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Houston Texas Criminal Defense Blog

Understanding Miranda rights

While many Texas residents are somewhat familiar with Miranda rights, they might not have a good understanding of what they are and the protections that they afford. Police officers do not have to read the Miranda warnings to people who they are talking to but who have not yet been arrested.

If someone is taken into custody, the police are required to read the Miranda warnings at that time. They state that the arrested person has several rights, including the right to remain silent, the fact that if the person chooses to talk, what he or she says can be used against him or her, the right to an attorney, and the fact that an attorney can be appointed to represent the person if he or she cannot afford to retain one.

Popular marijuana trends could leave Texans legally vulnerable

As recently as the 1990s, marijuana was so socially taboo that mainstream movies hoping to depict marijuana users as characters never showed them smoking, only behaving as though they were under the influence.

These days, people using marijuana often aren't smoking either, as they are partaking in the current trend to consume marijuana-infused foods or using vaporization devices, such as vape pens, for more discretion and portability. Many people consider both of these options less-harm marijuana consumption methods when compared with smoking, which can damage the lungs.

Social media investigation sparks Texas drug raid

Social media reporting led to a Texas drug raid in which a 25-year-old man is accused of selling drugs to local teens, said the Parker County Sheriff's Office. The agency said that it made several arrests beginning on Dec. 6, 2019, and seized different types of illegal drugs as well as $30,000 in cash. They say that young people, in particular, were being targeted by the alleged dealer and that their investigation was sparked by a parent who reported that their teen was receiving Snapchat videos from a person in Tarrant County selling various substances online, including cannabis, LSD and mushrooms.

Police said that they set up a fake social media accounts of their own in order to entice the accused drug dealer to sell them drugs as well. They said that they involved multiple law enforcement agencies in Texas as well as federal agencies to track the social media usage and travel of the suspect. A police spokesperson said that the agency obtained a warrant and searched the suspect's home. They said that they encountered five teens at the home at the time of the raid who were there to buy drugs.

Questionable police technique used widely across the country

When Texas residents are accused of a crime that they haven't committed, they may attempt to clear their name by speaking to the police. Because they are not guilty, they may believe that they just need to tell their stories and they will be able to move on. However, this is far from always the case. Police may identify a suspect and do anything possible to try to obtain a conviction, regardless if the suspect is actually guilty of the crime. They may be so fixed on a particular suspect that they may push aside other evidence or theories pointing to a different perpetrator.

As a result, people may be wrongfully convicted or accept a plea bargain. While police investigative techniques are often featured on television dramas, their inaccuracy often goes unexamined. Many types of questionable forensic practices have been exposed after they are used as evidence in court. A criminal defense lawyer may challenge techniques as unscientific or unreliable, and some miscarriages of justice have been overturned this way.

UPS employees detained on drug-related charges

Some people in Texas may have heard that there has been an increase in people taken into custody nationwide for charges related to marijuana vapes. On November 13 in Tucson, Arizona, four UPS employees and seven other people were detained on charges related to drug trafficking. Law enforcement allegedly also seized over 50,000 counterfeit THC vape pens.

Police began the investigation in 2017 when they became aware that narcotics were being trafficked with the help of UPS employees. There were two supervisors and two drivers detained. They are being charged with drug distribution, drug possession and money laundering. The seven others are facing charges for running stash houses for the drugs and for shipping the drugs.

What is your domestic violence defense strategy?

Allegations of domestic violence can result in your arrest. If you're convicted of this crime, it can impact your life in a variety of ways, such as the job that you hold down and the relationship you have with your children.

