How A Houston Federal Crimes Attorney Can Help You – Part 1

federal crimes

Criminal defense attorneys at Vinas & Graham, PLLC, have more than 30 years of combined experience handling federal crimes cases. We know that federal government cases are different than Texas state court cases, and we are not afraid to stand up to federal prosecutors.

Federal crimes are governed by federal laws and sentencing guidelines. See below for part 1 of how a Houston federal crimes attorney can help you defend your charges and your constitutional rights in federal prosecution matters.

Possession Of A Controlled Substance

Under the Controlled Substances Act, drugs regulated by the federal government are divided into schedules based on certain factors, such as medical use, the potential for abuse, and the risk to public health. Possession of a controlled substance is not always a crime, however. The possession of some scheduled drugs is legal with a valid prescription for legitimate medical use.

If you have been charged with possessing, manufacturing, or distributing a controlled substance, an attorney can help by examining police conduct and the evidence collected. If your rights were violated with an illegal search and seizure or another type of misconduct, your attorney might seek to have the evidence thrown out and your charges dismissed.

Federal Bank Robbery Crimes

Bank robbery is a felony crime, and charges are usually brought at the federal level. Sentencing for bank robbery convictions is based on the federal sentencing guidelines depending on the value of the property taken, whether or not a weapon was used during the robbery and other factors.

Sentencing for bank robbery convictions can be up to 25 years or more under some circumstances. Bank robbery charges do not have to result in convictions, however, especially when you have an experienced attorney to help you negotiate with prosecutors and build a solid defense.

Immigration Fraud

Immigration fraud, such as identity and benefit fraud, can result in prison time, removal proceedings, and other consequences. If you have been charged with an immigration fraud crime, you need a federal crimes attorney to make sure that your rights are protected during your legal proceedings.

Defendants accused of immigration crimes are often victims of unfair bias and language barriers. An attorney will help you understand the charges against you, ensure that you have access to interpretation services, and stand up to federal agents and prosecutors who have accused you of fraud and other immigration crimes.

RICO Crimes

The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act (‘RICO’) is broadly stated and interpreted to cover a wide range of criminal activity. Criminal conduct such as bankruptcy fraud, human trafficking, money laundering, and embezzlement that can be considered RICO crimes carry enhanced penalties, including lengthy prison sentences, steep fines, and forfeiture of assets.

Attorneys can not only help defend the charges against you, but they can help protect your assets and your freedom. They can also negotiate plea deals, including cooperation with federal agents and prosecutors for reduced or dismissed charges.

Federal Weapons Charges

U.S. citizens have a constitutional right to bear arms, but there are restrictions and requirements for possessing and carrying weapons. If you violate federal weapons laws, your right to bear arms may be in jeopardy.

Weapons charges often involve allegations of possession of an illegal weapon or the illegal use, possession, or dealing of a weapon. Federal crimes attorneys know conceal, carry, and possession laws. They can help you defend your weapons charges and fight to protect your right to bear arms.

Internet Crimes

There has been a steady increase in internet crimes over the last several decades, and these crimes pose threats to individuals, businesses, and government entities. As the severity of crimes and threats have increased, the federal government has stepped up efforts to prosecute these crimes.

Unfortunately, prosecutors and law enforcement officers sometimes overreact to conduct that they see as illegal or threatening, and innocent actors are charged with internet crimes that they did not intend to commit. Criminal defense attorneys with internet crime experience are familiar with overzealous prosecution, and they know how to gather exculpatory evidence and defend their accused clients.

Houston Federal Crimes Attorney Here To Help

If you or a loved one is facing federal charges in Texas, contact us online or at 713-229-9992 to discuss your case. Houston federal crimes attorneys at Vinas & Graham, PLLC, understand the severity of federal crimes convictions. They will aggressively advocate for the best possible outcome in your federal criminal matter.

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Texas Manslaughter Laws: What You Need To Know

manslaughter

If you are suspected of manslaughter or have already been charged, you should know some important things about manslaughter charges in Texas. Most importantly, you should know that even though this charge is less severe than murder, your future rights and freedom are still at stake if you are facing manslaughter charges.

