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Arrested for DWI in the Houston Area? Houston DWI Lawyer Charles Johnson

Finest Houston Criminal Defense AttorneyThe Charles Johnson Law Firm provides the highest level of representation in assisting our clients through the rigors of a DWI case. After you are charged with DWI in the Houston area, you are confronted with an unpleasant truth: anyone who drinks and drives is subject to arrest, whether or not they are actually affected by alcohol. However, being charged does not mean being convicted. Contact Houston DWI Lawyer Charles Johnson directly anytime day or night at (713) 222-7577 to discuss your case.

 

Hire the Best Houston DWI Lawyer: The Charles Johnson Law Firm

When someone gets arrested for a DWI, they get a lot of advice from almost everyone around them; friends, family, co-workers, and sometimes even the arresting officer gives you advice about what to do. It probably seems like everyone has a different answer for what is “the best thing to do.” And then you may have received some annoying letters from attorneys who do not even know you, some of which can be very intimidating, frightening, or just plain obnoxious.

The fact is that no two DWI’s are alike, because penalties and options vary depending on the facts of what happened, your prior record, the county and city you were arrested in, and the status of your driver’s license.

To get superior DWI representation, you need the best of these three things:

KNOWLEDGE.
The Best Houston DWI lawyer will be familiar with the city and county of your offense and should know how that jurisdiction treats DWI cases like yours. Houston Lawyer Charles Johnson is aware of the current DWI statutes and case law, which changes all the time. Finally, your DWI lawyer should take the time to know about your situation so the goals of your case suit your individual needs.

STRATEGY.
DWI cases are not easy to win, and the justice system is not about to do any favors for DWI offenders in today’s anti-DWI society. An effective strategy is one that preserves every possible opportunity to impact the various penalties you will be facing. That is the key to superior DWI Defense Strategy: preserving and taking advantage of opportunities. Whether it is for purposes of arguing the issues of your case, negotiating a settlement, or controlling the timing of the penalties you will be facing, a solid strategy will help you come out of this with as little damage as possible.

DEDICATION.
The Best Houston DWI Attorney will devote an adequate amount of time and resources to your defense. You do not want an attorney that does not take the time to explain the ins and outs of your case to you every step of the way. You DO want a DWI lawyer who is passionate about defending DWI cases. Our DWI clients have taken advantage of our Knowledge, Strategy, and Dedication for honest solutions to their DWI problems. Don’t let another day go by before you start working on your case. Contact the Best Houston DWI Lawyer Charles Johnson today at (713) 272-4586 for a free case evaluation.

About DWI in Texas

In Texas, the legal limit for intoxication is .08 BAC. If an officer thinks your driving is impaired, you can still be stopped and arrested for DWI regardless of your BAC. Penalties get worse with every DWI offense.

Texas is a national leader in many areas―unfortunately, one of these is in the number of accidents and deaths related to driving while intoxicated (DWI). Each year, thousands of Texans are involved in this tragedy; about 2,000 of them die.

Texas is also a zero-tolerance state for underage drinking; any detectable amount of alcohol in drivers under 21 is a crime. Yet young drivers account for many alcohol-related traffic accidents, and the age group with the most violations and accidents are those between 21 and 34. Remember, teens and young people are actually more prone to reaching higher alcohol concentrations more quickly than older drinkers. Size and body weight also play a role. Big Uncle Fred may be able to toss back those shots of tequila and maintain an allegedly safe BAC but younger, smaller people may not be able to accomplish this feat.

While a DWI conviction requires a BAC of 0.08% or above, any driver can be cited for “driving while impaired” by drugs or lower concentrations of alcohol.

Texas DWI Penalties for Drunk Driving

Driving while intoxicated, first offense, is a Class B Misdemeanor that is defined at Texas Penal Code §49.04. That provision states that, “A person commits an offense if the person is intoxicated while operating a motor vehicle in a public place”.

This definition sets forth the elements that must be proven to sustain a conviction.  Those elements are:

  • The defendant, on or about a particular date
  • Was operating a motor vehicle
  • In a public place (street, highway, beach, parking lot, etc)
  • In a particular county
  • While intoxicated The Texas legislature has specifically defined the term “intoxication”, as that term is used for prosecution of DWI cases {Texas Penal Code §49.01(2)}

In addition, there are two definitions to encompass those who do or do not submit to chemical testing:

1) “not having the normal use of mental or physical faculties by reason of the introduction of alcohol, a controlled substance, a drug, a dangerous drug, a combination of two or more of those substances, or any other substance into the body; or

2) having an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more.”

It is important to note that the law provides for intoxication by the introduction of any intoxicating substance into the body. This is designed to make our roadways safe from dangerous drivers.

Typically, proof at trial is restricted to alcohol unless some statements or other indications suggest that the driver has become impaired by some other substance.  Equally as important, being on prescription drugs is not a defense to a DWI prosecution. If the label suggests that ingestion will impair one’s ability to operate a motor vehicle or machinery, taking such medicine and driving may subject you to DWI arrest and conviction.

At trial, the State therefore may prove intoxication in three (3) different ways:

  • not having the normal use of physical faculties OR
  • not having the normal use of mental faculties OR
  • having an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more

The jury does not have to be unanimous on the manner and means of intoxication, only that the person was intoxicated.

Plus, intoxication must occur and be proven to occur while driving. Many other States provide for prosecution of a “lesser included” offense other than DWI (i.e. reckless driving, impaired driving, driving under the influence, etc.). Texas however has no lesser included offense of DWI. Some counties offer plea bargain agreements to other charges than DWI, but they are the exception and not the rule.

Classifications and Range of Punishment for DWI Conviction

DWI, 1st Offense:  Class B Misdemeanor in Texas

Fine

A fine not to exceed $2,000.

Jail

Confinement in the County Jail for a term of not less the 72 hours nor more that six (6) months.

Open Container

If there was an open container of alcohol in your car when arrested, the minimum term of confinement is six (6) days in the county jail.

Community Service

Texas law mandates that a judge order not less than 24 hours nor more than 100 hours.

Absent unusual facts, most persons convicted of a first offense DWI are granted community supervision (“probation”) of any confinement ordered. The general length of DWI probation is from 1-2 years. There are also conditions of community supervision ordered that are fairly standard in most courts. Typical conditions imposed are: Drug/Alcohol Evaluation. A person convicted of DWI will be required to submit to evaluation for probability of committing DWI in the future and/or to disclose a potential problem with alcohol or drug abuse. If a problem is detected, additional terms and conditions of probation are ordered to be administered through the Community Supervision Department. Attend and complete an approved DWI Education class within 180 days from the date of conviction (Satisfying this requirement will avoid the one (1) year drivers license suspension, unless if you were a minor (under 21) at the time of the offense.) Attend and complete a Victim Impact Panel. This is a forum that presents victims of drunk drivers to address persons convicted of DWI and warn of the dangers and perils of driving while intoxicated. Work faithfully at suitable employment, commit no other crimes, remain at the same residence and employment unless notification is given to the community supervision officer, report monthly to the supervision office, pay all fines and costs in a timely manner. Pay a monthly supervisory fee. Perform a specified hours of community or volunteer service.  NOTE: If convicted, you will be given an Order Granting Probation. This Order will be specific and unique to your case and fully sets forth the terms and conditions of your probation which apply to you. It is the blueprint for your probation.

Additional Conditions of Probation that may be Ordered:

If your case presents unusual facts (accident, alcohol problem, prior alcohol contacts, bad driving record etc.), additional conditions may be ordered. Most conditions are designed to address a problem that appears from the facts or alcohol/drug evaluation that is performed on the subject after conviction. Again, a specific order is given after each conviction. The following list is only a general discussion of conditions that have been imposed in some DWI cases in my experience and may not apply to you.

Deep lung air device

This provision requires that you install and maintain a device on any car which you intend to drive during probation. The device requires a breath sample before it will allow your car to start. Some devices require periodic breaths while driving. This condition is sometimes recommended after an unfavorable drug/alcohol evaluation during a first-offense probation, and is almost always ordered as a condition of bond on a subsequent offense arrest.

Alcohol Treatment

Attendance at AA or other counseling programs offered through the probation department. In extreme cases outpatient programs may be ordered. This condition is recommended after an unfavorable drug/alcohol evaluation.

Consume no alcohol

Most courts require that a person not consume any alcohol during probation. This provision is monitored by periodic and random urinalysis at the probation office. Some courts will not even allow a probationer to enter a bar, tavern or lounge where alcohol is sold and consumed.

Confinement

Again, in some extreme circumstances, the Court may order that a DWI offender serve confinement in the county jail as a condition of being granted probation.

Restitution

If there was an accident followed by a DWI arrest, and if your insurance company has not paid damages to the other party, restitution of any unpaid amounts will be ordered by the Court as a condition of probation.

Enhanced Penalties (Prior alcohol or drug related criminal history)

Under Texas law, if it is shown that a person has been previously convicted of DWI, the punishment and penalties after conviction are increased or enhanced. The prior DWI conviction must have occurred within ten (10) years of the present arrest for DWI. Additionally, if a person has any prior DWI conviction within the previous ten year period (measured from dates of arrest), the State is then allowed to use any prior DWI conviction since obtaining a drivers license to enhance the accusation to a DWI, third offense. NOTE: Texas can use prior convictions that have occurred in other states for enhancement of punishment.

DWI, Second Offense: Class A Misdemeanor Special Condition for Jail Release on Bond:

It is important to note that if arrested and accused of a DWI Second or greater offense, Texas law now requires the Court to Order as a CONDITION OF RELEASE FROM JAIL ON BOND, that the person install and maintain a deep lung air device on the car that the person intends to drive and operate while charges are pending. The device requires a breath sample before it will allow you to start your car. They also require periodic breaths while driving to monitor and insure sobriety. New technology has made these devices “user sensitive” so that someone else cannot blow into the device for the driver.

Although this provision seems to run afoul of the presumption of innocence, Texas Courts have consistently held that such condition is necessary to protect a legitimate governmental interest in making public roadways safe for the motoring public.

Fine

A fine not to exceed $4,000.00.

Jail

Confinement in the County Jail for a term of not less than 72 hours nor more than one (1) year.

Community Service

Texas law mandates that a judge order not less than 80 hours nor more than 200 hours.

Deep lung air device

Typically deep lung devices are required for all DWI second offenders during probation.

Suspension of license

A person convicted of DWI, Second may have their driving privilege suspended for not less than 180 days or more than two (2) years.

DWI, Third Offense (or greater): Third degree FELONY

Fine

A fine not to exceed $10,000.00.

Jail

Confinement in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Institutional Division (Penitentiary) for a term of not less than 2 years nor more than ten (10) years.

Deep lung air device

Deep lung air devices are generally ordered on all persons convicted of three or more DWI’s both as conditions of bond and as conditions of any occupational or provisional licenses that may be awarded after conviction.

Community Service

Texas law mandates that a judge order not less than 160 hours nor more than 600 hours.

Suspension of license

A person convicted of DWI, Second may have their driving privilege suspended for not less than 180 days or more than two (2) years.

Other

A third conviction for DWI indicates a significant problem with alcohol to the Court or jury assessing punishment. Some type of rehabilitative treatment is therefore mandated in punishment if confinement in the penitentiary is to be avoided. In some cases an in-patient, incarceration program (Substance Abuse Felony Probation SAFP) is ordered. This program requires confinement in a State Facility for alcohol rehabilitation. After successful completion of the SAFP program, the person is then released and placed on probation for a term not to exceed ten (10) years. Another popular condition for habitual DWI offenders is a prescription for a drug named “Antabuse”. This drug will make a person violently ill if any alcohol is consumed. The alcohol can be contained in mouthwash or marinated food and will still have the same effect on the user. If a person has any type of liver problems, this drug can cause liver failure and death.

Texas law does not provide for any increased punishment after DWI, third offense. If a person presents a DWI, fourth offense or beyond, the typical punishment is confinement in the penitentiary from two (2) to ten (10) years without probation being granted. In some cases SAFP may be granted upon proper request and showing that it is appropriate.

Intoxication Assault

Third degree Felony “A person commits an offense if the person, by accident or mistake, while operating a …. motor vehicle in a public place while intoxicated, by reason of that intoxication causes serious bodily injury to another” {Texas Penal Code §49.07}. ” ‘Serious Bodily Injury’ means injury that creates a substantial risk of death or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ”.

Fine

A fine not to exceed $10,000.00.

Jail

Confinement in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Institutional Division (Penitentiary) for a term of not less than 2 year nor more than ten (10) years.

Community Service

Texas law mandates that a judge order not less than 160 hours nor more than 600 hours.

Intoxication Manslaughter

Second Degree Felony “A person commits an offense if the person:

1) …operates a motor vehicle in a public place, and…

2) …is intoxicated and by reason of that intoxication causes the death of another by accident or mistake.”

Fine

A fine not to exceed $10,000.00.Jail: Confinement in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Institutional Division (Penitentiary) for a term of not less than 2 year nor more than twenty (20) years.

Community Service

Texas law mandates that a judge order not less than 240 hours nor more than 800 hours.

NOTE

If a person is involved in an accident where there is risk of death or death, a mandatory blood sample will be taken for analysis and use in the prosecution of either Intoxication Assault or Intoxication Manslaughter.

Administrative License Revocation (ALR) Program

What is an ALR Hearing?
Many Texas drivers who are arrested for driving while intoxicated (DWI) do not realize that a DWI arrest creates two separate cases, one civil and one criminal.

Specifically, a DWI arrest results in both a criminal charge, and usually initiates a civil proceeding against the arrested driver’s driving privileges called an Administrative License Revocation, or ALR.

An ALR suspension is initiated against an arrested driver when he either refuses to submit to breath or blood testing, or alternatively, fails a breath or blood test. The legal authority to impose an ALR suspension against a driver lies in the Texas implied consent statute.

This law states that each person who operates a motor vehicle on Texas roadways has given his or her implied consent to provide a specimen of breath or blood if arrested for DWI and provided with the applicable consequences of refusing to submit to testing.

Notice of ALR Suspension
Many police officers, after arresting a citizen, will tell the arrested driver that if he does not agree to take a breath or blood test that his license will be automatically and immediately suspended.

This is incorrect. When making an arrest for DWI, peace officers are required to take possession of any Texas license issued by this state and held by the person arrested and issue the person a temporary driving permit that expires on the 41st day after the date of issuance. Further, a request for a hearing to challenge the proposed suspension will delay any ALR sanctions until a hearing takes place.

Hearing Request Provisions
ALR suspensions are automatic unless you request a hearing to challenge the suspension, in writing, WITHIN FIFTEEN (15) DAYS after receiving notice of suspension from the arresting agency on a Department of Public Safety approved form. This document is generally received on the day of arrest.

If a hearing is not requested in a timely manner, the suspension will automatically begin on the forty-first (41st) day after notice was received. If a hearing is requested, no action will be taken regarding suspension until after the hearing has taken place, even if the hearing takes place more than forty days after the arrest.

The ALR Hearing
The burden of proof at an ALR hearing is on the Department of Public Safety. Once a driver or his attorney has made a timely request for an ALR hearing, no suspension may be imposed against the driver until the Department of Public Safety proves the following elements by a preponderance of the evidence at the hearing:

  1. That there was reasonable suspicion to stop or probable cause to arrest the driver;
  2. That probable cause existed that the driver was driving or in actual physical control of a motor vehicle in a public place while intoxicated;
  3.  That the driver was placed under arrest and was offered an opportunity to give a specimen of breath or blood after being notified both orally and in writing of the consequences of either refusing or failing a breath or blood test; and
  4. That the driver refused to give a specimen on request of the officer, or, that the driver failed a breath or blood test by registering an alcohol concentration of .08 or greater.

Suspension Provisions for Adult Drivers
Without any prior alcohol or drug related contacts against the accused driver during the previous 10-year period, your license will be suspended for 90 days if your chemical test result is over a 0.08% or 180 days if you refuse a chemical test. If you have a prior alcohol or drug contact within ten years, your license will be suspended for one year if your chemical test is over 0.08% or 2 years if you refuse a chemical test. In certain circumstances you may be eligible for an Occupational License.

Possible Defenses for DWI Charges

In deciding which defenses could apply in your driving while intoxicated (DWI) case, Houston Drunk Driving Lawyer Charles Johnson will look at all the evidence produced by the police and interview witnesses. Some common defenses seen in DWI cases include:

Driving Observation Defenses
The prosecutor always relies (sometimes exclusively) on the arresting police officer’s testimony about how a DWI suspect was driving, including:

  • Very slow speeds
  • Uneven speeds (very fast, then very slow, for example)
  • Weaving from one side of a lane to the other
  • Crossing the center line of the highway
  • Running a red light
  • Hesitation in going through a green light

A good defense attorney will argue that there are many different explanations for these driving behaviors that don’t have anything to do with being alcohol-impaired.

Behavior Observation Defenses
An officer may also testify as to a DWI suspect’s appearance and behavior when questioned, including:

  • Slurred speech
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Inappropriate joking or incoherent speech
  • Stumbling or not being able to walk very far
  • Pupil enlargement

Defenses to these observations that don’t have anything to do with being intoxicated may include:

  • Lack of sleep
  • Allergies
  • Contact lenses
  • Stress due to personal circumstances
  • Medications
  • Foods recently ingested
  • Nervousness over being stopped by police
  • Physical impairments
  • Field Sobriety Test Defenses

When an officer suspects you may be too intoxicated to drive, he or she will likely ask you to perform what are called “field sobriety tests.” These tests are designed to assess your physical and mental alertness, and can include:

  • Walking a straight line
  • Walking backwards
  • Reciting the alphabet, frontwards or backwards
  • Standing on one leg
  • Officers also sometimes rely on what’s called a “nystagmus” test, in which the suspect is asked to shift eye gaze from one side to the other while the officer shines a light in his or her eyes. The theory is that the gaze of someone who is impaired by alcohol or drugs will be jerky rather than smooth.

The defenses to field sobriety tests are often the same as with officer observations. Medications and lack of sleep can make it considerably more difficult to perform these tests. Many people also have physical impairments caused by injuries – or simply aging -that make it impossible to perform these tasks under ideal conditions.

The Best Houston Lawyer will cross-examine the arresting officer in detail as to whether the officer asked you if you had physical impairments or there were particular circumstances that would make it difficult to perform the tests. He may also point out to the jury that many jury members may have similar difficulties performing the tests, such as by asking the jury if they could recite the alphabet backwards under the best of circumstances.

