Houston Lawyer Blog
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If you have been charged with Assault in Houston, you may face serious jail time. When facing criminal charges it is crucial that you act quickly in retaining skilled legal representation to defend you. Your selection of attorneys is a critical choice; few criminal defense attorneys have the background and experience as the legal team at The Charles Johnson Law Firm. With extensive experience in all manner of Assault charges, your best interests are aggressively protected in court. Your case will be carefully analyzed to determine the strategy that will be employed to seek a better outcome for the client, no matter how serious the offense.
It does not take much for an altercation or argument to escalate and involve the police. Some people may believe that an Assault charge consists of a violent fight between two individuals but this is not always the case. In Texas, Assault can include an attempt to hurt someone physically. In some instances, prosecutors have decided that the slightest touch is enough to file assault charges. Additionally, the law does not require the alleged victim to sustain an actual injury.
Whether you are facing a first assault offense or are charged with a serious felony assault, your case will be carefully reviewed and analyzed to determine if any errors or violations of your rights have taken place during the arrest, through the chain of custody of evidence, in lab procedures or other aspect of the case that opens the door to a successful court challenge. It is vital that you do not engage in any discussions, questioning or interrogations without first contacting Houston Assault Lawyer Charles Johnson to protect you. Make the call immediately after your arrest. You can call Attorney Johnson anytime night or day and speak with him directly at (713) 222-7577.
Each assault case has individual circumstances and evidence, and some may consider there is little hope. In fact, we frequently discover viable options to defend the case in court and will vigorously defend our client. Our background in the criminal justice system results in a broad understanding of how the prosecutor in the case will proceed and the strategies for staying one step ahead of the moves they make. Your rights will be aggressively protected and our legal team will seek a “not guilty” verdict, dismissed charges, a reduced charge or alternative sentencing, depending on the exact circumstances of your case. Houston Criminal Lawyer Charles Johnson is here to protect you and to fight for you in court.
Assault Charges in Texas
There are several different types of assault charges including but not limited to:
- Assault Causing Serious Bodily Injury
- Assault On A Public Servant, Sexual Assault
- Assault With A Deadly Weapon
- Aggravated Assault
- Sexual Assault
- Assault Family Violence
- Assault On A Child Or Elderly
Assault charges can range from Class C misdemeanors (e.g. assault by contact) to a 1st degree felony; all cases will vary based on the facts and criminal history of each defendant. On the lower end of the spectrum (Class C misdemeanor), the punishment may result in implementation of fines, attendance of anger-management or marriage counseling classes, or deferred adjudication. Higher level misdemeanors could result in jail time or probation. Felony cases may result in probation or prison time. Depending on your criminal history and the actual charge, you may be eligible for special programs like the Pre-Trial Intervention Program that could result in a dismissal of your case.
Like many states, Texas has reconceptualized rape as an assaultive or violent offense rather than a sexual offense. Like these other states, Texas no long utilizes the term “rape” in its Penal Code. Both types of “rape”, forcible and statutory ,are found in TPC sec. 22.01. and are forms of “Sexual Assault.” These are in ch. 22 “Assaultive Offenses” rather than ch. 21 “Sexual Offenses.”
Both are first degree felonies if the offender and victim are closely related. Otherwise the offenses are second degree felonies. First degree felonies are punishable by imprisonment for life or for any term of not more than 99 years nor less than 5 years. In addition, punishment can include a fine of not more than $10,000. A second degree felony is punishable by imprisonment for not more than 20 years nor less than 2 years, and/or a fine not to exceed $10,000.
Sexual Assault (non-consensual)
The offense that formerly would have been called forcible rape is now found in 22.011 (a) of the TPC.
§ 22.011. SEXUAL ASSAULT. (a) A person commits an offense if the person:
(1) intentionally or knowingly:
(A) causes the penetration of the anus or sexual organ of another person by any means, without that person’s consent;
(B) causes the penetration of the mouth of
another person by the sexual organ of the actor, without that
person’s consent; or
(C) causes the sexual organ of another person, without that person’s consent, to contact or penetrate the mouth, anus, or sexual organ of another person, including the actor;
Note that unlike the common law definition of rape, this statute is gender-neutral, includes sex acts in addition to vaginal intercourse, and has no exemption for rape of a spouse.
Without consent is defined in subsec. (b) in 11 different ways:
A sexual assault under Subsection (a)(1) is without the
consent of the other person if:
(1) the actor compels the other person to submit or participate by the use of physical force or violence;
This is the classic forcible rape scenario. Prior law required the victim to resist and the force had to be such as would overcome “such earnest resistance as might be reasonably expected under the circumstances.” There is no requirement of any resistance in the current statute.
(2) the actor compels the other person to submit or participate by threatening to use force or violence against the other person, and the other person believes that the actor has the
present ability to execute the threat;
(3) the other person has not consented and the actor knows the other person is unconscious or physically unable to resist;
(4) the actor knows that as a result of mental disease or defect the other person is at the time of the sexual assault incapable either of appraising the nature of the act or of resisting it;
(5) the other person has not consented and the actor knows the other person is unaware that the sexual assault is occurring;
Drugging the victim is covered in (6) below and, at first glance, it might appear that subsec. 5 is not possible. This portion of the statute is aimed primarily at physicians who exceed the scope of a proper gynecological examination, and the victim is not aware of what is really going on.
(6) the actor has intentionally impaired the other person’s power to appraise or control the other person’s conduct by administering any substance without the other person’s knowledge;
(7) the actor compels the other person to submit or participate by threatening to use force or violence against any person, and the other person believes that the actor has the ability
to execute the threat;
The final four subsections deal with the situation where a person has control or unusual influence over the victim and takes advantage of that relationship:
(8) the actor is a public servant who coerces the other person to submit or participate;
(9) the actor is a mental health services provider or a health care services provider who causes the other person, who is a patient or former patient of the actor, to submit or participate by
exploiting the other person’s emotional dependency on the actor;
(10) the actor is a clergyman who causes the other person to submit or participate by exploiting the other person’s emotional dependency on the clergyman in the clergyman’s professional character as spiritual adviser; or
(11) the actor is an employee of a facility where the other person is a resident, unless the employee and resident are formally or informally married to each other under Chapter 2,
Sexual Assault (Statutory Rape)
Forcible rape was a common law offense. Consensual sex with a child was criminalized by a statute by Parliament, and is thus termed “statutory” rape. The Texas version is found in TPC sec. 21.011 (2). It provides that an actor commits an offense if he or she
2) intentionally or knowingly:
(A) causes the penetration of the anus or sexual organ of a child by any means;
(B) causes the penetration of the mouth of a child by the sexual organ of the actor;
(C) causes the sexual organ of a child to contact or penetrate the mouth, anus, or sexual organ of another person, including the actor;
(D) causes the anus of a child to contact the mouth, anus, or sexual organ of another person, including the actor; or
(E) causes the mouth of a child to contact the anus or sexual organ of another person, including the actor.
Note that like the forcible rape version, the statute is gender neutral and includes sex acts other than vaginal intercourse. There is no element of lack of consent .
A child is defined as someone younger than 17 years of age who is not the spouse of the actor. Because the acts are consensual, there is, unlike in the forcible rape version, a spousal exception. Persons under 17 are presumed incapable of giving a valid consent, except when married. Age 17 is referred to as the “age of consent,”–the age at which the law assumes a valid consent can be given.
There is a defense of medical care: “(d) It is a defense to prosecution under Subsection (a)(2) that the conduct consisted of medical care for the child and did not include any contact between the anus or sexual organ of the child and the mouth, anus, or sexual organ of the actor or a third party.”
There is also a defense if the offender and victim are close in age, are not close relatives, and the offender does not have certain prior convictions for certain sex offenses. In these situations it is less likely that there is some form of improper exploitation of a young victim by an older predator.
(e) It is an affirmative defense to prosecution under Subsection (a)(2) that:
(1) the actor was not more than three years older than the victim and at the time of the offense:
(A) was not required under Chapter 62, Code of Criminal Procedure, to register for
life as a sex offender; or
(B) was not a person who under Chapter 62, Code of Criminal Procedure, had a reportable conviction or adjudication for an offense under this section; and
(2) the victim:
(A) was a child of 14 years of age or older; and
(B) was not a person whom the actor was prohibited from marrying or purporting to marry or with whom the actor was prohibited from living under the appearance of being married under Section 25.01.
The statute does not say that the defendant must know that the victim is under 17, and Texas courts have not created such a requirement. Thus, (as in a majority of states) mistake of fact about the victim’s age is not a defense.
Aggravated Sexual Assault
If a sexual assault under sec. 22.011 involves any of the following acts by the offender, the offense is Aggravated Sexual Assault (sec. 22.021 (2):
(i) causes serious bodily injury or attempts to cause the death of the victim or another person in the course of the same criminal episode;
(ii) by acts or words places the victim in fear that death, serious bodily injury, or kidnapping will be imminently inflicted on any person;
(iii) by acts or words occurring in the presence of the victim threatens to cause the death, serious bodily injury, or kidnapping of any person;
(iv) uses or exhibits a deadly weapon in the course of the same criminal episode;
(v) acts in concert with another who engages in conduct described by Subdivision (1) directed toward the same victim and occurring during the course of the same criminal episode; or
(vi) administers or provides flunitrazepam, otherwise known as rohypnol, gamma hydroxybutyrate, or ketamine [so-called “date rape drugs”] to the victim of the offense with the intent of facilitating the commission of the offense;
It is also an aggravated sexual Assault if the victim is under 14 or an elderly or disabled individual. Aggravated Sexual Assault is a felony of the first degree.
Assault Family Violence
Houston Criminal Lawyer Charles Johnson handles a large number of Assault Family Violence cases, both misdemeanors and felonies. These types of cases typically involve family members but may also include former spouses, domestic partners, roommates, and present/former boyfriends/girlfriends.
Frequently, assault family violence cases involve police officers responding to a call about a disturbance. The police will likely talk to both parties and make an arrest based on whose story they believe or what the evidence indicates. Unfortunately, sometimes, the person arrested is actually the victim and not the aggressor. Other times, a mere accusation of violence may be enough for a criminal case to be filed. Sometimes, penalties for assault family violence may be harsher than normal assault cases and may result in temporary or permanent loss of parental rights.
Unfortunately, having an assault family violence conviction on your record can be used to deny child custody and limit your visitation rights if you are undergoing a divorce or other child custody hearings.
Affidavits of Non-Prosecution
Unlike in TV shows and movies, an assault case cannot be dropped in Texas simply because the victim requests that the charges be dropped. Instead, the right to drop the case belongs to the prosecutor and judge. However, not all hope is lost. Frequently, criminal defense attorneys help the victims in assault cases prepare Affidavits of Non-Prosecution, which express the victims wish that the case be dismissed and may shed some light on the altercation or argument that led to the arrest and filing of charges. While these affidavits can’t guarantee that a case is dismissed, they certainly help in persuading the prosecutor to dismiss the case or reduce the charges.
Protective Orders and Court Ordered Injunctions
In some cases of assault, the prosecutor will request that a court impose temporary protective orders or an injunction to place restrictions on contact between the accused and the victim, or in the case of assault family violence on the other family members. Protective orders may vary, ranging from no contact with the alleged victim, which frequently results in the accused having to find another place to live until the case is resolved or the protective order lifted, or could result in a temporary loss of child custody. A violation of a Court Ordered Protective order is also a serious criminal matter and may result in additional criminal charges filed against the accused.
Aggravated Assault & Assault with a Deadly Weapon
Aggravated assault consists of two different charges: aggravated assault causing serious bodily injury and assault with a deadly weapon, both of which are typically second degree felonies. An aggravated assault causing serious bodily injury occurs when during the course of an assault the victim was seriously injured. It is escalated from a mere slap to the face to a more severe resulting injury. Assault with deadly weapon occurs when the accused is alleged to have exhibited a deadly weapon during the commission of the assault. Deadly weapons can include but are not limited to: baseball bats, BB guns, bottles, clubs, drugs, firearms, knives, motor vehicles, nail guns, and even dustpans and hot water.
