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Unlike many other types of criminal defense cases, sexual assault defense cases require an extremely delicate touch. Sexual assault is a term which encompasses rape, attempted rape, sexual abuse and battery, molestation, and other crimes.
One of the most difficult aspects of sexual assault defense is the fact that there are rarely ever any witnesses to sexual assault crimes. In addition to the lack of witnesses, there is usually little evidence a rape, attempted rape, molestation, or other sex crime, ever occurred. Taking away evidence and witnesses, what we are left with is one word vs. another – the victim’s claim, and the suspect’s defense, both people’s lives often drastically affected by the severity of the event and the legal outcome.
It is the responsibility of your lawyer to thoroughly research all aspects of your case and assist you with whatever legal facilitation you need through this difficult time.
Don’t Make A Serious Mistake: Make The Right Choice For Your Sex Crimes Defense Attorney
If you or someone you care about is facing a charge of rape or sexual assault, you can’t afford to make a mistake with who you hire as your Houston Sex Crimes Defense Attorney. These types of criminal charges demand an attorney that has defended these types of cases successfully for many years. Our proven results are among the best in the legal profession in Texas. We know how to very aggressively and successfully defend Texas sex crime charges, and we know how to make sure you are legally protected to the maximum extent possible.
Make the wrong move – hire an attorney who only handles these cases “occasionally,” or hire an attorney based on the lowest fee you’re quoted – and you may find yourself in prison for something you may not be legally guilty of doing. If you are in this situation right now, you probably have a hundred questions to ask. Contact Houston Sexual Assault Lawyer Charles Johnson anytime night or day at (713) 222-7577 for your free consultation. Attorney Johnson will help you decide what, legally, you need to do.
What Is Sexual Assault?
“Sexual Assault” is any form of sexual contact or penetration that is committed against another person without his or her consent. Victims of sexual assault can be compelled to participate through physical force, fear, coercion, deception, or the use of intoxicants such as drugs or alcohol. Some types of sexual violence that doesn’t involve force or other forms of compulsion are still considered criminal.
Sexual Assault is broadly defined as the full range of forced sexual acts, including forced touching or kissing; verbally coerced intercourse; and vaginal, oral, and anal penetration. Researchers typically include in this category only acts of this nature that occur during adolescence or adulthood; in other words, childhood sexual abuse is defined separately. Both men and women can be sexually assaulted and can commit sexual assault. The vast majority of sexual assaults, however, involve male perpetrators and female victims.
Other examples of sexual assault include:
Date or acquaintance rape which involves non-consensual sexual intercourse committed by a date or someone known to the victim, such as an acquaintance, friend, co-worker, date, or spouse. This includes incidents where the victim is unable to provide consent (e.g. unconscious, asleep, or under the influence of a substance). Most rapes are acquaintance rapes.
Alcohol-involved rape: Rape in which the perpetrator, the victim, or both are under the influence of alcohol at the time of the incident.
Attempted rape: An act that fits the definition of rape, in terms of the strategies used, but does not result in penetration.
Childhood sexual abuse: Sexual abuse that occurs to a child (the term “child” is generally defined as age 13 or younger). Child sexual abuse is a form of child abuse in which an adult or older adolescent uses a child for sexual stimulation. Forms of child sexual abuse include asking or pressuring a child to engage in sexual activities (regardless of the outcome), indecent exposure (of the genitals, female nipples, etc.) to a child with intent to gratify their own sexual desires or to intimidate or groom the child, physical sexual contact with a child, or using a child to produce child pornography.
Date rape: Rape committed by someone that the victim is dating. Among college students, approximately one-half of all rapes are committed by a date.
Marital rape: Rape committed by the victim’s spouse. Marital rape often is committed in association with verbal and physical abuse.
Stranger rape: Rape committed by someone that the victim does not know. Less than 20 percent of rapes are committed by strangers, although most people believe that stranger rape is the prototypical rape.
“Flashing” or “Exhibitionism” involves the exposure of a person’s genitals to cause alarm or fear in another person or to provoke sexual interest in the viewer.
“Peeping” or “Voyeurism” is secretively observing someone, without the person’s permission, for the purpose of sexual gratification.
“Stalking” or “Cyber stalking” are forms of harassment generally comprised of repeated and persistent following, calling, writing, texting, etc. with no legitimate reason and with the intention of harming, or so as to arouse anxiety or fear of harm in the person being followed or contacted.
Anyone — men, women, and even children — can be sexually assaulted. Sexual assault is usually defined as sexual activity between two or more people in which one of the people is coerced or threatened with harm. The sexual activity may include fondling, sexual intercourse, oral sex, and/or anal sex. The sexual aggressor can be a family member, like a husband or father, or a friend, date, acquaintance, or stranger.
