When Would You Need an Order Of Non-Disclosure?

Order Of Non-Disclosure

Most of us do what we can to lead a lawful life and stay out of trouble. Aside from a speeding ticket here or there, most of us manage to avoid any serious legal infractions and keep a clean record. But unfortunately, things do happen – serious things with serious consequences.

The outcomes of a criminal conviction are extensive, especially when it pertains to current or future employment and the ability to continue your career. Once you have a criminal record, it can mean the loss of your job. And it can make it very difficult for you to find a job in the future. Not only that, but if you were up for promotion, you could pretty much assume that you are no longer eligible (and that is to say if you are even still employed).

A criminal conviction and the resulting record can even mean cancellation, revocation, or denial of professional licenses, which can make it hard if your employment is based on a licensed profession.

If you served or are serving in the military, a criminal conviction will likely result in a reduction of your pay grade and a reduction in rank. It wouldn’t be altogether surprising too if you received a dishonorable discharge which will mean the end of your military career.

The criminal justice system in Texas is very familiar with the impact that a criminal conviction and record will have on an individual. As a result, state legislatures are taking steps to reduce the burden on offenders by leveraging orders of non-disclosure.

What is an Order Of Non-Disclosure?

An order of non-disclosure is a specific type of court order that strictly prohibits certain public entities, (courts and police) from disclosing particular information about your criminal record. An order of non-disclosure can help you if you are the offender, by legally freeing you from the obligation to disclose your criminal record background when asked applicable questions on job applications.

But it is important to note that an order of non-disclosure is not all-encompassing. Your criminal record still available to criminal justice agencies as it pertains to criminal prosecutions and to specific non-criminal organizations in the legal, medical, and educational space.

How Can I Obtain A Non-Disclosure?

There are certain eligibility requirements to obtain a non-disclosure. To be eligible, you must meet the following requirements:

  • You must have been placed on deferred adjudication community supervision
  • If you were convicted of the crime, you are not eligible to apply for an order of non-disclosure
  • You must successfully complete the deferred adjudication

Once it is determined you are eligible, the process to request a non-disclosure is fairly straightforward. Your first step will be to file a petition in the same court with which the criminal charge was filed against you. You will need to pay a filing fee, and the cost for this will vary from county to county.

Once your petition has been filed, and the district attorney’s office has been informed of your petition, you can set the matter for hearing. This hearing will take place within just a few weeks of you filing the petition. And, at the hearing, you need to show to the court that you are eligible for the non-disclosure and that the non-disclosure of your records is in the best interest of justice.

Your judge can be influenced by several things including whether or not you have
complied with the conditions of community supervision, the amount of time that has elapsed since community supervision ended, your overall criminal history, the facts in your underlying case, and any effect that not sealing the records might have you in the future.

Having a reputable attorney that can support you and argue your case on your behalf will provide a significant advantage. If it is then determined by the judge that you are eligible, the non-disclosure will be signed, and it will be sealed to the general public in approximately three to five weeks.

The following offenses will make you ineligible for a non-disclosure:

  • Murder
  • Capital murder
  • Aggravated kidnapping
  • Domestic violence or other family violence
  • Abandonment or endangerment of a child
  • Violation of a family violence protection order
  • Sex offenses that require you to register as a sex offender
  • Injury to a child or disabled or elderly individual

It is also important to note that if you are eligible for an order of non-disclosure, you must wait for a specified time period after the court orders a dismissal and discharge for you. For misdemeanors, you must wait two years. For felonies, you must wait five years.

Learn More About Non-Disclosures

To learn more about how a non-disclosure can help you, contact Vinas & Graham, PLLC about your case. Whether you are facing charges for a DWI or DUI, drug possession, drug delivery, theft, robbery, aggravated assault, or more, you need experienced and top-rated criminal lawyers to fight for you.

The government has nearly unlimited resources at work for them, and you do not want to fight them alone. Don’t settle for less than the best legal representation you can find. You need a team of advocates on your side with the right experience to get the best possible results on your case.

Can Your Drug Charge Be A Federal Crime?

Can Your Drug Charge Be A Federal Crime?

