces is defined as a Class A Misdemeanor, and possession if over four ounces is considered a felony.
No one wants a drug charge on their permanent record, so our first step is to have the charges completely dismissed. If dismissal or an acquittal at trial isn’t really potential, we are going to seek to lessen the charges or reduce the penalties where possible.
For first-time offenders, the Most Effective Houston Attorney will explore diversionary programs as well. By seeking proper drug treatment, you may very well be able to avoid prison time. They will help you discover virtually all potential alternative sentencing techniques.
Juvenile Marijuana Possession
Marijuana has a unique smell, and so it is dangerous for minors to smoke it anywhere: in a car, at home, or in a dorm room. Authorities can certainly smell it and another infraction might bring about significant repercussions, including the loss of student loans. Houston Criminal Attorney Charles Johnson will handle juvenile crimes involving marijuana possession as well as criminal court cases.
If you or a family member have been arrested for marijuana possession, you want an expert attorney who is prepared to stand up for your protection under the law right right now. Contact Houston Attorney Johnson immediately for a free of charge initial consultation.
Charles Johnson |
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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.
Charles Johnson |
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Are you facing charges of intent to distribute cocaine? Are you worried about your teenager who was caught using drugs at school? Have you been arrested for possession of marijuana?
We can be reached 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. For aggressive representation from an experienced drug charge defense lawyer, contact our Houston law office to schedule a free initial consultation. At the Charles Johnson Law Firm, you will find a drug crimes defense attorney who has over a decade of experience protecting the rights of people facing state or federal drug charges.
Aggressive Drug Charge Defense Representation
If you are under investigation or have already been arrested for a drug-related crime, criminal defense attorney Charles Johnson can help. Attorney Johnson is proficient at representation in pre-arrest negotiations, in plea bargain settlements, at trial and on appeal in state and federal drug crime cases.
We represent individuals facing state or federal drug crime charges involving the manufacture, distribution, sale, or possession of illegal drugs, controlled substances, chemicals used in the illicit production of controlled substances (running a meth lab), and drug paraphernalia. Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), marijuana, methaqualone, morphine, phencyclidine (PCP), crack cocaine, methadone, methamphetamine, Anabolic steroids, codeine and/or hydrocodone with aspirin, Valium®, and Xanax® are examples of controlled substances the manufacture, distribution, or possession of which can result in serious state or federal drug crime charges. The Charles Johnson Law Firm strives to ensure that our clients’ rights are protected throughout the entire case.
Drug Possession Charges
At the Charles Johnson Law Firm, we are prepared to defend drug charges in court. Don’t let drug charges ruin your future.
When possible, we work to get drug arrests removed from our client’s criminal record through expunction. For high school students, whether charged as an adult or a juvenile, possession of even a very small amount of a drug such as marijuana can result in lost educational opportunities, including attendance at the student’s college of choice or the ability to go to college at all because of student loan ineligibility based on a drug crime conviction. A teenage drug conviction can also result in lost employment opportunities, including ineligibility for certain jobs or future career advancement. In Texas, possession of an illegal drug or a controlled substance can be a misdemeanor or a felony depending upon the type and amount of drugs involved. If a plea bargain is in our client’s best interests, we will work hard to get the best deal possible.
Motion to Revoke Probation (MTR)
If you are facing a probation revocation because of a probation violation, we can help. We understand that there are often psychological issues, such as bipolar disorder, underlying many drug problems, and we work on getting you the treatment you need and probation, reinstatement or termination instead of prison time.
Houston Drug Charges Defense: The Charles Johnson Law Firm
When you are facing an arrest and possible conviction for a drug crime, your future is on the line. To learn how we can help defend you against drug charges, contact our skilled Houston, Texas criminal defense lawyer today for a free initial consultation.
Charles Johnson |
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