Sexual assault is a crime that has become an epidemic problem. Sexual assault can be an extremely stressful, terrifying event and can severely disrupt the victim’s lifestyle and coping patterns. During a sexual assault, the victim may have feelings of powerlessness and uncertainty about whether he or she will survive. Frequently the victim’s life is directly threatened and the victim may be physically injured in a variety of ways. At the same time, the victim must remain alert, trying to protect him or herself from even more harm. Children who may be present are often threatened, adding to the terror and causing the victim to feel responsible for protecting them.
Studies show that the impact of sexual assault varies from person to person. Victims may no longer feel safe, may lose self-esteem, feel powerless, and lose the ability to trust others or develop intimacy. The more terrifying the assault, and the more the person’s life is threatened, the more problems victims usually have afterwards. Having suffered previous traumatic events can also contribute to greater problems.
Sexual assault of adolescent and adult women has been called a silent epidemic, because it occurs at high rates yet is rarely reported to the authorities. Several reasons contribute to the underreporting of sexual assault cases. Many victims do not tell others about the assault, because they fear that they will not be believed or will be derogated, which, according to research findings, is a valid concern. Other victims may not realize that they have actually experienced legally defined rape or sexual assault, because the incident does not fit the prototypic scenario of “stranger rape.” For example, in a study by Abbey and colleagues, a woman wrote, “For years I believed it was my fault for being too drunk. I never called it ‘rape’ until much more recently, even though I repeatedly told him ‘no’.”
Defendants Charged With Sexual Assault
Unfortunately in many of these cases there is a tendency to favor the victim’s claim and assume that he or she is telling the truth, no matter the actual believability of the story. The courts are supposed to be fair and equal, but that is not always the case. This is why it is imperative that you find a lawyer that believes you, is on your side, and will be aggressive in making sure your story is heard while defending your rights and fighting for your freedom.
Whether there is evidence of a crime or not, an effective and experienced criminal defense lawyer should know how the legal system works and how to best defend your rights and your case. Sexual Assault defense requires many resources including precision, experience, knowledge, and dedication, all aspects that you will find when working with our lawyers. At the Charles Johnson Law Firm, we defend each of our clients with every available tactic, legal technique, investigative research, and more to secure their vindication and release. In short, we will do our best to win your case.
If you have been charged with, or are charging someone with sexual assault of any sort, please protect your rights and contact Houston Sexual Assault Lawyer Charles Johnson anytime night or day at (713) 222-7577 to discuss your case.
Victims of Sexual Assault in Society
Cultural and Religious Issues
Issues having the most profound impact on victims may, in part, be attributed to their cultural or religious backgrounds. For some victims, problems associated with poverty and discrimination, as well as inadequate access to quality health care, already have resulted in a high incidence of victimization. There may exist a general distrust of medical and law enforcement personnel who play vital roles in the aftermath of sexual assault, particularly if there has been a history of unpleasant or disappointing experiences with these professionals.
In some cultures, the loss of virginity is an issue of paramount importance which may render the victim unacceptable for an honorable marriage. In other cultures, the actual event of the assault may be a more signiﬁcant issue of concern for the family than is the victim’s loss of virginity.
Some religious doctrines prohibit a female from being disrobed in the presence of a male who is not her husband. A genital examination by a male physician also may be forbidden. These practices are often considered a further violation of the victim, the family or both.
The Elderly Victim
As with most other victims, elderly victims experience extreme humiliation, shock, disbelief and denial. However, full emotional impact of the assault may not be felt until the victim is alone, well after initial contact with physicians, police, legal and advocacy groups. During this time, elderly victims must deal with having been violated and possibly infected with sexually transmitted diseases. This is also when the elderly become more acutely aware of their physical vulnerability, reduced resilience and mortality. Fear, anger or depression can be especially severe in elderly victims who are isolated, have no conﬁdant or live on meager incomes. Fear of losing independence as a result of family members learning about the sexual assault can be a strong deterrent to reporting. Recognizing that the offender may be a family member, friend or caretaker is also important.
The Victim with Disabilities
Persons having mental or developmental disabilities may be confused or frightened, unsure of what occurred, or they may not even understand that they have been exploited and are victims of a crime. In sexual assault cases involving victims with mental or developmental disabilities, using anatomically detailed dolls has proven to be a successful means of communication. Only those speciﬁcally trained in their use should use anatomically detailed dolls. In some cases, offenders may be family members, caretakers or friends who inﬂict repeated abuse because their victims are not able to report the crimes against them.
The Male Victim
It is believed that the number of adult male victims of sexual assault who report the crime or seek medical care or counseling represents only a very small percentage of those actually victimized. Although many adult males do not seek medical care unless they also have been seriously injured, male child victims are now being seen at hospitals in increasing numbers. This increase, in large measure, is a direct result of public education and more stringent child abuse reporting laws throughout the nation.