The short answer to whether or not drug charges can be federal crimes is yes, drug crimes can be federal crimes that are prosecuted in federal courts. The federal justice department has jurisdiction over drug crimes that take place anywhere in the United States.

Our federal crimes attorneys know that certain circumstances make drug crimes more likely to be prosecuted in federal courts than in state courts.

Circumstances Leading To Federal Drug Crimes Charges

Drug charges that are prosecuted in federal courts are often related to large drug operations and those operations frequently take place across several or more states. When offenders are arrested by federal agencies such as the Drug Enforcement Administration or the Federal Bureau of Investigation, they will likely be prosecuted in federal court.

When federal agencies and local law enforcement agencies work together on drug crimes, they will often agree that the crimes should be prosecuted in federal court, especially when the punishment is likely to be more severe in federal court.

Drug crimes can be related to the possession, manufacturing, distribution, and trafficking of drugs. Simple possession cases are typically prosecuted at the state level while the manufacturing, distribution, and trafficking of drugs are often prosecuted at the federal level.

State Crimes Versus Federal Crimes

When people are charged with drug crimes, they generally hope to be prosecuted in the appropriate state court rather than in federal court. This is because federal sentencing guidelines are usually harsher than state court guidelines.

Federal courts are known to have severe mandatory minimum punishments and sentencing enhancements that can make prison sentences significantly longer than they would be if the crime were prosecuted in a state court.

Can Drug Charges Be Prosecuted In Both State And Federal Courts?

People are often under the impression that because of double jeopardy, they can only be prosecuted once for the same crime, but that is not always the case when it comes to state and federal prosecutions.

The legal principle that is known as ‘dual sovereignty‘ permits state governments and the federal government to prosecute state crimes and federal crimes in their respective courts, even if it means trying the same person twice for the same crime.

It is not typical that the same charges are brought in both state and federal courts, but it does happen sometimes. This principle was recently challenged in the United States Supreme Court as a violation of double jeopardy for prosecuting the same person in federal court after he had already been prosecuted in state court, but the justices voted to uphold the longstanding principle in a 7-2 ruling.

Drug Charges Defenses

Whether they are state or federal charges, drug charges do not automatically mean that defendants will wind up with criminal convictions. This is especially true when defendants have a solid defense and a skilled attorney advocating on their behalf.

Common defenses in these cases include the following:

  • The drugs did not belong to the defendant
  • The defendant did not intend to distribute the drugs
  • The law enforcement search that led to the discovery of the drugs was illegal
  • The vehicle stop that led to the discovery of the drugs was illegal
  • The drugs were planted on the defendant by another person or an officer

Negotiating With Prosecutors In Drug Crimes Cases

Prosecutors often file as many charges as possible against defendants, even those that they may not be able to prove in a trial, to scare defendants into pleading to lesser crimes. However, pleading guilty to lesser crimes is not always in a defendant’s best interest.

Experienced drug crime defense attorneys will conduct a thorough investigation of the case facts, evidence, and the method by which that evidence was obtained. They will then be in a position to argue for lesser charges or a dismissal of charges, or they may take the case to trial if it is in the defendant’s best interest.

Contact A Federal Crimes Attorney

Whether it is a federal or state matter, if you have been charged with drug crimes, you need a skilled attorney to represent your best interests. The criminal defense attorneys at Vinas & Graham are experts in both state and federal crimes cases and they will fight to see that you secure the best possible outcome in your case.

If you have been charged or believe you are being investigated for drug crimes, contact our office as soon as possible by submitting this online form or calling 713-229-9992.

Follow our Facebook page to keep up with news and updates related to state and federal criminal law matters.

Theft, Robbery, and Fraud Charges: What Makes Each Crime Different?

Theft and Robbery Charges Houston

Property crimes like theft, robbery, fraud, and burglary have one thing in common – the removal of another’s property without consent. People often use these words interchangeably; however, each one has unique characteristics and penalties.

Today, we will look at the key differences of each crime and the penalties associated with each one.

What Constitutes Theft in Texas?

The Texas Penal Code § 31.03 defines theft as unlawfully appropriating property with the intention of depriving the owner of his/her property. It is unlawful to take property without the owner’s consent or the property is stolen and sold to another person who knows that the property was stolen. In Texas, the penalties are based on the value of the items stolen.

