What You Need To Know About Illegal Reentry Charges In Texas

illegal reentry

One of the most frequently prosecuted immigration crimes is illegal reentry into the United States. Illegal reentry is charged when a non-citizen has been deported or removed from the US and returns without government permission or authorization.

Illegal reentry is a serious crime. If you are facing these immigration charges in Texas, your freedom may be in jeopardy. A federal immigration defense attorney at Vinas & Graham, PLLC, can answer your legal questions and help defend the allegations against you.

What Is Illegal Reentry?

Non-citizens can be removed from the United States for various reasons, such as committing crimes, failing to comply with VISA terms, and violating immigration laws. You may be charged with illegal reentry if you return after being legally forced to leave the country.

To prove illegal reentry, the government must demonstrate that the non-citizen defendant knowingly entered, attempted to enter, or was discovered in the United States without government authorization after being deported, excluded, or removed from the country.

Consequences Of A Conviction

In general, consequences for illegal reentry convictions are directly related to the defendant’s criminal history. Defendants with no record or a light criminal history will typically face less severe prison sentences than those with multiple convictions for serious crimes.

The maximum prison sentence for an illegal reentry conviction is two years if you do not have any criminal convictions. If you have a felony conviction or three or more violence or drug convictions, you might be facing up to ten years in prison.

The maximum illegal reentry prison sentence is 20 years if you have an aggravated felony conviction on your record. More than 30 offenses qualify as aggravated felonies for immigration violation purposes, including drug trafficking, murder, and firearms trafficking.

Negotiating With Prosecutors

If you are facing immigration charges, it is critical to have an attorney who knows immigration laws and has experience defending clients in these types of cases. Government immigration representatives frequently make errors in the legal process and fail to follow proper procedures.

It is critical to carefully review all aspects of your case, including your initial deportation or removal. For example, presenting evidence that your previous removal was unlawful is a valid defense against illegal reentry charges. If you can show flaws in the initial legal process, your reentry charges may be dismissed.

Prosecutors will often choose to negotiate plea bargains when defendants have strong and well-prepared defenses. Prosecutors will sometimes dismiss your charges or agree to let you plead guilty to a lesser charge with less severe consequences.

Common Illegal Reentry Defenses

Some common defenses in illegal reentry cases include the following:

  • No prior removal. If you were not previously removed or deported from the United States, there is no basis for illegal reentry charges. This is often the result of mistaken identity due to government errors in name spelling, birth dates, or immigration registration numbers.
  • No immigration violation. You can defend illegal reentry charges if you can prove that you received permission from the government to reapply for admission to the United States.
  • Your previous removal was unlawful. As mentioned above, you may have a defense to the charges against you if there were flaws in the legal proceedings or the removal was otherwise unlawful.
  • Voluntary departure. In most cases, if you voluntarily departed the country before entering or reentering, then you should not have a prior deportation on your record. Proving an error in your record could lead to a dismissal of your illegal reentry charges.
  • Duress. Duress could be used as a defense if you were forced by another person to enter the country. Duress is not uncommon in border crossing events because there are regular threats of harm in border cities, often having to do with human smuggling and trafficking.

Get Dedicated Defense Representation For Illegal Reentry Charges

If you have been charged with illegal reentry, you need a dedicated and experienced legal representative to defend your case. Contact Vinas & Graham, PLLC, at 713-992-9992 or submit a form to schedule a consultation. We are dedicated to representing clients who have been accused of criminal conduct.

Our attorneys have an unmatched reputation for zealous legal advocacy and a strong record of success in illegal reentry and other immigration defense matters. We know that our clients entrust their future and freedom to our law firm, and we work diligently and tirelessly for every client we represent.

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Understanding Texas Gun Laws

gun laws in Texas

Gun laws are complicated, and you may have questions about state and federal firearms laws in Texas. States create their own gun laws, varying significantly from state to state. Federal laws are applied uniformly to all states. If you possess a firearm or are considering acquiring one, it is important to understand the applicable laws.

Houston criminal defense attorneys at Vinas & Graham, PLLC, represent clients charged with firearms violations in federal and state courts. They know that it is critical to understand state and federal gun laws so that you do not unknowingly or accidentally break the law in Texas.

Age To Purchase And Possess Firearms

In general, Texas residents do not need any special licenses or registration to purchase or own a gun. You must be 18 to buy a firearm, but you do not have to be 18 to possess one. It is legal for a minor to purchase a firearm with parental consent or to receive a gun as a gift.

Open And Concealed Carry

States typically have open carry and concealed carry laws. In open carry states, gun owners are permitted to carry a firearm in plain sight, such as in a holster. In concealed carry states, people may carry hidden or concealed guns. Permits are required in some states to open or conceal carry firearms.

