Criminal Defense

Criminal Convictions and Collateral Consequences

By Peek & Toland on July 9, 2019

Criminal convictions have many direct consequences, including jail or prison sentences, periods of community supervision, fines, and mandatory community service hours. However, criminal convictions also can have collateral consequences that can adversely impact your life for many years, if not indefinitely.

You could jeopardize your job and your career. In some cases, a criminal conviction can prevent you from ever working again in specific industries. A conviction also could hinder your ability to gain admission to colleges, graduate schools, or professional schools. You may be unable to obtain some professional licenses if you have a particular criminal conviction in your background.

Criminal convictions can cause you to lose some rights. For instance, under federal law, a felony conviction or any conviction for domestic violence, whether a felony or misdemeanor, prevents you from possessing firearms. Certain felony drug convictions prevent you from eligibility for federal financial aid. Some convictions, such as a DWI or related charge, can cause you to lose your driver’s license either temporarily or indefinitely, based on your situation. If you need a valid license for your job, then you may be at risk of losing your job.

Other potential collateral consequences for a criminal conviction can include the following:

  • Immigration consequences, including removal
  • Sex offender registration
  • Mandatory submission of DNA samples to law enforcement agency databases
  • Ineligibility for certain government public benefits

Individuals with certain criminal convictions may experience heightened difficulties in renting apartments and obtaining credit. Public housing assistance may be unavailable for individuals with certain felony convictions.

Criminal Convictions and Collateral Consequences

You also should be aware that collateral consequences may change over time or between states. For example, if you are convicted of a sex offense, you may not be required to register as a sex offender in the state in which you were convicted. However, if you move to another state, registration for that offense may be mandatory. The criminal defense lawyers of Peek & Toland have handled the legal representation of countless individuals facing various criminal charges. We are here to protect your rights and advocate on your behalf 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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Selecting a Jury in a Criminal Case

By Peek & Toland on July 8, 2019

Jury selection, or voir dire, is a highly important part of a criminal case. Specific rules and procedures control the selection of juries in these cases. A jury consists of 12 persons in district court, which hears felony criminal cases, and six persons in county court, which hears misdemeanor criminal cases.

Typically, a district court will call 60 to 80 people to appear for jury selection in a criminal trial. The judge first addresses the potential jurors with opening remarks. Attorneys for the prosecution and defense then have equal amounts of time to question prospective jurors. They ask questions designed to determine if the jurors are biased in any way or have a conflict of interest concerning the case.

Selecting a Jury in a Criminal Case

Neither the prosecutor nor the defense lawyer can provide prospective jurors about the facts of the case. They also cannot question jurors as to how they would vote in certain situations if they were a juror.

If there is a legal reason to exclude a juror, then the attorney can exclude the juror for cause; attorneys for both sides have unlimited challenges for cause.

If there is a legal reason to exclude a juror, then the attorney can exclude the juror for cause; attorneys for both sides have unlimited challenges for cause. If there is no legal reason to exclude a juror, however, then the attorney can use a peremptory challenge to exclude the juror. Each attorney has ten peremptory challenges in a felony case and three in a misdemeanor case. Peremptory challenges are inappropriate if they are based on discriminatory factors, such as the race or gender of jurors. If the defense lawyer believes that a prosecutor’s peremptory challenge is unfair, they can make a so-called Batson challenge, which is named after the U.S. Supreme Court case that prohibits peremptory challenges based on discriminatory factors.

At Peek & Toland, we care about helping you obtain through your criminal law problems. We will focus our efforts on advocating on your behalf and representing your interests throughout your criminal proceedings. Our knowledgeable criminal defense lawyers know the best strategies for gathering documentation to support your goals. Allow us to handle your criminal law case by sitting down with us today and discussing your situation.

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Wrongful Convictions in Texas

By Peek & Toland on July 7, 2019

Under current state law, individuals who are wrongfully convicted of crimes and imprisoned are eligible to receive the sum of $80,000 from the state for every year for which they were incarcerated. If they do not commit a felony offense in the future, they also are eligible for monthly annuity payments for up to $80,000 per year for the rest of their lives.

The amount of money that the state of Texas pays out to wrongfully convicted individuals can vary widely, even for individuals who spent the same amount of time wrongfully incarcerated. The laws regarding compensation from the state have changed over the years and the amount of payment that individuals receive also depends on when they were released from incarceration, and when they applied for compensation.

