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Recent blog posts

In most circumstances, a police officer needs a warrant before searching a residence. However, an officer can bypass this little detail if a legal resident of the home agrees to the police search. So what rights do you have if your roommate lets an officer into your home?

The Roommate Scenario 

Luckily, your roommate isn’t the same as a family member. Even though you share the same space, there are specific areas and items that belong to each of you individually. A police officer cannot search the private room of someone who is not present to grant consent. So, even if your roommate grants consent to a police offer, any evidence discovered in your private spaces may not hold up in court. This rule also applies to any closed boxes or bags. If they are specifically yours and pointedly closed, then the officer cannot touch them without your explicit consent or a warrant.

It is, however, up to the court to decide if your roommate has the authority to let an officer search your private rooms and items. For example, if you are in a romantic relationship or just happen to share a bedroom with your roommate, then that space is fair game. Luckily, an officer is unable to search your residence without a warrant if you have two roommates and only one grants consent.

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If you are caught shoplifting in Texas, you’ll have to deal with not only an embarrassing social experience, but also significant and overwhelming legal consequences. According to the Texas Penal Code, shoplifting offenses are aggressively judged and punishable as theft.

Shoplifting offenses include:

  • Stealing items
  • Intentionally writing bad checks
  • Altering price tags

Your Charges

The legal penalties for a theft charge increase depending on the value of the stolen merchandise and your prior offenses.  Adult shoplifters can also be sued by retailers for actual damages and additional damages up to $1,000. If a child is caught shoplifting, a retailer can sue the parents and guardians for actual damages up to $5,000.

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Intentionally setting a fire may qualify as arson, but when is the charge escalated to attempted murder? Below, we discuss the laws concerning both arson and attempted murder, as well as how the court associates the two crimes.

How Texas Law Defines Arson

Arson is the use of fire or an explosive to destroy property. Defined under Texas Penal Code 28.01, destroying another person’s property, any property within city limits, or any property with a mortgage or insurance policy is a form of arson. Additionally, you can face arson charges if you were reckless in starting the fire; i.e. the fire endangers, or has the opportunity to endanger, another person.

State law generally classifies the crime as a second-degree felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison. If the arson resulted in bodily harm or death, whether intentional or unintentional, the charge escalates to a first-degree felony punishable by life imprisonment, or up to 99 years in prison. If the court finds that the harm or death was intended, you could be charged with arson in conjunction with an attempted murder charge.

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What Is Mortgage Fraud?

Posted on in Criminal Defense

There are hundreds of forms of fraud, but few deal directly with a financial institution.  Mortgage fraud is one of them. What is mortgage fraud, how is it committed, and what punishments could you face for committing the crime in Texas? We answer these questions and more below.

Definition of Mortgage Fraud

Mortgage fraud occurs when you intentionally deceive a financial institution, often by falsifying information, in order to obtain a mortgage. Under Texas law, mortgage fraud can be committed in a variety of ways and is subject to harsh punishments.

Types of Mortgage Fraud

Some of the most common forms of mortgage fraud are as follows:

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Planning to commit virtually any crime—murder, mail fraud, drug distribution, etc.—is considered to be conspiracy and can lead to criminal charges. As conspiracy is linkable to any crime, there are a variety of defenses you can use to fight the charges. We’ve listed the 4 most common below. Read on to learn more.

1.You Never Agreed to Participate with the Co-conspirator

In order to convict you of conspiracy, the court must prove that you and a co-conspirator agreed to commit the crime you’ve been accused of. Unless you or one of your co-conspirators admit to the conspiracy agreement or the court finds some other evidence that you and your partner intended to carry out the crime, this can be difficult to prove.

Another possible defense would be that you were charged with conspiracy while having no knowledge that your co-conspirator actually planned on committing the crime. Fantasizing or conversing about committing a crime is not a crime if you can prove that you believed the conversation was hypothetical.

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Every crime is different, and so are the sentences that come with them. So what are the differences between infractions, misdemeanors, and felonies? How can the type of crime impact your sentence? At The Crowder Law Firm, P.C., we answer these questions and more. Keep reading!

Infraction

An infraction is the least severe, finable offense the court can charge you for. It’s a petty offense that typically doesn’t appear on background checks and doesn’t involve any court or jail time. However, if left unpaid, or after multiple offenses, the violation can escalate from an infraction to a misdemeanor.

A few examples of an infraction include:

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In Texas, driving while intoxicated (DWI) cases are typically featured on the local news throughout the state. However, rarely do these stories involve individuals charged with DWI in parked vehicles. But unfortunately, if you are drunk and asleep in a parked car, you may still be charged with a DWI in Texas and many other states throughout the country.

