1. What’s the difference between “domestic violence” and “family violence”?
Not much. “Domestic violence” commonly refers to violence between adults who are married, but “family violence” as defined in the Texas Family Code is broader and includes individuals who are:
Related by blood or marriage
Current and/or former spouses
Parents of the same child
Foster parents and children
It doesn’t matter for the above groups whether they live together or not. But the definition also includes:
Individuals who are or were in a dating relationship
2. What are the different kinds of charges for family violence cases?
Several different offenses can fall under the “family violence banner,” but the most common cases are:
Assault (offensive touching, sometimes a reduction from a higher charge) – Class C Misdemeanor, $0 to $500 fine
Assault Family Violence – Class A Misdemeanor, 0 to 365 days jail and/or up to $4,000 fine
Assault Family Violence with prior FV conviction – 3rd and/or up to $10,000 fine
Continuous Family Violence (2 or more incidents alleged in one year) – 3rd to 10 years prison and/or up to $10,000 fine
Aggravated Assault causing Serious Bodily Injury with Deadly Weapon with Family Violence
1st Degree Felony, 5 to 99 years or life in prison and/or up to $10,000 fine
3. Does it matter if it was a punch or “just a push”?
Yes and no. Bodily injury means any “physical pain, illness, or any impairment of physical condition.” It can be as serious as a stab or gunshot wound, or as simple as pulling someone’s hair. The issue is “did it hurt?” or “did it cause pain?” Some felony offenses allege “serious bodily injury,” meaning “injury that creates a substantial risk of death, serious permanent disfigurement, or [extended] loss or impairment of the function of” part of the body. The more serious the injury, the higher level the offense will be charged. And if the officers aren’t sure, they will usually err on the side of charging the higher offense.
4. What if I’ve been convicted of a case with a finding of Family Violence case before?
If you’ve already been convicted once before of a case with a finding of family violence, then the second arrest will be charged as a 3rd Degree Felony. A 3rd Degree Felony is punishable by 2 to 10 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000. If the State can’t prove the enhancement (the prior case), they may still prosecute the case as a lower offense, usually a Class Assault Family Violence Misdemeanor.
5. I was issued an Emergency Protective Order. What does that mean?
An EPO can be issued on request from a police officer, an alleged “victim”, a guardian, or an attorney for the State. It may require you to not commit family violence or assault, communicate in a harassing or threatening manner, or go near a particular residence. An EPO can be effective for anywhere from 31 to 91 days, and it can be “replaced” upon request by a complainant with a standard Protective Order.
6. What happens if the complaining party doesn’t want to prosecute?
If the person who is alleged as the “victim” doesn’t want to prosecute, then he or she can file an Affidavit of Non-Prosecution with the District Attorney’s office. This can be done through an attorney or, sometimes, DA’s offices have their own protocol. This does not mean the case will dismissed – if the DAs feels they should go forward with the case or even if they can prove it without his or her testimony, they may still prosecute the case. But filing an ANP doesn’t hurt.
7. Can I still own a gun once if I plead guilty to Assault Family Violence?
No. If you are convicted of a Family Violence offense, like Assault Family Violence, you forfeit your rights to ever possess or transport a firearm or ammunition under federal law. If you violate the law, you will be subject to penalties under federal – not state – law.
1. What’s the difference between “possession” and “distribute” or “manufacture”?
“Possession” is the basic charge for any drug offense, whether it is marijuana or methamphetamine. Proving possession requires a showing of “actual care, custody, control, or management.” To “distribute,” a person must deliver a drug in some way other than “administering or dispensing” it. But “manufacture” is the broadest definition of all, including the creation and altering of any drug (other than marijuana), by chemical synthesis and/or extracting natural substances. It can also include the packaging and labeling of a drug.
2. What’s a “penalty group” and how does it affect how I’m charged?
The legislature has divided controlled substances into 4 penalty groups, and each one has its own punishment range, depending on whether the offense is possession or manufacture and distribution, the amount of the substance, and generally based on the dangerousness of the drug itself. Some common drugs and their associated penalty groups are:
Charges are divided up by the amount involved, based on the penalty group.
For example, marijuana possession is charged as:
Less than 2 oz – class B misdemeanor
2 to 4 oz – class A misdemeanor
4 oz to 5 lbs – 3rd degree felony
5 lbs to 2000 lbs – 2nd degree felony
Over 2000 lbs – 1st degree felony
For Penalty Groups 1 and 2 –
Less than 1 gr – state jail felony
1 to 4 grams – 3rd degree felony
4 to 200 grams (or 4 to 400 grams for PG2) – 2nd degree felony
200 or more grams (or over 400 grams for PG2) – 1st degree felony
4. What is SAFP?
SAFP stands for the Substance Abuse Felony Punishment program. This is an intense treatment program for probationers and parolees who need substance abuse treatment. It includes an “in-prison” phase consisting of orientation, treatment, and then re-entry and relapse prevention. Then there is a 3 month stay at a transitional treatment center, similar to a half-way house, followed by 9 months of outpatient treatment. The program can last up to 30 months, depending on successful progress towards recovery and sobriety. SAFP is perhaps the most intense drug treatment program available, but it is also considered one of the most effective.