Criminal defense attorneys at Vinas & Graham, PLLC, defend clients who have been charged with crimes in Texas, including manslaughter. We know that criminal defense clients rely on our legal representation, and we will fight to protect your rights, your future, and your reputation. Keep reading to learn more about manslaughter charges in Texas.

Manslaughter Charges Are Not Murder Charges

In general, proving murder charges requires showing that the defendant intentionally or knowingly caused someone’s death or intentionally caused serious bodily injury with an act that was dangerous to human life resulting in death. You can also be convicted of murder under some circumstances if an attempt to commit a felony results in death.

Murder charges carry steep fines and penalties, including the possibility of spending life in prison. When prosecutors do not have the evidence to prove the knowledge or intent required for a murder conviction, they often turn to the reduced charge of manslaughter because it is generally easier to prove than murder.

Manslaughter Charges In Texas

In Texas, you can be charged with manslaughter or intoxication manslaughter. The first type requires proof that you recklessly caused someone’s death. Reckless is a subjective standard that requires demonstrating that a reasonable person would consider the defendant’s conduct that caused the victim’s death to be reckless.

Intoxication manslaughter involves operating an automobile, boat, or another dangerous vehicle while intoxicated, resulting in someone else’s death. A drunk driving accident that results in fatal injuries to a passenger or occupants of another automobile is the most common type of intoxication manslaughter.

Criminally Negligent Homicide

Criminally negligent homicide is another criminal charge that requires proving that the defendant negligently caused someone else’s death. The charge and consequences are not as severe as manslaughter or murder charges. Sometimes manslaughter charges are reduced to criminally negligent homicide during plea negotiations or when the prosecution does not have enough evidence to prove that the defendant’s conduct was reckless.

Consequences Of A Manslaughter Conviction

Consequences of a manslaughter conviction include up to 20 years in prison, a fine of up to $10,000, and court costs. You may also have to pay for the expenses necessary to carry out court orders, such as the cost of installing an ignition interlock device and court-ordered alcohol dependency classes. Intoxication manslaughter convictions can also result in license suspension.

Enhanced penalties may be imposed if you have prior convictions and other extenuating circumstances, such as one of the following scenarios:

  • The person who died was an on-duty first responder
  • You have a prior DWI conviction
  • You have prior intoxication manslaughter or intoxication assault convictions
  • There was a child under the age of 15 in your vehicle at the time of the accident
  • Your blood alcohol content was over .15 (twice the legal amount) at the time of the accident
  • You had an open container in the car

Defenses To Manslaughter Charges

You may be facing manslaughter charges, but that does not mean that you will be convicted, especially if you have a solid defense and experienced legal representation. Defenses to criminal charges include mistake of fact, duress, your conduct was not reckless, your actions did not cause the fatal injuries, and lack of evidence.

Even if you think the prosecutors have the evidence necessary for a conviction, that evidence may not be admissible if the police violated your constitutional rights. Evidence gathered in violation of your rights will generally be inadmissible at trial.

Common constitutional violations include illegal search and seizure and due process violations. For example, suppose that you made admissions against interest during a custodial police interrogation, and the police failed to read your Miranda rights. Your attorney would ask to have your admissions suppressed so that they cannot be used as evidence to support a conviction.

Reach Out To A Texas Manslaughter Defense Attorney

If you have been charged with manslaughter or another crime in Texas, a criminal defense attorney at Vinas & Graham, PLLC, can help. We will work vigorously to protect your rights and obtain the best result in your case. Contact us online or at 713-229-9992 to discuss your case.

Our attorneys have decades of experience handling Texas criminal law matters, and we can help you. Follow our Facebook page to learn more about our attorneys and the types of cases that we handle.

Understanding The Different Types Of Robbery Charges

robbery charges

In Texas, there are two types of robbery charges: robbery and aggravated robbery. These charges are serious and can result in significant fines, jail time, and other collateral consequences. If you have been charged with robbery, you need a high-quality, top-rated criminal defense attorney working on your case.

Houston criminal defense attorneys at Vinas & Graham, PLLC, represent clients who have been charged with robbery in Texas, and we understand that a robbery conviction can have severe consequences for our clients and their families. We fiercely advocate for our clients’ rights and work to secure the best possible outcome in every case.