Blood Alcohol Content Defenses
When you consume alcoholic drinks, the alcohol is absorbed into your blood stream. The level of alcohol in your blood, called the Blood Alcohol Content (“BAC”) can be measured by different tests. In all states, you’re presumed to be drunk and unable to safely operate a vehicle if your BAC is .08 or greater. This measurement means that your blood contains eight/ one-hundredths percent of alcohol.

All states have lowered the BAC level defining intoxication to .08, and have “zero tolerance” laws that make it illegal for people under 21 to operate a vehicle with little or no amount of alcohol in their blood.

Many states also have more severe DWI or DUI penalties for driving with a high BAC, which is often defined as a level measuring more than .15 to .20.

Your BAC can be determined from a blood draw, which is often automatically taken if you are involved in an accident and there is a suspicion that you may have been drinking. Your blood will also be drawn if you are taken to the hospital because the police are concerned that you may have had so much to drink that you are in danger of alcohol poisoning and should be hospitalized for observation and/or treatment.

Most DWI suspects have their blood tested by blowing into a breath testing device. These devices can be faulty and not well-maintained or properly calibrated. They can register false results based on your consumption of food and other non-harmful substances other than alcohol or drugs.

The Best Houston DWI Lawyer will likely subpoena police records on how the breath testing machine operates and was maintained and calibrated. He may also want to bring in expert testimony that the particular breath testing machine the officer used is notorious for malfunctioning.

Depending on the jurisdiction, another defense to breath testing machines arises when the physical breath tests aren’t preserved as evidence, allowing for independent testing later. Your attorney can argue that there’s no way to know if the machine that was used was accurate, if your breath samples can’t be independently tested.

Many of the defenses against DWI charges require a lawyer’s expertise and experience. If you have been arrested for a DWI offense in Texas, do not try to handle the legal situation yourself. Contact the experienced and respected Texas DWI defense attorneys at the Charles Johnson Law Firm right away to make sure that your rights are protected.

We can be reached 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Call us at 713-222-7577 or toll free at 877-308-0100.
Major Credit Cards Accepted.

Arrested for DWI in the Houston Area? Houston DWI Lawyer Charles Johnson
by Charles Johnson

Facing False Charges of Child Abuse? Select the Leading Houston Child Abuse Lawyer Charles Johnson

Best Child Abuse Defense AttorneyIf you have been falsely accused of Child Abuse, it is essential that you hire a Houston Child Abuse Lawyer who specializes in these types of cases to protect your legal rights. A conviction for Child Abuse can lead to serious legal consequences, including the loss of your right to be around children, the loss of the right to be with your own children, and time in jail. A conviction for Child Abuse charges can also lead to more personal consequences like embarrassment and a life-long label as a child abuser. Courts, as well as the public, are generally eager to convict and punish an individual who is responsible for exposing a child to abuse. A child’s testimony may have the ability to sway the outcome of a trial, even if their testimony is not accurate. Houston Criminal Lawyer Charles Johnson specializes in effectively and successfully defending his clients against Child Abuse charges. You can contact him directly anytime night or day at (713) 222-7577 to discuss your case.

What is Child Abuse?

According to Chapter 261 of the Family Code (recodified in 1995), child abuse is an act or omission that endangers or impairs a child ‘s physical, emotional or mental health and development. Child abuse may take the form of physical or emotional injury, sexual abuse, sexual exploitation, physical neglect, medical neglect, or inadequate supervision.

The law specifically excludes “reasonable” discipline by the child’s conservator, parent, or guardian; corporal punishment is not in itself abusive under the law. An act or omission is abusive only if “material and observable impairment” occurs as a result, or if it causes “substantial harm,” or exposes the child to risk of substantial harm.

Neglect, like physical and emotional abuse, hinges on substantial harm or observable and material impairment. The law excludes from its definition of neglect any failure to provide for the child that is due to lack of financial resources. A child living in poverty is not a victim of neglect under the Texas Family Code except in cases where relief has been offered and refused by the child’s parent, conservator, or guardian .

A person commits abuse if they place a child, or allows a child to be placed, in a situation where the child is exposed to “substantial risk” of injury or harm. The law also clearly states that a person commits abuse if they fail to make a reasonable effort to prevent another person from abusing a child.

If you have been charged with Child Abuse, one of the most important steps you can take is to not speak with anyone other than your lawyer about the details of the case. Often times, defendants incriminate themselves by speaking to the police or engaging in phone conversations where certain statements can be taken out of context.

You need a Child Abuse Lawyer who will treat your Child Abuse defense seriously. Being charged with Child Abuse could have a devastating impact on your life and the lives of your family. Houston Criminal Lawyer Charles Johnson will diligently fight for your rights, reputation and future. Contact him now at (713) 222-7577 for expert legal guidance.

Physical Abuse

Physical abuse typically occurs when a frustrated parent or caregiver strikes, shakes, or throws a child because of anger. Other forms of deliberate assault that may be physically abusive include burning, scalding, biting, kicking, cutting, poking, twisting a child’s limbs, deliberately withholding food, binding, gagging, choking, or hitting the child with a closed fist or other instrument. If it results in injury, any form of corporal punishment may be abusive.

Physical injuries resulting from child abuse can run the gamut from lacerations, burns, and bruises, to head injuries, broken bones, broken teeth, and damage to internal organs. Context, circumstances, and the exact nature of the wounds usually set apart the injuries resulting from abuse. Specially trained professionals must make the determination whether a child has actually been abused or not.

Due to the delicate and sensitive nature of a child abuse case, it is important to have the advice and the counsel of a professional who is experienced in this type of case. Houston Attorney Charles Johnson specializes in cases that deal with Child Abuse. Don’t take chances with your future. Contact him today.

Unexplained Death of a Child

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is the sudden, unexplained death of an infant—a child between one month and one year old. It is frightening because it is strikes without warning, and medical science has been unable to determine exactly why it happens.

SUDC (Sudden Unexplained Death in Childhood) is the sudden and unexpected death of a child over the age of twelve months, which remains unexplained after a thorough case investigation is conducted. Similar to SIDS, SUDC is a diagnosis of exclusion – given when all known and possible causes of death have been ruled out. By definition, SIDS applies only to the death of babies younger than 12 months, while SUDC victims are past their first birthday whose deaths go unexplained even after an autopsy, a death scene investigation and medical history review.

The death of an infant due to SIDS or SUDC is a devastating event that can leave parents feeling sad, guilty, angry, and confused. Although we all do our best to keep children safe, sometimes the worst happens and kids suffer major injuries. If your child has been seriously hurt and you need legal advice, contact Houston Lawyer Charles Johnson anytime at (713) 222-7577 for a free case review.

Shaken Baby Syndrome

There is a growing trend of misdiagnosed Shaken Baby Syndrome cases occurring in America today. Typically, a parent or caretaker is falsely accused of murdering or injuring a baby by shaking him or her, when the actual cause of the death or injury occurs from another source.

If a child is held by the shoulders or chest and shaken violently, often no external injury is visible. The impact of the brain on the inside of the skull may prove damaging or even fatal, especially if the child is less than two years old or is shaken repeatedly. Symptoms of injury include vomiting and seizures. An infant who is violently shaken may suffer convulsions, permanent brain damage, and death. A young child who survives a severe shaking episode may be blind, deaf, or otherwise disabled as a result. Even less violent shaking of older children may cause neurological deficits, as well as learning and behavioral disorders.

If you have been charged with child abuse involving Shaken Baby Syndrome, it is important to contact an immediately to begin gathering all necessary medical information and begin preparation of your case. If your child or a child you have been caring for has been injured or has passed away, you already have too much to deal with. Do not let overzealous prosecutors portray you as a violent child abuser.

Sexual Abuse

Child sexual abuse remains, in the overwhelming majority of cases, a crime perpetrated by members of the child’s family and circle of trust. Sexual abuse is defined in the Family Code as any sexual conduct harmful to a child’s mental, emotional, or physical welfare as well as failure to make a reasonable effort to prevent sexual conduct with a child. A person who compels or encourages a child to engage in sexual conduct commits abuse, and it is against the law to make or possess child pornography, or to display such material to a child.

If you are facing potential Child Sexual Abuse charges, it is critical that you use a legal defense team with specific experience and expertise dealing with crimes against children. Call Houston Sex Crimes Lawyer Charles Johnson at (713) 222-7577 for a free, confidential initial consultation. Early intervention is critical to obtaining the best results.

Best Child Abuse Defense AttorneySexual abuse may consist of a single incident or many acts over a long period of time. Boys and girls of any age can be victims of sexual abuse. The molester can be just about anyone, but most often, it is someone known to the child. The abuse may escalate over time, particularly if the abuser is a member of the child’s own family. The child’s non-abusing caregiver(s) may be unaware of the abuse or may be in a state of denial.

Child sexual abuse includes fondling, lewd or lascivious exposure or behavior, intercourse, sodomy, oral copulation, penetration of a genital or anal opening by a foreign object, child pornography, child prostitution, and any other “sexual conduct harmful to a child’s mental, emotional, or physical welfare.” These acts may be forced upon the child or the child may be coaxed, seduced, and persuaded to cooperate. The absence of force or coercion does not diminish the abusive nature of the conduct, but, sadly, it may cause the child to feel responsible for what has occurred.

It is extremely difficult for a child to report sexual abuse. A very young child may not understand that what has happened is not normal or accepted. More importantly, the abuser almost always discourages the child from telling anyone about the abuse. The strategies for silencing a sexual abuse victim are as ruthless as they are varied. The abuser may be someone whom the child depends upon and trusts; s/he may use the child’s dependency and affection to extort a promise of secrecy. A more brutal perpetra­tor may threaten to harm and even kill the child or other family members or pets. Or the abuser may tell the child that the family will be broken up, the child blamed, or the child taken away from home if the secret becomes known. These are not altogether unrealistic fears for the child, unfortunately.

For many people, an allegation or disclosure of sexual abuse is indeed hard to accept. This is particularly true when the perpetrator is a family member or an otherwise law-abiding, respectable, and seemingly “nice,” “normal” person. Many adults have a tendency to overlook, discount, minimize, explain away, or simply disbelieve allegations of sexual abuse. Yet children rarely lie or invent stories on their own about being sexually abused. The fact that children can sometimes be manipulated or coached should not dissuade anyone from reporting a child’s revelation of sexual abuse. All responsible adults, but particularly those who work with children, should be aware that sexual abuse occurs and should be alert for the opportunity to aid a child who attempts to disclose abuse. The child’s need for support and protection must come first.

Sexual assault by a stranger versus a family member

Sexual assault of a child is a violation of the Penal Code, regardless of whether the perpetrator is a stranger or family member. Assault by a stranger and assault by a family member may involve similar criminal charges. In addition, an assault by a family member, especially one who lives in the household with the child, may be the basis for a civil action such as removal of the child from the home. In fact, assaults by strangers are much less common than assaults by persons known to the child. Perhaps the most common scenario for child sexual assault involves the male partner of a young girl’s mother (the girl is assaulted by her father, stepfather, or her mother’s boyfriend).

Child molesters

The child molester is sexually attracted to children (usually children of a certain age) and assaults them to obtain sexual gratification. While anyone of any age, race, or gender can be a child molester, this person is typically an adult heterosexual male. Most often, molestation is not a “stranger” assault, and may not involve force. Many child molesters relate quite well to children and seek out professions, jobs, or volunteer positions that give them access to children. They often make or collect child pornography.

Their methods of seduction may include bribes and the use of pornography depicting sex between adults and children the age of the intended victim. The relationship with the child may develop over a period of weeks or months, becoming increasingly coercive and invasive. Child molesters repeatedly offend and may molest or attempt to molest literally hundreds of children before being caught. The victims, while frequently befriended by the child molester, are generally not related by blood or marriage.

Molestation is an umbrella term that includes a number of sex offenses against children including, but not limited to:

A person convicted of any of the above acts will suffer extensive damage to their personal, professional, and social life in addition to other serious penalties and punishments including imprisonment, loss of rights, financial reimbursement to the victim, and more.

Houston Sex Crimes Lawyer Charles Johnson has a wealth of experience handling sex crime cases and will work diligently to ensure your legal rights and interests are protected every step of the way. His firm is dedicated to thoroughly investigating your case, building a strong defense, negotiating with other parties to dismiss or reduce your charges, and more. If you want someone who is on your side, please contact Houston Lawyer Charles Johnson today for a complimentary consultation.

Sexual Assault of a Child as Defined by Law

Like all states, Texas protects children from sexual contact short of statutory rape. Like statutory rape, consent is not an issue, the age of consent is 17, and there is an affirmative defense if the two parties are close in age:

§ 21.11. INDECENCY WITH A CHILD.  (a) A person commits an offense if, with a child younger than 17 years and not the person’s spouse, whether the child is of the same or opposite sex, the person:

(1)  engages in sexual contact [defined below]with the child or causes

the child to engage in sexual contact;  or

(2)  with intent to arouse or gratify the sexual desire of any person:

(A)  exposes the person’s anus or any part of the person’s genitals, knowing the    child is  present;  or

(B)  causes the child to expose the child’s anus or any part of the child’s genitals.

(b)  It is an affirmative defense to prosecution under this section that the actor:

(1)  was not more than three years older than the victim and of the opposite sex;

(2)  did not use duress, force, or a threat against the victim at the time of the offense;  and

(3)  at the time of the offense:

(A)  was not required under Chapter 62, Code of Criminal Procedure, to register    for life as a sex offender;  or

(B)  was not a person who under Chapter 62 had a reportable conviction or    adjudication for an offense under this section.

(c)  In this section, “sexual contact” means the following acts, if committed with the intent to arouse or gratify the sexual desire of any person:

(1)  any touching by a person, including touching through clothing, of the anus, breast, or  any part of the genitals of a child;  or

(2)  any touching of any part of the body of a child, including touching through clothing,  with the anus, breast, or any part of the genitals of a person.

(d)  An offense under Subsection (a)(1) is a felony of the second degree and an offense under Subsection (a)(2) is a felony of the third degree.

Sexual Assault (Statutory Rape)

Forcible rape was a common law offense.  Consensual sex with a child was criminalized by a statute by Parliament, and is thus termed “statutory” rape.   The Texas version is found in TPC sec. 21.011 (2). It provides that an actor commits an offense if he or she

2)  intentionally or knowingly:

(A)  causes the penetration of the anus or sexual organ of a child by any means;

(B)  causes the penetration of the mouth of a child by the sexual organ of the actor;

(C)  causes the sexual organ of a child to contact or penetrate the mouth, anus, or sexual organ of another person, including the actor;

(D)  causes the anus of a child to contact the mouth, anus, or sexual organ of another person,  including the actor;  or

(E)  causes the mouth of a child to contact the anus or sexual organ of another person, including the actor.

Note that like the forcible rape version, the statute is gender neutral and includes sex acts other than vaginal intercourse.  There is no element of lack of consent .

A child is defined as someone younger than 17 years of age who is not the spouse of the actor.  Because the acts are consensual, there is, unlike in the forcible rape version, a spousal exception. Persons under 17 are presumed incapable of giving a valid consent, except when married.  Age 17 is referred to as the “age of consent,”–the age at which the law assumes a valid consent can be given.

There is a defense of medical care: “(d) It is a defense to prosecution under Subsection (a)(2) that the conduct consisted of medical care for the child and did not include any contact between the anus or sexual organ of the child and the mouth, anus, or sexual organ of the actor or a third party.”

There is also a defense if the offender and victim are close in age, are not close relatives, and the offender does not have certain prior convictions for certain sex offenses.  In these situations it is less likely that there is some form of improper exploitation of a young victim by an older predator.

(e)  It is an affirmative defense to prosecution under Subsection (a)(2) that:

(1)  the actor was not more than three years older than the victim and at the time of the offense:

(A)  was not required under Chapter 62, Code of Criminal Procedure, to register for

life as a sex offender;  or

(B)  was not a person who under Chapter 62, Code of Criminal Procedure, had a reportable conviction or adjudication for an offense under this section;  and

(2)  the victim:

(A)  was a child of 14 years of age or older;  and

(B)  was not a person whom the actor was prohibited from marrying or purporting to marry or with whom the actor was prohibited from living under the appearance of being married under Section 25.01.

The statute does not say that the defendant must know that the victim is under 17, and Texas courts have not created such a requirement.  Thus, (as in a majority of states) mistake of fact about the victim’s age is not a defense.

New Super Aggravated Offenses: Continuous Sexual Abuse Of Young Child Or Children

In response to legal issues regarding notice, election, jeopardy and unanimity, the 80th Legislature added Section 21.02 to the Penal Code, which defines a new offense entitled Continuous Sexual Abuse Of Young Child Or Children. The new statute provides that a person commits an offense if, during a period of time of 30 days or more, the person commits two or more acts of sexual abuse, regardless of whether the acts of sexual abuse are committed against one or more victims, and at the time of the commission of each of the acts of sexual abuse, the actor is seventeen years of age or older and the victim is a child younger than fourteen years of age. § 21.02(b). For purposes of this section an “act of sexual abuse”, includes aggravated kidnaping with the intent to violate or abuse the victims sexually; indecency with a child, other than by touching the breast of a child, or exposure; sexual assault of a child pursuant to section 22.011; aggravated sexual assault under section 22.021; burglary with the intent to commit one of the foregoing offenses; and sexual performance by a child under section 43.25. §21.02(c), P.C.

It is imperative that you contact Houston Lawyer Charles Johnson immediately when you learn that you are under investigation for this serious offense. You can reach him directly at (713) 222-7577 to discuss your options.

Penalties for Child Abuse and Sentencing

A person charged with child abuse faces a wide range of penalties and sentencing possibilities, depending on several factors. These include the state where the abuse took place, the age of the child, whether the offense involved sexual abuse, whether the child was physically or mentally injured, and the criminal history of the offender.

Sentencing for child abuse and neglect cases is often difficult for everyone involved — especially since child abuse cases are often highly publicized and the potential for a social stigma on the family is great.

In most states, child abuse may be charged as either a felony or a less serious offense depending on the circumstances. The most severe cases of child abuse may carry felony lifetime sentences, while the least serious cases are considered gross misdemeanors with potentially no jail time. Punishment will typically be more severe if the offender has a prior record of criminal child abuse activity and greatly reduced if there is no prior record.