However, if you are accused of committing an aggravated assault against someone with whom you have a domestic relationship, or against a security guard, witness, police officer, or public official the charge may be elevated to a first degree felony. If you have any questions about what constitutes assault in Texas or have been charged with assault, feel free to visit us on Facebook and post a question, leave a comment or fill out a free case evaluation form with no obligation
List of Common Texas Assault Charges
• Sexual assault
• Aggravated assault
• Aggravated sexual assault
• Injury to a child, elderly individual, or disabled individual
• Abandoning or endangering child
• Deadly conduct
• Consent as defense to assaultive conduct
• Terroristic threat
• Aiding suicide
• Tampering with consumer product
• Leaving a child in a vehicle
• Harassment by persons in certain correctional facilities; harassment of public servant
• Applicability to certain conduct
Possible Defenses for Assault Charges
Despite what the police might say, being charged by the Police with an offense does not mean that you will be found guilty of that offense. It is also true to say that Police are human and do make mistakes. In some domestic violence cases they may be bound to take action against someone even though they would prefer not to and in other cases they may be biased or act illegally.
There are many reasons why you may be found not guilty by the court, some of which include:
- The police don’t have enough evidence to prove that you committed the offense;
- The police have acted illegally or improperly;
- A witness may not attend court;
- The Police have charged you with the wrong offense;
- Where applicable the Police cannot prove that the injuries amount to actual or grievous bodily harm;
- You are able to rely on a recognised defense.
Self-defense claims are made when a defendant agrees that act of assault occurred, but it also that it was justified by the other person’s threatening actions. A jury must decide that the person accused of the crime acted reasonably. The questions which must be asked include:
- Who was the aggressor?
- Was the defendant’s belief that self-defense was necessary a reasonable one?
- Did the defendant use only the force necessary to combat the aggressor?
Defense of Others
Defense of Others claims are similar to self defense claims. When making such a claim, a defendant agrees that act occurred, but claims that it was justified by the other person’s threatening actions to a third person.
Again, to succeed, a jury must determine that the defendant acted reasonably under the circumstances.
An alibi defense is simply the argument that the defendant could not have committed the crime because that defendant was somewhere else.
One of the best and most common defenses is to challenge the credibility of witnesses including the police. A good attorney will examine all aspects of a witnesses statements, the inconsistencies and the omissions. Witness testimony may be undermined by prior inconsistent statements or rebuttal witnesses that tell a different story.
In any criminal case it is very important to preserve evidence before it gets cold. That means you should hire an experienced and aggressive attorney for your representation as soon as possible. If you do not, your rights could be impaired.
An investigation must be performed which would involve photographing the scene, examining critical evidence and interviewing potential witnesses while their memory is fresh. (A defendant cannot perform these functions by themselves since they may be viewed as tampering with a witness).
Because sexual charges are often based on the word of the accuser, the motivations and background of the accuser are highly relevant to sex crimes defense. Proper investigation and use of psychological experts can uncover facts that can be helpful to your defense.
- Lying about consensual sex. Some may make false charges of sexual assault or rape to cover up consensual sex in order to protect their own reputation from damage to hide casual sexual encounters from friends and family.
- Child custody disputes. A parent may make false accusations of molestation or inappropriate sexual behavior against his or her spouse in order to gain an advantage in family court. Such false charges are a common tactic in divorce and custody cases.
- Financial advantage. A sexual charge is an easy way for an accuser to extort money from a defendant. Celebrities are not the only targets of these schemes. An employee can easily bring such a charge against an employer. We have also seen extortion associated with extramarital affairs.
Suppression of Evidence
If photographs, computer files or other records were obtained from you, there are very strict search and seizure guidelines that the police must follow. Illegally obtained evidence cannot be used against you in court. In sex crimes cases, there are limited circumstances in which incriminating evidence can be suppressed. A motion to suppress is a Constitutional Right and an effective weapon in the hands of an experienced sex crimes defense attorney.
“Taint” can occur when children are subjected to biased and suggestive interviews. Parents, teachers, police and even therapists can ask leading questions such as “daddy touched you there, didn’t he?” Often, the adult conducting the interrogation is not consciously aware of the suggestive nature of the question. Young children, who are eager to please adults, often answer “yes” and even build false memories about events that did not actually occur.
Fighting a criminal case can be very complicated. Did you know that many cases are dismissed on technicalities? The Best Houston Assault Attorney must have knowledge of the court system and know the different personalities of Judges and Prosecutors.
Hire the Best Houston Assault Lawyer: The Charles Johnson Law Firm
Do not hesitate to contact Attorney Johnson if you or one of your loved ones could even possibly be facing any type of Assault charge. Don’t make the huge, regrettable mistake of acting without legal representation, the most foolish course of action when dealing with the criminal justice system.
It is important that you seek legal counsel if you have been arrested for Assault in Houston as soon as possible. Houston Lawyer Charles Johnson is an experienced and skilled lawyer who can help you protect your rights, investigate the evidence, and negotiate with the state to get the charges filed against you reduced or dismissed.
Acting promptly and aggressively is the key to protecting your freedom and ultimate well being. Houston Criminal Lawyer Charles Johnson is available by phone 24 hours a day at (713) 222-7577. He knows how important your case is, and wants to protect you from the very outset.
Why You Need a Skilled Houston Criminal Lawyer When Accused of Assault
by Charles Johnson
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As a result of the increased efforts of local and national law enforcement task forces to discover Online Solicitation of Minors or Importuning, Houston Sex Crimes Lawyer Charles Johnson has frequently represented individuals who have been accused of communicating with a minor using the computer. In fact, the law in most jurisdictions allows for an officer to pose as a minor while communicating with a suspect. Soliciting either an actual minor or a police officer posing as a minor may result in the filing of charges and subsequent prosecution. A common misconception is that no crime is committed unless there is an actual meeting. In actuality, the offense of On-line Solicitation or Importuning may be completed merely through the communication or “chat.” If there is an attempt to actually meet, additional charges may be warranted.
Houston Criminal Lawyer Charles Johnson is well-versed in the various defenses that must be explored in all cases of this kind. These defenses may include issues of entrapment, client knowledge, or jurisdictional questions.
Accusation of soliciting a minor online can often result from entrapment-type situations commonly depicted on televisions shows. However, soliciting a minor online can also be the result of a mistake or an accident. For example, an individual can be charged with soliciting a minor when they thought they were communicating with an adult on the computer, but may have actually been talking to an underage person. No matter the reason for the false claims against you, it is important to contact an experienced sex crimes defense lawyer who will make every effort to find defenses or other mitigating factors that will result in an acquittal of the charges against you.
An allegation of On-line Solicitation or Importuning calls for great effort and resources, as the stakes are high – one faces not only a potential prison term, but also the stigmatizing and debilitating effects of sex offender public registration, which makes it difficult if not impossible to obtain employment, and may even severely restrict one’s ability to reside in certain locations.
Jurors are often familiar with programs like “To Catch a Predator”, giving them preconceived notions which need to be addressed and diffused. Our lawyers know first-hand that with thoughtful and extensive examination of pertinent case law and pre-trial motions, a successful defense of On-line Solicitation and Importuning allegations can be achieved.
It is important to remember that if you have been accused of soliciting a minor online, the state prosecutor is required to prove every element of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt. This can be a very difficult burden of proof to meet, and any doubt in the mind of the judge or jury can result in a dismissal or reduction of the charges against you. Therefore, it is essential to contact an experienced Child Sex Abuse lawyer to help you begin developing the best legal defense for your particular case. Contact Houston Criminal Lawyer Charles Johnson for a free consultation today at 713-222-7577 anytime, night or day if you have been falsely accused of soliciting a minor online.
Online Solicitation of a Minor Defined
Since the 1990′s, the internet has changed the way we communicate, do business, meet people, and almost all other aspects of our lives. Unfortunately, it has also led to new criminal charges, many of which carry steep penalties. The most severe online offenses are those related to the potential harm of an underage person, such as online solicitation of a minor.
Online solicitation of a minor is communication with a minor via the internet that aims to arouse, sexually gratify, harass, or arrange to meet a minor face-to-face in the real world. In Texas, a minor is any person who is 17 years of age or younger. Exchanging sexually oriented materials, conversations, or invitations with a minor is a serious legal offense in our state.
Sexual exploitation can result in numerous physical and psychological consequences for children that may be multiplied for victims of child pornography because they face a lifetime of possible revictimization through the continued distribution of videos, photographs, or computer images depicting their exploitation (Klain, 2001). The mass media continues to feed into the stereotype that all Internet offenders are “predators” or “pedophiles”. According to ABC World News Tonight in June 2006, there are approximately 563,000 registered sex offenders nationally. However, decades of research indicates that only ten percent (10%) of sex offenders are truly predatory in nature.
This is not to discount that Internet victimization is one of the most dangerous Internet threats, but society must be cautious in using such characteristics without empirical data to support such a homogenous label. In the National Juvenile Online Victimization (N-JOV) study, approximately seventy-eight percent (78%) of cases, the offender was one of the victim’s family members, second generation family member such as grandparents, uncle or aunt, or stepparents or parent’s intimate partner.
Children exploring the Internet for education and entertainment are at risk of encountering sexually explicit material, sexual exploitation, and Internet offenses while remaining undetected by parents. The Internet has become a conduit for sexually explicit material and offenses against children. Children are extremely vulnerable to victimization due to their curiosity, naiveté, and trusting nature. These crimes present law enforcement with many complex problems due to the fact that they transcend jurisdictional boundaries and often involve multiple victims in multiple states and countries. Internet crimes must be pursued vigorously by law enforcement.
The greatest obstacle facing law enforcement is that children and parents do not report the majority of Internet crimes. In situations where the abuse is a parent, a relative, or acquaintance, the abuse may be more likely to come to light inadvertently as a result of inquiries by social welfare and reports from neighbors, rather than as a result of police inquiries into online crime (Wolak, 2005, in press). Community involvement, parental supervision, and early intervention and prevention programs on Internet safety are essential in protecting children from online solicitation and exposure to pornography.
The computer age presents complex challenges for law enforcement, victim services, parents, legislators, and the community. The proliferation of computer technology obviously has enhanced our lives in many ways, such as enabling improved productivity and efficiency at work, school, and home (U.S. Department of Justice, 2001). Unfortunately, this technology is not without potential threats and harm for criminals to prey upon innocent victims. According to ABC World News Tonight in June 2006, there are approximately 563,000 registered sex offenders nationally. End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes (EPCAT) International reports violence and harms against children and young people in cyberspace include: the production, distribution, and use of materials depicting child sexual abuse; online solicitation; exposure to materials that can cause psychological harm, lead to physical harm, or facilitate other detriments to a child; and harassment and intimidation.
Today the Internet has approximately two hundred (200) million users worldwide who can communicate with each other. Children of all ages are browsing the Internet. Forty-five (45%) of children in the United States, more than thirty (30) million of whom are younger than eighteen (18) use the Internet. By 2005, it was estimated that there are seventy-seven (77) million children online. Approximately one hundred three (103) million people use instant messaging (IM) programs such as AOL’s AIM, Microsoft’s MSN Messenger, and others. MySpace.com reports more than eighty-five (85) million members and the number of visitors to MySpace went from 4.9 million in 2005 to currently over sixty-seven (67) million. Like most new technological developments, this brings both positive and negative implications, especially for parents and their children.
Some children are especially at risk due to a range of vulnerability-enhancing factors common to all environments. They are in socially and economically difficult situations, have experienced sexual abuse and exploitation, are lonely, or feel alienated from their parents. Others have low self-esteem, feel awkward, are confused about their personal identity and sexuality, and lack confidence. Gender is also seen to be a risk factor, with seemingly more girls than boys appearing to be harmed through cyberspace interactions (although boys are increasingly featured in pornographic images circulating online).