Elements Of Robbery In Texas

In general, theft is defined as unlawfully appropriating property with the intent to deprive the owner of the property. In Texas, theft can be charged as the more serious offense of robbery when a person intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly caused bodily injury to another person during the commission of a theft.

Under some circumstances, theft can be charged as robbery even if no one was seriously injured. When a person intentionally or knowingly threatens or places another in fear of immediate bodily injury or death during the commission of a theft, the perpetrator can be charged with robbery.

Aggravated Robbery Elements

The crime of robbery can be charged as aggravated robbery under the following circumstances:

  • Another person suffered serious bodily injury during the robbery.
  • Another person, over 64 years old or disabled, suffered bodily harm or was threatened or in fear of immediate bodily harm or death.
  • A deadly weapon was used or exhibited during the robbery.

A deadly weapon is broadly defined under Texas law to include a firearm or anything else that can be used to cause death or serious bodily injury. For example, an automobile, a hammer, a baseball bat, or a rope may be considered a deadly weapon depending on the specific case facts.

Defending Your Robbery Charges

You should never assume that robbery charges will result in a criminal conviction. Prosecutors often file charges hoping that defendants will attempt to represent themselves at trial or plead guilty to the charges. Many defenses can be raised in criminal cases that may result in reduced charges, dismissed charges, or a not guilty verdict.

If you have been charged with robbery, an experienced criminal defense attorney can help you defend those charges and protect your future. Your attorney may negotiate a plea deal with prosecutors, provide evidence showing that law enforcement officers violated your constitutional rights, or put together a solid defense that demonstrates your innocence.

Texas Robbery Charges Defense Attorneys

If you are facing robbery charges in Texas, criminal defense attorneys at Vinas & Graham, PLLC, can help. Contact our office at 713-229-9992 or leave us a message online to schedule a consultation. These charges are serious, and only a dedicated law firm with a proven record of success should be entrusted to handle your case.

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How Much Jail Time Will I Receive For Illegal Re-entry?

illegal re-entry

Illegal re-entry is a federal crime that involves a range of penalties for convictions, depending on the particular circumstances of your case. Undocumented immigrants often do not enjoy the same constitutional rights and legal processes as U.S. citizens.

Illegal re-entry convictions can lead to fines, prison time, separation from family, and the possibility of being banned from ever returning to the United States. If you or a loved one is facing illegal re-entry charges, an attorney from Vinas and Graham, PLLC, can help.

We represent clients in all types of immigration matters, including illegal re-entry. We understand the immense impact that immigration decisions can have on you and your family. We will provide you with aggressive legal representation and pursue a favorable outcome for your immigration matter.

What Is Illegal Re-entry?

Illegal entry is a federal petty misdemeanor and one of the most common charges against undocumented immigrants. Illegal re-entry is a much more serious charge that comes with steeper consequences.

Under federal immigration laws, you may be charged with illegal re-entry if you re-enter, attempt to re-enter, or are caught in the United States after previously facing one of the following immigration actions:

  • Removal proceedings pursued by the government to remove you from the U.S. to another country.
  • Deportation is an older term that has essentially the same meaning as removal. Deportation proceedings mean that the government coordinated your departure from the U.S. to another country.
  • Denied admission or excluded means that U.S. government agents previously determined that you were inadmissible; thus, your entry to the U.S. was denied.
  • You left the U.S. while an order of exclusion, deportation, or removal was outstanding.

Consequences Of Illegal Re-entry Convictions

The severity of consequences for illegal re-entry varies depending on your criminal history, including the number and type of convictions that are on your record. Under most circumstances, you will be facing fines and jail time for illegal re-entry convictions.

If your criminal history is not serious, your sentence might be up to two years in prison, fines, and a ban on re-entering the United States. If you have three or more misdemeanor convictions involving drugs, crimes against a person, or a combination of both, your sentence might involve fines, up to ten years in prison, and a ban on re-entry.

The sentence is the same (fines, up to ten years, and no re-entry) if you have a prior felony conviction that is not an aggravated felony. If you have a prior aggravated felony conviction, your sentencing will be more severe. With an aggravated felony, you may be facing up to 20 years in prison for an illegal re-entry conviction.

