Criminal Defense

Interfering with Emergency Calls in Texas

By Peek & Toland on November 27, 2019

Interfering with emergency request for assistance is a criminal offense under Texas law. Under Tex. Pen. Code § 42.062, individuals may not knowingly prevent or interfere with the ability of others to place an emergency call or request emergency assistance from:

  • A law enforcement agency
  • Medical facility
  • Any other agency whose primary purpose is to provide for the safety of individuals

This code section further defines emergency as any circumstances in which individuals are or reasonably believe that they are in fear of imminent assault or that property is in danger of damage or destruction.

This offense often arises in the context of domestic violence, in which one party is trying to call 911 or a law enforcement agency for help. For instance, if individuals take, conceal, or break a cell phone to prevent another party from calling 911, they may commit this offense. Likewise, if a person has called 911 and the other party takes the phone and hangs it up, they could face criminal charges for interfering with emergency request for assistance.

If an alleged victim of domestic violence or another offense claims that individuals interfered with their ability to call for emergency assistance, it likely will be one person’s word against another. As a result, these charges can be challenging to overcome.

Interfering with Emergency Calls in Texas

Any attempt to interfere with a request or call for emergency services can result in Class A misdemeanor charges. A conviction on a Class A misdemeanor offense can result in up to one year in the county jail and a maximum $4,000 fine.

A second conviction for interfering with an emergency call can result in state jail felony charges. The potential penalties for a state jail felony include a sentence of incarceration ranging from 180 days to two years, as well as up to $10,000 in fines.

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.

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What is Curtilage and Why Does It Matter?

By Peek & Toland on November 25, 2019

Curtilage refers to the area around your home, including yards, patios, and porches. Generally, the curtilage is an extension of your home, which makes it off limits to police officers wishing to search in these areas. Since you have a reasonable expectation of privacy in these areas, officers may not conduct a search in them without first getting a search warrant signed by a judge.

However, there are exceptions to this general rule. If officers are legally present in those areas, they are free to observe illegal activities and act accordingly. For instance, if police are responding to a 911 call, they are present on official police business and can take reasonable steps to locate the property owner or the person who called 911 for assistance.

Police also legally can look at what is in plain view in your backyard, such as if it is surrounded by a chain link fence or no fence at all. Likewise, if there is a pathway leading to an open gate to the back yard, then police may be able to follow the open pathway if no one answers the front door of the home.

Furthermore, the airspace above your home and curtilage is generally open to the public. As a result, police theoretically could use a drone to view your backyard without intruding on your rights to a reasonable expectation of privacy.

What is Curtilage and Why Does It Matter?

If you install a tall wood privacy fence surrounding your backyard, then you are creating a reasonable expectation of privacy that officers cannot breach without a search warrant. In other words, the police would not be free to enter through a closed gate to enter the backyard.

You also have the right to tell police to leave your home or curtilage if they do not have a warrant. Certainly, they can return to your home or yard with a valid search warrant, but there is no reason that you should allow them to skirt the rules and violate your constitutional rights.

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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Can a Prospective Landlord See My Criminal Background?

By Peek & Toland on November 23, 2019

Anyone can access public criminal conviction records online through the Conviction Database, a repository of records maintained by the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS). These records would contain all criminal convictions for a Class B misdemeanor or higher. The Texas Office of Court Administration also maintain some state and county-level court records.

Landlords are among the individuals and businesses who have the right to conduct background checks on prospective tenants. They need only your full name, birth date, and social security number to access any public criminal record information. Given the ease with which they can access this information, it should be no surprise that many landlords regularly utilize background checks to screen out potential tenants.

Can a Prospective Landlord See My Criminal Background?

However, landlords will not have access to private criminal records. Perhaps the best example of a private criminal record are criminal records of juvenile offenders, which are sealed and off-limits to the public.