The male victim may have serious concerns regarding his inability to prevent the assault. There also may be confusion about the nature of his role as victim/participant because of a possible involuntary physiological response to the assault, such as stimulation to ejaculation. Male victims need reassurance that they were the victims of a violent crime which was not their fault, and that other sexually assaulted males have survived to function normally in every way.
The Child and Adolescent Victim
Children are not small adults either physiologically or emotionally. Just as the physical examination protocol for children is different from the protocol for adults, the emotional needs of the child are also different. Children require the services of individuals speciﬁcally trained to provide the crisis intervention, medical examination and long-term treatment that will surely be needed as a result of acute sexual assault or chronic sexual abuse.
Adolescents are experiencing a transition from childhood to adulthood and show extremely variable reactions which may be a reflection of their individual developmental stage. There is no typical adolescent victim, and the approach to each is a challenge for even the most experienced practitioner. Acquaintance or “date rape” may be the most under-reported type of sexual assault. Clearly, access to long-term treatment by speciﬁcally trained individuals is essential for all child and adolescent victims.
The Domestic Violence Victim
Sexual assault by a spouse or other familial is a grave indicator of the danger a victim faces and must be taken seriously. Forced sex is a factor in determining the potential for lethality; a woman who is raped by her partner is more likely to die at his hands. Medical personnel must determine whether the victim is a domestic violence victim so proper services and referrals can be provided.
A victim who has been sexually assaulted by a partner has likely been suffering other forms of violence during the relationship. Many victims keep physical, emotional and sexual abuse hidden from friends and family members for numerous reasons: many religions and cultures prohibit divorce, the victim believes that the abuse is deserved or does not realize a crime has been committed, the victim has no support system, the victim is ﬁnancially dependent upon the abuser, or the victim fears the abuser will harm or take the children.
The Homosexual Victim
Homosexual male and lesbian victims are often reluctant to seek services for a number of reasons. There is concern of encountering barriers of prejudice or homophobia, as well as fears that the assault will not be taken seriously or even perceived as a crime. Many times the homosexual community in a given area is small; this results in limited access to qualiﬁed service providers, and the fear that the entire community will ﬁnd out about the attack. Another consideration is that the victim’s family, friends or co-workers may not be aware of the victim’s sexual orientation. Fears of ostracism by peers and family can be more traumatizing for the victim than the attack.
Bisexual and transgender victims are also at high risk for encountering prejudice and ridicule as a result of reporting sexual assault. Recognizing that sexual assault is always a crime and knowing appropriate referrals for victims who are not heterosexual is essential for all involved.
Victimization Involving Alcohol/ Drugs
Alcohol is the drug most frequently used to facilitate sexual assault. Victims often believe that because they voluntarily consumed alcohol, ecstasy or some other drug, they are to blame for the assault. It is important to understand that intoxication and the resulting diminished abilities are not causes of sexual assault; they are tools used to aid in commission of this crime.
Victims who have ingested a drug or combination of drugs may not be aware that they have been sexually assaulted. Victims may experience unexplainable soreness or injuries or a disheveled appearance. Events described as “dreamlike” or that cannot be remembered at all are strong indicators that toxicology screens are warranted and should be discussed.
Victim Reactions to Sexual Assault
After a sexual assault, victims can experience a range of responses. However, some patterns are especially common. Some victims report that they have repeated and frequent memories of the sexual assault that intrude on their thoughts and cannot be controlled; flashbacks, or a feeling as if they are reliving the sexual assault; nightmares; and difficulty sleeping. In addition, sexual assault victims may experience feelings of being “on edge,” having trouble concentrating, feeling the need to continually watch over their shoulder, or being easily startled (for example, jumping at the sound of someone’s voice from behind). Victims also report that they tend to avoid reminders of the sexual assault, including avoiding places that may resemble the place where they were assaulted; may feel less interested in things that they used to enjoy; and may feel emotionally numb. Victims may also withdraw from social interaction or settings. When these problems persist and disrupt daily life, mental health professionals call this group of symptoms posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
In addition to PTSD, sexual assault victims frequently find that they feel depressed and hopeless about the future, which can lead to thoughts about suicide. Many victims also report that they feel like the sexual assault was somehow “their fault,” resulting in feelings of self-blame and self-doubt. Frequently, sexual assault victims also say that they feel generally unsafe and often have difficulties with trust and intimacy. It is also common for sexual assault victims to have questions about their physical health and develop problems related to their sexual functioning. Lastly, sexual assault victims may resort to using drugs or alcohol to cope with their symptoms.
Women who become victims of sexual assault typically experience the victimization as a traumatic event. There are common reactions to this kind of trauma or shock; but at the same time, each woman responds in her own unique way.