Under Texas’s former concealed carry laws, only people who had taken a safety class and had secured a permit could legally carry concealed weapons. However, as of September 1, 2021, the law recently changed, and now, if you are 21 or older, you can keep a concealed weapon in public without any required training or licensing.

Gun Laws In Texas

In general, it is legal in Texas to open or conceal carry a firearm if you meet the age requirements and you have not otherwise lost your right to purchase and possess firearms. However, other exceptions could prevent you from carrying a gun in Texas.

For example, federal building officials may restrict firearms on their premises. Guns may also be prohibited in other places, such as schools, sporting events, airports, and businesses that receive significant revenue from alcohol sales.

Texans under the age of 21 may also be allowed to carry weapons under some circumstances. So long as they are not otherwise prohibited from possessing firearms, residents between the ages of 18 and 20 are permitted to carry guns after they complete training and secure a permit to carry.

Using And Carrying Your Firearms

When you use and carry your firearm, you must do so in a safe and responsible manner. For example, having a gun in public while intoxicated is illegal. You also may not point or fire at someone unless it is in self-defense or defense of others. Misusing your firearm can result in criminal charges.

Gun Laws In Other States

Whether you are permitted to carry your weapons in states other than Texas depends on the other state’s laws. Some states have reciprocal carry laws that allow residents from other states to carry firearms when visiting. If you comply with their permit, age, and other requirements under their reciprocity laws, you may carry your firearm in other states.

Reporting The Sale Of Firearms

Some federal and state laws require sellers to report the sale of firearms under specific circumstances. For example, licensed sellers must report the sale of two or more handguns that occur within five days of each other. In Texas, sellers are required to disclose the sale of certain types of rifles, such as AR-15 rifles.

Some rules that apply to licensed firearms dealers do not apply to unlicensed sellers. In Texas, a private seller may not have to disclose sales that are otherwise required to be reported by federally licensed sellers.

Losing Your Gun Rights

You lose the right to possess firearms in Texas if you are the subject of a domestic violence restraining order. You may also lose your right to own and purchase firearms if you have a felony or domestic violence conviction. Under some circumstances, you may be eligible to have your rights reinstated.

Contact A Texas Gun Laws Attorney Today

If you have questions about firearms laws, contact a Texas gun laws attorney today at 713-229-9992 or online. Attorneys at Vinas & Graham, PLLC, represent clients in Texas federal and state court matters. They know gun laws and how they apply to different circumstances.

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How DNA Can Affect The Outcome Of Your Case

DNA

Law enforcement officers and investigators sometimes gather deoxyribonucleic acid (‘DNA’) evidence from crime scenes to solve a crime by linking criminal activity to alleged offenders. They can also use DNA evidence to eliminate persons of interest as potential defendants. Unfortunately, DNA is not always reliable and is sometimes unfairly presented by prosecutors as absolute proof of a defendant’s guilt.

If you have questions about DNA evidence and how it may impact you in a criminal case, attorneys at Vinas & Graham, PLLC, can discuss your questions and concerns. They understand how forensic science can be used in criminal cases and how DNA collection can impact the outcome of your case.

Human Error In Collecting And Preserving DNA

Prosecutors often present DNA evidence as reliable and absolute proof that a defendant committed a crime. However, defense attorneys can examine how the DNA evidence was collected and hire experts to help determine if the prosecutor’s evidence is valid and reliable.

Many issues can lead to unreliable DNA evidence, such as errors made due to lack of training or sloppy and incompetent evidence collection and processing. DNA contamination can occur when the DNA evidence is not handled correctly, and another person’s DNA or other contaminates are mixed in with the evidence sample.

After evidence is collected, law enforcement officers and others who process the DNA are required to comply with chain of custody procedures and evidence log requirements. When prosecutors cannot establish credible evidence handling and chain of custody, defendants can argue that the evidence was tampered with or is tainted and should not be used at trial.

DNA Can Be Used To Prove Innocence

DNA evidence does not always have to be used to prove that a defendant is guilty and can sometimes be used to prove a defendant’s innocence. For example, DNA evidence can be used to exclude the defendant as a suspect by demonstrating that the DNA discovered at the crime scene does not match the defendant’s DNA.

Forensic experts are also sometimes able to link evidence to another person who was the likely perpetrator. DNA may be matched to another suspect in the case or someone else whose DNA is in the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS), a national DNA database. Criminal charges may be dismissed when DNA is matched to another person, and a defendant is excluded as a suspect.

Video courtesy of ABC13 – Read the full article here.

Establishing Proof Of DNA Does Not Necessarily Demonstrate Guilt

As mentioned above, DNA evidence is often presented by prosecutors as unwavering proof of a defendant’s guilt. Fortunately, DNA evidence does not always prove guilt, and additional evidence may be required for a conviction. Defendants might have legitimate reasons and explanations for their DNA being discovered during an investigation.