Demographics of an Internet Offender
Sex offenders and child pornographers are a heterogeneous mixture. Before the advent of the Internet, between one-fifth and one-third of people arrested for possession of child pornography were also involved in actual abuse. The majority are male and come from all socio-economic and racial backgrounds. Many are skilled in technology. Not all fit the clinical classification of “pedophilia”. The mass media continues to feed into the stereotype that all Internet offenders are “predators” or “pedophiles”. This is not to discount that Internet victimization is one of the most dangerous Internet threats but society must be cautious in using such characteristics without empirical data to support such a homogenous label. We have to remember that in a previous generation, campaigns to prevent child molestation characterized the threat as “playground predator” or “stranger danger” so that for years the problem of youth, acquaintance, and intra-family perpetrators went unrecognized.
In an analysis of 600 cases of child sexual abuse in which the Internet played a role, either the offender- victim relationship was initiated or conducted online, the case involved the online sharing or distribution of child pornography, or the case involved child pornography stored on a computer or digital media. One hundred twenty six (126) cases involved a face-to-face relationship between the offender and the victim prior to any use of the Internet in committing abuse. N-JOV data indicated that the Internet was involved in eighteen percent (18%) of all sex crimes against minors and that nearly half of the eighteen percent (18%) were committed by acquaintances or family members, with a total of at least 460 arrests a year. This study found ninety-five percent (95%) were non-Hispanic Caucasians and forty-seven percent (47%) were twenty-six (26) or older. Thirty-five percent (35%) were married and over a third lived in small towns. Eighty percent (80%) were employed full time and fifty-one percent (51%) had incomes ranging from $20,000-$50,000 per year.
Identifying Internet Offenders
There is no one type of Internet child pornography user, and there is no easy way to recognize an offender. In the 2005 Wolak survey, solicitors did not match the stereotype of the older male “Internet predator”. Many were identified as other youth and some were female. Having a preconceived idea of a child sex offender can be unhelpful and prove a distraction for investigating police. Those convicted of sexually abusing children will not necessarily seek out or collect pornography, with one study putting the number of offenders who do so at around ten percent (10%).
This explosion of computer use, and the ease with which identities can be concealed on-line, has offered obvious opportunities to those who produce and consume pornography and those who seek to exploit vulnerable populations for sexual gratification. The Internet technology affords perpetrators a foundation for repeated, long-term victimization of a child. These crimes present law enforcement with many complex problems due to the fact that they transcend jurisdictional boundaries and often involve multiple victims in multiple states and countries.
N-JOV data reflected that the most common use of the Internet with family (70%) and acquaintance (65%) offenders was for seduction or grooming of victims either through online conversations or sharing of pornographic images. Forty-nine percent (49%) of family offenders and thirty-nine percent (39%) of acquaintance offenders produced pornographic images of their victims, which they stored or disseminated using the Internet. Forty-three percent (43%) used the Internet to arrange a face-to-face meeting. Relatively small numbers of offenders (2-4%) used the Internet as an inducement to enter the offender’s home and use it to advertise or sell victims online. Seventy-five percent (75%) of these cases involved some form of sexual contact and forty-five percent (45%) involved intercourse or other penetration. In a quarter of these cases, the sexual contact continued for over a year before being reported to the police.
How Sex Offenders Select Victims
A greater number of sex offenders are using the Internet searching for potential child victims through “kid only” or “kid friendly” chat rooms, online games, and instant messenger. The “set-up” for victimization requires long-term thought and planning. But a distinctive aspect of interaction in cyberspace that facilitates the grooming process is the rapid speed with which communication can become intimate. Chat rooms can be frequented by sex offenders that groom and manipulate their victims by playing on the emotional immaturity of children in virtual anonymity. The goal of the “set-up” is to gain control over the victim. The length of time spent during the “set-up” varies upon the vulnerability of the child. The longer an offender knows a child the better they are at “zeroing” in their grooming tactics and strategies.
Grooming is a term used to describe the process of desensitizing and manipulating the victim(s) and/or others for the purpose of gaining an opportunity to commit a sexually deviant act [Title 22, Texas Administrative Code, Chapter 810.2(b)(15)]. Grooming inflicts psychological harm on the child. In teen chat rooms, the activities that precede the process of initiating direct contact with a child may simply involve the offender providing a description of themselves to all of the users of the public chat room so that the offender is masquerading as a particular kind of child, of a particular age, in the hope of attracting an equivalent age and the same or opposite sex child (i.e. 14/m/tx) (O’Connell, 2001). A sex offender may begin victim selection by observation in which an offender may “lurk” in chat rooms or massive multiplayer online games listening to conversations between children. An offender may search public profiles that include information such as name, age, location, hobbies, interests, and photographs. The offender will then wait for a child’s response and determine if they will initiate a conversation. After selecting a victim, the offender will introduce him or herself by instant message (IM) or by a private message to the child. Additionally, victim selection can involve viewing the child’s public profile. A victim’s information may be obtained through an Internet service provider request or a URL a child must provide in order to create their own website.
In the initial stages of grooming, the offender will suggest that the child move from a public domain to a private chat room or IM for an exclusive one-to-one conversation. The offender will engage in conversations related to school, home, hobbies, parental relationships, or interests of the child. The offender will gather information regarding the likelihood of activities being detected. The offender will manipulate the child to create an illusion of being the child’s best friend. The interactions take on the characteristics of a strong sense of mutuality (i.e. a mutual respect club comprised of two people that must ultimately remain a secret from all others). During these interactions, the child is praised, made to feel special, and very positive conversations are tailored to the age of the child. Gifts or money may be offered to the child. Sadly, sex offenders tend to target children who are neglected or come from dysfunctional homes. For these children, the sex offender offers an alternative relationship that makes the child feel special and loved.
The offender introduces the idea of trust, affection, and loyalty but it is based on deception and manipulation. This grooming tactic provides a forum to move into the next stage of victimization. The offender will begin to exploit social norms and test the child’s boundaries. The offender could ask the child “have you been kissed?”, “have you ever been skinny dipping?”, or “do you wear a bikini?” If the child does not respond negatively to the boundary violation, it is tantamount to accepting the behavior or language. During boundary violations, the offender has positioned the child into believing that they share a deep sense of mutual trust.
Offenders who intend to maintain a relationship with a child will progress carefully and methodically into sexually explicit language. The nature of the conversations will progress from mild conversations (i.e. “I love you” or “I want to kiss you”) to extremely explicit (i.e. masturbation or oral sex). The target child may be drawn into producing pornography by sending photos, using a web-cam or engaging in sexual discussions. To silence the child and ensure their continued compliance in sexual exploitation, the offender may use a variety of tactics including rewards, violence, threats, bribery, punishment, coercion, peer pressure, and fear (Klain, 2001). Research indicates that this pattern of conversations is characteristic of an online relationship that may progress to a request for a face-to-face meeting.
Child Pornography Under federal law, child pornography is defined as a visual depiction of any kind, including a drawing, cartoon, sculpture, or painting, photograph, film, video, or computer-generated image or picture, whether made or produced by electronic, mechanical, or other means, of sexually explicit conduct, where it
- depicts a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct and is obscene, or
- depicts an image that is, or appears to be, of a minor engaging in graphic bestiality, sadistic or masochistic abuse, or sexual intercourse, including genital-genital, oral-genital, anal-genital, or oral-anal, whether between persons of the same or opposite sex, and such depiction lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value (18 U.S.C §1466A and 18 U.S.C. §2256)
Sexually explicit conduct includes various forms of sexual activity such as intercourse, bestiality, masturbation, sadistic or masochistic abuse, and lascivious exhibition of the genitals. It is illegal to possess, distribute, or manufacture these images.
Pornography and Child Pornography on the Internet
Both adult and child pornography has saturated the Internet due to the lack of censorship by the industry. The Internet provides the social, individual, and technological circumstances in which an interest in child pornography flourishes. Cyberspace is host to more than one (1) million images of tens of thousands of children subjected to sexual abuse and exploitation. Of the estimated 24.7 million Internet users between the ages of ten (10) and seventeen (17), approximately 8.4 million youths received unwanted exposure to sexual material.
Child pornography is the second highest category, after indecent exposure, of sexual re-offense behavior. The vast majority of children who appear in child pornography have not been abducted or physically forced to participate. In most cases the child knows the producer and it may even be their father who manipulates the child into taking part by more subtle means. Most children feel a pressure to cooperate with the offender and not to disclose the offense, both out of loyalty to the offender and a sense of shame about their own behavior.
Physical contact between a child and a perpetrator does not need to occur for a child to become a victim or for a crime to be committed. Innocent pictures or images of children can be digitally transformed into pornographic material and distributed across the Internet without the victim’s knowledge (U.S. Department of Justice, 2001). Digital graphic software (i.e. Photoshop, Illustrator, Microsoft PhotoEditor) allow offenders to edit “innocent” pictures. After a picture is scanned into a computer, these image-editing programs can be used to put several photos together or to distort pictures and create a believable image of a reality that never existed. This process is called “morphing”. In some countries, morphed images or pictures are not illegal. Offenders may claim in court that a picture is morphed, no matter how disturbing, is not a picture of a real child or a situation which actually took place, and thus is not illegal.
In April 2002, the United States Supreme Court found that provisions of the Child Pornography Act (CPPA), which prohibited the depiction of virtual and simulated child pornography, were invalid under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The Court found that in the absence of a “real” child, the Court could see no “direct link” between such images and the sexual abuse of children. The Court’s majority could not see a substantial risk of producers of child pornography using virtual images of children. Additionally, children can be exposed to “virtual” pornography. Virtual pornography is legal the United States and in some other countries.
In the 2005 Wolak study, almost all of the arrested child pornography possessors (91%) used home computers to access child pornography and almost one (1) in five (5) arrested (18%) used a home computer in more than one (1) location to access child pornography. Additionally, Wolak found that in fourteen percent (14%) of child pornography investigations, the offenders not only had possessed pornography but had sexually victimized children and two percent (2%) possessed pornography and attempted to sexually victimize children. Eighty-four percent (84%) of the investigations involving child pornography did not detect concurrent child sexual victimization or attempts at victimization (Wolak, 2005). According to the United States Postal Inspection Service, forty percent (40%) of child pornographers investigated have sexually molested children. From January 1997 through March 2004, 1,807 child pornographers were arrested and 620 (34%) of these offenders were confirmed child molesters (Kim, 2004).
Although most Internet pornography is created offline, technology has evolved to create “real” life pornography that can be viewed in real time, using web-cameras, phone cameras, digital cameras, and streaming video. A user can be notified of the date and time to log on the computer to view a child being sexually abused. The advent of mini-cameras has allowed for pictures and videos to be created without the subject’s knowledge. The user may pay money or exchange images with the direct abuser (Palmer, 2004).
These illegal images can be presented in various forms including print media, videotape, film, compact disc, read-only memory (CD-ROM), or digital versatile technology (DVD) (Klain, 2001) and can be transmitted through computer bulletin-board systems (BBS), USENET Newsgroups, Internet Relay Chat, web-based groups, peer-to-peer technology, and an array of constantly changing world wide web sites.
Using Child Pornography to Groom Children
Children can be exposed to pornography through spam or potential abusers. The accessibility of pornography online, the ease and perceived anonymity of transmission, and the environment of “virtuality” itself makes the use of pornography in online grooming easier for an abuser. Pornography is a tool for inducting and socializing a child into behaviors that reflect the content of the pornographic materials. Sex offenders frequently use pornography as a tool to assist them in the grooming process.
Children exploring the Internet for education and entertainment are at risk of encountering sexually explicit material, sexual exploitation, and offenses against children while remaining undetected by parents. Children are extremely vulnerable to victimization due to their curiosity, naiveté, and trusting nature. The Internet has become a conduit for sexually explicit material and offenses against children. In 2006, Wolak reported fifty-four percent (54%) of boys and forty-six percent (46%) of girls received unwanted exposure to sexual material. Ninety percent (90%) of all solicitations happened to teenagers (ages 13 to 17). Eighty-six percent (86%) received images of naked people and fifty-seven percent (57%) received pictures of people having sex and/or violent or deviant images. Lastly, eighty-three percent (83%) of unwanted exposures occurred when youth were surfing the web and eighty-nine percent (89%) of incidents the senders were unable to be identified.
