Criminal Defense

Can I Get a Passport if I Have a Felony Conviction?

By Peek & Toland on April 6, 2020

Generally, a felony conviction does not categorically bar you from obtaining a passport. This document simply identifies you as a U.S. citizen and does not contain any indicators about your criminal background. There are, however, specific situations in which individuals with felony convictions will be unable to get a passport. For instance, if you have a conviction for drug trafficking that you committed while in another country, federal law would prohibit you from getting a passport.

Furthermore, if you are on supervised release, probation, or parole for a criminal offense and one of its terms prevents you from leaving the country, you will be unable to obtain a passport. You also will be unable to get a passport if you are currently participating in a supervised release program for a felony conviction for possession or distribution of a controlled substance.

Can I Get a Passport if I Have a Felony Conviction?

If you currently are under federal arrest or subject to a federal subpoena, you also cannot get a passport to travel outside the country. Likewise, if the federal government has identified you as a severe threat to national security, or a judge otherwise has forbidden you from leaving the country, a passport will be unavailable to you.

Even if you already have a passport, the U.S. government can revoke it at any time if you fall into one of these categories of people. If your passport is flagged, you could encounter difficulties if you attempt to leave or re-enter the U.S.

Finally, many countries, including Canada and Mexico, will not admit individuals with a felony conviction in their country for any reason. In this case, even if you have a valid passport, you may not be able to travel anywhere using that passport.

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 and explore your options. We then can help you make the decisions that are mostly like to be beneficial to you, based on your situation. Contact Peek & Toland at (512) 474-4445 today and see how we can help.

Posted in Criminal Defense, Uncategorized

What is the Difference Between Robbery and Aggravated Robbery?

By Peek & Toland on April 1, 2020

Under Tex. Pen. Code § 29.02, individuals commit robbery if they commit theft and intend to obtain or maintain control over the stolen property, and in doing so, they:

  • Intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly cause bodily injury to others
  • Intentionally or knowingly threaten or place others in fear of imminent bodily injury or death

Some common actions that are likely to constitute robbery under state law include purse snatching, muggings, carjackings, and home invasions. Individuals can face a robbery conviction even if they do not complete or carry out the theft of the items that are the focus of the robbery.

Robbery is a second-degree felony under Texas law. A conviction for a second-degree felony such as robbery can result in a prison sentence ranging from two to 20 years and a fine of up to $10,000.

In contrast, aggravated robbery is a first-degree felony in the state of Texas. Tex. Pen. Code § 29.03 provides that aggravated robbery occurs when individuals do any of the following in committing robbery:

  • Causes serious bodily injury to others,
  • Uses or exhibits a deadly weapon, or
  • Causes physical harm to others or threatens or places them in fear of imminent bodily injury or death, and the person is 65 years of age or older, or disabled

Under this section, a disabled person is one who has a mental, physical, or developmental disability who is substantially unable to protect himself or herself from harm.

What is the Difference Between Robbery and Aggravated Robbery?

The prison sentence for a person who is convicted of aggravated robbery can be between five and 99 years if the person has no prior criminal history. Individuals convicted of this offense also can be ordered to pay a fine of up to $10,000.

A felony robbery or aggravated robbery conviction also can have other repercussions. Even after you have served your sentence, you face the loss of some civil rights, such as the right to carry firearms. You also will have a permanent felony conviction that can make finding employment and housing far more challenging.

When you are facing any criminal charges in the state of Texas, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney to represent your interests. Contact Peek & Toland at (512) 474-4445 today and set up an appointment to speak with our legal team.

Posted in Criminal Defense

Prescription Drug Crimes in Texas

By Peek & Toland on March 25, 2020

Although healthcare professionals routinely use prescription drugs to treat specific medical conditions legitimately, many of these drugs also are classified as controlled substances under the state’s Controlled Substances Act. Although these drugs are lawful when medical personnel and patients use them appropriately, individuals also can violate the law when improperly using or distributing these drugs.

