Texas Stalking Law

Texas Stalking Law is a felony that involves harassing or following someone repeatedly, in a way that causes them emotional distress or fear of death or bodily injury. In Texas, stalking is a criminal offense that can result in severe legal consequences.

Texas Stalking Law:

Under Texas law, stalking is defined as the repeated and willful harassment of someone that causes them to feel threatened or frightened. This harassment can take many forms, such as following someone, making unwanted contact, sending threatening messages or gifts, or damaging property. To be charged with stalking in Texas, the following elements must be met:

  1. The defendant engages in conduct that causes the victim to feel harassed, alarmed, or fearful for their safety or the safety of others.
  2. The conduct is intentional or knowing.
  3. The conduct occurs on two or more occasions.
  4. The conduct would cause a reasonable person to feel harassed, alarmed, or fearful.

Possible Defenses for Stalking:

There are several defenses that a defendant may use to fight stalking charges in Texas. These defenses include:

  1. Lack of Intent: A defendant may argue that they did not intend to cause the victim to feel harassed, alarmed, or fearful. For example, if the defendant did not know their behavior was causing the victim to feel threatened or frightened, they may argue that they did not have the necessary intent to be guilty of stalking. The facts may allow an experienced criminal attorney argue that the defendant’s actions shouldn’t have been interpreted as a threat.
  2. No Repeated Conduct: To be charged with stalking, the defendant’s conduct must occur on two or more occasions. If the defendant can show that their behavior did not occur on multiple occasions, they may be able to avoid a conviction for stalking.
  3. False Allegations: In some cases, the victim may make false allegations of stalking. If the defendant can prove that the victim is making false claims, they may be able to avoid a conviction.
  4. Legitimate Purpose: If the defendant can demonstrate that their behavior had a legitimate purpose, they may be able to avoid a conviction for stalking.

How Does the Statute of Limitations Work

How does the statute of limitations work in Texas law? Most people have heard about the statute of limitations in criminal cases. How they apply to a particular criminal case can be confusing. The statute of limitations is the time period the police or prosecuting agency has to charge a person with a crime. Once that time period passes the person can no longer be charged with that particular crime.

The statute of limitations starts counting down for a crime when the alleged offense occurred. The length of statute of limitations depends on what crime is alleged. Misdemeanors have a two-year statute of limitations. The statute of limitations for felonies are more complicated. The general rule is a 3-year statute of limitations. For crimes like robbery and felony theft the time length is 5 years. For crimes like financial fraud and identity theft the statute of limitations is 7 years. Forgery and arson have a 10-year statute of limitations. There is no statute of limitations for violent crimes such as murder, manslaughter, aggravated sexual assault, and sex crimes against children.

The counting of the statute of limitations is paused when the prosecutor’s office brings a criminal charge. That is done by indictment or information. The counting doesn’t start up again until the case is dismissed. The official name for the statute of limitations being paused is tolling or tolled.

There is one way to get a case dismissed after the prosecution brings and indictment or information. A criminal lawyer can file a motion to have a case dismissed. This happens if there has been a long delay by the government between bringing the charge and a court date. The burden is on the defense and is hard to prove enough harm to cause a judge to dismiss the criminal case.

The other way the statute of limitations is paused or tolled is if the defendant has left the state. If a person flees the jurisdiction to avoid prosecution, the statute of limitations is paused. The law doesn’t reward people who avoid prosecution by going on the run.

If you are charged with a criminal charge in Texas and want to know how the statute of limitations work in Texas contact an experienced criminal attorney. A good criminal lawyer can explain how the statute of limitations works in Texas and anything else that is important about your case.

The Texas Accomplice Law

The Texas Accomplice law can have serious consequences. I recently answered the question, ” When can I be charged as an accomplice?” I went over how  a person could be held criminally liable as an accomplice under Texas law.  The Texas accomplice law can even lead to a person being charged with a crime he never had the intent to commit.

