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texas criminal defense lawerOriginally published: May 4, 2017 -- Updated: June 18, 2021

UPDATE: Over the past several years, more attention has been paid to police raids, especially in cases involving “no-knock” warrants that allow police officers to enter a home without providing a warning to the people inside. The case of Breonna Taylor, a woman in Louisville, Kentucky who was shot and killed by police officers during this type of raid, has led many to call for a ban on these types of warrants. Activists have noted many other similar incidents in which both suspects and police officers have been injured or killed during no-knock raids.

The Texas legislature is currently considering a law that would place some restrictions on no-knock warrants. “Breonna’s Law,” which was recently introduced in the Texas House of Representatives, would limit no-knock warrants to cases involving violent offenders and situations where warning a building’s inhabitants before entering would either endanger someone’s life or lead to the destruction of evidence. It would also require police officers to wear recognizable uniforms, clearly identify themselves, and use body cameras, and the hours when no-knock raids can be conducted would be limited to between 6:00 am and 10:00 pm.

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texas criminal defense lawyerThe laws surrounding marijuana in the United States have been in flux over the past decade. Multiple states have made marijuana legal for both medical and recreational use. Others have decriminalized possession of small amounts of the drug, meaning that people will usually face civil infractions rather than criminal penalties. However, marijuana is still considered a Schedule I controlled substance by the federal government, and there are some situations where a person may be charged with federal crimes if they are accused of possessing, distributing, selling, or transporting this drug.

Federal Charges Related to Marijuana

Technically, possession of marijuana is a federal offense. “Simple” possession involves a person knowingly and intentionally carrying a drug on their person, transporting it in their vehicle, or storing it in their place of residence unless they have a valid prescription for the substance from a medical provider. A conviction for simple possession can result in a sentence of up to one year in a federal prison, as well as a minimum fine of $1,000.

However, most of the time, federal officials do not prosecute cases involving simple possession of marijuana. Federal authorities are more focused on large-scale drug trafficking, especially in situations where marijuana is transported and distributed in multiple states or smuggled into the U.S. from another country. These cases typically involve large amounts of marijuana, as well as a conspiracy by multiple people to manufacture, package, transport, and sell the drug to others.

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plano criminal defense lawyerEven though is it commonly known as the “world’s oldest profession,” prostitution is a crime in most of the United States, including the state of Texas. Those who sell sex for money and those who pay others for sexual intercourse or other sexual activities can face criminal charges. While prostitution and solicitation are usually charged as misdemeanors, charges related to prostitution become much more serious if minors are involved. As with other types of crimes against children, prosecutors are likely to “throw the book” at those who have allegedly forced or encouraged minors to engage in prostitution. Defendants who have been charged with these types of crimes will need to secure representation from an attorney who can help them understand how the laws apply to their case and how they can build an effective defense strategy.

Criminal Charges Related to Child Prostitution

Those who engage in prostitution by offering or agreeing to receive payment in exchange for engaging in sexual conduct may be charged with a Class B misdemeanor for a first offense. Those who solicit prostitution by offering or agreeing to pay someone else to engage in sexual conduct may be charged with a Class A misdemeanor. However, if a prostitute is under the age of 18, this charge may be increased to a second degree felony, even if the person did not know the prostitute’s actual age at the time of the offense. A conviction for a second degree felony can result in a jail sentence of 2 to 20 years, and all felony charges have a maximum fine of $10,000.

Other offenses that can be charged for those who conduct activities related to child prostitution include:

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Fort Worth federal money laundering charges attorneySome types of criminal charges involve offenses committed directly by one person against someone else, such as assault or robbery. Other offenses are considered to be “white collar crimes,” and they often involve fraud or financial manipulation. Money laundering is one such offense, and it involves the attempt to conceal the source of money that was earned or obtained illegally.

While money laundering may be charged as a state-level offense, it will often be prosecuted as a federal crime. Those who may potentially face these types of charges will want to understand when prosecutors may pursue federal charges and the potential penalties that may apply if they are convicted.

