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Facing Criminal Charges for Homicide? Austin Homicide Lawyer Charles Johnson is the Right Lawyer for You

Houston Homicide Lawyer Charles Johnson

Are you currently in a situation where you are facing criminal charges for Murder? Austin Criminal Homicide Lawyer Charles Johnson represents clients charged with Homicide crimes throughout all of Texas. The Charles Johnson Law Firm can provide legal counsel at virtually any stage of your case, even if formal charges have not yet been filed against you. Currently, Texas has six types of Criminal Homicide charges:

Homicide is the act of killing another person, either intentionally or unintentionally. It is perhaps the most serious crime you could be accused of, and the potential penalties you could face if convicted are equally serious. Your lawyer must be well-versed in Texas and Federal Homicide laws to successfully represent you. If you or someone you love has been charged with any type of Criminal Homicide, you must take these charges very seriously and seek the legal advice of an experienced and knowledgeable Austin Criminal Defense Attorney right away. The Charles Johnson Law Firm will examine all the details of your case and will challenge the evidence against you. Austin Lawyer Charles Johnson has helped his clients either prove their innocence, or obtain a reduction in the charges against them. Whether you or guilty or not, you deserve to have an experienced attorney on your side who will work aggressively, to protect you and your rights. Contact Criminal Defense Lawyer Charles Johnson anytime night or day directly at 512-832-1200. He is always available to discuss your case.

Texas Penal Code Chapter 19:  Four Types Of Criminal Homicide

TPC section 19.01 states that there are four types of Criminal Homicide.  They are Murder,Capital Murder, Manslaughter and Criminally Negligent Homicide.

Murder

Under TPC section 19.02 there are three basic ways to commit murder:

  1. intentionally or knowingly causes the death of an individual;
  2. intends to cause serious bodily injury and commits an act clearly dangerous to human life that causes the death of an individual;  or
  3. commits or attempts to commit a felony, other than manslaughter, and in the course of and in furtherance of the commission or attempt, or in immediate flight from the commission
    or attempt, he commits or attempts to commit an act clearly dangerous to human life that causes the death of an individual.

Murder is usually a felony of the first degree, the possible punishment for which is imprisonment in the institutional division for life or for any term of not more than 99 years or less than 5 years and/or by a fine not to exceed $10,000.  The only exception to this that the crime is a felony of the second degree if the requirements of TPC sec. 19.02 (d) are satisfied:

At the punishment stage of a trial, the defendant may raise the issue as to
whether he caused the death under the immediate influence of sudden passion arising
from an adequate cause.  If the defendant proves the issue in the affirmative by a
preponderance of the evidence, the offense is a felony of the second degree.

During the punishment phase of the trial, a defendant may argue that he caused the death while under the immediate influence of sudden passion arising from an adequate cause. “Sudden passion” is “passion directly caused by and arising out of provocation by the individual killed or another acting with the person killed which passion arises at the time of the offense and is not solely the result of former provocation.

Adequate cause” is a “cause that would commonly produce a degree of anger, rage, resentment, or terror in a person of ordinary temper, sufficient to render the mind incapable of cool reflection.” Sudden passion is a mitigating circumstance that, if found by the jury to have been proven by a preponderance of the evidence, reduces the offense from a first degree felony to a second degree felony.

Thus, before defendants are allowed to have the judge or jury consider sudden passion, defendants must prove:

  1. that there was a adequate (legally recognized) provocation for the emotion or passion;
  2. an emotion or passion such as terror, anger, rage, fear or resentment existed;
  3. that the homicide occurred while the passion or emotion still existed;
  4. that the homicide occurred before there was a reasonable opportunity for the passion or emotion to cool (dissipate);  and,
  5. that there was a causal connection between the provocation, the passion, and the homicide.

A second degree felony is punishable by imprisonment for not more than 20 years nor less than 2 years, and/or a fine not to exceed $10,000.  This is where the old offense of “voluntary manslaughter” ended up after amendments to the TPC effective in 1994.  Thus, there is currently no offense of voluntary manslaughter in Texas.

Capital Murder

A capital murder is a capital felony. The Texas Penal Code specifically defines Capital Murder(and, thus, the possibility of the death penalty as a punishment) as murder which involves one or more of the elements listed below:

  1. the person murders a peace officer or fireman who is acting in the lawful discharge of an official duty and who the person knows is a peace officer or fireman;
  2. the person intentionally commits the murder in the course of committing or attempting to commit kidnapping, burglary, robbery, aggravated sexual assault, arson, obstruction or
    retaliation, or terroristic threat,
  3. the person commits the murder for remuneration or the promise of remuneration or employs another to commit the murder for remuneration or the promise of remuneration;
  4. the person commits the murder while escaping or attempting to escape from a penal institution;
  5. the person, while incarcerated in a penal institution, murders another:
    1. who is employed in the operation of the penal institution;  or
    2. with the intent to establish, maintain, or participate in a combination or in the profits of a combination;
  6. the person:
    1. while incarcerated for an offense under this section or Sec.19.02, murders another;  or
    2. while serving a sentence of life imprisonment or a term of 99 years for an offense under  Sec. 20.04, 22.021, or 29.03, murders another;
  7. the person murders more than one person:
    1. during the same criminal transaction;  or
    2. during different criminal transactions but the murders are committed pursuant to the same scheme or course of conduct;
  8. the person murders an individual under six years of age;  or
  9. the person murders another person in retaliation for or on account of the service or status of the other person as a judge or justice of the supreme court, the court of criminal appeals, a court of appeals, a district court, a criminal district court, a constitutional county court, a statutory county court, a justice court, or a municipal court.

A capital felony is punishable by death or life imprisonment without parole.  If the prosecution is not seeking the death penalty, life without parole is the mandatory sentence.  Prior to 2005, capital felony life imprisonment was life with the possibility of parole after 40 years.