1. I was arrested for DWI. What happens next?
Please remember that you have only FIFTEEN DAYS from the date of arrest to request a hearing on the potential suspension of your driver's license. If you do not request a hearing your license will be automatically suspended 40-days from the date of the arrest. In a typical case, the arresting police agency will send your arrest report to the District Attorney’s Office (“DA”). The DA will then file the formal charge against you in one our six County Courts at Law and you will receive a notice to appear. Generally, there is a four to six week time lapse between the time of your arrest and your fist court appearance. The period between the arrest and the filing may be much longer in blood draw cases where lab results are pending.
2. How long will it take to resolve the charge against me?
The length of time it takes to resolve a DWI charge will vary. Each case is as unique as a snowflake based on the underlying facts as well as your goals and the prosecutor’s stance on your particular case. Cases can be resolved as quickly as three months or as long as a year.
3. I failed or refused to submit to a breath or blood test. Is my driver's license automatically suspended?
No. If you request hearing through the Administrative License Revocation (ALR) process within fifteen days of your arrest, your license will remain valid until such time as a hearing takes place. We will personally handle all aspects of the ALR process on your behalf. At the hearing the State must prove certain facts. If they fail to do so, your license will not be suspended.
4. WHY REQUEST AN ALR HEARING?
The ALR hearing will likely be the only opportunity you have to question the police officer that arrested you under oath prior to trial. If a hearing is set our attorneys will compel the State's lawyers to turn over all the evidence they intend to use against you at the hearing. This will include all police reports and frequently breath or blood test results. Also, unless strategy suggests otherwise, our attorneys will require the presence of the arresting officer at your hearing. The ALR hearing is a tremendous opportunity to test the strength of the State's case against you and to look for weaknesses in their case. At the ALR hearing we will be looking for ways to challenge all aspects of the state's case in an effort to maintain your right to drive. By way of example only:
Did the police stop your vehicle in violation of the law?
Did the police properly perform the HGN test according to their training?
Did the police properly administer the other Standardized Field Sobriety Tests in accordance with their training and the standards of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration?
Do the recorded police observations concerning alleged intoxication rise to the level of probable cause?
Was there a valid refusal of a breath or blood test?
Did the police comply with the observation period prior to requesting a breath test?
Was discovery provided in a timely manner by the State's lawyers?
In blood test cases, is there proof that shows that the blood test was taken in a sanitary place, and by a qualified person?
In a Chapter 524 case, is there admissible, sufficient proof of operation?
Did the police provide any erroneous or extra statutory advice concerning the consequences of refusing or submitting to a breath test.
If you prevail at the ALR hearing the civil case is dismissed and you WILL RETAIN YOUR RIGHT TO DRIVE.
5. What happens if my license is suspended?
If your license is suspended you will likely be able to petition the court for an Occupational Driver's License (ODL). An ODL is a restricted driver's license that will allow you to drive up to twelve hours a day.
6. Why do I need an attorney who focuses his practice on DWI defense?
Defending DWI cases properly requires intricate knowledge of the applicable law; the science involved in breath, and the procedure used by the police to obtain and evaluate evidence in a DWI case. Most attorneys, even those who practice criminal law, do not focus on DWI defense. An experienced DWI attorney may see defenses that may be overlooked by some other attorney. In selecting a DWI attorney, just a few questions to consider are:
Does the attorney have experience and success trying DWI cases?
Can the attorney explain in clear terms the basic operation of the breath testing device known as the Intoxilyzer 5000?
Does the attorney remain current on DWI focused continuing legal education?
What specific strategy does the attorney plan to advance in your ALR hearing?
Does the attorney try blood draw cases to a jury?
7. I refused to submit to the Standardized Field Sobriety Tests, am I in trouble?
No. You have a lawful right to refuse to submit to any field sobriety test, including the One Leg Stand, the Walk and Turn, the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test, and the Preliminary Breath Test.
You may also refuse to submit to the Breath Test, however your refusal may trigger certain consequences for your driver's license.
8. I am guilty, do I still need a lawyer?
The short answer is yes. Even a first offense DWI carries a potential punishment range of up to one hundred eighty days in the County Jail and up to a $2,000 fine. Even if you are sure that you are factually "guilty" you should still seriously consider an experienced DWI lawyer who knows the law, the science, and the ins and outs of the court system.
First and foremost, we will always force the State's Attorney's to turn over ALL of the evidence to me. The evidence should include, at a minimum, all of the police generated documents, the DVD or video of both the roadside and Intoxilyzer room, and witness statements, the Intoxilyzer breath testing slip, and a lab report in blood test cases.
Only when all of the evidence is available can you make intelligent decision about how to proceed. Even if you feel that you were intoxicated, and experienced DWI attorney should be looking at issues such as:
How do you look on video?
Was the breath or blood evidence obtained lawfully?
Was the breath or blood evidence obtained in such a way that its analytical reliability or validity may be compromised?
Was the stop of your car by police lawful?
Did the police officer administer the Standardized Field Sobriety Tests correctly?
Does the police report contain internal contradictions, or is it contradicted by the video?
