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Austin Prostitution Defense Lawyer: The Charles Johnson Law Firm

Finest Austin Criminal Defense Lawyer for Prostitution
Generally, prostitution is the act of engaging in sexual activity by a person for a fee or a thing of economic value.  But the scope of the crime of prostitution has been widened to include all prostitution related offenses.  Thus a person is considered to commit an offense of prostitution if s/he engages in an act of prostitution willfully, solicits prostitution, or agrees to engage in an act of prostitution.

The parties to the crime usually include: a prostitute and a customer or a third person/pimp.  In addition to engaging in prostitution, soliciting prostitution, agreeing to engage in an act of prostitution, child prostitution, attempted prostitution are other prostitution related offenses.  A person may be guilty of an attempt to commit prostitution when s/he engages in conduct which tends to effect the commission of such crime.  In order to prove attempt, it is necessary to establish that a defendant had the intent to commit a specific offense and that a defendant engaged in some affirmative act to carry out that crime.

Austin Prostitution Defense Lawyer: Criminal Lawyer Charles Johnson

The elements constituting an offense of prostitution are that a person has engaged in a sexual activity and has done it willfully.  Sexual activity may be sexual intercourse or any lewd acts that may arouse sexual feelings.  Most jurisdictions make monetary consideration a requisite to constitute prostitution but some jurisdictions do not require it to be an element of the offense.  Consideration need not be in the form of money.

In order to constitute an offense of soliciting prostitution, a person has to solicit another person to engage in an act of prostitution and the act must have been done with specific intent to engage in an act of prostitution.  A prostitute or a customer may be charged for the offense of solicitation of prostitution depending on the circumstances or who began the interaction.  Specific intent of engaging in an act of prostitution is an essential element to constitute an offense.  An offer to pay money or other compensation like drugs in exchange for sexual acts may be considered evidence as to the intent of the parties.  Some courts have held that the individual being solicited must actually receive the solicitation in order to convict an accused for soliciting prostitution.

Agreeing to engage in an act of prostitution is another prostitution offense.  The elements of the offense are that, a person must have agreed to engage in an act of prostitution with another person.  It should have been with a specific intent to engage in an act of prostitution and any act in furtherance of prostitution must have had to be performed.  This offense is a continuation of solicitation of prostitution because the person who accepts solicitation will be agreeing to engage in prostitution.

A charge under the offense of agreeing to engage in an act of prostitution may be made even if the person who solicited did not have the same intent.  This situation may arise when a person who pretended to be a prostitute was an under cover agent.  In addition to the intent, an act in furtherance of prostitution must have been performed to constitute the offense of agreeing to engage in prostitution.

An act in furtherance of prostitution can be, driving to an agreed upon location where the sexual activity will take place, mere verbal command to undress, giving the payment agreed upon and the like.  The nature of the act is not important as long as it indicates existence of an agreement to engage in prostitution.

Austin Prostitution Defense Lawyer: The Charles Johnson Law Firm

Even though prostitution is (initially) a misdemeanor, a conviction can be devastating. A sex related criminal record can damage a person’s career and family life. If you are facing prostitution or solicitation of prostitution in Austin, Texas, you will find an aggressive, experienced, and knowledgeable criminal defense attorney in Attorney Charles Johnson.

Call us at 512-832-1200 or toll free at 877-308-0100.
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Arrested for Sexual Assault of a Child? Proven Attorney Charles Johnson Can Help You

Houston Domestic Violence Lawyer Charles Johnson

Statutory rape refers to sexual relations involving someone below the “age of consent.” People below the age of consent cannot legally consent to having sex. This means that sex with them, by definition, violates the law.

Statutory rape laws vary by state, with states setting the age of consent differently, as well as using different names to refer to this crime. Many states punish statutory rape under laws addressing sexual assault, rape, unlawful sexual intercourse or carnal knowledge of a child. There are very few federal laws dealing with statutory rape.

No Requirement of Force

Statutory rape differs from other types of rape, and from child molestation, in that the act would not be a crime if all participants were above the age of consent. Unlike “forcible rape,” statutory rape can involve underage participants who willingly engage in sexual relations. However, because those under the age of consent cannot give legal consent to sex, the act is a crime whether or not force is involved. If the act involves force or coercion, many states prosecute the offender under the separate statutes punishing child molestation or aggravated rape.

Age of Consent

Individuals cannot legally have sexual contact with an individual who is not of age. The legal age of consent may vary by state. For instance, the legal age of consent in Texas is 17. Some states have a legal age of consent as low as 14 while other states have a legal age of consent of 18.

An individual who has sexual contact with a person below the age of consent may face punishment. In general, sexual contact is considered any act intended to arouse another person. As such, an individual may be found guilty of statutory rape even if he or she did not have sexual intercourse with a minor.

Historically, statutory rape has been a “strict liability” offense, meaning that it does not matter whether what the perpetrator believed the victim was old enough to consent to sex. Some states now allow the defense that the perpetrator had reason to believe, and did believe, that the minor was above the age of consent. However, in many states this defense is not allowed, meaning that the act was a crime regardless of what the perpetrator believed the victims age to be. In states that do allow such a defense, it often cannot be used if the victim was particularly young, commonly under the age of 14.

Factors Affecting the Level of Offense Charges and Penalties

Laws punishing statutory rape often include a spectrum of offenses, ranging from misdemeanors to high level felonies. In general, two main factors affect the level of offense for an act of statutory rape: (1) the age of the victim; and (2) the age difference between victim and perpetrator. Other factors, including any prior sex offenses committed by the offender, whether drugs or alcohol were involved, and whether pregnancy resulted, can also affect the level of charge imposed.

Statutory rape is a felony offense, so an individual who is found guilty of the crime may face several years in prison. In Texas, for example, the crime is a second-degree felony, so an individual may be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison.

Punishment for statutory rape can include mandatory prison or jail sentences, probation, fines, and mandated treatment services. Many states require those convicted of statutory rape to register as sex offenders.

Exceptions to Statutory Rape Laws

Though statutory rape laws make it illegal for individuals to have sexual relationships with people below the age of consent, some exceptions do exist. Generally, these exceptions include:

  • The individuals are within a certain number of years of one another
  • The individuals dated before one was above the age of consent
  • The younger individual is within so many months of being at the age of consent

These rules may not apply in all circumstances, so individuals should contact a legal authority to learn more about their legal rights regarding relationships with minors.

Professionals Required to Report

Some states require certain classes of professionals to report knowledge or suspicion of statutory rape to authorities. Types of professionals required to report statutory rape often include teachers, medical professionals, public employees, and clergy, among others.

Austin Statutory Rape Defense Lawyer: The Charles Johnson Law Firm

Statutory rape is a state sex crime that can be punishable by incarceration, fine, probation, and/or registry as a sex offender. If you are facing Statutory Rape charges, speak with an experienced and aggressive attorney from the Charles Johnson Law Firm in Austin, Texas.

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Criminal Solicitation of a Minor (Under 17): Hire the Proven Criminal Lawyer in Austin

Online Solicitation of a Minor Online solicitation of a minor has become the “crime of the week.” Dateline NBC and copycat shows have flooded the airwaves with online solicitation specials, which has helped online solicitation become one of the most frequently investigated crimes. It is also one of the most reviled crimes among both law enforcement and the general public, which is why those charged should get help as soon as possible.

Under Texas law, online solicitation occurs when someone 18 years of age or older has online contact (via email, instant messaging or another medium) with someone under the age of 17, in an attempt to lure, entice or solicit the minor to commit a sexual act. An actual meeting for the sexual act is not required for the crime to be complete; the online conversation is enough. Solicitation of a minor is a third-degree felony that carries up to five years in prison for each and every solicitation made — which means that each conversation adds five years to the potential sentence.

  • Internet Solicitation of a Minor is a serious charge that prosecutors pursue aggressively and the potential penalties include significant prison time;
  • Factors in the Internet Solicitation of a Minor charges will include the age of the accuser, circumstances surrounding the alleged solicitation, record of prior convictions, strength of the evidence, credibility of witnesses, and reputation/credibility of the defendant;
  • In Internet Sex Crime cases where the alleged victim was contacted through instant messaging or over a social media outlet such as Facebook or MySpace, there are viable successful defense strategies relating to the website and/or messaging service;
  • If your civil rights were violated in your arrest or if the evidence against you was gathered in a way that might be a civil rights violation, Attorney Charles Johnson will have the arrest invalidated, the evidence excluded, and all charges dismissed;
  • If you are innocent of the crime charged or if there are circumstances that can be explained, you should understand the police sometimes get it wrong and you must consult a criminal defense attorney prior to speaking with them;

The prosecutor and police have already lined up a case against you including police reports, witnesses, computer logs, and other evidence. You must act quickly to prevent the state from gaining even more of an unfair advantage.

Austin Criminal Solicitation of a Minor Defense Lawyer:
The Charles Johnson Law Firm

If you are charged with online solicitation of a minor, don’t wait an extra moment before contacting an experienced Austin online solicitation criminal defense lawyer. For a free, confidential consultation on your case, call the Charles Johnson Law Firm.

can be reached 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
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Austin Child Pornography Defense Lawyer: The Charles Johnson Law Firm

Houston Homicide Lawyer Charles Johnson

Federal and state laws make it a crime to produce, possess, distribute, or sell pornographic materials that exploit or portray a minor. Increasingly, child pornography laws are being utilized to punish use of computer technology and the Internet to obtain, share, and distribute pornographic material involving children, including images and films.

Under federal law (18 U.S.C. §2256), child pornography is defined as any visual depiction, including any photograph, film, video, picture, or computer or computer-generated image or picture, whether made or produced by electronic, mechanical, or other means, of sexually explicit conduct, where

  • the production of the visual depiction involves the use of a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct; or
  • the visual depiction is a digital image, computer image, or computer-generated image that is, or is indistinguishable from, that of a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct; or
  • the visual depiction has been created, adapted, or modified to appear that an identifiable minor is engaging in sexually explicit conduct.

Federal law (18 U.S.C. §1466A) also criminalizes knowingly producing, distributing, receiving, or possessing with intent to distribute, a visual depiction of any kind, including a drawing, cartoon, sculpture or painting, that

  • depicts a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct and is obscene, or
  • depicts an image that is, or appears to be, of a minor engaging in graphic bestiality, sadistic or masochistic abuse, or sexual intercourse, including genital-genital, oral-genital, anal-genital, or oral-anal, whether between persons of the same or opposite sex and such depiction lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.

Sexually explicit conduct is defined under federal law (18 U.S.C. §2256) as actual or simulated sexual intercourse (including genital-genital, oral-genital, anal-genital, or oral-anal, whether between persons of the same or opposite sex), bestiality, masturbation, sadistic or masochistic abuse, or lascivious exhibition of the genitals or pubic area of any person.

Who Is a Minor?
For purposes of enforcing the federal law (18 U.S.C. §2256), “minor” is defined as a person under the age of 18.

Is Child Pornography a Crime?
Yes, it is a federal crime to knowingly possess, manufacture, distribute, or access with intent to view child pornography (18 U.S.C. §2252).  In addition, all 50 states and the District of Columbia have laws criminalizing the possession, manufacture, and distribution of child pornography.  As a result, a person who violates these laws may face federal and/or state charges.

Where Is Child Pornography Predominantly Found?
Child pornography exists in multiple formats including print media, videotape, film, CD-ROM, or DVD.  It is transmitted on various platforms within the Internet including newsgroups, Internet Relay Chat (chatrooms), Instant Message, File Transfer Protocol, e-mail, websites, and peer-to-peer technology.

What Motivates People Who Possess Child Pornography?
Limited research about the motivations of people who possess child pornography suggests that child pornography possessors are a diverse group, including people who are

  • sexually interested in prepubescent children or young adolescents, who use child pornography for sexual fantasy and gratification
  • sexually “indiscriminate,” meaning they are constantly looking for new and different sexual stimuli
  • sexually curious, downloading a few images to satisfy that curiosity
  • interested in profiting financially by selling images or setting up web sites requiring payment for access

Who Possesses Child Pornography?
It is difficult to describe a “typical” child pornography possessor because there is not just one type of person who commits this crime.

In a study of 1,713 people arrested for the possession of child pornography in a 1-year period, the possessors ran the gamut in terms of income, education level, marital status, and age.  Virtually all of those who were arrested were men, 91% were white, and most were unmarried at the time of their crime, either because they had never married (41%) or because they were separated, divorced, or widowed (21%).3

Forty percent (40%) of those arrested were “dual offenders,” who sexually victimized children and possessed child pornography, with both crimes discovered in the same investigation. An additional 15% were dual offenders who attempted to sexually victimize children by soliciting undercover investigators who posed online as minors.4

Who Produces Child Pornography?
Based on information provided by law enforcement to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children’s Child Victim Identification Program, more than half of the child victims were abused by someone who had legitimate access to them such as parents, other relatives, neighborhood/family friends, babysitters, and coaches.