Prescription Drug Crimes in Texas

One common crime that often involves prescription drugs is the diversion of a controlled substance. Under § 481.1285 of the Texas Controlled Substance Act, individuals commit diversion of a controlled substance when they:

  • Converts a controlled substance to which they have access by virtue of their employment or profession to their use or benefit
  • Diverts a controlled substance to which they have access by virtue of their employment or professional to the use or benefit of another person

Under this law, medical professionals such as doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and other medical professionals may face criminal liability for diverting controlled substances in this manner. This offense is a state jail felony if the controlled substance is converted for personal use, which can result in a jail sentence ranging from 180 days to two years and a fine of not more than $10,000. If the controlled substance is diverted to a third party, then the crime is a third-degree felony, which carries the potential for two to ten years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

Another common crime that often involves prescription drugs is prescription drug fraud. § 481.129 governs the fraudulent distribution, possession, or use of a controlled substance in Texas. This offense can arise in a variety of scenarios. This section covers individuals who:

  • Forge prescriptions by stealing prescription pads from doctors or using technology to forge fake prescriptions
  • Alter legitimate prescriptions by increasing the number of refills or the strength of the prescription
  • Visit different doctors and lie about being prescribed controlled substances by other doctors
  • Use someone else’s prescription for some controlled substances

Prescription drug fraud charges can range broadly from Class B misdemeanors to second-degree felonies. The charges largely depend on the Schedule or classification of the controlled substance and the nature of the fraud involved. 

Peek & Toland dedicates a large part of its practice to assisting individuals in resolving their criminal charges. We know that criminal proceedings can be intimidating and overwhelming for those who are facing potential penalties for criminal charges. 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 criminal defense attorneys today.

Posted in Criminal Defense

What Types of Community Supervision Are Available in Texas?

By Peek & Toland on March 20, 2020

Texas law now refers to what previously was known as “adult probation” as community supervision. Instead of serving time in jail, community supervision allows individuals who have been convicted of a crime to serve their time while living in their communities. Community supervision, however, comes with many strings attached. Failure to follow the terms and conditions of community supervision can result in the revocation of community supervision in favor of arrest and incarceration. On the other hand, if individuals are successful in meeting the conditions of community supervision, they may become eligible for early release.

Community supervision generally can last for up to two years for a misdemeanor conviction, up to five years for state jail felonies, and up to ten years for other felony convictions. However, a judge can extend community supervision for either misdemeanors or felonies in some circumstances. While conditions for community supervision can vary from one case to another, some of the primary requirements of community supervision typically include:

  • Refraining from violating any state or federal laws
  • Reporting to the supervision as directed
  • Maintaining employment
  • Remaining in a specified area, such as the county or state
  • Pay victim restitution, court-ordered fines, and fees, and child support, where applicable

Not every individual qualifies for community supervision. Various factors determine whether you are eligible for community supervision, including the nature of your offense, whether deadly weapons were involved in the crime, if you previously have been on community supervision, or if you have prior felony convictions. Individuals who receive lengthy prison sentences of ten years or more also may be ineligible for community supervision.

What Types of Community Supervision Are Available in Texas?

Community supervision most commonly occurs after individuals are convicted of crimes as part of their sentencing. However, in deferred adjudication cases, individuals can be placed on community supervision before they are convicted of a crime. If they violate the terms of their community supervision, they then can face the full range of penalties for the offense. If they complete community supervision, however, they may be able to have their criminal charges eventually dismissed.

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.

Posted in Criminal Defense

Prosecutors Nationwide Fail to Rein in Police Misconduct in Criminal Cases

By Peek & Toland on March 6, 2020

According to a recent USA Today article, police officer misconduct remains a significant problem nationwide, as prosecutors fail to acknowledge or track their misdeeds. As a result, some people are convicted of crimes and incarcerated when they shouldn’t be.

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that prosecutors divulge all evidence that might assist individuals in their defense to criminal charges at trial. This rule requires prosecutors to share details with defense counsel about the police officers giving evidence in the case, including whether they previously have lied or committed misconduct. However, most police departments and prosecutors do not track this information, which leads to defense counsel and others accused of criminal activity to be unaware of and thus unable to use potential defenses in their cases. As a result, when it comes down to the word of an accused criminal against the word of a seasoned police officer, a jury is likely to side with the police officer if they have no clue about the police officer’s track record.

From Chicago to Arkansas, from Minnesota to Pennsylvania, prosecutors’ offices have no mechanisms in place to document and keep track of problem police officers. Even when they do maintain records, however, they often make them unavailable to the public, meaning that the average person cannot find out whether a police officer previously engaged in dishonest behavior on the job. In other cases, the records are incomplete and omit officers who have repeated violations and incidences of dishonesty. These poor recordkeeping habits inevitably lead to wrongful arrests, criminal charges, and convictions.