For sentencing purposes, a person charged with child abuse may enter a guilty, not guilty, or no contest plea. In a large number of cases, sentencing will typically include probation or a prison term of up to five years. Sentencing in other, more serious, cases may include a longer prison term.

Other possible penalties and/or consequences may include:

  • Lifetime requirement to register as a child sexual offender
  • Termination of parental rights
  • Ruined reputation
  • Criminal record
  • Supervised access to the child
  • Physical or actual loss and enjoyment of a child
  • Continual involvement with a child protective services agency

People who fail to report child abuse or neglect also face penalties and consequences in some states with mandatory reporting laws. In those states, if a person has reason to suspect that someone is abusing a child, they must report it through a hotline or law enforcement agency. Failure to report such cases in a timely manner is considered a misdemeanor in most states and may result in fines, jail time, or both.

Statute of Limitations for Sexual Assault of a Child Crimes

Felony indictments must be presented within these time limits:

No limitation:

  • Continuous sexual abuse of a young child/children
  • Aggravated sexual assault of a child
  • Sexual assault of a child
  • Indecency with a child
  • Sexual assault of an adult if DNA evidence is present

20 years from the victim’s 18th birthday:

  • Sexual performance by a child
  • Aggravated kidnapping with intent to commit sexual offense
  • Burglary of habitation with intent to commit sexual offense

10 years from the date of the commission of the offense:

  • Sexual assault of an adult
  • Aggravated sexual assault of an adult

Sections 21 and 22 of the Texas Penal Code define indecency with a child, sexual assault, aggravated sexual assault and other sex crimes. In these cases, “child” means a person younger than 17 years of age who is not the spouse of the actor.

Possible Defenses for Child Abuse Charges

Defending yourself against a child abuse charge can be difficult especially if it involves the testimony of a child. Combine that with the media’s negative depiction of child abuse offenders and it may seem impossible to overcome the harsh realities of a child abuse allegation.

If you are charged with child abuse – whether physical, emotional, or sexual – a criminal defense lawyer can devise a sound defense strategy and help cast doubt on the prosecutor’s case. Like other crimes, a person charged with child abuse has the same rights as defendants of other crimes, including the right to defend themselves against a criminal charge.

While child abuse laws aim to protect children, the justice system is set up to vindicate those who are wrongfully accused. Below are some of the most common (and some not so common) defenses that a person may assert on a child abuse charge:

False Allegations of Child Abuse

A common defense to child abuse charges is to say you didn’t do it. False accusations of child abuse are more common than most people think, especially in dysfunctional families or between parents who are involved in a difficult child custody battle. Although sometimes difficult to prove, the best strategy to defend false child abuse charges is to aggressively counter-attack allegations and show proof of the lie or similar wrongful conduct by the accuser.

The Injury Is a Result of an Accident

Most state child abuse laws do not punish accidents, unless the accident was a result of recklessness or gross carelessness. Examples of true accidents may include pushing your child on a bike and causing him to fall and scrape his knees or unknowingly slamming your toddler’s hand in the door. When a child’s injuries are a result of an accident, a person may raise this as a defense against child abuse charges but courts are split as to whether to prosecute parents who accidently cause harm to a child when acting with negligence (such as leaving a sleeping baby in a car alone on a hot day).

The Injury Is a Result of Something Other Than Child Abuse

Sometimes parents are falsely accused of child abuse based on non-accidental situations, such as when a child fights with another child and injures himself or when a child has a pre-existing medical condition that contributes to her own injuries. For example, one type of disease called “brittle bone disease” has been raised as a defense to show that one’s injuries were the result of a disorder that causes a child’s bones to break easily, and not a result of child abuse.

Parent’s Right to Discipline

Parents are generally free to discipline their children in any manner they choose, so long as the discipline is reasonable and causes no bodily injury. The question of how a parent disciplines a child (such as through spanking or threat of spanking), however, is often the subject of many child abuse cases. In certain circumstances, a parent, or one standing in “loco parentis “(such as a teacher), can raise the defense of “parental privilege” and claim that they had the right to reasonably discipline a child under their authority. However, if a child’s injuries are more serious than minor bruising as a result of the discipline, the parental privilege may not apply.

Religious Beliefs or Exemption

Even though it’s hard to grasp the thought of a child dying from an easily treatable illness, parents may claim an exemption to child abuse for religious reasons when a child dies because of a parent’s failure to seek medical care for their sick child. Although controversial, this religious exemption is a defense in all but a handful of states, and allows parents to escape charges of child abuse if they choose to pray for their sick children rather than take them to a doctor.

Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy

In rare cases, an individual accused of child abuse may raise the little-known defense called Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy (MSBP). MSBP is used to describe incidents in which a child caregiver, usually the mother, either lies about or promotes illnesses in their children in an attempt to draw attention or sympathy to themselves. This defense usually requires proof of psychological or medical data.

There may be other defenses available depending on the circumstances in your particular case. If you need assistance with defending charges of Child Abuse in Houston, Attorney Charles Johnson can help you understand your rights with respect to child abuse laws in your state. You can contact him directly day or night at (713) 222-7577 to discuss your case.

Hire the Best Houston Child Abuse Lawyer: The Charles Johnson Law Firm

The abuse or neglect of a child can have devastating effects on children and their families, as can false allegations, underreporting, and lack of knowledge. Child abuse is often zealously prosecuted and certain people are required by law to report instances of child abuse believed to have taken place.

Best Child Abuse Defense AttorneyWhen very small children are involved, the statements of the children themselves can be manipulated by the investigator. When older children are involved, the child’s behavioral or emotional problems can result in false accusations or manipulation of the investigator’s sympathy. In many cases, a child may simply tell the investigator what he or she thinks the investigator wants to hear.

The goal in a child abuse prosecution is to protect you from the criminal penalties that would follow a conviction and to protect your professional and family interests. Houston Sex Crimes Lawyer Charles Johnson knows how to challenge the findings of a CPS investigation and broaden the inquiry to cover circumstances that show you in a better light as a parent or child care professional.

Child abuse is, of course, a very sensitive issue and Houston Domestic Violence Lawyer Charles Johnson will address your case with this firmly in mind. Any children who are involved in the case will be engaged in the proceedings as little as possible in order to shield them from this litigation. When their involvement is necessary to improve the chances of a positive outcome, they will be treated with the utmost care and respect. Attorney Johnson is well versed in all areas of domestic violence and abuse cases and is ready to assist you in your legal matter. Contact him directly around the clock at (713) 222-7577 to discuss your case.

 

Houston Child Abuse Lawyer Charles Johnson

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Related News Stories – Child Abuse Charges in Houston, Texas

Charged with Possession of a Controlled Substance? Protect Your Future with the Help of Houston Drug Lawyer Charles Johnson

Hire the Best Drug AttorneyCharges of Possession of a Controlled Substance (POCS) in the Houston area are quite common. Often times the controlled substance charge results after someone has already been arrested. For example, someone is arrested for DWI, public intoxication or an outstanding warrant and the controlled substance is found after arrest or during the process of being booked in to the Harris County Jail. Whether it’s a loose Vicodin pill in your purse or a Xanax pill that your friend gave you, drug charges can be filed.

Conviction for possession of controlled substances can leave you with a large fine, loss of property, or a jail sentence. Conviction for this offense will go down on your record and can affect your chances of getting a job, renting an apartment or home, or hinder your chances of getting an education loan.

If you or someone you love has been arrested and charged for possession of a controlled substance in the Houston area or anywhere in Texas, contact Houston Drug Defense Lawyer Charles Johnson today to get the experienced criminal defense you need and deserve. The Charles Johnson Law Firm has offices located in Houston, Dallas, Austin and San Antonio for your convenience. Attorney Johnson will speak to you whenever you need him. He can be reached directly at (713) 222-7577 24 hours/day, any day of the year.

Possession of a Controlled Substance in Texas

Under Texas Health and Safety Code §§ 481.115 – 481.118, an individual can be charged with the offense of possession of a controlled substance (POCS) if they knowingly or intentionally possess any of the substances listed in Penalty Group I-IV without  a valid prescription from a doctor, including drugs, dangerous drugs, chemicals, narcotics, stimulants, prescription pills, medications, synthetic substances and natural substances. Penalties for possession of controlled substances differ based on the type of drug and the quantity you are carrying.  The penalties for possessing any of the above drugs range from 180 days to 99 years in jail. Your license can also be suspended for six months if you are convicted of violating the Texas Controlled Substance Act, and police have the right to seize any property, such as your car or home, that was used or was going to be used in the commission of drugs.

Charges of Possession of a Controlled Substance

It is an offense under both state and federal law to be in possession of any controlled substance and this is the most common charge filed involving drugs.  Possession is defined as the actual care, custody, control or management.  Actual possession refers to actual physical possession of a controlled substance while constructive possession usually is alleged when the controlled substance was found in an area where the person had access to or otherwise exercised control over (such as the trunk of a car or a safe).  This means that while a person can be charged with possession of a controlled substance even if the controlled substance was not actually found on the person, the charges can be challenged on the basis that the person did not exercise care, custody or control over the substance.  The focus in those cases is on whether the government can prove the person had “affirmative links” to the controlled substance.  Experienced Drug Attorney Charles Johnson has successfully challenged a client’s accusation of possession of controlled substance by making the case that there were no “affirmative links” to his client and the controlled substance.

Delivery of a Controlled Substance

It is an offense under both state and federal law to deliver or to have an intent to deliver a controlled substance.  “Deliver” means to transfer, actually or constructively, to another person and includes offering to sell a controlled substance as well.  Therefore, money does not have to actually be exchanged, and the “middleman” who helped arrange the transaction can also be prosecuted under this theory.  Under federal law, the most commonly charged delivery offense is possession of a controlled substance with the intent to deliver.  Under that type of charge, the government does not have to prove that you actually delivered the substance, but only that you had an intent to do so.  Most often, the government will attempt to this intent based on the large quantity of drugs found, or the possession of other indicators including scales, baggies, or cutting agents.

Manufacturing of a Controlled Substance

It is an offense under both state and federal law to manufacture a controlled substance.  Manufacturing refers to the production or creation of drugs and is most commonly prosecuted in cases involving marijuana grow operations or meth labs.  It is also a crime to possess certain drug precursors with the intent to manufacture and pharmacies now vigilantly monitor the sales of commonly used precursors such as certain cold medicines, matches, and lighter fluid.

Conspiracy to Possess with the Intent to Distribute a Controlled Substance

One of the most frequently charged drug offenses in federal court is conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute a controlled substance, which involves actively planning with others to possess or distribute a controlled substance, regardless of actual possession or delivery.  This is typically the most serious type of drug accusation and usually involves multiple defendants and large quantities of drugs and can be extremely serious and complicated.

Possession of Methamphetamine

Due to the skyrocketing methamphetamine problem, the penalties for possession, delivery and manufacturing of methamphetamine have become extremely severe.  In addition, in Texas, depending on the quantity, there is a 15-20 mandatory minimum sentence if a child younger than 18 years of age was present on when the manufacturing of a controlled substance offense occurred.  In an effort to combat methamphetamine production, many counties in Texas have implemented “Meth Watch” programs which record and monitor over-the-counter cold medicines, prescription drugs, and household ingredients which are used to manufacture methamphetamine.

Possession of Cocaine

It is an offense to possess or distribute even the smallest amount of cocaine.  For example, even if there is a trace amount of cocaine found in a baggie, you can still be charged with possession of a cocaine which is a felony.  In the federal system, the penalties for cocaine base (crack cocaine) are notoriously severe.  In fact, the sentences for possession of cocaine base were so severe, especially in comparison with possession of an equal amount of powder cocaine, that the United States Sentencing Commission recently amended the Federal Sentencing Guidelines to slightly reduce the penalties for crack cocaine offenses.

Possession of Marijuana

It is an offense to possess, distribute or cultivate marijuana.  Depending on the quantity, possession of marijuana can be charged as a misdemeanor of felony in both state and federal court.  Under state law, possession of less than four ounces is a misdemeanor; however, you must have possessed a “usable quantity” to be charged with possession of marijuana.

Possession of Illegal Prescription Medications

It is an offense under both state and federal law to possess a prescription drug if you are not the valid prescription holder or to deliver a validly issued prescription drug to another person.  It is also a crime to forge or alter a prescription.  Prescription drug cases are prosecuted as aggressively as controlled substance cases and the penalties can be just as serious.

Possession of Paraphernalia

Under Texas law, it is a crime to possess or deliver drug paraphernalia.  Depending on the circumstances, what constitutes drug paraphernalia is very broad and can include pipes, lighters, plastic baggies and rolling papers if the government can show that there was an intent to use the items to use drugs.  In addition, it is also a crime to possess any items with the intent that they be used to cultivate a controlled substance which could include gardening equipment and fertilizers.

Penalties and Punishment for Possession of Controlled Substance in Texas

The penalty for Possession of a Controlled Substance is set out in the Texas Health and Safety Code, which vary upon various factors that generally include the type of the controlled substance and the amount of the controlled substance. The Texas Health and Safety Code creates five penalty groups that controlled substances are classified under:

Penalty Group

Examples of Drug/Controlled Substance

1

Cocaine, Heroin, Methamphetamine, Codeine, Oxycodone, Hydrocodone, Rohypnol and GHB

1A

LSD

2

Ecstasy, Amphetamines, Mushrooms, PCP and Mescaline

3

Valium, Xanax and Ritalin

4

Compounds containing Dionine, Motofen, Buprenorphone or Pryovalerone

Penalty Group 1

Weight

Charge

Range of Punishment

Less than one gram

State jail Felony

180 days to 2 years in state jail and a fine not to exceed $10,000

1 gram or more, but less than 4 grams

Third-degree Felony

2 to 10 years in a state prison and a fine not to exceed $10,000

4 grams or more, but less than 200 grams

Second-degree Felony

2 to 20 years in a state prison and a fine not to exceed $10,000

200 grams or more, but less than 400 grams

First-degree Felony

5 to 99 years or life in a state prison and a fine not to exceed $10,000

400 grams or more

Enhanced First-degree Felony

10 to 99 years or life in a state prison and a fine up to $100,000

Penalty Group 1A

Units

Charge

Range of Punishment

Fewer than 20 units

State jail Felony

180 days to 2 years in state jail and a fine not to exceed $10,000

20 units or more, but less than 80 units

Third-degree Felony

2 to 10 years in a state prison and a fine not to exceed $10,000

80 units or more, but less than 4,000 units

Second-degree Felony

2 to 20 years in a state prison and a fine not to exceed $10,000

4,000 units or more, but less than 8,000 units

First-degree Felony

5 to 99 years or life in a state prison and a fine not to exceed $10,000

8,000 units or more

Enhanced First-degree Felony

15 to 99 years or life in a state prison and a fine up to $250,000

Penalty Group 2

Weight

Charge

Range of Punishment

Less than one gram

State jail Felony

180 days to 2 years in state jail and a fine not to exceed $10,000

More than 1 gram, but less than 4 grams

Third-degree Felony

2 to 10 years in a state prison and a fine not to exceed $10,000

More than 4 grams, but less 400 grams

Second-degree Felony

2 to 20 years in a state prison and a fine not to exceed $10,000

400 grams or more

Enhanced First-degree Felony

5 to 99 years or life in a state prison and a fine not to exceed $50,000

Penalty Group 3

Weight

Charge

Range of Punishment

Less than 28 grams

Class A Misdemeanor

Up to 1 year in county jail and a fine not to exceed $4,000

28 grams or more, but less than 200 grams

Third-degree Felony

2 to 10 years in a state prison and a fine not to exceed $10,000

200 grams or more, but less than 400 grams

Second-degree Felony

2 to 20 years in a state prison and a fine not to exceed $10,000

400 grams or more

Enhanced First-degree Felony

5 to 99 years or life in a state prison and a fine not to exceed $50,000

Penalty Group 4

Weight

Charge

Range of Punishment

Less than 28 grams

Class B Misdemeanor

Up to 180 days in county jail and a fine not to exceed $2,000

28 grams or more, but less than 200 grams

Third-degree Felony

2 to 10 years in a state prison and a fine not to exceed $10,000

200 grams or more, but less than 400 grams

Second-degree Felony

2 to 20 years in a state prison and a fine not to exceed $10,000

400 grams or more

Enhanced First-degree Felony

5 to 99 years or life in a state prison and a fine not to exceed $50,000

Additional penalties may include the suspension of your driver’s license or the possibility or seizure and forfeiture of any property if the property was used or was going to be used in the commission of a drug crime.

Possible Defenses for Possession of Controlled Substance Charges

There are many ways to defend a possession of a controlled substance charge. One of the primary defenses to possession of controlled substance cases is to examine the search and seizure process. The fourth Amendment protects citizens from unlawful searches of property. Was there probable cause? Did the officials read you your rights? In some cases the drugs aren’t illegal and the person had a prescription and right to possess them. The element of possession is crucial in a possession of a controlled substance case.

It must be proven that you actually exercised a great degree of care, custody, control or management of the drug. Since many drug arrests in Texas involve finding drugs in a home or car it can be unclear who actually possessed or controlled the drugs. The individual must have full knowledge of possession — if they are unaware, then no crime has been committed. This could happen when an individual borrows a friend’s car only to be pulled over and charged with possession when marijuana is found in the glove box.

Keeping the above items in mind, according to Texas law the offense of drug possession occurs when a person has knowledge that they have a controlled substance within their control and have the intent to possess that substance.

If you have been charged with possession of a controlled substance, contact Houston Drug Lawyer Charles Johnson immediately. In many cases, he can get your case dismissed or reduced and avoid having a felony conviction on your record.

Attorney Johnson can examine and review the circumstance surrounding your possession arrest and develop a defense that is unique to the circumstances surrounding your case.

The Charles Johnson Law Firm combines the experience of a criminal defense attorney with a seasoned support staff and professional investigators. Investigations start immediately by securing documentation involving witness statements and police reports. Police labs are put on notice to verify the alleged illegal substance and its true quantity.

After the facts are assembled, we will pursue the best outcome by negotiating a reduced punishment or pursue a trial in court. Options also exist that encompass counseling and rehabilitation programs for addiction problems.