Let’s again take the example of Joe, Pete and Luke deciding to rob a 7 Eleven. Same plan as before. Joe will drive the car; Pete will have the gun and Luke will grab the money. No one ever mentions shooting anybody. They just want to get the money and get out. However, things go south when the actual robbery goes down.

Joe is waits in the parking lot with the car running. He is ready for a quick getaway. Pete goes in the store and points the gun at the clerk and demands the money in the cash drawer. The clerk opens the cash register but when Luke comes around the counter to grab the money the clerk suddenly hits Luke in the face. Luke falls to the ground and Pete pulls the trigger and shoots the clerk. The clerks falls to floor and dies. Luke and Pete run out of the store without getting any money and jump in the car with Joe. Joe drives off fast.

They get two blocks away and get stopped for speeding. The police spot the gun and can smell gun powder. The police are notified about the 7 eleven robbery.  The police arrest all three men. Under the Texas accomplice law Joe, Pete and Luke will be charged with Capital Murder. Joe and Luke can be charged with Capital Murder even though they didn’t have gun and there was no agreement to shoot the clerk.

Under the Texas accomplice law, “If, in the attempt to carry out a conspiracy to commit one felony, another felony is committed by one of the conspirators, all conspirators are guilty of the felony actually committed, though having no intent to commit it, if the offense was committed in furtherance of the unlawful purpose and was one that should have been anticipated as a result of the carrying out of the conspiracy.”

So, in our example, Joe and Luke should have anticipated that when Pete brought a loaded gun to rob a store clerk, they should have anticipated someone could get shot and killed.

When Can A Person Be Charged As An Accomplice

When can a person be charged as an accomplice? In Texas, a person can be arrested and charged as an accomplice if they aided or assisted in the commission of a crime, or if they advised or encouraged the commission of a crime.

To convict a person as an accomplice, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the person:

  1. Intentionally aided or assisted in the commission of a crime, or
  2. Intentionally advised or encouraged another person to commit a crime.

Additionally, the prosecution must also prove that the principal (i.e., the person who actually committed the crime) actually committed the crime.

The evidence that may be used to prove that a person is an accomplice can include:

  1. Eyewitness testimony,
  2. Physical evidence (such as fingerprints, DNA, or other forensic evidence),
  3. Confessions or admissions of guilt,
  4. Circumstantial evidence (such as the presence of the accomplice at the scene of the crime),
  5. Financial or other transactions that suggest a link between the accomplice and the commission of the crime, and
  6. Evidence of prior statements or conduct that suggest the person had knowledge of or involvement in the commission of the crime.

It’s important to note that a person can be convicted as an accomplice even if they did not physically participate in the commission of the crime, as long as they aided, assisted, advised, or encouraged the commission of the crime.

The accomplice law holds everyone who participated in a crime responsible. For example Joe, Pete and Luke decide to rob a 7-Eleven. They decide Joe will be the getaway driver, Pete will have the gun and Luke will grab the money. They go to the store, Joe drives and stays outside with the car running and Pete walks to the counter, points his gun at the store clerk and says give me your money. Luke runs behind the counter and grabs the cash. Luke never says a word. Pete and Luke run to the car, and they all drive away.

They get about two blocks and the police stop them for speeding and see the gun and cash in the front seat. The police hear the call about the robbery and quickly make an arrest . All three will be arrested and charged with the crime of Aggravated Robbery. It doesn’t matter that Joe and Luke never had a gun. They all participated in the crime.

Once the case gets to the prosecutor Joe, Pete and Luke may get different plea offers and all have different outcomes in their cases. It all depends on all the facts and their criminal background. The law is called the Law of Parties in the Texas Penal code. Anyone person arrested as an accomplice should hire an experienced criminal attorney right away. A good criminal lawyer will research the facts. The attorney can then decide how to deal with the case. The sooner the lawyer is hired the better.


