Criminal Defense

What is the Driver Responsibility Surcharge Program?

By Peek & Toland on March 19, 2019

Through the Driver Responsibility Program, the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) has the authority to assess annual surcharges to individual drivers for certain traffic offenses. Surcharges are in addition to other fees, such as those incurred as a result of suspension, revocation, and cancellation of licenses, even if they arose from the same traffic offense. Failure to pay surcharges will result in the eventual suspension of your driver’s license.

Every time a driver is convicted or pleads guilty to a traffic offense, DPS assesses points to his or her driving record. Most traffic violations result in the assessment of two points, but if the traffic violations result in an accident, DPS assesses three points. The only way to avoid the assessment of points following a traffic violation is to take a defensive driving course, which results in the dismissal of the traffic violation and no points assessed by DPS for the violation.

 

What is the Driver Responsibility Surcharge Program?

Once drivers accrue six or more points on their driving records, DPS will assess them a surcharge for every year that they continue to have six or more points on their driving records. Drivers receive a $100 annual surcharge for the first six points on their records, and an additional $25 for each point beyond the first six points. Since points remain on a driver’s record for three years, they could face annual surcharges for multiple years in a row.

DPS also assesses points on driving records when drivers are convicted of certain driving-related offenses. These offenses do not result in the assessment of points because of the automatic surcharges that are assessed at the time of conviction. For instance, a first-time conviction for DWI, whether it occurs in Texas or another state, results in an annual $1,000 surcharge for three years following the conviction.

The criminal defense lawyers of Peek & Toland have handled the legal defense of countless individuals who are facing criminal charges, including charges relating to the smuggling of contraband into jails and prisons. 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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What is a Speedy Trial? Should I Ask for One?

By Peek & Toland on March 16, 2019

Both the U.S. and Texas Constitutions guarantee the right to a speedy trial for all individuals who are accused of committing a crime. As a result, if a defendant requests a speedy trial and the prosecution causes unjustified delays in the trial process, the defendant may be entitled to dismissal of the charges against him or her on constitutional grounds. The reality is, however, that an outright dismissal for failure to ensure a speedy trial is very rare. Courts historically have been very reluctant to dismiss criminal charges on this basis, which places a huge burden on the defendant in asserting deprivation of the right to a speedy trial.

Unfortunately, there is no standardized definition of what constitutes a speedy trial. As a practical matter, the time that elapses between an arrest and trial can be damaging to the cases of both the prosecution and the defense. The more time that goes by, the greater the damages may be. Evidence may vanish, witnesses may disappear, die, or forget their testimony, which can cause prejudice to the ability of the defendant to establish a strong defense at trial.

What is a Speedy Trial? Should I Ask for One?

The U.S. Supreme Court has identified four factors that courts must evaluate in a case where the defendant is alleging deprivation of his or her right to a speedy trial. These factors include:

• The length of time between arrest and trial
• The reasons for any delays
• Whether a defendant asked for a speedy trial in a timely fashion
• The prejudice to the defendant’s case as a result of the delay

No one factor is determinative; the court reviewing the case must weigh these factors equally on a case-by-case basis. The burden is on the defendant to prove that he or she timely asked for a speedy trial and did not receive a speedy trial, which prejudiced his or her rights or otherwise impaired the defense. The prosecution need only prove that any delays were justified.

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 is a Criminal Diversion Program?

By Peek & Toland on March 15, 2019

A criminal diversion program is an option that is available to some individuals in adult and juvenile criminal cases. The purpose of these programs is to help individuals, who often have no prior criminal record, to avoid criminal charges and a criminal record. These programs seek to establish sentencing alternatives, sanctioning alternatives for revocations, and reduce recidivism among offenders.

Pre-trial diversion programs, which also are referred to as deferred prosecution and pre-trial intervention programs in some jurisdictions, are voluntary programs that halt criminal prosecutions from proceeding to a conviction. If participants successfully complete the conditions of their diversion programs, the state will dismiss their criminal charges.

