Articles Posted in Criminal Defense

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Montgomery County Burlgary Attorney
While in court this week I had a person ask me about possible representation on a burglary charge.  Upon speaking with this individual, I think he was confused by the definition of burglary in Texas.  In addition, I don’t think he really grasped the true severity of this crime.  While there are proposed changes to the definition of burglary in the Texas Penal Code going into effect this September, let’s look at the history of the offense of burglary up until now.

The truth of the matter is that aside from murder, burglary and robbery were once thought of as some of the most egregious of crimes in colonial America and England.  In my opinion, not much has changed.  Juries just don’t like burglars and robbers.  Worse than thieves, burglars and robbers threaten our lives and well-being.  Thieves are thought of as being sneaky trying to take your property without being detected.  Burglars evoke an uneasy feeling of being violated.  After all, what is more discomforting than the thought of someone rifling through your possessions in your own home uninvited?  While robbers generally grab and go, burglars try to find an unoccupied home and take their time.  The burglar can do much more damage and cost the victim more because they can take their time emptying the contents of your home.

The definition of burglary has changed over time and to get to the modern definition you need to look at the history of burglary.  The crime has always reflected the breaking into the home or building of another and what flows from the damages caused to people and their property.

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Criminal defense lawyer
What do you do when your dorm room is searched?  I get this question quite a bit from students at Sam Houston State University.  First, hire an experienced criminal defense attorney before you speak with anyone.  The Sam Houston State faculty members and staff are very aggressive with what they consider to be drug and alcohol violations.  Your academic career may be on the line.  Don’t take chances.  A new decision by the Court of Criminal Appeals of Texas has given us some guidance as to what the current state of the law is on dorm room searches and seizures.

In State of Texas v. Mikenzie Renee Rodriguez, resident assistants (RAs) conducted a dorm room search of Ms. Rodriguez’s personal space.  The RAs found drugs and then called their director at the University who in turn called the police.  The police responded, entered the dorm room, and seized the drugs.  Ms. Rodriguez was then formally charged or indicted for possession of a controlled substance.  Ms. Rodriguez was smart and hired an experienced criminal defense attorney who then filed a motion to suppress.  The State of Texas appealed and the court of appeals affirmed.  In their holding, the court of appeals held that there is no dorm room exception to the Fourth Amendment.  The Court of Criminal Appeals of Texas subsequently granted review.

As is typical in most college dorm rooms, Ms. Rodriguez shared the room with another student.  You may know that there is typically an agreement between you, the student, and the university which permits routine inspections by authorized university personnel.  The agreement at this Texas university provided that, “duly authorized personnel of (said university) reserve the right to enter student rooms at any time for emergency purposes or for the purpose of maintenance, repair, and inspection for health, safety, or violation of university regulations.  Here, the resident assistants were doing routine room checks for prohibited items such as microwave ovens, candles, and of course drugs and alcohol.  While performing a room check on Ms. Rodriguez’s dorm room, no one was present.   According to the RAs the first trunk that was checked had marijuana located inside.  The RAs then contacted the resident director who instructed them to do a more thorough search of the dorm room.  On the second search, the RAs found a matchbox with several tablets located inside that appeared to be ecstasy.  The RAs also found a pipe located in a sock.  The pill box and the pipe were laid on the floor and the RAs took pictures of the items.  The university police were then contacted.

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Texas DWI Lawyer
A new Texas bill that gives low level criminal offenders in Texas a second chance needs only to return to the house and then be signed by the governor.  The Texas House of Representatives passed the “Second Chance” bill 140-0.  Now, the bill has moved through the Texas Senate 28-3.  The bill would allow criminal offenders without previous convictions to protect their criminal history from disclosure to the public.

In Texas, we have only two crimes in which you cannot receive a deferred sentence.  Capital murder and driving while intoxicated.  Therefore, you can be charged with an offense like sexual assault and still get a deferred sentence and keep it off your record.  Not so with DWI.  The law used to allow for a DWI to fall off your record after ten years.  Not so anymore.  So, say you pick up a DWI in college, what can you do to get it off your record?  I get this question all the time.  Until now, the answer was “nothing.” The client will say, but that happened twenty years ago, why is it still haunting me?  Simple, up until recently a DWI conviction stayed on your record for life.

