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Federal Drug Lawyer Charles Johnson represents clients who have been charged or are about to be charged with drug charges in Federal Court. The Charles Johnson Law Firm has earned an international reputation as one of the top Federal Drug Law Firms.
Regardless of the federal or international drug charge, Federal Drug Lawyer Charles Johnson has the drug defense experience to handle your case. He has successfully handled sophisticated drug defense cases that included Trafficking, Importation, Distribution and many others. When faced with a federal drug crime there is absolutely no substitute for experience. If you have been charged with drug crime and need a Federal Drug Defense Attorney, contact Attorney Johnson directly anytime night or day at (713) 222-7577. In Federal and International Drug Defense, experience makes the difference.
Federal Drug Crimes Overview
The Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970, also known as the Controlled Substances Act, classifies narcotics, marijuana and other drugs into five categories, or Schedules. Besides establishing requirements relating to manufacture and distribution of drugs, the law also defines penalties for violations of the Act. Depending on the nature and quantity of the substance involved, as well as the presence of sentence-enhancing factors, the criminal penalties can be severe. If you are facing federal drug charges, call Houston Federal Drug Crime Lawyer Charles Johnson for advice on the law, your rights and how to proceed. He is available around the clock to take your call.
Offenses at the Federal Level
Federal drug offenses differ from those at the state level, even though the conduct in question might be the same. In defining crimes, Congress’ authority comes from its Constitutionally-granted powers over the areas of commerce, taxation and the postal service.
Some of the drug crimes under the Controlled Substances Act include:
- Drug trafficking: manufacturing, distributing or possessing with the intent to distribute illicit drugs
- Manufacturing: operating places for the purposes of manufacturing, distributing or using illicit drugs, or endangering human life while so doing
- Continuing criminal enterprise crimes: trafficking in illicit drugs by a person in concert with five or more other persons
- Conspiracy: involves attempts and the promoting and facilitating of manufacture, distribution or importation of illicit drugs
- Protected location offenses: distributing illicit drugs to persons under age 21 or within a school or playground zone; employing persons under age 18 in drug operations
- Simple possession: possessing controlled substances without a valid prescription from a licensed medical practitioner (unlike trafficking, simple possession does not involve intent to distribute the drugs)
Other drug offenses under the Act include investing illicit drug profits in businesses affecting interstate commerce and unauthorized importation of controlled substances. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) enforces the federal controlled substances laws and regulations.
In addition, drug crimes at the federal level may include violations of tax law, such as tax evasion, or engaging in activities prohibited by the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO).
Federal Sentencing Guidelines
Federal drug laws specify minimum and maximum terms of imprisonment, based on the type and quantity of drug involved. Likewise, under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, these factors are taken into account, along with:
- Whether the offense involved injury to another person
- Whether a weapon was possessed or used
- The defendant’s criminal history
While judges have discretion to depart from sentencing guidelines, they must still stay within the mandatory minimum and maximum terms specified by statute. Where the offense occurs in a school or other protected zone, penalties may be enhanced.
Hire the Best Federal Drug Crimes Lawyer: The Charles Johnson Law Firm
Drug crimes can be charged and prosecuted under federal law, state law or both. Because federal drug crimes can carry significantly harsher penalties, it is important to contact a knowledgeable lawyer who is familiar with both federal and state drug laws. If you are facing either federal or state drug charges, call Federal Drug Crimes Lawyer Charles Johnson now at (713) 222-7577. He can explain the intricacies of both systems and vigorously represent your interests.
Charged with a Federal Crime? What To Expect
The following is a short summary of what you can expect if charged with a Federal Crime.
By the time you read this material, you or your loved one will have already entered the Federal Criminal Justice System. Whether you are in custody or in the “free world”, one firm rule applies: Do not discuss your case with anyone but your lawyer. Anything you say can and will be used against you. This is true whether you talk to a police officer, a person you just met in a holding cell, or a “friend”.
RELEASE OR DETENTION
The first thing to worry about is whether you are going to be released while waiting for trial. There is no bond set automatically in federal court. Your family cannot simply pay a bondsman to get you out.
Court Appearance: If you were arrested and taken into custody, you will soon appear before a United States Magistrate Judge. This is not the District Judge that will hear your trial. This Magistrate Judge will decide if there are any conditions that would allow your release.
Pretrial Report: In order to assist the Magistrate Judge, a Pretrial Services Officer will interview you and give the Magistrate Judge a written report about your background and criminal history. The Officer will not ask you about the facts of your case and you should not volunteer any information. If you lie to the Officer, it will hurt you later on.
Chance for Release: You are most likely to be released if you have little or no criminal history, if you have solid employment and family ties in your community, if you are a United States Citizen, and if you are not charged with a serious drug trafficking offense or crime of violence. Even if you are not a good risk for release, the Magistrate Judge must still hold a hearing and find reasons to keep you in custody. The only time this hearing is unnecessary is when you are being held in custody for other reasons — such as a sentence in another case, a parole warrant, or a probation revocation warrant.
When you are facing criminal charges, your choice of legal representation is a critical issue. You must ensure that you have legal representation from a proven attorney with a record of successfully defending difficult cases.
In order to protect your rights and to fight a possible Federal drug conviction, it is very important to hire the Best Federal Lawyer you can find. Your future is at stake, and this is not a time to cut corners. A knowledgeable Drug Crime Defense Lawyer will be able to sort out the details of your drug crime charges and diligently work to provide evidence that will benefit you. At the Charles Johnson Law Firm, we have been successful at lowering or dismissing charges against our clients and will look to do the same for you. To counteract the aggressive investigation and prosecution from the federal government, you will need an equally aggressive criminal defense attorney. Federal Drug Crime Lawyer Charles Johnson understands federal drug crime cases inside and out and will provide an unmatched dedication, commitment and an aggressive approach when defending your case.
Honesty: Defendants often believe it is better not to tell their lawyers the truth about their case. This is not a good idea. Everything you tell your lawyer is privileged and cannot be told to others. The best defense is one that prepares for all the bad evidence the prosecutor may present against you at your trial. Your lawyer must know all the facts. It is foolish to ignore the dangers and simply hope everything will turn out all right. That is the sure way to be convicted.
Bad Advice: If you are in custody, you will probably get a lot of free advice from other inmates. Unfortunately, much of that advice will be wrong. Many of the other inmates are in state custody and know nothing about federal criminal law. Even the ones facing federal charges may give you bad advice; they may not know any better, or they want to mislead you.
Respect: Treat your lawyer with respect and that respect will be returned to you. Lawyers are human beings who tend to work harder for clients who do not mistreat them.
When people talk about “rights” in the federal criminal justice system, they are usually talking about the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth and Eighth Amendments to the United States Constitution. These rights include freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures, the right to remain silent, the right to legal counsel, due process of law, equal protection under the law, protection from double jeopardy, a speedy and public trial, the ability to confront one’s accusers, subpoenas for witnesses, no excessive bail, and freedom from cruel and unusual punishment.
Caselaw: There are many books and thousands of cases that discuss what these rights mean. The law is always changing. A court opinion written in 1934 by a Montana court of appeals is probably no help in your case. Your case will mostly be affected by recent published opinions of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit and the United States Supreme Court.
Application: Not all of these rights apply in all cases. If you never made a statement to the police, then it will not matter whether you were told of your right to remain silent. If you consented to a search of your car, then it will not make a difference whether the police had a search warrant.