Possession of a Controlled Substance: Hire the Best Houston Drug Lawyer

Possession of marijuana is in a separate drug offense category in Texas but is still extremely serious with the potential of being charged as a felony or misdemeanor, depending on the amount possessed. All charges in Texas for drug possession are quite serious. This is not the time to hide your head in the sand and hope for the best — you need an aggressive attorney who will fight hard to get your charges dismissed or possibly reduced. A drug conviction on your record will follow you for the rest of your life, so take it very seriously and hire an attorney who does the same.

Contact Experienced Houston Drug Defense Lawyer Charles Johnson if you have been arrested for possession of a controlled substance. An arrest for possession of controlled substance in Texas can have devastating consequences and severe repercussions that can in all probability be avoided if you select the right lawyer. Call Attorney Johnson anytime day or night at (713) 222-7577. He is available to discuss your case whenever you need him.

Possession of a Controlled Substance

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News Stories Related to Possession of a Controlled Substance in Houston:

False Allegations of Sexual Assault of a Minor: Guilty Until Proven Innocent by Houston Sex Crimes Lawyer Charles Johnson

Charles Johnson: Best Houston Criminal Defense Attorney

Texas takes cases of sexual assault against a child very seriously. If the state can prove that an act involving a child was for the perpetrator’s sexual gratification, it is considered a sex crime. If there was physical contact involving sexual penetration or intrusion between the child and the accused, a sexual assault charge is likely.

Sexual allegations where children are involved are delicate and complicated cases to defend. This type of sexual accusation can be devastating in every aspect of your life. The presumption of innocence in our legal system may do little to protect those accused. Indecency with a child, like other sexual allegations, is one area where accused people often find they are put in a position where they have to prove their innocence. You cannot allow embarrassment to keep you from getting a skilled criminal defense attorney on your indecency case IMMEDIATELY. Every minute you wait, there is potentially more damage being done to your life and potentially more false evidence being collected to prosecute you. Early on in a sex related case investigation and legal protection is imperative. Charles Johnson, Houston Sex Crimes Lawyer, will handle your case with discretion and skill. He will fight to keep you out of jail, keep your reputation intact, and fight to keep your life from falling apart.

It is well established and understood by experts that many accusations of indecency with a child and sexual assault of a child are false. Many are grossly exaggerated. The reasons giving rise to false accusations of such conduct are varied. A child can imagine or dream such an incident. Perhaps the child was abused by another previously and misinterpreted and then exaggerated innocent incidental contact. Children have been known to fabricate such accusations because they were angry at the accused or were jealous, even for the most trivial reasons. Children can be led to make such claims by another angry or jealous adult, such as the accused’s spouse or lover. They are too young to comprehend how grave such a false accusation can be.

Under Texas law, a sexual encounter with a child or sexual contact with a child is either Indecency with a Child, Sexual Assault of a Child, or Aggravated Sexual Assault of a Child, depending on the nature of the incident or contact.

Indecency with a Child. Allegations of certain types of sexual contact with a child, exposure to a child or causing the exposure of a child, who is under the age of 17, can lead to charges of Indecency with a Child. Such an offense may be a second or third degree felony. A defense may exist where, in such an incident, no duress, force or threat was used and the accused was not more than three years older than the child at the time.

Sexual Assault of a Child. If more violative and egregious contact is alleged, the accused may be charged with Sexual Assault of a Child, also a second degree felony. Again, a defense may exist where, in such an incident, no duress, force or threat was used and the accused was not more than three years older than the child at the time.

Aggravated Sexual Assault of a Child. Sexual Assault of a Child becomes “aggravated” (first degree felony) when force or threat of force is used or when the child is younger than 14 years of age, regardless of consensual behavior. This latter is also commonly known as “statutory rape”. No child under the age of 14 can consent to such conduct. Mistaken understanding about the child’s age is no defense.

The consequences of a conviction in such matters are extreme. Even if prison time is avoided, an adult’s conviction results in the requirement to register as a sex offender for the rest of one’s life, and to have one’s photograph and address flashed on the computer screen of anyone in the world who decides to access the state’s sex offender registry site.

Indecency with a Child

The commonly phrased crime of child molestation is titled Indecency with a Child in Texas. There are two types of indecency: Indecency with a Child by Contact and Indecency with a Child by Exposure (similar to Indecent Exposure but a child is present). Both are serious felonies. Both require registration as a sex offender upon conviction.

Indecency with a Child by Contact is the more serious offense. The Texas statute does not distinguish between touching under the clothes or touching over clothes ñ any sexual contact is punished as a second degree felony. A person commits the offense of Indecency with a Child by Contact if:

With a child younger than 17 years and not the person’s spouse, whether the child is of the same or opposite sex, the person engages in sexual contact with the child or causes the child to engage in sexual contact.

Sexual contact means the following acts, if committed with the intent to arouse or gratify the sexual desire of any person:

(1) any touching by a person, including touching through clothing, of the anus, breast, or any part of the genitals of a child; or

(2) any touching of any part of the body of a child, including touching through clothing, with the anus, breast, or any part of the genitals of a person.

Indecency with a Child by Exposure is a third degree felony. A person commits the offense if with intent to arouse or gratify the sexual desire of any person he:

(A) exposes the person’s anus or any part of the person’s genitals, knowing the child is present; or

(B) causes the child to expose the child’s anus or any part of the child’s genitals.

The two crimes are often charged in conjunction as separate paragraphs of an indictment. Double jeopardy concerns are raised when the same act is used to prosecute a person for two different crimes. In a prosecution alleging Aggravated Sexual Assault, the acts constituting the assault may also constitute separate crimes of Indecency with a Child by Contact and Indecency with a Child by Exposure. In a prosecution for Indecency with a Child by Contact involving a child touching the genitals of an adult, the crime of Indecency by Exposure would logically also have to have been committed.

Why do these details matter?

Because the rules of evidence concerning extraneous offenses, double jeopardy, the right to election, and jury unanimity are incredibly important protections for innocent people falsely accused of child sex abuse. A three count indictment is more powerful psychologically than a single allegation. Even if all three counts reference the same incident, the news media, the general public, and potential jurors are given a false impression that there was more than one incident. Second, it bolsters prosecution based upon fear rather than proof. Since most people belief “where there’s smoke, there’s fire,” a juror may still convict an innocent person of a lesser charge because while they don’t believe the accused committed the most serious act alleged, he is probably guilty of something. Alleging indecency with a child by contact and indecency with a child by exposure provide two other bites at the apple. Finally, the fundamental nature of the criminal justice system is that the greater offense subsumes the lesser. If a person is accused of murder, the State does not also try to indict him for assault and aggravated assault en route to the completed homicide. When the appellate courts allow the trial courts to aggrandize the number of offenses, it creates inconsistencies in the system.

The fundamental principle of the Constitution is that it shouldn’t matter what youre charged with ñ you have the right to a fair trial. Because of political popularity of getting tough on sex offenses, the centuries of due process and presumption of innocence is being sacrificed for cheap political gain. While this damages the credibility of our justice system in general, it is most harmful to innocent people who are falsely accused. Now that the legislature and appellate courts have rewritten the rules to make it easier to convict a group of people charged with a heinous act, pray that you are never wrongfully accused of a sex crime in Texas.

Aggravated Sexual Assault of a Child

Under most of the State laws, aggravated sexual assault against a child is clubbed with the section defining aggravated sexual assault. There are state specific laws on the subject which varies from state to state.

In Texas a person commits the offense of aggravated sexual assault against a child if he or she intentionally or knowingly:

(i) causes the penetration of the anus or sexual organ of a child younger than 14 years of age by any means;

(ii) causes the penetration of the mouth of a child younger than 14 years of age by the sexual organ of the actor;

(iii) causes the sexual organ of a child younger than 14 years of age to contact or penetrate the mouth, anus, or sexual organ of another person, including the actor;

(iv) causes the anus of a child younger than 14 years of age to contact the mouth, anus, or sexual organ of another person, including the actor; or

(v) causes the mouth of a child younger than 14 years of age to contact the anus or sexual organ of another person, including the actor;

A person can still be prosecuted for aggravated sexual assault of a child if the actor:

1. causes serious bodily injury or attempts to cause the death of the victim or another person in the course of the same criminal episode;

2. by acts or words places the victim in fear that death, serious bodily injury, or kidnapping will be imminently inflicted on any person;

3. by acts or words occurring in the presence of the victim threatens to cause the death, serious bodily injury, or kidnapping of any person;

4. uses or exhibits a deadly weapon in the course of the same criminal episode;

5. acts in concert with another who engages in conduct described by Subdivision (1) directed toward the same victim and occurring during the course of the same criminal episode; or

6. administers or provides flunitrazepam, otherwise known as rohypnol, gamma hydroxybutyrate, or ketamine to the victim of the offense with the intent of facilitating the commission of the offense.

The minimum term of imprisonment for aggravated sexual assault against a child is 25 years if the victim of the offense is younger than six years of age at the time the offense is committed; or the victim of the offense is younger than 14 years of age at the time the offense is committed and the actor commits the offense in a manner described by Subsection (a)(2)(A).

The law as it appears in the statute

Tex. Penal Code ß 22.021. Aggravated Sexual Assault

(a) A person commits an offense:

(1) if the person:

(A) intentionally or knowingly:

(i) causes the penetration of the anus or sexual organ of another person by any means, without that person’s consent;

(ii) causes the penetration of the mouth of another person by the sexual organ of the actor, without that person’s consent; or

(iii) causes the sexual organ of another person, without that person’s consent, to contact or penetrate the mouth, anus, or sexual organ of another person, including the actor; or

(B) intentionally or knowingly:

(i) causes the penetration of the anus or sexual organ of a child by any means;

(ii) causes the penetration of the mouth of a child by the sexual organ of the actor;

(iii) causes the sexual organ of a child to contact or penetrate the mouth, anus, or sexual organ of another person, including the actor;

(iv) causes the anus of a child to contact the mouth, anus, or sexual organ of another person, including the actor; or

(v) causes the mouth of a child to contact the anus or sexual organ of another person, including the actor; and

(2) if:

(A) the person:

(i) causes serious bodily injury or attempts to cause the death of the victim or another person in the course of the same criminal episode;

(ii) by acts or words places the victim in fear that death, serious bodily injury, or kidnapping will be imminently inflicted on any person;

(iii) by acts or words occurring in the presence of the victim threatens to cause the death, serious bodily injury, or kidnapping of any person;

(iv) uses or exhibits a deadly weapon in the course of the same criminal episode;

(v) acts in concert with another who engages in conduct described by Subdivision (1) directed toward the same victim and occurring during the course of the same criminal episode; or

(vi) administers or provides flunitrazepam, otherwise known as rohypnol, gamma hydroxybutyrate, or ketamine to the victim of the offense with the intent of facilitating the commission of the offense;

(B) the victim is younger than 14 years of age; or

(C) the victim is an elderly individual or a disabled individual.

(b) In this section:

(1) “Child” has the meaning assigned by Section 22.011(c).

(2) “Elderly individual” and “disabled individual” have the meanings assigned by Section 22.04(c).

(c) An aggravated sexual assault under this section is without the consent of the other person if the aggravated sexual assault occurs under the same circumstances listed in Section 22.011(b).

(d) The defense provided by Section 22.011(d) applies to this section.

(e) An offense under this section is a felony of the first degree.

(f) The minimum term of imprisonment for an offense under this section is increased to 25 years if:

(1) the victim of the offense is younger than six years of age at the time the offense is committed; or

(2) the victim of the offense is younger than 14 years of age at the time the offense is committed and the actor commits the offense in a manner described by Subsection (a)(2)(A).

What makes a Sexual Assault of a Child Charge “Aggravated?”

The offense of Sexual Assault of a Child is defined by Texas Penal Code Sec. 22.011. Basically, the offense involves sexual activity with a person under 17 years of age. Sexual Assault of a Child is Aggravated if the child is under 14 years of age, if a deadly weapon is used or serious bodily injury is threatened. Sexual Assault of a Child is, in most cases, a Second Degree Felony. (2-20 years.) Aggravated Sexual Assault of a Child is a First Degree Felony. (5 to 99 years or life.) If the child was younger than 6 if the child was under six at the time of the offense or there was violence or a threat of violence involved.

What is Indecency with a Child?

Indecency with a Child is defined by Texas Penal Code Sec. 21.11 as either engaging in sexual contact with a child or exposure of one’s anus or genitals to a child under 17 or causing the child to expose his or her anus or genitals to the actor with the intent to arouse or gratify someone sexually. Sexual contact is basically touching of the genitals with intent to arouse or gratify someone sexually. Note that some forms of genital contact may be Sexual Assault of a Child. Indecency with a Child by Contact in most circumstances is a Second Degree Felony. (2 to 20 years.) Indecency with a Child by Exposure is a Third Degree Felony. (2 to 10 years.)

Does the Age of the Accused Matter?

It is an affirmative defense to Indecency with a Child and Sexual Assault of a Child that the actor was not more than three years older than the child, and did not have a prior conviction for certain sexual offenses, and the child was older than 14 and was not related to the actor.

What Should I do if I am Contacted by the Police to Speak to them About an Allegation Against You of Child Sexual Abuse?

The first thing to do is to get a skilled criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. We see may individuals that have placed themselves at a serious disadvantage by speaking with police investigators without the assistance of counsel. Most people have no idea how coercive police interrogations are. Many individuals come away from an intensive interrogation having said things that were not true. If you are contacted by the police to discuss an allegation of child sexual abuse (or any other type of allegation) you should immediately contact Houston Criminal Lawyer Charles Johnson. You and Attorney Johnson can make a decision about whether you should speak to the police at all. If your lawyer advises you to speak to the police, he can be with you to make sure that the questioning is fairly conducted.

How Can I Defend Myself Against a False Accusation of Child Sexual Abuse?

Houston Sexual Assault Lawyer Charles Johnson will investigate your case factually and prepare a defense. It is important to determine why the child has made the accusation. Was the child influenced by an adult? Did the allegations result from improper questioning of the child by authorities? Experts may be added to the defense team to explain to the jury circumstances that could lead to false accusations.

Does Possession of Child Pornography Violate Both State and Federal Law?

Yes. Possession of Child Pornography is prohibited by both Texas law and federal law. Child pornography cases are investigated by local law enforcement, The Texas Office of the Attorney General, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, United States Postal Inspectors and other agencies depending on how the images were discovered. Sometimes state law enforcement officials will begin an investigation but refer the case to the United States Attorney’s Office for prosecution in federal court.

How Can I Defend Myself Against an Accusation of Possession of Child Pornography?

In the age of the Internet, the vast majority of child pornography cases involve digital images found on computer hard drives. The defense lawyer’s first focus is on whether the discovery of the alleged illegal images was in violation of the constitutional rights of the accused. Also, the evidence must show that the accused knew that the images were on the computer hard drive. Examination of the computer’s drive by a forensic expert can sometimes uncover information about who may have place the images on the drive or whether they were intentionally placed there. Further, sometimes the evidence in the case does not prove that the images were of actual children rather than computer generated or altered images. Again, trained experts are needed to make this determination.

Laws in Texas Regarding Sexual Assault of a Child

Child sexual assault is a serious criminal offense in Texas.

Any kind of sexual conduct that harms children, whether physically, emotionally or both, is strictly prohibited in Texas. This includes sexual assault on a child, which is considered particularly heinous in the state. Consequently, engaging in these acts or failing to report this kind of abuse is a serious criminal offense, punishable to the full extent of the law.

Outlawed Acts

Texas Family Code Chapter 261 outlaws any sexual conduct directed at or involving minors as well as failure to report these acts. This includes “fondling, lewd or lascivious exposure or behavior, intercourse, sodomy, oral copulation, penetration of a genital or anal opening by a foreign object, child pornography, child prostitution and any other sexual conduct harmful to a child’s mental, emotional or physical welfare,” according to the website of the Texas Attorney General. Violators are prosecuted to the same extent whether or not children consent to these acts.

Criminal Penalties

Sexual assault and child sex abuse carries severe penalties. Typically, Texas law classifies these offenses as felonies. Additionally, there are specific categories of felonies that different sexual violations fall into in Texas. As of 2010 and according to Texas Penal Code, indecent exposure to a child is a third-degree felony, punishable by 2-10 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines, while aggravated sexual assault on a child is a first-degree felony punishable by up to 99 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. (See References 2 and 4)

Offender Registration

Persons convicted of child sexual assault are required to register with law enforcement officials in Texas. Names and information regarding these convicted sexual offenders are then placed in an online database. This database is considered public record, and any member of the community may view it.

Longer Prison Terms

A series of laws known as Ashley’s Laws were enacted by the Texas legislature in late 1990s to increase penalties for those convicted of child sexual assault. Under these laws, offenders are required to serve at least 50 percent of a prison sentence before being granted parole, though they typically end up serving 80 percent of a sentence.

Harsher Penalties

Also in accordance with Ashley’s Laws, those convicted of child sexual assault in Texas who have been proven to be repeat offenders may face harsher penalties for continued sexual offenses. For example, a repeat child sexual abuser convicted of a second-degree felony may be sentenced with the same penalties as a first-degree felony under these laws. Additionally, a “two-strikes” provision was added to Texas state law for child sex offenders. Normally, a person convicted of three felonies in Texas is automatically sentenced to life in prison. This provision allows for an automatic life sentence for only two felony convictions of child sexual assault.

Mandatory Treatment

Finally, Ashley’s Laws also make it a legal requirement for convicted child sex offenders to undergo treatment in Texas. Because many traditional forms of treatment have proven ineffective in reducing child sexual abuse recidivism rates, some alternative treatments may be used, including certain behavioral modification programs. Additionally, tests may be administered to monitor progress, including the “plethysmograph” test, which monitors sexual arousal when presented with certain materials.

Sexual Assault of a Child: Hire the Best Houston Criminal Defense Attorney Charles Johnson

  • In Texas, for purposes of the Sexual Assault of a Child and Indecency with a Child crimes, a child does not become an adult until age 17. For other sexual-related offenses, including Possession of Child Pornography and Sexual Performance of a Child, the age of an adult is 18 years.
  • In Texas, it is not a defense that the accused did not know the child’s real age. So, the alleged victim could have lied about her age to the accused and the accused will still face criminal charges.The alleged victim cannot legally consent to sexual relations unless the alleged victim is 14 years of age or older and there is only a 3 year or less difference between the ages of the alleged victim and the accused.
  • In Texas, only one eye-witness, the alleged victim, is sufficient for conviction, so long as the jury believes the alleged victim beyond a reasonable doubt.
  • In Texas, neither genital trauma nor DNA evidence is required for a conviction.
  • In Texas, voluntary intoxication is not a defense. So, if the accused goes to a party, gets drunk and sleeps with an underage girl, he cannot use his intoxication as a defense to the crime of Sexual Assault of a Child.
  • In Texas, each separate sexual act can be separately charged within one indictment and, if there is a conviction, each Count can be stacked or served consecutively.