Prosecutors Nationwide Fail to Rein in Police Misconduct in Criminal Cases

Other prosecutors’ officers maintained that they did not need a list of problem officers to follow the law. Some argued that placing officers on these lists based on unfounded accusations could cause them problems in their careers or jeopardize their jobs. Nonetheless, prosecutors must disclose officers on these lists to defendants when they are facing criminal charges based on evidence or arrests made by these officers. All too often, these disclosures do not occur.

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.

Posted in Criminal Defense

Shoplifting Under Texas Law

By Peek & Toland on March 4, 2020

Texas law includes shoplifting as a form of theft, with many of the same charges and penalties that would apply to a regular theft case. Under Tex. Pen. Code § 31.03, you commit theft if you unlawfully appropriate property without the consent of its owner, with the intent to deprive the owner of the possession or use of the property. This code section contains comprehensive, detailed language that encompasses all aspects of shoplifting. This offense can include not only removing merchandise from a store but also changing price tags to pay a lower price for an item or concealing merchandise in a purse or bag while still in the store.

Shoplifting Under Texas Law

This section provides for increasingly harsher charges as the value of the stolen or shoplifted items rises. In most cases, shoplifting is confined to misdemeanor offenses. For example, if the stolen property has a value of less than $100, the crime is a Class C misdemeanor, which carries the potential for a $500 fine and no jail time. Shoplifting rises to the level of a Class B misdemeanor if:

  • The property is worth more than $100 but less than $750
  • The property is worth less than $100, but you have a previous theft conviction
  • The property consists of a driver’s license or personal identification card issued by the state of Texas or any other state

A conviction for a Class B misdemeanor offense can result in a jail sentence of 180 days and a fine of $2,000, or both. The most serious of the misdemeanor offenses is Class A misdemeanor theft, which can cause a jail sentence of up to one year and a fine of $4,000. Class A misdemeanor charges can result when the merchandise is worth more than $750 but less than $2,500.

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 and explore your options. We then can help you make the decisions that are mostly like to be beneficial to you, based on your situation. Contact Peek & Toland at (512) 474-4445 today and see how we can help.

Posted in Criminal Defense

Can a Prosecutor Make My Spouse Testify Against Me?

By Peek & Toland on February 20, 2020

Texas Rule of Evidence 504 governs spousal privilege or the circumstances under which prosecutors may compel spouses to testify against one another in criminal proceedings, as well as confidential communications between spouses. Whether a prosecutor can make your spouse testify against you when you are facing criminal charges depends entirely on the circumstances.

Can a Prosecutor Make My Spouse Testify Against Me?

A communication is confidential under Rule 504 if one spouse makes it privately to the other, and the spouse does not intend to disclose the communication to anyone else. A spouse can refuse to testify or disclose any confidential spousal communications, with the following exceptions:

  • The communication was made to enable or aid anyone in committing or planning to commit fraud
  • A party is accused of conduct which, if proven, is a crime against the person of the spouse, any minor child, or any household member
  • A criminal proceeding involving charges of bigamy

In the context of a criminal prosecution of one spouse, then the state cannot call the accused person’s spouse as a witness and compel him or her to testify as to confidential communications between spouses. However, there is nothing to prevent a spouse from voluntarily testifying for the state in a criminal prosecution against his or her spouse. A spouse who has been accused of a crime cannot claim spousal privilege on behalf of his or her spouse and prevent him or her from testifying; it is up to the innocent spouse to decide whether to testify for the state or not. Even if an accused spouse objects to his or her spouse’s testimony, the spousal privilege does not prevent the innocent spouse from testifying. Likewise, if a spouse testifies for the defense in a criminal prosecution of his or her spouse, that spouse is subject to cross-examination by the prosecution.

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

Posted in Criminal Defense

What is an Allocution Under Texas Law?

By Peek & Toland on February 12, 2020

Under Texas law, defendants in criminal cases have the right to make a statement in the courtroom before the judge issues their sentences, which is referred to as an allocution. Texas CCP § 42.07 instructs judges to ask defendants if they have anything to say as to why they should not receive a specific sentence from the court. This procedural requirement, or opportunity for an allocution, occurs following a criminal trial or after the parties have submitted a plea bargain to the court for approval.

What is an Allocution Under Texas Law?

