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Plano criminal defense lawyerEverybody knows that stealing is against the law. But what many people do not know, and are often surprised to learn only after criminal charges have been brought against them, is that buying something that was stolen is also against the law. This is also true if the stolen item was given to you as a gift or a loan. Receipt, possession, or purchase of stolen property is illegal - if you knew (or should have known) that the item was stolen. 

Unfortunately, sometimes people accidentally purchase or are given things they did not know were stolen. If this has happened to you, it is important to secure the help of a Texas criminal defense attorney right away so you are not punished for receipt of stolen property. 

How Can the Prosecutor Say I “Should Have Known” the Property Was Stolen? 

The law against receipt of stolen property applies even if you did not know the thing you bought was stolen - as long as the prosecution can prove that you should have known. How is it possible to read someone’s mind and tell whether they should have known? We can look at a classic example of such a situation to get a better idea. 

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Plano criminal defense lawyerWhen one person in Texas causes harm to another person unprovoked, that person has usually committed a crime. And while physical harm is never a pleasant thing to experience, the law recognizes that all physical harm is not alike; a slap in the face, while provoking someone to feel anger, pain, or fright, is not the same as suffering a leg injury so serious that you lose the ability to walk for the rest of your life. For this reason, criminal charges and punishments involving assault depend on the seriousness of the physical injuries suffered. 

What is Serious Bodily Injury in Texas?

Every state defines the idea of serious bodily injury somewhat differently, and whether a specific injury constitutes serious bodily injury can sometimes be open to interpretation by the jury in a criminal defense case. Texas law considers an injury to be a “serious bodily injury” when that injury creates a substantial risk of death or causes death, permanent disfigurement, or long-term loss of any part of the body.

Examples include, but are not limited to: 

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Texas federal criminal defense attorneyDuring the time following the end of WWII through the early 1970s, the United States experienced a period of massive economic growth. Automation, full employment, and a developing transportation system all enabled significant financial gains across many sectors. However, along with the opportunity to make money came those looking to game the system, and organized crime spiked. 

In response to this influx of organized crime, lawmakers in 1970 signed the Racketeer Influenced and Corruptions (RICO) Act into law and it remains in place to this day. The consequences for federal racketeering charges are serious and defending against them requires a fearless criminal defense attorney with experience combatting state and federal criminal charges

What is Racketeering? 

Racketeering is the act of obtaining money through illegal business activities or extortion. Under the RICO Act, as well as the Texas Penal Code, it is illegal for someone to plan or commit certain crimes in collaboration with an enterprise. What counts as an enterprise, however, is subject to much speculation and frustration because the definition is so vague. While the RICO Act was originally meant to cover organized criminal organizations like the mafia or motorcycle gangs, even people who do not know each other have been found to be in violation of the RICO Act as the government tries to take down allegedly corrupt organizations. 

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Texas federal hate crime defense lawyerExtensive news coverage has been recently given to alleged perpetrators of hate crimes all across America. Sometimes what constitutes a hate crime can seem fairly obvious, but other times charges of hate crimes seem to be overzealously filed against those who are merely expressing their opinions. Both Texas state and federal laws protect citizens against hate crimes, but few people know what actually constitutes a hate crime and may be surprised when charges of a federal hate crime are filed against them. Here are three facts about federal hate crimes. 

What is a Hate Crime? 

When someone assaults a random person on the street and robs them of their wallet, that may seem equally wrong no matter what the sex, race, religion, or national origin of the victim may be. But when the perpetrator of such a crime commits the crime because the victim is a member of a federally protected class, the crime becomes a hate crime. A hate crime is a crime committed against someone who has specific characteristics, whether real or perceived, that are defined and protected under the law. 

Can I Be Charged with a Hate Crime for Planning to Commit a Crime? 

While charges are usually filed against someone who is alleged to have committed a crime such as arson of a religious institution, hate crime charges can also be filed against someone who is alleged to have conspired to commit a crime - even if they never actually did commit the crime they were planning. For example, a man was recently sentenced to 20 years in federal prison for planning to target Jewish worshippers at a synagogue. Although he discussed plans to take action with undercover agents, he never actually attacked the synagogue. 