For example, if a defendant was a friend or acquaintance of the victim, that might explain why the defendant’s DNA was at the victim’s house or in their car. Even if a defendant cannot explain how or why their DNA was at the scene of a crime, they may have an irrefutable alibi to prove their innocence.

Recently, the reliability of evidence in hundreds and possibly thousands of local Texas criminal cases has been questioned due to what has been identified as a DNA analyst’s false testimony. Therefore, forensic expert testimony should never be assumed to be reliable and valid without thoroughly examining the evidence collected and the evidence handling practices.

Houston criminal defense attorney Joe Vinas, from Vinas & Graham, PLLC, is close to one of the cases in question in regards to the DNA analyst’s false testimony and says, “When you’re an expert in a court of law, you’re given a lot of deference and trust in that position. And when you abuse that trust, that really just undermines the entire system”.

A judge might throw out DNA evidence if the police collected the evidence during an illegal search and seizure. For example, if the police searched your car or home in violation of your constitutional rights and collected DNA or other evidence during the search, a judge may rule that the evidence cannot be used against you at trial.

Unfortunately, evidence planting or tampering sometimes occurs, and such conduct can be challenging to uncover. Falsifying DNA evidence can lead to the wrongful conviction of an innocent person. This is why it is critical to have professionals review the investigation and evidence collection process to discover any potential misconduct.

Call For A Consultation With A DNA Defense Attorney

If you are facing charges that involve DNA results, you need a reputable criminal defense attorney to review your case and the DNA evidence. So, call 713-229-9992 or reach out online for a confidential consultation with a Houston DNA defense attorney at Vinas & Graham, PLLC. They know how DNA evidence can impact a criminal case and how to best defend their clients in these criminal matters.

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What Differentiates Murder And Capital Murder In Texas?

murder charges

Murder and capital murder are serious crimes in Texas, and convictions can lead to severe penalties. Capital murder is the most egregious crime in Texas and is the only offense that may result in invoking the death penalty if convicted.

If you have been charged with murder, capital murder, or another criminal homicide charge, you may have questions about what differentiates murder and capital murder in Texas. A criminal defense attorney at Vinas & Graham, PLLC, can help you understand the charges and potential penalties for a conviction.

Elements Of Murder In Texas

In general, to prove a murder case, prosecutors must show that the defendant 1) intentionally or knowingly caused someone’s death, or 2) intended to cause serious bodily harm to someone resulting in death, or 3) committed a felony resulting in death.

Sometimes prosecutors charge defendants with murder even when they do not have adequate evidence to secure a conviction. This is a common tactic used by prosecutors to try to scare defendants into pleading guilty to a lesser offense, such as manslaughter or criminally negligent homicide.

Unfortunately, this strategy sometimes works, and defendants accept a plea bargain that is not in their best interests. When facing any type of homicide charge, it is important to ensure that you have competent and experienced legal representation to help you defend your case and negotiate plea deals that are favorable to you.

What Elevates Murder To Capital Murder?

As mentioned above, the death penalty can only be invoked in Texas for someone who has been convicted of capital murder. Murder can be upgraded to capital murder if specific aggravating circumstances exist, including but not limited to the following:

  • The murder victim was an on-duty peace officer or fireman.
  • The murder was intentionally committed during a kidnapping, burglary, aggravated sexual assault, or other specified crime.
  • It was a murder for hire.
  • The murder happened during an escape or attempted escape from prison.
  • The defendant was in prison and murdered another while participating in an organized criminal activity.
  • The defendant was in prison for murder, capital murder, or other specified aggravated felonies when he murdered someone.
  • The defendant murdered more than one person during the same criminal transaction or separate criminal transactions with a common scheme or course of conduct.
  • The murder victim was younger than 15 years old.
  • The defendant murders a judge in retaliation or because of the victim’s status as a judge.

Other Types Of Criminal Homicide

There are four types of criminal homicide in Texas: murder, capital murder, manslaughter, and criminally negligent homicide. Manslaughter is defined as recklessly causing the death of someone else. It is different from murder in that there is no element of intent or premeditation to cause serious bodily harm or death required for a conviction.

There are two types of manslaughter, voluntary and involuntary. Voluntary manslaughter is often referred to as a crime of passion where no premeditation is involved. Involuntary manslaughter occurs when someone accidentally but recklessly causes someone else’s death. Manslaughter convictions can result in significant fines and up to 20 years in prison.

Criminally negligent homicide is the least severe criminal homicide charge and occurs when a death is caused by someone’s unreasonable conduct or behavior that leads to another person’s death. A conviction for criminally negligent homicide is a state jail felony that can result in fines and up to two years in prison.

Defenses To Homicide Charges

Depending on the facts and circumstances of your case and the charges you are facing, you might have one or more defense strategies. Frequently raised defenses to homicide charges include lack of evidence to convict, someone else was responsible for the crime, you did not intend to seriously injure anyone, and self-defense.

