Criminal Defense 101


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Criminal Defense 101

If you are facing a criminal charge, it is a big deal, and a conviction is an even bigger deal. In fact, even a relatively minor criminal charge can have considerable consequences in your life. The better you understand the criminal justice landscape and the basic criminal charges, the better prepared you will be to take on the challenges ahead. The most important step that you can take to help protect your legal rights and your future is consulting with an experienced criminal defense attorney early in the legal process.

Assault Charges

Assault charges are often misunderstood. In the State of Texas, assault charges involve the following:

  • You intentionally, recklessly, or knowingly caused someone else to be physically injured.

  • You intentionally or knowingly threatened someone else with physical injury.

  • You knowingly came into physical contact with someone else with the intention of offending or provoking him or her.

The fact is that you can be convicted on an assault charge even if you did not intend to harm the victim in question. If it is determined that you should have reasonably known that the physical contact in question would have been harmful or offensive, it is enough to bring an assault charge – as long as you are deemed to have made the physical contact intentionally. The charge becomes that much more serious when it is elevated to aggravated assault if either of the following applies:

  • The assault led to serious bodily injury.

  • A gun or another deadly weapon was used or exhibited in the commission of the assault.

Charges Related to Probation Violations

Breaking the terms of your probation can lead to serious consequences that include being thrown in jail. Probation is often referred to as community supervision because, although you are found guilty, your sentence is converted to supervision in the community (outside of jail). Texas takes an especially strict approach to probation, and the rules are quite exacting. Common probation violations include:

  • Failing to report to the assigned probation officer

  • Failing to pay the required fines

  • Failing to complete the required classes

  • Failing to complete the required hours of community service

  • Failing a drug or alcohol test

  • Failing to make a scheduled court appearance

  • Traveling out of state without specific permission to do so

  • Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol while on probation

  • Committing a crime while on probation

Charges Related to Property Crimes

Property crimes in the State of Texas refer to stealing, destroying, or damaging someone else’s property, and the charges range in seriousness according to the severity of the property crime, the type of property involved, and the amount of financial loss involved. Common property crimes include:

  • Arson

  • Theft

  • Burglary

  • Robbery

  • Breaking and entering (criminal trespass)

Charges Related to Sex Crimes

There are few charges out there that can do more damage to your reputation and social standing than those related to sex crimes. In some instances, a conviction on a sex crime charge can lead to mandatory registration on the sex offender registry, which can have disastrous ramifications in your life. Common charges related to sex crimes include:

  • Rape

  • Statutory rape

  • Sexual assault

  • Sexual abuse

  • Indecent contact with a child

  • Indecent exposure

  • Pornography

  • Prostitution

  • Solicitation of a minor

Some of the crimes that can lead to a permanent registration requirement (on the sex offender registry) include:

  • Unlawful restraint of a victim under the age of 17

  • Kidnapping and aggravated kidnapping of a victim under the age of 17

  • Human trafficking

  • Sexual assault and aggravated sexual assault

  • Continuous sexual abuse of a young child or children

Drug Charges

Texas is tough on drugs and takes drug offenses very seriously. Such charges break down into all the following categories, and each carries stiff penalties and fines:

  • Drug possession

  • Drug manufacture

  • Drug distribution

  • Drug possession with the intent to distribute

  • Drug trafficking

  • Drug transporting

  • Internet drug sales

  • Intent to sell

Drug charges are divided into five different levels that are based on the kind of drugs involved, the amount of the drug involved, and the activity involved (simple possession, for example, is less serious than distribution). These levels and their attendant penalties and fines include:

  • State Jail Felony – A state jail felony carries from 180 days to 2 years in jail and fines of up to $10,000.

  • Third-Degree Felony – A third-degree felony carries from 2 to 10 years in prison and fines of up to $10,000.

  • Second-Degree Felony – A second-degree felony carries from 2 to 20 years in prison and fines of up to $10,000.

  • First-Degree Felony – A first-degree felony carries from 5 years to life in prison and fines of up to $10,000.


DWI Charges

A DWI charge can rock your world and leave you with a suspended drivers’ license, hefty penalties and fines, and serious social consequences. Driving while intoxicated charges are generally based on exceeding the legal limit for blood alcohol concentration (BAC), which is .008 percent in Texas (as it is in most other states). If, however, the arresting officer deems that you exhibit signs of intoxication, he or she does not even need to confirm this minimum measurement to make an arrest. Because DWI charges are a matter of public record, they can have surprising social consequences that include:

  • Diminishing your ability to find a job

  • Diminishing your ability to rent a house or obtain a home loan

  • Causing you to lose professional and/or recreational licensure

  • Diminishing your social standing overall

  • Diminishing your ability to obtain a federal school loan, to gain acceptance into the school of your choice, and/or to live on campus

Bringing your strongest legal defense from the outset is in the best interest of your future.


Expunctions vs. Nondisclosures

In Texas, certain entries on an adult criminal record can be permanently removed via expunction (under extremely limited circumstances). Nondisclosure, on the other hand, refers to sealing a specific offense on one’s record to hide it from public disclosure. Nondisclosures, however, remain visible to all the following:

  • Criminal justice agencies

  • Certain government entities

  • Licensing agencies

Because keeping your record as clean as possible is critical to your most promising future, exploring your expunction and/or nondisclosure options with a dedicated criminal defense attorney is well-advised.

