Bill Proposes Addition of Felony Samples to Texas DNA Database

By Peek & Toland on May 12, 2019

Under current Texas law, law enforcement officers collect DNA samples from suspects only when they are facing certain felony charges. A proposed measure filed by State Rep. Reggie Smith would expand the collection of DNA samples from more defendants in criminal investigations. According to the bill, law enforcement officers would take the DNA samples at the time of arrest.

In 2001, Texas passed the first law in the country to mandate the collection of DNA samples from some felony offenders. Eighteen states require DNA samples by given by all individuals facing felony charges at the time of their arrests. In these states, the mandatory collection of DNA samples has resulted in more DNA matches in pending criminal cases, more arrests, and more convictions. Even if the proposed measure passed this year, Texas still would not require the submission of DNA samples in all felony arrests.

Bill Proposes Addition of Felony Samples to Texas DNA Database

However, these DNA samples often remain on file even if the individuals later are exonerated of the crime, which drew objections from at least one state representative. State Rep. Tony Tinderholt, a member of the public safety committee, raised concerns about the DNA of individuals remaining in a law enforcement agency DNA database even if they later are found innocent of the crime. He would like to see a mechanism to remove the DNA from the database in these situations.

The usage of DNA in law enforcement investigations in Austin has been the subject of many media reports over the last few years due to the large number of unprocessed rape kits that came to light due to backlogs in the police lab. The city has taken measures to remedy the problems with processing these samples. 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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Consequences of a Felony Conviction in Texas

By Peek & Toland on January 23, 2019

Although a felony conviction would generally cause most people to expect a prison sentence, fees, and fines, there are collateral consequences of a felony conviction in Texas, as well. As a result, individuals may suffer consequences that remain in place long after they have served their criminal sentences for the felony offense.

First, a convicted felon may not vote or serve on a jury or grand jury. These rights, however, may be restored by a judge upon successful completion of a felony sentence and probation.

Individuals who have been convicted of a felony cannot hold public elected office. They also cannot possess a firearm for a period of five years following their release from incarceration, supervision, or parole.

Consequences of a Felony Conviction in Texas

Some felony convictions, such as those that involve refusal of a blood or breath test in a DWI case and habitual traffic violators, also may experience the suspension of their drivers’ licenses for a certain period of time.

There also are various employment opportunities that individuals who have been convicted of a felony potentially may be unable to pursue. These jobs may include auctioneer, insurance agent, dental hygienist, marriage counselor, registered nurse, chiropractor, or psychologist, among others.

If you are not a U.S. citizen, you may face special consequences related to your immigration status if you are convicted of or even simply accused of committing a felony offense. Depending on the existence of prior convictions and the nature of the felony offense, it is very likely that those with no lawful immigration status may be placed in deportation proceedings. Legal residents, or those with green cards, also are subject to deportation for committing criminal offenses in many cases.

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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The Difference Between a Felony and a Misdemeanor in Texas

By Peek & Toland on November 2, 2016

When you are initially charged with a crime, you may not be sure whether you are facing a felony or a misdemeanor. You may not know the difference between the two.

It’s a very important distinction because it impacts your sentence. It can affect the size of the fine you receive and impact your chances of living a normal life after you have served your sentence.

Misdemeanor Crimes in Texas

On our website we talk about the differences between a misdemeanor and a felony here. Misdemeanors are classified from A to C. Class A misdemeanors are the most serious.

Felony crimes carry a higher sentence than misdeameanors

If you commit a Class A misdemeanor such as burglary, stalking or carrying a gun without a permit, you face a year in jail and a fine of up to $4,000, if convicted.

Class B misdemeanors include theft of property worth $20 or more but under $500, possession of up to two ounces of marijuana or a DWI. This can result in a $2,000 fine and 180 days in jail.

A Class C misdemeanor includes assault without bodily injury and petty larceny of property worth less than $50. The punishment for a class C misdemeanor conviction in Texas is a fine of no more than $500. It does not involve any jail time.

When you’re convicted of a misdemeanor you are likely to be charged by written indictment and you will not receive a court-appointed attorney if you can’t provide your own. Unlike a felony, you can still serve on a jury or in the military with a misdemeanor on your record. That’s not to say it won’t affect your future. If you are charged with a misdemeanor, it’s important to get an attorney to fight the charge.

Felony Crimes in Texas

Felony convictions generally carry much stiffer sentences than those for misdemeanors. They carry jail sentence of at least a year. The Texas Penal Code sets out the categories.

Capital felonies are punishable by death or life without parole. Murder is an example of a capital felony.

The offender will not receive the death penalty if he or she was a juvenile at the time the crime was committed and a prosecutor decides not to seek the death penalty. The capital felony will be punishable by life imprisonment.

If you are sentenced to a first degree felony, you may also be imprisoned for life. The sentencing range is from five to 99 years or life as well as a fine of $10,000. Examples of first degree felonies include sexual assault against a child, aggravated robbery, aggravated assault of a public servant, aggravated kidnapping, murder, trafficking of children under 14 years of age and aggravated sexual assault.

Second degree felonies include causing serious injury to a family member, aggravated assault and reckless injury to a child. Second degree felonies are punishable by two to 20 years in prison. You can be hit by a fine up to $10,000.

A third degree felony includes stealing more than $20,000 but under $100,000. Possessing five to 50 pounds of marijuana is also a third degree felony. If you are convicted of a third degree felony you can be imprisoned for 2 to 10 years and fined $10,000.

Where Texas lawmakers have identified a crime as a felony. but failed to set a specific sentence, it is designated a state jail felony.

State jail felonies are punishable by 180 days to two years in a state jail. You will face a fine of up to a maximum of $10,000.

A judge may decide an offender has committed a state jail felony when:

  • A deadly weapon was exhibited in the commission of the crime, or
  • The defendant was previously convicted of a felony.

If you’re convicted of a felony in Texas, your civil rights will be severely impacted once you are released from jail. You won’t be able to serve in the military, own a gun or serve on a jury. You will be barred from certain professions and may not be able to vote.

If you are charged with a serious offense, it’s very important to seek the advice of a seasoned Austin criminal defense lawyer. Steve Toland of Peek & Toland , is one of Austin’s leading criminal defense attorneys. He possesses years of experience in federal and criminal defense law. Call us for a consultation at (512) 474-4445.

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