Even if you believe that the prosecutors have enough evidence to convict you of a homicide crime, your charges might be dismissed or reduced if the police violated your constitutional rights during an interrogation or a search and seizure. Your attorney might also help negotiate a plea bargain to reduce your charges to a less severe offense.

Speak With A Texas Capital Murder Defense Attorney

If you or a loved one has been charged with murder or another homicide crime, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney advocating for your defense. Contact Vinas & Graham, PLLC, at 713-229-9992 or submit a contact form to speak with a Texas capital murder defense attorney. We will discuss your case and potential legal strategies.

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The Ultimate Guide To RICO Charges

RICO charges

If you are under investigation or have been charged with RICO crimes, you should understand the charges and potential penalties you may be facing. As explained in more detail below, RICO charges are not limited to mafia-related activities. Many crimes may be charged under the RICO Act, such as embezzlement, kidnapping, and money laundering.

Federal crimes attorneys at Vinas & Graham, PLLC, represent clients facing RICO charges. They know that RICO laws are often broadly applied to a wide variety of alleged criminal conduct and activities. Keep reading to learn more about RICO charges, the consequences of a conviction, and potential defenses.

What Is A RICO Charge?

RICO stands for Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. This Act was originally enacted in 1970 to address loopholes that allowed organized crime leaders to escape responsibility for crimes they ordered to be committed by others in their organizations.

Although RICO was initially intended to curb mafia crimes, its application has been expanded to cover all types of criminal activity that can be tied to some type of enterprise or organization. Crimes that are often charged under the RICO Act include the following:

  • Fraud
  • Embezzlement
  • Money laundering
  • Robbery
  • Bribery
  • Gambling
  • Arson
  • Counterfeiting
  • Dealing in obscene matter
  • Dealing or trafficking controlled substances or chemicals
  • Extortion
  • Kidnapping
  • Murder
  • Terrorism
  • Theft
  • Obstruction of justice
  • Transporting stolen goods
  • Other types of organized criminal activities

A person can be charged with RICO violations if they engage in a pattern of criminal activity in connection with an enterprise or organization. An enterprise or organization involves two or more people working together. It is not necessary to prove that the people involved in the enterprise knew each other, only that they were involved in the organization.

A pattern of activity can be established by proving that a defendant committed any two of the RICO crimes within a ten-year window. The separate crimes can be the same crimes, such as two individual acts of bribery. Or they can be different crimes, such as a single act of embezzlement and an act of murder for hire.

As mentioned above, RICO can be broadly applied, especially when prosecutors only need to show that two crimes were committed within ten years of each other. Unfortunately, defendants with RICO charges are subject to severe penalties if convicted.

RICO charges

What Are The Penalties For A RICO Conviction?

Convictions based solely on a RICO charge can result in up to 20 years in prison and a $25,000 fine. However, the maximum sentencing may be increased if the maximum sentencing for the underlying crime is more than 20 years in prison. For example, if the underlying offense is murder for hire, you might be facing a sentence of life in prison.

In addition to fines and prison time, you could be required to forfeit money and other property that was derived from the alleged criminal activity. If you are indicted on RICO charges, prosecutors might seek an order for forfeiture and seizure of assets before you have been convicted of your charges.

Under federal and Texas state RICO laws, any victims of racketeering activities might seek restitution from defendants accused of RICO violations. For example, if you are accused of embezzlement, you might be required to return embezzled money and other property to crime victims.

RICO Case Examples

As described above, prosecutors must show a pattern of criminal activities, which means committing two or more RICO crimes within a ten-year period. Most RICO crimes involve making or obtaining money through illegal means.

Common types of RICO money-making schemes include drug trafficking, weapons trafficking, and murder or arson for hire. Human trafficking and transporting stolen goods are other offenses that can result in RICO charges.

Bribery and extortion are similar crimes frequently charged as RICO violations. Bribery involves promising money or something else of value to someone, usually a public official, to influence their judgment or conduct. Examples of bribery include offering money to a judge for a favorable ruling or a police officer to look the other way.

Extortion is different from bribery in that the offenders make threats to secure some type of payment or compensation. For example, threatening to publish someone’s private photos if they do not give you cash is extortion.

RICO charges

Has Anyone Ever Beat A RICO Case?

Yes, it is possible to beat a RICO case, especially with an experienced and skilled federal criminal defense attorney. Even if you believe that prosecutors have the evidence they need for a conviction, you should not give up and plead guilty to the charges against you.

Your charges may be dismissed or reduced if your rights were violated in the gathering of evidence. For example, law enforcement officers might have conducted an illegal search and seizure, violated your Miranda rights, or violated the chain of custody requirements after the evidence was collected.