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Plano federal animal cruelty charges defense attorneyIn 2019, President Trump signed the Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture Act (PACT) into law. Although every state previously had felony charges for cruelty to animals, the bill introduced the possibility of federal criminal charges for similar behavior. Now, federal prosecutors have the power and backing of the federal government to prosecute acts such as encouraging dogs or roosters to participate in fights and even selling or distributing videos of animals fighting.

For people in Texas who have been charged with extreme animal abuse, this new law can enhance already existing Texas state laws and bring serious penalties. If you have been accused of state or federal animal cruelty or abuse, it is essential to get competent criminal defense representation right away. 

What is Animal Cruelty? 

Among other abusive actions, it was already illegal to torture, abandon, overwork, or poison an animal in Texas; abandoning or failing to provide care for an animal is also illegal. Persons convicted under Texas state law of cruelty to animals can lose their animals, pay fines, and face jail time. 

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Texas federal criminal defense lawyerThe state of Texas takes auto theft very seriously; in fact, many cities, including Dallas, have their own auto theft police units. Consequences for stealing a car can range from misdemeanor charges, such as for a juvenile who takes a parent’s car on a joyride without permission, to felony charges at the federal level for grand theft auto. Grand theft auto, which occurs when a vehicle is stolen and moved to a new location with the intent to sell or otherwise deprive the owner permanently, carries serious consequences, including potential federal charges. If you have been charged with auto theft or carjacking, your future employment, reputation, and freedom could be at serious risk. 

Texas State Auto Theft Charges 

Texas has a unique class of criminal charges called “state jail felonies,” which are labeled as a felony but which punish a crime with jail time, rather than prison time. People charged with stealing a car in Texas are usually charged with unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, which is a state jail felony; consequences include a minimum of six months to two years in jail, and fines up to 10,000 dollars. 

However, if a car is worth more than $30,000, the charges can be bumped up to a third-degree felony, which allows between two and ten years in prison and fines up to $10,000. Additional actions, such as car theft performed by a public servant, against an elderly individual, or in conjunction with violent activities like carjacking, the consequences can be increased. 

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Plano sex crimes defense lawyerAny kind of sexual activity with minors is treated harshly by Texas law. Even when alleged perpetrators of sex crimes with minors never actually met a minor for sexual activity, if they are charged with soliciting a minor they can face serious consequences. Soliciting a minor often comes with additional charges; in Texas, soliciting prostitution with a consenting adult is a felony, even for the first offense. If you have been charged with soliciting a minor, get help from a Texas criminal defense lawyer right away. 

Internet Stings

Charges for soliciting a minor often result from internet “sting” operations in which a law enforcement professional pretends to be a minor. When someone above the legal age of consent in Texas (17 years old) tries to use the internet simply to communicate in a sexually explicit way with a minor, it is a third-degree felony. This includes sending photos, emails, and even text messages. When the minor involved is under 14 years old, the charges can be upgraded to a second-degree felony. 

When someone above the age of consent tries to use the internet, or any other form of electronic communication, to induce a minor to meet for sexual activity, it is a second-degree felony. Police officers pretending to be minors often take time to allow an online “relationship” to develop, keeping and using communication between themselves and the target as evidence later on. When the alleged perpetrator tries to schedule a meeting with the minor, the police arrive and make an arrest. 

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Plano sex crimes defense lawyerTexas high school, middle school, and elementary school teachers are in a position of significant power and influence over their students. Teachers sometimes spend more time with children than children spend with their parents and the relationship between teachers and students can provide much-needed structure and authority that helps children in tough situations thrive. 

However, when these relationships are not kept strictly platonic, teachers can run into serious trouble. Public and private school teachers are not permitted to have sexual relationships with students, even if the relationship is consensual. Texas law specifically mentions and prohibits these relationships and addresses not only teachers, but also counselors, administrators, and any other school employee. If you are a teacher who has been accused of an improper relationship with one of your students, read on. 

Even Consensual Relationships Are Illegal

Teachers are often not much older than their students, especially when their students are seniors in high school. A recent college graduate or teacher’s aide might only be three or four years older than their oldest students, and the temptation to develop a more serious relationship may feel natural and compelling. However, these relationships are almost always illegal—even if the student is not in the teacher’s class, consents to the relationship, and has reached the age of legal consent. 