For thefts of less than $2,500, a defendant can be charged with a misdemeanor (Class C, B, or A) and be sentenced with up to one year in jail and a fine of not more than $4,000. If a defendant is charged with stealing property valued at more than $2,500, he or she could be facing a felony (first degree, second degree, third degree or state felony) with a much larger fine and years of jail time in state prison.

What Is Burglary?

In Texas, burglary is defined as unlawfully entering a structure with the intent to commit a crime. Although many burglaries involve theft, other crimes can be considered burglary, including but not limited to murder, assault, crimes of force or coercion, and other felonies.

If a defendant is charged with burglary in a building that is not inhabited, it can result in a state jail felony with a sentence of 6 months to 2 years and fines up to $10,000. If burglary is committed in a building that is inhabited and a felony other than felony theft is committed, the charge is increased to a first-degree felony, which has a sentence of 5 years to life in state prison and fines up to $10,000.

What Is Robbery?

Robbery in Texas occurs during the course of theft when the defendant intentionally, recklessly, or knowingly causes bodily injury to a person or threatens or places another person in fear of imminent harm or death.

In Texas, a robbery conviction results in a second-degree felony charge. The penalty for this offense includes state prison time between 2 and 20 years and a fine of no more than $10,000.

If the crime is elevated to aggravated robbery, the charge is increased to a first-degree felony with prison time of 5 to 99 years and a fine of no more than $10,000.

What Is Fraud?

Fraud is a deliberate attempt to deceive someone for personal or financial gain. Under Texas law, there are three types of fraud – credit card, identity theft, and health care fraud.

Credit Card Fraud – Credit card fraud occurs when the defendant uses another person’s credit card or debit card without the person’s consent, or the defendant knowingly uses a credit card or debit card that is expired or invalid. If a defendant is convicted of credit card fraud, he or she can be sentenced for up to two years in state prison and be fined up to $10,000. If the defendant’s actions are against an elderly individual, the charges can be upgraded to a third-degree felony.

Health Care Fraud – Health care fraud occurs when a patient provides false information or a provider files false claims to an insurance company. Many people use government-issued insurance, such as Medicare, to receive affordable medical treatments.

Medicare FraudMedicare fraud results in a federal felony conviction because Medicare is funded by the United States government. If a defendant is convicted of Medicare fraud, he or she could face extremely high fines and years in federal prison.

Identity Theft – Stealing personal information and using it for fraudulent purposes is called identity theft. Identity theft causes significant hardship and economic loss. Using another person’s identifying information to obtain goods, services, money, or anything of value is identity theft.

If a defendant is found with less than five pieces of other people’s identifying information, he or she could face 2 years in prison, probation, community service and a fine of up to $10,000.

If a person is found with more than five pieces of other people’s identifying information, he or she could face felony charges of 5 to 99 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

Contact Our Team of Criminal Law Attorneys Today!

At the law offices of Vinas and Graham, we understand the intricacies of the law surrounding property crime, including robbery. When you work with us, you get full access to our knowledgeable and skillful team that will work hard to get your charges reduced or dropped.

If you have been charged with robbery in Texas, contact us by phone, email, or use our convenient contact form to discuss your case today.

Facing A DWI Charge In Texas: What You Need To Know

DWI In Texas

DWI Charges In Texas

Driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol is a serious offense with serious consequences. If you are charged with driving while intoxicated (DWI), it is important for you to understand what you may face so you can protect your rights. The criminal justice system is difficult to navigate but when you know what you are up against, you will be more prepared to protect yourself.

What Is A DWI?

In the State of Texas you can be charged with a DWI under two circumstances:

  • You have a blood alcohol content of .08 or higher, or
  • The presence of alcohol or drugs in your system has caused you to no long have normal function over your car.

The only exceptions are if you are under the age of 21, at which point you may not have any alcohol in your system or if you drive a commercial vehicle you may only register a blood alcohol content of .04.

In the State of Texas you can be charged with a DWI under two circumstances: You have a blood alcohol content of .08 or higher, or the presence of alcohol or drugs in your system has caused you to no long have normal function over your car.

What Happens If I Am Stopped On Suspicion Of DWI?