Nonetheless, landlords are not allowed to automatically reject rental applicants with a criminal history or advise them to not bother applying. Taking a blanket approach to deny rental housing to all individuals with a criminal background can violate the Fair Housing Act. Instead, a landlord rejecting prospective tenants based on criminal background must give the individuals notice orally, electronically, or in writing. Landlord also must give the applicants contact information for the company that ran the background check, notice of their right to fix any errors on their report, and give them a free copy of the background check report within 60 days.

Of course, the easiest ways to avoid having your rental applications rejected by landlords is to not have a criminal history in the first place. If you are able to avoid a criminal conviction, you may have a better chance of avoiding rejected rental applications.

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.

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What is an Arrest Warrant and How Does It Work?

By Peek & Toland on November 20, 2019

An arrest warrant is a legal document signed by a judge that authorizes law enforcement officials to take people into custody. Judges issue arrest warrants when they find probable cause to believe that a specific person has committed a crime. Probable cause normally is based on a written affidavit by a law enforcement officer or another person making the complaint.

If the judge issues an arrest warrant, law enforcement officers then serve the warrant on the person named in the warrant and take them into custody. Arrest warrants are good throughout the entire state of Texas. These warrants must contain the name of the person, a reasonable description of the person, the offense of which the person is accused, and the judge’s signature.

What is an Arrest Warrant and How Does It Work?

In some cases, judges will opt to issue a court summons instead of a warrant. A summons does not allow police officers to take people into custody. Rather, the individuals simply have a summons to appear in court on a particulate date and time.

Police officers also do not need to have an arrest warrant signed by a judge in all cases to arrest a person. Law enforcement authorities may arrest people when they:

  • Observe them committing a crime
  • Have probable cause that a person has committed a felony and is trying to escape
  • Have probable cause than an assault has occurred and a victim is still in danger
  • Receive a voluntary statement from individuals stating that they have committed a felony

Other circumstances that can result in warrantless arrests are those in which police officers have probable cause that a person has committed an offense that violates a protective order or recover stolen property that they believe a person has stolen. Various other situations exist that may also justify a warrantless arrest.

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. Our goal is 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.

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Sex Crimes on College Campuses

By Peek & Toland on November 18, 2019

Allegations of sex crime often occur on college campuses, often in the context of on or off-campus parties where individuals have been drinking. Some of the potential sex crimes that may arise on campus include rape, sexual assault, and indecent exposure, among others. These allegations can give rise not only to criminal prosecution, but also to college conduct proceedings under Title IX.

Under Title IX, college campuses that receive federal funding, which typically is the form of federal financial aid that college students receive, must disclose information about sex crimes on campus and enact strict policies to prevent it from happening. While these policies vary from one school to the next, the potential for a finding of misconduct in these proceedings is very high, even if there never a criminal prosecution or conviction arising from the incident.

Title IX hearings often can result in severe penalties for individuals whom colleges find have committed misconduct. They may be subject to probation, suspension, eviction from campus housing, and even expulsion. These disciplinary findings become part of the student’s criminal record and can hinder future career opportunities.

Sex Crimes on College Campuses

Furthermore, the Texas legislature enacted even stricter standards for college campuses handling allegations of sexual assault, passing several bills that the Governor Abbott signed into law this year. As a result, Texas now has laws that in some respects more stringent than those requirements imposed by Title IX. These laws are among the strictest in the nation.

Criminal charges for sex offenses likewise can have harsh consequences. Individuals can face years in prison, mandatory registration as a sex offender, probation, and fines if convicted of a sex crime. To avoiding these potentially devastating effects, individuals should not hesitate to seek legal advice.

If you or a family member is facing accusations of a sex crime 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.

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Can I Get My Criminal Case Dismissed?

By Peek & Toland on November 17, 2019

When you are facing criminal charges, the District Attorney’s office has the legal authority to make prosecutorial decisions for the State of Texas. While dismissals do occur in some cases, they are not as common as one might think. Ultimately, it is up to the District Attorney’s office whether to dismiss a specific criminal charge. No defense attorney can ever promise you or guarantee a dismissal of your criminal case.

