Criminal Defense

When Do Exigent Circumstances Allow Police to Enter Your Home Without a Warrant?

By Peek & Toland on May 21, 2019

The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees you the right to be free from reasonable search and seizure. This generally means that law enforcement authorities must have a valid search warrant to enter and search your private residence. As a result, when police illegally search your home without a warrant, a court could rule in any criminal proceedings that since the search was illegal, the evidence was likewise illegally obtained and thus not admissible in court. However, there are various exceptions to this general requirement of a search warrant, one of which is “exigent circumstances.”

Tex. Code of Crim. Procedure Article 14.50 provides that while law enforcement officers normally may not enter a residence without a warrant, they may do so under exigent circumstances. Whether a situation rises to the level of exigent circumstances depends on the specific facts of each case.

One situation in which exigent circumstances might be present is if the law enforcement officer reasonably believes that entry without a warrant is necessary to assist others. For instance, when law enforcement officers are present outside a residence and hear a woman screaming for help, they may have exigent circumstances to enter the residence and prevent the woman from whatever harm may be occurring.

Another example of exigent circumstances may be when entry by police officers into the residence is necessary to protect themselves from a person whom they reasonably believe to be present, armed and dangerous. In other words, if someone from inside the residence is actively shooting through the windows at police officers, they may have grounds to enter the residence due to exigent circumstances.

When Do Exigent Circumstances Allow Police to Enter Your Home Without a Warrant?

Yet another instance that might constitute exigent circumstances occurs when law enforcement officers fear that failing to enter the residence could result in the destruction of evidence or contraband. If police officers are outside a home awaiting a search warrant and a fire begins burning in a back room in the house, the police might reasonably conclude that the suspect is attempting to dispose of evidence or contraband. In instance, exigent circumstances may be present.

The Peek & Toland criminal defense lawyers are here to represent your interests and advise you of the best course of action in your situation. Set up an appointment to talk to us today and discover how we can assist you with your criminal proceedings.

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What is the “Law of Parties” Under Texas Criminal Law?

By Peek & Toland on May 20, 2019

The “law of parties” permits one individual to be held criminally liable for the actions of others. Tex. Pen. Code § 7.01 designates all participants to a crime as “parties” and thus makes them all criminally responsible for the commission of the offense.

What is the Law of Parties Under Texas Criminal Law?

Under Tex. Pen. Code §7.02, there are several different situations in which you may be criminally responsible for the criminal behavior of others. These situations include those in which you:

  • Cause or help an innocent person to engage in criminal activity,
  • Intentionally promote, help, encourage, direct, or solicit others to commit a crime, or attempt to do the same, or
  • Have a legal duty to prevent a crime from occurring and you purposely promote it, assist in committing it, or fail to make any reasonable efforts to stop it from occurring

Another related provision under Texas law is the felony murder rule. If you have conspired with others to commit a felony offense, then you may be criminally responsible for any other felony offense that one of your co-conspirators commits, if it was one that you reasonably should have anticipated. For instance, if you and a friend decide to commit an armed robbery of a gas station so that you can steal all the money from the cash register and safe, you should reasonably anticipate that someone could end up shot. If that person dies or suffers severe injuries, you can face additional felony charges for that death or injury, even if it was your co-conspirator and not you that pulled the trigger. In the state of Texas, the felony murder even applies to capital offenses. This means that if you are committing an armed robbery with a co-conspirator, and the co-conspirator intentionally shoots and kills another patron in the store, then you could face first-degree murder charges and the death penalty.

The immigration lawyers of Peek & Toland have handled the legal representation of countless individuals facing various immigration-related issues. We are here to protect your rights and advocate on your behalf in order to get the best outcome possible in your case. Call our office today at (512) 474-4445 to set up an appointment with our immigration attorneys today.