Wrongful Convictions in Texas

To be eligible for this compensation, however, individuals must receive a declaration from the prosecutor’s office or the court that they are innocent. This requirement can be difficult in some cases in which exonerating evidence is not quite as precise as prosecutors would prefer.

Fortunately, Texas has led the nation in the number of people that it exonerates. According to a Texas Tribune article, Texas courts have exonerated more than 200 people since 2010, which is more than twice as many exonerations as any other state during that same time. Over the years, Texas has passed several pieces of legislation to assist in exonerating wrongfully convicted people. For example, Dallas County formed the first conviction integrity unit to examine claims of innocence in closed cases. Laws now more strictly regulate the use of jailhouse informants by prosecutors, which has been a common source of wrongful convictions.

Peek & Toland dedicates a large part of its practice to helping both individuals and businesses resolve their immigration-related issues. Immigration law is a complex, ever-changing area of the law that necessitates legal advice from experienced immigration lawyers who keep up to date with all relevant changes in law and policy. We will work with you to achieve the most favorable outcome possible in your situation. Call our office today and set up a consultation with our skilled immigration attorneys today.

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Mistakes to Avoid When You Get Arrested

By Peek & Toland on July 6, 2019

When police arrest people, their first thought may be to try and explain the situation so that they can get themselves out of trouble. Talking to police about the allegations against you, however, is a significant mistake. You may inadvertently incriminate yourself or give the police evidence against you that they didn’t already have. In other words, you can make your situation substantially worse. As a result, you should not say anything to police other than to request to speak with a lawyer.

Another potential mistake that people often make following an arrest is to discuss the charges or arrest with family members or friends. While people may find it comforting or useful to address these issues with loved ones, doing so can backfire quickly. For example, jails typically monitor or record phone calls between inmates and others. By speaking to your mother about details related to your criminal charges, you risk incriminating yourself by admitting that you violated the law or giving the police evidence to use against you at trial. While it is fine to seek emotional support from friends and family, you should not discuss your charges, your arrest, or your criminal case at all.

Mistakes to Avoid When You Get Arrested

Another mistake that many people make after an arrest is to be less than truthful with their lawyers. While you may be reluctant or embarrassed to admit wrongdoing, even to a stranger, you should understand that the attorney-client privilege binds your lawyer. This means your lawyer generally cannot tell anyone what you said. Failing to be truthful with your lawyer can hurt your case. If you want a lawyer to be able to adequately assess your situation and determine the defense strategy that is most likely to be effective in your case, then you must be truthful. Attempting to blame someone else for a criminal offense that you committed or something that you did wrong is likely to hurt you rather than help you.

Our goal is to assist you with your criminal law concerns, whether you are facing criminal charges or only under investigation for a crime. We can evaluate your situation and develop a strategy that is most likely to be efficient and effective in your case. Regardless of the criminal law matter that you are facing, the attorneys of Peek & Toland have the experience, knowledge, and reputation that you want and need to advocate on your behalf. When results matter most, contact us at (512) 474-4445. =

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Are Phone Calls from Jail Private?

By Peek & Toland on July 5, 2019

While counties handle incoming and outgoing calls from jail inmates differently, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice publicly advises all participants in phone calls with prisoners that they may monitor and record all phone calls. Most jail phone calls start with an immediate warning that law enforcement may monitor or record their conversations. The only exceptions to this general rule are for those conversations between inmates and lawyers, which are subject to the attorney-client privilege. As a result, prisons and jails may not record privileged telephone conversations, as doing so is a violation of inmates’ 6th Amendment rights.

In recent years, many jails have come under fire for automatically recording inmate phone calls, including those with defense attorneys. Before the automation of these recordings, jail officers could manually disconnect the recording system when the attorney-client privilege was at issue. With technological advances, however, the recording systems automatically exclude specific numbers in a database of lawyers. When inmates spoke with lawyers whose numbers weren’t in the database, however, some jails have recorded these conversations improperly, including in Dallas.

Are Phone Calls From Jail Private?