There are no benefits to being locked up. Jail has many rules and regulations. Some of those rules are made by the jailers. Some of these rules are made by the United States Marshal.
Clothing: You can get clothing two ways. The way to get underwear, tennis shoes, socks, etc, is to buy them through the jail commissary. Despite what others tell you, your lawyer cannot simply bring you these items. In most instances, trial clothing can be brought to the U.S. Marshal’s office shortly before your court appearance. You will be allowed to change in the holding cell at the federal courthouse.
Other Possessions: Sometimes the jail may allow you to receive magazines by subscription or books mailed from a store. It depends on the jail’s rules. Most other items need to be purchased through the commissary. All jails prohibit your lawyer from bringing you any items, such as cigarettes. You may keep legal documents in your possession.
Visits: Your friends and relatives must follow the jail’s rules when making appointments to visit you. You must put the names of these persons on your visitation list.
At some point you will come to court for an arraignment. This is the time when you enter a plea of “Not Guilty”.
Indictment: Before the arraignment, you will have been indicted by a Grand Jury. Neither you, nor your attorney, has a right to be present at the Grand Jury session. A Grand Jury decides if there is enough evidence to have a trial in your case. If there is not, then the case is dismissed. If there is, the Grand Jury issues an Indictment. An Indictment is the document that states what the charges against you are. The Grand Jury sessions are rarely transcribed, so it is usually not possible to receive a transcript of their sessions.
Hearing: The arraignment takesplace before a Magistrate Judge,notthe DistrictJudge who will hear your case. The Magistrate Judge will ask you several questions:
- Do you understand what you are charged with?;
- Do you understand the potential penalties if you are convicted?; and
- How do you plead to the charges?
Since you will have discussed the case with your lawyer by this time, you will be able to answer the first two questions “Yes”. Your answer to the third question is “Not Guilty”. You cannot plead “Guilty” at an arraignment. Pleading “Not Guilty” will never be used against you.
Discovery: Federal law provides only limited access to the government’s evidence against you. Under local rules, you and your attorney are permitted to have copies of only certain types of documents in the government’s file. The rules of discovery must be strictly adhered to, and your attorney will discuss these rules with you more thoroughly as your case progresses.
Motions: Before or after investigating your case, your attorney may feel it appropriate to file a motion(s), which may be heard before or at trial. You should never file your own motions without fully discussing the proper procedures with your attorney. If you have ideas about specific motions that could be filed your case, you should discuss with your attorney whether those particular motions would be appropriate or beneficial to your defense.
Many defendants want a quick trial. This is usually for two reasons. First, defendants who are in custody want to get out of the county jail as soon as possible. Second, defendants believe that if they are not tried within the Speedy Trial Act’s 70-day time limit, then their cases will be dismissed.
Pretrial Detention: There is no question that conditions in the county jail are not good. However, a defendant is rarely ever helped by going to trial as soon as possible. The prosecutor is prepared to try the case when it is filed. Your lawyer is only then beginning to investigate the case. Your lawyer does not have access to offense reports of the law enforcement officers that have already investigated the case. Also, “aging” a case has other benefits — the case becomes less important over time, witnesses’ memories fade, etc.
Dismissal: There are many exceptions to the Speedy Trial Act. Generally, a prosecutor can get a continuance of the trial whenever requested. The usual reason why a prosecutor requests a continuance is because there are codefendants who have not been arrested yet. The speedy trial deadlines do not begin to run until all charged defendants have appeared in court. Also, any time any of the defendants file motions, the time until those motions are decided is not counted toward the speedy trial deadline.
A felony trial in federal court is decided by twelve jurors. The jurors only decide if you are “Guilty” or “Not Guilty” of the charges in the Indictment. Jurors do not decide punishment. The District Judge decides punishment.
Jury Selection: The trial begins with the selection of the jury. A panel of potential jurors is called to court from voter registration lists. The District Judge, the prosecutor, and your lawyer talk to the panel and ask questions. The lawyers are allowed to keep certain members of the panel from sitting on the jury. The first twelve of the remaining panel members become jurors.
Opening Statements: Before the evidence is presented, the lawyers may make opening statements. Opening statements are when the lawyers tell the jury what they believe the evidence will show.
Order of Proof: The prosecutor presents evidence first. You are presumed to be innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. You do not have to present any evidence or testify. If your lawyer does put on evidence, it will happen after the prosecutor has finished presenting evidence.
Rules: During the trial, the lawyers must follow the rules of evidence and procedure. These rules are complicated. The rules can both help and hurt you. For instance, the rule against hearsay evidence prohibits a prosecutor from calling a witness to testify how he heard about what you did. The same rule will stop your lawyer from introducing an affidavit made by some person who is unwilling to come to court and testify.
Prior Acts: Although you are only on trial for the charges in the Indictment, there are two ways the jury can learn about other accusations against you. First, if you testify then the prosecutor will be able to introduce your prior convictions. Second, the prosecutor can introduce your prior acts –even if they are not convictions — if they are similar to the crime you are charged with (for example, prior drug sales in a drug distribution case).
Final Arguments: After all the evidence has been presented, the lawyers argue the facts to the jury.
Jury Deliberations: Jurors are usually average working people from the community. They are not specially trained in law. They use their common sense when deciding the case. Although the District Judge will instruct them about “the presumption of innocence” and “proof beyond a reasonable doubt”, jurors rely on many things in coming to a decision in a case. Jurors often rely on things such as: the appearance of the defendant, the defendant’s character, and their own biases and prejudices. They cannot be questioned about how they reached their decision.
Verdict: If you are found “Not Guilty”, you will be released. If there is a “Guilty” verdict, then the District Judge will order the Probation Department to prepare a Presentence Investigation Report to assist the District Judge at sentencing. It takes approximately two months between a conviction and sentencing.
Release: If you were previously on pretrial release,the District Judge may continue thatrelease until sentencing, unless you were convicted of a crime of violence or a serious drug trafficking offense.
Statistics show that most defendants plead guilty. You make the decision to plead guilty. That decision is never simple. Some possible benefits of a guilty plea are that:
- the prosecutor may dismiss some charges;
- the prosecutor may not file new charges;
- the prosecutor may recommend a favorable sentence;
- you may get credit for accepting responsibility, etc.
Plea Agreement: Any promises the prosecutor makes for your guilty plea will be stated in a written plea agreement. That agreement is signed by you, your lawyer, and the prosecutor.
Plea Hearing: You must enter a guilty plea in court before the District Judge. The District Judge must ask you many questions so the record shows you understand what you are doing. During the hearing, the prosecutor will briefly tell the District Judge the facts of the case. You must agree to those facts for the District Judge to accept your guilty plea.
Effect of Plea: Once the District Judge accepts your guilty plea, you are just as guilty as if a jury returned that verdict. Once you are convicted of a felony, you lose certain civil rights, including the right to vote; the right to sit on a jury; and the right to possess firearms.
After Plea: The procedure after a guilty plea is the same as after a conviction at trial. A Presentence Investigation Report will be ordered and you will either be released or detained until sentencing (see “Trial” section).
Some defendants give prosecutors information against other persons for the possibility of a reduced sentence. There is no guarantee that a defendant will get a lower sentence for “giving people up”. Cooperation usually requires a defendant to testify in court or before a Grand Jury.