With these types of sexual offenses, there are many other legal issues involved. If a person is charged with sexual assault of a child, possession of child pornography or any type of sex offense, it is important to retain a criminal defense attorney who is experienced defending Texas sex offenses.

If you or a loved one has been charged with the sexual assault of a child, it is important that you contact an experience defense attorney immediately. The consequences for the sexual assault of a child if convicted can be several years in prison and the requirement to register on the sex offender registry. It is never a good idea to represent yourself in court. In a case like this, it is especially important that you find an experienced defense lawyer right away. Even if you have not been charged yet, it would be helpful for you to contact us via phone, anytime night or day, for a free consultation. The defense attorneys at the Charles Johnson Law Firm have had extraordinary success in defending serious cases such as the sexual assault of a child as well as other sex crimes. There are different levels of charges as well as different penalties for charges of sexual assault of a child. During consultation we can explain to you the details of what is possible in your specific case once you provide us with details regarding the matter. Contact Houston Sex Crimes Lawyer Charles Johnson directly at (713) 222-7577 today for a free of charge consultation.


False Allegations of Sexual Assault of a Minor: Guilty Until Proven Innocent by Houston Sex Crimes Lawyer Charles Johnson

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Arrested for Assault? Why You Need a Skilled Houston Criminal Lawyer When Accused of Assault Charges

Hire the Best Houston Criminal Attorney

If you have been charged with Assault in Houston, you may face serious jail time. When facing criminal charges it is crucial that you act quickly in retaining skilled legal representation to defend you. Your selection of attorneys is a critical choice; few criminal defense attorneys have the background and experience as the legal team at The Charles Johnson Law Firm. With extensive experience in all manner of Assault charges, your best interests are aggressively protected in court. Your case will be carefully analyzed to determine the strategy that will be employed to seek a better outcome for the client, no matter how serious the offense.

It does not take much for an altercation or argument to escalate and involve the police. Some people may believe that an Assault charge consists of a violent fight between two individuals but this is not always the case. In Texas, Assault can include an attempt to hurt someone physically. In some instances, prosecutors have decided that the slightest touch is enough to file assault charges. Additionally, the law does not require the alleged victim to sustain an actual injury.

Whether you are facing a first assault offense or are charged with a serious felony assault, your case will be carefully reviewed and analyzed to determine if any errors or violations of your rights have taken place during the arrest, through the chain of custody of evidence, in lab procedures or other aspect of the case that opens the door to a successful court challenge. It is vital that you do not engage in any discussions, questioning or interrogations without first contacting Houston Assault Lawyer Charles Johnson to protect you. Make the call immediately after your arrest. You can call Attorney Johnson anytime night or day and speak with him directly at (713) 222-7577.

Each assault case has individual circumstances and evidence, and some may consider there is little hope. In fact, we frequently discover viable options to defend the case in court and will vigorously defend our client. Our background in the criminal justice system results in a broad understanding of how the prosecutor in the case will proceed and the strategies for staying one step ahead of the moves they make. Your rights will be aggressively protected and our legal team will seek a “not guilty” verdict, dismissed charges, a reduced charge or alternative sentencing, depending on the exact circumstances of your case. Houston Criminal Lawyer Charles Johnson is here to protect you and to fight for you in court.

Assault Charges in Texas

There are several different types of assault charges including but not limited to:

  • Assault Causing Serious Bodily Injury
  • Assault On A Public Servant, Sexual Assault
  • Assault With A Deadly Weapon
  • Aggravated Assault
  • Sexual Assault
  • Assault Family Violence
  • Assault On A Child Or Elderly

Assault charges can range from Class C misdemeanors (e.g. assault by contact) to a 1st degree felony; all cases will vary based on the facts and criminal history of each defendant. On the lower end of the spectrum (Class C misdemeanor), the punishment may result in implementation of fines, attendance of anger-management or marriage counseling classes, or deferred adjudication. Higher level misdemeanors could result in jail time or probation. Felony cases may result in probation or prison time. Depending on your criminal history and the actual charge, you may be eligible for special programs like the Pre-Trial Intervention Program that could result in a dismissal of your case.

Sexual Assault

Like many states, Texas has reconceptualized rape as an assaultive or violent offense rather than a sexual offense.  Like these other states, Texas no long utilizes the term “rape” in its Penal Code.  Both types of “rape”, forcible and statutory ,are found in TPC sec. 22.01.  and are forms of “Sexual Assault.” These are in ch. 22 “Assaultive Offenses” rather than ch. 21 “Sexual Offenses.”

Both are first degree felonies if the offender and victim are closely related.  Otherwise the offenses are  second degree felonies. First degree felonies are punishable by imprisonment for life or for any term of not more than 99 years nor less than 5 years.  In addition, punishment can include a fine of not more than $10,000.  A second degree felony is punishable by imprisonment for not more than 20 years nor less than 2 years, and/or a fine not to exceed $10,000.

Sexual Assault (non-consensual)

The offense that formerly would have been called forcible rape is now found in 22.011 (a) of the TPC. 

§ 22.011. SEXUAL ASSAULT.  (a) A person commits an offense if the person:

(1)  intentionally or knowingly:

(A)  causes the penetration of the anus or sexual organ of another person by any    means, without that person’s consent;

(B)  causes the penetration of the mouth of

another person by the sexual organ of the actor, without that

person’s consent;  or

(C)  causes the sexual organ of another person, without that person’s consent, to contact or penetrate the mouth, anus, or sexual organ of another person, including the actor;

Note that unlike the common law definition of rape, this statute is gender-neutral, includes sex acts in addition to vaginal intercourse, and has no exemption for rape of a spouse.

Without consent is defined in subsec. (b) in 11 different ways:

A sexual assault under Subsection (a)(1) is without the

consent of the other person if:

(1)  the actor compels the other person to submit or participate by the use of physical force or violence;

This is the classic forcible rape scenario.  Prior law required the victim to resist and the force had to be such as would overcome “such earnest resistance as might be reasonably expected under the circumstances.”  There is no requirement of any resistance in the current statute.

(2)  the actor compels the other person to submit or participate by threatening to use force or violence against the other person, and the other person believes that the actor has the

present ability to execute the threat;

(3)  the other person has not consented and the actor knows the other person is unconscious or physically unable to resist;

(4)  the actor knows that as a result of mental disease or defect the other person is at the time of the sexual assault incapable either of appraising the nature of the act or of resisting it;

(5)  the other person has not consented and the actor knows the other person is unaware that the sexual assault is occurring;

Drugging the victim is covered in (6) below and, at first glance, it might appear that subsec. 5 is not possible.  This portion of the statute is aimed primarily at physicians who exceed the scope of a proper gynecological examination, and the victim is not aware of what is really going on.

(6)  the actor has intentionally impaired the other person’s power to appraise or control the other person’s conduct by administering any substance without the other person’s knowledge;

(7)  the actor compels the other person to submit or participate by threatening to use force or violence against any person, and the other person believes that the actor has the ability

to execute the threat;

The final four subsections deal with the situation where a person has control or unusual influence over the victim and takes advantage of that relationship:

(8)  the actor is a public servant who coerces the other person to submit or participate;

(9)  the actor is a mental health services provider or a health care services provider who causes the other person, who is a patient or former patient of the actor, to submit or participate by

exploiting the other person’s emotional dependency on the actor;

(10)  the actor is a clergyman who causes the other person to submit or participate by exploiting the other person’s emotional dependency on the clergyman in the clergyman’s professional character as spiritual adviser;  or

(11)  the actor is an employee of a facility where the other person is a resident, unless the employee and resident are formally or informally married to each other under Chapter 2,

Family Code.

Sexual Assault (Statutory Rape)

Forcible rape was a common law offense.  Consensual sex with a child was criminalized by a statute by Parliament, and is thus termed “statutory” rape.   The Texas version is found in TPC sec. 21.011 (2). It provides that an actor commits an offense if he or she

2)  intentionally or knowingly:

(A)  causes the penetration of the anus or sexual organ of a child by any means;

(B)  causes the penetration of the mouth of a child by the sexual organ of the actor;

(C)  causes the sexual organ of a child to contact or penetrate the mouth, anus, or sexual organ of another person, including the actor;

(D)  causes the anus of a child to contact the mouth, anus, or sexual organ of another person,  including the actor;  or

(E)  causes the mouth of a child to contact the anus or sexual organ of another person, including the actor.

Note that like the forcible rape version, the statute is gender neutral and includes sex acts other than vaginal intercourse.  There is no element of lack of consent .

A child is defined as someone younger than 17 years of age who is not the spouse of the actor.  Because the acts are consensual, there is, unlike in the forcible rape version, a spousal exception. Persons under 17 are presumed incapable of giving a valid consent, except when married.  Age 17 is referred to as the “age of consent,”–the age at which the law assumes a valid consent can be given.

There is a defense of medical care: “(d) It is a defense to prosecution under Subsection (a)(2) that the conduct consisted of medical care for the child and did not include any contact between the anus or sexual organ of the child and the mouth, anus, or sexual organ of the actor or a third party.”

There is also a defense if the offender and victim are close in age, are not close relatives, and the offender does not have certain prior convictions for certain sex offenses.  In these situations it is less likely that there is some form of improper exploitation of a young victim by an older predator.

(e)  It is an affirmative defense to prosecution under Subsection (a)(2) that:

(1)  the actor was not more than three years older than the victim and at the time of the offense:

(A)  was not required under Chapter 62, Code of Criminal Procedure, to register for

life as a sex offender;  or

(B)  was not a person who under Chapter 62, Code of Criminal Procedure, had a reportable conviction or adjudication for an offense under this section;  and

(2)  the victim:

(A)  was a child of 14 years of age or older;  and

(B)  was not a person whom the actor was prohibited from marrying or purporting to marry or with whom the actor was prohibited from living under the appearance of being married under Section 25.01.

The statute does not say that the defendant must know that the victim is under 17, and Texas courts have not created such a requirement.  Thus, (as in a majority of states) mistake of fact about the victim’s age is not a defense.

Aggravated Sexual Assault

If a sexual assault under sec. 22.011 involves any of the following acts by the offender, the offense is Aggravated Sexual Assault (sec. 22.021 (2):

(i) causes serious bodily injury or attempts to cause the death of the victim or another person in the course of the same criminal episode;

(ii) by acts or words places the victim in fear that death, serious bodily injury, or kidnapping will be imminently inflicted on any person;

(iii) by acts or words occurring in the presence of the victim threatens to cause the death, serious bodily injury, or kidnapping of any person;

(iv) uses or exhibits a deadly weapon in the course of the same criminal episode;

(v) acts in concert with another who engages in conduct described by Subdivision (1) directed toward the same victim and occurring during the course of the same criminal episode; or

(vi) administers or provides flunitrazepam, otherwise known as rohypnol, gamma hydroxybutyrate, or ketamine [so-called “date rape drugs”] to the victim of the offense with the intent of facilitating the commission of the offense;

It is also an aggravated sexual Assault if the victim is under 14 or an elderly or disabled individual.  Aggravated Sexual Assault is a felony of the first degree.

Assault Family Violence

Houston Criminal Lawyer Charles Johnson handles a large number of Assault Family Violence cases, both misdemeanors and felonies. These types of cases typically involve family members but may also include former spouses, domestic partners, roommates, and present/former boyfriends/girlfriends.

Frequently, assault family violence cases involve police officers responding to a call about a disturbance. The police will likely talk to both parties and make an arrest based on whose story they believe or what the evidence indicates. Unfortunately, sometimes, the person arrested is actually the victim and not the aggressor. Other times, a mere accusation of violence may be enough for a criminal case to be filed. Sometimes, penalties for assault family violence may be harsher than normal assault cases and may result in temporary or permanent loss of parental rights.

Unfortunately, having an assault family violence conviction on your record can be used to deny child custody and limit your visitation rights if you are undergoing a divorce or other child custody hearings.

Affidavits of Non-Prosecution

Unlike in TV shows and movies, an assault case cannot be dropped in Texas simply because the victim requests that the charges be dropped. Instead, the right to drop the case belongs to the prosecutor and judge. However, not all hope is lost. Frequently, criminal defense attorneys help the victims in assault cases prepare Affidavits of Non-Prosecution, which express the victims wish that the case be dismissed and may shed some light on the altercation or argument that led to the arrest and filing of charges. While these affidavits can’t guarantee that a case is dismissed, they certainly help in persuading the prosecutor to dismiss the case or reduce the charges.

Protective Orders and Court Ordered Injunctions

In some cases of assault, the prosecutor will request that a court impose temporary protective orders or an injunction to place restrictions on contact between the accused and the victim, or in the case of assault family violence on the other family members. Protective orders may vary, ranging from no contact with the alleged victim, which frequently results in the accused having to find another place to live until the case is resolved or the protective order lifted, or could result in a temporary loss of child custody. A violation of a Court Ordered Protective order is also a serious criminal matter and may result in additional criminal charges filed against the accused.

Aggravated Assault & Assault with a Deadly Weapon

Aggravated assault consists of two different charges: aggravated assault causing serious bodily injury and assault with a deadly weapon, both of which are typically second degree felonies. An aggravated assault causing serious bodily injury occurs when during the course of an assault the victim was seriously injured. It is escalated from a mere slap to the face to a more severe resulting injury. Assault with deadly weapon occurs when the accused is alleged to have exhibited a deadly weapon during the commission of the assault. Deadly weapons can include but are not limited to: baseball bats, BB guns, bottles, clubs, drugs, firearms, knives, motor vehicles, nail guns, and even dustpans and hot water.

However, if you are accused of committing an aggravated assault against someone with whom you have a domestic relationship, or against a security guard, witness, police officer, or public official the charge may be elevated to a first degree felony. If you have any questions about what constitutes assault in Texas or have been charged with assault, feel free to visit us on Facebook and post a question, leave a comment or fill out a free case evaluation form with no obligation

List of Common Texas Assault Charges

• Assault

Sexual assault

• Aggravated assault

• Aggravated sexual assault

• Injury to a child, elderly individual, or disabled individual

• Abandoning or endangering child

• Deadly conduct

• Consent as defense to assaultive conduct

• Terroristic threat

• Aiding suicide

• Tampering with consumer product

• Leaving a child in a vehicle

• Harassment by persons in certain correctional facilities; harassment of public servant

• Applicability to certain conduct

Possible Defenses for Assault Charges

Despite what the police might say, being charged by the Police with an offense does not mean that you will be found guilty of that offense. It is also true to say that Police are human and do make mistakes. In some domestic violence cases they may be bound to take action against someone even though they would prefer not to and in other cases they may be biased or act illegally.

There are many reasons why you may be found not guilty by the court, some of which include:

  • The police don’t have enough evidence to prove that you committed the offense;
  • The police have acted illegally or improperly;
  • A witness may not attend court;
  • The Police have charged you with the wrong offense;
  • Where applicable the Police cannot prove that the injuries amount to actual or grievous bodily harm;
  • You are able to rely on a recognised defense.

Self Defense 

Self-defense claims are made when a defendant agrees that act of assault occurred, but it also that it was justified by the other person’s threatening actions. A jury must decide that the person accused of the crime acted reasonably. The questions which must be asked include:

  • Who was the aggressor?
  • Was the defendant’s belief that self-defense was necessary a reasonable one?
  • Did the defendant use only the force necessary to combat the aggressor?

Defense of Others 

Defense of Others claims are similar to self defense claims. When making such a claim, a defendant agrees that act occurred, but claims that it was justified by the other person’s threatening actions to a third person.

Again, to succeed, a jury must determine that the defendant acted reasonably under the circumstances.

Alibis 

An alibi defense is simply the argument that the defendant could not have committed the crime because that defendant was somewhere else.

Credibility 

One of the best and most common defenses is to challenge the credibility of witnesses including the police. A good attorney will examine all aspects of a witnesses statements, the inconsistencies and the omissions. Witness testimony may be undermined by prior inconsistent statements or rebuttal witnesses that tell a different story.

In any criminal case it is very important to preserve evidence before it gets cold. That means you should hire an experienced and aggressive attorney for your representation as soon as possible. If you do not, your rights could be impaired.

An investigation must be performed which would involve photographing the scene, examining critical evidence and interviewing potential witnesses while their memory is fresh. (A defendant cannot perform these functions by themselves since they may be viewed as tampering with a witness).

Accuser Motivation

Because sexual charges are often based on the word of the accuser, the motivations and background of the accuser are highly relevant to sex crimes defense. Proper investigation and use of psychological experts can uncover facts that can be helpful to your defense.

  • Lying about consensual sex. Some may make false charges of sexual assault or rape to cover up consensual sex in order to protect their own reputation from damage to hide casual sexual encounters from friends and family.
  • Child custody disputes. A parent may make false accusations of molestation or inappropriate sexual behavior against his or her spouse in order to gain an advantage in family court. Such false charges are a common tactic in divorce and custody cases.
  • Financial advantage. A sexual charge is an easy way for an accuser to extort money from a defendant. Celebrities are not the only targets of these schemes. An employee can easily bring such a charge against an employer. We have also seen extortion associated with extramarital affairs.

Suppression of Evidence

If photographs, computer files or other records were obtained from you, there are very strict search and seizure guidelines that the police must follow. Illegally obtained evidence cannot be used against you in court. In sex crimes cases, there are limited circumstances in which incriminating evidence can be suppressed. A motion to suppress is a Constitutional Right and an effective weapon in the hands of an experienced sex crimes defense attorney.

“Taint”

“Taint” can occur when children are subjected to biased and suggestive interviews. Parents, teachers, police and even therapists can ask leading questions such as “daddy touched you there, didn’t he?” Often, the adult conducting the interrogation is not consciously aware of the suggestive nature of the question. Young children, who are eager to please adults, often answer “yes” and even build false memories about events that did not actually occur.

Fighting a criminal case can be very complicated. Did you know that many cases are dismissed on technicalities? The Best Houston Assault Attorney must have knowledge of the court system and know the different personalities of Judges and Prosecutors.