The bottom line is that you never should assume that your phone call with jail or prison inmates, regardless of what party initiated the phone call, is private or confidential. In most cases, there is a very high probability that either law enforcement authorities actively are monitoring calls or are recording them for further review. As such, individuals should avoid any conversation that relates to criminal charges or any aspect of the criminal case. Otherwise, you risk giving law enforcement authorities evidence to use against you in your case or evidence supporting new or additional criminal charges against you. Our Texas criminal defense lawyers are here to offer you the experienced legal representation and advice that you need to resolve your criminal law matter. We can act as your guide through the criminal justice system to obtain the relief that you are seeking. Call our office today and learn about the type of assistance we can offer you.

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Marijuana Arrests Still Dominate in Some Counties and States

By Peek & Toland on July 2, 2019

According to a recent article relying on FBI data, marijuana possession led to six percent of all arrests nationwide in 2017. This arrest rate, however, is not consistent from one state to the next, or even from one county to the next within the same state. In some counties, the arrest rate for marijuana possession is in the 20 percent range, which tops out at 55 percent in one Georgia county.

Various reasons support these high rates of arrest. First, the federal government provides generous funding for drug task forces. Forfeiture laws also often allow law enforcement agencies to seize and keep money and other assets from those accused of drug crimes. Furthermore, marijuana may be easier for law enforcement authorities to spot, simply because it is bulky, meaning that individuals cannot easily conceal it, and has a strong and distinctive odor, especially in comparison to other controlled substances.

Marijuana Arrests Still Dominate in Some Counties and States

With the legalization of marijuana occurring rapidly in many states, however, the emphasis that some law enforcement agencies place on prosecuting individuals who use marijuana may be unwarranted and a waste of precious resources. Moreover, law enforcement efforts to stop drug activity most commonly result in the prosecution of drug users and small distributors who deal solely to support their habit, as opposed to the major distributors or those who run high-level drug dealing enterprises.

Nationwide, more conservative states, including Texas, who have not legalized any marijuana usage, have had higher arrest rates for marijuana possession than the national average. Two counties in Texas had the third and fourth highest arrest rates for marijuana possession in the U.S. In contrast, states that have legalized marijuana to some degree have much lower than average arrest rates for marijuana possession. When facing any criminal law issue, you are likely to need the legal advice that only experienced Texas criminal defense attorneys can offer you. Peek & Toland provides strong legal representation regularly for individuals who are dealing with criminal law problems. It is our priority 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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Can Criminal Convictions Stop Me from Going to College?

By Peek & Toland on July 1, 2019

Most colleges and universities do collect criminal background information on prospective students, and many consider a student’s criminal background when making admission decisions. The most typical way that colleges collect this information is by asking students for the information on their applications for admission. A few colleges conduct regular background checks on prospective students. If a student discloses a criminal background or it appears in a background check that a school performs, the school may request additional information, such as a letter of explanation from the student, or information confirming that the student has completed his or her probation or parole successfully.

One of the most significant barriers to attending college may be an inability to qualify for federal financial aid if you have been convicted of a felony involving the possession or sale of a controlled substance. If you have a felony drug conviction, you could be ineligible for federal loans, grants, and work-study benefits for some time, depending on the nature and the timing of your conviction. Nonetheless, you still could be eligible for state financial aid, including grants and scholarships.

Can Criminal Convictions Stop Me From Going to College?

There may be ways for you to regain eligibility for federal financial aid. For instance, if you have a felony possession conviction, you can regain eligibility for federal financial assistance after one year for a first-time offense or after two years for a second offense. A third conviction makes you ineligible indefinitely. If you have a drug sales felony conviction, however, you will be ineligible for two years following a first offense, and ineligible indefinitely after a second offense. You can regain ineligibility earlier if you complete a drug rehabilitation program or if you have the conviction overturned or removed.

The criminal defense attorneys of Peek & Toland have the experience that you need when you are facing criminal charges. We will determine the facts and evidence that are relevant to your case, evaluate your options, and help you decide the best course of action for your situation. We intend to place you in the best position possible to achieve your goals. Contact our Texas criminal defense attorneys at our office today and learn how we can assist you through this complicated situation.

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Does a Car Count as a Deadly Weapon Under Texas Law?

By Peek & Toland on June 30, 2019

Whether a car or another vehicle can be characterized as a deadly weapon arises most often in a felony DWI case that has gone to trial. A DWI usually results in felony charges when you have two or more prior DWI convictions. An affirmative finding that you used a deadly weapon in the commission of a felony can affect the sentence that you receive.

