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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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Each year thousands of domestic violence cases are filed. While most of the cases have merit, there are many instances where defendants are falsely accused. Domestic Violence is an issue that affects every town, city, country and nation. Domestic Violence covers a broad spectrum of abuse between couples, spouses, family members or other people who live together. Family Violence allegations are quite severe. In the event you are found guilty, you could face prison time and various other criminal penalties. A conviction will not only destroy your reputation, but your future as well. You could be refused future employment, housing, academic loans and worse, access to your home and children. At the Charles Johnson Law Firm, we see our clients falsely charged with Domestic Violence all the time. Whether you are innocent or guilty, Houston Domestic Violence Lawyer Charles Johnson will battle aggressively on your behalf in order to help protect your rights and your future. Get in touch with us Around The Clock, 7 Days /week for a no cost consultation.
All too frequently the news bombards us with news about a high-profile Domestic Violence case, where a man or woman is suspected of murdering their husband or wife, with or without a prior history of domestic abuse.
Violence. How can a individual turn from loving and living with a person to beating them up or murdering them? What kind of an individual resorts to Domestic Violence against their spouse or domestic intimate partner? What kind of individual thinks it is okay to continually humiliate or talk down to their life intimate partner? What kind of an individual has sex with their partner without the need of the person’s consent and desire to participate?
A common pattern of domestic abuse is that the perpetrator alternates between violent, abusive behavior and apologetic behavior with apparently heartfelt promises to change. The abuser could possibly be very pleasant the majority of of the time. Therein lies the perpetual appeal of the abusing partner and why many individuals can’t seem to leave the abusive relationship.
Domestic abuse is most often among the following:
- child abuse
- abuse of a spouse or domestic intimate partner
- elder abuse
In this article, we explore domestic abuse between spouses and intimate partners: the types of domestic abuse, signs and symptoms, causes, and consequences. Domestic Violence and abuse are popular. The initial step in ending the misery is recognition that the situation is abusive.
How is domestic abuse between intimate partners defined?
Domestic abuse between spouses or intimate partners is when one individual in a marital or intimate relationship tries to control the other person. The perpetrator uses fear and intimidation and may very well threaten to use or could possibly actually use physical violence. Domestic abuse that includes physical violence is called Domestic Violence.
The victim of domestic abuse or Domestic Violence may be a male or a female. Domestic abuse occurs in traditional heterosexual marriages, as well as in same-sex partnerships. The abuse may occur during a relationship, while the couple is breaking up, or after the relationship has ended.
Domestic abuse often escalates from threats and verbal abuse to physical violence. Family Violence may even end up in murder.
The key elements of domestic abuse are:
- humiliating the other individual
- physical injury
Domestic abuse is not really a result of losing control; domestic abuse is intentionally trying to control another individual. The abuser is purposefully using verbal, nonverbal, or physical means to gain control over the other individual.
In many cultures, control of women by men is accepted as the norm. This article speaks from the orientation that control of intimate partners is domestic abuse within a culture where such control isn’t the norm. Today we see many cultures moving from the subordination of women to increased equality of women within relationships.
What are the kinds of domestic abuse?
The types of domestic abuse are:
- physical abuse (domestic violence)
- verbal or nonverbal abuse (psychological abuse, mental abuse, emotional abuse)
- sexual abuse
- stalking or cyberstalking
- economic abuse or financial abuse
- spiritual abuse
The divisions between these types of domestic abuse are somewhat fluid, yet there is a strong differentiation between the various forms of physical abuse and the various types of verbal or nonverbal abuse.
What is physical abuse of a spouse or intimate partner?
Physical abuse is the use of physical force against another person in a way that ends up injuring the individual, or puts the person at risk of being injured. Physical abuse ranges from physical restraint to murder. When a person talks of Domestic Violence, they are quite often referring to physical abuse of a spouse or intimate partner.
Physical assault or physical battering is a crime, whether it occurs inside a family or outside of the family. The authorities are empowered to protect you from physical attack.