Many times, federal defendants are first arrested by state officers on state charges. Sometimes, even when federal charges are filed, the state charges are not dismissed. It is possible to be convicted of both state and federal charges for the exact same offense. This is not “double jeopardy”. It is also possible to receive “stacked time” (a consecutive sentence), by pleading guilty to an unrelated state or federal case before being convicted in your federal case. Be careful not to do anything about your other cases without telling your attorney. If you are summoned to “jail call”, do not agree to plead guilty to your state charge in exchange for “time served” without telling your lawyer. Despite what the state prosecutor may tell you, this conviction will affect your federal sentence.
Sentencing takes place approximately three (3) -six (6) months after you have been convicted by a jury or guilty plea. The District Judge decides the sentence. Unlike state court, you cannot simply agree with the prosecutor to serve a particular amount of time or probation.
Federal Sentencing Guidelines: The District Judge decides your sentence based upon a book called the “Federal Sentencing Guidelines Manual”. That book works on a point system. You get points for the seriousness of the offense and your role in the offense. Points may be subtracted if you accept responsibility for the offense or if you were only a minor participant. The Manual also considers your criminal history. Your criminal history is the record of your prior convictions in state and federal courts. A chart at the back of the Manual determines your sentencing guideline range, based upon your criminal history points and the points you received for the offense conduct.
Mandatory Minimum Punishments: Some drug and firearms cases have mandatory minimum punishments. These minimum punishments apply even if the Federal Sentencing Guidelines would otherwise give you a lower sentence. For instance, anyone possessing over 280 grams of crack cocaine after August 3 2010, with the intent to deliver it, must receive at least ten (10) years in prison; even if that person is a first offender.
Departures: If the District Judge sentences you to more or less time than your sentencing guideline range, it is called a “departure”. Departures are unusual. The District Judge must have a good legal reason for a departure. The District Judge cannot depart downward below a mandatory minimum punishment, unless the reason is that you have provided substantial assistance to the government in the prosecution of others or you qualify for the “safety valve” provision as a first offender. Only drug cases qualify for the “safety valve”.
Presentence Investigation Report: Before the sentencing hearing,the District Judge will review a Presentence Investigation Report prepared by a Probation Officer. That report summarizes the offense conduct, your criminal history, and other relevant background information about you. Most importantly, the report calculates a range of punishment for the District Judge to consider in your case. The Probation Officer creates the report based upon information from the prosecutor, independent investigation, and an interview with you in the presence of your lawyer.
Interview: It is important to be honest with the Probation Officer at the presentence interview. If you mislead the officer you may increase your sentence for “obstruction of justice”. Also, you will not get credit for accepting responsibility unless you talk truthfully about your crime. Do not talk about any other conduct for which you have not been convicted, unless your lawyer tells you to.
Objections: Before the District Judge gets the Presentence Investigation Report, it will be sent to your lawyer. The probation office will also mail a copy directly to you for your inspection. Review it carefully. If there is anything incorrect about the report, your lawyer can file objections. Some mistakes are more important than others. If the report says your car is red rather than blue, that is probably not important. If the report says you have five (5) prior felonies when you do not, that is important.
Sentencing Hearing: At the sentencing hearing, the District Judge will review your objections to the Presentence Investigation Report and make findings about any facts or legal issues that cannot be agreed upon. Your lawyer will address the legal issues and point out the facts in your favor. District Judges do not want to hear from witnesses who are just there to plead for a reduced sentence. Letters of recommendation and other helpful evidence should be provided to your lawyer well before sentencing so the District Judge can see them before the hearing. Before the District Judge pronounces sentence, you can make a statement.
Concurrent and Consecutive Sentences: No area of law is more confusing to defendants and lawyers than whether multiple sentences (more than one) may be served at the same time (concurrent) or one after another (consecutive).
Present Charges: If your federal Indictment has several related charges, and you are convicted of them, you probably will serve these sentences at the same time. However, it is possible for the District Judge to “stack” unrelated convictions so each must be served before another begins.
Other Charges: Sometimes a defendant is already serving a sentence before being convicted in a federal court. Unless the District Judge specifically orders the new sentence to run at the same time as the previous sentence, they will be stacked and will run consecutively. You would have to finish your other sentence before the new one begins. Even if the District Judge runs the new sentence at the same time as your previous sentence, you will not get credit for the time you served prior to sentencing.
If you were on release until sentencing, you may be allowed voluntary surrender. This means about 45 days later you report directly to the federal prison designated for sentence. Otherwise, you would go directly into custody if you received a prison sentence.
An appeal is not a new trial. An appeal is a review of your case by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, which is located in New Orleans, Louisiana. You may only appeal after you have been sentenced. A notice of appeal must be filed within 10 days after judgment (your sentencing order) is entered, or you lose that right. Transcripts of all testimony, and all the legal documents in your case, are sent to the Court of Appeals. The Court of Appeals decides whether the District Judge made any mistakes in ruling on the law in your case. If the Court of Appeals decides there were some important mistakes made by the District Judge in your case, the usual remedy is that you will be allowed to have a new trial or a new sentence. That is called a “reversal”. It does not happen often. It is nearly impossible to be released while your appeal is being decided. The decision to appeal should be made only after a careful discussion with your lawyer. The Fifth Circuit is strict about accepting cases that raise legitimate issues. A claim that you received “too much time” will not prevail in the Fifth Circuit. The Fifth Circuit will dismiss your appeal if you do not present an issue they consider meritorious. Also, you and your lawyer can be sanctioned (punished) if you present a “frivolous” issue on appeal.
Probation means your term of imprisonment is suspended, you must follow restrictive conditions, and report to a probation officer. Probation is not available for federal drug trafficking crimes. Except for minor fraud cases, most federal defendants do not get probation. “Shock Incarceration” or “Boot Camp” is not probation. That is a military discipline program followed by time in a halfway house. It is available mostly to young, nonviolent, first-time offenders.
Most defendants who are sentenced to prison go directly into custody or continue to remain in custody. Where the sentence will be served depends on several factors.
State Custody: If the reason you first came into custody was a state charge, parole warrant, or probation revocation warrant, then you are in state custody, not federal custody. Neither the United States Marshal, nor the District Judge, has the authority to take you from state custody so that you may begin serving your sentence in a federal institution. This means you will remain in the county jail, or the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, until your State of Texas (or whatever other jurisdiction you owe time) sentence is completely served. Even if you got a federal sentence that is to run at the same time as your previous sentences (see “Sentencing” section), you will do that time in the other jurisdiction’s prison.
Jail Credit: In the federal system, the district judge does not have the authority to award jail credit at your sentencing hearing. See United States v. Wilson , 112 S.Ct. 1351 (1992); 18 U.S.C. §3585(b). Under the statute giving a defendant convicted of federal crime the right to be credited for time spent in official detention before sentence begins, the Attorney General is required to compute credit after the defendant has begun to serve his sentence, rather than the district court at time of sentencing. Statute giving defendant convicted of federal crime right to receive credit for time spent in official detention before sentence begins does not authorize district court to award credit at sentencing.
Federal Custody: You are in federal custody if you were brought in on a federal warrant. It does not matter that you are being held in the county jail or that state charges or revocations are later filed. It is always better to be in federal custody, because the State of Texas will give you credit for serving your state sentences no matter who has custody of you.