- Fear responses: The most common victim reaction to sexual assault is fear. At the time of the assault, most victims have an overwhelming experience is fear — of being physically injured (beaten, cut, shot, etc.) or even of being killed. Fear responses associated with the assault (to certain sights, sounds, smells, thoughts, etc.) can persists for weeks, months, or even years. Victims who have been assaulted typically avoid anything which reminds them of the assault (places, situations, people, etc.). Some men and women become so fearful that they greatly restrict their activities, even to the point that they are unable to leave their homes or to be left alone.
- Losing control: After experiencing a sexual assault, many men and women fear that they are losing control over their lives. They have been forced to participate in an act that was against their wills. They lost control over their lives at the time of the assault, and this feeling of loss of control may continue after the assault.
- Flashbacks: Victims may re-experience the assault over and over again in their thoughts and/or in their dreams. When this happens, it is almost as though the assault is actually occurring again. This reexperience of the event is called a flashback.
- Trouble concentrating: Sexual assault victims may find that they have trouble concentrating on things. It is as though they cannot keep their minds on what they are doing. This is can be frustrating and add to the sense of loss of control.
- Guilty feelings: The most common source of guilty feelings are the result of self-blame. The victims tells him- or herself such things as, “I should not have been out that late,” or “I should have been dressed differently,” or “If I had been more careful about locking the door, this would not have happened.” Sexual assault victims may also feel guilty about what they had to in order to survive the assault, such as activities the victim felt he or she had to engage in in an effort to save him- or herself from serious physical harm or even death. In some instances, guilty feelings result from the fact that others may have been seriously harmed more than the victim herself. This is referred to as survivor’s guilt.
- Feeling “dirty”: Self-image frequently suffers as a result of the assault. Many victims report feeling “dirty” and may take frequent showers in an effort to feel clean.
- Depression: Another common reaction to sexual assault is a sense of sadness or depression. There may be feelings of hopelessness and despair, frequent crying spells, and sometimes even thoughts of suicide. A loss of interest in activities and things that previously were enjoyable often accompanies these feelings of sadness and despair. Nothing seems like it is fun anymore.
- Disrupted relationships: It is not unusual to see a disruption in relationships with others after a sexual assault. This is, in part, a result of the withdrawn behavior that frequently accompanies sadness and depression. The victim may also feel embarrassment and ashamed about what happened to them. However, the support of friends and family plays a vitally important role in the victim’s recovery from the trauma of sexual assault.
- Loss of interest in sex: After an assault it is not unusual for the victim to experience a significant loss of interest in sexual relations. It is understandable that sexual assault trauma would lead to an avoidance of sexual activity. There may be other factors involved, however. For instance, it is very common for people who are depressed to experience a decrease in libido or sexual drive.
Sexual Paraphilias (Sexual Deviations)
Definition: Receiving Sexual Arousal or Gratification in Response to Objects, Situations, and/or Non-Consenting Partners
Sexual paraphilias are commonly referred to as “sexual deviations”. There are four of these disorders, 1) sexual dysfunctions, 2) paraphilias, 3) gender identity disorders, and 4) sexual disorder not otherwise specified.
The essential feature of a paraphiliac disorder is reoccurring sexual urges and sexually arousing fantasies generally involving: (1) Non-human objects, (2) the suffering or humiliation of oneselfor one’s partner (not merely simulated), or (3) children or other nonconsenting partners.
For some individuals with a paraphilia, the paraphiliac fantasies or stimuli may always benecessary for erotic arousal and are always included in the individual’s sexual activity (including criminal activity).
In others, it occurs only episodically, i.e. during periods of stress. At other times, the person canfunction sexually without the paraphiliac fantasy or stimuli. In some instances, the paraphiliacbehavior may become the major sexual activity in this person’s life.
It is commonly accepted that when an individual is identified as having one paraphilia, there areat least one or more additional paraphilias. These individuals rarely seek treatment on their own; usually they come to the attention of mental health professionals only when their behavior has brought them into conflict with sexual partners or society (i.e. they get arrested for criminal behavior).
Any or all of the paraphilias may be exhibited by an offender during a sexual assault of a victim (adult or child). The following is a comparison of the recognized sexual paraphilias to criminal conduct:
|False imprisonment, assault.
The exposure of one’s genitals to a stranger.
Disorderly (lewd) conduct.
Nonliving objects (fetishes). The individual frequently masturbates while holding, rubbing or smelling the object or asks his partner to wear the object.
|Burglary, theft, rape.
Touching or rubbing against a nonconsenting (or unknowing) partner.
|Assault, battery, sexual battery.
Producing sexual excitement by mechanical or chemical asphyxiation (hypoxia).
|Accidental death, involuntary manslaughter.