Hire the Best Houston Assault Lawyer: The Charles Johnson Law Firm

Do not hesitate to contact Attorney Johnson if you or one of your loved ones could even possibly be facing any type of Assault charge. Don’t make the huge, regrettable mistake of acting without legal representation, the most foolish course of action when dealing with the criminal justice system.

It is important that you seek legal counsel if you have been arrested for Assault in Houston as soon as possible. Houston Lawyer Charles Johnson is an experienced and skilled lawyer who can help you protect your rights, investigate the evidence, and negotiate with the state to get the charges filed against you reduced or dismissed.

Acting promptly and aggressively is the key to protecting your freedom and ultimate well being. Houston Criminal Lawyer Charles Johnson is available by phone 24 hours a day at (713) 222-7577. He knows how important your case is, and wants to protect you from the very outset.

Why You Need a Skilled Houston Criminal Lawyer When Accused of Assault
by Charles Johnson

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Arrested for Assault? Why You Need a Skilled Houston Criminal Lawyer When Accused of Assault Charges

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Facing Federal Conspiracy Charges? Houston Criminal Lawyer Charles Johnson Will Provide the Most Effective Defense

Top Houston Federal Criminal LawyerConspiracy is one of the most often used crimes in the arsenal of the United State’s Attorneys Office.

This all encompassing charge has the ability to touch almost every Federal Crime.  Common conspiracy charges include:

  • Conspiracy to deal in illegal narcotics,
  • Conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute Cocaine, Crack Cocaine, Marijuana, or Methamphetamine.
  • Conspiracy to commit Mail Fraud, Wire Fraud, Health Care Fraud, and Tax Fraud and other White Collar Crimes

If you are charged with conspiracy to commit an offense in Federal Court, your rights and your future are in jeopardy.  Choosing the right criminal defense attorney to defend your case and protect your rights is critical. If you have been charged with conspiracy, or if you have reason to believe you are under investigation by law enforcement agents, the sooner you hire a criminal defense lawyer, the better positioned you will be. Houston Criminal Lawyer Charles Johnson provides a strong defense to conspiracy charges at both the state and federal level.

It is important to speak to an experienced federal criminal defense attorney as soon as possible if you are being investigated or have been arrested for any federal offense. Why?

  • Federal authorities tend to spend a lot of time and money investigating a suspect before they make an arrest.
  • They frequently have tape of your telephone conversations with an informant. Both can present significant challenges for the defense.
  • Conviction for a federal offense can have extremely serious consequences, including long periods of incarceration and huge fines.

Time Is Not on Your Side

Don’t delay. The earlier you retain legal counsel, the more options we will be able to pursue. For example, we may be able to negotiate with the prosecutor to get the charges dismissed or reduced before a grand jury convenes to issue an indictment. Houston Federal Criminal Lawyer Charles Johnson may be able to intervene on your behalf even before an arrest is made. If you believe you are the target of an investigation by any federal authority, please contact our office immediately.

Effective Defense Against Federal and Conspiracy Charges

In order to prove conspiracy, the government must prove each of the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

  • An agreement between at least two parties to achieve an illegal goal
  • That the defendant became a member of the conspiracy knowing at least one of its goals and intending to accomplish it
  • At least one conspirator committed an act to further the conspiracy.

As you can see, you can be charged with conspiracy even if you did nothing to actually commit a crime. The “crime” itself does not even have to be completed. In many cases, individuals with a limited role, or no role whatsoever in a criminal scheme, are charged with conspiracy. Suddenly even someone with a minor role in a broader conspiracy may be facing extreme consequences if convicted.

The Charles Johnson Law Firm will fight every aspect of these charges. We will hold the government to its burden of proof and will find any potential evidentiary or Constitutional violations in your case. You can contact Attorney Johnson anytime day or night and talk with him directly about your case. He can be reached at (713) 222-7577 around the clock.

Federal Conspiracy: Summary

Zacarias Moussaoui, members of the Colombian drug cartels, members of organized crime, and some of the former Enron executives have at least one thing in common: they all have federal conspiracy convictions. The essence of conspiracy is an agreement of two or more persons to engage in some form of prohibited misconduct. The crime is complete upon agreement, although some statutes require prosecutors to show that at least one of the conspirators has taken some concrete step or committed some overt act in furtherance of the scheme. There are dozens of federal conspiracy statutes. One, 18 U. S. C. 371, outlaws conspiracy to commit some other federal crime. The others outlaw conspiracy to engage in various specific forms of proscribed conduct. General Section 371 conspiracies are punishable by imprisonment for not more than five years; drug trafficking, terrorist, and racketeering conspiracies all carry the same penalties as their underlying substantive offenses, and thus are punished more severely than are Section 371 conspiracies. All are subject to fines of not more than $250,000 (not more than $500,000 for organizations), most may serve as the basis for a restitution order, and some for a forfeiture order.

The law makes several exceptions for conspiracy because of its unusual nature. Because many united in crime pose a greater danger than the isolated offender, conspirators may be punished for the conspiracy, any completed substantive offense which is the object of the plot, and any foreseeable other offenses which one of the conspirators commits in furtherance of the scheme. Since conspiracy is an omnipresent crime, it may be prosecuted wherever an overt act is committed in its furtherance. Because conspiracy is a continuing crime, its statute of limitations does not begin to run until the last overt act committed for its benefit. Since conspiracy is a separate crime, it may be prosecuted following conviction for the underlying substantive offense, without offending constitutional double jeopardy principles; because conspiracy is a continuing offense, it may be punished when it straddles enactment of the prohibiting statute, without offending constitutional ex post facto principles. Accused conspirators are likely to be tried together, and the statements of one may often be admitted in evidence against all.

In some respects, conspiracy is similar to attempt, to solicitation, and to aiding and abetting. Unlike aiding and abetting, however, it does not require commission of the underlying offense. Unlike attempt and solicitation, conspiracy does not merge with the substantive offense; a conspirator may be punished for both.

Introduction

Terrorists, drug traffickers, mafia members, and corrupt corporate executives have one thing in common: most are conspirators subject to federal prosecution. Federal conspiracy laws rest on the belief that criminal schemes are equally or more reprehensible than are the substantive offenses to which they are devoted. The Supreme Court has explained that a “collective criminal agreement – a partnership in crime – presents a greater potential threat to the public than individual delicts. Concerted action both increases the likelihood that the criminal object will be successfully attained and decreases the probability that the individuals involved will depart from their path of criminality.” Moreover, observed the Court, “group association for criminal purposes often, if not normally, makes possible the attainment of ends more complex than those which one criminal could accomplish. Nor is the danger of a conspiratorial group limited to the particular end toward which it has embarked.” Finally, “combination in crime makes more likely the commission of crimes unrelated to the original purpose for which the group was formed.” In sum, “the danger which a conspiracy generates is not confined to the substantive offense which is the immediate aim of the enterprise.” Congress and the courts have fashioned federal conspiracy law accordingly.

The United States Code contains dozens of criminal conspiracy statutes. One, 18 U. S. C. 371, outlaws conspiracy to commit any other federal crime. The others outlaw conspiracy to commit some specific form of misconduct, ranging from civil rights violations to drug trafficking. Conspiracy is a separate offense under most of these statutes, regardless of whether conspiracy accomplishes its objective. The various conspiracy statutes, however, differ in several other respects. A few, including Section 371, require at least one conspirator to take some affirmative step in furtherance of the scheme. Most have no such overt act requirement.

Section 371 has two prongs. One outlaws conspiracy to commit a federal offense; a second, conspiracy to defraud the United States. Conspiracy to commit a federal crime under Section 371 requires that the underlying misconduct be a federal crime. Conspiracy to defraud the United States under Section 371 and in several other instances has no such prerequisite. Section 371 conspiracies are punishable by imprisonment for not more than five years. Elsewhere, conspirators often face more severe penalties.

These differences aside, federal conspiracy statutes share much common ground because Congress decided they should. As the Court observed in Salinas, “When Congress uses well-settled terminology of criminal law, its words are presumed to have their ordinary meaning and definition. When the relevant statutory phrase is ‘to conspire,’ we presume Congress intended to use the term in its conventional sense, and certain well-established principles follow.”

These principles include the fact that regardless of its statutory setting, every conspiracy has at least two elements: (1) an agreement (2) between two or more persons. Members of the conspiracy are also liable for the foreseeable crimes of their fellows committed in furtherance of the common plot. Moreover, statements by one conspirator are admissible evidence against all. Conspiracies are considered continuing offenses for purposes of the statute of limitations and venue. They are also considered separate offenses for purposes of sentencing and of challenges under the Constitution’s ex post facto and double jeopardy clauses. This is a brief discussion of the common features of federal conspiracy law that evolved over the years, with passing references to some of the distinctive features of some of the statutory provisions.

Background

Although it is not without common law antecedents, federal conspiracy law is largely of our own making. It is what Congress provided, and what the courts understood Congress intended. This is not to say that conspiracy was unknown in pre-colonial and colonial England, but simply that it was a faint shadow of the crime we now know. Then, it was essentially a narrow form of malicious prosecution, subject to both a civil remedy and prosecution. In the late 18 and early 19 centuries, state courts and legislatures recognized a rapidly expanding accumulation of narrowly described wrongs as ” conspiracy.” The patchwork reached a point where one commentator explained that there were “few things left so doubtful in the criminal law, as the point at which a combination of several persons in a common object becomes illegal.”

Congress, however, enacted few conspiracy statutes prior to the Civil War. It did pass a provision in 1790 that outlawed confining the master of a ship or endeavoring revolt on board. This, Justice Story, sitting as a circuit judge, interpreted to include any conspiracy to confine the prerogatives of the master of ship to navigate, maintain, or police his ship. The same year, 1825, Congress outlawed conspiracies to engage in maritime insurance fraud. Otherwise, there were no federal conspiracy statutes until well after the mid-century mark.

During the War Between the States, however, Congress enacted four sweeping conspiracy provisions, creating federal crimes that have come down to us with little substantive change. The first, perhaps thought more pressing at the beginning of the war, was a seditious conspiracy statute. Shortly thereafter, Congress outlawed conspiracies to defraud the United States through the submission of false claim, and followed that four years later with a prohibition on conspiracies to violate federal law or to defraud the United States.

Subsequent conspiracy statutes, though perhaps no less significant, were more topically focused. The Reconstruction civil rights conspiracy provisions, the Sherman Act anti-trust provisions,and the drug and racketeering statutesmay be the best known of these. All of them begin the same way — with an agreement by two or more persons.

Two or More Persons

There are no one-man conspiracies. At common law where husband and wife were considered one, this meant that the two could not be guilty of conspiracy without the participation of some third person. This is no longer the case. In like manner at common law, corporations could not be charged with a crime. This too is no longer the case. A corporation is criminally liable for the crimes, including conspiracy, committed at least in part for its benefit, by its employees and agents. Moreover, a corporation may be criminally liable for intra-corporate conspiracies, as long as at least two of its officers, employees, or agents are parties to the plot. Notwithstanding the two-party requirement, no co-conspirator need have been tried or even identified, as long as the government produces evidence from which the conspiracy might be inferred. Even the acquittal of a co-conspirator is no defense. In fact, a person may conspire for the commission of a crime by a third person though he himself is legally incapable of committing the underlying offense.

On the other hand, two people may not always be enough. The so-called Wharton’s Rule placed a limitation on conspiracy prosecutions when the number of conspirators equaled the number of individuals necessary for the commission of the underlying offense. Under federal law, the rule “stands as an exception to the general principle that a conspiracy and the substantive offense that is its immediate end do not merge upon proof of the latter.” And under federal law, the rule reaches no further than to the types of offenses that birth its recognition — dueling, adultery, bigamy, and incest.

Agreement

It is not enough, however, to show that the defendant agreed only with an undercover officer to commit the underlying offense, for there is no agreement on a common purpose in such cases. As has been said, the essence of conspiracy is an agreement, an agreement to commit some act condemned by law either as a separate federal offense or for purposes of the conspiracy statute. The agreement may be evidenced by word or action; that is, the government may prove the existence of the agreement either by direct evidence or by circumstantial evidence from which the agreement may be inferred. “Relevant circumstantial evidence may include: the joint appearance of defendants at transactions and negotiations in furtherance of the conspiracy; the relationship among codefendants; mutual representation of defendants to third parties; and other evidence suggesting unity of purpose or common design and understanding among conspirators to accomplish the objects of the conspiracy.

The lower federal appellate courts have acknowledged that evidence of a mere buyer-seller relationship is insufficient to support a drug trafficking conspiracy charge. Some do so under the rationale that there is no singularity of purpose, no necessary agreement, in such cases: “the buyer’s purpose is to buy; the seller’s purpose is to sell.” Others do so to avoid sweeping mere customers into a large-scale trafficking operation. Still others do so lest traffickers and their addicted customers face the same severe penalties. All agree, however, that purchasers may be liable as conspirators when they are part of a large scheme.

Again, in most cases the essence of conspiracy is agreement. “Nevertheless, mere association, standing alone, is inadequate; an individual does not become a member of a conspiracy merely associating with conspirators known to be involved in crime.”

One or Many Overlapping Conspiracies

The task of sifting agreement from mere association becomes more difficult and more important with the suggestion of overlapping conspiracies. Criminal enterprises may involve one or many conspiracies. Some time ago, the Supreme Court noted that “thieves who dispose of their loot to a single receiver – a single ‘fence’ – do not by that fact alone become confederates: They may, but it takes more than knowledge that he is a ‘fence’ to make them such.” Whether it is a fence, or a drug dealer, or a money launderer, when several seemingly independent criminal groups share a common point of contact, the question becomes whether they present one overarching conspiracy or several separate conspiracies with a coincidental overlap. In the analogy suggested by the Court, when separate spokes meet at the common hub they can only function as a wheel if the spokes and hub are enclosed within a rim. When several criminal enterprises overlap, they are one overarching conspiracy or several overlapping conspiracies depending upon whether they share a single unifying purpose and understanding—one common agreement.

In determining whether they are faced with a single conspiracy or a rimless collection of overlapping schemes, the courts will look for “the existence of a common purpose . . . (2) interdependence of various elements of the overall play; and (3) overlap among the participants.” “Interdependence is present if the activities of a defendant charged with conspiracy facilitated the endeavors of other alleged co-conspirators or facilitated the venture as a whole.

If this common agreement exists, it is of no consequence that a particular conspirator joined the plot after its inception as long as he joined it knowingly and voluntarily. Nor does it matter that a defendant does not know all of the details of a scheme or all of its participants, or that his role is relatively minor.

Overt Acts

Conviction under 18 U. S. C. 371 for conspiracy to commit a substantive offense requires proof that one of the conspirators committed an overt act in furtherance of the conspiracy. In the case of prosecution under other federal conspiracy statutes that have no such requirement, the existence of an overt act may be important for evidentiary and procedural reasons. The overt act need not be the substantive crime which is the object of the conspiracy, an element of that offense, nor even a crime in its own right. Moreover, a single overt act by any of the conspirators in furtherance of plot will suffice.

Conspiracy to Defraud the United States

Federal law contains several statutes that outlaw defrauding the United States. Two of the most commonly prosecuted are 18 U. S. C. 286, which outlaws conspiracy to defraud the United States through the submission of a false claim, and 18 U. S. C. 371, which in addition to conspiracies to violate federal law, outlaws conspiracies to defraud the United States of property or by obstructing the performance of its agencies. Section 371 has an overt act requirement; section 286 does not. The general principles of federal conspiracy law apply to both.

The elements of conspiracy to defraud the United States under 18 U. S. C. 371 are (1) an agreement of two or more persons; (2) to defraud the United States; and (3) an overt act in furtherance of the conspiracy committed by one of the conspirators. The “fraud covered by the statute reaches any conspiracy for the purpose of impairing, obstructing or defeating the lawful functions of any department of the Government” by “deceit, craft or trickery, or at least by means that are dishonest.” The plot must be directed against the United States or entity; a scheme to defraud the recipient of federal funds is not sufficient. The scheme may be designed to deprive the United States of money or property, but it need not be so; a plot calculated to frustrate the functions of an entity of the United States will suffice.

In contrast, a second federal statute, 18 U. S. C. 286, condemns conspiracies to defraud the United States of money or property through submission of a false claim. The elements of a section 286 violation are that “the defendant entered into a conspiracy to obtain payment or allowance of a claim against a department or agency of the United States; (2) the claim was false, fictitious, or fraudulent; (3) the defendant knew or was deliberately ignorant of the claim’s falsity, fictitiousness, or fraudulence; (4) the defendant knew of the conspiracy and intended to join it; and (5) the defendant voluntarily participated in the conspiracy.” Conviction does not require proof of an overt act in furtherance of the conspiracy.

When Does It End

Conspiracy is a crime which begins with a scheme and may continue on until its objective is achieved or abandoned. The liability of individual conspirators continues on from the time they joined the plot until it ends or until they withdraw. The want of an individual’s continued active participation is no defense as long as the underlying conspiracy lives and he has not withdrawn. An individual who claims to have withdrawn bears the burden of establishing either that he took some action to make his departure clear to his co-conspirators or that he disclosed the scheme to the authorities. As a general rule, overt acts of concealment do not extend the life of the conspiracy beyond the date of the accomplishment of its main objectives. On the other hand, the rule does not apply when concealment is one of the main objectives of the conspiracy.

Sanctions

Imprisonment and Fines

Section 371 felony conspiracies are punishable by imprisonment for not more than five years and a fine of not more than $250,000 (not more than $500,000 for organizations). Most drug trafficking, terrorism, racketeering, and many white collar conspirators face the same penalties as those who committed the underlying substantive offense, e. g. , 21 U. S. C. 846 ( “Any person who . . . conspires to commit any offense defined in the Controlled Substances Act shall be subject to the same penalties as those prescribed for the offense, the commission of which was the object of the . . . conspiracy” ); 18 U. S. C. 2339B ( “Whoever knowingly provides material support or resources to a foreign terrorist organization . . . . or conspires to do so, shall be fined under this title, or imprisoned not more than 15 years, or both” ); 18 U. S. C. 1962(d), 1963(a)( “(d) It shall be unlawful for any person to conspire to violate any of the racketeering provisions of subsection (a), (b), or (c) of this section. . . . (a) Whoever violates any provision of section 1962 . . . shall be fined under this title, or imprisoned for not more than 20 years. . . or both ” ); 18 U. S. C. 1349 ( ” Any person who . . . conspires to commit any offense under this chapter relating to mail fraud, wire fraud, etc. shall be subject to the same penalties as those prescribed for the offense, the commission of which was the object of . . . the conspiracy” ).