According to Texas law, a person commits a DWI when he or she is “operating” a motor vehicle in a public place while intoxicated. Although state law defines what it means to be intoxicated and what is considered a motor vehicle, it doesn’t define the term operating.

Due to the broadness of the term, it has been left up to the courts to define. Generally speaking, if the prosecution has circumstantial evidence that an individual had been operating a motor vehicle, the proofs may be sufficient to meet their burden of proof before a jury or judge, even without eyewitness testimony that a person was actually operating at the time.

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Facing a DWI charge is a stressful and frightening experience. However, despite how emotionally overwhelming the situation may appear, it is important to understand that what you choose to do after your arrest is going to affect the final outcome of your case.

With severe penalties for DWI convictions in Texas (maximum jail sentence of 180 days, fine of up to $2,000, and driver’s license suspension for up to one year), individuals facing drunk driving charges need to be extremely careful to avoid certain mistakes that could jeopardize their legal defense.

The following are common mistakes people make after a drunk driving arrest:

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The presumption of innocence—“innocent until proven guilty”—is one of the foundations of criminal justice law in the United States and other countries which follow a common law tradition. The only way to overcome this presumption in a criminal trial is for the prosecution to prove “beyond a reasonable doubt” that the defendant committed the crime that he or she has been charged with.

Proof beyond a reasonable doubt is the legal standard that the prosecution must meet in order to successfully find a criminal defendant guilty of a crime. This standard applies to each element of the criminal offense and is the highest standard of proof possible, which helps to reduce the likelihood of wrongful convictions, the risk of innocent people being deprived of their liberty, and ensures all citizens’ rights are better protected.

Reasonable doubt is required in criminal proceedings under the “due process clause” of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. The U.S. Supreme Court first discussed the term in Miles v. United States (1880) by stating, “The evidence upon which a jury is justified in returning a verdict of guilty must be sufficient to produce a conviction of guilt, to the exclusion of all reasonable doubt.”

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Facing criminal charges can change your life forever. While the stress you experience in these situations can seem overwhelming, it is imperative to remember that (1) you are innocent until proven guilty, (2) you may have various viable defense options in your case, and (3) hiring an experiencing criminal defense lawyer can help you develop the most effective defense strategy possible.

Attorneys can use various arguments to protect your rights and to make the prosecution prove its case. Whether it’s during the pre-trial face or presented to the jury, these defenses can be raised at several points on the timeline of a case.

There are defenses when the defendant claims that the facts alleged by the prosecutor are incorrect or untrue. By contrast, there are affirmative defenses, which admit the factual allegations but excuse the defendant’s conduct that would otherwise be unlawful.

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Assault is either causing physical harm to someone or threatening someone to the point where they could reasonably expect that they were about to sustain physical harm. No actual harm needs to occur for this crime to be charged; merely being indicating that you might harm someone is enough to warrant a charge in most instances. While assault charges wobble between being either a misdemeanor or felony, there are some defenses you could use to justify your actions and prove that no crime was committed. Perhaps the most obvious one is to argue that your actions were committed in what’s known as “affirmative defense,” which is a fancy way of essentially saying that they were done in order to defend yourself.

Here are the three ways in which affirmative defense can apply.

Defense of Self

The law does permit you to use physical assault against someone in order to defend yourself. Say for example you were being robbed at gunpoint. If you were able to act quickly and subdue the would-be attacker with a quick, swift punch to the jaw that knocks them unconscious, then you can argue that your actions prevented the robber from harming you. The evidence would greatly support that in this instance, since your attacker did have a gun that they were using to threaten bodily harm and intimidate you into handing over your valuables.

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If you’ve been arrested and charged with a simple misdemeanor, you may be tempted to think that you can get away with simply handling the matter yourself. Whether you want to just accept the penalty, pay your fine, and move on with your life, or attempt to defend yourself and see if you can get your charges dismissed, many people think they can handle their issue on their own. However, should they try? Turns out, that may not be the best idea.

Serious Consequences of a Misdemeanor Conviction

When you face misdemeanor charges for things like loitering, disorderly conduct, or being intoxicated in public, you may be tempted to think that these are minor charges that won’t have much of an impact on your life. To a certain extent, you’re right. These offenses rarely carry jail time, usually have a minor fine of around $500 or so (sometimes even less) and you can move on with your life without issue.

However, what you may not realize is that your crime could be more serious than you thought. Those who have been convicted of a misdemeanor could face serious consequences when it comes to things like finding housing, seeking employment, and much more. What you may think was just a minor consequence of a crazy night could come back to haunt you later when you find out that you’ve been passed over for a new job or you’ve even been terminated as a result of your no longer clean criminal history. It might seem harsh, but it happens.