Cutting, alteration, branding, infusion of the genitals (one’s own or another’s)
|Assault with a deadly weapon, kidnapping, sexual battery, mayhem.
|Penetration by foreign object.
The person is aroused by being humiliated, beaten, bound, or otherwise made to suffer.
|Disorderly conduct; prostitution.
Sexual arousal with corpses.
|Burglary, unauthorized mutilation, theft.
Exclusive focus on part of a body (living).
|Sexual battery, assault, assault with a deadly weapon.
Sexual attraction to another who is legally a child (prepubescent child).
|Rape, lewd or lascivious acts with a child, oral copulation, penetration by foreign object, sodomy, annoying children, child pornography, kidnapping.
Piercing of the body.
|Assault with a deadly weapon, sexual battery, mayhem, tattooing.
Receiving sexual arousal or gratification inresponse to another’s suffering (physical orpsychological).
|Rape, oral copulation, sodomy, penetration by foreign object, assault with a deadly weapon, kidnapping, murder.
Talking lewdly, on the telephone, usually to strangers.
|Obscene phone calls.
Cross-dressing, wearing the clothing of the opposite sex.
|Disorderly conduct, prostitution, theft, burglary, robbery.
|Assault, false imprisonment.
Observing unsuspecting people who are naked or engaging in sexual activity.
|Disorderly conduct; “peeping” and prowling.
|Sexually assaulting an animal.
Texas law covers a long list of sex crimes, from rape and sexual assault to statutory rape and indecent exposure. They are all serious offenses, but among the most serious is involuntary deviate sexual intercourse. Similar to rape, it’s a crime centered around forcible sexual intercourse. Penalties can be severe, especially if a child is involved.
If you are facing involuntary deviate sexual intercourse charges in the Houston area, contact Houston Lawyer Charles Johnson, an experienced involuntary deviate sexual intercourse defense attorney in Texas. Call today. It is important to start working on your defense right away.
We Defend All Sex Crime Charges
Our sexual assault defense practice helps people charged with, but not limited to:
- Child molestation, possession of child pornography, sexual assault
- Statutory rape, sodomy, rape
- Deviant sexual assault, sexual misconduct, enticement of minors
A conviction can mean jail or prison time as well as thousands of dollars of fines. A conviction can also require lifetime registration as a sexual offender. These sex offender registrations are open to the public including family members and employers. Failure to register as a sex offender can result in new convictions and incarceration.
Through training and experience we have a unique view and ability to handle theses types of cases. These types of cases have unique and special rules that other types of cases do not. We have experience to deal with those issues such as:
- Special hearsay rules for child witnesses
- Dealing with forensic interviews by law enforcement or therapists.
- Interpreting clinical medical exams such as SAFE exams.
- Obtaining and using evidence of prior instances of abuse from state agencies.
- Dealing with the child witness on the witness stand.
No matter what type of sex crime you are charged with, we will respect your dignity and work to protect your reputation.
Hire the Best Sexual Assault Lawyer: Houston Criminal Lawyer Charles Johnson
Sexual Assault is a serious, life-changing event and allegation, which is why the courts take the claims so seriously. However, too frequently, there is a lack of evidence and witnesses that helps the criminal defense attorney working for the defendant to win the case. A defendant may sometimes avoid prosecution and punishment simply by just claiming a rape, molestation, attempted rape or other sexual assault act never happened.
Sometimes the prosecutor’s office is so inundated with cases that your personal case may not receive the attention it deserves. With extensive expertise in the area of sexual assault, good criminal defense lawyers are in a unique position to predict the probable legal maneuvers of the defendant’s lawyers and to address and challenge those maneuvers before they become an issue or a possible way for the defense lawyers to win their client’s case.
For this reason it is an extremely smart idea to hire the best criminal defense attorney to ensure your case is given the time and importance it should have. Contact Houston Lawyer Charles Johnson directly at (713) 222-7577 now to discuss your case. He is available around the clock to take your call.
Download “Charged with Sexual Assault? Protect Your Future With the Leading Houston Sex Crimes Lawyer” in PDF Format
Related News Stories – Sexual Assault Arrests in Houston, Texas
Ex-NFL player Darren Sharper pleads guilty to sex assault
Former NFL safety Darren Sharper, after pleading guilty to sexual assault and attempted sexual assault in a ... Sharper has been in a Los Angeles jail since he was arrested on Jan. 17, 2014, on charges that he drugged and raped women.
Click2Houston - Mar 23 2015
Liberty County juries convict man for drugs, another for sexual assault
He was caught in the act and fled before being arrested by the Dayton Police Department a short distance away from the scene of the crime. After hearing the evidence, the jury found Prine guilty of sexual assault. During the sentencing phase, they heard ...