Designation: If you are in federal custody, then a federal institution must be designated for your sentence. This designation takes about one (1) month and is made by the Federal Bureau of Prisons. During that month, you will probably remain in a county jail. The decision about where you will go depends upon the seriousness of the crime, your criminal history, the location of your family, among other things. A recommendation by the District Judge to send you to a particular place is not binding on the Bureau of Prisons.
Good Time Credit: The Bureau of Prisons can give you up to 54 days a year of “Good Time Credit”. This is time subtracted from your sentence. The credit is a privilege for good behavior, not a right. It does not begin to be counted until after your first year in prison.
Release: There is no parole in the federal criminal justice system. You will serve the majority of your sentence, minus Good Time Credit. You will receive a term of supervised release that begins after you are released. Like probation or parole, supervised release means you have to follow rules and report back to a probation officer. Violating supervised release can mean going back to prison.
You must use your own judgment about writing letters. You should not write about the facts of your case to anyone other than your lawyer. If you have any questions about your case or suggestions about it, you should contact your attorney immediately.
Federal Drug Charges in Houston, TX
Houston is in a unique position because of its convenient location. It is a criminal hotbed for illegal drug activity and because of its reputation, law enforcement; the FBI and the DEA are on high alert when it comes to detecting and convicting those guilty of trafficking or other federal drug crimes. Because drug activity is so rampant in Texas, the state has exceptionally harsh penalties for those who commit federal drug crimes. How one is prosecuted will depend on whether or not they have any priors on their record, the type of drug, and the quantity. A prison sentence for a federal drug crime can be as little as five years or it can be as long as life in prison.
The state of Texas has long been involved in a “war on drugs.” Federal prosecutors in the state of Texas come down hard on criminals involved in selling, distributing and trafficking large amounts of drugs. Not only do you face years in prison if convicted, non-citizens face deportation from the United States. At The Charles Johnson Law Firm, we are here to defend you against Federal Drug Charges.
Houston Federal Drug Crimes Lawyer Charles Johnson comprehends the differential factor between State and Federal drug crimes. If in fact you or a loved one are under investigation for a drug crime, or if you have been apprehended for or charged with a drug crime in Texas or Houston, you could face harsher punishment than you expect. If you or a loved one’s alleged crime is based upon large amounts of illegal drugs, transporting or distributing drugs over state lines or over and across the border, or other specific details, you could face federal drug crime charges rather than state charges.
The significant thing to know pertaining federal drug crimes is that a conviction will carry a much harsher punishment, a longer mandatory at the very least sentence, and the possibility of no bond or bail. Attorney Johnson defends cases at the Federal Level that involve drug crimes such as:
- Federal drug trafficking
- Federal drug manufacturing
- Federal drug sales and distribution
- Internet drug distribution
- Federal drug importation and transportation
- Mailing drugs over and across state lines or national borders
- Drug smuggling into or out of the United States
- Other crimes related to drugs and money laundering
Contact Houston Lawyer Charles Johnson anytime night or day to discuss your case. You can speak with him directly by calling (713) 222-7577. If in fact you or a loved one think you are part of a federal drug investigation, don’t wait to contact a lawyer you can trust. Rest assured that The Charles Johnson Law Firm will zealously defend you against any type of Federal Drug Charge.
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Related News Stories – Federal Drug Charges in Houston, Texas
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Houston Lawyer Charles Johnson aggressively defends clients charged with a sexual offense. He handles all sexual offense charges, whether in state or federal court, and whether the sex crime allegations are against children or adults.
Parties in contentious divorce or custody proceedings have been known to encourage children to say the other parent “touched” them a certain way or otherwise imply molestation. Child care workers, pastors, teachers, coaches, and others are frequently falsely accused. Parents have even been known to target individuals for extortion by coaching children. They may be coached by well-meaning social service and health care professionals, law enforcement officers, and prosecuting attorneys who want to make sure they obtain a conviction regardless of the truth.
Allegations of sex crimes are taken very seriously in Texas, and across the nation. With more stringent penalties being imposed, a false claim unchallenged or a single error in judgment can require you to be a lifelong member of the sex offenders’ registry and database. Before your reputation is devastated, invoke your right to an attorney and your right to remain silent. Contact Houston Criminal Lawyer Charles Johnson for a free phone consultation when you are under investigation for sex crimes or if charges have been brought against you for anything from possession and distribution of child pornography to sexual assault and rape.
How is Child Pornography Defined?
Federal and state laws make it a crime to produce, possess, distribute, or sell pornographic materials that exploit or portray a minor. Increasingly, child pornography laws are being utilized to punish use of computer technology and the Internet to obtain, share, and distribute pornographic material involving children, including images and films.
Under federal law (18 U.S.C. §2256), child pornography is defined as any visual depiction, including any photograph, film, video, picture, or computer or computer-generated image or picture, whether made or produced by electronic, mechanical, or other means, of sexually explicit conduct, where
- the production of the visual depiction involves the use of a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct; or
- the visual depiction is a digital image, computer image, or computer-generated image that is, or is indistinguishable from, that of a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct; or
- the visual depiction has been created, adapted, or modified to appear that an identifiable minor is engaging in sexually explicit conduct.Federal law (18 U.S.C. §1466A) also criminalizes knowingly producing, distributing, receiving, or possessing with intent to distribute, a visual depiction of any kind, including a drawing, cartoon, sculpture or painting, that
- 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.
Sexually explicit conduct is defined under federal law (18 U.S.C. §2256) as actual or simulated sexual intercourse (including genital-genital, oral-genital, anal-genital, or oral-anal, whether between persons of the same or opposite sex), bestiality, masturbation, sadistic or masochistic abuse, or lascivious exhibition of the genitals or pubic area of any person.
Who Is a Minor?
For purposes of enforcing the federal law (18 U.S.C. §2256), “minor” is defined as a person under the age of 18.
Is Child Pornography a Crime?
Yes, it is a federal crime to knowingly possess, manufacture, distribute, or access with intent to view child pornography (18 U.S.C. §2252). In addition, all 50 states and the District of Columbia have laws criminalizing the possession, manufacture, and distribution of child pornography. As a result, a person who violates these laws may face federal and/or state charges.
Where Is Child Pornography Predominantly Found?
Child pornography exists in multiple formats including print media, videotape, film, CD-ROM, or DVD. It is transmitted on various platforms within the Internet including newsgroups, Internet Relay Chat (chatrooms), Instant Message, File Transfer Protocol, e-mail, websites, and peer-to-peer technology.
What Motivates People Who Possess Child Pornography?
Limited research about the motivations of people who possess child pornography suggests that child pornography possessors are a diverse group, including people who are
- sexually interested in prepubescent children or young adolescents, who use child pornography for sexual fantasy and gratification
- sexually “indiscriminate,” meaning they are constantly looking for new and different sexual stimuli
- sexually curious, downloading a few images to satisfy that curiosity
- interested in profiting financially by selling images or setting up web sites requiring payment for access
Who Possesses Child Pornography?
It is difficult to describe a “typical” child pornography possessor because there is not just one type of person who commits this crime.
In a study of 1,713 people arrested for the possession of child pornography in a 1-year period, the possessors ran the gamut in terms of income, education level, marital status, and age. Virtually all of those who were arrested were men, 91% were white, and most were unmarried at the time of their crime, either because they had never married (41%) or because they were separated, divorced, or widowed (21%).3
Forty percent (40%) of those arrested were “dual offenders,” who sexually victimized children and possessed child pornography, with both crimes discovered in the same investigation. An additional 15% were dual offenders who attempted to sexually victimize children by soliciting undercover investigators who posed online as minors.4
Who Produces Child Pornography?