If you're charged with domestic violence, don't wait a single minute to better understand your legal rights in Texas and defense strategy you can employ. Here are five to consider:

  • Self-defense: This is the most common domestic violence defense strategy, with you arguing that you fought back against the other individual to protect yourself or another person.
  • Wrong person: This works if you can prove that another person committed the crime. One of the best ways of doing so is by providing evidence that backs up your claim that you were not at the scene of the crime.
  • False allegations: It sounds crazy, but some people will make false claims of domestic violence in an attempt to get back at someone. For example, this may happen during or after divorce if your ex is trying to keep you away from your children. They know that a domestic violence conviction will likely result in the loss of child custody or visitation rights.
  • No proof: The accuser must have proof that you are guilty of domestic violence. You may be able to avoid a conviction by forcing the accuser to prove that you were at the scene and actually committed a crime.
  • Consent: It doesn't come into play often, but a person could voluntarily consent to an act of violence. If you can prove that there was consent, it can work in your favor when fighting against domestic violence charges.

Four men arrested after drug raid

On Nov. 8, Texas authorities arrested four men during a drug raid at a residence in Hutto. The operation was conducted by detectives from the Hutto Police Department and the Pflugerville Police Department.

According to local media sources, detectives executed a search warrant at a home on the 200 block of Carol Drive. During the search, they reportedly uncovered 74 THC vaping cartridges, 13 LSD tabs, a vial of suspected LSD liquid and a bottle of promethazine codeine. They also allegedly found a 9mm pistol, over $2,800 in cash and a credit card that may have been stolen. Four people were taken into custody and transported to the Williamson County Jail for processing.

Assault and battery charges in Texas

Assault and battery are covered by the same section of the Texas Penal Code. Individuals who commit assault or battery in the Lone Star State can face charges ranging from a Class C misdemeanor to a first degree felony, and they can be ordered to pay a fine as low as $500 or sent to prison for up to five years. The most serious penalties are reserved for individuals who use weapons during assaults or cause serious injuries to domestic partners, witnesses, informants, or officials like police officers or emergency workers.

Individuals can be charged with assault in Texas even when they injure others unintentionally if their behavior was reckless. Class A misdemeanors are brought against individuals who issue threats that they do not follow through on or touch others despite knowing that their actions would be construed as provocative or offensive. Assaulting an entertainer or athlete raises the charge to a Class B misdemeanor, and causing bodily injuries or physically accosting an elderly person warrants a Class C misdemeanor charge under Texas law.

Community service sentences may entrench poverty

Many people in Texas think that sentences of community service are more humane than other types of criminal punishment, including jail time or heavy fines. However, one study released by the UCLA Labor Center and School of Law says that community service can replicate some of the same problems caused by court fines and debt, especially for people in low-income communities and communities of color. The study examined 5,000 cases of people ordered to community service between 2013 and 2015 to work off the fines they would have received otherwise.

The study noted that community service sentences can build a reliance on the part of government agencies for the supply of labor obtained through criminal convictions. As a result, these agencies may hire fewer people to perform this work outside the system, further entrenching unemployment and poverty in the community. Specifically, researchers said that the county needed 8 million hours of community service, equaling 4,900 paid jobs. Agencies received 3 million hours from people sentenced to work off their fines, the equivalent of 1,800 paid jobs. They also criticized the effects of community service sentences on people's financial stability. Many sentences required weeks of full-time work. As a result, people were less likely to be able to work paid jobs or take on shifts.

Violent crime is down but convictions still on the rise

A research brief from the RAND Corporation claims that more people are being arrested and convicted before turning 26 than in previous generations. This statistic is causing concern among some justice reform advocates as convicted criminals in Texas and throughout the country have less access to educational opportunities, jobs and earning power.

Figures for people who are detained and convicted are on the rise despite the fact that crime has been on a downward trajectory for some time. From 2017 to 2018, violent crime went down 3.3%. Since 1993, violent crime has been reduced by half. The rise in people being taken into custody is largely due to petty violations. Around 8% of all women taken into custody and 9% of all men are detained because of drug offenses, and the percentages are even higher for underage drinking. The likelihood of being detained and taken into custody remains disproportionately high for black men, but women and white men are catching up.

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