Illegal Re-entry Defenses

There is often an unfair bias against immigrants, regardless of their documentation status. Because of that bias, it is critical to have an attorney advocating for your rights if you have been charged with illegal re-entry or other immigration crimes. You may have a good defense to the charges that you are facing, and you need an attorney to defend you at your proceedings.

Defenses to illegal re-entry include the following:

  • You’re a U.S. citizen or otherwise are in the country legally. Sometimes illegal re-entry charges are a matter of lost paperwork and misunderstandings.
  • You were not previously removed, deported, or excluded from the United States. This sometimes happens when there has been a case of mistaken or stolen identity.
  • You did not have the requisite criminal intent to commit illegal re-entry.
  • Your original deportation or removal proceedings were unlawful.
  • You were denied the opportunity for judicial review.
  • You were denied the opportunity to file for asylum.

Plea Negotiations

Even if you don’t have a strong defense to fight illegal re-entry charges, an attorney can help you negotiate a better deal than you might receive if you face your immigration proceedings without legal representation. In some cases, your attorney may be able to help you fast-track your deportation matter and avoid a lengthy prison sentence.

Texas Illegal Re-entry Defense Attorneys

Texas illegal re-entry defense attorneys at Vinas and Graham, PLLC, provide top-quality legal services for those who have been charged with illegal re-entry. Contact our office at 713-229-9992 or submit an online form to schedule a no-obligation consultation. We understand that immigration proceedings can be stressful and confusing. Our attorneys will aggressively defend your charges and advocate for your rights and freedoms.

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Will I Lose My Job With A DWI Conviction

DWI

A DWI conviction in Texas comes with many consequences, such as license suspension, a criminal record, fines, and possible jail time. There may be secondary consequences as well. One of the most common questions about secondary consequences that we are asked by clients who have been charged with a DWI is: Will I lose my job with a DWI conviction?

At Vinas & Graham, PLLC, our criminal defense attorneys understand that you may have multiple concerns about DWI charges, including whether or not your employment is in jeopardy. Your job status after a DWI conviction depends on several factors that are discussed in more detail below.

Employment Contract

If you have an employment contract, the contract should provide the reasons for which your job may be terminated. If those reasons specifically include DWIs or criminal convictions in general, your employer may have cause for termination. There might also be broader categories in your contract, such as the right to terminate employment for conduct unbecoming of the company or its reputation, that may be grounds for termination after a DWI conviction.

At-Will Employment

Texas, like most states, is an at-will employment state. This means that unless you have an employment contract, you may be terminated for any legal reason. In general, it is legal to fire an employee after a DWI conviction. Some types of employment circumstances increase the risk that you will lose your job after a DWI.

High-Risk Factors For Job Loss After A DWI

Factors and circumstances that increase your risk for job loss after a DWI include the following:

  • Jobs that require a commercial driver’s license – If you have a CDL, you are held to a higher standard for vehicle operation than other drivers. If you are convicted of a DWI, your license may be suspended for a longer time than for drivers with a regular state driver’s license. If your job requires a CDL, you may lose your job upon suspension of your license.
  • Jobs that require you to drive – If your job requires you to travel and you lose your license, you may lose your job because you do not have a way to carry out your job duties. For example, those who work in sales often drive to see clients on a regular basis. If they are unable to visit their clients, their employers may terminate their employment.
  • Jobs working with children – People who work as teachers, daycare providers, and other positions that involve working with children are entrusted with significant responsibilities. Employers may consider employees with DWIs to be a liability and may no longer trust them to work with children.
  • Jobs operating heavy machinery and equipment – Operators have a significant responsibility to carry out their job duties safely. Employers may see it as too great of a risk to trust employees with DWI convictions to operate heavy machinery and equipment.
  • Jobs that require professional license – Professional licensing boards are responsible for granting and suspending professional licenses. Boards regulating licenses for attorneys, accountants, medical professionals, and other occupations may suspend or revoke licenses for those with DWI convictions.
  • Jobs with regular employee background checks – Most employers run background checks on job applicants, and some of them regularly run background checks on employees after they have been hired. Employers who discover DWI convictions in routine background checks may decide to terminate those employees.
  • Law enforcement and other government jobs – Those in law enforcement and other government positions are held to high standards, and their employment may be terminated for DWI convictions.
  • DWI after prior convictions – Some employers may look the other way if you have a single criminal conviction. However, if you are convicted of a DWI after having previous convictions, your employer may decide to terminate your employment.