Under current state law, the crimes of Capital Murder and Capital Sabotage (see below) or a second conviction for the aggravated sexual assault of someone under 14 is eligible for the death penalty.

Note: The Texas Penal Code allows for the death penalty to be assessed for “aggravated sexual assault of child committed by someone previously convicted of aggravated sexual assault of child”. The statute remains part of the Penal Code; however, the Supreme Court of the United State’s decision in Kennedy v. Louisiana which outlawed the death penalty for any crime not involving murder nullifies its effect.

The Texas Penal Code also allows a person can be convicted of any felony, including capital murder, “as a party” to the offense. “As a party” means that the person did not personally commit the elements of the crime, but is otherwise responsible for the conduct of the actual perpetrator as defined by law; which includes:

  • soliciting for the act,
  • encouraging its commission,
  • aiding the commission of the offense,
  • participating in a conspiracy to commit any felony where one of the conspirators commits the crime of capital murder

The felony involved does not have to be capital murder; if a person is proven to be a party to a felony offense and a murder is committed, the person can be charged with and convicted of capital murder, and thus eligible for the death penalty.
As in any other state, people who are under 18 at the time of commission of the capital crime or mentally retarded are precluded from being executed by the Constitution of the United States.

Manslaughter

Manslaughter  (TPC sec. 19.04) is recklessly causing the death of an individual.  Manslaughter is a felony of the second degree, which is punishable by imprisonment for not more than 20 years nor less than 2 years, and/or a fine not to exceed $10,000.

Texas does not officially use the term “involuntary manslaughter” or “voluntary manslaughter” which can sometimes be a little bit confusing. Many states do make the distinction between voluntary and involuntary manslaughter. Instead, Texas combines involuntary and voluntary manslaughter together and it is known as just “manslaughter.”

To convict a defendant of manslaughter, prosecutors must be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant recklessly caused the death of another individual. There is no requirement of premeditation to this crime and no requirement for there to be intent or knowledge on the part of the defendant. The only requirement is that the defendant’s conduct was reckless.

Although manslaughter is defined broadly in Texas, there are specific types of manslaughter that are treated separately. For example, intoxication manslaughter is one, and vehicular manslaughter is another. Intoxication manslaughter deals with the defendant recklessly causing the death of another while intoxicated. Cases involving driving while intoxicated would probably be prosecuted under TPC sec. 49.08, Intoxication Manslaughter (see below), rather than under this section. Vehicular manslaughter deals with the defendant recklessly causing the death of another while driving a vehicle or vessel.

Criminally Negligent Homicide

Criminally negligent homicide (TPC sec. 19.05) is causing the death of an individual by criminal negligence.  It is a state jail felony under which in general, a person can be confined in a state jail for not more than two years nor less than 180 days.  In addition, a fine of not more than $10,000 may be assessed.

Criminally Negligent Homicide differs from Manslaughter only in terms of the culpability or mens rea.  Criminally negligent homicide involves criminal negligence.  Manslaughter involves recklessness.  Thus, Manslaughter involves conscious risk creation (the actor is aware of the risk surrounding his conduct or the results thereof, but consciously disregards that awareness).  Criminally negligent homicide involves inattentive risk creation.  The actor ought to have been aware of the riskiness of his or her conduct but failed to perceive the risk.

Recklessness and criminal negligence are more serious forms of culpability than the negligence that can result in civil liability. Unlike civil  or ordinary negligence, recklessness requires somesubjective awareness of the risk.  Ordinary negligence is a totally objective standard.  Criminal negligence requires a “gross” deviation from the standard of care a reasonable or ordinary person would have exercised under the same circumstances.  Criminal negligence is roughly equivalent to “gross negligence” which is a more serious form of culpability than ordinary negligence.  Ordinary negligence can be made out by showing any deviation from the standard of care that a reasonable person would exercise.

Texas Penal Code Section 49.08 Intoxication Manslaughter

The final type of criminal homicide found in Texas Code is found in TPC ch. 49, “Intoxication and Alcoholic Beverage Offenses.”  A person is guilty of intoxication manslaughter if the person operates a motor vehicle in a public place, operates an aircraft, watercraft or an amusement ride, or assembles a mobile amusement ride and “  is intoxicated and by reason of that intoxication causes the death of another by accident or mistake.”

“Intoxicated is defined as having a blood alcohol content of 0.08 or more or

not having the normal use of mental or physical faculties by reason of the introduction of alcohol, a controlled substance, a drug, a dangerous drug, a combination of two or more of those substances, or any other substance into the body . . .

This offense is a felony of the second degree.  A second degree felony is punishable by imprisonment for not more than 20 years nor less than 2 years, and/or a fine not to exceed $10,000

Note that this is a strict liability offense. Guilt attaches even if the death is caused by accident or mistake.  Many observers are critical of strict liability offenses because they arguably punish conduct which is not blameworthy.  Supporters of strict liability offenses counter that such offenses are usually fine-only offenses.  This is clearly not the case for sec. 49.08 for which a person could be imprisoned for up to 20 years.

Best Austin Criminal Defense LawyerSection 49.08 does not apply to injury or death of an unborn child if the offense against the unborn child is committed by the mother of the unborn child.  Thus, if a pregnant woman is driving while intoxicated and has an accident which kills her fetus, it is not a crime.

Texas Government Code – Section 557.012 Capital Sabotage

  1. A person commits an offense if the person commits an offense under Section 557.011(a) and the sabotage or attempted sabotage causes the death of an individual.
  2. An offense under this section is punishable by:
    1. death; or
    2. confinement in the institutional division of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice for:
      1. life; or
      2. a term of not less than two years.
  3. If conduct constituting an offense under this section also constitutes an offense under other law, the actor may be prosecuted under both sections.

Possible Defenses for Murder Charges

Defenses to first degree murder charges fall into two major categories: claims that the defendant did not commit the killing in question, and admission that the defendant committed the killing, but did not commit first degree murder.

