By: Mark Diaz
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Common Texas Criminal Defense Questions
Will I go to jail for a drug crime?
There are a lot of factors that go into this. That’s going to depend on the amount of drugs that were found, it’s going to depend on the drug, whether you were selling, manufacturing, or possessing, and what you were accused of. It will also depend on your criminal history, if this is the first offense, then obviously that’s going to change the nature of the proceedings.
For the first offense, it is likely that you’re going to get probation. Keep in mind that if you’re on probation, you can still go to jail if you violate that probation. So taking all of that into account, it just depends. That makes it all the more important to get a good attorney who knows what they’re doing.
One thing that is clear with drug cases, they can be very technical, and they often come down to the Fourth Amendment search and seizure analysis. It takes somebody who understands that and knows how to navigate that in order to do their best to keep you out of jail.
What is the difference between a state and a federal crime?
Sometimes, the difference is just who charged the offense. Sometimes it can be whether or not something traveled in interstate commerce. For instance, last week we talked about firearms and felons in possession. The way the federal government gets jurisdiction is, here in Texas, there are no true gun manufacturers. So whatever gun you’re caught with would have traveled in interstate commerce, which gives the federal government authority.
Drug crimes can be charged the same way if the drugs involved come from up from the valley, crossing the border from Mexico, up the valley, and then come through hubs like Houston and go further up north into the United States. So that those are larger drug conspiracies. They typically are charged as federal crimes because the drugs have been traveling in interstate commerce. Sometimes it can be as simple as where a crime is committed.
In other words, there are some federal lands that are designated as parks. If you commit an offense within those boundaries, you’ll be charged in federal court. I’ve worked a case that would amount to a class C misdemeanor but was charged in federal court because they were on federal lands.
What are the types of drug charges?
I think that the best way to break down drug charges is going to be; are you accused of possessing them, selling, manufacturing, or delivering? Obviously, the law is going to penalize one of the two categories a little bit harsher. So if you think of drug offenses within those two categories, then you have to break it down just a little bit further.
What is the substance that you’re charged with, and how much are you charged with possessing or selling? All of these factors, go into this analysis and determine what offense you may or may not be charged with. So, for example, possessing under two ounces of marijuana is a misdemeanor. If you’ve got any amount of methamphetamine, then you’re automatically at the felony level. So there’s a lot of different types of charges that you could potentially catch. All of these factors go into what charges you get.
How strict are Texas gun laws, and what are the penalties for gun crimes?
Before I could answer I would have to know, compared to what? They’re not strict, in a broad sense of the term. In Texas, you don’t have to have a concealed permit, or a license to carry to have a gun in your vehicle, as long as it’s concealed. So, to me, that’s not very strict.
As for the penalties for gun crimes, it kind of depends on what charges, if it’s unlawfully carrying a weapon, it’s just a misdemeanor. Unlawfully carrying would be when you do have a gun in your car, but you do not have a license to carry, and you have the gun visible. That would be an unlawful carry charge, and it would be a misdemeanor.
Most of the time, it can only be a felony if either you’re a felon in possession, or the weapon is used in the commission of another crime. You can commit a robbery, and if you use a gun, then it’s called aggravated robbery.
Can you beat a DUI without a lawyer?
So the distinction between a DUI and a DWI is totally dependent on the age of the person who has been accused. Anybody under the age of 21 would be charged with a DUI for having any detectable amount of alcohol. There’s a distinction there because intoxication doesn’t have to be proved. If you’re under the age of 21, even one beer could be enough. However, it’s also important to note that a DWI or DUI could apply.
If you are ever appointed late or intoxicated, you can still be charged with a DWI. DWI, in a general sense, is anybody over the age of 21, or under 21, who has a blood alcohol concentration of point zero eight or more or has lost the normal use of their mental and physical faculties. That’s technical language, it means certain things, your attorney would be able to help you figure that out.
Which brings me to the question, which is, can you beat it without a lawyer? The answer would be no. Just like a heart surgery that you wouldn’t perform on yourself, DWIs are very technical. They depend on science. It takes ongoing training, experience, and understanding of the new technology. It’s a constantly evolving area of law, so you do need somebody who has that experience and that training to be able to properly help assist you with the defense.
What happens after your first DUI/DWI?
So after your first DWI that you get arrested for, you’ll be seen, you’ll get a bond, you’ll be able to post a bond. Here in Galveston County, it usually isn’t too high if this is your first, but the bond amount depends on your criminal history a lot. You’ll get out, you’ll be able to hire an attorney and fight your case.
What happens after your first conviction, there are lots of different things. The most frequent, and the one that’s going to directly impact most people would be the license suspension. There’s an ability to attack a license suspension on the front end before your conviction with a DWI. If you do end up with a DWI conviction, your license is going to be suspended.
There are things that you can use such as an occupational license, which will allow you to drive for purposes of work, to make medical appointments, things like that, that you can get. Also, and this is going to be key, once you get a DWI conviction, if something like this is to ever happen in the future, it’s going to be magnified because of that first DWI conviction.
What are the penalties for DWI in Texas?
So ordinarily the first DWI is a Class B misdemeanor. Every conviction before or after that is going to impact the penalty range. So for example, if you get charged with a DWI, and you have a previous DWI conviction, that increases the penalty range to a class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail, and a fine not to exceed $4,000. Then there are other additional license fees that go along with that.
If you have two previous convictions, then that increases the penalty of a new DWI to a third-degree felony that’s punishable by up to 10 years, but not less than two years, and a fine not to exceed $10,000. So it’s kind of a ladder of severity depending on what your prior DWI criminal history may or may not be. Then there are other types of intoxication-related offenses that also alter or change the punishment range.
For example, a first-time DWI with no DWI history at all, if your blood alcohol level is ever at point one five, that elevates the degree of offense to a class A misdemeanor, with the same punishment ranges that we discussed before. Or let’s say it is a first time DWI, no DWI history, and you have a child in the vehicle who’s under the age of 15, that increases that DWI, even if there’s no criminal history, to a state jail felony, which is punishable by up to two years in the state jail division of TDCJ (Texas Department of Criminal Justice).
If you have questions about a case you may have call Galveston criminal defense lawyer, Mark Diaz at (409) 572-8095 or use the form on our contact page for a free initial consultation.