Physical abuse involves:
- pushing, throwing, kicking
- slapping, grabbing, hitting, punching, beating, tripping, battering, bruising, choking, shaking
- pinching, biting
- holding, restraining, confinement
- breaking bones
- assault with a firearm including a knife or gun
What is emotional abuse or verbal abuse of a spouse or intimate partner?
Mental, psychological, or emotional abuse may be verbal or nonverbal. Verbal or nonverbal abuse of a spouse or intimate partner consists of more subtle actions or behaviors than physical abuse. While physical abuse might seem worse, the scars of verbal and emotional abuse are deep. Studies show that verbal or nonverbal abuse might be much more emotionally detrimental than physical abuse.
Verbal or nonverbal abuse of a spouse or intimate partner may include:
- threatening or intimidating to obtain compliance
- destruction of the victim’s personal property and assets and possessions, or threats to accomplish this
- violence to an object (such as a wall or piece of furniture) or pet, in the presence of the intended victim, as a way of instilling fear of additional violence
- yelling or screaming
- constant harassment
- embarrassing, making fun of, or mocking the victim, either on your own within the household, in public, or in front of family or friends
- criticizing or diminishing the victim’s accomplishments or goals
- not trusting the victim’s decision-making
- telling the victim that they are worthless on their own, without the abuser
- excessive possessiveness, isolation from friends and family
- excessive checking-up on the victim to make certain they are at home or where they said they would be
- saying hurtful things while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and using the substance as an excuse to say the hurtful things
- blaming the victim for how the abuser acts or feels
- making the victim remain on the premises subsequent to a fight, or leaving them somewhere else subsequent to a fight, just to “teach them a lesson”
- making the victim feel that there isn’t any way out of the relationship
What is sexual abuse or sexual exploitation of a spouse or intimate partner?
Sexual abuse involves:
- sexual assault: forcing someone to participate in unwanted, unsafe, or degrading sexual activity
- sexual harassment: ridiculing another individual to try to limit their sexuality or reproductive choices
- sexual exploitation (most notably forcing someone to look at pornography, or forcing someone to participate in pornographic film-making)
Sexual abuse quite often is linked to physical abuse; they may occur together, or the sexual abuse could very well occur following a bout of physical abuse.
What is stalking?
Stalking is harassment of or threatening another person, especially in a way that haunts the person physically or emotionally in a repetitive and devious manner. Stalking of an intimate partner can take place during the relationship, with intense monitoring of the partner’s activities. Or stalking can take place after a partner or spouse has left the relationship. The stalker may possibly be trying to get their partner back, or some may wish to harm their partner as punishment for their departure. Irrespective of the fine details, the victim fears for their safety.
Stalking can take place at or near the victim’s home, near or in their workplace, on the way to the store or another destination, or on the Internet (cyberstalking). Stalking can be on the phone, in person, or on the web. Stalkers may possibly never show their face, or they can be everywhere, in person.
Stalkers employ a number of threatening techniques:
- repeated phone calls, sometimes with hang-ups
- following, tracking (possibly even with a global positioning device)
- finding the person through public records, online searching, or paid investigators
- watching with hidden cameras
- suddenly showing up where the victim is, at home, school, or work
- sending emails; communicating in chat rooms or with instant messaging (cyberstalking: see below)
- sending unwanted packages, cards, gifts, or letters
- monitoring the victim’s phone calls or computer-use
- contacting the victim’s pals, family, co-workers, or neighbors to find out about the victim
- going through the victim’s garbage
- threatening to injure the victim or their family, buddies, or pets
- damaging the victim’s home, car, or various other property
Stalking is unpredictable and should always be regarded as dangerous. If someone is
- tracking you,
- contacting you when you do not wish to have speak to,
- attempting to control you, or
- frightening you,
then seek assistance as soon as possible.
What is cyberstalking?
Cyberstalking is the use of telecommunication technologies most notably the Internet or email to stalk another individual. Cyberstalking may be an additional form of stalking, or it may very well be the only method the abuser employs. Cyberstalking is deliberate, persistent, and personal.