Defendants admitting to having killed the victim can assert defenses that they were justified in doing so (in self defense, for example), or that they were somehow incapacitated and thus not legally liable. These defenses require the defendant to put forth proof to support his or her defense.

First degree murder defendants also may simply argue that the prosecution has not proved all elements of a first degree murder charge typically that the defendant killed willfully, deliberately and with premeditation. Though the defendant may support such an argument with evidence, he or she is not required to do so, as proof of all elements of the crime falls on the shoulders of the prosecution.

As with statutes defining crimes, the defenses recognized for a specific crime can vary by state. Furthermore, which defenses a criminal defendant may have depends on the particular facts of the case in question. For guidance, defendants should consult an attorney well versed in his or her state’s criminal laws.

Mistaken Identity

In first degree murder cases, as well as other homicide crimes, defendants often argue mistaken identity i.e., that the prosecution has charged the wrong person with the killing. A defendant arguing mistaken identity often asserts an alibi if possible, which he or she tries to support with evidence of being somewhere else at the time of the killing. Other arguments in a mistaken identity defense include challenges to evidence placing the defendant at the scene of the crime. This can include challenges to witness identification as well as challenges to forensic evidence. A mistaken identity defense may also point to evidence implicating another possible suspect, but courts do not require defendants to do so.

Justified Homicide

Not all homicides are crimes, let alone first degree murders. The most common legal justification for a killing is self-defense or the defense of others.

Self-Defense

To succeed, a defendant arguing self defense must show that the killing resulted from a reasonable use of force to resist a reasonable fear of death or bodily harm. The defendant cannot have instigated the threatening situation. The degree of force used in self-defense must be proportional to the threat perceived, and the threat perceived must be something that would place a reasonable person in fear of death or great bodily harm. Mere words or insults do not suffice.

The defendant’s reaction to the threat cannot take place after the threat of death or bodily harm has passed. Many states require that the defendant attempt to retreat or avoid danger if possible before resorting to the use of deadly force.

For example, if someone incapacitates a mugger with pepper spray, he or she may need to attempt to flee to safety instead of taking out a pistol and shooting the mugger. States differ in the degree to which they require an attempt to retreat if the threat they face occurs in the defender’s home.

Defense of Others

The reasonable and proportional defense of others also justifies some killings. The same requirements as self-defense typically apply: the use of force must be timely and proportional to the threat faced, and the perceived threat of death or bodily harm must be reasonable.

Exercise of Duty

Certain killings by law enforcement and other public officers qualify as justified homicides. If an officer kills someone in the exercise of duty and without an unlawful intent, recklessness or negligence, that killing generally does not constitute murder, let alone first degree murder.

Accident or Misfortune

Killings committed by accident in the course of lawful activities do not constitute murder. Some such killings may result in liability for manslaughter, but unless an accidental homicide takes place during the commission of a crime or as a result of other criminal intentions, they would not be covered by first degree or second degree murder statutes. In certain cases, such as parental discipline of children which results in even accidental death, the use of physical force beyond excepted norms can push the killing into murder and possibly, depending on state law, first degree murder.

Insanity Defense

Most states recognize an insanity defense to charges of first degree murder. Even states which allow the defense, however, treat it differently and often apply different tests. Most states define insanity, for purposes of determining criminal liability, as cognitively being unable to appreciate the quality of the act being committed, or unable to realize that the act is wrong. Some states also recognize a volitional aspect to “insanity” giving some defendants with disorders affecting impulse control access to the insanity defense.

Hire the Best Criminal Homicide Lawyers: The Charles Johnson Law Firm

Murder charges are of course the most serious of all charges and the most seriously pursued by the State Attorney’s Office or Federal Prosecutors. A person charged with homicide (murder) in Texas risks significant jail time and most convictions will result in never being released from custody. In some cases, they face being sentenced to death. Texas has become infamous in the country for the number of murders.

However not all deaths are criminal, and there are several powerful homicide defenses provided under Texas Law. If you or someone you know is charged with some form of a Homicide charge, then you need the best possible attorney. You are entitled to the best legal defense possible. Austin Criminal Defense Lawyer Charles Johnson can deliver that defense for you.Austin Criminal Homicide Lawyer Charles Johnson is available to discuss your case whenever you need him. Contact him directly at 512-832-1200. His Law Office is headquartered in Austin, with offices conveniently located in Dallas, Austin and San Antonio.

 

Arrested for Murder in Austin? Why Hiring An Experienced Criminal Defense Lawyer Is Crucial Download “Arrested for Murder in Austin? Why Hiring An Experienced Criminal Defense Lawyer Is Crucial” in PDF Format

 

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Facing Allegations of Credit Card Fraud? Austin White Collar Crimes Lawyer Charles Johnson Can Protect Your Future

Best Austin White Collar Crimes Lawyer

Credit card fraud is a wide-ranging term for theft and fraud committed using a credit card or any similar payment mechanism as a fraudulent source of funds in a transaction. The purpose may be to obtain goods without paying, or to obtain unauthorized funds from an account. Credit card fraud is an intricate crime, which is aggressively prosecuted by authorities. An accusation of credit card fraud can have serious negative consequences for individuals and businesses. If you are facing allegations of bank card fraud, you may be facing  jail time and significant fines if found guilty. In addition, if you are a business owner, you may lose what you have worked so hard to build. If you are under investigation for credit card fraud or if you are facing charges of credit card fraud, you need the support of a knowledgeable and experienced Austin White Collar Crimes Lawyer.

Credit Card Fraud is rather common all over the United States, as is the prosecution rate for such crimes. Any form of credit card fraud or abuse — even the possession of someone else’s credit card with the intention of committing fraud or theft — can be charged as a felony and lead to jail time and significant fines upon conviction. Whether you are accused of “borrowing” a friend’s Visa to pay for gas or you actively opened an account in someone else’s name and engaged in thousands of dollars of purchases, if you have been charged with fraud then you need experienced legal counsel.