Based on information provided by law enforcement to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children’s Child Victim Identification Program, more than half of the child victims were abused by someone who had legitimate access to them such as parents, other relatives, neighborhood/family friends, babysitters, and coaches.
What is the Nature of These Images?
The content in these illegal images varies from exposure of genitalia to graphic sexual abuse, such as penetration by objects, anal penetration, and bestiality.
Of the child pornography victims identified by law enforcement, 42% appear to be pubescent, 52% appear to be prepubescent, and 6% appear to be infants or toddlers.
Possible Punishment for Sexual Exploitation of a Minor/Child Pornography
If the photographs include children who are fourteen (14) years of age or younger, it is a Dangerous Crimes Against Children (DCAC) and carries a very severe penalty. A first offense carries the following punishment for each and every conviction: ten (10) years minimum in prison; seventeen (17) years presumptive in prison; twenty-four (24) years maximum incarceration.
If convicted of one previous predicate felony (which includes a prior DCAC, among other serious felonies), the range of punishment increases to a minimum twenty-one (21) years, presumptive twenty-eight years (28), and maximum thirty-five (35) years. Because this is a DCAC, 100% of the prison time must be served before being eligible for release. In addition, if the person is convicted of two (2) counts, they must be run consecutive to each other (i.e., the minimum is now twenty (20) years in prison, and all other ranges double). This is why these charges are sometimes referred to as “life enders”.
The maximum penalty on a Sexual Exploitation charge actually carries more time than the maximum penalty on a Second Degree Murder charge. A conviction will require you to register as a Sex Offender for the rest of your life, and you are not allowed to have any contact with anyone under the age of eighteen (18) (this includes your own children), without going through numerous testing procedures and only with the consent of your Probation Officer.
If the child was ages fifteen – seventeen (15-17), it is not sentenced pursuant to the DCAC statute. A first offense class two (2) felony, carries punishment of probation with zero (0) days in jail up to one (1) year in jail, or prison of three (3) years to twelve and one half (12.5) years of incarceration. If the person has one (1) allegeable historical prior conviction, then the “prison only” range is four and one half (4.5) years to twenty-three and one quarter (23.25) years in prison. If the person has two (2) allegeable historical prior convictions, then the “prison only” range is ten and one half (10.5) to thirty-five (35) years of incarceration.
Possible Defenses for Sexual Exploitation of a Minor/Child Pornography
The critical defenses to Child Porn charges involve showing that the person did not “knowingly” possess, receive, or do any of the listed actions with the images. One way of asserting this defense is by presenting evidence that the defendant was not the person who accessed the images. If it can be shown that there were multiple users who had access to the computer, and who did in fact use the computer often, then it is much more difficult for the State to prove the defendant actually accessed the images, rather than some other person. This defense is especially appropriate when the defendant lacks any other sexual crime convictions. In order to assert this defense, we need to present a variety of our own evidence to contradict whatever has been presented by the prosecution. Typically, the State would normally have executed a search warrant and confiscated the computer involved, then searched for the “IP address” and passwords that were used to trace the activates to a particular time, date, and user. Before they do any of this they will have “cloned” the hard drive in order to avoid any accusations that they have somehow tampered with the computer by adding images.
Another typical defense is that the defendant inadvertently came across the images on his computer, and thus it was not a “knowing” exchange. It is an affirmative defense to Child Pornography charges if a person timely reports that they have received unsolicited images on their computer. Usually, reporting within three (3) days of discovering the child pornography is considered to be “timely reporting.”
At the Charles Johnson Law Firm, we handle a very high percentage of “Sex Crimes” cases. We have one of the largest libraries with research materials devoted to challenging accusations involving sex crimes. Registering as Sex Offender has drastic consequences and leaves a black mark on your record; do not underestimate the potential severity of this charge.
Additionally, because our law firm fights conviction from all angles, we would assert a wide range of defenses and challenges to constitutional violations that apply in all criminal cases. The possibilities are numerous and diverse. One of those we frequently assert is a “Miranda rights violation.” In Texas, the standard of whether any incriminating statement (i.e., a statement which tends to admit guilt) is admissible into evidence is based upon a “voluntariness” standard. If we can demonstrate that the police coerced you (i.e., intimidated or tricked you) into making a confession or inculpatory statement, or that they did not properly read you your Miranda Rights, then we can suppress those statements and any evidence gathered as a direct result of those statements.
In addition, the “denial of right to Counsel” is another common defense which is often raised. This occurs when a suspect is in custody and requests to speak to their attorney, but is denied and questioning continues. Other defenses may include challenging the validity of any search warrant, or whether there were any “forensic flaws” during the investigation of your case. Depending on what else you have been charged with, this could include exposing flawed procedures regarding blood, breath, and urine testing; fingerprints analysis; DNA testing; computer analysis/cloning hard drive procedures; forensic financial accounting reviews; etc. Lastly, one of the most common defense tactics is exposing sloppy or misleading police reports which include everything from misstatements, false statements, flawed photo line-ups and inaccurate crime scene reconstruction. It is important to hire a skilled lawyer to defend you who has knowledge of all the possible defenses to assert in your case.
Do Not Make Statements. Obviously, the best defense begins before a defendant is ever charged. Often, in a misguided attempt to help law enforcement, defendants make statements that are twisted and turned into prosecutorial evidence. It is important to remember not to allow yourself be interviewed government agencies without an attorney present.
Any interview will be sent to the police and the county attorney’s office and can be used against you. An obvious corollary is do not let yourself be interviewed again by the police without your attorney present.
Computerized Evidence. Internet child pornography is a growing offense across the nation. Often files can be downloaded to a computer without the user knowing the content of the download. In such cases the electronic file will often include tell tale electronic evidence about the file, where it came from and its date of download. Using this evidence or challenging law enforcement’s sloppy investigation and acquisition of potentially exculpatory information is the best way for a defense lawyer to prove actual innocence.
Examine Prosecution Expert’s Background. An important part of every case is the ability to counter the reports and testimony of computer professionals, caseworkers and “experts” who examine pornographic evidence. To effectively counter a prosecution expert, the defense attorney must be well educated on the expert’s education, work history, published works and testimony in prior cases.
Use a Polygraph. When it is advantageous to the defense against a sexual assault, defense attorneys should obtain a credible polygraph examination from a respected professionals.
Texas Sex Offender Registration
In addition to the prison terms and fines one can face when convicted of any of these offenses, you may be required to register as a sex offender. This means you will be tracked for the rest of your life.
Knowing where to turn when facing charges as dark as these can be difficult. You have likely already seen people turn their backs on you because of the charges and you haven’t even gone to trial. You need someone in your corner fighting for your good name.
You are innocent until proven guilty. With my help we will see to it that you get the best possible results on your day in court.
Houston Child Pornography Defense Lawyer: The Charles Johnson Law Firm
Attorney Charles Johnson defends against sexual assault allegations throughout Texas, no matter how small or large the city. He has developed a unique understanding of the dynamics of these very serious cases. His competent, aggressive and thorough representation has made him a leading criminal defense attorney in dealing with sex and pornography related criminal charges.