Will the State be able to locate and secure the attendance of the witnesses at trial?
So, even if you think you are guilty, do yourself a favor and hire an experienced DWI attorney who can analyze your case for weaknesses that may benefit you.
9. Am I able to obtain a Deferred Adjudication for a Driving While Intoxicated Charge?
Not under the current state of the law. However legislation was introduced recently introduced which would authorize people charged with a first driving while intoxicated case in Texas to receive deferred adjudication. The legislation failed, however it may be raised again at a future date in the Legislature. In a deferred adjudication situation, no judicial finding of guilt is made and and the end of the deferral period the case is dismissed.
10. When would I need SR-22 Insurance?
Ordinarily, SR-22 insurance will be required after a DWI conviction or when a person needs an occupational driver's license due to a driver's license suspension. Frequently the suspension is the result of a DWI conviction or an ALR suspension. You may obtain SR-22 insurance by contacting your own insurance company or by contacting another agency. Our office regularly recommends two separate agencies that have provided excellent service to our clients.
1. I was arrested for Theft, what happens next?
The State typically files a criminal case within 1-2 months. Theft cases can range from a Class C Misdemeanor all the way to a First Degree Felony. The level of offense will depend on the value of what is alleged to have been stolen. Misdemeanor Theft is the most common form of Theft prosecuted in Collin County.
Class C Theft (property less than $50),
Class B Theft (property $50 - $500);
Class A Theft (property $500 - $1,500).
Felony Theft involves property valued at $1,500 or more.
2. What are the possible punishments for Misdemeanor Theft?
Potential punishment increases with each degree of theft:
Class C: $0 - $500 fine
Class B : 0 days – 180 days in jail and/or $0 - $2,000 fine
Class A: 0 days – 1 year in jail and/or $0 - $4,000 fine
The vast majority of Theft cases resolved by a plea or finding of guilt result in some form of probation. Misdemeanor probation can last up to 24 months and can include a wide array of probation terms and conditions, including payment of hefty fines and fees.
3. How will a Theft case affect my record?
Theft is a crime of moral turpitude. If you are convicted of a theft offense, it will remain on your record for life. Unlike some criminal offenses, a Theft conviction will usually raise the concern or disapproval of a current or potential employer.
4. Is there a way to keep a Theft case off my record
There are a few of ways to keep a Theft off your record. The likelihood of doing this will depend upon a variety of factors, including the circumstances of the case and the person who is accused of committing Theft.
5. What happens at my first court appearance?
The first appearance is more like a work session than anything else. It is an opportunity for your attorney to meet with the prosecutor and discuss the case. Typically, the prosecutor will have a police report, video, and witness statements to share with your attorney along with an initial recommendation for a punishment that the you can receive in exchange for a guilty plea. The first appearance date is usually concluded by selecting another appearance date.
6. What evidence is there that I stole something?
In a shoplifting case, there is usually one or more store employee who claim to have seen something take place inside the store. Frequently, a shoplifting case will involve camera footage shot from one or more angles. Depending upon the circumstances, the police may have conducted further investigation when they arrived, but they don’t always. The State does not need a police officer to testify to prove their case.
7. A store employee was harassing and humiliating to me, did he violate my rights?
Many places of business employ a loss prevention department. These are people who can be dressed up like officers or in plain clothes secretly watching customers. The law allows these people to use limited force to prevent shoplifting. They may grab you, detain you, and question you until the police come. They are not required to play by the same rules that police do because the law considers them to be private, as opposed to government, entities… therefore their thoughtless conduct rarely negates an arrest – but judges and juries have little tolerance for such conduct by store employees and may give them little credibility as witnesses.
8. Why am I in trouble when my friend did it?
The law allows the State to try and put you on the hook for the conduct of another person. Specifically, the law says “A person is criminally responsible for an offense committed by the conduct of another if, acting with the intent to promote or assist the commission of the offense, he solicits, encourages, directs, aids, or attempts to aid the person to commit the offense.” However, mere presence alone will not make someone a party to the offense. In this type of case, the prosecution has the burden to show you did something to affirmatively aid the person committing the theft. Mere presence alone is not enough.
9. How did they come up with a dollar amount greater than what was on the sticker?
The law also allows the State to try and prove a dollar amount that varies from the sticker price. Specifically, the law says that “the value of the property taken is the fair market value of that property at the time and place of the offense,” and “fair market value is . . . the amount the property would sell for in cash, giving a reasonable time for selling it.” Merchants are aware of the statutory amounts, and it’s not uncommon for them to attempt to find creative ways to ‘pile-on’ the price. This is a specific area a trained attorney knows to attack.
10. Is there a link between shoplifting and depression?
Studies have shown that there is a link between shoplifting and depression especially for middle-aged women. While this may not be a circumstance which leads to a jury finding someone not guilty, it is something to consider when talking about punishment.
"Rosenthal & Wadas was confident and positive from the very first telephone interview. They assured me that they would work until the end for me and explore every angle of my case. When I was uncertain and scared at times, they were very reassuring. The outcome exceeded my expectation and changed my life in positive ways. I would highly recommend Rosenthal & Wadas."