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Plano crimes against children attorneyWhen mentally competent adults commit crimes in Texas, they are charged and tried as adults with the expectation that they understood the implications of their behavior when they committed the crime. But juvenile crimes are treated differently, in large part because a minor’s brain is still developing and the connection between an action and its consequence may not be clear. 

So, when an adult allows, helps, or encourages a juvenile to break the law, Texas takes this very seriously. The adult can be charged not only with breaking the law, but with “contributing to the delinquency of a minor.” According to Texas law, a person can be held responsible for an offense when the offense was committed by another person if they are criminally responsible for helping that person commit the offense. If you have been charged with contributing to juvenile delinquency, the consequences could be serious and it is important to have a competent criminal defense team on your side. 

What Could Be Considered Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor? 

The actions that could constitute contributing to the delinquency of a minor can vary in their seriousness as well as in their punishments. For example, if a parent willingly keeps a child out of school, allowing the child to be habitually truant, the parent may be required to participate in counseling, classes, or community service. But if a parent allows a child to use illegal drugs, or if a parent is repeatedly charged and convicted with contributing to the delinquency of a minor, they may be hit with felony charges

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Collin County criminal defense attorneyHuman trafficking has gained significant public notoriety in recent years with high-profile campaigns meant to bring awareness and eradication of this issue. While human trafficking does exist, there are legitimate questions as to whether its prevalence has been somewhat exaggerated, leading to an overzealous law enforcement response that often rushes to judgment without sufficient evidence. This is especially true if the allegations of human trafficking involve child victims. If you have been charged with child trafficking, it is important to take these charges seriously and understand the potential consequences of conviction. 

What is Child Trafficking? 

Any person who intentionally entices, recruits, transports, harbors, or restricts the movement of someone to force them to provide work or services, including sexual acts, may be guilty of human trafficking. If the alleged victim is a minor, the behavior is considered child trafficking and the penalties are more serious. Child trafficking often involves illegal sexual acts between adults and children, including prostitution, child pornography, sexual abuse, and indecency with a child. Even if a person engaged in sexual conduct with someone who they did not know was a trafficked minor, they may be charged with child trafficking. 

What Are the Punishments for Child Trafficking in Texas? 

Because Texas shares a large border with Mexico, many trafficked children are brought into the country through Texas and Texas has taken a particularly aggressive stance on the issue of human trafficking. The least aggressive punishment is a second degree felony. Second degree felonies allow up to 20 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines. 

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Plano white collar crime attorneysNearly every schoolchild has, at some point, technically committed forgery. Signing a parent’s signature on a report card, permission slip, or other release form is a common mistake and children who are caught have a valuable learning experience without serious consequences. But when an adult in Texas commits the crime of forgery, the penalties can be serious and the offender risks damaging his or her criminal record, personal freedom, and reputation. To learn more about what constitutes criminal forgery in Texas and what the penalties are, read on. 

What is Forgery? 

Forgery is a “white-collar crime,” so called because it is a nonviolent, financially motivated law-breaking activity. When someone deceptively signs someone else’s name, changes information, or gives false information in writing with the intent to defraud or harm others for his or her own benefit, this is considered criminal forgery. Texas law requires one of three things to be present for writing to rise to the level of forgery: 

  1. The writing appears to be the act of someone who did not authorize that act
  2. The writing was made to look as if it happened in a time, place, or order in which it did not actually occur, or 
  3. The writing is claimed to be a copy of an original that never existed

Writing includes handwritten items like a forged signature, as well as printing, recorded information, money, credit cards, or similar financial instruments, or other symbols of value or identification, such as a fake ID card.

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Plano federal criminal defense attorneyWhen we think of money laundering in Texas, we might think of relatively small-scale enterprises like car washes, nail salons, and laundromats that offer customers the opportunity to pay in cash and allow the owners to hide ill-gotten money. But in the age of cryptocurrency, money laundering does not follow traditional means of obfuscation.  

Just a few days ago, an American couple made the news when they were arrested for stealing more than 3.6 billion dollars’ worth of cryptocurrency. Charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering and conspiracy to defraud the United States, this couple’s situation sheds light on how technology can complicate areas of criminal law that are still being developed. 

Is Money Laundering a State or Federal Crime? 