Spamming with unsolicited email is different from cyberstalking. Spam doesn’t necessarily focus on the individual, along with cyberstalking. The cyberstalker methodically finds and contacts the victim. Much like spam of a sexual nature, a cyberstalker’s message may be disturbing and inappropriate. Also like spam, you can never stop the contact with a request. In fact, the more you protest or respond, the more rewarded the cyberstalker feels. The very best response to cyberstalking is not to respond to the contact.
Cyberstalking falls in a grey area of the law. Enforcement of most federal and state stalking laws requires that the victim be directly threatened with an act of violence. Very few law enforcement agencies can act if the threat is only implied.
Regardless of whether or not you can get stalking laws enforced against cyberstalking, you must treat cyberstalking seriously and protect yourself. Cyberstalking sometimes advances to actual stalking and to physical violence.
How likely is it that stalking will turn into violence?
Stalking can end in violence whether or not the stalker threatens violence. And stalking can turn into violence even if the stalker does not have any history of violence.
Women stalkers are just as likely to become violent as are male stalkers.
Those around the stalking victim are also in danger of being injured. For example, a parent, spouse, or bodyguard who makes the stalking victim unattainable could possibly be hurt or killed as the stalker pursues the stalking victim.
What is economic or financial abuse of a spouse or domestic partner?
Economic or financial abuse involves:
- withholding economic resources most notably cash or credit cards
- stealing from or defrauding a partner of cash or assets
- exploiting the intimate partner’s resources for personal gain
- withholding physical resources most notably food, clothes, necessary medications, or shelter from a partner
- preventing the spouse or intimate partner from working or choosing an occupation
What is spiritual abuse of a spouse or intimate partner?
Spiritual abuse involves:
- using the spouse’s or intimate partner’s religious or spiritual beliefs to manipulate them
- preventing the partner from practicing their religious or spiritual beliefs
- ridiculing the other person’s religious or spiritual beliefs
- forcing the children to be reared in a faith that the partner has not agreed to
How do I realize if I am in an abusive relationship? What are the signs and symptoms of an abusive relationship?
The more of the following questions that you answer Yes to, the more likely you are in an abusive relationship. Examine your answers and seek assistance should you find that you respond positively to a large number of the questions.
Your inner feelings and dialogue: Fear, self-loathing, numbness, desperation
- Are you fearful of your partner a large percentage of the time?
- Do you avoid certain topics or spend a lot of time figuring out how to talk about certain topics so that you do not arouse your partner’s negative reaction or anger?
- Do you ever feel that you can’t do anything right for your partner?
- Do you ever feel so badly about yourself that you think you deserve to be physically hurt?
- Have you lost the love and respect that you once had for your partner?
- Do you in some instances wonder if you are the one who is crazy, that maybe you are overreacting to your partner’s behaviors?
- Do you in some instances fantasize about ways to kill your partner to get them out of your life?
- Are you afraid that your partner will likely try to kill you?
- Are you afraid that your partner will try to take your children away from you?
- Do you feel that there is nowhere to turn for assistance?
- Are you feeling emotionally numb?
- Were you abused as a child, or did you grow up with Domestic Violence in the household? Does domestic violence seem normal to you?
Your partner’s lack of control over their own behavior
- Does your partner have low self-esteem? Do they appear to feel powerless, ineffective, or inadequate within the world, although they are outwardly successful?
- Does your partner externalize the causes of their own behavior? Do they blame their violence on stress, alcohol, or a “bad day”?
- Is your partner unpredictable?
- Is your partner a pleasant individual between bouts of violence?
Your partner’s violent or threatening behavior
- Does your partner have a bad temper?
- Has your partner ever threatened to injure you or kill you?
- Has your partner ever physically injure you?
- Has your partner threatened to take your children away from you, especially if you try to leave the relationship?
- Has your partner ever threatened to commit suicide, especially as a way of keeping you from leaving?
- Has your partner ever forced you to have sex when you didn’t want to?