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Every parent dreads getting the call from law enforcement saying their child has been arrested and charged with a crime. However, sadly these things can happen and it’s important to be prepared and know what to expect if it does. Making a rash decision could have a negative impact on your child’s case, so to help you make a good decision, here is some basic juvenile crime information you need to know.

Juvenile Court Eligibility

Depending on the nature of your child’s charges and their age, their case could and most likely will be heard in juvenile court. Those who are aged 17 and below and facing misdemeanor charges almost exclusively have their cases heard in juvenile court. This is the case for most common juvenile crimes, which include simple assault, shoplifting, drug abuse, disorderly conduct, and curfew violations.

That being said, serious crimes, such as violent felonies, can be sent to general court to be heard. However, your child and their attorney will be given the opportunity to petition to have it moved back to juvenile court before the proceedings begin. For this reason, it’s important to start consulting with a McKinney criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible when your child is arrested.

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It’s surprising how few people in the United States understand their rights precisely as stated in the U.S. Constitution, particularly when they’ve been accused of a crime. The 4th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects all U.S. citizens from unreasonable search and seizure. The wording of the law is incredibly important. “Unreasonable” means the police officers who search and seize your property don’t have a warrant and don’t have probable cause to be searching an area that belongs to you.

For example, let’s say a judge issues a warrant so police officers can search your car. The warrant might apply only to your vehicle, but the police also decide to search your house. While the police are acting reasonably by searching your car under the authority of the warrant, they are acting unreasonably by searching your home. However, if they saw something illegal happening through the window, they would be acting reasonably by investigating further.

If the police have a legal right to be where they are, and they see a crime or an illegal substance in your property from where they’re standing, they have the right to search and seize on your property. Likewise, if there is an emergency and seeking a warrant would allow a person to be injured or evidence to be destroyed, law enforcement is acting reasonably by conducting a search and seizure during that emergency.

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In order for law enforcement to arrest you and charge you with driving under the influence, they must establish “probable cause” which is a legal standard for a confirmed suspicion that a crime (driving under the influence) has actually been committed. Many people know about field sobriety tests, but few people actually truly understand them and what they mean. It turns out these sobriety tests are far from perfect and that means they could actually work to your benefit in your DUI case. Here are four things you probably didn’t know about field sobriety tests.

You Don’t Have to Take Them

You’ve probably heard of the “implied consent” law which states you agree to consent to a BAC test, however what most people don’t realize is this law doesn’t apply before you’re arrested. Field sobriety tests are entirely optional, and you may decline to participate in them. However, just because you decline doesn’t mean officers can’t establish probable cause and won’t choose to arrest you anyway.

An Officer Doesn’t Have to Offer one To You

Were you stopped by an officer and arrested straight away without so much as them even asking you to track their finger? In some cases, officers don’t even really need to take extra steps to establish probable cause. If you present enough evidence that you are driving drunk before they even ask you to partake in a sobriety test, they can arrest you on the spot.

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Because December is full of holidays, law enforcement will be putting up checkpoints to prevent people from driving while intoxicated (DWI). DWI checkpoint use continues to be a hotly-debated issue, with 38 states allowing the checks and 12 states not allowing them. Texas is a state that doesn’t allow DWI checkpoint use, meaning an officer can’t arrest you for a DWI based on a roadblock or sobriety checkpoint.

In states that do allow checkpoints, they usually set up a bottleneck through which drivers must travel. They funnel through one car at a time, checking licenses and asking drivers questions. By looking at the driver and chatting with him or her, an officer can determine whether or not the driver might be intoxicated.

If you were arrested for a DWI at a checkpoint in Texas, you could easily contest the charges against you. However, if you were arrested for a DWI after being pulled over by a police officer who has probable cause to believe you might be inebriated, you will have a harder time defending yourself.

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Sexual assault is one of the crimes that can be particularly difficult to prosecute and to defend. Often these cases turn into battles of he-said-she-said because sexual assaults usually take place in private places with no other witnesses to the crime but the defendant and the victim. Because of the nature of the scant evidence, a false sexual assault allegation is just as nebulous as a true allegation.

Likewise, the stakes are high in these cases for people falsely accused of the crime. People accused of sexual assault can not only face lengthy prison sentences but will often experience negative impacts on their careers and reputations.

When people are accused of sexual assault, police will investigate the case and follow the facts. Complaints investigators gather evidence relevant to the allegations and assess the evidence against established standards of what constitutes sexual harassment in the state of Texas. If the allegation has merit, it will be substantiated by the evidence.

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Throughout NFL history, a high number of players have been charged with utterly heinous criminal offenses. While many players have subsequently been acquitted or had the charges dropped, others have been sentenced to prison for long periods of time—even for the remainder of their lives.