You might also have a valid defense, such as you were not part of an organization or enterprise, or you did not knowingly commit a crime. Other potential defenses include mistaken identity, lack of evidence, and no pattern of criminal activity.

Even if there is evidence that you committed a crime, an attorney might be able to help you negotiate a plea bargain with prosecutors. Prosecutors are often willing to agree to lesser charges in exchange for a guilty plea to avoid the expense and risks of going to trial.

Contact A Houston RICO Charges Defense Attorney

If you or someone you know is facing federal or state RICO charges in Texas, A Houston RICO defense attorney at Vinas & Graham, PLLC, can help. Contact our office at 713-229-9992 or complete our online form for a private and confidential RICO defense consultation. We understand what is at stake when you are accused of a crime, and our attorneys will help protect your rights and your future.

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What Is Considered An Act Of Domestic Violence In Texas

domestic violence

Domestic violence is a continuing problem in Texas and around the nation. To combat this in Texas, penalties are often greater for domestic violence prosecutions than violent actions against other non-family members. Furthermore, additional restrictions on bail policies and firearm ownership for domestic violators are specifically geared to prevent future acts of domestic violence from happening.

Yet, despite our best efforts, the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence reports that approximately twenty people are abused by a domestic partner in the United States each minute. Children are the most vulnerable family members in these situations, often leaving them to perpetuate the cycle of abuse.

Texas Recognizes Several Forms of Domestic Violence

While most of us think of physical abuse when we think of domestic violence, in Texas, we recognize several different types of domestic violence. In addition to physical abuse, we also consider psychological, economic, sexual, emotional, and technological abuse under criminal charges.

Furthermore, domestic violence actions can be broadly interpreted. Anyone facing domestic violence charges should get the immediate legal assistance of a Houston domestic violence attorney to understand their potential consequences and their rights.

Physical Abuse

While physical abuse may seem easy enough to understand, it does not always mean physical violence resulting in bodily injury. Withholding medical treatment or forcing behavior that can potentially be physically harmful can also be regarded as physical domestic abuse.

Psychological Abuse

Psychological abuse can be any behavior that is threatening, intimidating or causes fear in others. This can also include threats of self-harm, harming pets or property, preventing someone from leaving, or keeping someone away from friends and family.

Emotional Abuse

Emotional abuse can manifest in insulting, humiliating, and critical behavior. While these behaviors are considered abusive, they are very difficult to prove until there are other forms of abuse present.

Economic Abuse

When one individual is forced to be financially dependent on the other, this can be considered economic abuse. This can take the form of withholding funds, preventing the other partner from going to work or receiving an education, creating debt, or spending a partner’s savings, thereby limiting resources available to them.

Sexual Abuse

Sexual abuse can be broadly interpreted. While it includes things such as rape or sexual assault, it can also include things such as forcing sexually demeaning acts or pressuring a partner into an abortion.

Technological Abuse

Technological abuse can include using social media and texts to harass, intimidate or bully a partner. These charges are becoming more common as technology becomes more prevalent in our lives.

Who Can File Domestic Violence Charges in Texas?

While domestic violence charges are most often associated with intimate partners and spouses, Texas law allows others to file domestic violence charges, including

  • Other blood relatives
  • Other household members
  • Past or present dating partners
  • Foster parents and children

What Should You Do If You Are Facing Domestic Violence Charges in Texas?

Penalties for domestic violence can be severe, ranging from one year in jail for a Class A misdemeanor to 99 years in prison for a first-degree felony. A domestic violence conviction can not only result in time behind bars and other serious penalties but also leave you with a criminal record that will follow you for the rest of your life. It’s important if you are facing these charges to get experienced legal representation as soon as possible.

If you are facing domestic violence charges, the quality of your legal defense can make a huge difference. The skilled criminal defense attorneys at Vinas & Graham, PLLC, have dedicated their careers to protecting the rights of those who have been charged with crimes in Texas and ensuring their best possible outcome. Call us at (713) 229-9992 or contact us via our website contact form to schedule a confidential consultation. Learn more about our firm on our Facebook page.

What Is Considered An Internet Crime?

internet crimes

Many Americans use the internet daily for a variety of reasons. The internet can be used to keep in touch with friends and loved ones, promote business, do research, and for many other things. However, some of the things people do on the internet are considered criminal, and the FBI will prosecute those crimes.

The phrase internet crime is the term used for any illegal activity that happens through the use of the internet. Since the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has jurisdiction over the internet, these crimes can be considered federal crimes. There are lots of online activities that carry criminal charges.

Identity Theft

Most people have heard of this crime. Identity theft is using someone else’s personal information to commit fraud. This could be stealing banking information and making purchases. Using someone’s social security number to open credit accounts is another common identity crime. When the internet is used to steal personal information, identity theft can be considered an internet crime.