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Bill Pending Before State Legislature that Would Limit Class C Misdemeanor Arrests

By Peek & Toland on May 15, 2019

Although state lawmakers in the House have passed a HB 63, which is a bill that lowers minor possession of marijuana to a Class C misdemeanor, their victory was short-lived. Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, who controls the state Senate, already has stated that the bill is “dead on arrival.” He reportedly has no interest in decriminalizing any amount of marijuana, as to do so would lead to the legalization of marijuana, which is a path that Texas has long resisted.

Even as other states continue to pass increasingly broad medical marijuana and even some recreational marijuana bills, Texas has remained firm in allowing the use of medical marijuana only to treat otherwise untreatable epilepsy, an extremely narrow exception to the state’s blanket ban on marijuana.

Bill Pending Before State Legislature that Would Limit Class C Misdemeanor Arrests

Under HB 63, possession of one ounce or less of marijuana would become a civil penalty rather than a criminal offense; the only punishment possible under this bill would be a fine of up to $250. Currently, possession of this amount of marijuana is a

In 2017, Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg infuriated some state officials by enacting a policy that essentially decriminalized possession of less than four ounces of marijuana in the county. Under this policy, individuals will not be arrested, ticketed, or ordered to appear in court if they take a marijuana education class. The District Attorney’s office established the policy to focus more law enforcement efforts toward combatting violent crime and drug trafficking, among other priorities. If you find yourself charged with any type of criminal offense, you need legal advice that only experienced Texas criminal defense attorneys can offer you. As the consequences of any criminal conviction may be severe, you should immediately contact a skilled defense lawyer for help if you have been accused of a criminal offense. Peek & Toland provides strong legal representation on a regular basis for individuals who are charged with various crimes. It is our priority is to represent your interests and protect your rights.  Call us at (512) 474-4445 and schedule an appointment to speak with us today.

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New Study Shows Younger Americans Far More Likely to Be Arrested Than Younger Americans

By Peek & Toland on May 13, 2019

According to a new study by Rand Corporation researchers, Americans who currently are under the age of 26 are almost four times more likely to be arrested than Americans who are over the age of 26. Other factors that made individuals more likely to be arrested included being single, fewer weeks worked, less education, and lower wages when working. Likewise, the number of individuals arrested between the ages of 26 and 35 was still 3.6 times more than arrests of those over the age of 66.

This study involved 5,000 families, including 35,000 people over a span of 50 years, which makes it one of the longest-running household surveys in history. The individuals featured in the survey are representative of the current American population, excluding those who have multiple criminal convictions.

The study revealed that black men (33%) still are more likely to be arrested than white men (23%) during their youth, although those numbers seem to be growing closer as time passes. Overall, about one-third of men between the ages of 26 and 35 had been arrested during their youth.

New Study Shows Younger Americans Far More Likely to Be Arrested
Than Younger Americans

Education also emerged as a huge factor indicating the likelihood of arrests. Six out of ten men ages 26 through 35 with only a high school education had been arrested by age 26. Conversely, only 23% of the men in this age group with college educations had been arrested.

Arrest rates also had a direct impact on earning capacity in adulthood. Individuals who were arrested once in their youth made an average $6,000 less in adulthood than those who had never been arrested. Those with multiple arrests in their youth made a whopping $13,000 less per year in their adults lives as compared with those who had never been arrested. The criminal defense lawyers of Peek & Toland have handled the legal defense of countless individuals who are facing criminal charges. We are here to protect your rights and advocate on your behalf in order to get the best outcome possible in your case. Call our office today at (512) 474-4445 to set up an appointment with our criminal defense attorneys today.

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TX Criminal Court of Appeals Rules that Police Can Obtain CSLI Without a Warrant . . . Sometimes

By Peek & Toland on May 9, 2019

Although the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that obtaining 127 days’ worth of historical cell-site location information (CSLI) without a search warrant violates the Fourth Amendment, the Texas Criminal Court of Appeals recently has ruled that using real-time CSLI for a three-hour period to locate a suspect without a search warrant does NOT violate the Fourth Amendment. The Court went to great lengths in its decision to justify its ruling and distinguish it from the situation addressed by the U.S. Supreme Court.