The new proposed section is 411.0736 which currently reads: “procedure for conviction; certain driving while intoxicated convictions.  What the bill states is that if you complete your sentence, including any term of confinement imposed and the payment of all fines, costs, and restitution imposed, may petition the court that imposed the sentence for an order of non-disclosure of criminal history records information under this section if the person:

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Criminal Defense Attorney
The federal government knows what is best for you.  Your government tries to control you by legislating penalties for not doing what Big Brother wants you to do.  To limit your behavior, your government has levied steep taxes on items such as cigarettes, other tobacco products, even soft drinks.  Currently, in Austin, your Texas legislators are trying to pass a law banning all text messaging while driving.  And on the national level, the federal government is trying to take away your right to split a bottle of wine at dinner or to have a few beers at the ball game.

For years, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has pushed to lower the legal limit in drunk driving cases to .05.  The current level in Texas is .08.  If you have seen the movie “Sully,” you know the NTSB as the villains in the film calling for Captain Sullenberger’s head.  Okay, that’s Hollywood, but the truth of the matter is that there just aren’t enough plane and train accidents to justify the budget of the NTSB.  What does your government do when it tries to justify its existence?  Your government uses fear tactics to make itself relevant.  Bad things are happening, we must act.  Wake up citizen, I’m your government, you need me, listen to me.  These tactics are getting tiresome. 

In Utah, state legislators are already pushing for the .05 limit.  How does that affect us in Montgomery, Walker, Madison, and Leon County, Texas?  Because Utah was the first state to lower the legal limit in drunk driving to .08.  The old standard was .10.  Truth be told, the field sobriety tests that law enforcement uses to arrest you in a DWI stop were based on the old .15 standard.  Yep, the standard started at .15 for impairment.  But why drop the limit?  Simple, taxes.  Your government wants more money.  The penalties on a first DWI in Texas start at $1000 a year for three years and climb from there.  But what say you, groups against drunk driving?

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Montgomery County Attorney
It was a rough week for law enforcement officials in Texas.  In San Antonio, three local law enforcement officers were arrested on Thursday night within hours of each other.  Police officers Gena Rodriguez and Harold Thomaston were both arrested for driving while intoxicated.  San Antonio Police Chief William McManus was quoted with saying, “Anytime an officer gets arrested for anything it’s disappointing, but DWI is just so preventable and there is no excuse for it.”

Rodriguez was an eleven-year veteran who was driving with her three children in the vehicle when she crashed into another car.  Police officers on the scene stated that Rodriguez was slurring her speech, was unsteady on her feet, and smelled like alcohol.  Later that night police veteran Harold Thomaston was also pulled over for driving while intoxicated.  Police say that Thomaston swerved into the lane of another police officer and then ran a red light.  Chief McManus stated, “SAPD officers were arrested by SAPD officers, so absolutely not, they are not held to a different standard, they are held to a higher standard.”

Bexar County Deputy Sabrina Moreno was also arrested Thursday night for DWI.  Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar said, “I am furious, there is no other way to put it, I am just furious.”

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Montgomery County Controlled Substance Lawyer
In a monumental decision last week, the Supreme Court ruled that a citizen can sue for malicious prosecution for being jailed due to the police falsifying drug test results.

In Joliet, Illinois, police stopped Elijah Manuel for a traffic violation.  Manuel was subsequently searched. Law enforcement officers located a vitamin bottle containing several pills.  The police suspected that the vitamins were illegal drugs and decided to perform a field test on the substance.  The field test came back negative for any illegal or controlled substance.  Nevertheless, the police decided to go ahead and arrest Mr. Manuel and charge him with possession of a controlled substance with the intent to distribute.  Manuel was taken to the police station.  At the station an evidence technician tested the pills again and received the same negative result.  However, in his report he stated that one of the pills tested, “positive for the probable presence of ecstasy.”  One of the arresting officers stated in his report that, based on his “training and experience,” he “knew the pills to be ecstasy.”

Ecstasy or “Molly,” or MDMA is a synthetic drug that can alter your mood and your perception.  The chemical formula is similar to both stimulant and hallucinogenic drugs.  MDMA and its derivatives can produce distorted time and sensory perception, excessive emotional warmth, and feelings increased energy and pleasure.  The drug achieves these effects by altering the levels or dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin.  The effect of the drug can last anywhere from three to six hours.

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Montgomery County Criminal Defense Attorney
So, what is the Intoxilyzer 9000?  This is a new breath test device that is being transitioned into use in Texas.  This new unit will eventually replace the decades old Intoxilyzer 5000.  The new device will be used in the prosecution of drunk driving cases.  However, as the machine is new and being transitioned in, it is still plagued with problems including software issues and bugs.  Clearly, this is cause for concern as it may lead to wrongful convictions for DWI.