Sex offenders use pornography to escalate the relationship with the child. According to the Klain study, the most common purposes for which offenders use child pornography are:
- Pornography creates a permanent record for sexual arousal and gratification.
- Pornography lowers the child’s inhibitions to engage in sexual behavior.
- Pornography may be used to teach children how to behave, pose, or re-enact scenes.
- Pornography may be used to blackmail child victims by threatening to show the photographs, videos, or other depictions to parents, friends, or teachers. The threat becomes more potent because the child may fear punishment by the criminal justice system.
- Pornography created to sell for profit or trade between individuals. The Internet’s anonymity, enhanced by increasingly sophisticated encryption technology, facilitates the increasing demand for child pornography.
Repeated exposure to adult and child pornography is deliberately used to diminish the child’s inhibitions, break barriers to sexual arousal, desensitize the child that sex is normal, and arouse the victim. Children depicted in pictures are often smiling or have neutral expressions, a factor that appears to be designed to represent the children as willing participants in sexual or degrading acts. There is a recent trend for pictures to be taken in domestic settings such as a kitchen or bedroom, thus further “normalizing” the activity for children who view images.
It has been reported that children under ten (10) who have been exposed to sexually exploitative material have themselves become users of it. Eight percent (8%) of youths admitted to going voluntarily to X-rated sites. Children at most risk of being violated through pornography productions are within the home and family. The child knows their abuser as a parent, a relative, a guardian, or an acquaintance. In these situations, the abuse may be more likely to come to light inadvertently as a result of inquiries by social welfare and reports from neighbors, rather than as a result of police inquiries into online crime.
Reporting Internet Crimes
The impact of online child victimization (i.e. solicitation and harassment) is not completely understood. Family dynamics often play a significant role in children’s denial of a crime and their willingness to participate in the investigation and prosecution. A child’s ability to acknowledge and accept the crime can be linked to family values, peer pressure, and feelings of guilt, shame, and embarrassment. Only three percent (3%) of all incidents of predators harassing children on the Internet is reported. The Crimes against Children Research Center found less than ten percent (10%) of sexual solicitations and only three percent (3%) of unwanted exposure episodes were reported to authorities such as a law-enforcement agency, an Internet service provider, or a hotline. In 2005, only one (1) incident out of more than 500 incidents of sexually explicit material was ever reported to an Internet service provider.
Ninety-five percent (95%) of parents could not identify common chat room lingo that teenagers use to warn people they are chatting with that their parents were watching (NCMEC, 2005). Ninety-two percent (92%) of parents did not know the meaning of A/S/L (Age/Sex/Location) (NCMEC, 2005). Parents should watch for the following questionable abbreviations:
- 53x means “sex”
- 121 means “one to one”
- A/S/L means age, sex, location. Watch for personal information being exchanged (i.e. 14/m/tx). This is a 14 year old male from Texas.
- CYBER used as a verb and means “cybersex”
- CONNECT means “to talk privately”
- DIKU means “do I know you”
- ESAD means “eat sh*t and die”
- F2F, FTF means “face to face” or “let’s meet F2F”
- FOAD means “f*ck off and die”
- GP means “go private”
- H4U means “hot for you”
- H&K means “hugs and kisses”
- ILU means “I love you”
- IWALU means “I will always love you”
- KOC means “kiss on the cheek”
- KOL means “kiss on the lips”
- LTR means “long term relationship”
- LMIRL means “lets meet in real life”
- LUWAMH means “love you with all my heart”
- LU means “love you”
- MOSS means “member of the same sex”
- MOTOS means “member of the opposite sex”
- MUSM means “miss you so much”
- NIFOC means “naked in front of the computer”
- OLL means “online love”
- P2P means “person to person”
- P911 means “my parents are coming”
- PA means “parent alert”
- PAL means “parents are listening”
- PANB means “parents are near by”
- PM means “private message or one on one chat”
- POS means “parent over shoulder”
- pr0n is an alternate spelling for porn or pornography
- PDA means “public display of affection”
- RL, IRL means “in real life as in “wants to see you IRL”
- SWAK means “sealed with a kiss”
- TOY means “thinking of you”
- WIBNI means “wouldn’t it be nice if”
- WTGP means “want to go private”
- WUF means “where are you from”
- WTF means “what the f*ck”
Acronyms and words used in daily IM or discussion boards
- AFAIK means “as far as I know”
- BTW means “by the way”
- CUL means “see you later”
- HHOK means “ha ha only kidding”
- IANAL means “I am not a lawyer”
- IIRC means “if I remember correctly”
- IMHO means “in my humble opinion”
- KEWL means “cool”
- OMG means “oh my god”
- OTOH means “on the other hand”
- WUT^2 “what up with you too”
Characteristics of Youth Who Form Close Online Relationships
- Sixteen percent (16%) of girls and twelve (12%) of boys have close online relationships.
- Girls aged fourteen (14) to seventeen (17) were twice as likely as girls ten (10) to thirteen (13) to form close online relationships.
- High parent-child conflict and being highly troubled were associated with close online relationships. Girls with high levels of parent-child conflict report yelling, nagging, and privileges by parents at higher levels than other girls. The highly troubled girls had levels of depression, victimization, and troubling life events at higher levels than other girls.
- Boys who had low communications with their parents, and who also reported that their parents were less likely to know where and who they were with were the most strongly associated with close online relationships.
- Girls and boys who reported high levels of Internet use and home Internet access were more likely to report close online relationships.
- Youths with problems were most likely to attend a face-to-face meeting with people they first met online.
Warning Signs that a Child may be at Risk
- Excessive use of online services especially during the late night hours
- Unsupervised time in unmonitored chat rooms
- Mood swings and withdraws
- Greater desire to spend time with people online than with “real life” people
- Unexplained files downloaded (i.e. .jpd, .gif, .bmp, .tif, .pcx, .mov, .avi, .wmv, or .mpg)
Defenses to Online Solicitation of a Minor
People are often arrested and charged with online solicitation when they meet the minor in question in person. However, it is important to note that a person can still be charged with this offense even if the meeting never occurs. Despite this, a person may be found innocent of online solicitation if one or both of the following apply:
- He or she is legally married to the minor in question
- He or she is less than three years older than the minor
Solicitation of a minor laws have frequently been challenged by defendants on the basis that they violate a defendant’s right to free speech, but have survived such claims. Viable defenses remaining will depend on a particular state’s laws. Some earlier laws required a defendant to actually communicate with a child and defendants could raise the defense of impossibility where prosecution involved communication with an officer who was merely posing as a child but who was in actuality an adult. In response to the success of the impossibility defense, many state statutes changed their laws to permit a conviction based on a defendant’s belief that they were talking to a minor. Other states have also built in “Romeo and Juliet” defenses for a defendant who is involved in a dating relationship with a child who was not more than three years younger than the defendant.
Although not an outright “defense,” another defensive angle is to prove that the defendant did not know that the person on the other end was a minor. Most states have strict liability laws — which means the state is not required to prove that a defendant knew how old the child was, only that the child was underage. However, some juries have engaged in “jury nullification,” by finding a defendant not guilty if they believed that the defendant did not have a reason to believe the child was underage. Showing that the conversation was just an online fantasy or proving that they never intended to actually meet the minor are generally not good defenses. Before a defendant decides to pursue a defensive theory, they should discuss the practicality of the defense with a criminal attorney in their area.
Solicitation of a Minor: Misdemeanor or Felony?
Online solicitation of a minor is usually classified as a felony level offense. As with most felonies, the range of punishment can include a deferred or suspended sentence, up to several years in prison. A defendant in Texas can receive anywhere from two to twenty years in prison. Although a deferred sentence can allow a defendant to remain free, the restrictions of probation tend to be more intense for online solicitation charges because they are considered sexually related offenses. The court can order a defendant to submit to maintenance polygraphs, complete individual or group sex offender counseling, to submit to a sex offender evaluation, and to refrain from being around any children while on probation. The court can also require a defendant to pay for these programs which can run up to $500.00 or more per month.
The long-term consequences can be even more severe. Because online solicitation of a minor is considered a sexually related offense, a defendant can be required to register as a sex offender. If a defendant fails to register, they can be charged with a new felony offense of failure to register as a sex offender. Once a defendant has a sexually related offense on their record, some states will significantly increase the punishment for a second offense if a defendant is ever charged with another sexually related offense. Beyond the court system, online solicitation will also affect employment opportunities. With more open access to the court systems, more employers are performing background checks and will not hire certain candidates. Applicants with sexually related offenses are generally the first to get cut.
When you have been charged with a severe legal offense, it is very important to understand your rights and defense options. An experienced Houston Criminal Lawyer can help you decide what steps you need to take next. The attorneys of the Charles Johnson Law Firm are aggressive child sex crime defense lawyers who will make every effort to fight the allegations against you. Contact us for a free consultation today at 713-222-7577 anytime, night or day if you have been falsely accused of soliciting a minor online.
Arrested For Online Solicitation of a Minor? The Right Houston Criminal Lawyer Can Make a Difference
by Charles Johnson
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A probation or parole revocation can severely impact your life and send you to jail or prison. If you face revocation, Houston Criminal Lawyer Charles Johnson can fight the allegations and/or assist you in getting an alternative to revocation. Attorney Charles Johnson is experienced with revocation proceedings. He will provide you with the information and legal representation you need to fight the revocation, get an Alternative to Revocation (ATR), or limit the jail or prison time.
The Charles Johnson Law Firm can expertly assist you with any of the following:
- Probation or Parole violations
- Extended supervision violations
- Probation or Parole revocation hearings
- Reconfinement hearings
- Negotiating with probation/extended supervision agent
Revocations are often based on new charges but sometimes just on mere allegations. It is important to contact the experienced Houston Probation Attorney at the Charles Johnson Law Firm early on in your case so we can work to negotiate an alternative to revocation or seek lower re-confinement recommendations.
The use of probation and parole is governed in part by competing philosophies, classicalism and positivism. In short, classicalists believe that offenders choose their actions and, therefore, in order to prevent (or deter) future criminal acts, such individuals should be punished. Conversely, positivists believe that individuals are forced into the choice of committing crime through no fault of their own and, therefore, the conditions and/or behaviors that caused the action should be remedied, ultimately resulting in rehabilitation of the offender.
Legislative acts and public sentiment further dictate the application of probation and parole. Therefore, universal and consistent definitions and applications of probation and parole are not available as the methods of punishment and governing philosophies have evolved and moved toward the twenty-first century.
While these factors contribute to a lack of consistency when dealing with probation and parole, the primary obstacle to detailing specific state protocols is that the practice of granting probation and/or parole at the state level is dependent on the discretionary powers of select individuals, such as the prosecutor, the judicial authority, and the parole board, to name just a few.
Probation is a court-imposed sanction that “releases a convicted offender into the community under a conditional suspended sentence.” This practice assumes that most offenders are not dangerous and will respond well to treatment. In fact, the average probationer is a first time and/or non-violent offender who, it is believed, will be best served by remaining in the community while serving out the sentence. Probation is a form of punishment issued by a criminal court in place of incarceration. The probationer is generally considered to be a non-violent offender who has been convicted of a crime but is not considered a danger and is believed to be better served by being placed on probation instead of in a jail cell. Probationers are typically convicted of misdemeanor offenses, have already served partial jail time for the offenses or are first time offenders or minors. Probationers are often forced to modify their lifestyle by reporting to a probation officer, living in certain locations, abiding by a set curfew and avoiding association with known criminal offenders.
Historically, probation does not involve incarceration, making it a front-end solution to address the overcrowding problem in U. S. prisons and jails. While the immediate goal of any probation program is rehabilitation, in reality it is more a necessity than an instrument. As a result, other programs have been developed under the umbrella of community corrections that utilize elements of conditional release resulting in the expansion of probation-type programs.