Houston DWI Defense Attorney

If you have been charged with a DWI, the best way to protect yourself is to hire an experienced DWI defense attorney. Your attorney will go over your case, review the evidence against you, and look at law enforcement conduct to determine if your constitutional rights were violated. Contact Houston DWI defense attorneys at 713-229-9992 or online to schedule a free consultation.

We know that you may have many questions about your DWI charges, including how your job may be impacted. We will go over your case, discuss your defense strategies, and talk about the potential legal outcomes in your case. Follow our Facebook page to learn more about our law practice and the types of cases that we handle.

What You Need To Know If Facing Federal Weapons Charges

federal weapons charges

If you have been charged with a federal weapons charge, you probably know that you are facing severe consequences if convicted. Houston criminal defense attorneys at Vinas & Graham, PLLC represent clients in state and federal weapons violation cases, and they know that prosecutors take these cases seriously.

Federal laws cover the possession, use, distribution, and sale of weapons, and you can be charged with a crime for violating any of these laws. Keep reading for things you should know if you are facing federal weapons charges.

Sentencing Is Steep For Federal Weapons Convictions

Sentencing and fines depend on your particular case facts, such as the nature of the offense and whether or not you used the weapon during the commission of a separate crime. For example, if you used an illegal firearm while engaging in drug trafficking, you would face steeper penalties than you would if your only crime was unlawful possession of a weapon.

You will also be looking at a more severe punishment if you have a prior conviction. Weapons charges with prior convictions can add decades to your sentence, and in some cases, these charges can lead to life sentences.

You May Be Charged Even If You Didn’t Know You Were Breaking The Law

Federal weapons laws are broad, and you can break the law without realizing it. For example, you may have a lawful conceal and carry permit, but you might not know that weapons are prohibited in federal buildings, and if you enter a federal building with a prohibited weapon, you can be charged with a federal crime.

Other common violations involve airplane travel with weapons. You are permitted under some circumstances to travel by plane with weapons, but you must strictly comply with the transportation laws, such as packing your weapons in your checked luggage and declaring those weapons that you have packed.

Sentencing And Fines Are Not The Only Consequences For Weapons Convictions

If you are convicted of a weapons crime, you may experience collateral consequences in addition to sentencing and fines. Weapons convictions may impact your right to vote and possess firearms. You will also have a criminal record, which could damage your job status, job prospects, and housing rental opportunities.

Weapons convictions may also impact your eligibility for public housing and public assistance. Other potential consequences include denied college applications and immigration status problems. In some cases, weapons convictions can result in professional license suspension or revocation.

Federal Weapons Charges Do Not Automatically Mean Convictions

Facing federal weapons charges is a scary prospect, but you should not assume that you will be convicted of your charges, even if you think the prosecutors have the evidence they need to secure a conviction. There are many potential defenses to weapons charges, and an experienced criminal defense attorney will aggressively defend your case.

Your attorney will examine all of the facts and evidence to determine the best legal strategies for your defense. Common defenses and strategies include the following:

  • Plea bargaining – Prosecutors generally prefer to settle cases instead of going to trial, and they are often willing to negotiate with the defense. Plea bargains may involve pleading guilty to lesser charges. In some cases, prosecutors may be more lenient if you agree to testify against another defendant.
  • Constitutional violations – Evidence that was gathered in violation of your constitutional rights cannot be used in court. Constitutional violations frequently involve illegal search and seizure, illegal interrogation tactics, and failure to read Miranda warnings.
  • Dismissal of charges – Your attorney may ask the court to dismiss the charges if there is not enough evidence to convict you. This often happens when prosecutors have a weak case to begin with or when evidence is thrown out for constitutional violations.
  • Plead not guilty – You and your attorney may decide to go to trial if prosecutors are not willing to compromise to agreeable plea terms, and you have a solid defense to present to a jury.