Even if the crime of money laundering is committed exclusively in the state of Texas, a person may be charged with federal money laundering crimes if they use or try to use money they know was illegally obtained. Certain types of crimes can also bring federal money laundering charges, such as: 

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Texas expungement lawyerNobody is perfect. We all make mistakes from time to time, and while some of these mistakes are more serious than others, a poor choice in your past should not prevent you from making better choices in the future. Sometimes, however, a criminal record can keep you from moving forward and getting better opportunities. Getting a great job, applying for a professional license, and even getting approved to live in the apartment community of your choice can all be hampered by a criminal record. If you are wondering whether you may be able to clear your name of past wrongdoing in Texas with the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney, read on. 

Understanding Expunction

Texas distinguishes between two ways of clearing your record and the process you need will depend on your situation. The first way is via expunction. You may be able to have your criminal record expunged of misdemeanor and felony charges if you meet one of the following circumstances: 

  • You were never charged with a crime
  • Your charges were dismissed 
  • Your case resulted in an acquittal
  • A jury returned a not-guilty verdict
  • You were arrested because of identity theft, not because you committed the crime
  • Your conviction was acquitted in an appeal 
  • Your conviction was later pardoned 

There is no waiting period for an expunction if you were arrested and charged but later acquitted or pardoned. If you were arrested for a crime but never formally charged, the time you must wait before applying for an expunction depends on the severity of the crime. The wait times, from the date of the arrest, are as follows: 

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Plano sex crimes attorneyIndividuals in Texas cannot consent to sexual conduct until they reach 17 years of age. In the strict legal sense, anyone younger than that cannot consent to sexual activity with an adult. You may not realize it, but you can be charged with sexual assault against a child if you are an adult who engages in sexual conduct with someone age 16 or younger even if you think that person “consents” to such conduct. In this blog, we will explore the concept of legal consent and how it applies to relationships between two people of close age when one person is below the age of consent. 

What is Legal Consent? 

Everybody knows that rape is wrong. It is against the law. But each state has a law saying that, under a certain age, a young person is not old enough to legally consent to sex even if they want to. In Texas, that age is 17. Texas does not recognize the term “statutory rape,” which is frequently used to describe sex between an adult and a minor who is near the age of consent. Instead, sexual conduct with or without the permission of a child under age 17 is sexual assault of a child. 

If an adult is charged with sexual assault, they cannot use the minor’s permission as proof of consent. Even if the adult thought the minor was over age 17, the adult can still be charged with sexual assault against a child and receive up to 20 years in prison, up to $10,000 in fines, and registration on the sex offender list. 

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Tarrant County Sex Crimes Defense LawyerTeachers can often be placed in a difficult position when dealing with students. While some high school students may seem mature as they get closer to reaching the age where they are considered to be adults, teachers will still need to respect boundaries and avoid certain types of situations and interactions. Unfortunately, cases where teachers are accused of acting inappropriately are all too common. However, while there are a variety of interactions between teachers and students that some people may consider to be inappropriate, criminal charges for improper relationships between teachers and students will generally only apply if there is evidence that a teacher and student have engaged in sexual contact or sexual intercourse. An ongoing case in Conroe, Texas serves as a good example of the types of teacher-student relationships that may lead to arrests and criminal charges.

Conroe Teacher Accused of Having a Sexual Relationship With a High School Student

In January of 2022, a female science teacher at a high school in the Conroe school district was arrested and charged with having an inappropriate relationship with a student and indecency with a child. Law enforcement officials began investigating the teacher after the student’s family members reported that the teacher and student had been having a sexual relationship. According to these reports, the teacher and student had intercourse multiple times, and the student had spent the night at the teacher’s home. Online messages between the teacher and student also indicated that the teacher had given the student money to buy drugs, and the teacher had sent the student sexually explicit pictures of herself.

Based on these reports, the teacher may face criminal charges for multiple types of offenses. The charge of “inappropriate relationship between educator and student” may apply in any situation where a teacher or school employee engages in sexual contact or sexual intercourse with a student enrolled in elementary school, middle school, or high school. One defense against these charges may include showing that a teacher was no more than three years older than the student in question, and the teacher and student had a relationship before the person began working as a teacher. However, the teacher in this case is 36 years old, so this defense will not apply.

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Collin County Criminal Defense LawyerNearly every week, we publish blogs covering a variety of topics related to criminal defense. Our goal is to provide readers with helpful information about the types of charges people may face, including in state and federal courts, as well as the potential defense strategies that may be available. Our firm works to protect the rights of defendants and help them resolve criminal cases successfully. We wanted to highlight the most-read blogs from 2021, and we plan to continue covering similar topics in the months and years to come.