It is possible to simply be accused of credit card fraud or for there to be circumstances in the case that constitute reduced charges, which means reduced penalties. No matter the case, it is important to have a Austin Credit Card Fraud Attorney to help you from the time you are accused until the end of the case.

If you are investigated for a credit card fraud crime in Austin, do not discuss anything with detectives. Even if you believe that you are innocent of the accusations or think that you can simply “explain what happened” so that the the problem is resolved, it is not wise to say anything to an investigator. Always insist on talking to an attorney first. If you have been arrested for Credit Card Fraud in Austin, TX, take fast action with a skilled and resourceful Austin Criminal Lawyer. Contact the Charles Johnson Law Firm immediately anytime night or day for a free phone consultation at 512-832-1200 to discuss your case.

Overview of Texas Credit Card Fraud Laws

Performing a variety of fraudulent acts in connection with a credit card amounts to the crime of credit card fraud in Texas. Prosecutors must be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt, that the defendant had an intent to receive some type of benefit by the following means, the most common of which are:

  • Using a credit or debit card the defendant knows is not his own;
  • The card has expired, been revoked, or cancelled;
  • Using a fictitious card, or the pretended number of a fictitious card
  • Receiving any benefit that the defendant knows has been obtained by violation of this law;
  • Stealing a credit or debit card with the intent to use it, sell it or transfer it to anyone but the cardholder;
  • Buying a credit or debit card from someone the defendant knows is not the issuer of the card;
  • Selling a credit or debit card;
  • Inducing the cardholder to use his/her card to obtain property for the defendant’s benefit when the cardholder is financially unable to pay for it;
  • Possessing a credit or debit card that is not the defendant’s own and having the intent to use it.

Credit card fraud is a problem that affects the entire consumer credit industry. It is one of the most common types of fraud and also one of the most difficult to prevent. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), credit-related complaints have consistently ranked among their top 10 complaints for many years. In fact, some organized crime rings and even drug dealers have shifted criminal career paths to engage in this simple, lucrative, and relatively safe form of crime.

Credit card fraud can occur in person or via the Internet. Most consumer action groups, police departments, retail stores, and agencies, such as Better Business Bureaus (BBB) and the FTC, routinely release information for consumers on how to avoid credit card fraud and identity theft. Nevertheless, there are numerous forms of credit card fraud that are committed by enterprising thieves, organized rings, business owners, and even otherwise legitimate cardholders.

One method of obtaining account information or even an actual credit card is through postal theft. Other methods that have proven surprisingly effective in obtaining personal information include impersonating a card or application verifier via telephone, obtaining copies of past bills, or utilizing on-line directories. In some situations, offenders are also able to take advantage of contacts within the various credit bureaus to obtain legitimate bankcard account information for counterfeiting or telephone order purchasing. After having illegally obtained legitimate cards or account information, offenders then create fictitious identification including driver’s licenses, social security cards, and other materials to aid in the commission of credit card fraud.

Once the information is obtained, there are several forms of fraud that can occur. One popular type of credit card fraud is the advance payment scheme. This scheme utilizes counterfeit or stolen credit cards. The offender either makes an advance payment on the card or overpays an existing balance with a fraudulent check. Since the account is credited upon receipt of payment, cash advances can be immediately withdrawn before the payment check has cleared. Through numerous payments on numerous cards, an offender can realize large profits within a relatively short period of time.

Another type of credit card fraud involves the illegal counterfeiting of credit cards. New technology has aided criminals in producing exact replicas of existing cards and in creating fraudulent cards including the so-called “hidden” counter-measures. Illegal counterfeiting may be primarily responsible for the overall upsurge in credit card fraud.

Counterfeiters also buy and sell magnetic strips to produce fraudulent credit cards. The magnetic strips are essential because they contain names, account numbers, credit limits, and other information for legitimate or contrived Visa/MasterCard holders. By using a desktop computer system, source material, and peripheral equipment, a counterfeiter can produce a fraudulent bankcard with relative ease. As technology has improved, counterfeiting credit cards has become a multi-step process. These steps can often include using desktop computer systems and peripherals such as laminators to produce more realistic looking cards. The counterfeited cards come complete with a hologram and fully encoded magnetic strip. Most of the supplies used to manufacture counterfeited bankcards, including the plastic cards and Visa/MasterCard holograms (the Visa dove and the MasterCard interlocking globes) are smuggled into the United States from the Far East.

Costs and Statistics

  • It is estimated that the global rate of credit and charge card fraud is seven cents for every $100 transaction. Illegal credit card purchases totaled $788 million in the United States alone for the year 2004, representing 4.7 cents of every $100 worth of total purchases.  Similar estimates have been reported in Great Britain, where it is estimated that £535.2 million were lost due to credit card fraud in 2007.  In addition, Australia loses an estimated 4 cents per every $100 transaction to fraud.
  • According to estimates, over 229 million records containing individuals’ identifying information have been compromised by data breaches since 2005, Although it is difficult to estimate or predict the number of compromised records that will be or may have been utilized for perpetrating fraud, the sensitive nature of the information contained within these records harbors the potential for increasing credit card fraud losses. Estimates of monetary amounts lost from data breaches can reach hundreds of millions of dollars.
  • The Federal Trade Commission reports that victims’ information was used to perpetrate credit card fraud in 23% of the cases brought to the attention of the Identity Theft Clearinghouse in 2007.Of online credit/debit card fraud, the Internet Crime Complaint Center(IC3) reports that this type of fraud ranks 4 in the types of fraud committed over the Internet, compromising 6.3% of complaints reported to the IC3 in 2007.
  • A report issued by Cybersource shows that, according to a 2007 survey of both small and large online businesses, 1.4% of all online revenue was lost due to payment fraud, with an estimate of $3.6 billion in losses for 2007.  Additionally, the survey found that 1.3% of all accepted orders resulted in fraud losses.  The median fraudulent order was $200 versus a median of $120 for legitimate purchases.  Those retailers which also accept orders not located with the U.S. or Canada reported that international orders were rejected at a rate approximately 2.5 times higher than U.S. and Canadian orders due to suspicion of fraud.  Overall, merchants rejected 4.2% of total orders on suspicion of fraud.