Federal Charges for Money Laundering

A person may be charged with money laundering at the federal level if they conduct or attempt to conduct a transaction involving money or property that they know was obtained illegally. Money laundering charges may also apply if a person transferred or transported funds or monetary instruments between the United States and another country with the purpose of promoting or carrying out certain types of crimes. 

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Denton County child pornography defense lawyerCriminal offenses related to child pornography are treated very seriously by law enforcement officials. In many cases, prosecutors will pursue the most serious charges possible, and in the name of protecting children, they may seek the maximum prison sentences, or they may even ask for additional prison time or other consequences based on the seriousness of the crime. Anyone who has been accused of creating, distributing, or possessing child pornography will need a strong criminal defense attorney on their side to protect their rights and help them defend against criminal charges that could affect their freedom, as well as attacks in the court of public opinion that could affect their reputation.

State and Federal Child Pornography Charges

If a person faces child pornography charges at the state level, the penalties will depend on the specific nature of the crimes and whether a person has previously been convicted. In Texas, possession of child pornography or accessing sexually explicit images or videos of children with the intent to view them on a device such as a computer or cell phone is a third-degree felony for a first offense, and a person may be sentenced to two to 10 years in prison. Distributing child pornography, including publishing, selling, transmitting, or advertising sexually explicit content depicting children, is a second-degree felony for a first offense, and a person may be sentenced to two to 20 years in prison. Creating child pornography through the sexual performance of a child is a second-degree felony, but if the child was under the age of 14, it is a first-degree felony in which a person may be sentenced to five to 99 years in prison.

In many cases, child pornography offenses will result in federal charges. Possession of child pornography will often involve material that was transported or transmitted across state lines, resulting in prosecution in federal courts. Possessing or distributing child pornography can result in a sentence of between five and 20 years, although longer sentences may apply if child pornography depicted children under the age of 12 or if a person had been previously convicted under federal or state laws of an offense involving sexual abuse or exploitation of children. Creation of child pornography may result in charges of sexual exploitation of children, which can result in a prison sentence of 15 to 30 years.

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Plano, TX drug trafficking defense lawyer for state or federal chargesCriminal offenses involving controlled substances are taken very seriously by law enforcement officials and prosecutors. Different types of drug crimes may be charged depending on the types and amounts of drugs in a particular case, and the most serious offenses often involve drug trafficking. Those who have been arrested for drug-related offenses will want to understand when they may face these types of serious charges. By working with an experienced criminal defense attorney, they can determine their best options for defending against these charges.

Drug Trafficking Charges

A person may be charged with drug trafficking if they are accused of the following types of offenses:

  • Drug manufacturing or delivery - The act of transferring controlled substances to someone else is referred to as “drug delivery,” and it may include selling drugs or offering them for sale. Drug trafficking charges may also apply if a person was involved in producing, preparing, processing, or packaging controlled substances.

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Denton County vehicular manslaughter defense lawyerTypically, a person may be charged with a violent crime if they intentionally caused bodily injury or harm to someone else. These cases often involve accusations of assault and battery, robbery, or domestic violence. The most serious types of violent crime charges involve homicide, in which a person is accused of intentionally killing someone else. However, a person may also face criminal charges of manslaughter if they killed someone accidentally or because of recklessness or negligence. This includes situations in which a person was involved in a car accident that led to someone’s death. Those who have been accused of vehicular manslaughter will need to work with a criminal defense attorney to determine how to defend against these charges.

Manslaughter Charges in Under Texas Law

The Texas Penal Code identifies two types of offenses that a person may be charged with if they unintentionally killed someone else. Manslaughter, including vehicular manslaughter, may be charged if a person acted recklessly in a way that they knew could kill someone, and these actions led to a person’s death. For example, a person may be charged with manslaughter if they were driving 20 miles per hour above the speed limit in an area where they knew other vehicles were present, and this caused a car accident in which someone was killed. Manslaughter is a second-degree felony, and a person who is convicted may be sentenced to between 2 and 20 years in prison, and they may also be fined up to $10,000.