- Has your partner threatened you at work, either in individual or on the phone?
- Is your partner cruel to animals?
- Does your partner destroy your belongings or household objects?
Your partner’s controlling behavior
- Does your partner try to keep you from seeing your buddies or family?
- Are you embarrassed to invite close friends or family over to your house mainly because of your partner’s behavior?
- Has your partner limited your access to money, the telephone, or the car?
- Does your partner try to stop you from going where you need to go outside of the house, or from doing what you want to do?
- Is your partner jealous and possessive, asking where you are going and where you have been, as if checking up on you? Do they accuse you of having an affair?
Your partner’s diminishment of you
- Does your partner verbally abuse you?
- Does your partner humiliate or criticize you in front of others?
- Does your partner quite often ignore you or put down your opinions or contributions?
- Does your partner always insist that they are right, even if they are obviously wrong?
- Does your partner blame you for their own violent behavior, saying that your behavior or attitudes cause them to be violent?
- Is your partner often outwardly angry with you?
- Does your partner objectify and disrespect those of your gender? Does your partner see you as property or a sex object, rather than as a person?
In my workplace, what are the warning signs that an individual is a victim of Family Violence?
Domestic Violence often plays out in the workplace. For example, a husband, wife, girlfriend, or boyfriend might make threatening phone calls to their intimate partner or ex-partner. Or the worker could very well show injuries from physical abuse at home.
In the event you witness a cluster of the following warning signs within the workplace, you can reasonably suspect domestic abuse:
- Bruises together with other signs of impact on the skin, with the excuse of “accidents”
- Depression, crying
- Frequent and sudden absences
- Frequent lateness
- Frequent, harassing phone calls to the person while they are at work
- Fear of the partner, references to the partner’s anger
- Decreased productivity and attentiveness
- Isolation from pals and family
- Insufficient resources to live (cash, credit cards, car)
If you do recognize signs of domestic abuse in a co-worker, talk to your Human Resources department. The Human Resources staff will be able to assist the victim without having your additional involvement.
Who abuses their spouse or intimate partner?
Domestic abuse knows no age or ethnic boundaries.
Domestic abuse can occur during a relationship or after a relationship has ended.
The majority of psychological, medical, and legal specialists agree that the vast majority of physical abusers are men. Nonetheless , women can also be the perpetrators of Domestic Violence.
Virtually all stalkers are also men stalking women. Nevertheless stalkers can also be women stalking men, men stalking men, or women stalking women.
Houston Domestic Violence Defense Lawyer: The Charles Johnson Law Firm
As the justice system has come to recognize the social and legal effects of domestic violence, the penalties for conviction of domestic assault have become steeper. This is why it is so important to consult an expert lawyer who is familiar with your local court system. Seek the counsel of a highly qualified Houston Domestic Violence Lawyer from the Charles Johnson Law Firm in Houston, Texas to learn more about what you can do to assert and protect your rights.
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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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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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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Felony charges for drug distribution or possession are the most typical felonies in criminal law.
If you have been arrested for possession or distribution of illegal drugs, Houston Lawyer Charles Johnson can help you in your effort to clear your record. The federal court structure is well known for the extremely tough penalties for illegal drug cases. Most of these cases are prosecuted as conspiracies and, given that penalties are calculated with the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, low-level dealers may have their sentences increased significantly according to the quantity of illegal drugs having been dealt by their supposed associates. The federal structure is very different in comparison to the state court structure within these criminal matters. These cases will need a legal professional who’s skilled and experienced with the various trial rules and sentencing guidelines. This expertise provides him a significant edge over those attorneys who don’t work on a frequent basis within federal court. Houston Lawyer Charles Johnson has effectively represented numerous customers facing cocaine distribution charges in both the State and Federal courts, and he is able to do the same for you.