If a police officer pulls you over for suspicion of DWI in Texas, you may be subject to a number of tests to determine if you are intoxicated. To determine your blood alcohol content (BAC) the officer may test your breath, blood, or your urine. Refusing to submit to a test of this nature can lead to automatic suspension of your license. The officer may also perform a number of field sobriety tests to determine if you are intoxicated or not. The officer will be looking for probable cause to arrest you for driving white intoxicated.

Punishment For A DWI In Texas

If you are found guilty of driving while intoxicated the punishments can vary depending on the severity of your actions. Punishment includes jail time, fines, and licenses suspension. For your first offense you will face a minimum of 3 days in jail and a suspended license of 90 days with the maximums being 180 days in jail and a 1 year suspension of your license.

This punishment increases if you have a BAC over .15. Punishment for this offense will range from 3 days to 1 year in jail. For these offenses you can be fined up to $4,000 depending on your measured BAC. If you are caught with an open container of alcohol in your car at the time of your arrest your minimum jail time is raised to 6 days.

DWI In Texas

For each subsequent conviction, your punishment increases.

If you are convicted of a 3rd DWI, you will face a felony charge. This conviction means you will face 2 to 10 years in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice with a suspended license of 180 days to 2 years and a fine up to $10,000. Each conviction after that will again increase your punishment up to 25 years to life if you are convicted of a 3rd offense and have already served time in state prison.

Injuries As A Result Of A DWI

If you have seriously injured or killed someone while driving under the influence you automatically face higher penalties, even if it is only your first conviction. You will face a fine of up to $10,000, 2 to 10 years in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, and 180 day to 2 years of a suspended license. If you injure someone you will be charged with Intoxication Assault, which is a 3rd degree felony and if your actions led to someone’s death, you will face Intoxication Manslaughter, a 2nd degree felony.

Other DWI Crimes & Penalties

There are two other DWI crimes. If you are a minor who has been convicted of a DWI you will face a number of other penalties. You will face fines and a suspended license, probation , community service, alcohol education, and other punishments. While you may not face jail time, any further DWI arrests under age will more than likely include jail.

Having a child passenger in your car at the time of your DWI also incurs harsher penalties. For this, you will face a felony charge of 6 months to 2 years in the state jail, have a suspended license of 90 days to 2 years, and be fined up to $10,000.

DWI In Texas

In addition to the above punishment you may also face other penalties. After your license has been suspended you may be forced to pay annual charge of $2,000 for three years to maintain your driver’s license. You may also have to install an ignition device which you must blow in order to prove you are not intoxicated before starting your car. Other punishments may include alcohol education and intervention programs.

You will also find some difficulty after your jail sentence regarding your suspended license. In order to drive again you will need to work through the DMV to reinstate you license. This could include more fees than the ones previously mentioned. You must also have specific car insurance (which comes at a higher rate) for a number of years after you renew your license.

Having a child passenger in your car at the time of your DWI also incurs harsher penalties. For this, you will face a felony charge of 6 months to 2 years in the state jail, have a suspended license of 90 days to 2 years, and be fined up to $10,000.

Hiring An Experienced Attorney If Charged With A DWI In Texas

Being charge with a DWI can lead to many consequences which can follow you through your life. It is important for you to hire an attorney who focuses on DWI cases to help protect you. An experienced DWI attorney may be able to lessen your conviction or even have the charges dropped altogether, but remember each case is unique. Your attorney will make sure none of your rights were violated throughout the process. For example, they will make sure all evidence was collected in a reasonable manner and that you were informed of your rights at the appropriate time. They will also makes sure your rights are protected throughout the entire court case.

If you have been charged with driving while intoxicated make sure the Houston law firm of Vinas & Graham, PLLC is who you choose to represent you, call us at (713) 229-9992 or contact us on our website. The criminal justice system can move fast and be complicated and our lawyers will investigate all aspects of your case to make sure you are treated fairly in the eyes of the law.

Understand the Second Amendment and Prevent a Federal Charge

Federal Gun Charge

If you own a gun, it’s important that you understand how the federal law relates to your individual right to bear arms.