A person may be charged with criminally negligent homicide if they acted in a way that they knew could cause harm to someone, and these actions led to someone’s death. For example, if a driver was texting while driving, and this led to a car accident in which someone was killed, they could be considered criminally negligent. This offense is a state jail felony, and a person who is convicted may be sentenced to between 180 days and two years in a state prison, and they may also be fined up to $10,000.

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Fort worth criminal defense attorney for child traffickingThere are many reasons that a person may be charged with a crime. The potential penalties they may face if convicted will vary depending on the nature of their specific offense and whether they allegedly caused harm to someone else’s person or property. Crimes against children are taken especially seriously by law enforcement. Because children are often seen as innocent victims, an offender will face harsh punishments, including lengthy prison sentences and high fines. Child trafficking is one of the most serious of these types of crimes, and anyone who is accused of committing these types of offenses will want to understand what these charges entail and the potential consequences they could face if convicted.

When Is an Offense Considered Child Trafficking?

“Trafficking” can include a number of activities, and it typically involves transporting, harboring, recruiting, or enticing someone with the intent of forcing them to engage in illegal activities against their will. Child trafficking charges may apply if a person participates in these types of activities with a child under the age of 18 and causes them to engage in or be the victim of offenses such as:

  • Forced labor, such as requiring children to work in a sweatshop or perform other types of services.

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Dallas criminal defense lawyer for property crimesWhen one thinks of camping, they likely imagine families on vacation, setting up tents in campgrounds to sleep under the stars. While camping like this is welcomed as a family-friendly activity, there is another form of camping that Governor Greg Abbott and state legislators are looking to eradicate: public camping. Recently, discussions began surrounding whether or not public camping should be considered a crime in Texas.

Addressing Homelessness

Cities have always been a haven for homelessness, as the numerous buildings can provide temporary shelter. Some homeless individuals seek refuge near buildings, while others set up camp in public areas. The topic of homelessness has been under discussion as of late as Austin political leaders have been developing a new strategy to address the area’s struggles with the homeless population. According to the Texas Homeless Network’s annual report, approximately 27,000 Texans experienced homelessness on a single night in 2020. This population is skewed to the Black community, with 37 percent of the homeless population consisting of Black individuals, even though they make up only 13 percent of Texas’ population. 

The legislators behind Senate Bill 987 highlight the economic and public health consequences that these public camping communities bring into Texas cities. For instance, the fires often lit in these public campsites can present deadly hazards to those in the encampments and the cities themselves. If passed, SB 987 would allow local governments to enact stricter camping ordinances and establish a statewide ban on public camping, making the act a property crime and Class C misdemeanor for violators. Though this misdemeanor classification is relatively low, those found guilty of camping on public property would still face criminal charges and fines.

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Fort Worth criminal defense lawyer for hate crimesAs increased awareness of racial discrimination has circulated across the country, many are left wondering whether the words and actions that they are seeing in news reports are considered hate crimes or other types of criminal offenses. Many racial attacks that have occurred over the last several months have been targeted at Asian-Americans, and in many cases, this violence has been in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, with some people falsely blaming Asians for the origin and spread of the virus. In fact, just a few weeks ago, a video was released of a violent attack in an Asian-owned beauty store in Houston. Some may be wondering whether violent crimes of this nature qualify as hate crimes.

Texas Hate Crime Laws Explained

Texas legislators took a strong stand against racial discrimination in 2001 after James Byrd, Jr. was violently killed by white supremacists in 1998. In response to the Black man’s death, previous state senator and now Harris County Commissioner Rodney Ellis pushed for sentencing enhancements for those found guilty of committing a hate crime. In other words, those who commit a hate crime will face increased jail time when compared to other crimes of that same magnitude. In order for an action to be considered a hate crime, one must prove that the person “acted out of bias towards the victim’s perceived color, race, religion, disability, national origin, gender, age, and/or sexual preference.