Money Laundering

Money laundering is making money through criminal activity but making it look like it came from a legal business transaction. Money laundering is also called a white-collar crime. When a person uses a website to launder money, it also becomes an internet crime. Virtual gaming sites and online auctions are just two examples of websites used for money laundering.

Data Theft

Data theft is stealing information from corporations or businesses of any size. Most of the time, it is intentionally done for financial gain. But sometimes, it can happen when an employee takes home unsecured information or keeps information after they leave the company. Data stolen by hacking websites is an internet crime.

Cyberstalking

Cyberstalking is using the internet to harass a person online. The intention is to intimidate, humiliate, and harass the target. It continues to happen even after the person being stalked tells the other person to stop. The most severe form includes sexual harassment and threats of physical harm. Online harassment can be done through email and social media posts.

Online Solicitation Of A Minor

If someone uses the internet to communicate with a minor with any kind of sexual reference, it is a crime. Even if there is no intention to meet the minor, it is still considered a crime. If the person receiving the sexual communication is impersonating a minor, it can still be considered a felony.

Internet Extortion

Internet extortion can also be called cyber extortion. This is a crime where hackers control computer systems, data, or websites until their demands are met. This could be stealing a business’s data and denying them access or a threat to publicly release the information.

Internet Crimes Are Federal Crimes

Internet crimes are a serious matter. There are internet laws at the state level, but because the internet is governed by the FCC, any crimes can be prosecuted at the federal level. Anyone facing federal charges needs a lawyer that understands and has experience with federal law.

The attorneys Vinas & Graham, PLLC, have the experience of defending federal criminal charges and they can defend you. Contact them today at (713) 229-9992 for more information. You can follow them on Facebook.

Everything You Need To Understand About Drug Crime Charges In Texas

drug crime charges

Being charged with a drug crime in Texas — whether possession, delivery, or manufacturing — can incur some serious penalties. However, there are big differences in punishments according to the type of drug and its amount. The penalties are set out in the Texas drug statutes, which may be less harsh than the federal guidelines in some cases, but which are still often severe.

Cocaine, Methamphetamine, and Opiate Crimes

The Penalty 1 group includes cocaine, methamphetamine, opiates, opium derivatives, and some other substances. Punishment differs according to the quantity of the drug involved upon arrest.

Less than 1 gram is a state jail felony with a sentence of 180 days to two years and a fine of less than $10,000. A greater quantity of drugs can increase the charge to a different degree of a felony, with sentences ranging from five to 99 years. For instance, fines are up to $100,000 for possession of more than 400 grams and up to $250,000 for manufacturing of the same amount.

First-time offenders for a crime involving less than 1 gram are sometimes able to receive probation instead of jail time. However, if you’re charged with manufacturing in the presence of a child, the punishment increases to a more severe degree of a felony, and a crime is always classified as a felony if force is used.

Marijuana Crimes

Marijuana is not included in any of the penalty groups in the Texas statutes; instead, it has its own group. Possession of less than 2 ounces is a Class B misdemeanor, meaning up to 180 days in county jail and a fine of up to $2,000. A judge will also determine if two years of probation is necessary.

Possession of between 2 and 4 ounces is also a misdemeanor, but it increases to Class A and can incur a 1-year county jail sentence plus a fine of up to $4,000. Possession of more than 2 ounces and up to 5 pounds of marijuana is a state jail felony, whereas possession of more than 5 pounds is a degree felony.

Penalties are similar for the delivery of marijuana. The differences in sentences apply to the smallest quantities: delivering less than a quarter ounce with no remuneration is a Class B misdemeanor, and with remuneration is a Class A misdemeanor. Between a quarter ounce and 5 pounds is a state jail felony.

Like with Penalty 1 group drugs, the punishment increases by one degree if the delivery used a child, and using force during the arrest automatically makes the crime a degree felony.

Other Drug Crimes

Texas also has guidelines for penalties for other drugs. A criminal defense attorney can advise you on what kind of penalties you’re likely to face.

Criminal Representation For A Drug Crime In Texas

Having an experienced attorney on your side could mean you face a lesser drug charge or even face only probation. You can receive such support from the team at Vinas & Graham, PPLC. Schedule a private and confidential consultation immediately to start building your case. Plus, follow us on Facebook to stay up to date with information about drug crimes and other legal issues in Texas.

Understanding Bank Robbery Laws

bank robbery

Bank robbery cases are usually prosecuted in federal court. The penalties for convictions are harsh and typically include federal prison time and significant fines. There are different levels of bank robbery charges, and some are much more serious than others.

If you have been charged with bank robbery, it is important to understand your charges and the penalties you might be facing. Keep reading to learn more about federal bank robbery laws and how a Houston federal crimes attorney can help defend your charges.