Federal Charges

There are certain kinds of criminal charges that – because they involve crossing state lines or because they pertain to the federal government – are brought as federal charges and require a federal defense strategy. Common examples include:

  • Tax crimes

  • Drug trafficking

  • Extortion

  • Embezzlement

  • Computer fraud and/or hacking

  • Mail and/or wire fraud

  • Securities fraud

  • Telemarketing fraud

  • Credit card fraud

  • Healthcare fraud

  • Insurance fraud

  • Accounting, bank, business, and/or investment fraud

  • Social security fraud

  • Mortgage fraud

Federal charges tend to be more serious than those at the state level, and the penalties and fines tend to be more severe.


Felony Charges

Felony charges are more serious charges, and convictions start with a minimum of 180 days in jail and become far more significant from here. Having a felony conviction on your record can negatively affect your life in ways you might not have even considered (in addition to the hefty penalties and fines), including:

  • You will lose your right to serve on a jury.

  • You will lose your right to vote while you are incarcerated.

  • You will lose your right to possess a firearm anywhere other than your own residence (after you complete your sentence, any parole or probation requirements, and a post-incarceration period of five years)

  • Your driver’s license will be suspended (if the conviction is a drug charge).

  • You will face social consequences that can include having a hard time finding a job, renting an apartment, obtaining a home or car loan, and more.

Felony charges range from state jail felonies to third-degree, second-degree, and first-degree felonies and are capped by capital felonies, which can lead to death sentences.

Fraud Charges

Fraud charges can be either state or federal, and they are based on false representation or on the omission of material fact – either via one’s words or one’s conduct – that is intended to increase one’s personal gain. In the State of Texas, all the following amount to fraud:

  • Forgery

  • False statements made to obtain property or credit

  • Abuse of a credit or debit card

  • The fraudulent transfer of a car or another motor vehicle

  • Record laundering (via credit card transactions)

  • Bad checks

  • The execution of documents by deception

  • Possession or fraudulent use of ID

  • The simulation of a legal process

Misdemeanor Charges

While misdemeanor charges are less serious than felony charges, a conviction can have surprisingly negative consequences that can include an overall decrease in your social standing. Misdemeanors are classified as follows:

  • Class C Misdemeanors – Class C misdemeanors carry fines of up to $500, and they are commonly known as plain old tickets (such as for speeding, disorderly conduct, public intoxication, and more).

  • Class B Misdemeanors – Class B misdemeanors carry up to 180 days in jail and fines of up to $2,000. One of the most common Class B misdemeanor charges in Texas is marijuana possession of fewer than 2 ounces. A conviction for any drug offense in Texas also involves a license suspension.

  • Class A Misdemeanors – Class A misdemeanors carry up to 1 year in jail and fines of up to $4,000. Assault causing bodily injury is a prime example of a Class A misdemeanor.

Theft Charges

In Texas, theft boils down to unlawfully taking possession (or attempting to take possession) of a property with the intention of depriving its owner of possession. The charge of theft also applies to acquiring property via bad check and the illegal receipt of services. The seriousness of the charge is directly related to the value involved. Theft by check is a prime example of a theft charge, and it involves writing a check that one knows – or should know – is supported by insufficient funds in the bank. According to the law, the person writing such a check is presumed to have stolen intentionally if he or she had no account with the bank in question at the time or if he or she failed to pay off the debt within ten days of notification that the bank returned the check for insufficient funds.

Violent Crime Charges

Violent crime charges are naturally some of the most serious charges you can face at either the state or federal level. Violent felonies involve one or more of the following characteristics:

  • The crime involved an attempt, a threat, or the actual use of violence against another person.

  • By its nature, there was a substantial risk that the crime would lead to violence.

  • The crime involved the use of a firearm, knife, or another destructive weapon.

Common examples of violent crimes include:

  • Kidnapping

  • Assault

  • Armed robbery

  • Rape

  • Manslaughter

Weapons Charges

Texas is known for its pro-gun stance, but this does not mean that it is not also harsh when it comes to weapons charges. Some common weapons charges include:

  • Possession of an illegal gun

  • Carrying a gun illegally

  • Selling or giving away a gun illegally

  • Improper gun discharge

  • Use of a weapon in the commission of a crime

White-Collar Charges

White-collar charges are those related to nonviolent, financially motivated crimes that are perpetrated by individuals, businesses, and government employees. Common examples of white-collar crimes include:

  • Bribery and corruption

  • Embezzlement

  • Conspiracy

  • Offshore banking

  • Money laundering

Reach out to an Experienced Killeen Criminal Defense Attorney for the Legal Help You Need

Brett Pritchard at The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard – proudly serving Killeen, Texas – is a practiced criminal defense attorney who focuses on zealously protecting the legal rights of clients like you – in skilled pursuit of optimal case outcomes. Our savvy legal team is on your side and is well prepared to help, so please do not hesitate to contact us online or call us at 254-501-4040 for more information about what we can do for you today.


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