Defending in these areas is a very specialized area of criminal defense. Unfortunately, the very accusations themselves are often treated as conclusive proof of criminal activity. If Houston Lawyer Charles Johnson is retained at an early stage in the investigation, he is sometimes able to avoid charges altogether. At a minimum he is often able to avoid the trauma and embarrassment of his client being arrested at home or at the workplace by contacting law enforcement and the court in order to make the necessary arrangements.
Depending on the facts of your case and the evidence against you, Houston Child Pornography Lawyer Charles Johnson will work to help you beat a false accusation or try to lessen the punishment. We understand your freedom is at stake and that a conviction of possession of child pornography may result in lifetime registration as a sex offender. To protect your rights and liberty, we conduct thorough investigations to prepare for trial or to minimize the consequences or sentence.
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.
Major Credit Cards Accepted.
Download “Arrested For Child Pornography? The Leading Houston Sex Crimes Lawyer Offers a Powerful Defense” in PDF Format
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Consult the Finest Houston Lawyer at the Charles Johnson Law Firm as soon as possible if you or a loved one has been arrested or charged with a criminal offense. Getting legal guidance is essential to make certain that a defendant’s legal rights are safeguarded.
Certain constitutional protections apply to an individual arrested for a criminal offense. Additionally, there are certain procedures that are generally identical from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Here is a concise explanation of what occurs when an individual has been arrested for a criminal offense.
A person could very well be charged with a criminal offense before they are arrested. If this transpires, a judge is going to issue a warrant for the individual’s arrest. A law enforcement officer will try to find the individual who is the subject of the warrant. If the individual is found by the authorities and arrested, police officers must give the individual a copy of the warrant that declares the charge for which they are being arrested. The authorities do not necessarily have to have a copy of the warrant with them at the time of the arrest, however they must provide a copy to the arrested individual within a reasonable amount of time afterward.
After an individual is arrested, they will be “booked” at the police department. This involves taking fingerprints and completing other procedural requirements. The individual will then be held in police custody pending a court hearing. This hearing will generally take place within 48 hours.
When an individual is taken into police custody, they have the right to contact a lawyer. The individual will likely be permitted to get in touch with a criminal defense attorney. The individual should have at least a brief opportunity to meet with their criminal defense lawyer prior to their preliminary court hearing.
At the court hearing, the judge will read the criminal charges against the individual, who is designated the defendant. If the individual was arrested without an arrest warrant, this will likely be the first time they are told the criminal charges against them. The judge will attempt to ensure that the defendant comprehends the criminal charges. The judge will then ask the defendant to enter a plea. A defendant can enter a plea of “not guilty”, of “no contest”, or of “guilty”.
Even if the defendant is guilty, they are able to enter a plea of not guilty, should they think there is not enough evidence to establish their guilt. In any case, a plea of not guilty may result in a trial where the federal government will be required to establish, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the defendant is guilty of the criminal offense for which they are being charged.
A jury will need to decide, dependent on the evidence introduced by both sides, whether or not the defendant is to be found guilty or not guilty. In many cases, a defendant may possibly waive their priviledge to a jury trial, and the judge will determine if they are guilty or not guilty primarily based on the evidence which is offered. The defendant should speak with their criminal defense lawyer about whether or not they should waive their priviledge to a jury trial.
If the result of the trial is that the defendant is found not guilty of the violations charged, they can be released from police custody. If the result of the trial is that the defendant is found guilty or if there isn’t a trial due to the fact that the defendant entered a plea of no contest or of guilty, then there will be a sentencing hearing.
There will be evaluations of the defendant that are performed prior to the sentencing hearing. By way of example, if the criminal offense is DWI, the defendant may be evaluated to determine if they have a substance abuse issue. The court will also prepare a pre-sentencing report, which is basically an investigation into the previous criminal history of the defendant. This knowledge helps the judge determine an appropriate sentence.
At the sentencing hearing, there will be an opportunity for individuals to speak with the court about what factors they feel the court should take into account in determining a sentence. These individuals can include the victim of the criminal offense, the victim’s family, the defendant, the defendant’s family, and any other interested party.
The judge will take into consideration all of the evidence shown and any sentencing requirements. The judge will then enter a sentence for the defendant. If the criminal offense was fairly minor, and the defendant has been in custody throughout the entire court process, some may have already served the jail time that has been imposed by the judge. If the criminal offense is more severe, the defendant could possibly face substantially more prison time. Furthermore, a criminal sentence may involve more than serving time in jail. The defendant may be ordered to pay fines, to provide restitution to the victim, to undergo treatment for substance abuse or mental problems, to perform community service, or many other things.
Any person who is arrested for a criminal offense should hire an experienced Houston Lawyer with practical experience in criminal defense to represent them. This is the most effective way to make certain that their legal rights are defended, and that they obtain the finest possible outcome.
If you or someone you love has been arrested, you probably aren’t sure where to turn or what to do next. A positive first step is to contact the Charles Johnson Law Firm as soon as possible, 24 hours/day. Houston Lawyer Charles Johnson will guide you through the complicated maze of the justice system and help you to remain calm during this stressful time.
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If you’re arrested for possession of illegal drugs, whether for private use or with the intention of selling, The Houston Lawyer Charles Johnson will expertly ascertain which defenses may apply for your case should you plead not guilty. Various states deal with the issue of unlawful drugs in various ways, while the federal government has a tendency to have the most stringent drug sentencing regulations. However drug possession defenses are rather standard across state lines. Several defenses challenge the stated basic facts, testimony or evidence within the case, whilst others focus on procedural problems , frequently search and seizure infractions.
The following are several defenses to drug possession criminal charges, several much more typical than others:
Illegal Search and Seizure
The 4th Amendment of the United States Constitution guarantees the privilege to due process of law, such as legal search and seizure methods leading up to a charge. Search and seizure challenges are very typical in drug possession cases. Illegal drugs discovered in “plain view,” including a auto’s dash panel following a legal traffic stop, might be seized and utilized as evidence. Nevertheless illegal drugs discovered within the trunk of a vehicle after prying it open with a crowbar, presuming the suspect didn’t provide authorization, can’t be put into evidence. In the event the accused’s 4th Amendment rights had been breached, then the illegal drugs can’t be utilized at trial and the criminal charges usually are dismissed.
Illegal Drugs Belong to Another Individual
A typical defense to any type of criminal offense arrest would be to merely proclaim that you did not do it. The drug possession equivalent would be to assert that the illegal drugs are not yours or that you simply had no idea they had been inside your apartment, for instance. The Finest Lawyers In Houston at the Charles Johnson Law Firm will compel prosecutors to establish that the marijuana cigarette discovered within the automobile really belonged to their client rather than another individual within the automobile.
Crime Lab Assessment
Merely because it appears to be crack or Heroin does not necessarily mean that it is. The prosecution needs to establish that a seized material is actually the illegal drug it claims it is by submitting the evidence for crime lab analysis. The crime lab analyst then needs to testify at trial in order for the prosecution to prove its case.
Missing Illegal Drugs
Attorney Charles Johnson will make certain prosecutors have the ability to provide the actual illegal drugs for which their client has been arrested. Comparable to the requirement for analysis by a crime lab, prosecutors who misplace or otherwise don’t have the actual drugs risk getting their case dismissed. Seized drugs frequently are transferred a number of times prior to ending up within the evidence locker, therefore it should by no means be presumed that the evidence continues to exists throughout the trial.