The United States Sentencing Guidelines greatly influence the sentences for federal crimes. Federal courts are bound to impose a sentence within the statutory maximums and minimums. Their decision of what sentence to impose within those boundaries, however, must begin with a determination of the sentencing recommendation under the guidelines. Reasonableness standards govern review of their sentencing decisions,and a sentence within the Sentencing Guideline range is presumed reasonable.

The Sentencing Guidelines system is essentially a scoring system. Federal crimes are each assigned a numerical base offense level and levels are added and subtracted to account for the various aggravating and mitigating factors in a particular case. Thus, for example, providing material support to a terrorist organization, 18 U. S. C. 2339B, has a base offense level of 26, which may be increased by 2 levels if the support comes in the form of explosives, U. S. S. G. §2M5. 3(a), (b) and may be increased or decreased still further for other factors. The guidelines designate six sentencing ranges of each total offense level; the appropriate range within the six is determined by extent of the offender’s criminal record. For instance, the sentencing range for a first-time offender with a total offense level of 28 would be imprisonment for between 78 and 97 months (Category I); while the range for an offender in the highest criminal history category (Category VI) would be imprisonment for between 140 and 175 months.

The base offense level for conspiracy is generally the same as that for the underlying offense, either by operation of an individual guideline, for example, U. S. C. §2D1. 1 (drug trafficking), or by operation of the general conspiracy guideline, U. S. S. C. §2X1. 1. In any event, conspirators who play a leadership role in an enterprise are subject to an increase of from 2 to 4 levels,

U. S. S. G. §3B1. 1, and those who play a more subservient role may be entitled to reduction of from 2 to 4 levels, U. S. S. G. §3B1. 2. In the case of terrorism offenses, conspirators may also be subject to a special enhancement which sets the minimum total offense level at 32 and the criminal history category at VI (regardless of the extent of the offender’s criminal record), U. S. S. G. §3A1. 4.

The Sentencing Guidelines also address the imposition of fines below the statutory maximum. The total offense level dictates the recommended fine range for individual and organizational defendants. For instance, the fine range for an individual with a total offense level of 28 is $12,500 to $125,000, U. S. C. §5E1. 2. The recommended fine range for an organization with a total offense level of 28 is $6,300,000 (assuming the loss or gain associated with the organization offense exceeds the usual $500,000 ceiling), U. S. S. G. §8C2. 4.

Restitution

A conspirator’s liability for restitution is a matter of circumstance. Most conspiracy statutes do not expressly provide for restitution, but in most instances restitution may be required or permitted under any number of grounds. As a general rule, federal law requires restitution for certain offenses and permits it for others. A sentencing court is generally required to order a defendant to make restitution following conviction for a crime of violence or for a crime against property (including fraud), 18 U. S. C. 366A(a), (c). Those entitled to restitution under Section 3663A include those ” directly and proximately harmed ” by the crime of conviction and “in the case of an offense that involves as an element a scheme, conspiracy, or pattern of criminal activity, any person directly harmed by the defendant’s criminal conduct in the course of the scheme, conspiracy or pattern,” 18 U. S. C. 3663A(b).

Otherwise, a court is permitted to order restitution (a) following conviction for an offense prescribed under title 18 of the United States Code or for drug trafficking, 18 U. S. C. 3663; (b) as a condition of probation or supervised release, 18 U. S. C. 3563(b)(2), 3583(d); or (c) pursuant to a plea agreement, 18 U. S. C. 3663(a)(3), 3663A(c)(2).

Forfeiture

The treatment of forfeiture in conspiracy cases is perhaps even more individualistic than restitution in conspiracy cases. The general criminal forfeiture statute, 18 U. S. C. 982, authorizes confiscation for several classes of property as a consequence of a particular conspiracy conviction, for example, 18 U. S. C. 982(a)(2)(calling for the confiscation of proceeds realized from “a violation of, or a conspiracy to – (A) section . . . 1341, 1343, 1344 of this title relating to mail, wire and bank fraud, affecting a financial institution” ); 18 U. S. C. 982(a)(8)(calling for the confiscation of proceeds from, and property used to facilitate or promote, “an offense under section . . . 1341, or 1343, or of a conspiracy to commit such an offense, if the offense involves telemarketing” ).

In the case of drug trafficking, forfeiture turns on the fact that it is authorized for any Controlled Substance Act violation, 21 U. S. C. 853, of which conspiracy is one, 21 U. S. C. 846. The same can be said of racketeering conspiracy provisions of 18 U. S. C. 1962(d).

Relation of Conspiracy to Other Crimes

Conspiracy is a completed crime upon agreement, or upon agreement and the commission of an overt act under statutes with an overt act requirement. Conviction does not require commission of the crime that is the object of the conspiracy. On the other hand, conspirators may be prosecuted for conspiracy, for any completed offense which is the object of the conspiracy, as well as for any foreseeable offense committed in furtherance of the conspiracy.

Aid and Abet

Anyone who “aids, abets, counsels, commands, induces, or procures” the commission of a federal crime by another is punishable as a principal, that is, as though he had committed the offense himself, 18 U. S. C. 2. If the other agrees and an overt act is committed, they are conspirators, each liable for conspiracy and any criminal act committed to accomplish it. If the other commits the offense, they are equally punishable for the basic offense. “Typically, the same evidence will support both a conspiracy and an aiding and abetting conviction.” The two are clearly distinct, however, as the Ninth Circuit has noted:

The difference between the classic common law elements of aiding and abetting and a criminal conspiracy underscores this material distinction, although at first blush the two appear similar. Aiding and abetting the commission of a specific crime, we have held, includes four elements: (1) that the accused had the specific intent to facilitate the commission of a crime by another, (2) that the accused had the requisite intent to commit the underlying substantive offense, (3) that the accused assisted or participated in the commission of the underlying substantive offense, and (4) that the principal committed the underlying offense. As Lopez emphasized, the accused generally must associate himself with the venture . . . participate in it as something he wishes to bring about, and sought by his action to make it succeed.

By contrast, a classic criminal conspiracy as charged in 18 U. S. C. § 371 is broader. The government need only prove (1) an agreement to engage in criminal activity, (2) one or more overt acts taken to implement the agreement, and (3) the requisite intent to commit the substantive crime. Indeed, a drug conspiracy does not even require commission of an overt act in furtherance of the conspiracy.

Two distinctions become readily apparent after a more careful comparison. First, the substantive offense which may be the object in a § 371 conspiracy need not be completed. Second, the emphasis in a § 371 conspiracy is on whether one or more overt acts was undertaken. This language necessarily is couched in passive voice for it matters only that a co-conspirator commit the overt act, not necessarily that the accused herself does so. In an aiding and abetting case, not only must the underlying substantive offense actually be completed by someone, but the accused must take some action, a substantial step, toward associating herself with the criminal venture. United States v. Hernandez-Orellana, 539 F. 3d 994, 1006-1007 (9th Cir. 2008).

Attempt

Conspiracy and attempt are both inchoate offenses, unfinished crimes in a sense. They are forms of introductory misconduct that the law condemns lest they result in some completed form of misconduct. Federal law has no general attempt statute. Congress, however, has outlawed attempt to commit a number of specific federal offenses. Like conspiracy, a conviction for attempt does not require the commission of the underlying offense. Both require an intent to commit the contemplated substantive offense. Like conspiracy, the fact that it may be impossible to commit the target offense is no defense to a charge of attempt to commit it. Unlike conspiracy, attempt can be committed by a single individual. Attempt only becomes a crime when it closely approaches a substantive offense. Conspiracy becomes a crime far sooner. Mere acts of preparation will satisfy the most demanding conspiracy statute, not so with attempt. Conspiracy requires no more than an overt act in furtherance; attempt, a substantial step to completion. Moreover, unlike a conspirator, an accused may not be convicted of both attempt and the underlying substantive offense.

An individual may be guilty of both conspiring with others to commit an offense and of attempting to commit the same offense, either himself or through his confederates. In some circumstances, he may be guilty of attempted conspiracy. Congress has outlawed at least one example of an attempt to conspire in the statute which prohibits certain invitations to conspire, that is, solicitation to commit a federal crime of violence, 18 U. S. C. 373.

Solicitation

Section 373 prohibits efforts to induce another to commit a crime of violence “under circumstances strongly corroborative” of intent to see the crime committed, 18 U. S. C. 373(a). Section 373′s crimes of violence are federal “felonies that have as an element the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against property or against the person of another,” id. Examples of “strongly corroborative” circumstances include “the defendant offering or promising payment or another benefit in exchange for committing the offense; threatening harm or other detriment for refusing to commit the offense; repeatedly soliciting or discussing at length in soliciting the commission of the offense, or making explicit that the solicitation is serious; believing or knowing that the persons solicited had previously committed similar offenses; and acquiring weapons, tools, or information or use in committing the offense, or making other apparent preparations for its commission.” As is the case of attempt, “an individual cannot be guilty of both the solicitation of a crime and the substantive crime.” Although the crime of solicitation is complete upon communication with the requisite intent, renunciation prior to commission of the substantive offense is a defense. The offender’s legal incapacity to commit the solicited offense himself, however, is not a defense.

Procedural Attributes

Statute of Limitations

The statute of limitations for most federal crimes is five years, 18 U. S. C. 3282. The five-year limitation applies to the general conspiracy statute, 18 U. S. C. 371, and to the false claims conspiracy statute, 18 U. S. C. 286. Section 371 requires proof of an overt act; section 286 does not. For conspiracy offenses with an overt act requirement like those under Section 371, the statute of limitations begins with completion of the last overt act in furtherance of the conspiracy. For conspiracy offenses with no such requirement like those under section 286, the statute of limitations begins with the abandonment of the conspiracy or the accomplishment of its objectives.

Venue

The presence or absence of an overt act requirement makes a difference for statute of limitations purposes. For venue purposes, it apparently does not. The Supreme Court has observed in passing that “this Court has long held that venue is proper in any district in which an overt act in furtherance of the conspiracy was committed, even where an overt act is not a required element of the conspiracy offense.” The lower federal appellate courts are seemingly of the same view, for they have found venue proper for a conspiracy prosecution wherever an overt act occurs — under overt act statutes and non-overt act statutes alike.

Joinder and Severance (One Conspiracy, One Trial)

Three rules of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure govern joinder and severance for federal criminal trials. Rule 8 permits the joinder of common criminal charges and defendants. Rule 12 insists that a motion for severance be filed prior to trial. Rule 14 authorizes the court to grant severance for separate trials as a remedy for prejudicial joinder.

The Supreme Court has pointed out that “there is a preference in the federal system for joint trials of defendants who are indicted together. Joint trials play a vital role in the criminal justice system. They promote efficiency and serve the interests of justice by avoiding the scandal and inequity of inconsistent verdicts.” In conspiracy cases, a ” conspiracy charge combined with substantive counts arising out of that conspiracy is a proper basis for joinder under Rule 8(b).” Moreover, “the preference in a conspiracy trial is that persons charged together should be tried together.” In fact, “it will be the rare case, if ever, where a district court should sever the trial of alleged co-conspirators.” The Supreme Court has reminded the lower courts that “a district court should grant a severance under Rule 14 only if there is a serious risk that a joint trial would compromise a specific trial right of one of the defendants, or prevent the jury from making a reliable judgment about guilt or innocence.” The Court noted that the risk may be more substantial in complex cases with multiple defendants, but that “less drastic measures, such as limiting instructions, often will suffice to cure any risk of prejudice.” Subsequently lower federal appellate court opinions have emphasized the curative effect of appropriate jury instructions.

Double Jeopardy and Ex Post Facto

Because conspiracy is a continuing offense, it stands as an exception to the usual ex post facto principles. Because it is a separate crime, it also stands as an exception to the usual double jeopardy principles.

The ex post facto clauses of the Constitution forbid the application of criminal laws which punish conduct that was innocent when it was committed or punishes more severely criminal conduct than when it was committed. Increasing the penalty for an ongoing conspiracy, however, does not offend ex post facto constraints as long as the conspiracy straddles the date of the legislative penalty enhancement.

The double jeopardy clause of the Fifth Amendment declares that no person shall “be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb.” This prohibition condemns successive prosecutions, successive punishments, and successive use of charges rejected in acquittal.

For successive prosecution or punishment, the critical factor is the presence or absence of the same offense. Offenses may overlap, but they are not the same crime as long as each requires proof of an element that the other does not. 130 Since conspiracy and its attendant substantive offense are ordinarily separate crimes — one alone requiring agreement and the other alone requiring completion of the substantive offense — the double jeopardy clause poses no impediment to successive prosecution or to successive punishment of the two.

Double jeopardy issues arise most often in a conspiracy context when a case presents the question of whether the activities of the accused conspirators constitute a single conspiracy or several overlapping conspiracies. Multiple conspiracies may be prosecuted sequentially and punished with multiple sanctions; single conspiracies must be tried and punished once. Asked to determine whether they are faced with one or more than one conspiracy, the courts have said they inquire whether:

  1. the locus criminis place of the two alleged conspiracies is the same;
  2. there is a significant degree of temporal overlap between the two conspiracies charged;
  3. there is an overlap of personnel between the two conspiracies (including unindicted as well as indicted co-conspirators);
  4. the over acts charged are related;
  5. the role played by the defendant relates to both;
  6. there was a common goal among the conspirators;
  7. whether the agreement contemplated bringing to pass a continuous result that will not continue without the continuous cooperation of the conspirators; and
  8. the extent to which the participants overlapped in their various dealings.

Co-conspirator Declarations

At trial, the law favors the testimony of live witnesses — under oath, subject to cross examination, and in the presence of the accused and the jury — over the presentation of their evidence in writing or through the mouths of others. The hearsay rule is a product of this preference. Exceptions and definitions narrow the rule’s reach. For example, hearsay is usually defined to include only those out-of-court statements which are offered in evidence “to prove the truth of the matter asserted.”

Although often referred to as the exception for co-conspirator declarations, the Federal Rules of Evidence treats the matter within its definition of hearsay. Thus, Rule 801(d)(2)(E) of the Federal Rules provides that an out-of-court “statement is not hearsay if . . . (2) The statement is offered against a party and is . . . (E) a statement by a coconspirator of a party during the course and in furtherance of the conspiracy.”

To admit a co-conspirator declaration into evidence under the Rule, a “court must find: (1) the conspiracy existed; (2) the defendant was a member of the conspiracy; and (3) the co-conspirator made the proffered statements in furtherance of the conspiracy.” The court, however, may receive the statement preliminarily subject to the prosecution’s subsequent demonstration of its admissibility by a preponderance of the evidence. As to the first two elements, a co­conspirator’s statement without more is insufficient; there must be ” some extrinsic evidence sufficient to delineate the conspiracy and corroborate the declarant’s and the defendant’s roles in it.” As to the third element, “a statement is in furtherance of a conspiracy if it is intended to promote the objectives of the conspiracy.” A statement is in furtherance, for instance, if it describes for the benefit of a co-conspirator the status of the scheme, its participants, or its methods. Bragging, or “mere idle chatter or casual conversation about past events, “however, are not considered statements in furtherance of a conspiracy.

Under some circumstances, evidence admissible under the hearsay rule may nevertheless be inadmissible because of Sixth Amendment restrictions. The Sixth Amendment provides, among other things, that “in all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right . . . to be confronted with the witnesses against him.” The provision was inspired in part by reactions to the trial of Sir Walter Raleigh, who argued in vain that he should be allowed to confront the alleged co-conspirator who had accused him of treason. Given its broadest possible construction, the confrontation clause would eliminate any hearsay exceptions or limitations. The Supreme Court in Crawford v. Washington explained, however, that the clause has a more precise reach. The clause uses the word “witnesses” to bring within its scope only those who testify or whose accusations are made in a testimonial context. In a testimonial context, the confrontation clause permits use at trial of prior testimonial accusations only if the witness is unavailable and only if the accused had the opportunity to cross examine him when the testimony was taken. The Court elected to “leave for another day any effort to spell out a comprehensive definition of ‘testimonial,’” but has suggested that the term includes “affidavits, depositions, prior testimony, or confessions ,and other statements that were made under circumstances which would lead an objective witness reasonably to believe that the statement would be available for use at a later trial.” Since Crawford, the lower federal courts have generally held that the confrontation clause poses no obstacle to the admissibility of the co-conspirator statements at issue in the cases before them, either because the statements were not testimonial; were not offered to establish the truth of the asserted statement; or because the clause does not bar co-conspirator declarations generally.

Obtain the Best Defense Against Federal Conspiracy Charges

Many people charged with federal drug conspiracies are concerned with predicting the outcome of their cases. They often wonder about the likelihood of a conviction and the length of a potential sentence. The truth is that, if you are charged with a drug conspiracy, your case can be very serious and complicated. A lot may depend on the drug quantity, the testimony of witnesses and on cooperation with the prosecution. Federal Criminal Lawyer Charles Johnson can help you navigate the legal system so that you can make decisions based on in-depth understanding of the consequences you may face.

In federal drug conspiracy cases, a lot has to do with the strength of the evidence. Experienced Attorney Charles Johnson skilled at helping clients evaluate whether to take a case to trial or whether to find other ways to resolve the issue more favorably. At the Charles Johnson Law Firm, we place a large emphasis on honesty with our clients. Although it is often more difficult to be realistic with clients than to promise miracles, we know that our clients and their families deserve the truth about the seriousness of federal drug conspiracy charges.

They also deserve the skilled legal representation we provide. Whether you are charged with criminal conspiracy, a continuing criminal enterprise or with a violation the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (commonly called RICO), we will use our knowledge and experience to strive for the best results possible.

Contact Houston Lawyer Charles Johnson anytime night or day at (713) 222-7577 to speak with him directly. Our law firm is dedicated to helping clients face drug conspiracy charges with confidence and dignity.


Houston Federal Drug Crimes Lawyer Charles Johnson

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Arrested for Marijuana Possession or Sales? The Best Houston Lawyer

Finest Houston Criminal Defense Attorney

The Charles Johnson Law Firm is one of the foremost criminal defense law firms in Houston in defending people from drug convictions, including the possession and sale of marijuana. Our unique strategy gives our clients the best opportunity to avoid criminal penalties, and our criminal defense law firm’s familiarity with drug laws, both felonies and misdemeanors, is unrivaled. We provide each client a high-quality legal defense that is superior. Houston Criminal Lawyer Charles Johnson can defend against any criminal drug charge in both federal and state courts, and our firm’s track record of success continues to grow.