Probation developed as a result of the efforts of philanthropist, John Augustus, to rehabilitate convicted offenders, although references to similar practices exist as early as 437-422 BC. It was favored because it allowed judicial authorities a great deal of discretion when imposing sentences, thereby providing the opportunity to tailor sentences to a particular offender, in theory allowing for the greatest possibility of rehabilitation. While sentences of probation vary widely across and within jurisdictions, the maximum length of time that one can be under supervision is 5 years (60 months).
The functions of probation are difficult to state definitively. It is known that at its inception, John Augustus’ goal was behavioral reform. This reflects the sentencing goal of rehabilitation. Fundamentally, it is believed that by allowing the offender to remain in the community, the system is providing a second chance. Further, support and guidance from probation officers may achieve the aim of guiding the offender towards a law-abiding existence.
Given that probation is no longer limited to first-time, non-violent offenders who pose minimal risk to the community, the reality is significantly different. Coupled with low confidence in the effectiveness of rehabilitative success and a burgeoning offender population, actual practices tend to be dictated by conflicting goals on both an individual and administrative level. In an aggressive bid to prevent jail or prison overcrowding, several alternatives to incarceration have developed. Some such programs enable offenders traditionally incarcerated to be released into the community, thereby forcing a shift in focus from rehabilitation to control and supervision.
Intensive Supervised Probation (ISP)
ISP is a form of release into the community that emphasizes close monitoring of convicted offenders and imposes rigorous conditions on that release, such as the following:
- Multiple weekly contacts w/officer
- Random and unannounced drug testing
- Stringent enforcement of conditions, i.e.,: maintaining employment
- Required participation in treatment, education programs, etc.
Individuals on ISP are those who most likely should not be in the community. The restrictions placed on them are often excessive and the level of direct, face-to-face contact required is believed to significantly deter, or at least interfere, with any ongoing criminal activity.
Shock Probation and Split Sentencing
Shock probation/split sentencing is a sentence for a term of years, but after 30, 60, or 90 days, the offender is removed from jail or prison.
While these terms are used interchangeably, they are actually two different activities. In shock probation, the offender is originally sentenced to jail, then brought before the judge after 30, 60, or 90 days and re-sentenced to probation. In split sentencing, probation is part of the original sentence requiring no additional appearance before the judge.
Probation revocation occurs when an offender who has been sentenced to serve his punishment in the form of probation rather than incarceration violates the terms of his probation and is imprisoned. Probation can be revoked for a variety of reasons and may have varying consequences for the individual who has had his probation revoked, depending location and the regulations of the law enforcement agency involved.
Probation revocation means that the offenders probation officer has decided that the offender is not complying with the terms that were set for his probation and should be imprisoned for the remaining length of his sentence. Probation officers have to meet with a judge during a hearing and present evidence that the probationer is not fulfilling the terms of the probation before the probation will be revoked. Individuals are notified when their probation is revoked. If they do not turn themselves in to the court or police, a warrant will be issued for their arrest.
Reasons for Probation Revocation
Probation revocation occurs when an probationer violates the terms of her unique probation sentence. This could mean going outside a specified area such as a state or county, not being home prior to a specified time, failing to pay fines, check in with a probation officer or complete community service. Probation may also be revoked if the probationer commits or is accused of committing another crime during the time of their probation.
Consequences of Probation Revocation
When probation is revoked, the offender is sent to jail to serve out the remainder of his sentence. This means that the offender is completely incarcerated for an amount of time that will be decided by the judge during a probation revocation hearing where the probation officer reports why he believes the offender’s probation should be revoked. In some instances, depending on the crime and the severity of the issue that caused probation to be revoked, an offender’s time on probation will be taken into consideration. She may receive a jail sentence that is shorter than her original sentence, since the time spent on probation can be considered to have been part of the time served for the crime.
Since probation is a conditional release, it can be revoked, or taken away, if the conditions governing release are not met (technical violation) or if a new crime is committed during the probationary period (new offense).
Probation revocation is initiated by the probation officer’s belief that a violation warranting revocation has occurred. As a result of the 1973 case Gagnon v. Scarpelli (411 U.S. 778), the Supreme Court decided that where “liberty interests” are involved, probationers are entitled to retain certain due process rights. Such rights include: (1) written notification of the alleged violations; (2) preliminary (or probable cause) hearing at which a judicial authority will determine whether sufficient probable cause exists to pursue the case; and (3) if warranted, a revocation hearing.
If a revocation hearing is scheduled, probationers have the right to testify in their own behalf, may present witnesses, and may have an attorney present. While the Gagnon court was vague regarding the right to court appointed counsel at a revocation hearing, most jurisdictions do provide the right to appointed counsel.
The standard of proof required at a revocation hearing is a “preponderance of the evidence”, lower than that required at a criminal trial. Possible outcomes include return to supervision, reprimand with restoration to supervision, or revocation with imprisonment.
If you were placed on deferred adjudication probation, a probation revocation could result in a conviction on your criminal record or possibly a jail or prison sentence. Houston Criminal Lawyer Charles Johnson provides aggressive and thorough representation for clients facing a revocation of probation. His primary goal when representing a client in a probation revocation proceeding is to explore all defenses and possible alternatives that could avoid revocation of your probation.
Early Intervention in Houston Probation Violations
If a motion to revoke probation has been filed against you or if you are potentially facing the possibility of probation revocation, the time to act is now! Early intervention in a probation violation matter can often make the difference between facing a probation revocation hearing, or indeed whether or not a motion to revoke probation is filed at all. Houston Criminal Lawyer Charles Johnson has the experience necessary to make the court, probation officer, and the District Attorney’s Office aware of all circumstances regarding your case and to explore all defenses and possible alternatives to avoid revocation of your probation.
Parole is the “conditional early release from prison or jail, under supervision, after a portion of the sentence has been served.” This practice assumes that the offender successfully demonstrated conformity to the rules and regulations of the prison environment and shows an ability to conform to society’s norms and laws.
The word, parole, derives from the French “parol” meaning “word of honor” and references prisoners of war promising not to take up arms in current conflict if released. How that concept came to apply to the early release of convicted, often violent, offenders is less clear. The first documented official use of early release from prison in the United States is credited to Samuel G. Howe in Boston (1847), but prior to that, other programs using pardons achieved basically the same outcome. In fact, as late as 1938, parole was simply a conditional pardon in many states.
Alexander Maconochie (England) ran the Norfolk Island prison. During his tenure, he instituted a system whereby inmates would be punished for the past and trained for the future. He believed that inmates could be rehabilitated so he implemented an open-ended sentencing structure where inmates had to “earn” their release by passing through three stages, each stage increased their liberty and responsibilities. Inmates had an open time frame in which to earn the next level. Compliance advanced them; infractions resulted in a return to the previous stage, thereby lengthening the sentence. The open-ended sentences (today known as indeterminate sentencing) allowed the administration to ensure that when finally released, an offender’s behavior had been successfully reformed. Eventually, Maconochie was removed from his position under criticism that his program “coddled” criminals.
At about the same time, Sir Walter Crofton was developing a similar program in Ireland using “tickets of leave”. The “Irish System” as it came to be known, employed a similar practice of allowing inmates to earn credits towards early release. However, once the “ticket of leave” was achieved, release from custody was conditional. The releasees were supervised in the community by either law enforcement or civilian personnel who were required to secure employment and to conduct home visits. These “supervisors” represented the forerunner to today’s parole officer.
In the United States, Zebulon Brockaway (Superintendent) employed elements from both the Irish and Great Britain models in managing the Elmira Reformatory during the 1870s. Brockaway is credited with the passage of the first indeterminate sentencing law in the United States as well as introducing the first good time system to reduce inmates’ sentences. However, releasing the offenders was only part of the problem and initially, the greatest challenge was providing adequate supervision once release had been granted.
By 1913, it was clear some independent body was required to supervise inmates in the community and by 1930, Congress formally established a United States Board of Parole. It appeared, at least for awhile, that initiatives and programs were developing that could make parole a viable and useful tool of the criminal justice system. But unfortunate timing contributed ultimately to its downfall.
In 1929, the Great Depression hit the United States. An immediate result was a sharp increase in prison populations. However, the high cost of maintaining prisons as well as a lack of available personnel to staff them made new construction prohibitive and contributed to the popularity of parole. While alleviation of the overcrowding problem is often cited as a secondary (or latent) goal, the reality is that as a back-end solution, parole is vital to the maintenance of the correctional system.
With the onset of the twentieth century, philosophers began to examine the social and psychological aspects of criminal behavior. This heralded a shift from classicalist thinking towards positivism. Under positivism, actions are believed to be caused by forces beyond one’s control (such forces could be psychological, biological, or sociological in origin). Therefore, parolees were now viewed as “sick” and the parole department was charged with the responsibility of “fixing” them.
Positivism is consistent with a less punitive approach to sentencing and generally involves an indeterminate sentencing structure allowing for the possibility of early release if the offender demonstrates that they have been successfully rehabilitated. As such, it fit well with the Elmira system and the timing afforded officials the opportunity to use parole as a means to relieve the overcrowded conditions that had developed during the depression.
The fact that parole involves some incarceration suggests that the average parolee has committed a more serious crime than the average probationer and, hence, poses a greater risk to the community. Therefore, primary goals of parole must include crime deterrence and offender control. And given that most offenders will eventually return to the community, a rival goal is reintegration, or the facilitation of an offender’s transition from incarceration to freedom.
Unfortunately, it appeared during the 1980s that parole was failing. Street crime rates during this period skyrocketed and in many cases, the crimes were perpetrated by individuals who were released into the community prior to the official expiration of their sentence. This reality led to the development of penal philosophies espousing “tough on crime” approaches and demanding “truth in sentencing”. Such philosophies warned criminals, “do the crime, do the time” and resulted in radical changes to sentencing practices across the country that indicated a return to a more punitive sentencing structure.
Since parole is a conditional release, it can be revoked or taken away, if the conditions governing release are not met (technical violation) or if a new crime is committed during the probationary period (new offense). In this manner, it is similar to probation; however, it differs in that probation is governed by judicial decisions whereas parole is governed by administrative procedures. As a result of the administrative nature of parole, the revocation process is so varied among the jurisdictions.
In large part, however, most minor infractions are dealt with by the parole officer and may not necessitate involvement of the parole board. Some jurisdictions empower the parole officer to immediately take a parolee into custody for 24 (New York) to 48 hours (Pennsylvania) for purposes of obtaining an arrest warrant. This practice is typically employed when the offender represents an immediate threat to public safety.
With respect to the legal protections afforded to parolees, the first case to explore this issue was Morrissey v. Brewer (1972). The Morrissey case explored the extension of due process rights of (1) written notice to parolee prior to general revocation proceeding; (2) identification of the violations being presented and any evidence being used to prove that the violation took place; (3) the right of the parolee to confront and cross-examine accusers (subject to exceptions) and (4) a written explanation for the decisions regarding the revocation of the parole and what evidence was employed in making that decision. Perhaps the greatest contribution of the Morrissey case was the creation of a two-stage process wherein first, probable cause that violations had occurred had to exist in order to go to the second stage, which was the actual revocation hearing.
Interestingly, the Supreme Court did not choose to create a bright line rule for the right to court-appointed counsel at a revocation hearing. For the most part, however, most jurisdictions have followed the decision in Mempa v. Rhay (1967). While this case specifically dealt with the rights of probationers, it has been applied recently to parolees as well. Basically, the Supreme Court wrote that “any indigent is entitled at every stage of a criminal proceeding to be represented by court-appointed counsel, where substantial rights of a criminal accused may be affected.” In sum, the Supreme Court considered the liberty interests of the probationers and decided that a probation revocation hearing constituted a “critical stage” which dictated adherence to due process protections. This rationale has consistently been extended to include parole revocation hearings as well.