What is the Nature of These Images?
The content in these illegal images varies from exposure of genitalia to graphic sexual abuse, such as penetration by objects, anal penetration, and bestiality.

Of the child pornography victims identified by law enforcement, 42% appear to be pubescent, 52% appear to be prepubescent, and 6% appear to be infants or toddlers.

What Are the Effects of Child Pornography on the Child Victim?
It is important to realize that these images are crime scene photos – they are a permanent record of the abuse of a child. The lives of the children featured in these illegal images and videos are forever altered. Once these images are on the Internet, they are irretrievable and can continue to circulate forever. The child is revictimized as the images are viewed again and again.

Austin Child Pornography Defense Lawyer: The Charles Johnson Law Firm

Depending on the facts of your case and the evidence against you, we work to help you beat a false accusation or try to lessen the punishment. We understand your freedom is at stake and that a conviction of possession of child pornography may result in lifetime registration as a sex offender. To protect your rights and liberty, we conduct thorough investigations to prepare for trial or to minimize the consequences or sentence.

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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Hire Criminal Lawyer Charles Johnson for Domestic Violence Charges in Austin, TX

Domestic Violence Criminal Defense LawyerIf you have been accused of domestic violence, you may be facing an uphill battle. Texas has strengthened their laws on domestic violence, making arrest and prosecution mandatory regardless of what the alleged victim wishes to do. No matter how your state or county handles allegations of domestic violence, it is important to mount a vigorous defense. Speak with an attorney from the Charles Johnson Law Firm in Austin, Texas to discuss your case and develop a strategy for fighting the charges.

Domestic Violence Defined

Domestic violence is most often an assault or battery against a spouse, intimate partner or cohabitant, but it also can occur against a child, elderly relative or other member of the household or family. Domestic assault is both physical violence and emotional abuse, including threats, intimidation and control.

Domestic Assault Arrest

Although the procedures and policies vary by jurisdiction, domestic assault arrests and charges follow a general pattern. When the police are called to a residence, by an alleged victim or someone else, they will assess the situation and determine whether there is probable cause to arrest the person accused of domestic assault.

At the arraignment, the defendant will learn about the specific charges against him or her, and the defendant’s lawyer will consult with the defendant about what kind of plea to enter. The judge will decide whether the defendant should be granted bail and, if so, how much the bail will be.

In many cases, the defendant will be ordered to have no contact — direct or indirect — with the alleged victim. This means that the defendant cannot go home, if that is where the victim lives, and the defendant must not call or communicate with the victim.

In some jurisdictions, even if the victim decides not to go forward with the charges, the case will continue. Numerous reasons, based on both history and public policy, are behind this practice.

A conviction of felony or misdemeanor domestic assault can result in severe penalties. The defendant may serve time in prison or jail; pay steep fines; undergo anger management or other counseling; and suffer personal consequences like divorce, loss of child custody or an unfavorable property settlement during divorce proceedings.

Domestic assault is taken seriously by law enforcement personnel and prosecutors. It is vital to have a competent, experienced defense attorney on your side.

Austin Domestic Violence Defense Lawyer: The Charles Johnson Law Firm

As the justice system has come to recognize the social and legal effects of domestic violence, the penalties for conviction of domestic assault have become steeper. This is why it is so important to consult a lawyer who is familiar with your local court system. Seek the help of an attorney from the Charles Johnson Law Firm in Austin, Texas to learn more about what you can do to assert your rights.

Call us at 512-832-1200 or toll free at 877-308-0100.
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Improper Relationship Between Educator and Student

Best Austin Sex Crimes LawyerAt least once a year a case involving allegations of a sexual relationship between a teacher and student comes blaring across the metro section of the paper. Although the relationships are typically consensual, the teacher is prosecuted under a specific provision of the penal code prohibiting an Improper Relationship Between Educator & Student. It is important to note that the offense is neither limited to teachers nor limited to sexual contact; risqué text messages are enough:

  1. An employee of a public or private primary or secondary school commits an offense if:
  2. the employee engages in sexual contact, sexual intercourse, or deviate sexual intercourse with a person who is enrolled in a public or private primary or secondary school at which the employee works and who is not the employee’s spouse, or
  3. with the intent to arouse or gratify the sexual desire of any person, the person, over the Internet, by electronic mail or text message or other electronic message service or system, or through a commercial online service, intentionally:
  • communicates in a sexually explicit manner with a minor; or
  • distributes sexually explicit material to a minor, or
  • the person, over the Internet, by electronic mail or text message or other electronic message service or system, or through a commercial online service, knowingly solicits a minor to meet another person, including the actor, with the intent that the minor will engage in sexual contact, sexual intercourse, or deviate sexual intercourse with the actor or another person.

All three different acts could be prosecuted under separate statutes. For cases involving minors under 17, the educator could be prosecuted under the Aggravated Sexual Assault statute, the Indecency with a Child by Contact statute, or the Indecency with a Child by Exposure statute. For situations involving sexually explicit communications with a minor, the educator could also be prosecuted under the separate computer crime of online solicitation of a minor.

The only difference between this statute and the laws prohibiting otherwise consensual sexual contact is age. While the sexual assault statutes prohibit sexual contact for minors under 17, the student-teacher statute makes it a crime for consensual sexual contact involving students who are 17 years of age and older. Under the strict mandates of the statute, a person who is legally an adult cannot have sexual contact with their teacher or school administrator so long as he or she is enrolled in the same school. For those adults in night school with a crush on their teacher: you now have a reason they’re ignoring your advances.

Austin Criminal Defense Lawyer: The Charles Johnson Law Firm

Depending on the facts of your case and the evidence against you, we work to help you beat a false accusation or try to lessen the punishment. We understand your freedom is at stake and that a conviction of Improper Relationship Between Educator and Student may result in incarceration and the loss of your Teaching Certificate. To protect your rights and liberty, we conduct thorough investigations to prepare for trial or to minimize the consequences or sentence.

can be reached 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
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Juvenile Court: What to Expect

Finest Austin Criminal Defense Lawyer for Juvenile OffensesIf your child is arrested or referred to the juvenile court by some other means-perhaps even by you-you will undoubtedly face a flood of emotions and have a multitude of questions. An attorney experienced in juvenile law can answer your questions and walk you through the process, while helping to ensure the best possible outcome for you and your child. Although the juvenile court process can vary somewhat from state to state, or even county to county, the following summary outlines the basic steps that you can expect if your child should become involved with the juvenile justice system.

  • A juvenile court matter comes to the court’s attention when the police apprehend a minor for violating a statute or a school official, parent, or guardian refers a problem with a juvenile to the court.
  • The court intake officer then evaluates the case to determine whether further action is necessary, whether the child should be referred to a social service agency, or whether the case should be formally heard in juvenile court.
  • If the situation is serious enough, the juvenile may be detained in a juvenile correction facility pending resolution of the matter or he or she may be sent to an alternative placement facility such as a shelter, group home, or foster home.
  • If the intake officer decides that a formal hearing in juvenile court is not necessary, arrangements may be made for assistance for the child from school counselors, mental health services, or other youth service agencies.
  • If the intake officer decides that the case should be heard in juvenile court, a petition is filed with the court setting forth the statutes that the child is alleged to have violated.
  • In cases of serious offenses such as rape and murder, the matter may be referred to the district or county attorney’s office, after which the juvenile may be charged as an adult, tried in the criminal courts, and even sentenced to an adult correctional facility.
  • If the matter proceeds to juvenile court and the child admits to the allegations in the petition, a treatment program is ordered.
  • If the child denies the allegations in the petition, a hearing like an adult criminal trial is held. The child has the right to be represented by counsel at this hearing. Rather than trying the case to a jury, however, a judge hears the matter and decides whether the juvenile has committed the acts alleged in the petition.
  • If the allegations have not been proven to the court’s satisfaction, the judge will dismiss the case.
  • If the judge decides that the allegations have been proven, he or she may rule that the child is a status offender or a delinquent.
  • A second juvenile court hearing is then held to determine the disposition of the matter. If the juvenile is not considered to be dangerous to others, he or she may be put on probation. While on probation, the juvenile must follow the rules established by the court and report regularly to his or her probation officer. Serious offenders, however, may be sent to a juvenile correction facility.
  • Other treatment options include community treatment, like making restitution to the victim or performing community service; residential treatment, in which a juvenile is sent to a group home or work camp, with a focus on rehabilitation; and nonresidential community treatment, in which the juvenile continues to live at home but is provided with services from mental health clinics and other social service agencies.

Austin Juvenile Offenders Defense Lawyer: The Charles Johnson Law Firm

Don’t let your teenager’s poor judgment or drug use ruin their future. At the Charles Johnson Law Firm, we are prepared to protect the rights of teenagers in juvenile court, and where a plea bargain, juvenile probation, or other alternative form of sentencing is in our client’s best interests, we will work hard to get the best deal possible. When possible, we work to get juvenile violations removed through expunction, and we committed to getting our clients the treatment for drug and alcohol addiction they need.

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Austin Lawyer: Answers To Questions You May Have If You’ve Been Arrested

Finest Austin Criminal Defense Lawyer
Have you or a loved one been arrested?

The following are important answers to 50 questions that you may have at this moment. Austin Lawyer Charles Johnson WILL help you reach a resolution to the legal problem that has arisen in your life. At the Charles Johnson Law Firm, we want you to know what you are facing and that we can help you through this challenging time. Give us a call today. We are available 24/7, rain or shine.

 

How Are Criminal Charges Filed?

Criminal proceedings take place in a series of stages. Usually, the police are responding to a citizen’s complaint that a crime has been committed. Sometimes, the police observe suspicious activity. Once they are called, or see something suspicious, the police investigate, take statements from witnesses, and prepare a report on their findings. At times, they will arrest people during the course of their investigation. At other times, they will complete their report and submit it to the prosecutor’s office for evaluation, and a prosecutor will decide whether charges should be filed against any suspects named in the police report.The exact procedure for how charges are filed varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Some jurisdictions give the police greater discretion in charging defendants with specific crimes, while others place more power with the prosecutor’s office. After being stopped by the police, a person may be ticketed for a “civil infraction,” may be ticketed or arrested for a “misdemeanor,” or may be arrested for a “felony.”While it is common to speak in terms of being “charged by the police,” in many states this is not entirely accurate. The exact procedure for how charges are filed varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, and, although the police may arrest a person and may recommend a specific charge, in many jurisdictions criminal charges is chosen solely by the prosecutor’s office.

What happens if I am stopped by the Police?

Generally, the police may stop a person for committing a traffic violation, for suspicion of being engaged in criminal activity, or to arrest the person for a criminal act. After being stopped by the police, a person will typically be questioned.

Can The Police Stop And Question People Who Are Not Under Arrest?

Yes. The police can stop a person, and ask questions, without “arresting” the person. Upon seeing suspicious activity, the police may perform what is called a “Terry Stop,” and may temporarily detain people to request that they identify themselves and to question them about the suspicious activity. The scope of a “Terry Stop” is limited to investigation of the specific suspicious activity, and if the police detain people to question them about additional matters, the stop can turn into an “arrest.” For their own safety, the police can perform a “weapons frisk” on the outside of a person’s clothes (sometimes called “patting down the suspect”) during a “Terry Stop.” During this frisk, if they feel something that may be a weapon, they may remove it from the suspect for further examination. However, they are not entitled to remove items from person’s pockets that do not appear to be weapons, even if they believe that the items are contraband.

When Is A Person “Under Arrest”?

Many people think of an arrest as being a formal declaration by the police, “You are under arrest,” followed by the reading of the “Miranda rights”. (As seen on TV: “You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed to represent you.”)Reality is a bit more complicated. An arrest occurs when a person no longer reasonably expects that he is free to leave. A “Terry Stop” is not an arrest, even though the person can’t leave during the investigatory questioning, as the detention is of short duration and is limited in its scope. (A “Terry Stop” may involve little more than a short series of questions, such as, “What is your name? Where do you live? Why are you here?”) However, if a person is not allowed to leave the scene for an extended period of time, the person may be considered to be “under arrest,” even though those words are never used. If a person is handcuffed, is locked in the back of a police car, or is otherwise restrained from leaving, the person will ordinarily be considered to be “under arrest.”

If The Police Ask To Search Me, My House, Or My Car, Do I Have
To Say “Yes”?

No. You can refuse the police permission to conduct a search. Remember this – the only reason the police officer wants to perform a search is for evidence of criminal activity, and the fact that he is asking reflects an expectation that he will find some. You are entitled to say “No.” If the police officer has the legal authority to perform the search, he will do so whether or not you agree. However, if he does not have the legal authority to perform a search, your consent gives him that authority.During an investigative stop, or a traffic stop, a police officer may ask if he can search you or your car. However, if you give the police officer permission, he can perform the search even if he otherwise had no legal authority to do so. Some people don’t know, or forget, that they have an “open” bottle of liquor in the car – a bottle with the seal broken, whether or not the cap is off. Sometimes, people have knives or other weapons which can be classified as illegal “concealed weapons.” Sometimes, people forget that they have contraband in their cars, such as illegal drugs, or find to their chagrin that their teenaged child dropped a marijuana cigarette in the car. Unless you are the only person with access to the interior of your car, you may be in for a surprise if you grant permission for a search.