The Response/Current Efforts

Merchants are more at risk from credit card fraud than are consumers. Regardless of whether the transaction occurred in person or on-line, the consumer generally only has to face the hassles of reversing a fraudulent charge, canceling their lost or stolen card, or paying the first $50 of the loss (although most credit card companies waive this fee). In contrast, a merchant loses the cost of the product sold, must pay numerous credit card charge-back fees, and even faces the possibility of having their merchant account closed.

Many methods of safeguarding credit card purchases exist. Credit card companies started using holograms in 1981 to identify genuine cards at the time of purchase. At the same time, large-scale hologram counterfeiting operations developed in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and China. A separate market emerged for these holograms, which sell for between $5 and $15, depending on the quality of the hologram. In 1994, the Canadian Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit and the Combined Forces Asian Investigation Unit arrested members of a Chinese syndicate that produced approximately 300,000 counterfeit holograms and had distributed 250,000 of them. Based on the quantity delivered and using an estimate of $3,000 lost per card, Visa and MasterCard estimated that their combined losses caused by this group approached $750 million.

The FTC recommends that consumers sign their cards in a manner that requires the user to show photo identification, carry their cards in a separate compartment of their wallet or purse, destroy carbon copies, void incorrect receipts, reconcile monthly account statements, and shred unsolicited credit card offers. These steps will reduce the likelihood of either fraudulent purchases charged to the victims’ accounts or more severe identity theft.

Credit card fraud is a recognized issue of import.  One problem facing the struggle to reduce this type of fraud, however, is the lack of law enforcement resources devoted to this type of crime.  Although law enforcement acknowledges the extent of the crime, resources are often such that many agencies are simply not able to allocate the time and manpower needed to police these crimes.  This is especially true when a fraudulent transaction may only account for $20-50 loss per victim, such as with the recent cases involving the company Pluto Data.  While these fraudulent transactions are noteworthy, they may simply not garner the resources that more salient crimes attract.  Additionally, many credit card frauds may suffer from jurisdictional problems; for instance, many of the fraudulent transactions may take place in a city, state, or country other than that in which the victim is residing.  Due to the lack of consistent law enforcement involvement and jurisdictional issues, ensuring transaction safety often falls to the individual; as a consequence, many, especially merchants involved with online transactions, utilize a variety of methods for ensuring credit card security and safety.

Internet credit card transactions are referred to as CNP (cardholder not present transactions). In order to validate a card, many on-line merchants use cardholder recognition software, validity checks, and red flag order settings. These “red flags” are based on subtle differences in the card’s information that have also proved fraudulent in past purchases. For example, one red flag arises when the shipping and billing addresses are not the same. This is especially true in situations involving PO Boxes and private, rented boxes (e.g., at Mailboxes Etc.). Other types of red flags are purchases of high dollar items or orders in multiples with requests for rush or expedited shipping. On-line criminals generally like to receive their items quickly for resale purposes and, since they have no intention of paying the bill, they do not mind the higher cost for shipping.

One of the latest technological advancements in the race to foil credit card fraudsters is the employment of new chip-based technology in credit cards.  Rather than relying on the standard magnetic strip to divulge card owners’ information, the new technology stores this information on a computer chip embedded within the card which requires a pin to unlock—a practice that is currently underway in Europe and has been going on in France for over ten years, where credit card fraud has dropped 80%.  This system is currently being unveiled in Canada and is also being employed by select card issuers in the U.S.

Also, both Visa U.S.A. and MasterCard currently offer state-of-the-art identity check offerings. Visa U.S.A. invited cardholders to link their cards to passwords that would be required when shopping at participating on-line stores. The service, “Verified by Visa,” is designed to raise the level of security and allay fears of fraud that haunt many merchants and consumers. Verified by Visa is a way to authenticate on-line buyers to on-line sellers in which customers register for a password with the bank that issues their credit card. Merchants are linked back to the card issuer that verifies the cardholder’s identity based on that password.  In addition to programs such as “Verified by Visa”, Visa is also using a new “advanced authorization” system.  By evaluating 40 variable factors (such as whether or not the card being used was part of a known security breach or if items are being ordered at a high-volume quick rate), the system can provide banks with an instant rating of the transaction’s potential for fraud, allowing the issuer to decline the purchase if warranted.  This new system is reported to be able to flag up to 40% of false transactions which may have gone undetected previously.

Additionally, many major credit card companies have banded together to help to ensure safety by issuing what is known as the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS).  This standard requires all merchants to follow the same guidelines of data security.  It is unknown how many retailers are PCI compliant, but Visa estimates that upwards of two-thirds of its large and medium-sized merchants meet requirements as of January 2008.  In order to assist business owners in this endeavor, card companies and payment processors are supplying tutorials and Webinars to business owners in order to help navigate the intricate technology regulations.  The latest version of the security standard is scheduled for release in October 2008.

Recent initiatives in an effort to battle credit card fraud and identity theft have also emerged on a federal level.  A recent amendment to the Fair Credit Reporting Act requires consumer reporting companies to provide consumers with a free copy of their credit report (including information on where you live, how you pay your bills, and whether you’ve been sued, arrested, or filed for bankruptcy) once every 12 months, at the consumer’s request.  This went into effect on December 1, 2004 in the Western states and is now available nationwide.  This allows consumers the ability to closely monitor their own credit histories without paying charges to reporting agencies.