What is a Criminal Diversion Program?

Not everyone qualifies for diversion programs. Different jurisdictions in Texas have established different guidelines for participant eligibility. For example, some programs might require that participants have no previous arrests, be either employed or enrolled in school, and refrain from further criminal activity during the program. Individuals also may have to avoid using illegal drugs and report on a monthly basis to a probation officer. It is also common to require that individuals take responsibility for their actions by admitting guilt to the offense with which they are charged.

Diversion programs may contain various conditions and requirements that are tailored to an individual’s specific needs. The individuals may have to undergo monitoring by the probation officer, complete community service hours, attend counseling, and complete substance abuse assessments and education courses, if applicable. Individuals also may be responsible for certain costs, such as a monthly monitoring or program fee. If the offense involved financial losses to an individual or business, then the individuals may be required to pay restitution.

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 matter.

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Can an Alleged Victim Drop Domestic Violence Charges?

By Peek & Toland on March 10, 2019

Domestic violence allegations, whether true or false, often arise in the heat of a moment, when an argument or disagreement gets out of control between family or household members. The alleged victim calls the police, and the accused ends up facing domestic violence charges, which can have serious implications, including a sentence of incarceration. A short time later, the alleged victims may wish to reunite with their alleged abusers, and they suddenly want to take back the complaint that they made to police. However, even if the alleged victims provided the sole source of evidence supporting the allegations of abuse, they are not simply free to drop the domestic violence charges on their own.

From the state’s perspective, alleged victims sometimes recant their stories or push for a dismissal out of fear, such as if the accused has threatened them with harm or to take their children away. Since the state has a vested interest in creating a safe place for all people living in Texas, they may not always readily accept the alleged victims’ requests to dismiss the charges. They realize that in some cases, the alleged victims are acting out of fear or self-preservation, rather than being committed to making the community and their lives safer by punishing the alleged abuser.

Can an Alleged Victim Drop Domestic Violence Charges?

While the alleged victim doesn’t have the final say on dropping charges of domestic violence, there are steps that these individuals can take to help the accused. For instance, they can talk to the prosecutor directly and explain why the state should drop the charges. They can agree to testify on behalf of the accused person at trial. Finally, alleged victims may want to seek mental health counseling in order to prove to the state that they are calm, emotionally stable, and trying to make the best decisions possible for themselves and their families.

If you are facing domestic violence or other types of criminal charges, you should consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney who can ensure that your rights a protected at all stages of your criminal proceedings. At Peek & Toland, we are dedicated to protecting your rights and defending you any accusations of wrongdoing that you may be facing. We are here to investigate the facts surrounding your case, consider your options, and help you develop the strategy that is best designed to achieve a successful outcome in your case. Do not waste time attempting to handle legal matters on your own; contact our office as soon as you are charged with a criminal offense so that we can provide you with the help that we need.

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Texas Computer Crimes

By Peek & Toland on March 5, 2019

Tex. Pen. Code Ch. 33 provides for various computer crimes. For instance, under Tex. Pen. Code § 33.02, it is illegal to breach computer security, which occurs when you knowingly access a computer or network without the owner’s consent. Likewise, it violates Tex. Pen. Code § 33.022 to intentionally interrupt or suspend access to a computer system or network without the owner’s consent.

This chapter of the Texas Penal Code also provides for various other computer-related offenses, including:

• Electronic data tampering
• Unlawful decryption
• Tampering with electronic voting machines

A different type of computer offense is outlined in Tex. Pen. Code § 33.21, which is referred to as online solicitation of a minor. This offense occurs when an individual who is at least 17 years old and intends to commit certain sexual offenses intentionally communicates in a sexually explicit manner or distributes sexually explicit materials to a minor by any electronic means. It is also unlawful to knowingly solicit a minor via electronic means in order to facilitate a meeting for the purposes of engaging in sexual conduct.