Do The Police Have To “Read Me My Rights” When I Am Arrested?

The police have no obligation to formally announce the arrest when it occurs, or to read a suspect his “Miranda Rights.” Typically, at some point the police will inform a suspect that he has been arrested. However, many defendants never receive their “Miranda Rights,” which relate to the validity of police questioning of suspects who are in custody, and not to the arrest itself.

What Is The Difference Between A “Terry Stop” And An “Arrest.”

While a “Terry Stop” can be made upon “reasonable suspicion” that a person may have been engaged in criminal activity, an arrest requires “probable cause” that a suspect committed a criminal offense.

Can the Police Arrest Me Without A Warrant?

For most misdemeanor offenses, a police officer can only make a warrantless arrest of a suspect if the offense was committed in the officer’s presence. Officers can arrest people for felonies based upon witness statements, or where a warrant for the person’s arrest has been issued.

What Happens If I am Arrested Without Legal Cause?

It is important to note that an “illegal arrest” does not mean that a person can’t be charged with a crime. If a person is arrested illegally, and is searched or questioned by the police, evidence gained through the search or questioning may be declared inadmissible. However, there are circumstances where that evidence will be admitted into court despite the illegality of the arrest. Further, if a person has outstanding warrants for other charges, he may be detained on those charges, even though his initial arrest was illegal.

If I Am Arrested, Can The Police Search Me?

The police have the authority to perform a search of a suspect and his immediate surroundings, “incident” to the arrest of the suspect. If the police arrest a person who was driving a car, they ordinarily get the authority to search the entire passenger compartment of the car – and will usually also be able to search passengers for weapons. If the car is impounded, the police may perform an “inventory search” of the entire car, including the contents of the trunk.

What Can The Police Charge Me With?

A person who has been stopped by the police may be ticketed for a “civil infraction,” may be ticketed or arrested for a “petty offense” or “misdemeanor,” or may be arrested for a “felony,” or may be released. It is possible for the person to later be charged, when the police complete their investigation.Sometimes, the person will be informed that charges have been filed, and will be asked to present himself at the police station by a particular date and time.At other times, a “warrant” for the person’s arrest may be entered into the state’s computer system, informing police officers to arrest the person if they find him. If the charges are serious, the police may go out to arrest the person.

Civil Infractions

A “civil infraction” is not a crime, although it is a charge filed by the state. The state has to prove that you committed a civil infraction by a “preponderance of the evidence,” which is to say; that it is more likely than not that you committed the violation. This is a much lower standard than the “proof beyond a reasonable doubt” standard that applies in civil cases. The typical civil infraction is decided by a judge or magistrate, without a jury, in what is typically a short proceeding.

Petty Offenses

Some states have a class of “petty offenses,” where the defendant may be tried without a jury before a judge or magistrate. Typically, the only punishment for a “petty offense” is a fine. However, these offenses may be of a criminal nature. If you are not sure whether you are charged with a criminal offense or a civil infraction, consult a lawyer.

Misdemeanors

A “misdemeanor” is a criminal offense, and conviction ordinarily results in a criminal record. Misdemeanors are technically less serious offenses, although the consequences of conviction can nonetheless be quite severe. Possible punishments for misdemeanors include imprisonment, probation, fines, and at times driver’s license sanctions. Some misdemeanors are classified as “sex crimes” and require that a convicted person be registered as a “sex offender”, and keep the police informed of his place of residence — a requirement that may continue for life.

Felonies

Felonies are the most serious offenses that can be charged. Sometimes, the distinction between “felonies” and “misdemeanors” seems arbitrary. However, all of the most serious criminal offenses (such as murder, sexual assault, embezzlement, burglary, robbery, arson, and treason) are felonies.

How Do I Know If I Am Charged With A “Civil Infraction” Or A Crime?

Typical “civil infractions” include “moving violations”, such as “speeding” and “failure to yield.” Sometimes people get confused, when they are charged with a traffic misdemeanor, such as having invalid license plates or driving an uninsured automobile, and think that they are being charged with “civil infractions.” Traffic misdemeanors are criminal offenses, and will result in a criminal record. Many traffic misdemeanors also carry “points” which will be added to the defendant’s driving record, and some require the suspension or revocation of a driver’s license. If you are ticketed for a “misdemeanor,” the ticket will likely reflect the nature of the charge, and you will be required to appear in court. If the charge is a “civil infraction,” you typically will not have to go to court if you pay a fine by mail. Read the ticket carefully.

Do Defendants Have The Same Rights When Facing Misdemeanor
And Felony Charges?

A defendant charged with a misdemeanor has fewer legal rights than a defendant charged with a felony. If the defendant will not face imprisonment as a result of conviction, he has no right to an attorney. There is no right to indictment by grand jury, or to a “preliminary examination” to review the basis of the charges filed. In some states, misdemeanor charges are tried before six person juries, whereas felonies are ordinarily tried before twelve person juries. Most other rights are the same, for both felonies and misdemeanors.

If I Have Not Been Arrested, How Do I Find Out If I Am Charged
With A Crime?

If there is reason to believe that you have been charged with a crime, you may wish to have an attorney contact the police or prosecutor to find out if a warrant has been issued for your arrest. Many people who have been charged with criminal offenses do not find out about the charges until they are stopped for traffic violations. The police, while checking their identification, find “outstanding warrants” for the person. Sometimes, the warrants have a “limited pick-up radius,” or the police officer does not believe that an immediate arrest is necessary, and the officer will simply inform the driver that a warrant has been filed and that the driver should report to the police agency that requested the warrant. At other times, the officer will make an immediate arrest, and will take the person into custody.

What Happens After I Am Arrested?

After being arrested, a person is “booked” by the police. Ordinarily, the police obtain identifying information from the suspect, such as his name, address, telephone number and driver’s license number. The person is checked for outstanding warrants for other offenses. Usually, the police take the suspect’s photograph and fingerprints. They make a record of this information, along with the nature of the crime charged, and usually an assessment of the suspect’s physical condition. If a person is under arrest at the time he is booked, he will ordinarily be thoroughly searched. If the arrest was legal, any evidence found in this search can be used as evidence in court.

Should I Consult An Attorney Before I Am Charged?

Yes, if possible. Unless you were arrested on an outstanding warrant, the fact that you have been arrested does not necessarily mean that charges have been authorized. An attorney can advise you of your rights, and how to handle contacts with the police. It can be very helpful to have an attorney intercede on your behalf before a warrant has been issued, as he may be able to influence the prosecutor’s “charging decision.” Sometimes, an attorney will be able to convince a prosecutor to charge a less serious offense, to send the complaint back to the police for more investigation, or even to refuse to authorize a warrant. However, once a warrant is issued, it is very difficult to get a prosecutor’s office to change the charge.

Do I Need A Criminal Defense Lawyer?

Any person who is facing a criminal charge, no matter how minor, will benefit from consulting a competent criminal defense lawyer. Even if the lawyer is not retained to provide representation in court, a consultation will help a criminal defendant understand the nature of the charges filed, available defenses, what plea bargains are likely to be offered, and what is likely to happen in the event of conviction.For serious charges, it will be a rare defendant who does not benefit from having a competent criminal defense lawyer assist with the negotiation of a plea bargain, or to prepare a case for trial.A criminal defense lawyer should also be able to identify important pretrial issues, and to bring appropriate motions which might significantly improve a defendant’s situation, or even result in the dismissal of charges.

How Much Will My Defense Cost?

The cost of a criminal defense lawyer can vary significantly depending upon the jurisdiction, and the nature of the charges which have been filed (or which are expected to be filed) against the defendant. A lawyer will typically require a greater retainer for a complex case than for a simple case. The amount of a retainer will also typically increase with the severity of the charge filed against a defendant. Sometimes, though, a relatively minor charge can require a higher retainer, where the attorney expects to have to engage in extensive motion practice, or where it will be necessary to utilize expert witnesses.In a misdemeanor case, although as previously noted the typical fee will vary significantly between cities, counties, and states, it is not unusual for a lawyer to request a retainer of several thousand dollars. For felony cases, retainers often start at $5,000 – $10,000, and can be $25,000 or more for serious or life felonies, such as sexual assault cases or homicide. The anticipated cost of expert witnesses can also significantly increase a retainer.Be wary of entering into a retainer agreement which calls for additional payments if the case will go to trial. It is not unusual for appellate lawyers to hear clients recite that they entered into guilty pleas after they were unable to come up with the necessary funds to pay their lawyers to proceed with a trial. If you do decide to enter into an agreement whereby you will pay an additional retainer if your case goes to trial, make sure that it is an amount you can afford.

Finding a Criminal Defense Lawyer

It is unfortunately not always easy to find a good criminal defense lawyer. Here are some suggestions:Referrals– It may be possible to find a criminal defense lawyer from somebody who is familiar with the lawyer’s practice. For example, if you regularly work with a lawyer or law firm, that lawyer may be able to suggest a competent criminal defense lawyer in your area. If your county is served by a public defender’s office, sometimes a defender’s office will be willing to suggest a competent are defense lawyer. If you have a friend or family member who has been in trouble with the law, that person may be able to make some suggestions.

Courtroom Observation

– You may wish to sit through some public sessions of court while criminal cases are being argued. If you find a particular lawyer’s performance to be impressive, you may take note of the lawyer’s name and later contact the lawyer about the possibility of representing you.

State versus Federal Charges

– There are additional factors you may wish to consider when hiring a federal criminal defense attorney.

After you have located one or more attorneys whom you wish to consult about your case, call them to schedule appointments. (Find out at that time if they offer a free initial consultation, or if you will be charged for the meeting.) Try to speak with the criminal defense lawyer over the phone before scheduling the appointment. Ask about the lawyer’s general experience with criminal defense, and any specific experience with cases like yours.

Trust your instincts – if you aren’t comfortable with an attorney you consult, try a different office. You do not have any obligation to hire a lawyer merely because you consulted with that lawyer. If your lawyer is promising you that your case is easy, or makes promises that you won’t go to jail, speak to other lawyers before signing a retainer agreement – some lawyers misrepresent the gravity of a defendant’s situation or the complexity of a case in order to entice the defendant to pay a retainer, and then blame the judge or prosecutor when the rosy scenario they initially promised turns out to be a nightmare.

Read the entire fee agreement with the lawyer before you sign it, and make sure you get a copy for your own records.

Private Defense Counsel or Appointed Counsel?

People who are charged with felony offenses, and many individuals who are charged with misdemeanors, may be eligible for appointed counsel or for assistance through a public defender’s office. When a defendant petitions for a court-appointed lawyer, the trial judge will typically make an assessment of the defendant’s resources to determine if the defendant will qualify for an appointment of a criminal defense lawyer. When an appointment is made, although the defendant may be ordered to repay certain attorney fees following a guilty plea or conviction, there will not ordinarily be any fee in the event of acquittal or dismissal of the charges.Some people assume that a court appointed criminal defense lawyer will offer services which are inferior to a privately retained lawyer. While it is certainly true that some public defenders, some appointed lawyers and some private attorneys will prove to be insufficiently skilled or dedicated to their work to provide an effective defense, it is generally asserted that the average public defender will provide better representation than the average private criminal defense lawyer. The primary reasons for this include experience, as a professional public defender will typically have much more experience with criminal cases than a private lawyer, the ability to collaborate with other experienced lawyers within the office, and also due to the resources and systems available to a typical public defender’s office. Many private criminal defense lawyers take appointments – meaning that if you are charged in a jurisdiction that appoints private lawyers to represent criminal defendants, many of the lawyers you might otherwise retain will be among those to whom a court might assign your case. And even if you are ordered to repay legal fees, the cost of an appointed lawyer is almost always significantly lower than the cost of a retained lawyer.In short, if you can hire an effective criminal defense lawyer you should not hesitate to do so. But, if your means are limited, you should also not hesitate to request an appointed defense lawyer, and should not fear that you will receive inferior representation just because your lawyer was appointed.

Changing Lawyers

It is important to note that your constitutional right to effective assistance of counsel relates almost exclusively to the performance of appointed counsel. It is virtually impossible to convince an appellate court that the incompetence of counsel of your own choosing constitutes an error requiring reversal. If you are not comfortable with the competence of your lawyer, retained or appointed, consult with a second lawyer to have your situation reviewed. It may well turn out that your lawyer is competent – but it is you who could go to prison, not your lawyer, if the lawyer is inept.

What Happens When I Go To Court For The First Time?