While proving that someone’s actions classify as a hate crime may seem like an easy task, this is more challenging than it often appears. According to ProPublica’s 2010-2015 analysis, there were 981 potential hate crime cases, and only five, or 0.5 percent, led to specific hate crime convictions. The reason it is so difficult? One must prove the intent of the person behind the crime. Pointing out that the statements or actions were discriminatory is often not enough to be convicted of a hate crime. Hate crime cases require the prosecutor to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the intent behind the person’s actions was motivated by the victim’s protected status. 

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Dallas, TX DWI defense lawyer for breathalyzer testsWhen a police officer pulls someone over, they will often be looking to determine whether the driver is under the influence of alcohol or drugs. If an officer suspects that you are driving while intoxicated (DWI), he or she may ask you to submit to a few tests to determine your level of intoxication. But as a Texas driver, are you required to submit to such testing?

Types of Sobriety Tests

There are several different types of tests that police officers may ask a driver to take, including preliminary blood alcohol tests and field sobriety tests that are meant to gauge the driver’s balance, reaction time, and ability to drive safely. These tests may include:

  1. Nystagmus: This is often the first field sobriety test that officers will use, since it does not require the driver to get out of the vehicle or use any devices. The officer will place a pen in between the driver’s eyes, asking him or her to follow the pen with their eyes. This measures the driver’s ability to focus and follow directions.

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Collin County criminal defense attorney domestic abuse

Domestic violence has been a long-standing epidemic for American women and men, especially for Texans. In the past decade, awareness regarding sexual harassment and assault in the workplace has led to major changes when it comes to employee training and discipline, including for those in positions of power. One Texas legislator, in particular, has made it her priority not to just make these changes in the workplace, but also to help those who are victims in their own homes. In 2018 alone, there were 212,885 victims of family violence in Texas, not including the number of victims who go unreported. While 71.6 percent of these victims were female, men are also victims of domestic violence, but they often let this crime against them fly under the radar. Those guilty of domestic violence should undoubtedly be held accountable for their actions, but if you are facing false accusations, an experienced criminal defense attorney can help.

Proposed Bill Calls for Advocacy

Hairstylists, barbers, and cosmetologists work in an environment where their customers come to them with an intimate request--help me with my appearance--and are comfortable chatting about the details of their lives. While clients may only see these individuals every few weeks or months, they build a trusting relationship with them in which they update them on what is currently going on in their life. State Representative Ana Hernandez recognized the intimate role of these professionals; not only do they hear about their clients’ lives from an outside perspective, but they also get a close look at their clients’ bodies or faces while working on them. 

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Denton County criminal defense attorney human trafficking

Since the Biden administration came into power just two months ago, immigration policies have changed from the previous administration’s “build a wall” mentality. Trump declared a state of emergency at the border at the beginning of 2019 to impose stricter immigration policies and reduce the influx of illegal immigration and crime along the Texas-Mexico border. One of President Biden’s first actions in office was to end this policy and cut the famous Trump administration’s border wall funding. Since then, Texas has seen a sharp increase in unaccompanied minors arriving at the border. Many believe that human traffickers are helping migrants cross the border, and Texas Governor Greg Abbott intends on getting to the bottom of things.

Increasing Security to Protect Children

This past week, Gov. Abbott referred to the recent influx of unaccompanied minors along the Texas-Mexico border as a “humanitarian crisis.” These migrant numbers have increased so much that the Dallas convention center is being converted into a temporary shelter for these children. The converted convention center housing thousands of migrant children will allow these young kids and teens to socialize and exercise after experiencing incredible trauma. The governor requested access for the Texas Department of Public Safety officers to the children so that they can interview the kids about their experiences and try to identify human traffickers. Gov. Abbott is adamant in obtaining this information so that “America can combat these human traffickers and prevent other children from being victimized.” 

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Fort Worth criminal defense attorney drug trafficking

Drug trafficking is never a one-man operation. In some cases, the drug sales may be moving locally across various hands while in others the drug trafficking operation can span across the globe. A federal grand jury in the Eastern District of Texas indicted eight individuals for their illicit involvement in an international drug trafficking conspiracy. Only one of the people involved is actually from Texas despite the case happening in a Texas court. So why is the case taking place in the Lone Star State and what are the charges being made?