As of 2001, 15 states (Arizona, California, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Maine, Minnesota, Mississippi, Ohio, Oregon, New Mexico, North Carolina, Virginia and Washington) and the Federal government have eliminated parole programs in lieu of a determinate model of sentencing reflective of a more retributive approach to punishment. (New York Gov. George Pataki proposed making New York the sixteenth state)
Such an action may seem warranted given the apparent inability of the system to guarantee the protection of the citizens and the end result is predictable. Overcrowding still represents the greatest challenge to the correctional industry. In fact, three states (Connecticut, Colorado, and Florida) reinstituted the parole boards after eliminating them due to the unforeseen overcrowding problems. The reality is that removal of parole ultimately leads simply to a shift in power from parole boards to prosecutors, in that the option most often exercised in states without parole, is probation.
Contact Houston Probation Lawyer Charles Johnson if You are Not Ready to Give Up – Jail is not the Only Option
Once we have dissected your probation revocation complaint, we will mount an aggressive defense, knocking out many of the counts against you. In the end, if you do have some counts that are proven to the court, we can often have probation reinstated, provided you accomplish some heroic steps at our direction prior to the revocation hearing. We will consult with you and our team of treatment experts to build a track record of success prior to your probation revocation hearing. These efforts will show the District Attorney and the judge that you are worthy of another chance at probation, and that you are not a danger to the community. With a well thought out and implemented plan, you have more options than jail or prison if the judge revokes your probation.
If you are accused of violating the terms of your parole or probation or have questions regarding a potential probation offense, please call at anytime for a free initial consultation.
Houston Lawyer Charles Johnson can be reached 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Call us at 713-222-7577 or toll free at 877-308-0100.
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Drug trafficking is generally referred to as the manufacturing, transporting and distributing of large quantities of drugs. It often involves more than one person. Drug trafficking charges are wide and varied depending on the scope of the trafficking. Additionally, if the drug trafficking was directed towards minors, then prosecutors will seek enhancements to the charges. State and federal governments have adopted strict laws and severe penalties regarding the trafficking of drugs. Penalties can approach seven figures and decades in prison for severe cases. Houston Criminal Lawyer Charles Johnson has proven how to successfully approach and handle these types of cases and he should be contacted immediately when an arrest is made for drug trafficking.
Drug Trafficking is probably the most charged offense in federal court and is also quite prevalent in state courts. Because of the severity of the sentences, evidence and all circumstances and conditions regarding your arrest will be thoroughly examined by the Charles Johnson Law Firm and their team of experienced investigators. Drug trafficking cases can be quite involved, and with the vast amounts of drugs coming in from Mexico, prosecutors are aggressively pursuing convictions.
Types of Drug Trafficking Laws
Drug trafficking laws vary by country and region, but generally include distribution, manufacturing, and dispensing certain categories of controlled substances. Usually, the drugs are classified according to type and the addictive nature of the drug. Highly addictive narcotics like heroin and crack typically fall into one class, while marijuana and prescription drugs are considered less harmful. International drug trafficking laws are commonly handled under customs law.
Possession of drugs with the intent to sell routinely falls under drug trafficking statutes. If someone is found with a large amount of narcotics, it may be presumed that he or she intends to distribute the drugs for money. Different regions determine how much and what kind of drug is considered outside limits for personal use. Penalties for violations of these drug trafficking laws are often based on the quantity of the substance and its type.
Those who manufacture drugs may be charged under drug trafficking laws in most places. These sections of the law typically include possession of chemicals or equipment needed to make the controlled substance. Narcotics laws in each country outline the exact chemicals or equipment considered illegal.
Drug trafficking laws may include a provision that allows law enforcement to seize assets used to commit a crime. For example, if drugs are sold from a house or vehicle, a judge may order that those assets be forfeited to the government. The property is typically sold at a public auction, with the proceeds going to fund narcotics operations.
Almost any scheduled narcotic can qualify for a drug trafficking charge. In state courts the amount of drugs (cocaine, cannabis, extasy, crystal meth, acid, heroine, prescription medication) will determine if a possession charges becomes a trafficking charge. Even if you are only going to used the drugs for your personal consumption, the amount that you possess could bring a trafficking charge. You may also qualify for a distribution charge if it appears that a small amount of drugs was packaged for distribution. Each state is different as to the amount necessary for the trafficking charge. Under the federal statute you can be charged for the amount you have and or the amount you were trying to buy from a government agent. You may never actually possess the drugs, but you will be charged.
Supplying drugs to children or using minors to distribute narcotics generally carries tougher penalties than those that apply to adults. In some areas, maintaining a home for the purpose of making or distributing drugs where children live is also considered a more serious drug trafficking offense. Stiffer sanctions might also be imposed for those who sell drugs near schools, playgrounds, arcades, and other areas where children congregate.
Laws also exist that regulate drug trafficking by criminal gangs or organized groups. Penalties might be enhanced if weapons are used in the distribution of a controlled substance. Those with profits from organized sales of narcotics can also be prosecuted under money laundering statutes in some jurisdictions.
Defenses for Drug Trafficking Charges
Houston Criminal Lawyer Charles Johnson will provide skilled advice and representation to clients facing state or federal drug charges. He is considered an expert when defending against charges related to:
- Interception of a drug shipment
- Drug conspiracy charges
- Interstate drug distribution
- Undercover interstate trafficking stings
- Illegal sale and trafficking of prescription drugs
- Illegal sale and trafficking of cocaine, heroin, marijuana, methamphetamine (meth), MDMA (Ecstasy)
Drug trafficking charges often hinge on the prosecution’s illegal search and seizure of your vehicle, undercover drug operations, and confidential informants who are attempting to make a deal. As an expert lawyer skilled in drug cases, Attorney Johnson will thoroughly investigate how the prosecution came upon the evidence collected and determine if the method of collecting the evidence is in violation of your constitutional rights.
The court will have no choice but to keep any illegally obtained evidence out of trial. Attorney Johnson’s ability to thoroughly investigate drug cases and vigorously challenge the factual and constitutional merits of the prosecution’s case has proven effective in his defense of clients facing drug trafficking charges involving cocaine, heroin, marijuana, methamphetamine (meth) or prescription narcotics.
Even if the police find drugs directly in a person’s possession, the drugs and other evidence could be suppressed (thrown away) if the police did not follow the proper procedures required under the U.S. Constitution. One of the first things Attorney Johnson will look for when defending someone accused of a drug offense is whether the police themselves acted in a legal manner. Other defenses include areas such as whether the actual weight of the substance was correct when allowing for hydration, whether the chemical composition of the substance was correct as charged, whether there was joint or constructive possession of the substance which could subject the case to a Motion to Dismiss and whether the accused was entrapped into committing the offense by law enforcement or one of its informants.
Another possible defense for drug trafficking charges would involve a violation of constitutional right to counsel and right to remain silent. Once charged or in custody, you are required to be informed of your rights and given access to legal representation if you request it. Contact Houston Criminal Lawyer Charles Johnson immediately upon arrest before saying anything that could be used against you in the future. This can often mean the difference between a conviction and walking away free of any charges. You would be surprised at how many cases result in a conviction due largely to statements made by the accused.
Other possible defenses may include:
- Lack of knowledge
- Mistake of fact (For example, thinking the drug was sugar when in fact, it was cocaine.)
- Duress (For example, if Bob was forced to transport the cocaine because if he refused, something bad would happen to his family.)
- The substance was not intended for human consumption
Lastly, Attorney Johnson will determine if inappropriate charges were filed. Drug trafficking is a highly political issue, and you may find yourself facing inflated charges. The right attorney can insure that any charges you do face are appropriate to the acts alleged by the prosecutor.
At the Charles Johnson Law Firm, we have the experience and know-how to guide you through this complicated process from the moment of your arrest through trial, if necessary.
The defense of drug-related crimes can be difficult and complex and requires an attorney with special skills, experience and knowledge. Houston Criminal Lawyer Charles Johnson is highly qualified to defend your case. Whether it is identifying a drug addiction issue so that we may assist in getting them treatment or counseling, negotiating a fair resolution in an effort to have charges or a sentence reduced or preparing and taking a case to trial, the Best Houston Criminal Lawyer is available to assist and defend you.
As an extremely experienced criminal lawyer specializing in drug cases at both the Federal and State level, Houston Criminal Lawyer Charles Johnson is well aware of the strategies, theories and methods employed by prosecutors when they prosecute a drug case. Attorney Johnson will use this knowledge to his client’s advantage while defending their cases to get the best possible outcome on their behalf.
We are proud to represent and care about our clients. We know the devastation that a drug conviction, an addiction or incarceration for a drug offense can bring to an individual or his/her family. We will answer your questions and guide you through the whole process, working to take away some of the confusion and uncertainty that comes along any drug offense charge, while all along seeking the most favorable outcome for you or your loved one.
Drug Trafficking by Criminal Gangs
There are nearly 1 million active gang members in the United States, based on analysis of federal, state, and local data, and the involvement of criminal gangs in domestic drug trafficking is becoming increasingly complex. Since 2001, many gangs have advanced beyond their traditional role as local retail drug distributors in large cities to become more organized, adaptable, deliberate, and influential in large-scale drug trafficking. Much of their growing influence has come at the expense of local independent dealers and small local criminal groups who cannot compete with gangs that establish control in smaller drug markets.
The influence of Hispanic and African American street gangs is expanding as these gangs gain greater control over drug distribution in rural and suburban areas and acquire drugs directly from Drug Trafficking Organizations (“DTOs”) in Mexico or along the Southwest Border.
In 2009, midlevel and retail drug distribution in the United States was dominated by more than 900,000 criminally active gang members representing approximately 20,000 domestic street gangs in more than 2,500 cities. These street gangs vary greatly with respect to their ethnic or racial identities, the types and amounts of drugs that they distribute, their strength and influence, and their adaptability. Their prevalence varies geographically, with the greatest concentration of street gangs occurring in the Great Lakes, Pacific, Southeast, and Southwest Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) Regions.
Many Hispanic and, to a lesser extent, African American gangs are gaining control over drug distribution outside urban areas that were previously supplied by local independent dealers or small local criminal groups. Around 2007, Hispanic and African American gangs throughout the country, but especially in the Southwest and Great Lakes Regions, began to command greater influence over drug distribution in many rural and suburban areas. This trend continued in 2009. For example, in 2009, the Avenues street gang based in Los Angeles, California, expanded its operations to distribute drugs in suburban and rural locations throughout southern California.
To increase their control over drug trafficking in smaller markets, street gangs have been increasingly acquiring larger wholesale quantities of drugs at lower prices directly from DTOs in Mexico and along the Southwest Border. Several Southwest Border street gangs, such as Shelltown 38th Street, Tri-City Bombers, and Vallucos, smuggle wholesale quantities of drugs obtained in Mexico into the United States. By purchasing directly from Mexican wholesale sources in Mexico or along the Southwest Border, gangs throughout the country realize cost savings that enable them to sell drugs at lower prices than local independent dealers in small communities, driving these dealers out of business. For example, members of the Chicago-based Latin Kings street gang who operate in Midland, Texas, purchase cocaine from Mexican traffickers in south Texas for $16,000 to $18,000 per kilogram, compared with $25,000 to $35,000 per kilogram from wholesale traffickers in Chicago. With this savings, the gang undersells other local dealers who do not have the capacity to buy large wholesale quantities directly from Mexican DTOs in Mexico or along the Southwest Border.
Hispanic prison gangs, primarily in Southwest Border states, are gaining strength by working directly with Mexican DTOs to acquire wholesale quantities of drugs and by controlling most street gangs in areas along the Southwest Border.
Prison gangs are active in all 50 states and are increasing their influence over drug trafficking in areas along the Southwest Border (see Table B4 in Appendix B). Prior to 2001, the criminal influence of prison gangs was limited primarily to retail-level drug distribution. However, since that time, Hispanic prison gangs have become increasingly involved in the transportation and wholesale distribution of drugs.
Hispanic prison gangs such as Hermanos de Pistoleros Latinos (HPL) and Raza Unida operating in Southwest Border states have increased their involvement in wholesale drug distribution activities through cooperative relationships with Mexican DTOs. Through these relationships, Hispanic prison gangs are able to gain access to wholesale quantities of drugs. For example, in September 2009, 21 members of HPL were convicted in the Southern District of Texas (Houston) of conspiring to distribute more than 150 kilograms of cocaine and laundering millions of dollars in drug proceeds. In April 2009, 15 members and associates of the Raza Unida prison gang were indicted for trafficking multikilogram quantities of cocaine and methamphetamine weekly in McAllen and Houston, Texas.