Typically, a criminal defendant’s first court hearing is an “arraignment” before a judge or magistrate. An “arraignment” is an appearance in court where charges are formally read to a defendant. The judge or magistrate may also evaluate whether there was probable cause for an arrest, and may compel the prosecutor to allege additional facts to support the arrest. If probable cause is not established, the defendant must be released.If bail has not previously been set, it is often set at the same time as the arraignment. Bail (or “bond”) is often granted in a standard amount, depending upon the crime charged.In some jurisdictions, there is a subsequent “formal” arraignment, where the formal charges (“indictment” or “information”) are presented to the defendant. These charges are drafted by the prosecutor, and may vary from any original charges that were drafted by the police.

Do I Enter A Plea At The Arraignment?

At arraignment, the defendant is offered the opportunity to enter a formal plea. Sometimes, a defendant will plead “guilty” or “not guilty.” In some circumstances, the defendant may enter a “no contest” plea, which is treated by the court in the same manner as a guilty plea. Sometimes, the defendant will “stand mute,” and a “not guilty” plea will be entered by the court on his behalf. If a “not guilty” plea is entered, the court will ordinarily advise the suspect of his right to remain silent and his right to an attorney. If a defendant is indigent, he will usually be given the opportunity to petition the court for an appointed attorney.Usually, a defendant should speak to an attorney (even if only for a free consultation) before deciding whether or not to enter a plea of “guilty” or “no contest.” There is no need to rush into a plea to “get it over with” — particularly given that a bad decision can haunt you for the rest of your life.

Can I Get Released From Jail?

If bail is granted, and the defendant posts the required bail, he will be released. Sometimes, a defendant will be released on his own recognizance — his promise that he will appear for the next court hearing. Sometimes, bail is set in a very high amount. A defendant who is accused of very serious crimes may be denied bail, or have bail set in the millions of dollars. A defendant who is released on bail must attend all subsequent court hearings, or risk having his bail forfeited. (Keep this in mind — if you put your house or your car up as collateral for somebody else’s bail, you risk losing it if that person does not appear in court.)

What Happens After The Arraignment?

If you are charged with a misdemeanor, the next hearing is likely to be a “pretrial,” where the case is scheduled for trial. Sometimes, a defendant will enter a plea at the pretrial. At other times, the case will be scheduled for a “bench trial,” “jury trial,” or “plea hearing.”If a defendant is charged with a felony, but has not been “indicted” by a “grand jury,” the next step will likely be a “preliminary examination” where the prosecution must demonstrate to the satisfaction of a judge that there is reason to believe that a crime was committed, and that the defendant was the person who committed the crime. The defendant is allowed to question witnesses at this hearing. While the defendant ordinarily can present evidence, and may choose to testify, most defendants choose not to do so. If the Court is satisfied by the prosecutor’s evidence, the felony charges will be approved. Depending upon your state’s rules of criminal procedure, a defendant may be transferred to a different court for all further proceedings. He may be arraigned again, after the preliminary examination, and subsequently will have a pretrial.

What Do The Attorneys Do Between The Arraignment And The Trial?

During this time, the prosecutor and the defense attorney will likely demand “discovery” from each other. Often, this means nothing more than that the prosecutor gives the defense a copy of the police report, and perhaps some laboratory reports if the case involves drugs or drunk driving. While defense attorneys may differ, many prosecutors argue that this meager discovery fulfills their duties. The prosecution is obligated to provide the defense with the names and addresses of all relevant witnesses, and with copies of written or recorded statements made by the defendant or by co-defendants. The prosecution may be compelled by statute or court rule to provide additional information upon request, such as copies of witness statements, and reports from expert witnesses. The specific materials and information that must be exchanged will vary from state to state. Increasingly, the defense is required to provide certain information to the prosecutor, including witness lists, and may also be required to provide expert witness reports. In some states, the parties can conduct depositions of witnesses, where the witness testifies under oath before a court reporter, prior to trial. However, most states do not allow for depositions in criminal cases.Depending upon state law, a defendant will have to notify the prosecution if he plans to bring certain defenses to the criminal charges, such as an alibi defense, an insanity or diminished capacity defense. The purpose of the notice requirement is to allow the prosecutor to prepare for the defense, and to collect evidence and interview witnesses to challenge the defense. A defendant who is claiming insanity will ordinarily be examined by a state psychiatrist, and the refusal to submit to examination will usually prevent the defendant from raising that defense.

What If I Can’t Find A Witness?

The defendant generally has the right to request that the prosecutor’s office assist him in procuring witnesses for trial. Indigent defendants usually receive the greatest assistance, which may include issuance of subpoenas. However, due to the prosecutor’s access to information and police assistance that is not available to the defendant, the prosecutor is ordinarily obligated to help any defendant locate a missing witness.

What Is Involved In Pretrial “Motion Practice”?

Prior to the trial, either the defendant or the prosecutor may file motions with the trial court. Typical motions include motions to suppress evidence, motions in limine, and motions to dismiss. A motion to suppress evidence asks the trial court to exclude evidence from the trial, usually on the basis that it was collected in violation of the defendant’s constitutional rights. For example, if the defendant is arrested illegally, and is searched after his arrest, the evidence found during that search may be inadmissible. Similarly, a defendant may seek to exclude a statement or confession that he made to the police. A motion in limine asks the court to limit the issues or evidence at trial. For example, a defendant may wish to ask the court to exclude certain inflammatory allegations about him, which are not related to the charges against him, or portions of the defendant’s criminal record which are not properly admitted under the rules of evidence. The prosecutor may also wish to introduce evidence which cannot properly be linked to the defendant or the alleged crime, due to the circumstances or manner in which it was collected. A motion to dismiss asks the court to dismiss the charges against the defendant, usually on the basis of a procedural deficiency. A motion to dismiss may be filed following an illegal arrest, where all of the evidence presented by the prosecution was found as the result of that arrest.

What Is A “Diversion Program”?

At times, prior to trial, a defendant may be found eligible for a “diversion” program. These programs are not available in all communities. Typically, they are aimed at young offenders who have no significant criminal records. If a person successfully completes the conditions of a “diversion” program, which may include such requirements as counseling, attendance of “crime impact” classes, and regular attendance at school, either no charge is filed, or the charge is dismissed. If the defendant violates the terms of the diversion program, the charges are reinstated.

What Is The Significance Of My “Speedy Trial” Right?

A defendant has a constitutional right to a “speedy trial.” The meaning of “speedy,” and the benefits of demanding a “speedy trial,” varies from state to state. In some states, most defendants have to waive their right to a “speedy trial” in order to get sufficient time to prepare their defenses. If a defendant demands a “speedy trial,” he cannot later claim that he did not have time to prepare his defense. However, if a defendant demands a “speedy trial” and the prosecutor is not prepared to proceed to trial, the charges against the defendant may be dismissed.

What Is The Difference Between A “Bench Trial” And A “Jury Trial”?

A case that goes to trial will be heard by a judge in a “bench trial,” or by a judge and jury in a “jury trial.” In a jury trial, the judge decides the law, while the jury decides the facts. In a bench trial, the judge decides both the law and the facts. Both the prosecutor and the defendant have the right to demand a jury trial, although prosecutors are usually happy to consent to bench trials.

What Is “Jury Selection” And “Voir Dire”?

If a case is scheduled for jury trial, the parties engage in “jury selection.” During jury selection, a panel of jurors is questioned by the judge, by the attorneys, or both, in a process called “voir dire.” The purpose of this hearing is to determine if the jurors will be fair and impartial, and will decide the case based upon the evidence presented in court. Both the prosecution and defense can challenge jurors “for cause,” claiming that the jurors are prejudiced against their side. The judge determines if there is valid cause to exclude a particular juror from hearing a case. Both the prosecution and defense also receive a limited number of “peremptory challenges,” which allow them to remove jurors without any reason or explanation.

What Happens At Trial?

Typically, at the start of a trial the jury will be given preliminary instructions. The jury is instructed at this time that the defendant is presumed innocent, and that the presumption of innocence does not change until the jury begins deliberations. Jurors are not supposed to abandon the presumption of innocence before hearing all of the evidence in the case.Next, the attorneys will present opening statements. Witnesses are presented first by the prosecution, and next by the defense. At times, the defense will not present any witnesses, either because the prosecution called all of the relevant witnesses during its case, or because the defense wishes to argue that the prosecutor’s case is insufficient to justify conviction. The defendant cannot be compelled to testify against himself, but he has the right to testify in his own defense if he chooses to do so.At the conclusion of the defendant’s case, the prosecutor may present “rebuttal” witnesses to respond to arguments or evidence introduced by the defendant. Sometimes, the defendant will be allowed to present “rebuttal” to the prosecutor’s “rebuttal.”After all of the testimony has been taken, the attorneys will present their closing arguments. The jury is then given additional instructions, and commenced deliberations. Sometimes the defense attorney will request a “directed verdict” of not guilty, meaning that the judge will instruct the jury that the only verdict it can return is “not guilty.” These motions are commonly made, but are rarely granted. If the jury cannot reach a verdict, the judge will eventually discharge the jury. The prosecutor must then decide whether to dismiss the charges or to seek a new trial.

What Happens If The Jury Acquits The Defendant?

If the jury acquits the defendant, finding him not guilty, the case is usually over. (In the United States, the prosecutor cannot appeal an acquittal. However, in some other nations, the prosecutor has a limited right to appeal.)

What Happens If The Jury Convicts The Defendant?

A jury can also return a verdict of guilty. If a defendant is charged with more than one offense, the jury may convict the defendant of some charges while acquitting of others. At times, the jury will choose between related offenses. For some offenses charged, the jury may convict of a “lesser included” offense. For example, if a defendant is charged with “open murder,” the jury may convict him for first degree murder, second degree murder, voluntary manslaughter, involuntary manslaughter, or negligent homicide. (Please note that the names and elements of the various homicide offenses may vary from state to state.)After being convicted, a defendant may file post-trial motions, such as a motion for a new trial. These motions are rarely granted. The defendant may also file an appeal.

What Are The Possible Sentences For A Criminal Offense?

After sentencing, a defendant may simply be ordered to pay fines and costs, and be released. A defendant may also be ordered to participate in community service, or to spend time on a work crew. A defendant may be placed on probation, and may even be placed on “house arrest,” while wearing a “tether,” an electronic monitoring device. A defendant may also be sentenced to jail or prison. Courts can combine these various options, in fashioning a sentence for a defendant.

What Happens If I Am Placed On “Probation”?

A defendant may also be placed on probation. A defendant on probation will ordinarily meet with his probation officer monthly and at times more frequently. Sometimes, a defendant will be placed on “non-reporting” probation, where he does not meet with a probation officer.Typically, at the end of his probation, such a defendant will be asked to demonstrate that he complied with the terms of probation (such as by submitting attendance records from court-ordered Alcoholics Anonymous meetings), and his record will be checked for any further criminal activity. Sometimes, a defendant will be allowed to report by mail. This usually happens in cases where a defendant has been on probation without any problems for a long time, but his probation officer still wants periodic information on his activities.A defendant who has been convicted of a drug conviction may have to report to the probation office frequently for drug testing. A court may also order drug or alcohol counseling, or attendance of Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcaholics Anonymous meetings. During probation, a probationer must typically seek permission from his probation officer before moving or changing jobs. He may be restricted from leaving the state without his probation officer’s permission.

How Long Does Probation Last?

Probation usually lasts between one and three years, but can last longer depending upon the offense committed and state policies. Some states have “life probation” for certain drug offenses, where a person is placed on probation indefinitely. After a probationer has paid off his fines and other court assessments, and has completed other requirements of his probation (such as community service), a probation officer will sometimes consider an early discharge from probation. However, most probationers complete their entire terms of probation. Many, upon violating the terms of their probation, are in fact ordered to report to probation more frequently. If violations are of a serious or repeated nature, a probationer can be charged with violating his probation, and be ordered to appear before a judge for a hearing.

What Is A “Tether,” or “Electronic Monitoring”?

Tethers are increasingly sophisticated devices. A typical tether has a portable unit which is strapped to the probationer’s leg, and a “base unit” which is connected to the probationer’s telephone line. The portable unit sends a constant signal to the base unit. The base unit keeps a record of when that signal is interrupted, and transmits that information by telephone to the probation office. The probationer on “house arrest” is placed on a strict schedule, and must account for any absences from his home that are not pre-approved by his probation officer. If a probationer is not home at the times he is supposed to be, the probation officer may contact the probationer to inquire why he was not at home, or may contact the police and have the probationer arrested.

What Happens If I “Violate” My Probation?

A probation officer has the discretion to give a probationer a warning, or to make him appear before a court for a “probation violation” hearing. If you go to a hearing, the probation officer will typically ask that you face additional punishment, usually involving incarceration. There is no “hard and fast” rule for what type of probation violation will result in a probation violation hearing. One violation that is almost always considered serious is failing to appear for scheduled meetings with the probation officer. Being caught in possession of illegal drugs, or being arrested for another crime, will also typically result in a hearing before a judge. At times, the seriousness of the violation may depend upon the facts of the underlying offense — for example, if a person is convicted of being involved in a gang-related offense, the violation of probation through “association with known criminals” may be viewed more seriously than if the person is on probation for driving a car while his driver’s license was suspended.