Texas Computer Crimes

It is also unlawful under Tex. Pen. Code § 33.07 to use the names of other persons without their consent and with the intent to defraud, intimidate, or threaten others by creating or posing messages on web pages, including those on social media platforms. Similarly, online impersonation occurs when individuals send emails, instant messages, or text messages meant to harm or defraud others and make them reasonably believe that the messages came from another person. To violate this code section, individuals must carry out this offense by using others’ identifying information without their consent.

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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The Financial Costs of a Criminal Case

By Peek & Toland on March 4, 2019

The costs of a criminal case can be extremely high, although some cases cost more than others. First, individuals often must pay thousands of dollars in fines and restitution in some cases. All offenses carry the potential for different fines. Additionally, if you are convicted of embezzlement, for instance, your restitution order may require you to pay back the money embezzled from the employer.

If you were required to post a bond in a criminal case, that can be a large up-front expenditure, although there is the possibly of a refund at the end of the criminal matter partially or fully in some cases. Bail also may be subject to forfeiture, such as if you flee the jurisdiction. In that case, you will not receive the bond back, and if you utilized the services of a bail bondsman, you may be liable to the bondsman agency for the full amount of the bond. However, there also are other expenses related to the court proceedings for which individuals may be responsible, including court costs and probation fees.

The Financial Costs of a Criminal Case

Some criminal convictions may require additional expenses. For example, if you are convicted of a DWI, you may be required or have the option of installing an ignition interlock device (IID) in order to drive on restricted license or to reinstate your license following a suspension. The costs of installing and maintaining IID service are not inexpensive. Likewise, if you are placed on house arrest, you likely must pay the ongoing costs associated with electronic monitoring devices.

The criminal defense lawyers of Peek & Toland have handled the legal defense of countless individuals who are facing criminal charges, including charges relating to the smuggling of contraband into jails and prisons. 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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Criminal Convictions Can Hinder Your Ability to Find Housing

By Peek & Toland on March 1, 2019

Many landlords conduct background checks before they agree to rent houses, condos, or apartments to individuals. Some landlords search only for certain criminal offenses, such as drug-related offense, whereas others look for any type of criminal conviction. Whether it is a misdemeanor or felony conviction, landlords may refuse to rent to individuals with criminal records. However, landlords who have such policies must prove that they have a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for doing so. For instance, landlords may not refuse to rent to individuals with criminal records in a manner that is designed to exclude those individuals based on their race.

Criminal Convictions Can Hinder Your Ability to Find Housing

Furthermore, if you are convicted of sexually-based offense, you may be required to register as a sex offender. This mandatory registration has extensive collateral consequences, including some limits on where you can live. For individuals who are on probation, parole, or mandatory supervision for a sex offense, probation or parole officers may have to approve where you live. Restrictions on the location of your residence may also be part of your conditions of probation or parole. For example, if the victim of the sex offense was a minor, there also may be restrictions on you living in or visiting a residence that is within 500 feet of a child safety zone. These zones include schools, daycare facilities, parks, playgrounds, youth centers, and sports fields.

Additionally, law enforcement officials can and will notify neighbors within a certain neighborhood that you are now living in the area. This can lead to efforts by neighbors to drive you to move to another residence. Plus, neighborhood associations and landlords often make their own distinctions about restrictions on sex offenders. If landlords choose to refuse to rent to sex offenders, then they are within their rights to do so.

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 is Community Supervision and How Does It Work?

By Peek & Toland on February 23, 2019

Community supervision, which is often referred to as probation, is a commonly-used alternative to jail sentences when individuals have committed criminal offenses. There may be a number of reasons that a judge decides or the state agrees sentence an individual to a term of community supervision as opposed to a jail sentence. For instance, the jail may be overcrowded, or a jail sentence may seem disproportionately harsh for a certain offense.