Hindering Apprehension or Prosecution

In Texas, the crime of hindering apprehension or prosecution, also known as hindering prosecution, is defined as intentionally obstructing, impeding, or preventing the arrest of another person with the knowledge that the person committed an offense.

This crime is a class A misdemeanor which carries a maximum penalty of one year in jail and a fine up to $4,000. The crime is a third-degree felony if the person who the police were trying to arrest was wanted for Failure to Register as a Sex offender. The penalty range in that case would be two to ten years in prison and a fine up to $10,000.

To convict a person of hindering apprehension or prosecution in Texas, the prosecution must prove the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

  1. The defendant knowingly obstructed, impeded, or prevented the arrest of another person.
  2. The defendant had knowledge that the other person had committed an offense.
  3. The defendant acted with the intent to hinder the apprehension or prosecution of the other person.

To prove this crime the prosecution may use evidence such as the defendant’s statements, eyewitness testimony, police officer’s testimony and information taken from the defendant’s cell phone or other devices.

Examples of the criminal offense of hindering apprehension in Texas law include:

  1. Hiding or concealing a person who has committed a crime to prevent their arrest.
  2. Providing false information to law enforcement during an investigation to protect the person who committed the crime.
  3. Destroying or altering physical evidence related to a crime to prevent its use in an investigation or prosecution.
  4. Tampering with or influencing a witness to prevent them from cooperating with law enforcement or testifying truthfully in court.
  5. Warning the wanted person of impending discovery or arrest.

Should I take a Police Polygraph Test?

Should I take a police polygraph test? This is a question a person ask when they are under investigation by the police. Some times during the course of an interrogation or investigation the police detective will ask the suspect if they would be willing to take a polygraph. Most people feel obligated to say yes. They believe if they say no the police will think they are guilty of the crime they are investigating. On some occasions the suspect will even volunteer to submit to a polygraph to clear their name. The answer to the question of “should I take a police polygraph test” is No.

The truth is when the police ask the suspect to take a polygraph test their intent is to use the polygraph examination as a way to get a confession. The detective has almost always made up their mind about the suspect’s guilt and their goal in an interview is to get some type of confession or some type of statement that implicates the suspect. The police will hook the suspect up to a polygraph and their polygraph operator will only briefly interview the suspect. After the test the police confront the suspect and tell him the polygraph test shows he is lying and then they put real pressure on the suspect to confess. Under Texas law the police are allowed to lie to a suspect during an interrogation. Even if a suspect passes the polygraph or results are inconclusive the detective can still tell the suspect he failed and try to get a confession.

The only polygraph a person should take is one under the direction of his or her criminal attorney. A criminal attorney will first make a decision if a polygraph test could be helpful to the defense. If the criminal attorney decides to have his client take a polygraph he will hire a qualified polygraph operator as his expert so that the testing and the client’s interview with the polygraph operator is covered under the attorney client privilege. That way test results and communication with the polygraph operator can not be released to anyone unless the client gives their permission.

An experienced criminal lawyer will choose a well respected polygraph operator. If the polygraph operator isn’t respected in his field or has a bad reputation a prosecutor or law enforcement agency will not give the test results any consideration. That is why it is important to let the criminal lawyer choose the polygraph operator.

An experienced polygraph operator will have a lengthy interview with the client. The criminal attorney and the polygraph operator must work together to get the specific questions needed for the test. It should be emphasized again that this whole process falls under the attorney client privilege.

If there is a good result the criminal attorney makes a decision how and when to use the polygraph results. Polygraph test are not admissible in evidence in a criminal trial in Texas but a criminal attorney can include them as part of a grand jury packet or turn the test over to the prosecutor or the detective. The test can also be used by the criminal attorney during plea negotiations.

If the polygraph results are inconclusive or show deception the results stay in the criminal attorneys file and will never be released. Also the fact that a defendant refused a police officers request to take a police polygraph is not admissible evidence in a trial.