Your Houston News - Mar 22 2015
One of Texas' 10 Most Wanted sex offenders arrested in Houston
one of Texas' 10 Most Wanted sex offenders has been arrested at a Houston home. Davila, also known as Luis Davila, Clemente Alejandra Davila and Climente Davila, was wanted for probation violation (on an original offense of aggravated sexual assault of a ...
Chron - Jul 03 2014
Charles Johnson |
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, types of criminal charges
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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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.
Charles Johnson |
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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.
Houston Criminal Defense: Employ the Top Criminal Defense Lawyer » Charles Johnson Law Firm
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.
Call us at 713-222-7577 or toll free at 877-308-0100.
Major Credit Cards Accepted.
Charles Johnson |
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Virtually all drug charge convictions bear severe consequences, but the state of Texas makes every effort to crack down on drug manufacture cases. From meth laboratories to marijuana grow houses, in the event you or a loved one faces criminal charges surrounding the cultivation of drugs; you need to speak to the Finest Houston Attorney at the Charles Johnson Law Firm prior to taking any sort of legal action on your own.
The Top Houston Drug Crimes Attorney Charles Johnson will have many years of experience protecting the accused within the courts throughout Texas and is going to be willing to respond to your questions and reduce the damages facing you following your drug manufacture arrest.
When you initially step into their office, the Top Houston Drug Crimes Attorney at the Charles Johnson Law Firm will talk about your case, talk about what happened, and how the criminal charges you face might be affected by a prior criminal record. Listening to your side of the story, they’ll help you explore any and all potential defenses.
Understanding your side of the story is important. They will tell you about the court in which your charges are being heard. In all instances, they will want to hear your side of the story before beginning to fully evaluate your choices.
Hire The Recommended Houston Drug Crimes Attorney at the Charles Johnson Law Firm
Texas defense attorneys see many drug distribution cases due to the sheer volume of interstate highway traffic. Sadly, it’s all-too-easy to move drugs along the interstate highway system in all directions. In particular within the Houston area, our law enforcement officers have noticed patterns when searching for drug traffickers. It is common for vehicles to be stopped along northbound interstates and for big amounts of drugs to be found. When suspect automobiles are stopped heading southbound, big amounts of currency are occasionally found. Whether the criminal arrest will be sale, distribution, or drug trafficking depends upon the kind and also the amount of drugs in question. However the difference you face in penalties is substantial.
A first degree felony drug conviction usually results in a minimum five-year prison term, but in large-scale drug manufacturing or drug distribution cases, jail terms can jump to a minimum of 15 years.
If excessively big sums of U.S. currency are found inside your vehicle (or perhaps a vehicle you are riding in), you may face charges of money laundering. Amazingly, the penalties at the federal level for possessing big amounts of money are similarly severe to those for possessing big amounts of drugs.
You might also discover yourself dealing with conspiracy charges, something federal prosecutors might add on to drug crime cases.
The Recommended Houston Criminal Defense Attorney Charles Johnson will have handled numerous state and federal drug cases in Texas courts, from drug manufacturing cases involving meth laboratories and marijuana grow houses to international drug trafficking. No case is too big or complicated for their firm to handle.
Seizure of Assets
Law enforcement officers doing drug interdiction work have the legal right to seize assets that had been utilized in furtherance of a criminal offense or purchased using the proceeds of criminal activity. This indicates they not only confiscate drugs; they also seize money, cars, boats, various other personal property and even real estate. The police or law enforcement agency is able to then sell the assets and keep the proceeds or just keep the property altogether for their own purposes. This is especially typical with vehicles.
Asset forfeiture sometimes goes too far, with the police taking property that doesn’t belong to anybody charged with the criminal offense, property and assets that in fact belongs to totally innocent family members or third parties. The Most Dedicated Houston Drug Crimes Attorney at the Charles Johnson Law Firm handles asset forfeiture cases, helping customers fight to recover seized assets .
Creating Your Drug Manufacture Defense
Most drug manufacturing criminal charges, whether they involve marijuana or methamphetamines, are heard in state court. Quite often, marijuana grow houses and meth houses are discovered following informants report activities to the authorities.
If you have been turned in by a third party, the Best Houston Drug Crimes Attorney at the Charles Johnson Law Firm will attack the reliability of the source. Nevertheless, in every case the quality of the evidence is different. That is why we analyze possible actions on a case-by-case basis.
Contact the Recommended Houston Drug Crimes Attorney Charles Johnson for a free consultation. They’ll fight hard to protect your rights throughout the legal process.
Charles Johnson |
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Although individuals within the United States are entitled to privacy and freedom from government intrusion, there is a limit to that privacy. State or federal law enforcement officers are permitted, where justified, to search your premises, car, or various other assets in order to look for and seize illegal items, stolen goods or evidence of a criminal offense. What rules must law enforcement follow when engaging in searches and seizures? What can they do in upholding the laws, and what can’t they do?