Illegal Drugs Had Been Planted
This might be challenging to establish, because a law enforcement officer’s sworn testimony carries a great deal of weight within the courtroom. Moreover, other police officers might hesitate to blow the whistle on a fellow police officer. Nevertheless, Attorney Johnson might file a motion that, if authorized by the judge, demands the department to produce the complaint file of the given police officer. This file references the names and contact details of those that produced the complaints, who might then be interviewed by the lawyer or his private detective.
While authorities are free to operate sting operations, entrapment happens when police officers or informants cause a suspect to commit a criminal offense this individual otherwise might not have committed. If the informant pressures a suspect into giving illegal drugs to a 3rd party, for instance, then this might be regarded as entrapment. Usually, entrapment happens when the state offers the illegal drugs involved.
Do I Need A Criminal Lawyer?
If you’re arrested for any type of of these or some other drug related criminal offense, get in touch with The Leading Houston Criminal Defense Lawyer at the Charles Johnson Law Firm as soon as you possibly can. The consequences of carrying out a drug offense may be very harsh, such as actual jail time, in some cases for several years in significant high profile drug cases. Being found guilty for a drug-related crime could not just harm your personal and professional stature, but may lead to termination from a good job or even the suspension or revocation of one’s professional licenses. It is not whether or not you’ll acquire a criminal defense attorney, rather, it is who you’ll find to handle your case at your most susceptible time.
Do not let drug charges destroy your future. Attorney Charles Johnson will expertly defend drug charges in the courtroom. If you’re struggling with misdemeanor or felony drug possession charges for a drug arrest in Texas, safeguard your legal rights and future. Contact the Finest Attorney in Houston now for a free initial consultation. He will talk to you about your case anytime, day or night.
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Drug possession is a typical criminal charge that’s faced by a number of Houstonians. Innocent bystanders are occasionally charged with this crime, folks who had been merely “in the wrong place at the wrong time” and are today in severe legal trouble. Seek the help of The Houston Lawyer Charles Johnson to learn more about what you can do to assert your rights.
Drug possession criminal charges can easily differ significantly, dependant upon the quantity of the drug you’re charged with possessing. Even a minute quantity of illegal drugs can easily come with severe consequences and the fees and penalties just get much more serious as the quantity increases. Try to remember to think long term; you would like the criminal case handled correctly right now to ensure that it will be considered a speed bump rather than a road block in your life. Houston Lawyer Charles Johnson is going to be devoted to that type of defense.
Laws regarding Drug Possession frequently prosecute drug offenders in very much the equivalent manner they prosecute various other felony offenders. Approximately 90 % of all the drug possession cases don’t make it to trial. The majority of the offenders will plead guilty to drug possession violations. A basic drug possession conviction in Texas might lead to community service, probation, drivers license sanctions, court-ordered drug rehab, county jail time and fines.
Several police forces obtain restitution for their expenses in connection with the criminal arrest and prosecution. Even though the harshness of the penalties may differ with the criminal offense, a good number of drug criminal charges in Texas have serious consequences of some sort. This is often particularly accurate when the charged offense entails weapons in “protected zones” (like educational facilities and recreational areas), adolescents, or perhaps a past drug conviction. Criminal defendants looking to steer clear of prison or jail will want to get in touch with an experienced drug defense lawyer early on in their case. The Charles Johnson Law Firm Criminal Defense philosophy involves intense preparation, investigation that is on par with, and in many cases, better than the authorities and an aggressive posture when advocating our client’s position.
Drug Possession Laws are frequently more severe for possession of drugs which have a higher propensity to trigger misuse, dependency, physical injury, and loss of life. Laws regarding Drug Possession also make it a criminal offense to possess any sort of precursors to drug production or drug distribution. Possession of paraphernalia, or drug accessories, is also unlawful according to laws regarding drug possession.
Laws regarding Drug Possession are also more severe in instances when an offender was caught with a significant amount of a given substance. Frequently Prosecutors will charge these offenders with “drug possession with intent to distribute”. In these instances, an offender might have to deal with an enhanced sentence with stricter penalties. Drug possessions laws also prosecute multiple offenders considerably tougher than those that are first time offenders.
Best Houston Drug Possession Defense: The Houston Lawyer Charles Johnson
Don’t risk a potentially life-ending conclusion to your case. Get in touch with Houston Lawyer Charles Johnson now. In drug possession defense criminal cases, Attorney Johnson will work to prevent the case from becoming charged as drug distribution, that carries a lot more severe penalties. This individual will conduct a thorough investigation into law enforcement procedures, looking for evidence of constitutional misconduct which will permit him to file motions to dismiss particular evidence. He will also present virtually all helpful background info about his client to the court, to be able to persuade the court that the client isn’t a distributor. If dismissal of the criminal charges isn’t feasible, he will argue for alternative sentencing choices, including enrollment in a drug therapy program and/or perhaps community service.
The laws regarding drug possession have received significant scrutiny for numerous years. The latest trend is to really encourage rehab choices for non-violent drug offenders. Countless numbers of drug courts have been established to offer long-term counseling, sanctions, benefits, along with other programs to participants. Completion of these programs frequently results in a lessened or even dismissed criminal sentence. These types of programs are appearing to be much more cost effective and more successful than the mandatory minimum laws regarding drug possession. For additional details on laws regarding drug possession, get in touch with Houston Lawyer Charles Johnson. He will be able to help you get your life back on track.
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What is a Criminal Appeal?
A Criminal Appeal is known as the request from any party in the lower court proceeding to the higher (appellate) court requesting the appellate court to examine and alter the decision of the lower court. If the defendant in the criminal court case is found guilty of a charge or charges, this defendant will have the legal right to appeal that conviction or the penalties or sentencing. It’s common for defendants who have been found guilty to appeal his / her convictions.
The defendant in the criminal trial can appeal right after the individual is found guilty at trial. The truth is, it’s very typical for defendants who have been found guilty to appeal their convictions and/or sentencing. Typically only the defendant in the criminal trial can appeal. The prosecutor cannot appeal if the defendant is acquitted (found “not guilty”) at trial. A prosecutor cannot place the same defendant on trial for the very same charge with the exact same evidence. This sort of retrial is referred to as “double jeopardy.” Double jeopardy is specifically disallowed under the 5th Amendment of the US Constitution. Nevertheless, prior to or during the criminal court trial, the prosecutor might be able to appeal specific rulings, for instance when a judge has ordered that some evidence be “suppressed”. Appeals that occur in the course of a trial are known as interlocutory appeals. Typically, appeals can be quite complex; the appellate court has a tendency to implement technical rules for carrying on with a criminal appeal.
In criminal court cases, the federal court can review a conviction once all of the ordinary appeals have been completely utilized. A defendant who has been found guilty can request one such review in the petition for the writ of habeas corpus , Latin for “you have the body.” Merely a small number of these types of petitions are generally granted. In death penalty legal cases, these types of proceedings have grown extremely controversial. Since the judicial or prosecutor’s error in the death penalty case has such severe penalties, courts evaluate petitions for writs of habeas corpus cautiously.
The procedures of appellate courts encompass the guidelines and procedures through which appellate courts evaluate trial court decisions. The Federal appellate legal courts observe the Federal Rules regarding Appellate Procedure. The State appellate courts adhere to their unique state rules involving appellate procedure. Both in state as well as federal jurisdictions, appeals are normally limited to “final judgments.” There can be exceptions to the “final judgment rule,” such as cases of basic or serious error because of the trial court, questions involving subject-matter jurisdiction of a trial court, or constitutional concerns.