In a DWI case, the prosecutor will ask the jury to find that you used your vehicle as a deadly weapon in committing the DWI. A deadly weapon finding can impact your sentence insofar as your eligibility for parole is concerned. If the jury makes this finding in your case, then you must serve at least one-half of your total sentence, or a minimum of two years before you become eligible for parole.

Does a Car Count as a Deadly Weapon Under Texas Law?

Driving a vehicle, however, does not always mean that you are using it as a deadly weapon. Instead, your vehicle only is a deadly weapon if you use it in a manner that may result in serious bodily injury or death to others, as per Tex. Pen. Code § 1.07(a)(17)(B). Thus, the way that you drove the vehicle and whether a reasonable person would consider your driving to be reckless or dangerous will help determine whether you were using your vehicle as a deadly weapon.

For instance, if there is eyewitness testimony that at the time of your DWI you were speeding, disregarding traffic signs or signals, driving on the wrong side of the road, or causing property damage with your vehicle, a jury may find that you used your car as a deadly weapon. Similarly, fishtailing, losing control of your vehicle, and narrowly missing collisions with another vehicle can lead to a deadly weapon finding. 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 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. fff

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What is a 705(b) Hearing?

By Peek & Toland on June 29, 2019

If you are charged with a crime that is proceeding to trial, the state may wish to call one or more “expert” witnesses to testify at trial. For instance, in a DWI case, the state might use a medical expert, such as a toxicologist, to explain and verify the results of a blood test used to measure blood alcohol content (BAC). Under Texas Rule of Evidence 705(b), the defendant, or the person accused of the crime, has the right to examine or ask questions of the expert witness before the witness testifies about his or her opinion. The defendant can ask the expert any questions about the underlying facts or data that support his or her view.

A 705(b) hearing does not occur in front of a jury. Instead, the judge excuses the jury from the courtroom so that the defense lawyer can conduct the 705(b) examination. The judge excludes the jury from the 705(b) hearing so that there is no danger of the jury hearing inadmissible evidence or hearsay that might come up.  

What is a 705(b) Hearing?

Following a 705(b) hearing, if the judge decides that the underlying facts or data do not form an adequate basis for the expert’s opinion, then the expert’s opinion is not admissible in court. If the data or facts underlying the expert opinion are inadmissible in evidence, then the court must consider whether to limit their use by using a limiting jury instruction or whether they are inadmissible altogether.

Although 705(b) is mandatory, in that if a defendant requests a 705(b) hearing, the judge must grant it, the appellate courts in Texas do not consider it to be a constitutional violation if the judge denies it. In other words, denial of a timely motion for a 705(b) examination typically is not a basis for reversing a criminal conviction, unless it affects a substantial right of the defendant in some manner. If you or a family member is facing any 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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Compelling Prostitution

By Peek & Toland on June 28, 2019

Compelling prostitution generally consists of “pimping” another person for sex acts. Under Tex. Pen. Code § 43.05, individuals commit the crime of compelling prostitution if they knowingly cause another to commit prostitution by using force, threat, or fraud, or if they cause a child under the age of 18 to commit prostitution by any means, regardless as to whether they know the age of the child at the time of the offense. Although “by any means” is far from clear, in most cases, it is enough if the accused provided the opportunity for the minor to participate in prostitution and persuaded the minor to engage in the prostitution. However, the commission of prostitution is not a requirement for a conviction on compelling prostitution charges.

In many cases, compelling prostitution charges arise from a police sting, in which police set up prostitution services designed to catch prostitutes, johns, and pimps. Charges of compelling prostitution also often originate from human trafficking investigations.

Compelling Prostitution

Compelling prostitution is a second-degree felony offense, but it becomes a first-degree felony offense if it involves a child under the age of 18. A conviction for a second-degree felony can result in two to 20 years in prison and a fine of $10,000, and conviction for a first-degree felony can result in two to 20 years in prison and a fine of $10,000.

Judging from these penalties, whereas prostitution is typically a minor misdemeanor offense, compelling prostitution is not a lesser offense. Individuals convicted of compelling prostitution could face decades in prison, especially when minors are involved. The criminal defense lawyers of Peek & Toland have handled the legal defense of countless individuals who are facing criminal charges, including charges involving bribery. We are here to protect your rights and advocate on your behalf 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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