Defenses to Credit Card Fraud Charges

Police and prosecutors have the technological sophistication to effectively investigate credit card fraud, whether it allegedly occurs via the Internet or in person. The police may be able to follow the trail of an online credit card purchase back to the computer used in the transaction, to find a suspect in an online credit card fraud investigation. For credit card fraud cases occuring inside a store, the police may request security camera footage to show the person who signed for a specific purchase at a specific time.

Austin White Collar Crimes Attorney Charles Johnson will conduct a thorough, independent investigation into the case against you — seeking both exculpatory evidence and possible misconduct by the police investigators.

Contact Austin White Collar Crimes Attorney Charles Johnson

If you are facing charges for credit card fraud, contact Austin Lawyer Charles Johnson personally anytime night or day at 512-832-1200. Attorney Johnson will be able to work with you and investigate the case against you, explaining your options along the way.

A defense attorney, who is experienced in this type of law, will be able to look for possible defenses in your case. Sometimes fraud, credit card theft, embezzlement and identity theft are committed due to a drug addiction, psychological issue, or gambling addiction. If you are suffering from an addiction or a mental issue, we may be able to argue for a lesser charge.

Other possible defenses include:

  • Lack of knowledge
  • Lack of intent
  • Mistake
  • Duress (being coerced to perform a crime that you otherwise would not perform)
  • Age (being a minor may lessen the penalty imposed)

If you are facing charges of credit card theft or any other type of fraud anywhere within the state of Texas, we will:

  • Investigate the case against you
  • Investigate possible defenses and options
  • Work with you and explain your options
  • Communicate all charges and information clearly to you
  • Prepare the best defense case for your situation

When you hire an experienced Austin Criminal Defense Attorney regarding theft charges you face, we may be able to get your charges lessened or see that you get alternative sentencing for your crime.

Penalties and Sentences

There are various punishments for different types of fraud. The sentences normally depend on the nature of the fraud committed. A few of the penalties that could be assessed under Texas law include:

  • Jail or prison time
  • Fines and restitution
  • Loss of a professional license
  • Seizure of property or wage garnishment

It is extremely important that you contact Austin Credit Card Fraud Lawyer Charles Johnson as soon as you are aware of an investigation. Prosecutors often attempt to intimidate ordinary citizens into thinking the state of Texas has a clear cut case against them. Investigators often apply for search warrants in order to look for evidence that a fraud has taken place. These search warrants limit the type of evidence that may be seized, but those who are unfamiliar with how this process works may nonetheless allow law enforcement officers to overstep their bounds when serving one of these warrants.

Hire the Best Austin White Collar Crime Lawyer: The Charles Johnson Law Firm

Don’t make the mistake of waiting until it is too late to do something about it. Just because you have been charged with a theft crime in Texas does not mean that you will get the maximum punishment for that charge. You have a legal right to hire a lawyer who has experience in criminal proceedings who can help represent you and get you the best possible outcome.

Experienced Austin White Collar Crimes Lawyer Charles Johnson represents people on theft and fraud charges including robbery, burglary, petty theft, credit card theft, grand theft, embezzlement, shoplifting, forgery, passing bad checks, and obtaining money by false pretenses. There are many possible defenses for your case. Allow us the time to discuss your case with you and investigate the matter.

The Charles Johnson Law Firm will investigate your case, interview witnesses and present the best possible defense. Don’t let a mistake that you made affect the rest of your life. You may contact Austin Credit Card Fraud Lawyer Charles Johnson at 512-832-1200 and speak with him directly anytime night or day, 7 days/ week to discuss your case.

Facing Allegations of Credit Card Fraud? Austin White Collar Crimes Lawyer Charles Johnson Can Protect Your Future

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Marijuana Cultivation Charges: The Best Austin Criminal Lawyer To Represent You

Best Houston Criminal Lawyer: Marijuana Cultivation

Have you been accused of operating a marijuana grow house? Grow houses have been popping up all over Texas and all over the nation. As a result, law enforcement has intensified investigations. They are reviewing electrical usage and water usage to determine if excessive amounts are being used — creating suspicion that the manufacture/cultivation of marijuana is being carried out on the premises. If you are under investigation or have been arrested and are facing drug manufacturing charges, you need experienced legal counsel on your side. Austin Criminal Lawyer Charles Johnson expertly defends clients who have been charged with marijuana-related crimes through the entire State of Texas, with offices in Austin, Austin, Dallas and San Antonio.

At the Charles Johnson Law Firm, we take marijuana charges seriously. We provide aggressive manufacture/cultivation defense representation to each client. Contact Attorney Johnson directly at 512-832-1200 anytime night or day to discuss your case with an experienced criminal defense attorney.

Marijuana Cultivation: Defense Lawyers You Can Trust

Our law firm provides exceptional defense representation. We have earned a reputation for our diligence and our commitment to our clients. Clients have come to respect and trust us when they are in need and their future is at stake. We know the law and how to effectively defend our clients.

When clients have been charged with marijuana cultivation or other drug manufacturing, we analyze every aspect of the case.

  • How did law enforcement become aware of the use of grow lights?
  • Was reviewing the occupant’s electrical bills legal?
  • Was a valid search warrant obtained before entering the home?
  • Did someone else have access to the home?
  • Was the home actually owned by someone else?

In marijuana cultivation cases, penalties are based on quantity. Therefore, if you have possession of a significant amount of plants in your home or an amount of marijuana of substantial weight, you may face a mandatory minimum sentence. Experienced defense counsel is paramount to the success of your case.

We use our knowledge of the law to our client’s benefit. If required procedure was not followed or our clients’ rights were violated, we petition to have evidence suppressed from the record — weakening or destroying the case against you. If you have been arrested for marijuana cultivation, trust the Best Austin Drug Lawyer Charles Johnson to provide the zealous defense representation you need. You can contact Attorney Johnson directly anytime night or day at 512-832-1200.