Texas As Home Base

Eight individuals, including 40-year-old Carlos Villaurrutia of McAllen, Texas, were charged with conspiracies to manufacture and distribute cocaine, commit money laundering, commit wire fraud, commit export violations, and commit federal registration violations involving an aircraft. According to the indictment, these eight people have been involved in approximately $350 million in alleged criminal offenses over the past five years. 

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Collin County criminal defense attorney sexual assault

No matter how much time has passed after a crime has been committed, new evidence can surface and bring the case back into the limelight. In some cases, improved technology can reveal a person’s true role in the crime, while in others, a larger budget can allow law enforcement to conduct a deeper dive into the evidence. Female sexual assault victims from Fort Worth may be on the brink of getting the justice that they deserve after movements were made this past week. But what if they have the wrong person? As the years go by, it can become increasingly difficult to remember your exact whereabouts and activity on the night the crime was committed, making your defense less and less foolproof.

Justice in Fort Worth

This past week, an alleged serial rapist was arrested for attacking women in 2010 and 2011 after detectives found a DNA match linking him to the crimes. Pedro Samarrippas has also been connected to another 2011 Fort Worth case, and detectives have room to believe that he may have more victims spread throughout Fort Worth. Samarrippas was arrested in late February on two warrants for sexual assault. These have remained cold cases until Texas Rangers recently received a grant that allowed them to conduct comparisons of unknown DNA through a database known as the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS). This database helped them link the unknown DNA to Samarrippas. These two sexual assault cases, in addition to another sexual assault that occurred in McAllen, Texas in 2002, all contained unknown matching DNA samples that led detectives to Samarrippas.  

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Collin County criminal defense attorney fraud

Although Texas is not often highlighted in the news for its snowstorms, the recent deadly snowstorms throughout the state placed the Lone Star State at the top of the news cycle. Many news outlets reported how a shortage of natural gas left Texans without power in the midst of freezing temperatures and non-stop snow. Coined “Winter Storm Uri,” the Texas snowstorm resulted in numerous tragedies, including one mother’s devastating story of losing her own mother and three children in a fire that was being used to keep them warm during the power outages. With conditions like these, one would think that the state would rally together, but unfortunately, the panic-induced conditions have led to reports of alleged white collar crimes.

Warnings from the FTC

You have likely received numerous unknown calls over the years in which the person on the other line pretends to be informing you of overdue charges, identity theft, and more. Typically, you can pick up on the recorded, robotic voice or notice that the information they are asking you for is financially related. But what about those times when you are caught off guard, such as during a statewide, devastating snowstorm? Last week, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) released a warning about scammers targeting those without power due to the weather conditions. According to the warning, scammers often use these conditions to their advantage, knowing that you may have had your electricity, heat, or water turned off and pose as your utility company. The person on the other line may apologize for your loss of power and offer you a reimbursement for your most recent payment, first asking for your bank account information. You may also receive an email stating that there is an error in their system and that they need your personal information before turning on your gas again. You can also receive false threats that your utilities will be turned off if money is not sent over immediately. All of these scare tactics, especially in the midst of a statewide emergency, can be convincing enough to leave many desperate Texans with empty bank accounts.

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Collin County criminal defense attorney murder

The U.S. court system is meant to provide every person with a fair trial—everyone is considered innocent until proven guilty—but what happens when that system fails? What if the judge and jury’s verdict is not reflective of the truth? One Texas woman, and many others in the criminal justice system, have experienced this firsthand. She was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time, and later suffered the consequences. For those who find themselves in this exact situation, is there a solution to save them from facing unwarranted penalties for criminal charges in Texas?