Cocaine Distribution in the Houston Area
Houston, Texas is among the most significant illegal drug distribution center within the U. S. It’s a distribution center utilized by many drug traffickers to provide unlawful drugs to main market locations all through the United States as well as to supply dealers located within the Houston HIDTA (High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area) area. Cocaine, Crack, marijuana and, to a lesser extent, heroin, methamphetamine, and MDMA (3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine, also recognized as Ecstacy) are shipped from Houston to main market locations including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Kansas City, St. Louis, and Philadelphia. As soon as illegal drug shipments are delivered to Houston, they’re frequently stored at nearby stash locations awaiting additional distribution to illegal drug markets. Illegal drug trafficking operations are very susceptible at these stash locations; seizures of unlawful drugs from places where substantial amounts are stashed usually lead to a significantly larger loss for DTOs (Drug Trafficking Organizations).
Houston’s well-developed freeway system, organized financial structure, racial and ethnic diversity, and significant level of worldwide trade contribute towards the area’s role as a main shipment point for unlawful drugs meant for American drug markets and illegal drug profits headed for Mexico. The substantial quantity of drug-related investigations linked with the city demonstrates Houston’s role as an integral national drug distribution and cash laundering center.
Drug Trafficking Organizations, Criminal Groups, and Gangs Defined
Drug trafficking organizations (DTOs) are intricate organizations with exceptionally defined command-and-control structures that transport, distribute, and/or produce substantial volumes of one or more unlawful drugs.
Criminal groups operating within the U. S. are plentiful and consist of limited to moderately sized, loosely knit organizations that disperse one or more illegal drugs at the retail level and midlevel.
Gangs are defined by the National Alliance of Gang Investigators’ Associations as groups or associations of three or more persons with a common identifying sign, symbol, or name, whose members on their own or jointly practice criminal activity that produces an atmosphere of fearfulness and intimidation.
Mexican DTOs are probably the most pervasive organizational menace towards the Houston region. The proximity of their operations to the U.S.- Mexico border along with their access to main drug market locations all through the U.S. have allowed Mexican DTOs to emerge as the most important traffickers within the region, in most locations along the U.S.- Mexico border, and in numerous locations of the United States.
Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs (OMGs), Street gangs, and Prison gangs disperse unlawful drugs at both the retail and wholesale levels within the Houston region. Virtually all gangs within the region use illegal drug trafficking as their primary revenue stream. Even though most gangs distribute drugs on the retail level, a few have developed partnerships with Mexican DTOs that permit them to acquire wholesale quantities of illegal drugs straight from Mexico. These gangs are most prevalent in urban locations, which include Houston, Corpus Christi, and Beaumont, where violence related to their drug and gang related behaviors is often a significant menace to community and law enforcement protection.
As a direct result Hurricane Katrina, interactions among New Orleans and Houston illegal drug traffickers are reportedly growing. Roughly 150,000 Katrina evacuees relocated in the Houston region due to the hurricane. Several of these evacuees had been illegal drug traffickers from high-crime locations of New Orleans and, upon relocating to Houston, developed associations with illegal drug dealers and gang members. Several of these traffickers then returned home to New Orleans, and the connections which they established with these Houston-based drug dealers and gang members have provided them the potential to acquire substantial quantities of illegal drugs straight from associations in Houston.
The distribution and use of unlawful drugs within the Houston region places considerable societal and economic burdens on communities and local, state, and federal agencies. Cocaine in the form of Crack stands out as the principal illegal drug of abuse for numerous drug abusers in metropolitan locations of Houston; this drug has experienced a significant influence on the degree of violent and property criminal activity taking place in a number of communities. Nevertheless, the quantity of marijuana, cocaine, and methamphetamine seized within the region has lessened in recent years. This reduction may be credited, to some extent, to a rise in seizures made prior to the drugs being smuggled across the Southwest Border, increased seizures in South Texas counties that border Mexico, and traffickers’ utilization of alternate routes to smuggle illegal drugs across the Southwest Border.
