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!

Armed Robbery: What You Can Expect When Charged

Houston Armed Robbery

The charge of armed robbery is an extremely severe offense. It carries hefty penalties – including time in prison if convicted.

For example, there’s the case of a Houston man who was sentenced to 77 years in federal prison for a string of armed robberies during 2014 and 2015.

However, each case is different and there are a myriad of factors which can affect sentencing decisions.

Always remember that you’re innocent until proved guilty, but here’s what you can expect to happen if you have been charged with armed robbery.

About the Charge

Technically there is no charge of ‘armed robbery’ but it is usually a more colloquial way of talking about the charge of ‘aggravated robbery’.

That charge refers to an alleged robbery where there was a deadly weapon involved – which could be a gun, for example or another weapon which could be used to kill another person.

It may also be where a person caused, or threatened to cause, injury or death to another person during the robbery.

Where this charge is brought, it is highly advisable to hire a criminal lawyer to defend your case. You need a professional who can navigate court procedures and do their utmost to protect your rights at all times.

The Legal Procedure

If you are arrested, you will be read your rights. One of these is the right to an attorney, which we urge you to take advantage of.

You’ll be held in a cell for up to 48 hours before a preliminary hearing with a judge. There’ll then be a bail hearing, where the judge decides whether to allow you to go free until your trial (with conditions).

In return, the defendant pays a given amount to the court, which is returned when the case closes.

Charges (an indictment, in this case) are then filed by the prosecution. Usually, the defendant consults with their attorney at this point, and the defense has the opportunity to peruse the evidence.

A plea is then entered by the defense in an arraignment hearing.

If the plea is ‘not guilty’, an actual trial will go ahead when the court is available to hear the case in full. At the end of this, you’ll either be cleared and let go, or sentenced.

What Penalties Can You Expect if Found Guilty?

If you are charged with armed robbery in Texas, you should know that it is treated as a first-degree felony offense.

If you are convicted, the judge hearing your case can send you to jail for between 5 and 99 years. The court may also fine you up to $10,000.

The actual penalty varies wildly. It depends on whether there are any mitigating circumstances, and how serious the crime was – and how many counts you are facing.

In the case referenced in our introduction, a 77-year sentence was the result of a string of armed jewelry robberies, so its length is hardly surprising.

I’ve Been Charged With Armed Robbery

Everyone has the right to a lawyer to defend them in court. This is regardless of what you may or may not have actually done, and your attorney is duty-bound to represent you to the best of their ability.

This is a fundamental right, enshrined as the ‘Right to Counsel‘ by the Sixth Amendment to the US Constitution.

If you are searching for an experienced defense attorney to represent you, contact Vinas and Graham today.

A Guide to Drug Possession Charges in Texas

drug possession

If you’re arrested for drug possession in Texas, hire a law firm experienced in defending drug crimes.

Possession and distribution of controlled substances in Texas can result in serious punishment. Texas gives more severe penalties for possession and trafficking than some other states.

If you’re charged don’t go it alone. Call a Texas drug crimes lawyer to handle your case.

Texas Statutes on Drug Possession

The Texas statutes on are extensive and complicated. This article presents a brief overview of the laws and the penalties for controlled substances, marijuana, and alcohol.

Three things determine the offense level in a drug possession case:

Type of Drug

The state classifies drugs into penalty groups. There’s a special group for marijuana.

Amount

The amount of drugs determine if it’s a misdemeanor or felony crime.

Aggravating Circumstances

A factor like a drug-free zone or the intent to deliver will increase the punishment range.

Manufacture or Delivery of Controlled Substances

The minimum punishment for manufacture or delivery is a jail term between 180 days and two years, plus a fine up to $10,000.

The maximum punishment for delivery of a controlled substance is confinement in a Texas Department of Corrections (TDC) facility for 15 to 99 years. The accompanying fine can be up to $250,000.

Possession of Controlled Substances

If you’re charged with possession of a controlled substance your minimum punishment is up to than 180 days in jail, a fine up to $2,000, or both.

The maximum punishment for possession is detention in TDC for 10 to 99 years and a fine up to $250,000.

Delivery or Manufacture of Marijuana

The minimum penalty for conviction of delivery or manufacture of marijuana is up to 180 days in jail, a fine up to $2,000, or both.

The maximum punishment is confinement in TDC for 10 to 99 and a fine not to exceed $100,000.

Possession of Marijuana

The minimum punishment for possession of marijuana is a jail term up to 180 days, a fine up to $2,000, or both.

The maximum punishment for marijuana possession is incarceration in TDC for 5 to 99 years and a fine up to $50,000.

Driving While Intoxicated by Drugs, Alcohol or Both

Confinement in jail for 72 hours to 180 days and a fine of no more than $2,000 is the minimum penalty for driving while intoxicated in Texas.

The maximum punishment is imprisonment for 2 to 10 years and a fine up to $10,000.

Public Intoxication

The minimum punishment for public intoxication is a fine up to $500.

Purchase of Alcohol by a Minor

If a minor purchases alcohol the minimum punishment is a fine up to $500.

Consumption or Possession of Alcohol by a Minor

The minimum penalty for alcohol possession or consumption is not to exceed $500.

Providing Alcohol to a Minor – Class A Misdemeanor

If someone provides alcohol to a minor the punishment is a fine up to $4,000, or up to a year in jail, or both.

Hire an Experienced Houston Lawyer

A review of Texas drug possession laws makes it clear that a conviction often results in jail time.

Don’t fight allegations by yourself. Contact Vinas & Graham, PLLC if you face any of these charges:

  • Driving While Intoxication (DWI)
  • Driving Under the Influence (DUI)
  • Drug Possession
  • Drug Delivery

Schedule a consultation with the experienced Houston lawyers of Vinas & Graham, PLLC today. We’re ready to handle your case.