Rosa Jimenez Is Set Free

Rosa Jimenez spent the past 18 years behind bars for a crime she allegedly did not commit. After leaving her home in Mexico City for a better life in Austin at the age of 17, Jimenez found work as a babysitter to a 21-month-old child. The child choked on a wad of paper towels and died while in Jimenez’s care. Anyone who has a child knows that children put anything and everything in their mouth, leaving them at constant risk of choking hazards. Though Jimenez claims the child died accidentally, she was charged with murder and sentenced to 99 years imprisonment. She was not an inexperienced caregiver, as Jimenez is a mother of two, yet this accident left her life bound behind prison bars.

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Collin County criminal defense attorney weapons charges

Over the past 10 years, the state of Texas has seen seven mass shootings, which in the aftermath of the tragedy led to conversations from lawmakers about the state’s gun laws. In August 2019, the state was devastated by back-to-back shootings in El Paso and Odessa, the likes of which left 30 people dead and dozens more injured. According to reports from the Poynter Institute, over 3,000 people are killed with a gun each year in Texas. Citizens are divided over how gun control should be handled in the state, with 40-50 percent of University of Texas poll participants stating that they want stricter gun control throughout the state. With requests like these, one may be concerned that weapons charges may become more stringent yet Governor Greg Abbott begs to differ.

A Second Amendment Sanctuary

Over the past several weeks, Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick have met with state lawmakers and publicly expressed their willingness to consider at least one gun control proposal which could make it more challenging for Texans to buy firearms. Yet Gov. Abbott’s words during the first 2021 legislative session reveals different priorities. According to the governor, he believes that the state needs to “erect a complete barrier against any government official anywhere from treading on gun rights in Texas.” He did not mention last year’s deadly mass shootings in El Paso and Odessa, but following those tragedies, Gov. Abbott raised concerns about Texas laws that allow private gun sales between strangers without proper background checks. Additionally, he recommended several ideas on how to keep guns out of the hands of people who should not possess them, including banning “straw purchases.” These currently legal purchases allow someone to purchase a gun for another person. In regards to stranger-to-stranger sales, Gov. Abbott did not push for mandatory background checks, but rather suggested ways that the legislature could make it “easy, affordable, and beneficial for a private seller of firearms to voluntarily use background checks when selling firearms to strangers.” 

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Tarrant County criminal defense attorney drug possession

Policing and the criminal justice system has been under intense scrutiny over the past year. With tapes being released showing police brutality and mass gatherings protesting law enforcement tactics, many government officials have been forced to rethink how public safety is being reinforced. A recent article released by Chron reveals that a number of Texas counties are not prosecuting minor crimes. For some, this may seem like a red flag for a lack of public safety, while others may see this as a nod in the right direction for the criminal justice system.

Crimes That Will Not Get You Prosecuted

With the overcrowding of prisons and the high cost of the current criminal justice system, some Texas district attorneys are changing county policies in an attempt to reduce the jail population.  Chron reporting reveals four locations that have taken a more modern, laissez-faire approach to criminal justice and policing:

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Collin County criminal defense attorney

Mental illnesses are undoubtedly an epidemic that has plagued the United States for hundreds of years. Awareness surrounding mental health has surged over the past few decades, recognizing the devastating impact that a mental illness can have on one’s life. According to data from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), nearly one in five U.S. adults live with a mental illness. The relationship between mental health and criminality has been under discussion as mass shootings are often attributed to the guilty party’s mental state. So, what happens if someone commits a crime and has a severe mental illness? On the opposing side, is mental illness being used as an excuse to keep people out of prison?

Incompetency to Stand Trial

Texas law recognizes that not everyone is of the proper mental state to stand trial. If the defendant’s attorney raises the question of incompetency to the court, there will be legal procedures followed to verify whether or not the claim has substance and avoid the possibility of incompetency being used as an excuse to avoid harsher criminal penalties. The court will begin by asking for evidence that incompetency is a factor in the case. If some form of evidence can be presented, the court will appoint their own experts to examine the defendant and report to the court on the competency or incompetency of the defendant. The person facing criminal charges can also be examined by an expert of his or her choice to verify the results found by the court-appointed professional.

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