About Marijuana Cultivation in Texas

In Texas, it is against the law to possess, distribute, or grow marijuana. The charges for these crimes are serious and the penalties include jail time, probation, prison, and expensive fines. In addition to these consequences, your driver’s license will be suspended even if you are not driving a vehicle at the time of your arrest.

Texas marijuana cultivation laws make it illegal for you to grow and possess certain plants or other organic materials that are used to produce marijuana. This means that if you are found with cannabis seeds, grow lighting systems, or marijuana plants, you will be charged with marijuana cultivation.

Large-scale federal marijuana cultivation charges are serious and carry severe consequences. As a federal offense, your case would be handled in the federal court system, which places strict sentencing guidelines on convictions. It is important that you retain a lawyer who has experience trying cases at the federal level. I can evaluate your case from every angle to determine the best course of action.

Marijuana is derived from the hemp plant called Cannabis sativa, which can be found growing naturally in many parts of the world. Though it may be commonly known as a hallucinogenic drug, the hemp or marijuana plant can be used in many other ways to produce paper, hemp oil, food and clothes. Owning items that are made of hemp is not illegal; however, growing or cultivating a marijuana plant in Texas is punishable as a criminal offense.

Marijuana remains readily available and is considered the most widely used illegal drug throughout the State of Texas. Marijuana in this area is primarily imported from the Texas/Mexico border via privately owned vehicles (POV) and commercial trucks. Large quantities of marijuana are routinely seized by all levels of law enforcement during highway interdiction stops in the North Texas area. In recent years, increased enforcement activity has lead to the seizure of several significant indoor marijuana cultivation operations in North Texas. These operations range in size from 100 to over 1100 plants and have produced marijuana with THC levels as high as 15%. Mexican marijuana is the most predominantly trafficked drug in the Austin Division. It is not uncommon for the US Border Patrol to make multi-hundred pound marijuana seizures from “back packers” at points along the Rio Grande River, and from vehicles at the US Border Patrol secondary checkpoints in Texas. At the Ports of Entry, ton quantity seizures of marijuana are often made from commercial trucking attempting to enter the United States.

Outdoor Operations

Seasonal marijuana growing operations may be conducted on lands of all ownership. Some individuals elect to grow their illegal crops on publicly owned lands where isolation and limited public access lessen the likelihood of accidental detection. Certain things may be indicators of an outdoor growing operation. Some of these are:

  • An unusually large purchase of fertilizer,
  • garden hoses, PVC pipe, and
  • camouflage netting.
  • Excessive security measures out of place
  • in remote forested areas.
  • An unusual structure or out-of-place
  • items in remote forested areas, such as
  • buckets, garden tools, hoses, PVC pipe,
    and fertilizer bags.

Indoor Operations

Many individuals choose to cultivate marijuana indoors in order to have total control of the environment. These operations may divert power from power companies to circumvent payment of high bills and attempt to avoid detection. This only raises the cost of power for law-abiding citizens.

Certain things may be indicators of an indoor growing operation. Some of these are:

  • Covered or blackened-out windows.
  • Loud humming sounds (from fans or ballasts).
  • An unusually strong musty odor.
  • Unusually large amounts of potting soil, containers, fertilizer, hoses, halide light system, and ballasts.
  • Excessive security measures and use of guard dogs.

Marijuana possession, sale, and manufacture are regulated by both state and federal law. In Texas, marijuana is classified as a Schedule I substance, which means that it has a high potential for abuse and no generally recognized medical value. (Texas Stat. and Code Ann. § 481.002.)

Marijuana Possession

It is a crime to possess marijuana in Texas. Penalties vary according to the amount possessed, with increased penalties for offenses in a drug free school zone. (Texas Stat. and Code Ann. § 481.121.)

Two ounces or less. Penalties include a fine of up to $2,000, up to 180 days in jail, or both.

More than two ounces, but less than four ounces. Penalties include a fine of up to $4,000, up to one year in jail, or both.

Four ounces or more, up to and including five pounds. Penalties include a fine of up to $10,000, between 180 days and two years in prison, or both.

More than five pounds, up to and including 50 pounds. Penalties include a fine of up to $10,000, between two and ten years in prison, or both.

More than 50 pounds, up to and including 2,000 pounds. Penalties include a fine of up to $10,000, between two and 20 years in prison, or both.

More than 2,000 pounds. Penalties include a fine of up to $50,000, between five and 99 years in prison, or both.

Marijuana Cultivation and Sales

It is illegal to cultivate or sell marijuana (or possess marijuana with the intent to do so) in Texas. Penalties vary according to the amount cultivated or sold, with increased penalties for sales to a minor or within a drug free school zone. (Texas Stat. and Code Ann. § 481.120.)

Gift of one fourth of an ounce or less. Penalties include a fine of up to $2,000, up to 180 days in jail, or both.

Selling one fourth of an ounce or less. Penalties include a fine of up to $4,000, up to one year in jail, or both.

More than one fourth of an ounce, and up to and including five pounds. Penalties include a fine of up to $10,000, between 180 days and two years in prison, or both.

More than five pounds, up to and including 50 pounds. Penalties include a fine of up to $10,000, between two and 20 years in prison, or both.

More than 50 pounds, up to and including 2,000 pounds. Penalties include a fine of up to $10,000, between five and 99 years in prison, or both.

More than 2,000 pounds. Penalties include a fine of up to $50,000, at least ten (and up to 99) years in prison, or both.

Drug Paraphernalia

It is illegal in Texas to manufacture, sell, or use drug paraphernalia (or possess paraphernalia with the intent to do so). Paraphernalia includes items used in growing, harvesting, processing, selling, storing, or using marijuana. Penalties for possession include a fine of up to $500, but no jail time. Selling paraphernalia may be punished with a fine of up to $4,000, up to one year in jail, or both. (Texas Stat. and Code Ann. § 481.125.)