  1. Can a Parent Face Charges for Leaving a Child Home Alone in Texas? - We look at how Texas law addresses these situations and when parents may be accused of child neglect or charged with offenses such as child abandonment or child endangerment.

  2. What Actions Can Lead to Charges of Credit Card Fraud? - We describe the situations that could lead to fraud charges based on the illegal use of credit cards or financial accounts while also looking at the penalties for fraud under Texas laws and federal laws.

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Fort Worth Federal Criminal Defense LawyerGun violence is an ongoing issue in the United States. In many cases, the firearms used in crimes are purchased or acquired in states other than where crimes involving these guns occur. Since Texas is a state that has been identified as a common source of firearms used in other states, dealers or private gun sellers in Texas will need to be aware of possible violations of the law that could result in federal criminal charges.

Federal Crimes Involving the Sale or Transfer of Firearms

Firearms trafficking will typically involve gun diversion in which firearms that are legally purchased are transferred into the possession of people who are not legally allowed to possess firearms or who go on to use these guns when committing a criminal offense. Straw purchasing, in which one person purchases a firearm on behalf of someone else, is one of the most common methods of gun diversion. Guns may also be diverted into illegal markets through private sales by firearm owners or thefts from firearm dealers or sellers.

In most cases, The specific federal offenses in cases involving firearms may include:

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Fort Worth Child Abduction Defense LawyerChild custody disputes can be very contentious. When parents get divorced or break up, they may disagree strongly about where their children will live and when they will spend time in each parent’s home. Ongoing conflicts between parents may lead a person to take action to try to keep their children with them or prevent a child from spending time with the other parent. While parents may be aware that attempts to do so may affect child custody proceedings, they may not realize that these actions could potentially lead to criminal charges for kidnapping, child abduction, or interference with child custody.

What Is Interference With Child Custody?

Texas law specifies that taking a child in violation of a child custody order is a criminal offense. This charge may apply if a parent knowingly takes a child under the age of 18 in violation of the terms of a court order, including temporary orders put in place while a couple’s divorce or a suit affecting the parent-child relationship (SAPCR) is pending. In cases where custody has not yet been decided, a parent may face charges if they take a child out of the geographic area where they currently live in an attempt to prevent legal child custody proceedings from taking place. A parent may also be charged with a crime if they take the child out of the United States in order to deprive a parent who is entitled to custody of access to the child. 

Interference with child custody may be charged in situations where a parent forces a child to leave the other parent or when they persuade or entice a child to come with them in violation of a child custody order. This offense is a state jail felony, and a person who is convicted may be sentenced to between six months and two years in prison.

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Tarrant County Criminal Defense LawyerWhile all criminal charges can be serious, certain types of offenses can lead to especially harsh sentences that can affect a person for the rest of their life. These include sex crimes, and a person who is convicted of these types of offenses may not only be sentenced to prison and required to pay large fines, but they can face restrictions that affect nearly every aspect of their lives. When a person is required to register as a sex offender, this may limit where they can live, what types of jobs they can hold, their ability to pursue education or obtain loans, and their personal relationships. By understanding when sex offender registration will be required and the restrictions that this will place on a person, a criminal defendant can determine the steps they can take to avoid or minimize the consequences of a conviction.

Reportable Convictions and Adjudications

Sex offender registration is required for anyone who has a “reportable conviction or adjudication,” including those who plan to live in Texas after being convicted of certain sex crimes in another state. Crimes that require sex offender registration include:

Tarrant County Criminal Defense AttorneyThere are multiple types of controlled substances that are regulated at the state and federal levels, and people who use or sell these drugs without authorization may face criminal charges for drug possession or drug distribution. While most people may think of drug crimes as involving “hard drugs” like heroin, cocaine, or methamphetamines, more and more of these cases are related to prescription opioids. These drugs can be highly addictive and dangerous, and law enforcement officials may investigate and prosecute those who are suspected of issuing illegal prescriptions or engaging in other types of drug trafficking.

Opioid Possession and Distribution Charges

Prescription opioid painkillers have been used for multiple decades, but the use and abuse of these drugs has exploded in recent years. These drugs include:

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