Federal Crimes Charges

As mentioned above, bank robbery is usually charged as a federal crime. This means that your case will be brought to federal court by a federal prosecutor. There are separate rules for federal courts, which is why it is crucial to have an experienced bank robbery attorney defending your case.

In addition to different rules, federal laws are separate and independent of state laws. The penalties, including prison time and fines, for these convictions are usually more severe than those for state convictions.

Proving Bank Robbery Charges

If you are charged with bank robbery, the prosecution still must prove its case against you. In general, for a bank robbery conviction, the prosecutor must satisfy the following elements:

  • You took or attempted to take money, property, or another thing of value belonging to or in control of a bank, savings and loan association, or federal credit union.
  • The bank or other financial institution has its deposits insured by the FDIC, Federal Savings & Loan Corporation, or National Credit Union Administration, and
  • You acted to take the money, property, or another thing of value with threats, violence, or intimidation.

Federal bankruptcy laws have been expanded to cover different types of wrongful conduct. Examples of other conduct that also falls under federal bank robbery law include using extortion to take money that was in the custody or care of a covered financial institution or stealing from an ATM or armored vehicle.

Defending Your Charges

Preparing a solid defense is critical when you are charged with bank robbery. Depending on the circumstances of your case, your attorney may decide to pursue one or more defense strategies on your behalf. Lack of intent to steal, you were under duress, and mistaken identity are common bank robbery defenses.

Your attorney will also examine the evidence and police conduct to determine if your constitutional rights were violated. Strategies that your attorney may pursue include seeking a dismissal of charges, negotiating a plea bargain, or defending your charges at trial.

Contact A Houston Bank Robbery And Federal Crimes Attorney

If you or a loved one is facing bank robbery or other federal criminal charges, a Houston bank robbery and federal crimes attorney at Vinas & Graham, PLLC, can help. Call their office at 713-229-9992 or complete their online form for a confidential consultation. They will hear your story, review the charges against you, and discuss potential defense strategies.

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Is There A Difference Between Manslaughter And Negligent Homicide?

manslaughter

If your actions resulted in the death of another person, but it was not your intent to take someone’s life, you may be charged with either manslaughter or negligent homicide. Although the two offenses sound similar, there are some important differences, including the punishments they incur.

What Is Manslaughter?

Manslaughter is the more serious of the two offenses, although it is still less severe than murder. In both, the defendant committed the crime in the heat of passion without a premeditated intent to kill the victim.

In Texas, the degree of culpable mental state impacts how severe the court considers the crime. The highest degree is an intentional mental state, meaning the defendant was conscious of what would result and desired the result.

The second-highest degree is a knowing mental state, which means the defendant was reasonably certain as to what would happen. The lowest degree that is still considered voluntary manslaughter is a reckless mental state. In such a case, the defendant would have been aware of the risk but consciously disregarded it.

Some examples of crimes that could lead to a manslaughter charge in Texas include driving under the influence, killing someone in self-defense when it was not a life-or-death situation, and assault after the victim provoked the defendant, leading to the defendant’s judgment to be impaired.

A second-degree felony, penalties for manslaughter include between two and 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

What Is Negligent Homicide?

The lowest degree of culpable mental state is criminal negligence, which can lead to a charge of negligent homicide or involuntary manslaughter, depending on the court system. A negligent homicide conviction is possible if the defendant failed to realize that there was a significant risk of death, but an ordinary person would have been aware of the inherent risk and would have behaved differently.

You could be convicted of negligent homicide in Texas if you were involved in a case of vehicular homicide or in the case that a physical altercation or the reckless use of firearms (including the use of illegal weapons) resulted in the death of another person.

In addition, some types of drug activity can lead to a negligent homicide charge, such as selling illicit drugs or illegally prescribing medication.

As a less severe crime than manslaughter, negligent homicide is a state jail felony. Again, it can incur a fine of up to $10,000, but incarceration is a jail sentence of between 180 days and two years.

Receiving Representation

Both manslaughter and negligent homicide are serious charges. It’s crucial that you have an experienced attorney representing you to minimize the penalties you incur. For instance, an attorney who is well-versed in homicide law can prove a lower culpable mental state to reduce your punishment.

If you are being charged with manslaughter or negligent homicide, reach out to Vinas & Graham, PLLC, today for a private and confidential consultation. Plus, be sure to follow them on Facebook for more useful information about criminal charges and how they can help.

What Are Your Rights During A Search And Seizure

search and seizure

You are empowered with rights under the U.S. Constitution, even if you have been suspected of a crime. The Fourth Amendment provides that “the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath, or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” Texas has its own version of this provision under Article 1, Section 9 of the Texas Constitution.

The Fourth Amendment is all about privacy, but there is a limit to what privacy an individual is entitled to as the suspect of a crime. Law enforcement can override that privacy and conduct a search and seizure, but they must work within the provisions and constraints of the law.