Stamp Tax

A stamp tax is a tax imposed on certain types of transactions (such as the transfer of property) that requires a stamp to be purchased and attached either to the item sold or to an instrument documenting the transaction (such as a deed). The federal government imposes stamp taxes on deeds, the issue and transfer of stocks and bonds, and on playing cards.

In Texas, those who buy, transport, or import marijuana into Texas are required to pay a stamp tax and place the stamp (proof of payment) onto the contraband. However, because the possession of marijuana is illegal, people typically don’t pay the stamp tax. When you are convicted for possession, you will also be liable for payment of the unpaid taxes ($3.50 for each gram or portion of a gram). (Texas Stat. and Code Ann. § 159.101A.)

Challenging the Prosecution’s Case – Why You Shouldn’t Give Up Hope

Marijuana cultivation cases often depend on informants. People who have been arrested on drug and related criminal charges may agree to provide police with information in exchange for a reduced sentence. As a result, someone may give your name to the police when in reality you have little, if anything, to do with the cultivation of marijuana. Austin Drug Lawyer Charles Johnson will investigate the background of informants and their relationship to the police in order to expose leads and information ignored by law enforcement in building their case against you.

Facing Possession Charges

Often marijuana possession charges result from police contacts while in your car. Typically, officers will ask the driver if they can search their car. In many cases, drivers agree to a search thinking officers have a right to inspect their car. However, an officer must first have reasonable suspicion that a law has been broken to pull you over. Second, in order to search your car, one of the following must apply: You must give voluntary, informed consent to the officer; the officer must see something in plain sight that gives them probable cause to conduct a search; or the search must be incident to a lawful arrest. Attorney Johnson will review the evidence, dashboard camera footage and the actions of arresting officers to determine if your rights were violated.

The Value of Local Legal Representation

If you have been charged with a marijuana-related offense, consult an experienced criminal defense attorney. While the penalties and consequences of a marijuana charge are governed by statutory law, only a local criminal defense attorney can tell you how cases like yours tend to be handled by prosecutors and judges in your courthouse. As you can see, the penalties for marijuana cultivation in Texas are life changing. Not only is your freedom at stake, your bank account can be cleaned out and you will lose your driving privileges. You need an experienced drug-offense attorney on your side at a critical time like this.

Austin Drug Lawyer Charles Johnson expertly defends clients who have been charged with marijuana-related crimes through the entire State of Texas. Due to his dedication to fighting drug charges, he is familiar with the most effective defense strategies to defend you. If you’ve been arrested on marijuana cultivation charges in Austin or anywhere in Texas, it’s in your best interest to speak with an experienced drug cultivation defense lawyer who can inform you of your legal rights and provide you with the aggressive defense you need against your charges.

When you come to our firm, you can rest assured that a knowledgeable and well-practiced Texas marijuana cultivation defense attorney will thoroughly look into your charges to determine if the police violated your constitutional rights, or conducted an unlawful search and seizure. If we find any evidence that may indicate the police violated the law, we will make it known to the judge immediately, and motion to have the charges dropped.

To learn more about our defense services, please contact Austin Marijuana Cultivation Lawyer Charles Johnson anytime night or day at 512-832-1200 to speak with him directly.

Marijuana Cultivation Charges: The Best Austin Criminal Lawyer To Represent You

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Austin Lawyer » Ways To Improve Your Odds Of Avoiding a DWI Conviction

Austin Lawyer Charles Johnson

Hire the Finest Austin DWI Lawyer!

There are a few essential things it is best to realize in the event you are facing DWI criminal charges in or around Austin, Texas. The Leading Austin Lawyer will undoubtedly be happy to answer your questions about DWI and provide you essential case tips when you speak to them for a free of charge preliminary case evaluation.

Case Tips Regarding your Austin DWI

  • If you happen to be stopped for suspected DWI, always be polite to the officer. However, do not answer any questions about what you have had to drink or when.
  • Politely refuse to submit to field sobriety testing, as this is not mandatory and you cannot be penalized for a refusal of this kind.
  • If you are arrested, be sure that you speak to the Texas DPS as soon as possible. You’ll have only Fifteen calendar days to schedule an ALR (Administrative License Revocation) hearing regarding your license suspension. Failing to schedule this hearing will bring about the automatic suspension of your license.
  • After your arrest, you have the right to remain silent. You do not have to respond to questions or undergo formal questioning regarding the case. While it is best to cooperate and be polite, you do not have to respond to questions regarding how much you have had to drink and when. Exercise this right, and you will have a far greater chance of avoiding a conviction.
  • You also have the right to legal counsel. This is a constitutional right that has to be observed in order to provide defendants in criminal cases the chance to prove their innocence. By turning to a Austin DWI lawyer as soon as possible following a DWI arrest, you will give your attorney an improved chance of making a positive impact on your case.
  • Most importantly, contact the Leading Austin DWI Attorney as soon as you can. Having a skilled attorney at your side as early in the process as possible means that your rights will undoubtedly be defended and you will have the very best opportunity of avoiding license suspension and a conviction.

Hire the Finest Austin Lawyer!

Experienced Attorney Charles Johnson of the Charles Johnson Law Firm can fight for your legal rights both during your ALR hearing and also throughout the entire criminal court process.

The Most Qualified Austin Criminal Defense Lawyer has represented many clients who were dealing with DWI convictions and harsh legal penalties. With their guidance, clients have been able to battle their driving while intoxicated charges and obtain effective outcomes in court and at their Texas DPS ALR hearings. Dedicated Austin Criminal Attorney Charles Johnson is an aggressive, qualified litigator who is prepared to assist you. Call him today and he will help you get your life straightened out.

Best Austin Lawyer

The Austin Lawyer

We can be reached 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Call us at 512-832-1200 or toll free at 877-308-0100.
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