Cocaine Distribution Defense: Hire the Leading Houston Criminal Lawyer
In Texas, charges for Cocaine distribution are 1st degree crimes, and bring the toughest penalties. Possession of the illegal drug or possession with the intent to distribute the drug, is usually a 2nd degree crime, and can result in substantial penalties, probation and/or imprisonment. Drug distribution is an extremely serious offense. Having said that, as with any drug crime, drug distribution should be placed into the correct context to be able to make certain that charges aren’t excessive. What might seem to be drug distribution might in fact not be, and a competent attorney will see to it that you are furnished a powerful defense all through your criminal arrest.
The quantity of drugs within your possession, just how the drugs are prepared, which drugs are discovered to be on your person, and how many different kinds of drugs you have are typical elements which will be considered throughout a drug distribution case. For example, if many different packaged drugs are discovered within your possession, then it might be assumed that you, similar to a shop, possess a large number of new items prepared to sell. Also, your previous criminal background will play a factor, along with the place that you had been arrested. Getting busted in an area recognized to be visited by drug dealers, for instance, won’t assist your case.
If a person is discovered to be in possession of unlawful drugs, doesn’t seem to be using the illegal drugs himself, and is also acting in a manner that’s suggestive of drug distribution, then police might place that person under arrest on suspicion of drug distribution. Even though other drug charges including possession for sale require that some kind of monetary transaction take place, drug distribution only demands that unlawful drugs are transferred from a single individual to another person. Consequently, protection against these charges may be complex, particularly within the state of Texas. Due to the complexities of Texas law, the most effective plan of action taken by a person charged with drug distribution is retaining the expertise of an seasoned Houston Criminal Defense Lawyer .
Attorney Johnson will analyze the circumstances surrounding your case, and will develop the most powerful defense possible considering the situation. If you need skilled legal assistance now, please do not hesitate to get in touch with the Charles Johnson Law Firm Twenty-four Hours A Day, 365 Days /year to talk about the specifics of your case.
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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.
Top Houston Criminal Appeal Lawyer: The Charles Johnson Law Firm
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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When the police suspect an individual has been driving under the influence, they will ask him/her to perform a series of standard tests, also named field sobriety tests. Field sobriety tests help law enforcement determine a driver’s level of intoxication by challenging his or her physical and mental coordination and capacity to follow instructions. They are also used to establish a probable cause for arrest.
If you are pulled over for suspected DWI, be polite to the officer. On the other hand , do not respond to any questions about what you have had to drink or when.
Politely refuse to undergo field sobriety testing, as this is not mandatory and you cannot be penalized for a refusal of this kind.
The three standardized field sobriety tests used by Houston police officers are:
The Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN): HGN refers to the involuntary jerking of the eyeball. When an individual is intoxicated, it is believed that his/her eyes are more likely to twitch. Through the HGN test, the police officer will hold an object in front of the driver and ask him/her to follow the object with his or her eyes. If the driver cannot follow the object, or if his/her eyes start twitching, then it is taken as a sign of intoxication. (Even so, it is very important to note that Nystagmus is medical and physiological condition that’s common in a large amount of individuals, even though they are sober)
The One-Leg Test: the driver stands on one foot and raises the other leg six inches off the ground when counting out loud. The driver is expected to stand on one foot without raising his/her arms, losing balance, wobbling, hopping around, or putting the lifted leg down.
The Walk and Turn Test: the driver takes nine steps in a straight line touching heel to toe, stops, and then repeats the action in the other direction
In addition to these DWI tests, law enforcement officers may possibly require drivers to perform additional tests, including:
- Finger to nose test
- Reciting the alphabet
- Counting backwards
- Balancing tests
If you did perform a field sobriety test and were arrested, it is important to get in touch with the Most Effective Houston Lawyer as soon as possible. Most law enforcement officers have already decided to arrest you at this point, and are at this point simply looking for more evidence to use against you in court. Many attorneys believe field sobriety tests are inaccurate, subjective, and designed for failure. There are many factors that can cause folks to appear intoxicated, most notably nervousness, age, lack of natural coordination, lack of proper instruction, weather, fatigue, illness, physical problems, disabilities, injuries, car headlights, weight, footwear, intimidation, and traffic distractions.