While practices differ from one Texas county to the next, community supervision typically requires that you meet with a probation officer about once a month. For more serious offenses, you may be required to undergo in-home visits by a probation officer. Other conditions of probation may vary, but they usually require you to comply with all state and federal laws, maintain a job, pay all court-ordered fines, fees, and child support, complete community service hours, and remain drug and/or alcohol free. You could be subject to random drug and/or alcohol testing in order to ensure compliance.

What is Community Supervision and How Does It Work?

If you violate the terms of your community supervision, you could face sanctions. Specifically, the prosecution could file a petition to revoke your probation with the court. You are entitled to a hearing on any allegations of revocation of probation, at which the state’s attorneys must prove that you violated the conditions of your probation by a “preponderance of the evidence.” This is a less stringent standard than the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard required to convict individuals of criminal offenses.

Depending on the results of that petition, you could end up serving a jail or prison sentence. For example, if you are deferred adjudication probation, you could be sentenced to a term of incarceration that is equal to the maximum sentence available for the underlying offense. If you are on straight probation, or probation following a conviction for a crime, then you are limited to serving the term of incarceration that you were given at the time of conviction.

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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Misapplication of Fiduciary Property

By Peek & Toland on February 21, 2019

Misapplication of fiduciary property is a criminal offense that was created in order to protect the beneficiaries of trusts, estates, and receiverships. Individuals commit this offense if they intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly misapply property that they hold as a fiduciary in a way that creates a substantial risk of loss to the owner of the property. A substantial risk of loss simply means that it is “more likely than not” that loss to the owner of the property will occur.

Persons who act as fiduciaries have the authority to possess and/or handle property belonging to others under a law or a legally valid agreement. According to Tex. Pen. Code § 32.45, a fiduciary includes persons in the following positions:

• Trustees, guardians, administrators, executors, conservators, and receivers
• Attorneys in fact or agents appointed under durable powers of attorney
• Any other persons acting in a fiduciary capacity
• Officers, managers, employees, or agents carrying on fiduciary functions on behalf of a fiduciary

The level of the charge of the misapplication of fiduciary property offense and the resulting penalties is largely dependent on the value of the property that the fiduciary has misapplied. However, if the person harmed by the offense is an elderly person, then the level of the offense automatically increases to the next higher level.

Misapplication of Fiduciary Property

Therefore, this offense ranges from a Class C misdemeanor charge for the misapplication of property valued at less than $100 to a felony of the first degree charge if the value of the misapplied property is $300,000 or more. As is the case with many theft and fraud crimes under Texas law, this offense generally does not become a felony offense until the value of the misapplied property is worth more than $2,500.

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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What is Double Jeopardy?

By Peek & Toland on February 20, 2019

If a judge or jury finds someone guilty of committing a crime beyond a reasonable doubt, then he or she is convicted of the crime and sentenced accordingly. Once that conviction occurs, however, that person cannot be charged or tried again for the same crime at a later date. Convicting a person twice for the same criminal offense is known as double jeopardy, and the law prohibits it.

The purpose of double jeopardy is to ensure the due process and constitutional rights of the person who is accused of the crime. If the prohibition against double jeopardy did not exist, then the person would run the risk of being punished twice for the same criminal offense, or to face additional penalties for a crime of which they already have been convicted.

What is Double Jeopardy?

Double jeopardy does not come into play when a person is arrested or even charged with a crime. Typically, it is does apply until a criminal trial starts, usually after the lawyers have selected a jury and the judge has sworn in the jury.

As a result, if the prosecutor files charges of theft against a person, but later files to dismiss the charges due to a lack of evidence, double jeopardy has not yet attached. This means that theoretically, the prosecution could refile the same criminal charges against the same person if they later discover more evidence in support of the charges. In this same scenario, if the prosecution already had conducted a trial on the theft charges, and the jury acquitted the person, or found him not guilty of the charges, double jeopardy would prevent the prosecution for charging the person with the same crime in the future, even if additional evidence came to light that proved the person’s guilt.

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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