Criminal cases can be dismissed without prejudice, or, more rarely, with prejudice. A dismissal without prejudice means that the District Attorney’s office can refile the same charges against you after previously dismissing them. For instance, if the District Attorney later receives more evidence against you for the charge from police, the District Attorney then could refile the same charges. However, if the court grants a dismissal without prejudice, then the District Attorney can never refile the same charges against you.

Can I Get My Criminal Case Dismissed?

Various factors can dismiss the decision of the District Attorney’s office whether to dismiss criminal charges. The input of an alleged victim of the crime can be useful in persuading the District Attorney to dismiss the charges. Other relevant factors may include the strength of the evidence against you, the availability of witnesses, potential defenses or justifications for the crime, and other mitigating circumstances. Evidence that is contrary to the state’s evidence in support of prosecution also may help sway a decision whether to dismiss criminal charges.

Another circumstance that can lead to dismissal of criminal charges is the use of a deferred prosecution agreement. For instance, a defendant may be able to ultimately obtain a dismissal of charges by signing a written confession to the offense, agreeing to not commit other crimes, and agreeing to complete specific conditions, such as completing domestic violence or substance abuse counseling. The prosecutor often will dismiss the charges without prejudice when individuals enter these agreements. If the individuals fail to meet their end of the bargain, then the prosecutor can refile the charges and use the signed confession against them. If the individuals follow the agreement, then the charges will remain dismissed.

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.

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When Does Assault Rise to the Level of Aggravated Assault?

By Peek & Toland on November 15, 2019

Tex. Pen. Code § 22.02 establishes the crime of aggravated assault, which is an enhanced version of assault that carries the potential for more significant penalties than for a simple assault conviction. Assault occurs under § 22.01 when individuals:

  • Intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causes bodily injury to others
  • Intentionally or knowingly threatens others with bodily injury, or
  • Intentionally or knowingly causes physical contact with others when the person knows or reasonably should believe that others will consider the contact to be offensive or provocative

When individuals commit assault, and other aggravating factors are present, they may face aggravated assault charges. Individuals who cause serious bodily injury to others during an assault commit aggravated assault. The other situation that constitutes aggravated assault occurs when individuals use or exhibit a deadly weapon in the commission of the assault.

When Does Assault Rise to the Level of Aggravated Assault?

Aggravated assault generally is a second-degree felony offense, except that it becomes a first-degree felony offense in the following situations:

  • The accused persons use a deadly weapon during the assault and cause serious bodily injury to a specific family or household members
  • Public servants commit the offense within the scope of their employment or duties
  • Individuals commit the crime against others whom they know are public servants or security officers in the discharge of their official duties, or in retaliation for performing their official duties
  • Individuals commit the offense in retaliation against or on account of the service as a witness, informant, or a reporter of a crime

Furthermore, aggravated assault may be a first-degree felony if:

  • The accused persons are in a motor vehicle
  • They knowingly fire a gun in the direction of a home, building, or vehicle, with recklessness as to whether it is occupied, and
  • Someone suffers serious bodily injury as a result

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.

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Intoxication Manslaughter in Texas

By Peek & Toland on November 12, 2019

Under Tex. Pen. Code § 49.08, individuals commit intoxication manslaughter when they operate motor vehicles in public places while intoxicated and in doing so, cause the death of others by accident or mistake. Intoxication manslaughter also occurs when individuals cause the death of others as a result of operating aircraft, watercraft, or an amusement ride while intoxicated. Finally, individuals may commit this offense if they assemble a mobile amusement ride while intoxicated, which results in the death of others.

Intoxication manslaughter charges differ in severity from manslaughter or vehicular manslaughter charges. When you are facing those charges, the state is alleging that you caused the death of others due to some reckless behavior. However, intoxication manslaughter charges are based on allegations that you caused death by mistake or accident, not due to reckless or intentional conduct.

Intoxication Manslaughter in Texas

Another unique feature of intoxication manslaughter is that a conviction requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt that the death occurred as a result of your intoxicated status. The mere fact that you were involved in a fatal accident while you were intoxicated does not automatically lead to an intoxication manslaughter conviction. Instead, there must be a link between your intoxication and the resulting death.