What Are My Rights At A “Probation Violation” Hearing?

It is important to note that probation violations are typically tried under a “preponderance of the evidence” standard, where the prosecutor must show only that it is more likely than not that the probationer violated the terms of his probation. There have been many cases where a person’s probation was violated for engaging in new criminal activity, despite the fact that he was acquitted of the new charge, or was in fact never charged with a new offense.

What Happens If I Am Convicted Of A Probation Violation?

If a person is convicted of a probation violation, sometimes the court will extend his probation, or impose additional terms. Often, the court will sentence the probationer to a period of time in jail, followed by the continuation of his probation. Sometimes, the probationer will be resentenced to jail or prison, or will be ordered to complete a term that was previously “suspended.”

When Are Defendants Sentenced To Jail?

If the court feels that a more serious punishment is required than a term of probation, the offender may be sentenced to jail. “Jails” are typically run by County governments, and are used to house defendants prior to trial, and to punish people who have been convicted of less serious crimes. Although the exact terms vary from state to state, typically the maximum jail sentence is one year. At times, the offender will simply be sentenced to jail, while more typically the defendant will have to serve a term of probation after completing his jail sentence.

What If The Judge Thinks That Jail Is Not Enough?

If the defendant’s offenses are more serious, most states have a “boot camp” programs, which are intense, military-style facilities. Incarceration typically lasts about ninety days. Participants may be cautioned that if they drop out of the program, or are kicked out, they will be sent to prison. Some states reserve these programs for young offenders. As these programs can be physically strenuous, some people cannot participate in “boot camp” programs due to health conditions.If all else fails, the defendant will be sentenced to prison.

What Happens If I Go To Prison?

The most serious punishment for most crimes involves sentencing the defendant to prison, the “state penitentiary.” Following serving his “minimum term,” a portion of his sentence that varies from state to state, a defendant who is in prison will usually qualify for parole. Many defendants who are incarcerated can earn “good behavior” or “good time” credits, which allow them to qualify for an earlier release date by behaving. The idea is that model prisoners are less likely to re-offend, and that prisoners will behave better if they have an incentive not to cause trouble. Some prisoners will not be eligible for “good time,” due to the nature of their offenses. Often “habitual offenders” are not eligible for “good time” credits. Some jurisdictions have abolished “good time” for all prisoners.

Do All Prisoners Get Parole?

Parole is a privilege, not a right, and many prisoners are refused parole when they first apply. Parole boards expect to hear a prisoner admit responsibility for his crimes. They also expect that the prisoner will take advantage of the programs made available in prison, such as, if appropriate, GED programs, Alcoholics Anonymous, and vocational training. They will also look at the prisoner’s conduct during incarceration, and whether the prisoner has been cited for misconduct. (Typically, prisoners will be “ticketed” for their violations of prison rules, with offenses classified as “major” or “minor.” A prisoner who was involved in a fight would likely be ticketed for a “major” offense, while a prisoner who yelled at a guard might be ticketed for a “minor” offense, depending on the circumstances. These “tickets” can be challenged through administrative hearings, but are usually upheld as valid.) They may also look at the prisoner’s age, the amount of time he has served, the remaining time in his sentence, and his mental health. The exact criteria for parole vary from state to state.Perhaps the most important assessment that the parole board attempts to assess is the likelihood that the prisoner will re-offend. Parole boards have no interest in releasing people into society who will commit more crimes, particularly given that the media will sometimes hold the parole board as responsible as the criminal in such cases. Increasingly, potentially dangerous offenders, such as sex offenders, are finding that they are never granted parole, even in states where they are eligible.Some prisoners are not eligible for parole, either because of state policy, or because of the crime they committed. Some crimes carry a flat term of years, which must be completed without the possibility of parole. A defendant who is sentenced to “life” in prison will either be sentenced to “parolable life,” or to “non-parolable life.” If a person serving a “life” term is eligible for parole, he typically must serve fifteen or twenty years of his sentence before he can request parole. If a person is serving non-parolable life, he never becomes eligible for parole.

How Long Are People Kept On Parole?

The length of the parole will depend upon the nature of the crime committed, the length of the defendant’s sentence, and how well the defendant performs while on parole. A defendant who repeatedly gets into trouble or breaks the conditions of his parole may find that he is returned to prison. (Many states have jail-like facilities for “technical rule violators,” where they can send parolees who violate the terms of their paroles, but not to the level that the parole board wishes to return them to prison.) In most states, after a long enough period of good conduct, it is possible for a defendant to be discharged from parole.

Are Prisoners Simply “Released” From The Prison When They Receive Parole?

Release into the community may occur in stages. First, as the criminal nears his release date, he may be moved into less secure prison facilities. If he abuses the privileges at the less secure prison, he will be returned to a more secure facility. Prisoners in less secure facilities are sometimes allowed to work outside of the prison, either through a state program or sometimes through a private employer. If the prisoner continues to behave well, he may eventually qualify for placement in a half-way house, a residential facility where he can have a job, and may even qualify for day or weekend passes where he is free to do what he wants. If a prisoner successfully completes a term in a half-way house, he is usually paroled into the community.

What Happens After A Prisoner Is “Paroled Into The Community”?

A prisoner on parole is not without restriction. Sometimes, the prisoner will spend time on a “tether,” an electronic monitoring device that allows his parole officer to monitor his movements, and be restricted from doing much other than going to work. A parolee will typically not be allowed to move without permission from his parole officer. Sometimes, it will be a parole violation to get fired from a job. Parolees are typically restricted from associating with known criminals. If the parolee has drug or alcohol problems, he may be subjected to periodic testing for use. If the parolee has mental health problems, he may be ordered to participate in counseling or to obtain psychiatric treatment. (Increasingly, prisoners with mental health problems are refused parole, and simply serve out their time in prison.) Parolees may be surprised to learn how much control their parole officers exercise over their lives, and, depending upon the state, the extent of the parole officer’s powers to search the parolee or his residence upon suspicion that the parolee has engaged in illegal activities. Parolees often cannot move or change jobs without permission.

If I Am On Parole, Can I Leave The State?

Parolees are typically not permitted to leave the state without permission from their parole officers. Permission may be granted for short trips out of state, for example to attend funerals, or for longer trips, such as to assist a sick relative. However, some parolees are surprised to learn that, due to the nature of their offenses or a perceived risk of flight, their parole officers refuse to allow them to leave the state. If a parolee wishes to move to another state, and is granted permission to do so, his parole will typically continue, and will typically be transferred to the Department of Corrections in his new home state.

What Happens If A Person “Violates” His Parole?

If a parolee is accused of violating his parole, he is typically given the opportunity to challenge the accusation at an administrative hearing before the parole board. There will typically be two hearings, the first to determine if the parolee should be held in custody pending the full hearing, and the second to determine if the parolee violated the terms of his parole. Parolees who fail to report for meetings with their probation officer, who are caught with illegal drugs or concealed weapons, who associate with known criminals, or who are arrested on new criminal charges, are particularly likely to be returned to prison. It should be noted that being arrested can be enough to violate a person’s parole, even if no charges result from that arrest.

Arrested for Domestic Violence? Hire the Expert Assault Family Violence Lawyer

Austin Assault Family Violence Lawyer

An arrest for Austin Assault Family Violence (or Domestic Violence) can be a devastating experience to anyone. Whether the incident was a harmless situation that spun out of control, a gross misunderstanding, or a typical way of communicating between two people. The time after the arrest can be terrifying, as the criminal justice system is very complicated. Austin Assault Family Violence Lawyer Charles Johnson can make sure that your legal rights are protected. Attorney Johnson can determine whether police followed the proper legal procedures when arresting you and, when feasible, prove that the charges are unwarranted.

Being charged with any form of domestic violence is a very serious matter. Not only may you face jail time or probation, many domestic violence cases involve restraining orders, meaning you may have to leave your house and your family immediately – even if you own the house or pay the rent. In addition, a conviction or probated sentence that includes a finding of family violence will affect your right to possess any firearms or to obtain a hunting license.

You can contact Austin Domestic Violence Lawyer Charles Johnson day or night, 24 hours/day 7 days/week and speak with him directly at 512-832-1200.

Definitions of Domestic Violence

Domestic violence includes physical violence, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, intimidation, economic deprivation, and threats of violence.  The relationships that most state domestic violence laws define as necessary for a charge of domestic assault or abuse include spouse or former spouse, persons who currently live together or who have lived together within the previous year, or persons who share a common child.

Definitions of criminal violence include physical assault (hitting, pushing, shoving, etc.), sexual abuse (unwanted or forced sexual activity), and stalking. Although emotional, psychological and financial abuse are not criminal behaviors, they are forms of abuse and can lead to criminal violence.

Violence by a man against his wife or intimate partner is often a way for a man to control “his woman.”  Although domestic violence can occur between gay and lesbian couples, and by women against their male partners, by far the most common form is male violence against women.

Types of violence include:

  • Common couple violence (CCV) which is not connected to general control behavior, but arises in a single argument where one or both partners physically lash out at the other.
  • Intimate terrorism (IT) which can also involve emotional and psychological abuse. It is one element in a general pattern of control by one partner over the other. It is more common than common couple violence, more likely to escalate over time, not as likely to be mutual, and more likely to involve serious injury.
  • Violent resistance (VR), which is sometimes interpreted as “self-defense,” is usually violence perpetrated by women against their abusive partners.
  • Mutual violent control (MVC) which is a rare type of intimate partner violence that occurs when both partners use violence to battle for control.
  • Situational couple violencewhich arises out of conflicts that escalate to arguments and then to violence. It is not connected to a general pattern of control. Although it occurs less frequently in relationships, and is less serious than intimate terrorism, it can be frequent and quite serious, even life-threatening.

Although domestic violence is sometimes explained as the result of the abuser losing control, many batterers do exhibit control over the nature and extent of their physical violence.   They may direct their assaults to parts of their partners’ bodies that are covered by clothing so that any injuries will not be seen by others. Conversely, some batterers purposefully target their partners’ faces to compel isolation or to disfigure them so that “no one else will want them.” Batterers can often describe their personal limits for physical abuse.  They may explain that while they have slapped their partners with an open hand, they would never punch them with their fists. Others admit to hitting and punching but report that they would never use a weapon.

Domestic violence often gets worse over time.  One explanation for this is that increasing the intensity of the abuse is an effective way for batterers to maintain control over their partners and prevent them from leaving. The violence may also escalate because most batterers experience few, if any, negative consequences for their abusive behavior. Social tolerance of domestic violence thus not only contributes to its existence, but may also influence its progression and batterers’ definitions of the acceptable limits of their abuse.

Domestic violence is a pervasive problem in the United States as the statistics below indicate:

  • Approximately 1.3 million women and 835,000 men are physically assaulted by an intimate partner annually.
  • Intimate partner violence made up 20% of all nonfatal violent crimes against women in 2001.
  • In 2000, 1,247 women and 440 men were killed by an intimate partner. In recent years, intimate partners killed approximately 33% of female murder victims and 4% of male murder victims.
  • Access to firearms greatly increases the risk of intimate partner violence.  Research suggests that abusers who possess guns tend to inflict the most severe abuse on their partners.
  • Nearly half of all violent crimes committed against family members are crimes against spouses.
  • Research indicates that 84% of spouse abuse victims are females, and 86% of victims of dating partner abuse at are female.
  • Wives are more likely than husbands to be killed by their spouses; wives were about half of all spouses in the population in 2002, but made up 81% of all persons killed by their spouses.
  • Slightly more than half of female domestic violence victims live in households with children under age 12.  It is estimated that between 3.3 million and 10 million children witness domestic violence annually.
  • Fifty-six percent of women who experience any partner violence are diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder. Twenty-nine percent of all women who attempt suicide are battered; 37% of battered women have symptoms of depression, 46% have symptoms of anxiety disorder, and 45% experience post-traumatic stress disorder.

Effects of domestic violence on women and children

Battered women suffer physical and mental effects from domestic violence. Battering causes more injuries to women than auto accidents, rapes, or muggings.  It also threatens their financial wellbeing.  They may miss work to appear in court or because of illnesses or injuries that result from the violence. They may have to move many times to avoid violence. Many battered women forgo financial security during divorce proceedings to avoid further abuse.

Battered women often lose social support.  Their abusers isolate them from family and friends. Women who are being abused may isolate themselves from support persons to avoid the embarrassment that would result from discovery.  Some battered women are abandoned by their churches when they separate from their abusers because some religious doctrines prohibit separation or divorce regardless of the severity of abuse.