To ensure a consistent profit stream from the wholesale drugs that they purchase from Mexican DTOs, Hispanic prison gangs distribute drugs through street gangs that they largely, if not entirely, control. Through force or intimidation, Hispanic prison gangs exercise significant control over local gangs that distribute their drugs in the Southwest Border region. For example, Barrio Azteca prison gang members operating in El Paso, Texas, collect drug payments and taxes from 47 street-level gangs and independent drug dealers trafficking drugs in El Paso.
Potential Penalties for Drug Trafficking
The penalties for drug trafficking offenses vary and depend on a number of factors. These include the type and amount of illegal drugs (also called “controlled substances”) found in a person’s possession, whether the person is a repeat offender and the state in which the person is charged.
Drug trafficking or distribution in Texas is a felony upon which a wide range of penalties may be imposed. It may be anywhere from a state jail felony, which carries the lightest sentence, to a first degree felony, which carries the harshest. The factors influencing which sentence will be imposed are: (1) the amount of the drug being distributed or delivered; and (2) the type of drug and which of the four groups of drugs it is classified under. The smaller the amount of a drug in a certain group, the lighter the sentence may be.
Texas has some very heavy penalties for drug trafficking. Prosecutors may often offer plea deals to defendants where they may offer a charge with a lesser penalty in exchange for information that would help them gather evidence for a higher priority investigation.
The sentences involved may range anywhere from 180 days to two years in state jail and/or a fine of no more than $10,000 for a state jail felony, to life in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice or a term of 15 to 99 years in prison and/or a fine of not more than $250,000 for the heaviest first degree felony. The harshness of the sentence imposed depends on how much of the drug is being trafficked. For example, trafficking or distributing less than one gram of a substance in the first grouping of drugs carries a state jail felony charge, whereas trafficking 400 grams or more of any one of the same drugs carries a first degree felony charge that may include a life sentence.
At the Federal level, the Controlled Substances Act (PL 91-513, 1970, last amended in 2000) provides penalties for the unlawful manufacture, distribution, and dispensing (or trafficking) of controlled substances, based on the schedule (rank) of the drug or substance. Generally, the more dangerous the drug and the larger the quantity involved, the stiffer the penalty. Trafficking of heroin, cocaine, LSD, and PCP, all Schedule I or II drugs (see Table 2.1 in Chapter 2), includes mandatory jail time and fines. A person caught selling at least five hundred grams but less than five kilograms of cocaine powder (seventeen ounces to just under eleven pounds) will receive a minimum of five years in prison and may be fined up to $2 million for a first offense. (See Table 6.1.) The same penalty is imposed for the sale of five to forty-nine grams of cocaine base (“crack”). Five grams are equal to the weight of six plain M&Ms candies, and forty-nine grams are a little more than a bag of M&Ms candies (47.9 grams). The high penalty for selling crack is an expression of the unusual severity with which legislators are trying to curb the use of this drug.
Penalties double with the second offense to ten years in prison and up to $4 million in fines. When higher quantities are involved (five or more kilograms of cocaine powder, fifty grams or more of crack, etc.), penalties for the first offense are ten years, and fines up to $4 million may be levied. For the second offense, twenty years and up to $8 million in fines are given, and the third offense results in mandatory life imprisonment. These examples are for an individual. Higher penalties apply if an organized group is involved or if a death or injury is associated with the arrest event.
These penalties apply also to the sale of fentanyl (a powerful painkiller medicine) or like-acting drugs, heroin, LSD, methamphetamine, and PCP. The smallest amount, which can earn someone a minimum sentence of five years in prison and a fine of up to $2 million, involves trafficking in LSD, where a one-gram amount carries a five-year minimum sentence in prison.
Special penalties exist for marijuana trafficking, since it may be traded in large quantities or grown in substantial amounts. The lower the amounts sold or the fewer the plants grown, the lower the sentence. A person cultivating one to forty-nine plants or selling less than fifty kilograms of marijuana mixture, ten kilograms or less of hashish, or one kilogram or less of hashish oil may get a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000. Sentences for second offenses involving large amounts of marijuana may earn the trafficker up to life imprisonment.
The penalties for drug trafficking are harsh, and reflect the seriousness of this felony offense and the current political climate. A conviction can lead to jail time, forfeiture of property and fines, but that is only part of the story. It places your current employment in jeopardy, places a severe emotional strain on you and your family, adversely affects your ability to find new work, and places your entire future at risk.
Hire the Best Houston Drug Trafficking Lawyer: The Charles Johnson Law Firm
A drug trafficking conviction can have an extremely adverse effect on a person’s current and future life in many regards. Both state and federal prosecutors have their eye on a conviction of the most severe charges possible and not on your rights. Houston Criminal Lawyer Charles Johnson will work diligently with prosecutors regarding any circumstances or conditions that could result in charges being dropped or reduced. If necessary, our firm can take your case to court and present a strong defense on your behalf.
The Charles Johnson Law Firm expertly handles all types of Texas drug-related offenses, from the less severe, like simple possession of a small amount of certain drugs, to the more serious ones, such as participating in an organized drug trafficking business with sale, distribution and manufacturing activities. We also defend charges involving controlled substances, such as, marijuana, crack, paraphernalia, cocaine, heroin, ecstasy, methamphetamines (meth), hallucinogens such as LSD, oxycontin, oxycodone, hydrocode, xanax, and Rohypnol club drugs. We represent all levels of people charged with drug offenses, from the student or small time person, to the professional, medical doctor or person accused of being a large scale distributor or trafficker.
If you have been arrested for drug trafficking in Houston, TX, take fast action with a skilled and resourceful Houston Criminal Lawyer. Contact the Charles Johnson Law Firm immediately anytime night or day for a free phone consultation to discuss your case.
Houston Lawyer Charles Johnson can be reached 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Call us at 713-222-7577 or toll free at 877-308-0100.
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No one truly intends to commit intoxication manslaughter. They do not wake up and say “I’m going to get drunk tonight and drive and see who gets in my way.”
Accidents do happen and tragically, someone can die. Mitigating factors are thoroughly checked out such as whether the person broke any traffic laws, was driving with a suspended license, or if the person was negligent in some way. These are usually tried as misdemeanors. However, if a person is found to be intoxicated or under the influence of something, it is treated in Texas as a second degree felony and the prosecution goes after the person diligently. In intoxication manslaughter cases, the prosecution only has to prove that the driver was indeed, intoxicated. The term of incarceration could be anything from two years to twenty years.
If you have been charged with DWI after being in an accident that involved a death, you may be facing very serious charges of intoxication manslaughter. It is imperative that you speak with Houston Criminal Lawyer Charles Johnson as soon as possible after you have been charged, or think you may be charged. Attorney Johnson has the experience you can rely on for aggressive and effective defense strategies against the charges. The skilled attorneys at the Charles Johnson Law Firm do not believe there is any such thing as being slam-dunk guilty. No matter what the circumstances of the accident are, your personal story is behind the charges and will make a difference in the outcome of your case. We will make sure that the judge and jury know that this isn’t just about an intoxication manslaughter case. It is about you and your family.
Intoxication manslaughter is a Second Degree felony which holds people liable for any death which occurs because of criminal negligence, or a violation of traffic safety laws. A common use of the vehicular manslaughter laws involves prosecution for a death caused by driving under the influence (determined by excessive blood alcohol content levels set by individual U.S. states), although an independent infraction (such as driving with a suspended driver’s license), or negligence, is usually also required.
Intoxication manslaughter, vehicular manslaughter and other similar offences require a lesser mens rea (Latin for “guilty mind”. In criminal law, it is viewed as one of the necessary elements of a crime) than other manslaughter offenses. Furthermore, the fact that the defendant is entitled to use the alcohol, controlled substance, drug, dangerous drug, or other substance, is no defense. For example, in Texas, to prove intoxication manslaughter, it is not necessary to prove the person was negligent in causing the death of another, nor that they unlawfully used the substance that intoxicated them, but only that they were intoxicated, and operated a motor vehicle, and someone died as a result.
Types of Intoxication Manslaughter
In Texas, intoxication manslaughter does not only apply to automobile drivers. Individuals may be charged with this crime under any of the following circumstances:
If they are operating a car, truck, motorcycle, or any other type of motorized vehicle in a public place
If they are operating a boat, airplane, or amusement park ride
If they assemble an amusement park ride
If the alleged offender has done any of these things while intoxicated, and someone was killed by the vehicle they were operating or had assembled, they can be convicted of intoxication manslaughter. There is no requirement that the prosecutor prove negligence, that their intoxication was the direct cause of the crash, or that they were behaving unlawfully by using the substance that caused their intoxication.
Defenses For Intoxication Manslaughter
Intoxication manslaughter cases should be attacked on two fronts if the case is going to trial. Notwithstanding whether a person is or is not intoxicated, a good lawyer would examine the Texas Peace Officer collision report which was completed as part of the investigation. Just because a driver may be intoxicated does not mean that he should be held criminally liable for the death of another.
There have been cases where the deceased driver was as much at fault if not more at fault than the accused. Examples could include the deceased having run a red light, the deceased having operated his motor vehicle at night without lights, the deceased also being intoxicated, the deceased merging improperly into traffic, and the list goes on. A lawyer familiar with crash reconstruction and who has worked with reconstruction experts should be able to present this defense if it is available. The issue is one of causation and is set forth in Tex. Penal Code Section 6.04. In a nutshell, what 6.04 states is that if an accused’s conduct is insufficient in itself to cause the result, and the conduct of another contributed to the result and the contributing cause was sufficient to cause the result, the accused cannot be held liable.
A good accident reconstruction expert’s report may convince a prosecutor to agree to probation if causation is questionable. That in itself may be worth the investment in hiring both a reconstruction expert and a lawyer who knows how to present such findings.
The second line of defense is whether a person is intoxicated. Scientific evidence can be compelling for a jury. However, the State is allowed to rely upon opinion evidence based upon observations such as lack of coordination, blood shot eyes, smell of intoxicants on breath, slurred speech etc. Some of these symptom could be explained by lack of sleep, allergies, injury, but not all.
Most police departments have on board video cameras and video may very well have been used in this case. Video can be a two-edge sword. Many a video has convinced a defendant to make the best deal possible, while other videos have convinced an accused to take it to trial
In blood draws/test results, there are several considerations. A blood sample can be lost, yet there can be a medical record from a laboratory stating what the test result is. In fact, most hospitals don’t retain the blood samples, but for a very short period. If the blood draw was for medical treatment, sometimes there is a chain of custody problem that makes admission of the medical records unreliable. Most courts, when dealing with a chain of custody issue on medical records as the result of medical treatment rule that any problems goes to the weight of the evidence, not the admissibility, that is, the records gets admitted but the defense lawyer gets to argue that it is not reliable because of the poor chain of custody.
Mandatory blood draws can be attacked, however, you should hire a lawyer familiar with the statutory and administrative requirements for blood draws.
Houston Intoxication Manslaughter Defense Lawyer: The Charles Johnson Law Firm
When you are charged with intoxication manslaughter or intoxication assault, you have more than just the prosecutor against you. You have the victim’s family and the public screaming for your head. You don’t have to go through this alone. The Charles Johnson Law Firm will fight aggressively to protect your rights and your future.
After a car accident in which there has been a fatality, it is an extremely upsetting situation for everyone involved. Law enforcement will collect evidence at the scene and this evidence is an important part of the documentation of the case. It is crucial that if you have been charged with intoxication manslaughter that you contact The Charles Johnson Law Firm quickly. The evidence in the case can be reviewed and an attorney can advise you what can be done in your case. Houston Criminal Lawyer Charles Johnson can offer a free evaluation of your case, and it is advised that you take advantage of this so it can be determined what can be done and what options may be possible in your case.