In most cases, defendants exercise their right to remain silent and do not make a statement to the court. Especially when defendants have signed plea agreements, and they know what sentence they will receive from the court, defendants have no reason or need to speak. The most common circumstance in which defendants engage in an allocution is when the court is going to sentence them, and there has been no plea agreement. As a result, they do not know what sentence they will receive for the crime, so they may want to take one last chance to speak before they receive their sentences.

If judges forget or fail to ask if the defendants want to speak before sentencing, defendants (or their defense lawyers) must object in open court. Otherwise, defendants will waive their rights to allocution.

Texas CCP § 42.03 also gives crime victims the right to allocution in some situations. In contrast to a defendant’s right to allocution, a crime victim only has the right to address a defendant after the judge has announced the defendant’s sentence for the crime. Victims of crimes in these circumstances are free to express their views about the crime and the defendant’s actions. The defendants have no right to respond to crime victim allocutions. However, victim allocutions will not have an impact on the sentence that the defendants receive, because victims do not speak until the defendants already have received their sentences.

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.

Posted in Criminal Defense

What is an Occupational Driver’s License?

By Peek & Toland on February 6, 2020

An occupational driver’s license (ODL) allows eligible individuals to legally drive even after their licenses have been suspended or revoked. This special restricted license will enable you to drive a personal vehicle back and forth to work and school, as well as to run essential errands, such as getting medical attention and groceries.

What is an Occupational Driver’s License?

You must get a court order finding that you are eligible for an ODL and telling the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) to allow you to get an ODL. However, not everyone qualifies for an ODL. For instance, you are ineligible for an ODL if you:

  • Lost your license due to physical or mental disabilities
  • Lost your license due to a failure to pay child support
  • Need your license to drive a commercial motor vehicle
  • Are a threat to public safety if permitted to drive
  • Do not have an essential household need that requires you to drive
  • Received two ODLs in the past ten years following a conviction that affected your license

Another situation that might make you ineligible for an ODL is if you have a hard suspension waiting period because of a previous DWI arrest or conviction. For example, if your license was suspended because you refused to take a breath test when arrested for DWI and you had a license suspension due to an alcohol or drug-related arrest within the previous five years, you are subject to a 90-day hard suspension. This means that you cannot get an ODL during those 90 days.

Once the judge orders that you are eligible for an ODL, you can use a certified copy of the court order as proof of your ODL for up to 45 days after the effective date of the order. You typically will receive your official ODL from DPS during that timeframe. If you don’t receive it within those 45 days, however, you cannot drive until you receive it or go back to court to get the deadline extended. 

When you are facing any criminal charges in the state of Texas, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney to represent your interests. Contact Peek & Toland at (512) 474-4445 today and set up an appointment to speak with our legal team.

Posted in Criminal Defense

DPS Crime Lab Backlog Exceeds 2,500 Cases

By Peek & Toland on January 23, 2020

The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) Director, Steven C. McCraw, recently acknowledged to the state House of Representatives Transportation Committee, which funds DPS, that the agency’s crime lab is unable to keep up with forensic evidence requests. The backlog is adversely affecting the proper functioning of the criminal justice system, as defendants linger in jail for months or even years awaiting test results. McCraw attributed the backlog to high rates of staff turnover and the length of time necessary to hire and train new staff, which can average about 18 months. For instance, McCraw pointed out that the Welasco crime lab had not been fully staffed in five years.

DPS Crime Lab Backlog Exceeds 2,500 Cases

DPS revealed that as of September 17, 2019, the Weslaco crime lab had over 2,650 unreleased evidence requests. Almost half of that total was unreleased biology and DNA requests. DNA test results are especially crucial to both prosecutors and defense attorneys in many criminal cases, as these results have the potential to prove guilt or innocence.

Currently, the average processing time for forensic biology testing is 218 days, and for DNA testing, 300 days. Firearms testing cases average 228 days, and fingerprint testing cases average 255 days. On the other hand, drug cases typically take 90 days to process. DPS does prioritize some cases, such as those that involve threats to public safety, high profile incidents, and situations in which defendants may be incarcerated for lengthy periods pending test results.

DPS has received just under 6,000 requests for evidence testing this year alone. The bulk of these tests involve toxicology and seized drugs. Still, DPS has released test results in over 6,000 cases this year, as well. If you or a family member is facing weapons charges or any other 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.

Posted in Criminal Defense

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