Hire the Best Houston Drug Crimes Defense Lawyer: The Charles Johnson Law Firm

Criminal Marijuana Penalties

Marijuana possession and sale charges can be either misdemeanors or felonies, but both carry serious penalties. Jail time, heavy fines, probation, mandatory rehab programs and more are all possible penalties for drug charges. Attorney Johnson’s finely tuned defense techniques have evolved from years of experience, and he brings that knowledge and experience to those facing marijuana-related criminal charges.

Marijuana Possession

Of all the marijuana laws in Texas, possession of marijuana may be the most unfair. It punishes otherwise responsible citizens merely for keeping some pot for personal use and who have no intention of ever doing anything hurtful with it or profiting from it. Nonetheless, it is an offense to possess, distribute or cultivate marijuana in Texas. Depending on the quantity, possession of marijuana can be charged as a misdemeanor of felony in both state and federal court.

The prosecution may argue that you’re “in possession” of marijuana in Houston, TX, if you’re found smoking marijuana or if you knowingly “exercised control” over the marijuana. Therefore, the location of the marijuana is very important:

  • If the marijuana is found on your person, in your car, in or around your home, in a storage unit belonging to you, or in any other place that you have some authority over, the prosecution will argue that you were in possession of the marijuana since you had some control over the location.
  • Furthermore, if marijuana is found in your system during a drug test or you were caught driving under the influence of marijuana in Texas, the prosecution may try to use that to prove you’ve been in possession of marijuana since you presumably “exercise control” over your body.

Marijuana Possession Penalties in Texas

  • Two ounces or less include a fine up to $2,000, up to 180 days in jail or both
  • More than two ounces, but less than four ounces. Penalties include a fine of up to $4,000, up to one year in jail, or both.
  • Four ounces or more, up to and including five pounds. Penalties include a fine of up to $10,000, between 180 days and two years in prison, or both.
  • More than five pounds, up to and including 50 pounds. Penalties include a fine of up to $10,000, between two and ten years in prison, or both.
  • More than 50 pounds, up to and including 2,000 pounds. Penalties include a fine of up to $10,000, between two and 20 years in prison, or both.
  • More than 2,000 pounds. Penalties include a fine of up to $50,000, between five and 99 years in prison, or both.

Sale of Marijuana

Various states have different marijuana laws, and Texas is no different. Texas treats marijuana sales as a much more serious crime than possession, which is reflected in the penalties. The sale of any amount of marijuana can lead to prison time, even for small amounts.

Sale of Marijuana Penalties in Texas

  • 1/4 oz – 5 lbs: 6 months – 2 years, $10,000 fine
  • 5 lbs – 50 lbs: 2 – 20 years, $10,000 fine
  • 50 lbs – 1 ton: 5 – 99 years, $10,000 fine
  • 1 ton or more: Mandatory minimum of 10 – 99 years, with a $100,000 fine

These are for either the sale OR delivery, meaning it is irrelevant whether or not you are actually paid or just just giving it to someone. On top of that, if the delivery or sale is to a minor (in ANY amount), that is punishable by an additional 2 – 20 years in prison. Also, sale within 1,000 feet of a school or within 300 feet of a youth center, public pool or video arcade increases the penalty classification to the next highest level (which in some cases is a difference of many years).

The Houston Lawyer Charles Johnson understands the unique nature of Texas marijuana laws, and can provide a skilled defense. His unparalleled knowledge of state and federal drug laws gives him a unique ability to provide excellent legal services for you and your loved ones. If you are in need of criminal defense legal representation in the Houston area, contact Attorney Johnson anytime day or night at (713) 222-7577 to discuss your situation.

What Is Marijuana?

Cannabis sativa: There are two species of Cannabis. One species is Cannabis sativa, originally cultivated to make hemp. The stalks of the plant contain fibers that are woven to make rope, cloth, and paper. The other species is Cannabis indica, known for its psychoactive properties. Hashish is derived from Cannabis indica. In Africa, cannabis is know as “dagga,” in China as “ma,” and in India as “ganga” or “bhang”. Marijuana is the Mexican colloquial name for Cannabis sativa. Marijuana is a greenish-gray mixture of dried, shredded leaves, stems, seeds, and flowers of the hemp plant.

THC is the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. THC or delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol is found in the plant’s resin. The amount of THC determines the potency of the marijuana. The resin is mostly concentrated in the flowers of the plant. Because of various cultivation techniques the amount of THC varies considerably in the flowers of individual plants.

Other Chemicals: Marijuana is a complex drug and is made up of 420 chemical components. Sixty-one of these chemicals are called cannabinoids and are unique to marijuana. Many scientific studies focus on the primary psychoactive chemical, THC but don’t know how these other cannabinoids affect the various organs, brain, and behavior.

Grades of Marijuana

  • Low-grade marijuana is made from leaves of both sexes of the plant.
  • Medium-grade marijuana is made of the flowering tops of female plants fertilized by male plants.
  • High-grade marijuana is made of the flowering tops of female plants raised in isolation to male plants. This marijuana is called sinsemilla because it does not produce a seed.
  • Hashish is produced when resin is collected from the Cannabis indica plant. The THC-rich resin is dried and then compressed into a variety of forms, such as balls, cakes, or cookie-like sheets. Pieces are then broken off, placed in pipes, and smoked or rolled into a cigarette along with tobacco or low-grade marijuana. The Middle East, North Africa, Pakistan, and Afghanistan are the main sources of hashish. THC content of hashish can vary from 8% to 20%.

What are the Physical Effects of Marijuana usage?

When marijuana is smoked, the affects are felt in minutes. The high usually peaks within a couple of hours. Marijuana affects users differently. The “high” can include a feeling of relaxation, improved sense perception, and emotional well-being. Music and visual images may seem more vibrant and intense. Time seems to slow down. Some people experience physical hunger and a range of emotion from laughter to introspection. Marijuana does not always produce pleasant feelings and may cause paranoia and hallucinations. Emergency room visits have increased because some people feel anxious or fearful after smoking high-grade marijuana. Whether the marijuana is smoked or eaten, THC can remain in the body for days. About half the THC is in the blood 20 hours after smoking. Although the initial high has disappeared, physical and mental functions may be affected for days.

The physical effects of marijuana depend on many individual factors such as personal health, the time of day that marijuana is used, the problems it causes, and how well a person is able to control his or her use. Research studies have shown that one of the primary concerns for those who use marijuana is cardiovascular damage. Marijuana causes damage to lungs that is similar to that caused by cigarettes. For people who inhale deeply or hold the smoke in their lungs longer, the risk can be greater. One study that compared cigarette and marijuana smokers found that marijuana smokers absorbed five times the amount of carbon monoxide, and had five times the tar in their lungs, as compared to cigarette smokers. For those who smoke both marijuana and cigarettes, the damage can be exponentially greater than that caused by marijuana or cigarettes alone.

Research shows that people who use marijuana more than one time during the day tend to have more social and physical problems than those who only use in the evenings. Those who use at multiple times may also be more likely to be smoking to avoid problems they feel unable to confront. A person who uses marijuana in addition to alcohol or other drugs can be at additional risk. The effects of some drugs become exponentially greater when taken together. In addition, the physical tolerance that one drug produces can sometimes affect another drug, and lead to dependence on multiple substances.

Is Marijuana Addictive?

While marijuana is not in the same addictive league as cocaine, heroin, and even alcohol, recent studies raise the possibility that THC affects the level of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is a chemical in the brain that affects the pleasure circuits. Many addictive drugs cause the release of dopamine from the neurons. One report by the National Institute of Drug Abuse states that long-term marijuana use can lead to addiction for some people. This report concludes that along with craving, withdrawal symptoms can make it hard for long-term marijuana smokers to stop using the drug. People trying to quit report irritability, difficulty sleeping, and anxiety.

Drug Paraphernalia

Texas does not prosecute possession of drugs only. In fact, Texas will prosecute a person for possession of drug paraphernalia. Thus, it is a separate criminal charge classified as a Class C Misdemeanor and typically carries a penalty of $500. Normally, if one is charged with a possession of controlled substance, then a possession of drug paraphernalia will be charged against the person, as well.

Under federal law the term drug paraphernalia means “any equipment, product or material of any kind which is primarily intended or designed for use in manufacturing, compounding, converting, concealing, producing, processing, preparing, injecting, ingesting, inhaling, or otherwise introducing into the human body a controlled substance.”

Drug paraphernalia is any legitimate equipment, product, or material that is modified for making, using, or concealing illegal drugs such as cocaine, heroin, marijuana, and methamphetamine. Drug paraphernalia generally falls into two categories:

User-specific products

User-specific products are marketed to drug users to assist them in taking or concealing illegal drugs. These products include certain pipes, smoking masks, bongs, cocaine freebase kits, marijuana grow kits, roach clips, and items such as hollowed out cosmetic cases or fake pagers used to conceal illegal drugs.

Dealer-specific products

Dealer-specific products are used by drug traffickers for preparing illegal drugs for distribution at the street level. Items such as scales, vials, and baggies fall into this category. Drug paraphernalia does not include any items traditionally used with tobacco, like pipes and rolling papers.

With the rise of the drug culture in the United States in the 1960s and 1970s, the country began to see the appearance of “head shops,” which were stores that sold a wide range of drug paraphernalia. While some of the paraphernalia was crude and home-made, much was being commercially manufactured to cater to a fast-growing market. Enterprising individuals even sold items openly in the street, until anti-paraphernalia laws in the 1980s eventually ended such blatant sales. Today, law enforcement faces another challenge. With the advent of the Internet, criminals have greatly expanded their illicit sales to a worldwide market for drug paraphernalia. For example, in a recent law enforcement effort, Operation Pipedreams, the 18 companies targeted accounted for more than a quarter of a billion dollars in retail drug paraphernalia sales annually. Typically, such illicit businesses operate retail stores as well as websites posing as retailers of legitimate tobacco accessories when in reality the products are intended for the illegal drug trade.

Identifying drug paraphernalia can be challenging because products often are marketed as though they were designed for legitimate purposes. Marijuana pipes and bongs, for example, frequently carry a misleading disclaimer indicating that they are intended to be used only with tobacco products. Recognizing drug paraphernalia often involves considering other factors such as the manner in which items are displayed for sale, descriptive materials or instructions accompanying the items, and the type of business selling the items.

Marijuana-Related Crimes

The Charles Johnson Law Firm is experienced in marijuana-related matters involving:

Contact the Best Houston Marijuana Possession Lawyer: The Charles Johnson Law Firm

Before someone can be convicted of marijuana possession in Houston, the state must prove that the accused actually had possession or took action to control the drug. Drug possession cases are complicated and depend the police’s adherence to strict guidelines concerning search and seizure of the drug.

As you could be facing fines, probation, drug classes, community service, and jail, it is crucial that you speak with an experienced Houston criminal attorney if you have been accused of this crime. Our team at the Charles Johnson Law Firm is well-equipped to handle any type of drug crime, including those involving possession of marijuana and/or drug paraphernalia. We understand that mistakes can happen and not everyone who has been accused of a crime is guilty. No matter how serious you may believe your case to be, contact The Houston Lawyer Charles Johnson directly by calling (713) 222-7577 anytime, day or night to discuss your case.

Arrested for Marijuana Possession or Sales? The Best Houston Lawyer
by Charles Johnson

 

Arrested for Marijuana Possession or Sales?  Choose the Right Houston Marijuana Lawyer For Your Case

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Houston Criminal Lawyer: Arrested For Intoxication Manslaughter?

Recommended Houston Criminal Lawyer: Intoxication Manslaughter
No one truly intends to commit intoxication manslaughter. They do not wake up and say “I’m going to get drunk tonight and drive and see who gets in my way.”

Accidents do happen and tragically, someone can die. Mitigating factors are thoroughly checked out such as whether the person broke any traffic laws, was driving with a suspended license, or if the person was negligent in some way. These are usually tried as misdemeanors. However, if a person is found to be intoxicated or under the influence of something, it is treated in Texas as a second degree felony and the prosecution goes after the person diligently. In intoxication manslaughter cases, the prosecution only has to prove that the driver was indeed, intoxicated. The term of incarceration could be anything from two years to twenty years.

If you have been charged with DWI after being in an accident that involved a death, you may be facing very serious charges of intoxication manslaughter. It is imperative that you speak with Houston Criminal Lawyer Charles Johnson as soon as possible after you have been charged, or think you may be charged. Attorney Johnson has the experience you can rely on for aggressive and effective defense strategies against the charges. The skilled attorneys at the Charles Johnson Law Firm do not believe there is any such thing as being slam-dunk guilty. No matter what the circumstances of the accident are, your personal story is behind the charges and will make a difference in the outcome of your case. We will make sure that the judge and jury know that this isn’t just about an intoxication manslaughter case. It is about you and your family.

Intoxication manslaughter is a Second Degree felony which holds people liable for any death which occurs because of criminal negligence, or a violation of traffic safety laws. A common use of the vehicular manslaughter laws involves prosecution for a death caused by driving under the influence (determined by excessive blood alcohol content levels set by individual U.S. states), although an independent infraction (such as driving with a suspended driver’s license), or negligence, is usually also required.

Intoxication manslaughter, vehicular manslaughter and other similar offences require a lesser mens rea (Latin for “guilty mind”. In criminal law, it is viewed as one of the necessary elements of a crime) than other manslaughter offenses. Furthermore, the fact that the defendant is entitled to use the alcohol, controlled substance, drug, dangerous drug, or other substance, is no defense. For example, in Texas, to prove intoxication manslaughter, it is not necessary to prove the person was negligent in causing the death of another, nor that they unlawfully used the substance that intoxicated them, but only that they were intoxicated, and operated a motor vehicle, and someone died as a result.

Types of Intoxication Manslaughter

In Texas, intoxication manslaughter does not only apply to automobile drivers. Individuals may be charged with this crime under any of the following circumstances:

If they are operating a car, truck, motorcycle, or any other type of motorized vehicle in a public place
If they are operating a boat, airplane, or amusement park ride
If they assemble an amusement park ride

If the alleged offender has done any of these things while intoxicated, and someone was killed by the vehicle they were operating or had assembled, they can be convicted of intoxication manslaughter. There is no requirement that the prosecutor prove negligence, that their intoxication was the direct cause of the crash, or that they were behaving unlawfully by using the substance that caused their intoxication.

Defenses For Intoxication Manslaughter

Intoxication manslaughter cases should be attacked on two fronts if the case is going to trial. Notwithstanding whether a person is or is not intoxicated, a good lawyer would examine the Texas Peace Officer collision report which was completed as part of the investigation. Just because a driver may be intoxicated does not mean that he should be held criminally liable for the death of another.

There have been cases where the deceased driver was as much at fault if not more at fault than the accused. Examples could include the deceased having run a red light, the deceased having operated his motor vehicle at night without lights, the deceased also being intoxicated, the deceased merging improperly into traffic, and the list goes on. A lawyer familiar with crash reconstruction and who has worked with reconstruction experts should be able to present this defense if it is available. The issue is one of causation and is set forth in Tex. Penal Code Section 6.04. In a nutshell, what 6.04 states is that if an accused’s conduct is insufficient in itself to cause the result, and the conduct of another contributed to the result and the contributing cause was sufficient to cause the result, the accused cannot be held liable.

A good accident reconstruction expert’s report may convince a prosecutor to agree to probation if causation is questionable. That in itself may be worth the investment in hiring both a reconstruction expert and a lawyer who knows how to present such findings.

The second line of defense is whether a person is intoxicated. Scientific evidence can be compelling for a jury. However, the State is allowed to rely upon opinion evidence based upon observations such as lack of coordination, blood shot eyes, smell of intoxicants on breath, slurred speech etc. Some of these symptom could be explained by lack of sleep, allergies, injury, but not all.

Most police departments have on board video cameras and video may very well have been used in this case. Video can be a two-edge sword. Many a video has convinced a defendant to make the best deal possible, while other videos have convinced an accused to take it to trial

In blood draws/test results, there are several considerations. A blood sample can be lost, yet there can be a medical record from a laboratory stating what the test result is. In fact, most hospitals don’t retain the blood samples, but for a very short period. If the blood draw was for medical treatment, sometimes there is a chain of custody problem that makes admission of the medical records unreliable. Most courts, when dealing with a chain of custody issue on medical records as the result of medical treatment rule that any problems goes to the weight of the evidence, not the admissibility, that is, the records gets admitted but the defense lawyer gets to argue that it is not reliable because of the poor chain of custody.

Mandatory blood draws can be attacked, however, you should hire a lawyer familiar with the statutory and administrative requirements for blood draws.

Houston Intoxication Manslaughter Defense Lawyer:  The Charles Johnson Law Firm

When you are charged with intoxication manslaughter or intoxication assault, you have more than just the prosecutor against you. You have the victim’s family and the public screaming for your head. You don’t have to go through this alone. The Charles Johnson Law Firm will fight aggressively to protect your rights and your future.

After a car accident in which there has been a fatality, it is an extremely upsetting situation for everyone involved. Law enforcement will collect evidence at the scene and this evidence is an important part of the documentation of the case. It is crucial that if you have been charged with intoxication manslaughter that you contact The Charles Johnson Law Firm quickly. The evidence in the case can be reviewed and an attorney can advise you what can be done in your case. Houston Criminal Lawyer Charles Johnson can offer a free evaluation of your case, and it is advised that you take advantage of this so it can be determined what can be done and what options may be possible in your case.

Houston Lawyer Charles Johnson can be reached 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Call us at 713-222-7577 or toll free at 877-308-0100.
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Houston Lawyer: Arrested For Child Pornography?

Top Houston Criminal Defense Lawyer

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.


Arrested For Child Pornography? The Leading Houston Sex Crimes Lawyer Offers a Powerful Defense

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Houston Domestic Violence Lawyer: Coping With Domestic Violence?

Top Houston Criminal Defense Lawyer

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:

  • intimidation
  • 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
  • burning
  • murder

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
  • name-calling
  • 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.
Major Credit Cards Accepted.

We can be reached 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Call us at 713-222-7577 or toll free at 877-308-0100.
Major Credit Cards Accepted.

 
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Reach me personally now at 713-222-7577close