CSLI is the data held by third-party cellular companies for business purposes. Whenever a person uses a cell phone to make a call, send a text message, or access an application using cell phone data, the phone connects with a near-by cell tower. This connection retrieves data from the phone and stores it in the cell tower. This usage data can generate time-stamped locations of the cell phone, which, in turn, provides a means to track the movements of the cell phone user.

In the Texas court case, as law enforcement officers began to prepare a search warrant affidavit to obtain CSLI with respect to a murder suspect, they realized that another officer already had obtained the CSLI. The officers used three hours of real-time CSLI to locate and apprehend the suspect. The suspect then moved to suppress the CSLI data, arguing that obtaining the data without a warrant violated the Fourth Amendment.

The Texas court concluded that obtaining the CSLI in this case did not violate the Fourth Amendment. According to the court, the necessary inquiry is whether the government had seized “enough” information from the records that it violated a legitimate expectation to privacy. The court did not establish a clear rule about how much data police can access or how long they can spend accessing the data before it violates the right to privacy. However, the court ruled that in the case at issue, the police did not cross the threshold necessary to violate the defendant’s reasonable expectation of privacy.

An experienced Texas criminal defense attorney can help you build a strong defense against any criminal charges. We are here to evaluate the facts surrounding your case, present your options, and help you make the decisions that will be most beneficial to you, based on your circumstances. Contact Peek & Toland at (512) 474-4445 today and see how we can help.

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What Are the Penalties for Tampering with Evidence in Texas?

By Peek & Toland on May 7, 2019

Tex. Pen. Code § 37.09 addresses the most common type of tampering with evidence. This criminal offense can take many forms, but tampering with evidence involves intentionally destroying, concealing, or altering physical items so that they are unavailable and cannot be used as evidence in any criminal proceedings. In order to commit this offense, you must be aware that a police investigation is occurring or ongoing. Some examples of tampering with physical evidence might include:

  • Throwing drugs out of the car or swallowing them as police approach you
  • Moving or hiding a body following a murder
  • Tossing a gun into a body of water or the trash after using it in a robbery
  • Deleting computer files, attempting to destroy a computer, or hiding portable storage media when police are investigating you for a crime

Another variation of tampering with evidence under this code section involves creating, presenting, or using a document with the knowledge that is false to try to alter the outcome of a criminal investigation.

Tampering with evidence generally is a third-degree felony under Texas law. A conviction for a third-degree felony can result in a prison sentence ranging from two to ten years and a $10,000 fine.

However, the offense becomes a second-degree felony if individuals tamper or attempt to conceal a human corpse. A second-degree felony conviction may result in as many as 20 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. Furthermore, it is a Class A misdemeanor, which can result in up to one year in jail and a $4,000 fine, for individuals to discover and fail to report a human corpse to law enforcement authorities, if they know or reasonably should know that the authorities are unaware of the corpse.

When you are charged with any type of criminal offense in the state of Texas, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney to represent your interests from the very beginning of your case. Taking steps to get you released from jail and fight for your rights at the outset of your case is typically easier than waiting until your case has progressed. Contact Peek & Toland at (512) 474-4445 today and set up an appointment to speak with our legal team. intment

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USSC Decision Casts Doubt on Civil Forfeiture

By Peek & Toland on April 24, 2019

A recent U.S. Supreme Court decision has cast doubt on the nationwide practice of local law enforcement agencies seizing private property of citizens that is allegedly associated with criminal activity. Civil asset forfeiture, while allows law enforcement officers to take cash and other property from individuals, even if the individuals never are convicted of a crime or ever face criminal charges. Once law enforcement seizes these assets, owners of the property must take legal action to get their property back; in many cases, the property owners never regain their property.

The Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which bans excessive fines, applies not only to federal government agencies, but also to state government agencies. As a result, local courts nationwide who are considering the constitutionality of civil forfeiture now must determine whether the seizure of a particular asset is excessive or highly disproportionate to the criminal activity in which it was allegedly involved.

USSC Decision Casts Doubt on Civil Forfeiture

Critics of civil forfeiture have long accused law enforcement officials of utilizing it as a mechanism to obtain revenue at the expensive of the public. Justice Ginsburg highlighted this criticism in her decision, identifying civil forfeiture as a source of revenue as opposed to mean of punishing criminal activity.

The recent Supreme Court ruling stemmed from the case of Tyson Timbs, an Indiana man who pled guilty to selling $225 worth of heroin to undercover police officers. Law enforcement officials then seized Timbs’ $42,000 Land Rover, which Justice Ginsburg noted was worth more than four times more the maximum fine of $10,000 that Timbs could have faced for his criminal offense. The case reached the U.S. Supreme Court after the Indiana Supreme Court ruled against Timbs. If you find yourself charged with any type of criminal offense, you need legal advice that only experienced Texas criminal defense attorneys can offer you. As the consequences of any criminal conviction may be severe, you should immediately contact a skilled defense lawyer for help if you have been accused of a criminal offense. Peek & Toland provides strong legal representation on a regular basis for individuals who are charged with various crimes. It is our priority is to represent your interests and protect your rights.  Call us at (512) 474-4445 and schedule an appointment to speak with us today.

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SCOTUS Halts Execution of Intellectually Disabled Man

By Peek & Toland on April 22, 2019

The U.S. Supreme Court recently issued its decision in Moore v. Texas, which halted the planned execution of an intellectually disabled man in the state of Texas. In keeping with its precedent, the high Court ruled in this case that the state of Texas’s proposed execution of Moore was unlawful due to his intellectual disabilities. The Court reversed the lower state court ruling and found that Moore was ineligible for execution.

In its decision, the Court discounted the Texas court’s method of measuring intellectual disability. The state had relied on assessments concerning the man’s ability to lie and his leadership abilities, neither of which are clinically accepted methods of assessing intellectual disabilities. Rather, these assessments are extremely limited and rely on stereotypes about disabled persons in general. Texas also relied on IQ testing as a measure of intellectual disability, which also is a deeply flawed methodology for measuring intellectual disability. The decision, authored by Justice Ginsburg, specifically attacked the methodologies utilized by the Texas courts in determining the man to be fit for execution.

SCOTUS Halts Execution of Intellectually Disabled Man

The state of Texas has been attempting to execute Moore since 1980, when he was sentenced to death for his role in the robbery of a grocery store that led to a clerk’s death. The Texas Court of Appeals previously determined that Moore was not intellectually disabled due to his ability to mow the lawn, steal food, and use basic math. In 2017, the U.S. Supreme Court disagreed, and remanded the case back to the Texas court to assess the man’s intellectual capacity based on medical or clinical expertise, rather than subjective criteria based on a character in a John Steinbeck novel that the state court cited in its decision.

After Texas still determined that Moore was eligible for execution, the Supreme Court finally stepped in and ruled otherwise. Of particular note was the fact that the Texas court solicited the opinions of five experts in measuring Moore’s intellect. Four of the five experts believe that Moore was intellectually disabled. The fifth expert disagreed, and the Texas court ultimately adopted the findings of the fifth expert, despite the opinions of the other four experts to the contrary. The criminal defense lawyers of Peek & Toland have handled the legal defense of countless individuals who are facing criminal charges. We are here to protect your rights and advocate on your behalf in order to get the best outcome possible in your case. Call our office today at (512) 474-4445 to set up an appointment with our criminal defense attorneys today.