What police officers May Do:
- Under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, law enforcement officials may engage in "reasonable" searches and seizures.
- To establish that a search is "reasonable," the authorities need to generally demonstrate that it is more likely than not that a crime has occurred, and that if a search is conducted it is probable that they will find either stolen goods or evidence of the criminal offense. This is often designated probable cause.
- In a few situations, police officers must first make this showing to a judge who issues a search warrant. In the majority of special circumstances, however, law enforcement may be able to conduct a search without a warrant. In fact, virtually all searches are "warrantless."
- Police may search and seize items or evidence when there isn’t any "legitimate expectation of privacy." In various other words, in the event you did not have a privacy interest in the items or evidence, the authorities can take them and, in effect, no "search" has transpired.
Note: In deciding whether or not there was a "legitimate expectation of privacy," a court will take into consideration two matters:
- Did you have an expectation of some degree of privacy?
- Was that expectation reasonable in our society’s view?
Example: You have a semi-automatic rifle that you had stolen from a pawn shop. You leave the rifle laying on the hood of your vehicle when you get home. You do not have a "legitimate expectation of privacy" with regard to items you leave on the hood of your automobile, and the authorities may take the weapon. No search has happened.
- Police may use first-hand info, or tips from an informant to justify the need to search your property. If an informant’s info is utilized, police officers need to establish that the information is reliable under the circumstances.
- Once a warrant is obtained, police officers may enter onto the specified area of the property and search for the items listed on the warrant.
- Police could very well extend the search beyond the specified area of the property or include some other items in the search beyond those specified or listed in the warrant if it is required to:
- Ensure their safety or the safety of others;
- Prevent the destruction of evidence;
- Discover more about possible evidence or stolen items that are in plain view; or
- Hunt for evidence or stolen items which, primarily based upon their preliminary search of the specified area, they believe may be in a different location on the property.
Example: Law enforcement have a warrant to search your basement for evidence of a drug manufacturing operation. On their way through your property to go down to the basement, they see a cache of weapons sitting on your kitchen table. Some may take the guns to guarantee their safety while searching your basement.
- Police may search your property without the need of a warrant in the event you consent to the search. Consent needs to be freely and voluntarily given, and you can never be coerced or tricked into giving it.
- Police may search your person and the immediate surroundings without any a warrant when they are placing you under criminal arrest.
- If a person is arrested in a residence, police may make a "protective sweep" of the residence in order to make a "cursory visual inspection" of places where an accomplice may be hiding. In order to accomplish this, the police must have a reasonable belief that an accomplice may be around.
Example: Law enforcement arrest you in your living room on criminal charges of murder. They can open the door of your coat closet to make certain that no one else is hiding there, but may not open your medicine cabinet because an accomplice couldn’t hide there.
- When you are being taken to jail, police may perform an "inventory search" of items you have with you without the need of a warrant. This search may include your vehicle if it is being held by the authorities in order to make a list of all items inside.
- Police may search without the need of a warrant if they reasonably fear for their safety or for the public’s safety.
Example: If the authorities drive past your home on a regular patrol of the neighborhood and see you, in your open garage, with ten cases of dynamite and a blowtorch, they can search your garage without a warrant.
- If it’s required to prevent the imminent destruction of evidence, police officers may search without any a warrant.
Example: If the authorities see you trying to burn a stack of cash that you stole from a bank, they can perform a search without a warrant to stop you from further destroying the money.
- Perform a search, without the need of a warrant, when they are in "hot pursuit" of a suspect who enters a private dwelling or area following fleeing the scene of a crime.
Example: If law enforcement are chasing you from the scene of a murder, and you run into your apartment in an effort to get away from them, they could follow you into the apartment and search the area without the need of a warrant.
- Police may perform a pat-down of your outer clothing, in what is designated a "stop and frisk" situation, as long as they reasonably believe that you may be concealing a firearm and they fear for their safety.
Houston Search & Seizure Defense: Hire the Leading Houston Criminal Lawyer
What police officers May NOT Do:
- The law enforcement officials may not perform a warrantless search anywhere you have a reasonable expectation of privacy, unless one of the warrant exceptions applies.
- If evidence was attained via an unreasonable or illegal search, the police may not use it against you in a trial. This is designated the "exclusionary rule."
- The law enforcement officials may not use evidence resulting from an illegal search to obtain some other evidence.
- The police may not submit an affidavit in support of obtaining a search warrant if they didn’t have a reasonable belief in the truth of the statements in the affidavit.
- Unless there is a reasonable suspicion that it contains evidence, unlawful items, or stolen goods, law enforcement may not search your vehicle. If your vehicle has been seized by the police, however, they can search it.