It works like this.  Say you are arrested for suspicion of drunk driving in Walker, Harris, or Montgomery Counties.  Typically, the arresting officer will ask you if you wish to provide a breath or blood sample.  On a first offense, the penalty for refusal of one of the two tests will result in a 180 day Texas driver’s license suspension versus a ninety-day suspension for those that comply.  Lately, most officers have opted for blood over breath due to the problems with the old Intoxilyzer machines.  By the way, it’s the officer’s choice not yours as to the breath or blood election.  Many people are confused by this distinction.  People say, I offered to give breath in lieu of blood because I am afraid of needles.  Too bad, that’s considered a refusal.

In Georgia, the new Intoxilzer 9000 recorded seventy-four tests in the first two month in one area.  Of the seventy-four tests, fifty-one of the tests generated error messages.  In other words, a brand-new machine was wrong almost seventy percent of the time.  When you are prosecuting someone for DWI or any other crime for that matter, any error is unacceptable.

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Tampering with Evidence
An interesting opinion was just released from the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.  For those of you that don’t know, this is the highest court in the State of Texas that rules on criminal matters. The case is State v. Zuniga.  Zuniga was allegedly pulled over right in front of her own house for running a stop sign.  We assume the officer saw a bottle of prescription medication in plain view and Zuniga was not able to show a valid prescription.  In Texas, if the officer sees something in plain view that he believes is illegal, then he is going to be able to search the vehicle.  While handcuffed in the back of the police car, Zuniga moved her hands to her side, reached into her crotch area, and pulled something out with her hands cupped.  All this because supposedly, she knows the officer is watching her.  Seems more than a little odd, doesn’t it?    Next, she moves her hands toward her mouth, moves her head down, and apparently, the officer thinks she swallowed something.  What is this Ms. Houdini?

The officer then took Zuniga to the hospital where x-rays were performed and her stomach was pumped.  The hospital officials did not find any illegal substance nor a baggie that may have contained something.  Of note, the State of Texas didn’t test the defendant’s blood for any illegal substance or had the lab perform an analyses the contents of Ms. Zuniga’s stomach.

Ms. Zuniga was indicted for the Texas felony charge of tampering with physical evidence.  This offense is defined in the Texas Penal Code as:

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Leon County Attorney

In other news, we have an Amazon Echo update.  You may recall my recent article about the Amazon Echo device spying on you and your family.  A recent out of state case involved a young man’s roommate found dead in a hot tub.  The prosecutors on the case were trying to get any recorded evidence that that Echo device may have picked up on the evening in question.  Amazon fought requests from the prosecutors to hand over the audio evidence citing that the information was protected by customer privacy rights and the First Amendment.  The defendant in this matter maintains his innocence but has struck a deal with the state and has allowed Amazon to hand over the evidence.  I guess we must wait for someone else to fight this battle as the Echo device continues learn, develop, and be used for greater tasks every day.  Is your Echo spying on you?  I know that you can change the activation on your Echo from “Alexa” to “Computer.”  I wonder if it responds to Barack?

Ron Voyles is an attorney and a chiropractor with over twenty years of experience in the litigation of personal injury and the defense of drug and alcohol crimes.  Ron practices in Montgomery, Harris, Walker, Grimes, Madison, and Leon Counties.

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“That was in the past; I’ve paid my debt to society.” Criminal defense attorneys hear that quite a bit.  The truth of the matter is that your past counts.  A lot.  When a potential employer looks over your job resume’, do you think he or she considers the fact that you have been fired from your previous three jobs?  Of course they do. 

So what’s the big deal?  Well, anyone that keeps up with what is happening in criminal law in Conroe, Texas, or even the Nation sees myriad headlines such as, “Man Gets Life Sentence for Fifth DWI Conviction.”  The past is a good indicator of the future.  People tend to forget that little inconvenient fact.

So, how does your past affect you?  It could in many profound ways.  First off, if you are arrested for a crime in the counties that I practice in, which include Harris, Montgomery, Walker, Madison, Grimes, and Leon for example, then it can and will affect your bail.  First time criminal offenders usually have a trivial amount of bail.  Repeat offenders have a bail that rises steeply with each consecutive offense.  This is especially true of felonies.  Montgomery County tends to be more secretive with their bail amounts.  Walker, Madison, Grimes, and Leon Counties post their prospective bail amounts online.  For instance, if you are arrested on a first-degree offense in Walker County and it’s your first offense, the bail would typically be set at $20, 000.  A prior first offense gets you a $30,000 bond and more than one prior offense will land you at the $50,000 mark.  In addition, the underlying Texas Penal Code Statutes that you will be charged with are generally getting tougher.