Houston Lawyer Charles Johnson can be reached 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Call us at 713-222-7577 or toll free at 877-308-0100.
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In the event you have been found guilty of a criminal offense, you might wonder if you will be able to find job opportunities. Employers have become increasingly interested in finding out whether or not applicants have criminal records. Part of the concern stems from recent jury decisions which have been rendered against employers for negligently employing individuals with criminal backgrounds who consequently caused problems for other people whilst at work. An additional concern for employers concerns whether or not they’ll need to divulge the criminal conviction. For instance, in cases where a business is attempting to raise capital, it might need to create particular disclosures to a bank. Will the business need to reveal that an employee has a criminal conviction for money laundering or embezzlement?
The laws about which criminal history records an employer should or might access, what an employer might ask a would-be employee and what the job applicant should reveal vary widely among states. In the event you have a criminal history and are searching for a job, it’s in your greatest interest to contact the Best Houston Lawyer at the Charles Johnson Law Firm to ensure that you go into the employment search completely informed of your legal rights.
Contradictory Public Policies
On the one hand, the public would like to reintegrate into society individuals with criminal histories, rehabilitated and productively employed. A routine schedule and normal income reduce the likelihood that an individual will reoffend, however an individual with a criminal history might encounter prejudice within the job application process. However, it’s essential to safeguard the public from contact with past offenders who might have propensities to re-commit. For instance, convicted sex offenders must not work with kids or vulnerable adults.
Just How Much to Reveal
Based on the state guidelines, an applicant might not need to reveal potentially detrimental info, like arrests not leading to convictions or convictions for minor matters. A few states have procedures to judicially “erase” a criminal history. Houston Criminal Attorney Charles Johnson can certainly help figure out whether or not you might be eligible to have a conviction sealed, expunged or legally minimized.
Suggestions for Employment Re-entry
Be truthful. Employers are interested in workers they are able to trust, and nearly all of the information on a job application may be checked and verified. Even if it might close the door to particular positions, revealing the truth will be the greatest method to receive a job that the applicant can retain over the long haul. Keep in mind, in many states not all convictions need to be revealed nor can would-be employers ask for particular info.
Begin the job search with loved ones, pals and acquaintances that might be more likely to take a chance on employing somebody they are familiar with, in spite of a criminal background.
Don’t anticipate the very first job following a conviction to be your perfect job. It’s much more essential to get started somewhere and produce a track record, because employers realize that a great indicator of future job performance is prior job performance. Think about temporary or entry-level positions to develop your résumé.
Recognize where the employer is coming from. It must balance its legal and ethical obligations to you, to it’s workers and towards the public.
Investigate career services. A good number of states have public agencies that administer programs to assist individuals with discovering their perfect career, and some were created specifically for those with criminal histories.
Stay away from alcohol & drug use. Many employers call for employee drug testing.
Think about the nature of your earlier criminal offense. Apply for jobs where that type of criminal offense is much less likely to be an matter of concern.
Hire the Finest Houston Lawyer. Don’t take any chances.
Completing a jail term or paying a fine may be just part of the cost of a criminal conviction. The conviction may also impact post-conviction occupation opportunities. However, there are employers that would like to give those with criminal records a chance in a suitable environment. Just one job – any type of job – may be the very first step toward rebuilding a career and a new life. Houston Lawyer Charles Johnson can advise you about numerous choices and provide suggestions on preparing for the future.
Houston Criminal Lawyer Charles Johnson can be reached 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Call us at 713-222-7577 or toll free at 877-308-0100.
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Houston Lawyer Charles Johnson offers Post-Conviction Relief (he has on staff Texas’ most prolific appellate and Habeas Corpus attorney), Parole (Attorney Johnson has personally developed a unique, detailed and successful parole package program) and Probation services including Motions to Revoke/Adjudicate and Terminations for any criminal matter.
Instead of sentencing a defendant to a jail term, a judge may perhaps choose to sentence a defendant to probation. Probation releases a defendant back into the community, however the defendant does not have the same amount of freedom as a normal citizen. Probation comes with conditions that restrict a probationer’s behavior, and if the probationer violates one of those conditions, the court could possibly revoke or modify the probation.
Courts commonly grant probation for first-time or low-risk offenders. Statutes determine when probation is practical, but it is up to the sentencing judge to determine whether or not to actually allow probation.
Houston Criminal Defense: Hire the Recommended Houston Lawyer » The Charles Johnson Law Firm
Although sentencing judges have this latitude, they will have to still remain within the statutory limits when granting probation. By way of example, a judge cannot impose probation for a period longer than the maximum sentence prescribed by statute.
Probation has 3 primary objectives:
- To rehabilitate the defendant
- To safeguard society from further criminal conduct by the defendant
- To protect the legal rights of the victims
Once a judge has granted probation, the matter moves into the jurisdiction of probation officers, who monitor the probationer’s compliance with the terms of the probation.
Conditions are an inherent part of probation. Judges set conditions in order to meet the goals for probation stated above. A probationer should comply with these conditions or else the court could possibly impose a prison sentence or add more restrictive conditions to their probation.
Courts often have a good deal of discretion when setting probation conditions, nevertheless that doesn’t mean that judges may set whatever terms they desire. Probation conditions must be reasonable. This means that the conditions can’t be vindictive, vague, overbroad or arbitrary. In addition, the conditions must be related to the protection of the public. Also, any time a judge wishes to impose special conditions, those conditions must relate to the nature of the transgression that the probationer committed.
Judges set the conditions, however probation officers enforce them. If a probation officer finds probable cause to believe that the probationer has violated the terms of the probation, the judge could very well either change the terms of the probation or revoke the probation and impose a jail sentence.
Because the probationer’s freedom is at stake, however, the probationer must receive some procedural due process before a court revokes their probation. Although the decision to revoke probation, just like the judgment to grant probation, is at the court’s discretion, the court needs to go through a number of procedural requirements prior to revoking probation. The probationer fighting revocation doesn’t have as many rights during revocation proceedings as they do during the original criminal trial, however.
In order to revoke probation, a court has to provide the probationer with notice of the proposed revocation and conduct a hearing on the matter. The probationer has a right to testify at the hearing, present supporting witnesses, and confront the witnesses against them. The probationer also has a right to a neutral hearing body, and must receive a written statement containing the reasons for revoking probation.
If there is sufficient evidence, a violation of even a single condition might result in revocation of probation. The violated condition must be valid, however. If the condition is afterwards found to be unreasonable then violation of that condition will not constitute grounds for revocation.
Houston Probation Issues: Hire the Top Houston Lawyer Charles Johnson
If you are accused of violating the terms of your parole or probation or have questions regarding a potential probation criminal offense, please call Houston Criminal Defense Lawyer Charles Johnson 24/7 for a no charge preliminary consultation.
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Marijuana is regarded as the frequently abused unlawful drug in the United States. Marijuana is defined as a Schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act, classified as having a very high potential for abuse. Street names for marijuana include grass, pot, weed, Mary Jane, dope, indo, and hydro. Marijuana possession laws can certainly impose strict penalties under specific situations.
Possession of marijuana (sometimes often called simple possession) is among the most common drug criminal offenses in the United States. Considered a misdemeanor in a majority of states, marijuana possession penalties include fines, probation, and/or community service. Criminal possession of marijuana is the next level up in marijuana possession crimes and consists of possession of marijuana in a public place where it is either burning or in open public view in quantities greater than 2 oz, but less eight oz. Criminal possession of marijuana is also a misdemeanor but the repercussions increase as does the probability of jail time.
Technically, under federal drug law, the possession of marijuana, in any amount, is punishable by up to twelve months in jail and a minimum fine of $1,000 for a first conviction. Additional convictions and greater amounts bring about much stiffer penalties. Comparatively few marijuana possession court cases give rise to a felony level crime. Marijuana distribution, however, is invariably a felony under federal law. The sale of under 50 kilograms of marijuana (the smallest amount category) is punishable by five years in jail along with a $250,000 fine.
Marijuana is usually consumed in its organic state, the plant by itself utilized in various ways to produce a hallucinogenic effect on the user. Abuse and use of the cannabis plant as a means for getting high dates back to biblical times. The advent of laws criminalizing the use of the drug occurred sometime during the 20th century, with fights to legalize the use of marijuana debated ever since, its use among Native Americans in religious ceremonies and the utilization of the drug by cancer patients to relieve nausea being the most recurrent arguments used for its legalization, including a significant change in the marijuana possession laws.
Marijuana production’s principal supply is Mexico. Virtually all foreign-produced marijuana available within the United States is smuggled into the country from Mexico over the Mexico border by criminal groups. Mexican criminal groups control nearly all of wholesale marijuana distribution in the U.S., with Asian criminal groups which bring in the product over the Canadian border running a close second. The potency of Canadian marijuana being deemed finer quality than the Mexican version has resulted in an increase in Asian control of marijuana production and distribution. According to the National Drug Threat Assessment 2007, high potency Canada-based smuggling, distribution and production groups are increasing, giving rise to large-scale cannabis cultivation in large outdoor sites by both Mexican and Asian groups. In addition, in an effort to remain competitive in the higher potency marijuana distribution trade, Asian groups have started operating indoor grow sites in homes throughout the Pacific Northwest and California. The trend is to buy or lease a residence, modify the residence for the purpose of producing two to four crops of cannabis and abandoning the property after the crops are harvested.
Challenges to current marijuana production and distribution laws are ongoing, with quite a few states decriminalizing certain marijuana usage for specific medical ailments. Nonetheless , in United States v. Oakland Cannabis Club, the United States Supreme Court ruled that marijuana doesn’t have any medical value as determined by Congress. The court’s opinion stated that: “In the case of the Controlled Substances Act, the statue reflects a determination that marijuana has no medical benefits worthy of an exception outside the confines of government-approved research projects.”
In 2002, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit issued a ruling which upheld the Drug Enforcement Act’s determination that marijuana should remain a Schedule I controlled substance, the most restrictive schedule under the Controlled Substance Act. The marijuana debate and court battles will doubtless continue to occasionally appear in the United States Court system for many years.
Defenses for those guilty of breaking marijuana possession laws, and distribution of marijuana laws, normally revolve around the misuse of police power to search and seize assets . Illegal search and seizure, unlawful surveillance, and entrapment are the primary means of defending an arrest of marijuana possession or marijuana distribution.
Texas courts take marijuana possession criminal charges seriously, and so should you. Multiple convictions of marijuana possession can bring about felony charges. Hence, you want to battle every arrest you confront , not just right away , but to safeguard your legal rights in the future as well. Considering that possession criminal charges might very easily bring about growing and cultivation charges, you want a lawyer who can lower virtually all potential damages.
The Most Respected Houston Lawyer will defend your legal rights and fight for you against marijuana possession criminal charges.
The seriousness of the criminal charges you confront is dependent on the quantity of marijuana. Should you are caught with under two ounces, you will have to deal with minor misdemeanor charges, but the consequences go up steeply from there. Possession of two to four ounces is defined as a Class A Misdemeanor, and possession if over four ounces is considered a felony.
No one wants a drug charge on their permanent record, so our first step is to have the charges completely dismissed. If dismissal or an acquittal at trial isn’t really potential, we are going to seek to lessen the charges or reduce the penalties where possible.
For first-time offenders, the Most Effective Houston Attorney will explore diversionary programs as well. By seeking proper drug treatment, you may very well be able to avoid prison time. They will help you discover virtually all potential alternative sentencing techniques.
Juvenile Marijuana Possession
Marijuana has a unique smell, and so it is dangerous for minors to smoke it anywhere: in a car, at home, or in a dorm room. Authorities can certainly smell it and another infraction might bring about significant repercussions, including the loss of student loans. Houston Criminal Attorney Charles Johnson will handle juvenile crimes involving marijuana possession as well as criminal court cases.
If you or a family member have been arrested for marijuana possession, you want an expert attorney who is prepared to stand up for your protection under the law right right now. Contact Houston Attorney Johnson immediately for a free of charge initial consultation.
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