Permanent Protective Orders in Domestic Violence Cases

Permanent Protective Orders in domestic violence cases occur when the victim in a domestic violence assault wants to go forward with a protective order that last much longer than an Emergency Protective Order. Unlike an Emergency Protective Order a Permanent or Final Protective Order can only happen if the victim wants to go forward and is cooperating with the prosecution.

A permanent protective order must be obtained through a formal hearing. To issue the order a court must find that family violence has occurred and is likely to occur in the future. Most District Attorney’s Offices require the victim to come to the office and meet with a victim advocate or investigator and write an affidavit which covers the facts surrounding the family violence arrest and other facts which cause the victim to believe family violence will occur in the future. The victim often cites previous violence and threats made by the defendant.

Next a prosecutor prepares a petition with the victim’s affidavit attached and then a sheriffs deputy or constable attempts to serve the defendant with a copy of the petition and a date to appear for court. The defendant must be served before the hearing process begins. If the defendant is served and fails to show up then the Judge can enter an order by default.

If a defendant is served with paper work for a final protective order they should contact an experienced criminal attorney immediately. Chances are the defendant already has hired a criminal lawyer due to an arrest being made for the assault allegation. However sometimes the police delay issuing an arrest warrant and the protective order hearing is the first step in prosecution.

The first decision a criminal lawyer and his client must make is whether to agree to the permanent protective order or have a contested hearing. The affidavit written by the victim must be reviewed in great detail. Victim’s write these affidavits when they are angry and upset and they may exaggerate facts or lie. Often times the criminal attorney can use text, social media post and emails to trap the victim in lies. If this occurs it can greatly weaken the prosecutions case and lead to a dismissal or a plea offer to a lessor offense.

In some cases the attorney and client may decide the best strategy is to agree to the final protective order. If a permanent protective order is entered it sometimes satisfied the victim who may be feel protected and will then agree not to prosecute the defendant for a criminal assault. In other cases the criminal attorney for various reasons may decide it’s better to avoid a hearing and enter an agreement.

If a permanent or final protective order is granted a defendant is almost always required to to complete a Batters Intervention and Prevention Program called BIPP. That class takes a minimum six months to complete. The order also requires the defendant not to have any contact with the victim or go near the victims house or work place. The Order is usually in place for two years but can be extended under special circumstances. The Order will also always be in court records and can’t be sealed or expunged.

If a defendant violates the protective order he or she can be arrested on a new criminal charge. A defendant can even be arrested if the victim initiates contact

Consent Key to Defense to Sex Assault Charges

Consent is often the key to the defense in sex assault charges in Texas. This issue comes up most often in “date rape” scenarios. Two people get together. They may be out on a date or may have just met at party or a bar. They wind up back at one of the parties residence. Drinking alcohol or using recreational drugs is almost always a factor. Within a day or two a sexual assault allegation is made to the local law enforcement agency. The key to the defense of these sexual assault charge almost always will be consent.

Under the law both parties must consent to the sexual activity. There must be an agreement. If the victim was unable to give consent due to the effects of alcohol or drugs then the police can bring charges. They may allege that the victim drank so much alcohol they either passed out or were too inebriated to give consent. The victim may allege that they were given a drug such as rohypnol or GHB and they have no recall at all of the assault but there is physical evidence sex occurred.

Since alcohol or drugs are usually consumed before sex both parties may have foggy memory of what exactly occurred. When law enforcement begins their investigation a detective will usually ask the victim to show him her phone and review any text messages between the victim and the suspect. Often there are texts between the two parties the days after the incident and these can be used as evidence of lack of consent. These text usually consist of the victim asking the suspect if “they had sex and why”. any answers from the suspect which can be interpreted as proving lack of consent will soon become a key part of the prosecutions case.