- Unless they have a reasonable suspicion that you are involved in a criminal activity, the police may not "stop and frisk" you. Should they have a reasonable suspicion, they may pat down your outer clothing if they have concerns that you might be concealing a weapon.
Courts often need to determine case-by-case whether or not the circumstances in which law enforcement searched without a warrant had been legal. Thus, any time a search has already occurred and you aren’t sure of its legality, speak to the Top Houston Criminal Defense Attorney as soon as possible. And if the search has not yet been conducted, make sure that you understand your rights in advance.
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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The illegal sale or use of prescription drugs can certainly result in severe criminal charges. If you have been arrested for a forged prescription or the unlawful possession of a prescription drug, you want a highly skilled criminal defense lawyer protecting your rights and fighting for you in court.
At the Houston Charles Johnson Law Firm, our trial attorney has many years of practical experience dealing with numerous drug crimes involving prescription drugs. Available at any hour, 7 days a week, we are ready to answer your questions and build your defense.
Anyone can certainly be hooked on prescription drugs. A number of our clients started out taking their drugs for medical reasons, but grew to be addicted. When their prescriptions ran out, they obtained the drugs by other means. Serving satisfied customers throughout Texas, our firm recognizes the penalties of a criminal conviction for average, everyday men and women. We can help you battle any sort of of the following charges:
- Prescription Forgery
- Sale of Prescription Drugs
- Prescription Fraud
- Illegal Possession of Prescription Drugs
The primary goal in each prescription drug case is to prevent a prison sentence. We shall help you discover alternative sentencing options, that include entering a drug treatment center. You will likely be in need of rehabilitation, certainly not a jail sentence. Looking forward, we are going to help you receive the assistance you might need.
Although the majority of prescription drug court cases involve painkillers, we handle criminal charges involving a wide range of drugs, for a wide range of clients, including minors. If your case involves any of the following prescription drugs or others, we can help:
Abuse and the unlawful sale of prescription drugs, significantly painkillers including Oxycodone and OxyContin, is a growing criminal charge being vigorously charged and prosecuted across the state of Texas. A popular and quite often easily accessible narcotic, prescription drug offenses carry with them the same kinds of severe penalties as various other illegal sale, trafficking, distribution and use offenses.
It is quite often students and under-30 men who are most commonly charged with abuse of prescription drugs. At the Charles Johnson Law Firm we have represented valued clientele in Houston and nearby communities for quite some time. Our lawyer offers personalized attention to each individual client to develop a powerful defense depending on the unique circumstances of your situation.
Act In your Defense
Prescription pain medication is popular. No doubt the majority of medicine cabinets across the Houston area have some kind of prescription drug unlocked and very easily accessible. But, even doing something as simple as offering a few Oxycodone, OxyContin, Valium or Xanax pills to some close friends at a social gathering could potentially result in a major criminal record and even prison time.
Our expert criminal defense lawyer provides the advantage of many years of working experience working exclusively in criminal defense. We have expertly handled a wide range of drug cases. Rely on us to battle your prescription drug criminal charges involving:
- Prescription fraud
- Doctor shopping
Houston Criminal Lawyer Charles Johnson has worked with folks from virtually all walks of life, including students, blue-collar workers and executives. Attorney Johnson has built his reputation on the foundation of his dedication to getting results and meeting the needs of our individuals.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that close to twenty percent of Americans have used prescription drugs for non-medical purposes at some point in their lives. But with the increased trafficking of prescription drugs online, the shocking increase in senior citizen trafficking of prescription drugs, and the high incidence of overdoses by users of illegally attained prescription drugs, prosecution is increasing and sentences are quite often just as harsh as those imposed for the distribution of illegal drugs. Trafficking statutes don’t discriminate: doctors and pharmacists are arrested for unlawful trafficking in prescription drugs, and so are the social-security-dependent elderly who trade painkillers for cash to pay for various other medications not supplied by Medicare or to pay the electric bill.
Houston Prescription Drug Possession/Sales Defense Attorney: The Charles Johnson Law Firm
Possession or distribution, prescription or "street" drugs, drug-related criminal charges are serious business. The potential for mandatory minimum prison sentences – sometimes ten years or more for fairly minor offenses – along with license suspensions, lengthy and restrictive terms of probation, mandatory drug treatment, hefty fines, taxes, forfeiture of property and assets, and limitations on future employment prospects, means that you ought to fully understand your liberties and options before you take any sort of action at all. The clock is ticking on the limitations period for filing certain defenses and requests for information.
Take charge of your case now. Talk to Houston Lawyer Charles Johnson now. A knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer will undoubtedly be able to explain exactly what sort of penalties you could very well be facing, and assess your case for potential defenses. Call right now for a no charge, no obligation consultation with an experienced criminal defense lawyer who will be able to guide you through this hard time.
Charles Johnson |
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