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Texas Jails Have Failed

By Peek & Toland on April 21, 2019

State lawmakers have turned their focus in part to state jails, which they originally created 25 years ago in hopes of rehabilitating some occupants, such as low-level drug offenders, and keeping them out of prisons housing violent offenders. Unfortunately, state jails largely have failed in this respect, offering very few services, housing more serious offenders while en route to prison, and producing offenders who are more likely to reoffend than those offenders placed in the state’s general prison population.

After the results of a comprehensive study of the state jail system prior to this legislative session, which pronounced the system to be a “total failure,” lawmakers have prioritized the expansion of local pretrial and probation services instead. These efforts would focus on rehabilitative substance abuse and mental health treatment. To that end, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice has requested $8 million in additional funds to address those needs as part of its 2020-21 funding request.

Texas Jails Have Failed

In fiscal year 2016, less than one-half of one percent of the total state jail population was released on probation or community supervision. This means that after spending an average of nine months in state jail, which is long enough to lose jobs, housing, and family relationships, but not long enough to complete effective treatment through the few services offered in state jails, individuals receive no services because they are not placed on any kind of probation. As a result, the re-arrest rate for these offenders is 63%, which is much higher than the 45% re-arrest rate for offenders released from prison statewide.

The legislative study of the issue identified many different potential solutions to these problems. For instance, some suggested abolishing the “12.44” provision, which is a provision in the Texas Penal Code that allows judges to sentence individuals convicted of state jail felonies to less than the 180-day minimum or drop the charges to a misdemeanor. As a practical result, this allows many offenders to serve far shorter sentences on a pretrial basis in county jails, so that they never go to state jail, or do not go long enough to receive any meaningful amount of services. Other suggestions included expanding nondisclosure laws that seal criminal records and adjusting the requirements of probation to be more effective and less onerous. If you or a family member is facing any type of criminal charges, we may be able to help. As experienced Texas criminal defense attorneys, we have the knowledge needed to help you navigate through often-complex criminal proceedings. Call us today at (512) 474-4445 and schedule an appointment with one of our criminal defense lawyers and learn how we can assist you.

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TSA Lightens Up on Airline Travelers with Guns?

By Peek & Toland on April 18, 2019

According to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), U.S. airplane travelers seem to be unaware that it is illegal to carry firearms through carry-on baggage security checkpoints. As a result, the TSA located 4,239 in airline travelers’ carry-on bags last year, which is a seven percent increase over the numbers found in 2017 and the largest number in agency history. This averages out to TSA agents discovering about 12 firearms per day.

TSA’s discovery of firearms occurred at 249 of the 440 airports nationwide where TSA agents screen passengers. Of the firearms that TSA found in carry-on luggage, 86% were loaded with ammunition, and 34% had a round of ammunition in their chambers. TSA found the largest number of firearms in carry-on baggage at the Atlanta airport (298 firearms), followed by Dallas/Fort Worth (219), Phoenix (129), Denver (126), and Orlando (123). As far as the total number of firearms found in airports in any state, Texas leads the nation, with over 300 firearm found in passengers’ carry-on luggage in two North Texas airports last year.

TSA Lightens Up on Air Travelers with Guns?


Historically, when TSA caught airline passengers attempting to take a firearm through a carry-on baggage security checkpoint, the passengers were subject to immediate arrest. Firearm possession laws, however, differ by jurisdiction, although TSA can impose civil fines of up to $13,333 for each violation, and higher fines for repeated violations. It is up to local law enforcement authorities to decide whether to seize the firearms from the passengers.

Anecdotal evidence from around the country has suggested that TSA and/or local law enforcement authorities are increasingly allowing passengers caught with firearms to return them to their vehicles, rather than being arrested or fined. However, there is no hard evidence of any such change in prior policy and procedures. When you are charged with any type of criminal offense in the state of Texas, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney to represent your interests from the very beginning of your case. Taking steps to get you released from jail and fight for your rights at the outset of your case is typically easier than waiting until your case has progressed. Contact Peek & Toland at (512) 474-4445 today and set up an appointment to speak with our legal team.

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