Detectives will sometimes try to gather evidence by having the victim make a recorded call the the suspect. The goal is to have the suspect discuss what happened and admit that there was sex and that the victim was was in a very impaired mental state.

Once the suspect becomes aware that he is under suspicion for sexual assault the should contact an experienced sex assault criminal lawyer as soon as possible. The criminal lawyer should immediate begin preparing the defense based on consent. Every witness who saw the suspect and victim together should be identified and interviewed. These witnesses may be able to verify the defendant’s story and show the victim was coherent and knew exactly what was going on. All text messages and any other form of communication made by the victim and suspect should be located and preserved. All social media post made by the victim and suspect should be located and reviewed.

The criminal lawyer should also consider having his client take a polygraph examination. Depending on the facts the polygraph examiner may be able to test on specific facts that go directly to the allegation. Polygraph results can be summited to a grand jury as part of a packet or given to the the prosecution for review.

Sex Assault charges are very serious and can result in a prison sentence. A prison sentence or probation also requires registering as a sex offender for the defendant. If you are a family member is accused of a sex assault get in touch with a sex assault attorney as soon as possible

Assault by Choking is a Felony in Texas

Assault by choking is a felony in Texas. If the police are called to a home and they believe there is any evidence of choking they will make an arrest on a felony charge. The police take domestic violence assaults very seriously and will almost always make an arrest if the suspect is at the scene. If the suspect has left the scene then they will take witnesses statements and a detective will have a Judge issue a warrant at a later date.

Officers are trained to ask the victim if they experienced any problems with the ability to breath during the assault. This can happen a number of ways. A person can be choked by a hand around the throat or could have their breathing impeded by having their face pushed into a pillow or mattress during a struggle. The law doesn’t require that the victim lose the ability to breath for a long period of time. It can be a just a few seconds. If the victim tells the officers that that they did have difficulty breathing then the charge goes from a misdemeanor to a felony.

There are many defenses to choking or impeding breath cases. Since the charge is a felony the case has to go through a grand jury for it to proceed through the court system. Most District Attorney’s offices allow criminal defense attorneys to submit grand jury packets to the grand jury for review. An experienced criminal defense lawyer may be able to convince a grand jury to No Bill the criminal charge. A No Bill ends the prosecution.

If the case is indicted there are still many defenses available. Victims are often unreliable witnesses. Their stories change and they sometimes have motives to have a person prosecuted. The physical evidence may be very weak in the case. The first thing a person charged with a felony choking charge needs to do is hire an experienced criminal defense attorney. Work needs to begin on the case right away.

Texas Child Abuse Cases On the Increase

Due to the recent shelter at home orders Texas Child Abuse cases are on the increase according to hospital officials. A Texas hospital that usually sees about 8 child abuse cases in a month reported 6 cases in one week. Experts believe that increased stress caused by economic hardship, food shortages, and being crowded into a closed environment can lead to child abuse.

Texas Child Abuse cases are very serious felony charges. Depending on the facts a person can be charged from a first degree felony down to a state jail felony. If the investigation and evidence shows the child suffered serious bodily injury and the police believe the defendant intentionally and knowingly caused the injury the charge will be a first degree felony. A first degree felony carries a penalty range from 5 years in prison to 99 years or life.

If the evidence shows the serious bodily injury was caused by a reckless act then the defendant would be charged a with a second degree felony. A second degree felony carries a penalty range of 2 to 20 years in prison.

The injury doesn’t have to be a serious bodily injury in order for the police to charge a defendant with a felony. If a person intentionally causes bodily injury to child law enforcement can bring a third degree felony charge which carries a penalty range 2 to 10 years in prison. Under Texas law bodily injury only means the child felt pain. A simple slap or spanking with a hand can be enough to bring a felony charge.

There are many defenses to Child Abuse charges. If a person is under investigation or arrested for a Texas child abuse charge they should contact with an experienced criminal defense attorney before talking with the police. This could be the most crucial decision an accused citizen makes.