The issues under evaluation in appellate court focuses on written briefs offered the parties. Such complex documents describe the concerns for the appellate court and outline the legal authorities and justifications supporting each individual party’s position. The majority of appellate courts don’t hear oral arguments unless there’s a specific request from the parties. Few jurisdictions permit oral argument as a matter of course. Where it’s permitted, oral argument is supposed to describe legal issues offered in the briefs and attorneys tend to be constrained to keep their oral presentations stringently for the issues on appeal. Typically, oral arguments are subject to a rigorously enforced time frame. This time restriction may be expanded solely upon the discernment from the court.
Where are Appeals Filed?
Generally, people can only file an appeal using the next higher court within the same system that the case begun. For instance, in the event that individuals wish to file any appeal from a decision in the state trial court, usually they could file their appeals just to the state intermediate appellate court. A party who loses at appeal can next appeal to the subsequent higher court within the system, normally the state supreme court. The state’s highest court is virtually always the last word on issues regarding that state’s law.
How Much Does a Criminal Appeal Cost?
To tell the truth, numerous appeals are often very inexpensive. If your appeal is centered on a single plainly defined issue of law, and all parties have organized strong briefs, could cost very little to appeal. However, appeals which include statements that the judgement had been contrary to the weight of the evidence generally will need both the printing of the entire trial history and intensive examination as well as briefing. These kinds of appeals are fairly expensive as they possibly require considerable amounts of attorneys’ time. Furthermore, they often times end up being significantly less successful.
Houston Criminal Appeal Lawyer: The Charles Johnson Law Firm
Managing the criminal appeal process is tough and time-consuming. Houston Lawyer Charles Johnson will help you prepare your strategy. Contact us now for a no cost preliminary consultation.
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Although individuals within the United States are entitled to privacy and freedom from government intrusion, there is a limit to that privacy. State or federal law enforcement officers are permitted, where justified, to search your premises, car, or various other assets in order to look for and seize illegal items, stolen goods or evidence of a criminal offense. What rules must law enforcement follow when engaging in searches and seizures? What can they do in upholding the laws, and what can’t they do?
What police officers May Do:
- Under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, law enforcement officials may engage in "reasonable" searches and seizures.
- To establish that a search is "reasonable," the authorities need to generally demonstrate that it is more likely than not that a crime has occurred, and that if a search is conducted it is probable that they will find either stolen goods or evidence of the criminal offense. This is often designated probable cause.
- In a few situations, police officers must first make this showing to a judge who issues a search warrant. In the majority of special circumstances, however, law enforcement may be able to conduct a search without a warrant. In fact, virtually all searches are "warrantless."
- Police may search and seize items or evidence when there isn’t any "legitimate expectation of privacy." In various other words, in the event you did not have a privacy interest in the items or evidence, the authorities can take them and, in effect, no "search" has transpired.
Note: In deciding whether or not there was a "legitimate expectation of privacy," a court will take into consideration two matters:
- Did you have an expectation of some degree of privacy?
- Was that expectation reasonable in our society’s view?
Example: You have a semi-automatic rifle that you had stolen from a pawn shop. You leave the rifle laying on the hood of your vehicle when you get home. You do not have a "legitimate expectation of privacy" with regard to items you leave on the hood of your automobile, and the authorities may take the weapon. No search has happened.
- Police may use first-hand info, or tips from an informant to justify the need to search your property. If an informant’s info is utilized, police officers need to establish that the information is reliable under the circumstances.
- Once a warrant is obtained, police officers may enter onto the specified area of the property and search for the items listed on the warrant.
- Police could very well extend the search beyond the specified area of the property or include some other items in the search beyond those specified or listed in the warrant if it is required to:
- Ensure their safety or the safety of others;
- Prevent the destruction of evidence;
- Discover more about possible evidence or stolen items that are in plain view; or
- Hunt for evidence or stolen items which, primarily based upon their preliminary search of the specified area, they believe may be in a different location on the property.
Example: Law enforcement have a warrant to search your basement for evidence of a drug manufacturing operation. On their way through your property to go down to the basement, they see a cache of weapons sitting on your kitchen table. Some may take the guns to guarantee their safety while searching your basement.
- Police may search your property without the need of a warrant in the event you consent to the search. Consent needs to be freely and voluntarily given, and you can never be coerced or tricked into giving it.
- Police may search your person and the immediate surroundings without any a warrant when they are placing you under criminal arrest.
- If a person is arrested in a residence, police may make a "protective sweep" of the residence in order to make a "cursory visual inspection" of places where an accomplice may be hiding. In order to accomplish this, the police must have a reasonable belief that an accomplice may be around.
Example: Law enforcement arrest you in your living room on criminal charges of murder. They can open the door of your coat closet to make certain that no one else is hiding there, but may not open your medicine cabinet because an accomplice couldn’t hide there.
- When you are being taken to jail, police may perform an "inventory search" of items you have with you without the need of a warrant. This search may include your vehicle if it is being held by the authorities in order to make a list of all items inside.
- Police may search without the need of a warrant if they reasonably fear for their safety or for the public’s safety.
Example: If the authorities drive past your home on a regular patrol of the neighborhood and see you, in your open garage, with ten cases of dynamite and a blowtorch, they can search your garage without a warrant.
- If it’s required to prevent the imminent destruction of evidence, police officers may search without any a warrant.
Example: If the authorities see you trying to burn a stack of cash that you stole from a bank, they can perform a search without a warrant to stop you from further destroying the money.
- Perform a search, without the need of a warrant, when they are in "hot pursuit" of a suspect who enters a private dwelling or area following fleeing the scene of a crime.
Example: If law enforcement are chasing you from the scene of a murder, and you run into your apartment in an effort to get away from them, they could follow you into the apartment and search the area without the need of a warrant.
- Police may perform a pat-down of your outer clothing, in what is designated a "stop and frisk" situation, as long as they reasonably believe that you may be concealing a firearm and they fear for their safety.
Houston Search & Seizure Defense: Hire the Leading Houston Criminal Lawyer
What police officers May NOT Do:
- The law enforcement officials may not perform a warrantless search anywhere you have a reasonable expectation of privacy, unless one of the warrant exceptions applies.
- If evidence was attained via an unreasonable or illegal search, the police may not use it against you in a trial. This is designated the "exclusionary rule."
- The law enforcement officials may not use evidence resulting from an illegal search to obtain some other evidence.
- The police may not submit an affidavit in support of obtaining a search warrant if they didn’t have a reasonable belief in the truth of the statements in the affidavit.
- Unless there is a reasonable suspicion that it contains evidence, unlawful items, or stolen goods, law enforcement may not search your vehicle. If your vehicle has been seized by the police, however, they can search it.
- Unless they have a reasonable suspicion that you are involved in a criminal activity, the police may not "stop and frisk" you. Should they have a reasonable suspicion, they may pat down your outer clothing if they have concerns that you might be concealing a weapon.
Courts often need to determine case-by-case whether or not the circumstances in which law enforcement searched without a warrant had been legal. Thus, any time a search has already occurred and you aren’t sure of its legality, speak to the Top Houston Criminal Defense Attorney as soon as possible. And if the search has not yet been conducted, make sure that you understand your rights in advance.
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, houston criminal defense lawyer
, law enforcement officials
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