Criminal Defense Lawyers in Houston, Texas

Difference between state crimes and federal crimes?

State crimes can include crimes such as theft and traffic violations. Federal crimes can include crimes committed on federal property or actions such as smuggling or trafficking people.

Some criminal offenses are subject to state prosecution because they constitute a violation of state laws. Similarly, some criminal acts are crimes under federal law because it is a federal or national problem. However, there are criminal offenses that may be subject to federal and state law, and therefore the accused person may be prosecuted in federal or state court.

Difference between state and federal crime prosecution and procedures?

In state crimes, the police officers or county sheriffs are the ones who investigate, the prosecutors are state or municipal, and the judges are usually appointed by the governors. Additionally, steps in the Texas criminal justice system in a criminal case include arrest, indictment, plea bargain, trial, and post-trial. The prosecutions are generally quick compared to federal courts.

Federal crimes are investigated by a federal agent or officer, such as DEA agents. The prosecutors are usually United States prosecutors and the president appoints the judges. In addition, the procedure for federal cases includes the burden of proof, the preliminary hearing, the trial, and the sentencing.

In a criminal case, the burden of proof rests with the U.S. Attorney or the government. That is, the government must show evidence that the accused person is guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt.”

How does the Double Jeopardy Clause work?

Many people tend to believe that the Fifth Amendment Double Jeopardy Clause of the U.S. Constitution protects them from being charged with the same crime in state and federal courts. However, this is not the case. Although the clause protects anyone from being tried twice by the same sovereign and under the same offense, there is an exception known as the “separate sovereign doctrine.” This is important because the states and the federal government are separate; therefore, a person can be tried in both state court and federal court for the same crime.

What does the right to remain silent imply?

One of the most important steps a person can take when arrested is to remain silent. Every person with U.S. citizenship has the legal right not to incriminate themselves thanks to the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which means that the person is not required to speak to the police except to identify themselves. Once the person is arrested, anything they say can be used against them in court. Even statements spoken in passing can be used at the hearing.

What categories of crimes are there?

Crimes can be classified as felonies, misdemeanors, and offenses.

  • A felony has severe penalties. It can include spending time in jail or state prison. The punishment varies depending on multiple factors, such as the nature of the crime and the criminal record of the accused person.
  • When a person is charged with a misdemeanor common penalties can include heavy fines, probation, community service and/or having to spend time in jail if the person is found guilty. These offenses are divided into classes such as Class A or Class B misdemeanor.
  • Infractions are a crime typically committed while operating a motor vehicle and are generally punishable by a fine, such as receiving a speeding ticket.

In which instances the federal government would have jurisdiction over a criminal offense?

  • Crime that takes place on federal property: For example, murdering a person in a government-owned building.
  • Any crime involving federal agents/officers: A criminal act against a federal agent, such as assaulting a DEA agent.
  • Committing a crime that crosses state lines: This can include kidnapping a person and crossing state lines.
  • A crime in which the criminal act crosses state lines: For example, when one person commits Internet fraud, many people are affected in multiple states.
  • Personalized offenses: This may include smuggling (ex. drugs, weapons), infringing import duties (ex. canceling import origin and value to evade payment of import taxes, importing child pornography), violating export regulations (that is, many products are subject to limitations and restrictions), and making false statements during customs regulations.

What does a federal sentence entail?

The following federal law enforcement agencies are responsible for investigating federal crimes: the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Internal Revenue Service, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Service, the Drug Enforcement Agency, the Bureau of Arms of Alcohol and Tobacco Fire and the Secret Service.

A sentence for a criminal offense may include restitution to be paid to the person victim of the offense.

If the verdict is guilty, federal judges consider various sources to pass sentence for the accused person. The judge considers the guidelines of the U.S. Sentencing Commission, which establishes the maximum and minimum punishment for certain crimes. Other sources it considers include evidence produced during the trial, relevant information provided by the U.S. Attorney, the defense attorney, the pretrial service officer, and the statements of the victims and the accused person. In addition, the judge can also consider a variety of other factors, for example, previous criminal offenses, whether the accused person expresses remorse or regret for the offense, and the offense that was committed.

Type of criminal offenses?

  • Crimes against the environment
  • Crimes involving federal crimes (drug trafficking, human smuggling and trafficking, federal weapons charge)
  • Crimes committed by minors (use of false identification, criminal mischief, minor in possession of alcohol)
  • Crimes involving drugs and narcotics (cultivation or delivery of marijuana, gross possession of marijuana, possession with intent to deliver, possession of a controlled substance, possession and delivery of THC concentrate, drug trafficking/smuggling, drug manufacture, fraud prescription drugs)
    • THC concentrates are used for vapers, dabbing devices, and other common ways of using marijuana.
  • Crimes involving a weapon (carrying a weapon except when the person is on their own premises or on the way to their vehicle, having a weapon in plain sight unless the person has a license to carry a weapon, offender in possession of a weapon)
  • Sex-related crimes (indecent exposure, public lewdness, child sexual abuse, inappropriate relationship, aggravated sexual assault, child pornography, indecency with a child, exposure – third degree, physical contact – second degree, online application from a / a minor, prostitution, sexual assault, aggravated sexual assault against a minor)
  • Crimes involving violence (assault on a family member, murder/manslaughter, vehicular manslaughter, ongoing violence against the family)
  • White collar crime (credit card / identity theft)
  • Crimes involving theft (robbery, theft, robbery and bodily harm/threat of bodily harm)
  • Crimes involving driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs (driving while intoxicated (DWI): first DWI offense, second DWI offense, third DWI offense) (DWI felony: drunk homicide, DWI with a child passenger, drunk boating, DWI with property damage, DWI with a BAC greater than .15) (also: DWI for controlled substances, DWI for marijuana, DWI for prescription drugs, DWI for minors, DWI by commercial drivers, administrative license suspensions, refusal to submit to tests)
  • Crimes involving family violence (abandoning a child and/or endangering a child, domestic violence, protection orders)

What is a bond?

Texas offers bail to arrested persons so that they can pay and not remain in prison during the process. A bond seeks to guarantee that the person will attend all of their next court dates. The bond will depend on certain factors, including financial status, the severity of the crime, and whether the person is at risk of flight. Typically, a judge will set a bond at the person’s first court appearance. The person is not guaranteed a bond and, depending on the circumstances, could be denied one entirely. However, if the person is offered a bond, he or she can pay it or through a third party. When a third party company pays the bond, it is called a surety bond. In most cases, the person will have to pay the surety company up to 20 percent of the bond amount once released.

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