The following is a list of five NFL players who were charged or convicted of horrendous criminal offenses:

  • Aaron Hernandez – On April 15, 2015, Hernandez was found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment for the homicide of Odin Lloyd, a semi-pro football player. Furthermore, the investigation of the Lloyd case also uncovered evidence incriminating the former New England Patriots tight end in the July 16, 2012 murders of Daniel Jorge Correia de Abreu and Safiro Teixeira Furtado that occurred in Boston. On April 2017, Hernandez was found dead in his prison cell after an apparent suicide.
  • Rae Carruth – The former Carolina Panthers wide receiver hired a friend to murder Cherica Adams, who was eight months pregnant with Carruth’s child at the time. While the woman passed away, the child survived. He went on the run after the killing, but was captured a month later on December 15th, 1999. Carruth was found guilty of conspiracy to commit murder and received an 18 to 25-year prison sentence.
  • Eric Naposki – The former Indianapolis Colt and New England Patriot was charged with a murder that occurred in December 1994. He conspired with his lover, Nanette Packard Johnston, to commit murder of Johnston’s boyfriend, William McLaughlin. McLaughlin was a wealthy, elder gentlemen who made his fortune in the healthcare industry, while Johnston was 25 years younger than he was. Naposki shot McLaughlin to death so Johnston could collect insurance money. Instead, he and Johnston were sentenced to life in prison without eligibility for parole.
  • O.J. Simpson – Once upon a time, O.J. Simpson was not only a superstar NFL running back for the Buffalo Bills and San Francisco 49ers, he was also a famous television and movie star. But in 1994, “The Juice” was arrested and charged with the murders of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ronald Goldman. Considered the “Trial of the Century,” Simpson was eventually acquitted of those charges, despite being guilty in a civil suit. However, in September 2007, Simpson was arrested in Las Vegas and charged with numerous felonies, such as armed robbery and kidnapping, after her robbed some memorabilia dealers who were selling his former football mementos. In 2008, he was convicted and sentenced to 33 years in prison, with a minimum of nine years without parole. A few months ago, he was released on parole.
  • Ray Lewis – A year before the Baltimore Ravens linebacker helped lead to his team to Super Bowl Victory, which also resulted in MVP honors, Ray Lewis and his friends were involved in a fight with two men at a Super Bowl XXXIV party in Atlanta. These two men, Jacinth Baker and Richard Lollar ended up being stabbed to death. Eleven days after that party, Lewis and his friends, Reginald Oakley and Joseph Sweeting, were indicted for the murders. Testifying against his friends, the former Super Bowl MVP eventually had the murder charges dropped and he received a slap on the wrist as he received a misdemeanor for obstruction of justice.

If you have been arrested for or charged with a criminal offense in Texas, schedule a free case evaluation with our Plano criminal defense attorney today.

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What to Expect After Getting a DWI

Posted on in Criminal Defense

There are various reasons why someone would decide to get behind the wheel after consuming alcohol. However, before you think twice about operating a vehicle while intoxicated, you must understand the things that will happen right after you get pulled over and arrested for a DWI.

The following are the things to expect after getting a DWI:

  • You will be arrested. If you decide to submit to a breathalyzer test, or a field sobriety test, and fail, you will be arrested and booked at the police station on suspicion of a DWI.
  • You will be obligated to appear in court. As soon as you are arrested, you will receive a summons to appear in court. During your court appearance, the evidence against you will be presented and you will be required to make a plea – either innocent or guilty.
  • Your driver’s license will be suspended or revoked. License suspension is mandatory for all drunk drivers; however, the time you will serve varies. There might be a chance to obtain a hardship or restricted license, but you must drive with an ignition interlock device.
  • You must pay fines. There are fees related to a DWI charge, which you are required to pay.
  • You may go to jail. In Texas, a conviction can be punishable by a maximum jail sentence of six months.
  • You may receive probation. Instead of going to jail, you may have to complete probation.
  • You may be required to attend DWI School. The purpose of alcohol education is to prevent you from drinking and driving again. Furthermore, you are more than likely going to pay to attend.
  • Your auto insurance rates may increase. A DWI can make an irresponsible driver in the eyes of your insurance provider, resulting in higher rates.

If you were arrested and charged with a DWI, contact our Plano criminal defense attorney at The Crowder Law Firm, P.C. today.

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Whether it’s someone’s birthday or a national holiday, there is always something to celebrate. One of the main ingredients of any party or gathering is alcohol.

Unfortunately, the combination of alcohol consumption and driving once the party is over can result in a dangerous situation for party guests. Traffic deaths caused by driving under the influence occurs more frequently around major holidays.

If you plan on hosting a party where alcohol is involved, consider following these helpful tips to ensure your intoxicated guests do not get behind the wheel:

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