When mothers are abused by their partners, the children are also affected.  Children who witness domestic violence may feel confusion, stress, fear, and shame.  They may think that they caused the problem or feel guilty for not protecting their mothers. They may themselves be abused or neglected while the mother attempts to deal with the trauma. Children in homes where domestic violence occurs are at risk for being physically abused or seriously neglected.

One-third of all children who see their mothers beaten develop emotional problems. They may cry excessively, be withdrawn or shy, have difficulty making friends or develop a fear of adults. Other consequences for children include excessive absences from school, depression, suicidal behavior, drug and alcohol abuse, running away, committing criminal acts as juveniles and adults, and using violence to solve problems at school and home.  The stress resulting from living with domestic violence can show up as difficulty in sleeping, bedwetting, over-achieving, behavior problems, withdrawing, stomach aches, headaches and/or diarrhea.

Domestic violence can carry over from one generation to the next.  Boys who witness their fathers abuse their mothers are more likely to inflict severe violence as adults. Girls who witness their mothers being abused are more likely to tolerate abuse as adults than who girls did not grow up under these circumstances.

Domestic violence and alcohol and other drugs

There is little evidence for the widely-held belief that abusing alcohol causes domestic violence. Although research indicates that men who drink heavily do commit more assaults that result in serious physical injury, the majority of abusive men are not heavy drinkers and the majority of men who are heavy drinkers do not abuse their partners.  Even for batterers who drink, there is little evidence to suggest that drinking causes abusive behavior.  In 76% of physically abusive incidents, there is no alcohol involved, and there is no evidence to suggest that alcohol use or dependence is linked to the other non-violent behaviors that are part of the pattern of domestic violence. It is true, however, that when cultural norms and expectations about male behavior after drinking include boisterous or aggressive behaviors, individual men are more likely to engage in such behaviors when under the influence of alcohol than when sober.

There is a pervasive belief that alcohol lowers inhibitions and a historical tradition of holding people who commit crimes while under the influence of alcohol or other drugs less accountable than those who commit crimes in a sober state.  Historically, society has not held batterers accountable for their abusive behavior.  They are held even less accountable for battering perpetrated when they are under the influence of alcohol. The alcohol provides a ready and socially acceptable excuse for their violence.

Evolving from the belief that abusing alcohol or other drugs causes domestic violence is the belief that treating the chemical dependency will stop the violence. However, research indicates that when batterers are in treatment, the abuse continues and often escalates during recovery, creating more danger to the victim than existed prior to treatment. In the cases in which battered women report that the level of physical abuse decreases, they often report a corresponding increase in threats, manipulation and isolation.

As noted earlier, domestic violence is often explained as a loss of control by the batterer.  However, even when alcohol or other drugs are involved, the experiences of battered women contradict this view. Battered women report that even when their partners appear uncontrollably drunk during a physical assault, they routinely exhibit the ability to sober up remarkably quickly if there is an outside interruption, such as police intervention.

  • Of the
    32.1 million nonfatal violent crimes that took place between 1998 and 2002, 30% of victims said the offender was under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
  • An additional 29.2% indicated the offender was sober at the time, and 40.8% said they did not know.
  • A larger percentage of family violence victims (38.5%) reported the offender was under the influence of drugs or alcohol during the incident than did nonfamily violence victims (28.9%).
  • Offenders who abused their boyfriend or girlfriend were more likely than other types of nonfamily violence offenders to be drinking or using drugs. Four out of 10 (41.4%) offenders involved in violence with a boyfriend or girlfriend were under the influence of drugs or alcohol, compared to 26.3% of offend-ers involved in violence against a friend or acquaintance and 29.3% of stranger violence.
  • Excluding the 19.5% of family violence victims who did not know whether the offender was under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the incident, approximately 2.8 million victims of family violence were able to indicate whether the offender was or was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol. In nearly half the incidents, family violence victims reported the offender had been using drugs or alcohol at the time of the offense.

Interventions with substance-abusing batterers

If batterers use alcohol or other drugs, these problems should be addressed separately and concurrently. This is critical not only to maximize the victim’s safety, but also to prevent the battering from precipitating relapse or otherwise interfering with the recovery process. True recovery requires much more than abstinence. It includes adopting a lifestyle that enhances emotional and spiritual health, a goal that cannot be achieved if the battering continues.

Self-help programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous promote and support emotional and spiritual health and have helped many alcoholics get sober. These programs, however, were not designed to address battering and are not sufficient, by themselves, to motivate batterers to stop their abuse. It is critical that any treatment plan for chemically dependent men who batter include attendance at programs designed specifically to address the attitudes and beliefs that encourage their abusive behavior.

When abusive men enter substance abuse treatment programs, their partners are often directed into self-help programs such as Al-Anon or co-dependency groups. However, these resources were not designed to meet the needs of victims of domestic violence and often inadvertently cause harm to battered women.  The goals of these groups typically include helping alcoholics’ family members to focus on their own needs, practice emotional detachment from the substance abusers, and identify and stop protecting their partners from the harmful consequences of addiction. Group members are encouraged to define their personal boundaries, set limits on their partners’ behaviors, and stop protecting their partners from the harmful consequences of addiction. While these strategies and goals may be very useful for women whose partners are not abusive, for battered women such changes will likely result in an escalation of abuse, including physical violence.

Battered women are often very sensitive to their partners’ moods as a way to assess their level of danger. They focus on their partners’ needs and cover up for them as part of their survival strategy.  These behaviors are not dysfunctional but are life-saving skills that protect them and their children from further harm. When battered women are encouraged to stop these behaviors through self-focusing and detachment, they are being asked to stop doing the things that may be keeping them and their children most safe.

Myths Regarding Domestic Violence

“Domestic Violence” can be defined in legal and clinical terms. For clinical purposes, domestic violence is “assaultive behavior.” Domestic violence generally represents a pattern of behavior rather then a single isolated event. The pattern of behavior can take on many different forms, all of them involving physical violence or threats of physical violence. The violence may be accomplished through the use of hand, feet, weapons, or other objects.

The National Institute of Justice estimates that a woman is battered every 18 seconds in the United States. Some studies have suggested that between 35 and 50 percent of the nation’s couples have experienced at least one violent incident in their relationship.

Historically, the problem of violence in the home has been surrounded by a number of myths and misconceptions, which has perpetuated spouse abuse in society and has hampered the effective response of law enforcement.

Some of the most common myths and misconceptions are briefly addressed below.

Domestic Violence is a Private “Family Matter”

Some feel that violence between people in intimate relationships is somehow “different” than violence between strangers. The privacy of the marital relationship and the family unit has been elevated above the prohibitions against violence contained in existing laws. Nevertheless, a spouse has no right under existing laws to physically abuse their spouse in any manner.

Domestic Violence is Usually Provoked by the Victim

This myth stems from a belief that men have the right to discipline their spouses for behavior that the man does not approve of. Most studies agree that mutual combat or provocation is not the cause of domestic violence. Indeed, verbal “provocation,” no matter how severe, should never be a justification for violence. The failure of a batterer to take responsibility for his violent behavior and the victim’s tendency for self-blame should not lead society to the same erroneous conclusions. In the overwhelming majority of cases, it is women who are being routinely and severely victimized by men. To be sure, abused men do exist and must be protected, but the incidents of husband and boyfriend battering are rare.

Battered Women are Masochistic

Some believe that if battered women were really abused, they would leave. Others believe that if victims of abuse wished to end the abuse, they could simply seek outside help and leave the relationship. These views reflect an ignorance regarding the dynamics of abusive relationships. Battered women have often been in the relationships for a significant period of time and have strong mental and emotional ties. Often children are involved and the battered spouse must resolve how to provide for her children if she were to leave the abusive relationship and take her children with her. Battered women face enormous pressures to remain in an abusive relationship, including economic dependency, lack of support from relatives and friends, and threats of increased violence if any action is taken against their abuse. For a victim, low self-esteem further compounds the problem of removing herself from an abusive relationship.

Batterers are Always Drug or Alcohol Abusers

Many believe that men who batter women are predominantly working class substance abusers. Experts, however, have determined that domestic violence spans every socioeconomic group and is not caused by substance abuse. Recent studies suggest that alcohol and drugs may increase the level of violence but do not precipitate the violence. The decision to use violence is often made before the batterer ingests the substance, which he will ultimately blame for his violence outburst. The drugs or alcohol, thereafter, becomes a convenient excuse for engaging in deviant behavior.

Understanding the Cycle of Domestic Violence

Relationships, which involve any level of physical violence generally, evidence a recurring cycle of behavior. The “cycle of violence” in a violent relationship consists of three stages:

(1) the tension building phase

(2) the acute battering episode and

(3) the aftermath: loving respite.

Tension Building Phase

The first phase is a tension-building stage. The woman senses the man becoming edgy and more prone to react negatively to any trivial frustration. Many women learn to recognize incipient violence and try to control it by becoming nurturing and compliant or by staying out of the way.

A woman often views the building rage in her partner as being directed toward her and internalizes the job of keeping the situation from exploding. If she does her job well, he will become calm; if she fails, it is her fault. A woman who has been battered over time knows that the tension building stage will aggravate, but denies this knowledge to help herself cope with her partner’s behavior. As the tension builds, he becomes more fearful that she will leave him; she may reinforce this fear by withdrawing from him to avoid inadvertently setting off the impending violence.

Acute Battering Episode

The second phase in the pattern of violence is the explosion. Many men report that they do not start out wanting to hurt the woman but want only to teach her a lesson. This is the stage where police, the victim, or the batterer may be killed. The violence may involve pushing, shoving, shaking, or pulling hair. It may involve hitting with an open hand or a closed fist.

The violence may be over in a moment or last for minutes or hours. There may be visible injuries, but often an experienced batterer will leave no marks. The violence attack rarely takes a single consistent form. Most women are extremely grateful when the battering ends. They consider themselves lucky that it was not worse, no matter how bad their injuries are. They often deny the seriousness of their injuries and refuse to seek immediate medical attention.

Aftermath: Loving Respite

The third phase is a period of calm, loving, contrite behavior. The man is genuinely sorry for what he has done. His worst fear is that his partner will leave him so he tries as hard as he can to make up for his brutal behavior. He really believes he can control himself and will never again hurt the woman he loves. The battered woman wants to believe she will no longer have to suffer abuse. His reasonableness and his loving behavior during this period support her wish that he can really change. He lets her know that he would fall apart without her. So, she feels responsible for her own conduct that led to the beating and also responsible for his well being.

Victims will most frequently enter the criminal justice system after an acute battering episode; the “loving respite” phase usually follows immediately. Both parties may be horrified by what has happened. Both feel guilty about the event and both resolve to never let it happen again. The batterer very typically will treat the victim with apparent respect, love, and affection. This is a great relief to the victim and is precisely what the victim has wanted out of their relationship all along.

This “loving respite” phase makes criminal prosecution difficult. As long as the batterer continues to behave affectionately, the victim may become increasingly reluctant to jeopardize such good behavior by cooperating with the prosecution. A victim-witness advocate who understands the dynamics of the battering cycle can effectively intervene by reminding the victim of similar remorseful periods in the past, predicting a return to the tension building phase, and explaining the likelihood of more frequent and severe injuries.

Domestic Violence Penalties

A family violence conviction can lead to numerous life-altering and long-term penalties, including up to one (1) year in jail, fines up to $4000.00, anger management or family violence classes, probation, and a finding of family violence that may affect the custody of your children. If you have a prior family violence conviction, you could be facing up to ten (10) years in prison, as well as a fine up to $10,000.00. The penalties also increase if the violence is aggravated in any way with a weapon or if you cause an injury to a child. Depending on the circumstances, you may also be prohibited from contacting the complainant for an extended period of time, thereby preventing you from spending time with your loved one.

Unlike most criminal offenses in Texas, you can never seal your criminal record if you are convicted of a family violence crime or accepted deferred adjudication with a finding of family violence. To avoid these significant penalties, it is critical that you contact the Charles Johnson Law Firm. He is skilled and experienced in these very sensitive cases.

Defined in Domestic Violence Civil LawsFam. Code §§ 71.004; 71.0021

‘Family violence’ means:

  • An act by a member of a family or household against another member of the family or household that is intended to result in physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or sexual assault, or that is a threat that reasonably places the member in fear of imminent physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or sexual assault, but does not include defensive measures to protect oneself
  • Abuse, as that term is defined by § 261.001, by a member of a family or household toward a child of the family or household

Dating violence

‘Dating violence’ means an act by an individual that is against another individual with whom that person has or has had a dating relationship and that is intended to result in physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or sexual assault or that is a threat that reasonably places the individual in fear of imminent physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or sexual assault, but does not include defensive measures to protect oneself.