Other important advice:
After your criminal arrest, you have the right to remain silent. You do not need to answer questions or submit to formal questioning about the case. Although you should cooperate and be polite, you do not need to respond to questions about how much you have had to drink and when. Exercise this right, and you will have a much better potential for avoiding a conviction.
You also have the right to legal counsel. This is a constitutional right that should be observed in order to provide defendants in criminal cases the opportunity to establish their innocence. By consulting a Houston DWI criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible subsequent to a DWI arrest, you will provide him or her a better chance of making a positive impact on your case.
If you are arrested, be sure that you speak to the Texas DPS as soon as possible. You have only Fifteen calendar days to schedule an ALR (Administrative License Revocation) hearing regarding your license suspension. Failing to schedule this hearing will lead to the automatic suspension of your license.
Most importantly, contact the Recommended Houston Criminal Defense Lawyer as soon as you can. Having a competent lawyer at your side as early in the process as possible will mean that your rights will probably be safeguarded and you will have the very best opportunity of avoiding license suspension and a conviction.
Houston DWI Defense: The Most Dedicated Houston DWI Attorney
If you have been arrested and charged for DWI, and you performed one or more field sobriety test, it is vital to hire an expert Houston DWI lawyer to investigate your case and represent you in the courtroom. The Top Houston DWI Attorney will use their expertise to fight the charges brought against their clients and protect their rights. They will question the arresting officer’s ability to properly conduct a field sobriety test, and make sure the police officer did not violate their clients’ rights in the course of the arrest. Furthermore, they will be dedicated to providing each client with personalized attention, viable alternatives, and aggressive DWI defense. They will not stop working until they acquire a favorable result, and see that justice has been served.
Charles Johnson |
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Hire the Finest Houston DWI Lawyer!
There are a few essential things it is best to realize in the event you are facing DWI criminal charges in or around Houston, Texas. The Leading Houston Lawyer will undoubtedly be happy to answer your questions about DWI and provide you essential case tips when you speak to them for a free of charge preliminary case evaluation.
Case Tips Regarding your Houston DWI
- If you happen to be stopped for suspected DWI, always be polite to the officer. However, do not answer any questions about what you have had to drink or when.
- Politely refuse to submit to field sobriety testing, as this is not mandatory and you cannot be penalized for a refusal of this kind.
- If you are arrested, be sure that you speak to the Texas DPS as soon as possible. You’ll have only Fifteen calendar days to schedule an ALR (Administrative License Revocation) hearing regarding your license suspension. Failing to schedule this hearing will bring about the automatic suspension of your license.
- After your arrest, you have the right to remain silent. You do not have to respond to questions or undergo formal questioning regarding the case. While it is best to cooperate and be polite, you do not have to respond to questions regarding how much you have had to drink and when. Exercise this right, and you will have a far greater chance of avoiding a conviction.
- You also have the right to legal counsel. This is a constitutional right that has to be observed in order to provide defendants in criminal cases the chance to prove their innocence. By turning to a Houston DWI lawyer as soon as possible following a DWI arrest, you will give your attorney an improved chance of making a positive impact on your case.
- Most importantly, contact the Leading Houston DWI Attorney as soon as you can. Having a skilled attorney at your side as early in the process as possible means that your rights will undoubtedly be defended and you will have the very best opportunity of avoiding license suspension and a conviction.
Hire the Finest Houston Lawyer!
Experienced Attorney Charles Johnson of the Charles Johnson Law Firm can fight for your legal rights both during your ALR hearing and also throughout the entire criminal court process.
The Most Qualified Houston Criminal Defense Lawyer has represented many clients who were dealing with DWI convictions and harsh legal penalties. With their guidance, clients have been able to battle their driving while intoxicated charges and obtain effective outcomes in court and at their Texas DPS ALR hearings. Dedicated Houston Criminal Attorney Charles Johnson is an aggressive, qualified litigator who is prepared to assist you. Call him today and he will help you get your life straightened out.
The Houston Lawyer
Charles Johnson |
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