What Can Law Enforcement Lawfully Do?

Law enforcement has the right to reasonable searches and seizures when they can demonstrate probable cause and follow legal procedure.

In most cases, a valid warrant must be issued by the court. A warrant request must show probable cause and include a sworn affidavit that outlines a detailed description of the area that will be searched, why the property is being searched, and what property they intend to seize. The search and seizure is then limited to these areas specified in the warrant and nothing more.

There are exceptions to a warrant requirement, however. These include:

  • Consent to the search
  • A search that is “incident to a lawful arrest”
  • Evidence that is in plain view
  • Evidence that is located in a place where there is no expectation of the suspect’s privacy
  • Expectation that evidence was going to be destroyed
  • Probable cause and search of a vehicle.

A Suspect’s Rights In A Search And Seizure

If law enforcement wants to enter your home for a search without a warrant, you have the constitutional right to deny their entry. If you do consent to a search, they can seize anything in view. But if you deny entry, law enforcement can come back later with a valid warrant.

It’s important to keep in mind that denying a search, while it is your right, may be used against you in some cases. You will want to explore those options and consequences with your lawyer.

If you feel that you were subject to an unlawful search and seizure, it is critical to get the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney as it will have an effect on whether the items seized will be allowable into evidence.

Defending Against An Illegal Search And Seizure

A skilled Texas criminal defense attorney will always look at how evidence was collected and whether a search and seizure was conducted lawfully under the Fourth Amendment.

When evidence has been obtained illegally, the exclusionary rule deems that it must be excluded from evidence and cannot be considered. In this case, your attorney will file a motion to suppress the illegally obtained evidence so it cannot be used against you.

Your Rights During A Search And Seizure Answered By Experienced Criminal Defense Attorneys

If you find yourself a suspect of a crime, you are still entitled to your constitutional rights. Getting the assistance of an experienced Houston criminal defense attorney is critical to safeguarding your legal rights and ensuring that evidence was collected lawfully.

At Vinas & Graham, PLLC, we work diligently to protect your constitutional rights regarding search and seizure practices. Contact us to schedule a confidential consultation. You may also follow us on Facebook to understand how we protect our clients against criminal charges.

How Marriage Fraud Is Viewed Under Immigration Fraud

immigration fraud

When a U.S. citizen marries a non-citizen, the non-citizen is afforded certain immigration rights and typically does not have to go through the regular immigration process. It is generally much easier to get citizenship in the United States if you marry someone who is already a citizen than it is to otherwise go through the legal process.

Sham marriages to avoid immigration requirements are a common type of immigration fraud. Unfortunately, even legitimate marriages are often heavily scrutinized by the federal government as a result.

If you have been accused of marriage fraud, an immigration attorney at Vinas & Graham, PLLC, can help. They represent clients in all types of federal crimes cases, including immigration matters and marriage fraud.

Types Of Marriage Fraud

Under United States federal laws, entering into a marriage solely to circumvent the immigration system or evade immigration laws is illegal and constitutes marriage fraud. Certain types of marital arrangements and intentions are viewed as marriage fraud.

For example, it is a crime to pay or accept payment in exchange for marriage to a United States citizen to evade U.S. immigration laws. It is also considered marriage fraud when a non-citizen tricks a citizen into believing their marriage is legitimate when the non-citizen’s true intent is to circumvent the immigration process.

Immigration Fraud Investigations And Interviews

If you are the subject of a marital investigation or interview, you will need to show that your marriage is legal and was not entered into for the sole purpose of securing favorable immigration status. Evidence often used to establish the legitimacy of a marriage includes children’s birth certificates, joint property deeds, and joint bank account statements.

The penalties for marriage fraud convictions can be severe, including up to five years in prison, $250,000 in fines, and removal from the United States. The consequences are steeper if you are charged with additional crimes, such as conspiracy, visa fraud, harboring an alien, or making false statements.

Marriage Fraud Defenses

An experienced immigration fraud attorney can help you defend fraud allegations. Potential marriage fraud defenses include:

  • Your relationship is a legitimate marriage that was not entered into in violation of U.S. immigration laws.
  • Your spouse tricked you into a sham marriage to gain U.S. citizenship, but you believed your union was real and valid.
  • You met your spouse through an online dating website and decided to get married without the intent to evade immigration laws.

With an immigration fraud attorney advocating for your rights, they will go through all of the facts and provide a valid defense for your case.

Speak With A Houston Immigration Fraud Attorney

Attorneys at Vinas & Graham, PLLC, represent clients who have been accused of immigration fraud and those who are the subject of a marriage fraud investigation. If you are facing immigration charges or an investigation, they can help protect your rights and defend your case.

Call Vinas & Graham at 713-229-9992 or submit a contact form, and they will be in touch with you. See their Facebook page for more information about their law firm and areas of practice.