Defined in Criminal Laws

Penal Code § 25.07

A person commits an offense if, in violation of a condition of bond set in a family violence case and related to the safety of the victim or the safety of the community, an order issued under article 17.292, Code of Criminal Procedure, an order issued under § 6.504, Family Code, chapter 83, Family Code, if the temporary ex parte order has been served on the person, or chapter 85, Family Code, or an order issued by another jurisdiction, the person knowingly or intentionally:

  • Commits family violence or an act in furtherance of an offense under §§ 22.011, 22.021, or 42.072
  • Communicates:
    • Directly with a protected individual or a member of the family or household in a threatening or harassing manner
    • A threat through any person to a protected individual or a member of the family or household
    • In any manner with the protected individual or a member of the family or household except through the person’s attorney or a person appointed by the court, if the violation is of an order described by this subsection, and the order prohibits any communication with a protected individual or a member of the family or household
  • Goes to or near any of the following places as specifically described in the order or condition of bond:
    • The residence or place of employment or business of a protected individual or a member of the family or household
    • Any child care facility, residence, or school where a child protected by the order or condition of bond normally resides or attends
  • Possesses a firearm

‘Family violence,’ ‘family,’ ‘household,’ and ‘member of a household’ have the meanings assigned by chapter 71, Family Code.

Persons Included in the Definitions

Fam. Code §§ 71.0021; 71.003; 71.005; 71.006

‘Dating relationship’ means a relationship between individuals who have or have had a continuing relationship of a romantic or intimate nature. The existence of such a relationship shall be determined based on consideration of:

  • The length of the relationship
  • The nature of the relationship
  • The frequency and type of interaction between the persons involved in the relationship

A casual acquaintanceship or ordinary fraternization in a business or social context does not constitute a ‘dating relationship.’

‘Family’ includes individuals related by consanguinity or affinity, as determined under §§ 573.022 and 573.024, Government Code; individuals who are former spouses of each other; individuals who are the parents of the same child, without regard to marriage; and a foster child and foster parent, without regard to whether those individuals reside together.

‘Household’ means a unit composed of persons living together in the same dwelling, without regard to whether they are related to each other. ‘Member of a household’ includes a person who previously lived in a household.

Building a Strong Defense

Many domestic violence or spousal abuse charges occur during the divorce process or in child custody disputes. Unfortunately, in these situations one spouse may try to obtain an advantage over the other by making false or exaggerated accusations.

Austin Criminal Lawyer Charles Johnson will work hard to build a strong defense against the domestic violence charges you face. We will carefully listen to you and investigate the events leading up to the charges. What is the context of the domestic abuse accusation? Did the alleged victim start the fight? Is there a custody issue at stake? Understanding the context of the event can help us prepare an effective defense strategy on your behalf. Our goal is to obtain a dismissal of the charges, a negotiated plea agreement that minimizes the penalties you face, or a not guilty verdict after trial.

In the recent past, several factors have caused Domestic Violence to emerge as a distinction within the assault category. If a defendant and the alleged victim are spouses or former spouses, related by blood or marriage, reside or have resided in the same household or have a child or children in common; then any assaults would be categorized as “Domestic”. This distinction requires that certain federal statutes are triggered and the defendant shall no longer be allowed to own or possess a firearm.

Hire the Best Austin Assault Family Violence AttorneyIt is often mistakenly assumed by defendants, as well as victims, that the decision to prosecute lies with the victim. Many presume that if the two have reconciled then they may avoid prosecution by merely allowing the victim to inform the court or prosecuting attorney that they do not wish to prosecute or by simply not appearing in court in violation of the subpoena requiring their appearance. This naive assumption has led to many defendants failing to prepare a defense to the charges that may have otherwise been successfully defended. The prosecutor may insist that the victim testify and proceed without their consent. The victim’s cooperation with the defense is of course valuable in preparing for court and often in avoiding prosecution on a criminal offense. This must be utilized in conjunction with a strategy tailored around the specific facts and circumstances of the offense at hand, as well as parties involved. In order for this to occur it is essential that the defendant obtain legal representation and closely follow the advice of his or her counsel.

Domestic Violence is a serious problem in this country. Certainly, however, anyone can understand that relationships are hard and with added stress from financial problems, work related stress and of course drug or alcohol addiction people may do things for which they are not proud. When charged with such an offense it is essential that an individual begin immediately preparing a defense which may include mitigating measures. These may include a drug and alcohol assessment, counseling, anger management training or even alcoholics or narcotics anonymous meetings. It is for this reason that a consultation with an attorney experienced in defending these matters occurs prior to proceeding to court.

Contact Austin Domestic Violence Lawyer Charles Johnson

It’s important to speak with an attorney as soon as you’ve been arrested. The sooner you contact an attorney, the sooner work can be done to prevent your charges from escalating into a conviction.

Travis County Domestic Violence Defense Attorney Charles Johnson knows how frustrating and hopeless things may seem right now, but urges you not to give up hope. There are many viable defense strategies for fighting domestic violence charges, and many things that can be done to ensure your charges don’t spiral out of control. You can depend on Attorney Johnson to thoroughly investigate your charges, and trust that he’ll make it known to the judge if he finds anything that may indicate the accusations were fabricated. The Charles Johnson Law Firm is here for you, and will do whatever can be done to make sure this ordeal results in the best possible outcome!

If you have been accused of domestic violence, don’t try to fight your charges alone.

Contact Austin Domestic Violence Defense Lawyer Charles Johnson for experienced and dependable representation. He can be reached directly around the clock, 7 days/week at 512-832-1200.

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Arrested for DWI in the Austin Area? Austin DWI Lawyer Charles Johnson

Finest Austin Criminal Defense AttorneyThe Charles Johnson Law Firm provides the highest level of representation in assisting our clients through the rigors of a DWI case. After you are charged with DWI in the Austin area, you are confronted with an unpleasant truth: anyone who drinks and drives is subject to arrest, whether or not they are actually affected by alcohol. However, being charged does not mean being convicted. Contact Austin DWI Lawyer Charles Johnson directly anytime day or night at 512-832-1200 to discuss your case.

 

Hire Austin DWI Attorney Charles Johnson: The Charles Johnson Law Firm

When someone gets arrested for a DWI, they get a lot of advice from almost everyone around them; friends, family, co-workers, and sometimes even the arresting officer gives you advice about what to do. It probably seems like everyone has a different answer for what is “the best thing to do.” And then you may have received some annoying letters from attorneys who do not even know you, some of which can be very intimidating, frightening, or just plain obnoxious.

The fact is that no two DWI’s are alike, because penalties and options vary depending on the facts of what happened, your prior record, the county and city you were arrested in, and the status of your driver’s license.

To get superior DWI representation, you need the best of these three things:

KNOWLEDGE.
Austin DWI Attorney Charles Johnson will be familiar with the city and county of your offense and should know how that jurisdiction treats DWI cases like yours. Austin Lawyer Charles Johnson is aware of the current DWI statutes and case law, which changes all the time. Finally, your DWI lawyer should take the time to know about your situation so the goals of your case suit your individual needs.

STRATEGY.
DWI cases are not easy to win, and the justice system is not about to do any favors for DWI offenders in today’s anti-DWI society. An effective strategy is one that preserves every possible opportunity to impact the various penalties you will be facing. That is the key to superior DWI Defense Strategy: preserving and taking advantage of opportunities. Whether it is for purposes of arguing the issues of your case, negotiating a settlement, or controlling the timing of the penalties you will be facing, a solid strategy will help you come out of this with as little damage as possible.

DEDICATION.
Austin DWI Attorney Charles Johnson will devote an adequate amount of time and resources to your defense. You do not want an attorney that does not take the time to explain the ins and outs of your case to you every step of the way. You DO want a DWI lawyer who is passionate about defending DWI cases. Our DWI clients have taken advantage of our Knowledge, Strategy, and Dedication for honest solutions to their DWI problems. Don’t let another day go by before you start working on your case. Contact Austin DWI Attorney Charles Johnson Charles Johnson today at (713) 272-4586 for a free case evaluation.

About DWI in Texas

In Texas, the legal limit for intoxication is .08 BAC. If an officer thinks your driving is impaired, you can still be stopped and arrested for DWI regardless of your BAC. Penalties get worse with every DWI offense.

Texas is a national leader in many areas?unfortunately, one of these is in the number of accidents and deaths related to driving while intoxicated (DWI). Each year, thousands of Texans are involved in this tragedy; about 2,000 of them die.

Texas is also a zero-tolerance state for underage drinking; any detectable amount of alcohol in drivers under 21 is a crime. Yet young drivers account for many alcohol-related traffic accidents, and the age group with the most violations and accidents are those between 21 and 34. Remember, teens and young people are actually more prone to reaching higher alcohol concentrations more quickly than older drinkers. Size and body weight also play a role. Big Uncle Fred may be able to toss back those shots of tequila and maintain an allegedly safe BAC but younger, smaller people may not be able to accomplish this feat.

While a DWI conviction requires a BAC of 0.08% or above, any driver can be cited for “driving while impaired” by drugs or lower concentrations of alcohol.

Texas DWI Penalties for Drunk Driving

Driving while intoxicated, first offense, is a Class B Misdemeanor that is defined at Texas Penal Code §49.04. That provision states that, “A person commits an offense if the person is intoxicated while operating a motor vehicle in a public place”.

This definition sets forth the elements that must be proven to sustain a conviction.  Those elements are:

  • The defendant, on or about a particular date
  • Was operating a motor vehicle
  • In a public place (street, highway, beach, parking lot, etc)
  • In a particular county
  • While intoxicated The Texas legislature has specifically defined the term “intoxication”, as that term is used for prosecution of DWI cases {Texas Penal Code §49.01(2)}

In addition, there are two definitions to encompass those who do or do not submit to chemical testing:

1) “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; or

2) having an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more.”

It is important to note that the law provides for intoxication by the introduction of any intoxicating substance into the body. This is designed to make our roadways safe from dangerous drivers.

Typically, proof at trial is restricted to alcohol unless some statements or other indications suggest that the driver has become impaired by some other substance.  Equally as important, being on prescription drugs is not a defense to a DWI prosecution. If the label suggests that ingestion will impair one’s ability to operate a motor vehicle or machinery, taking such medicine and driving may subject you to DWI arrest and conviction.

At trial, the State therefore may prove intoxication in three (3) different ways:

  • not having the normal use of physical faculties OR
  • not having the normal use of mental faculties OR
  • having an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more

The jury does not have to be unanimous on the manner and means of intoxication, only that the person was intoxicated.

Plus, intoxication must occur and be proven to occur while driving. Many other States provide for prosecution of a “lesser included” offense other than DWI (i.e. reckless driving, impaired driving, driving under the influence, etc.). Texas however has no lesser included offense of DWI. Some counties offer plea bargain agreements to other charges than DWI, but they are the exception and not the rule.

Classifications and Range of Punishment for DWI Conviction

DWI, 1st Offense:  Class B Misdemeanor in Texas

Fine

A fine not to exceed $2,000.

Jail

Confinement in the County Jail for a term of not less the 72 hours nor more that six (6) months.

Open Container

If there was an open container of alcohol in your car when arrested, the minimum term of confinement is six (6) days in the county jail.

Community Service

Texas law mandates that a judge order not less than 24 hours nor more than 100 hours.

Absent unusual facts, most persons convicted of a first offense DWI are granted community supervision (“probation”) of any confinement ordered. The general length of DWI probation is from 1-2 years. There are also conditions of community supervision ordered that are fairly standard in most courts. Typical conditions imposed are: Drug/Alcohol Evaluation. A person convicted of DWI will be required to submit to evaluation for probability of committing DWI in the future and/or to disclose a potential problem with alcohol or drug abuse. If a problem is detected, additional terms and conditions of probation are ordered to be administered through the Community Supervision Department. Attend and complete an approved DWI Education class within 180 days from the date of conviction (Satisfying this requirement will avoid the one (1) year drivers license suspension, unless if you were a minor (under 21) at the time of the offense.) Attend and complete a Victim Impact Panel. This is a forum that presents victims of drunk drivers to address persons convicted of DWI and warn of the dangers and perils of driving while intoxicated. Work faithfully at suitable employment, commit no other crimes, remain at the same residence and employment unless notification is given to the community supervision officer, report monthly to the supervision office, pay all fines and costs in a timely manner. Pay a monthly supervisory fee. Perform a specified hours of community or volunteer service.  NOTE: If convicted, you will be given an Order Granting Probation. This Order will be specific and unique to your case and fully sets forth the terms and conditions of your probation which apply to you. It is the blueprint for your probation.

Additional Conditions of Probation that may be Ordered:

If your case presents unusual facts (accident, alcohol problem, prior alcohol contacts, bad driving record etc.), additional conditions may be ordered. Most conditions are designed to address a problem that appears from the facts or alcohol/drug evaluation that is performed on the subject after conviction. Again, a specific order is given after each conviction. The following list is only a general discussion of conditions that have been imposed in some DWI cases in my experience and may not apply to you.