Recently, the widely publicized events surrounding mass shootings have brought attention to the law as it pertains to gun owners and firearms in general. As a result, our second amendment rights are often brought up during debates by those on both sides of the gun-control argument.

Although many people cite the second amendment, its history is rarely fully understood by those who reference it. In fact, gun ownership is a sticky issue that has long been a source of confusion.

Misunderstanding your right to bear arms can have serious consequences, especially for gun owners.

Are you aware of how Texas state gun laws differ from federal law?

Read on to find out what you need to know to avoid a federal charge!

The Right to Bear Arms

It has been assumed that the second amendment is a protection of the individual’s rights for many generations. But, it wasn’t until 2008 that the Supreme court ruled in favor of it supporting an individual citizen’s rights.

Prior to the 2008 Supreme court ruling, it was held by courts that the right to bear arms was in place for states to protect themselves from federal interference if necessary.

The Supreme Court Ruling that Changed Everything for Gun Owners

In 1967, Governor Ronald Reagan signed the Mulford Act, banning the public carry of loaded guns in public.

26 years later, Reagan supported the Brady Act, a gun control law that was named after one of his aides that had been shot during an assassination attempt on the former president.

The National Rifle Association took a hard line opposition approach against the Brady Act. Although they had supported gun control measures previously, they began to widen their scope of what was acceptable when it came to owning firearms.

In 2008, the Supreme court made an unprecedented ruling regarding the right to bear arms.

In the case of the District of Columbia v Heller, the courts decided by a 5 to 4 vote, to overturn a handgun ban in the city.

According to conservative justice Antonin Scalia, “For the first time in history, the supreme court affirmed an individual’s right to keep a weapon at home for self-defense.”

Texas Law Versus Federal Law

Gun critics have argued that Texas laws regarding handguns are too permissive.

There is no license to carry a gun once it’s purchased in the state of Texas. However, a permit is required to carry a handgun.

Texas legislature passed a bill in 2015 allowing handgun permit holders to carry their handguns openly, causing controversy throughout the media and nation.

Texas does reportedly adhere to the federal law when it comes to regulations on who can and cannot own a gun.

However, Texas differs from the federal law in one important area. After five years, according to Texas state law, a convicted felon can own a gun again, if they keep it in their home. Based on federal law, this could result in an arrest of the gun owner.

Another gray area in the Texas state laws relevant to the right to bear arms is the gun owner’s mental health. While Texas state law states that those who are deemed mentally unfit cannot own a firearm, this is a law that is evolving and is somewhat subject to one’s perspective.

Texas Gun Laws Come Under Fire After Mass Shooting

In 2017, Texas was brought into the spotlight after Devin Kelley opened fire at a church in what was termed the deadliest church shooting in modern U.S. history, according to Fox News.

It was found that Kelley did not have a license to carry. Not only that, but his history included domestic violence as well as a bad conduct discharge from the military. These three factors should have prevented Kelley from purchasing and carrying the firearm used to commit the shooting.

Because the discharge was not classified as dishonorable, it did not set off a red flag.

Since the killing, Texas has been criticized by gun control activists nationwide. This publicity has created suspicion among lawmakers and activists.

Some might argue that this has put Texas gun-holders in a position for greater risk of getting charged with a federal crime, even if they are not guilty of breaking state law.

What to Do if You’re Charged with a Federal Gun Crime

Because the federal and state laws differ, Texans might commit a crime without knowing that they are doing so. If you understand the Texas state law but are not familiar with the federal law, you may be at risk of being charged with a crime.

Should you get charged and convicted of a federal crime, you could face sentencing.

Do you know what to do if you’re charged with a federal gun crime?

If you find yourself in this position, you may be able to reduce the consequences of your actions by hiring the right lawyer.

You should seek the counsel of an attorney who’s trained in the area of gun ownership and understands how gun laws vary. They can help you navigate the legal system and explain your rights to you. They can also provide representation that can help your case.

If you’re charged with a gun crime, it’s critical that you have an experienced attorney working for you.

Do You Need Immediate Legal Advice?

Are you in a situation that requires legal advice right now?

Don’t put off getting the answers that you need. If you’re facing legal problems, the advice of an attorney can make a big difference in the outcome of your case.

We can help.

Contact us today to make an appointment with our experienced legal team!