Intoxication manslaughter generally is a second-degree felony offense. Individuals can face a prison sentence ranging from two to 20 years and a fine of up to $10,000 as a result of a second-degree felony conviction.

However, intoxication manslaughter is a first-degree felony offense if it results in the death of any of the following classes of people while in the commission of their official duties:

  • Firefighters
  • Emergency medical services personnel
  • Peace officers, or
  • Judges

An intoxication manslaughter conviction also can count as a prior offense to enhance the penalties for other DWI-related crimes. Therefore, if you have a previous conviction for intoxication manslaughter, you can face third-degree felony rather than misdemeanor charges for a subsequent DWI offense. Facing a felony rather than a misdemeanor DWI charge can result in far more severe penalties if convicted.

The criminal defense lawyers of Peek & Toland have handled the cases of countless individuals who are facing criminal charges. We are here to protect your rights and advocate on your behalf. As a result, we will strive 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.

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Can DWI Get Me Deported?

By Peek & Toland on November 11, 2019

Depending on your immigration status, you could face deportation from the U.S. if you are convicted or even arrested of DWI in Texas. Various circumstances and DWI-related offenses may put you at risk of deportation.

If you have no legal immigration status, you are likely to face deportation for a DWI arrest, even if you are not convicted. Immigration laws do not require a criminal conviction for you to be deported. The mere fact that you have no legal immigration status is enough to deport you alone.

Can DWI Get Me Deported?

If you hold a green card or are a legal permanent resident, a misdemeanor DWI conviction is not likely to jeopardize your status as a green cardholder. However, if you receive a felony DWI conviction, you may be subject to deportation. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) considers some felony DWI-related offenses to be crimes of moral turpitude, which can make you eligible for removal. For instance, you can face a felony DWI conviction if you have previous DWI convictions on your record or your blood alcohol content (BAC) was .015 percent or more. You also may receive felony DWI charges if you commit DWI while you have a passenger under age 15 in your car or cause an accident while intoxicated that results in injuries or death to others.

Furthermore, in today’s political climate, green card holders are facing arrest and deportation for DWIs and other criminal offenses that may be years old. They also may be subject to deportation now for offenses that would not have affected their immigration status many years ago. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents have publicly announced their intent to remove even legal immigrants with any criminal convictions. As a result, even if your DWI conviction is ten years old, you still might face deportation under the current administration.

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.

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What is a SCRAM Device?

By Jeanine Stone on November 10, 2019

A SCRAM device or a Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitor is an electronic device that allows courts to monitor your alcohol intake continually without requiring you to undergo testing. The SCRAM devices also contain a sensor that can detect any attempts you make to tamper with the device and transmits the information to law enforcement authorities.

If you are ordered to wear a SCRAM device, the provider will fit you with a tamperproof ankle bracelet consisting of two boxes. One box measures your blood alcohol content (BAC), while the other box stores the data and transmits it to the law enforcement personnel who must monitor your alcohol intake. BAC measurements occur every hour when you are wearing a SCRAM device. If the device detects any alcohol in your system, it then will measure your BAC every 30 minutes.

SCRAM devices are susceptible to errors, as they measure BAC through the alcohol content of perspiration emitted through the skin. As a result, SCRAM measurements may be less reliable than blood tests to measure BAC.

What is a SCRAM Device?

Courts can order you to wear a SCRAM device if you are released from jail on bond while awaiting criminal charges. SCRAM devices also may be a condition of your probation following a criminal conviction. In some cases, courts order individuals to wear SCRAM devices instead of serving time in jail. Courts typically use SCRAM devices when you are charged with or have been convicted of an alcohol-related criminal offense.

Wearing a SCRAM device can be costly when you must wear it for a lengthy period. You typically must pay a refundable deposit, a one-time fitting fee, and a weekly maintenance fee. In most cases, you must pay all these fees up front.

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.

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