Deep lung air device

This provision requires that you install and maintain a device on any car which you intend to drive during probation. The device requires a breath sample before it will allow your car to start. Some devices require periodic breaths while driving. This condition is sometimes recommended after an unfavorable drug/alcohol evaluation during a first-offense probation, and is almost always ordered as a condition of bond on a subsequent offense arrest.

Alcohol Treatment

Attendance at AA or other counseling programs offered through the probation department. In extreme cases outpatient programs may be ordered. This condition is recommended after an unfavorable drug/alcohol evaluation.

Consume no alcohol

Most courts require that a person not consume any alcohol during probation. This provision is monitored by periodic and random urinalysis at the probation office. Some courts will not even allow a probationer to enter a bar, tavern or lounge where alcohol is sold and consumed.

Confinement

Again, in some extreme circumstances, the Court may order that a DWI offender serve confinement in the county jail as a condition of being granted probation.

Restitution

If there was an accident followed by a DWI arrest, and if your insurance company has not paid damages to the other party, restitution of any unpaid amounts will be ordered by the Court as a condition of probation.

Enhanced Penalties (Prior alcohol or drug related criminal history)

Under Texas law, if it is shown that a person has been previously convicted of DWI, the punishment and penalties after conviction are increased or enhanced. The prior DWI conviction must have occurred within ten (10) years of the present arrest for DWI. Additionally, if a person has any prior DWI conviction within the previous ten year period (measured from dates of arrest), the State is then allowed to use any prior DWI conviction since obtaining a drivers license to enhance the accusation to a DWI, third offense. NOTE: Texas can use prior convictions that have occurred in other states for enhancement of punishment.

DWI, Second Offense: Class A Misdemeanor Special Condition for Jail Release on Bond:

It is important to note that if arrested and accused of a DWI Second or greater offense, Texas law now requires the Court to Order as a CONDITION OF RELEASE FROM JAIL ON BOND, that the person install and maintain a deep lung air device on the car that the person intends to drive and operate while charges are pending. The device requires a breath sample before it will allow you to start your car. They also require periodic breaths while driving to monitor and insure sobriety. New technology has made these devices “user sensitive” so that someone else cannot blow into the device for the driver.

Although this provision seems to run afoul of the presumption of innocence, Texas Courts have consistently held that such condition is necessary to protect a legitimate governmental interest in making public roadways safe for the motoring public.

Fine

A fine not to exceed $4,000.00.

Jail

Confinement in the County Jail for a term of not less than 72 hours nor more than one (1) year.

Community Service

Texas law mandates that a judge order not less than 80 hours nor more than 200 hours.

Deep lung air device

Typically deep lung devices are required for all DWI second offenders during probation.

Suspension of license

A person convicted of DWI, Second may have their driving privilege suspended for not less than 180 days or more than two (2) years.

DWI, Third Offense (or greater): Third degree FELONY

Fine

A fine not to exceed $10,000.00.

Jail

Confinement in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Institutional Division (Penitentiary) for a term of not less than 2 years nor more than ten (10) years.

Deep lung air device

Deep lung air devices are generally ordered on all persons convicted of three or more DWI’s both as conditions of bond and as conditions of any occupational or provisional licenses that may be awarded after conviction.

Community Service

Texas law mandates that a judge order not less than 160 hours nor more than 600 hours.

Suspension of license

A person convicted of DWI, Second may have their driving privilege suspended for not less than 180 days or more than two (2) years.

Other

A third conviction for DWI indicates a significant problem with alcohol to the Court or jury assessing punishment. Some type of rehabilitative treatment is therefore mandated in punishment if confinement in the penitentiary is to be avoided. In some cases an in-patient, incarceration program (Substance Abuse Felony Probation SAFP) is ordered. This program requires confinement in a State Facility for alcohol rehabilitation. After successful completion of the SAFP program, the person is then released and placed on probation for a term not to exceed ten (10) years. Another popular condition for habitual DWI offenders is a prescription for a drug named “Antabuse”. This drug will make a person violently ill if any alcohol is consumed. The alcohol can be contained in mouthwash or marinated food and will still have the same effect on the user. If a person has any type of liver problems, this drug can cause liver failure and death.

Texas law does not provide for any increased punishment after DWI, third offense. If a person presents a DWI, fourth offense or beyond, the typical punishment is confinement in the penitentiary from two (2) to ten (10) years without probation being granted. In some cases SAFP may be granted upon proper request and showing that it is appropriate.

Intoxication Assault

Third degree Felony “A person commits an offense if the person, by accident or mistake, while operating a …. motor vehicle in a public place while intoxicated, by reason of that intoxication causes serious bodily injury to another” {Texas Penal Code §49.07}. ” ‘Serious Bodily Injury’ means injury that creates a substantial risk of death or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ”.

Fine

A fine not to exceed $10,000.00.

Jail

Confinement in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Institutional Division (Penitentiary) for a term of not less than 2 year nor more than ten (10) years.

Community Service

Texas law mandates that a judge order not less than 160 hours nor more than 600 hours.

Intoxication Manslaughter

Second Degree Felony “A person commits an offense if the person:

1) …operates a motor vehicle in a public place, and…

2) …is intoxicated and by reason of that intoxication causes the death of another by accident or mistake.”

Fine

A fine not to exceed $10,000.00.Jail: Confinement in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Institutional Division (Penitentiary) for a term of not less than 2 year nor more than twenty (20) years.

Community Service

Texas law mandates that a judge order not less than 240 hours nor more than 800 hours.

NOTE

If a person is involved in an accident where there is risk of death or death, a mandatory blood sample will be taken for analysis and use in the prosecution of either Intoxication Assault or Intoxication Manslaughter.

Administrative License Revocation (ALR) Program

What is an ALR Hearing?
Many Texas drivers who are arrested for driving while intoxicated (DWI) do not realize that a DWI arrest creates two separate cases, one civil and one criminal.

Specifically, a DWI arrest results in both a criminal charge, and usually initiates a civil proceeding against the arrested driver’s driving privileges called an Administrative License Revocation, or ALR.

An ALR suspension is initiated against an arrested driver when he either refuses to submit to breath or blood testing, or alternatively, fails a breath or blood test. The legal authority to impose an ALR suspension against a driver lies in the Texas implied consent statute.

This law states that each person who operates a motor vehicle on Texas roadways has given his or her implied consent to provide a specimen of breath or blood if arrested for DWI and provided with the applicable consequences of refusing to submit to testing.

Notice of ALR Suspension
Many police officers, after arresting a citizen, will tell the arrested driver that if he does not agree to take a breath or blood test that his license will be automatically and immediately suspended.

This is incorrect. When making an arrest for DWI, peace officers are required to take possession of any Texas license issued by this state and held by the person arrested and issue the person a temporary driving permit that expires on the 41st day after the date of issuance. Further, a request for a hearing to challenge the proposed suspension will delay any ALR sanctions until a hearing takes place.

Hearing Request Provisions
ALR suspensions are automatic unless you request a hearing to challenge the suspension, in writing, WITHIN FIFTEEN (15) DAYS after receiving notice of suspension from the arresting agency on a Department of Public Safety approved form. This document is generally received on the day of arrest.

If a hearing is not requested in a timely manner, the suspension will automatically begin on the forty-first (41st) day after notice was received. If a hearing is requested, no action will be taken regarding suspension until after the hearing has taken place, even if the hearing takes place more than forty days after the arrest.

The ALR Hearing
The burden of proof at an ALR hearing is on the Department of Public Safety. Once a driver or his attorney has made a timely request for an ALR hearing, no suspension may be imposed against the driver until the Department of Public Safety proves the following elements by a preponderance of the evidence at the hearing:

  1. That there was reasonable suspicion to stop or probable cause to arrest the driver;
  2. That probable cause existed that the driver was driving or in actual physical control of a motor vehicle in a public place while intoxicated;
  3.  That the driver was placed under arrest and was offered an opportunity to give a specimen of breath or blood after being notified both orally and in writing of the consequences of either refusing or failing a breath or blood test; and
  4. That the driver refused to give a specimen on request of the officer, or, that the driver failed a breath or blood test by registering an alcohol concentration of .08 or greater.

Suspension Provisions for Adult Drivers
Without any prior alcohol or drug related contacts against the accused driver during the previous 10-year period, your license will be suspended for 90 days if your chemical test result is over a 0.08% or 180 days if you refuse a chemical test. If you have a prior alcohol or drug contact within ten years, your license will be suspended for one year if your chemical test is over 0.08% or 2 years if you refuse a chemical test. In certain circumstances you may be eligible for an Occupational License.

Possible Defenses for DWI Charges

In deciding which defenses could apply in your driving while intoxicated (DWI) case, Austin Drunk Driving Lawyer Charles Johnson will look at all the evidence produced by the police and interview witnesses. Some common defenses seen in DWI cases include:

Driving Observation Defenses
The prosecutor always relies (sometimes exclusively) on the arresting police officer’s testimony about how a DWI suspect was driving, including:

  • Very slow speeds
  • Uneven speeds (very fast, then very slow, for example)
  • Weaving from one side of a lane to the other
  • Crossing the center line of the highway
  • Running a red light
  • Hesitation in going through a green light

A good defense attorney will argue that there are many different explanations for these driving behaviors that don’t have anything to do with being alcohol-impaired.

Behavior Observation Defenses
An officer may also testify as to a DWI suspect’s appearance and behavior when questioned, including:

  • Slurred speech
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Inappropriate joking or incoherent speech
  • Stumbling or not being able to walk very far
  • Pupil enlargement

Defenses to these observations that don’t have anything to do with being intoxicated may include:

  • Lack of sleep
  • Allergies
  • Contact lenses
  • Stress due to personal circumstances
  • Medications
  • Foods recently ingested
  • Nervousness over being stopped by police
  • Physical impairments
  • Field Sobriety Test Defenses

When an officer suspects you may be too intoxicated to drive, he or she will likely ask you to perform what are called “field sobriety tests.” These tests are designed to assess your physical and mental alertness, and can include:

  • Walking a straight line
  • Walking backwards
  • Reciting the alphabet, frontwards or backwards
  • Standing on one leg
  • Officers also sometimes rely on what’s called a “nystagmus” test, in which the suspect is asked to shift eye gaze from one side to the other while the officer shines a light in his or her eyes. The theory is that the gaze of someone who is impaired by alcohol or drugs will be jerky rather than smooth.

The defenses to field sobriety tests are often the same as with officer observations. Medications and lack of sleep can make it considerably more difficult to perform these tests. Many people also have physical impairments caused by injuries – or simply aging -that make it impossible to perform these tasks under ideal conditions.

Austin DWI Attorney Charles Johnson will cross-examine the arresting officer in detail as to whether the officer asked you if you had physical impairments or there were particular circumstances that would make it difficult to perform the tests. He may also point out to the jury that many jury members may have similar difficulties performing the tests, such as by asking the jury if they could recite the alphabet backwards under the best of circumstances.

Blood Alcohol Content Defenses
When you consume alcoholic drinks, the alcohol is absorbed into your blood stream. The level of alcohol in your blood, called the Blood Alcohol Content (“BAC”) can be measured by different tests. In all states, you’re presumed to be drunk and unable to safely operate a vehicle if your BAC is .08 or greater. This measurement means that your blood contains eight/ one-hundredths percent of alcohol.

All states have lowered the BAC level defining intoxication to .08, and have “zero tolerance” laws that make it illegal for people under 21 to operate a vehicle with little or no amount of alcohol in their blood.

Many states also have more severe DWI or DUI penalties for driving with a high BAC, which is often defined as a level measuring more than .15 to .20.

Your BAC can be determined from a blood draw, which is often automatically taken if you are involved in an accident and there is a suspicion that you may have been drinking. Your blood will also be drawn if you are taken to the hospital because the police are concerned that you may have had so much to drink that you are in danger of alcohol poisoning and should be hospitalized for observation and/or treatment.

Most DWI suspects have their blood tested by blowing into a breath testing device. These devices can be faulty and not well-maintained or properly calibrated. They can register false results based on your consumption of food and other non-harmful substances other than alcohol or drugs.

Austin DWI Attorney Charles Johnson will likely subpoena police records on how the breath testing machine operates and was maintained and calibrated. He may also want to bring in expert testimony that the particular breath testing machine the officer used is notorious for malfunctioning.

Depending on the jurisdiction, another defense to breath testing machines arises when the physical breath tests aren’t preserved as evidence, allowing for independent testing later. Your attorney can argue that there’s no way to know if the machine that was used was accurate, if your breath samples can’t be independently tested.

Many of the defenses against DWI charges require a lawyer’s expertise and experience. If you have been arrested for a DWI offense in Texas, do not try to handle the legal situation yourself. Contact the experienced and respected Texas DWI defense attorneys at the Charles Johnson Law Firm right away to make sure that your rights are protected.

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.
Major Credit Cards Accepted.

Arrested for DWI in the Austin Area? Austin DWI Lawyer Charles Johnson
by Charles Johnson

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.
Major Credit Cards Accepted.

 
 
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