Contact A Federal Weapons Charges Attorney

If you are facing federal weapons charges, contact the attorneys at Vinas & Graham, PLLC at 713-229-9992 or online to schedule a consultation. When you have been charged with a serious crime that comes with severe consequences, you need an attorney who has experience defending clients in federal court. We will go over your case facts, examine the evidence against you, including how it was collected, and determine the best defense path to pursue in your case.

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Everything You Need To Know About Texas Search & Seizure Laws

arrest, search and seizure

Arrest, search and seizure are terms and procedures that individuals may think they understand, but in reality, do not. These laws are nuanced and have quirks that can trip up both individuals and law enforcement alike. Individuals are free from unreasonable search and seizures thanks to the Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution, but this doesn’t exempt us from all searches. Not every search is deemed unreasonable. Let’s take a closer look at the terms arrest, search and seizure.

An Overview Of What The Terms Arrest, Search And Seizure Mean

A search means law enforcement has consent, a warrant, or exigent circumstances to search your property or being. Outside of those exceptions, individuals have an expectation of privacy. Police must meet that standard to search you or your belongings and property per the Fourth Amendment.

If law enforcement does not have enough proof to obtain a warrant from a judge or exigent circumstances, they can always ask an individual for consent to search. If you are in this situation, understand that you have the right to say no. If you choose to consent, that consent should be given freely and not by coercion or duress caused by law enforcement.

As a rule, if you allow an officer in your home, they can seize anything in plain view. Any defense attorney would strongly advise against consenting to a search without a warrant. Require law enforcement to use legal procedures to gain permission to your property and being. If officers are asking, it is likely they don’t have probable cause for a search.

When law enforcement places you under arrest, this means they have some type of evidence to indicate you were involved in criminal activity. Officers will take you into their custody, book you at the police station (the booking process will involve the individual being fingerprinted and photographed), and hold you until you are either released or brought before a judge to ask for bail.

Examples Of Reasonable Search And Seizures

Not every search request from the police is considered unreasonable or require them to have a warrant. These are some examples of reasonable searches the police could perform.

  • Drugs or alcohol in plain view of law enforcement can trigger a warrantless search of your car or home.
  • The smell of drugs or alcohol is noticeable to the officer.
  • There is a threat to public safety posed by the individual.
  • An individual fled from authorities and left possessions behind.
  • An individual’s vehicle or possessions have been impounded or are in police custody.

Law enforcement must have probable cause or your consent. Be sure to make note of what led up to any warrantless searches and relay that to your attorney. Your attorney can make sure your rights were not violated during the search.

Examples Of Unreasonable Search And Seizure

This list could become lengthy if every example was noted. Since that isn’t possible, here are some common examples that could happen to you.

  • Police search your vehicle after a traffic stop for speeding.
  • Police enter your home without a warrant and begin a search.
  • Officers stop you on the street and go through your purse or bag.
  • Officers stop you and search your pockets and pat you down without giving a reason.

If any of these happen to you, contact a criminal defense attorney right away.

What Happens After A Search And Seizure?

If law enforcement doesn’t find anything of value during their search, you are free to go. If officers do find something that indicates criminal activity, you will be arrested. Should you be arrested after a search and seizure, use your phone call to contact a criminal defense attorney and invoke your Miranda rights to not speak.

Your attorney may be able to find a basis to challenge the search. Do not speak without an attorney present and give law enforcement any additional information until your lawyer says it’s ok. The seizure of the items and your arrest may be thrown out of court, and you don’t want to say anything that could jeopardize that.

Enlist Vinas And Graham For Your Arrest, Search And Seizure Case

Vinas & Graham are a top Houston law firm with years of experience dealing with arrest, search and seizure cases. Contact us today for your consultation and follow us on Facebook to keep up with the latest updates.

How To Obtain An Order Of Nondisclosure

order of nondisclosure

Just because a person has completed all legal proceedings around a criminal issue doesn’t mean the issues have disappeared. Law enforcement will still have records of the case and could disclose them if requested. This could damage an individual’s chances on many fronts, including securing housing or a job. An order of nondisclosure can make sure that information remains private. To obtain an order of nondisclosure, enlist the top Texas defense firm of Vinas and Graham.

What Precisely Is An Order Of Nondisclosure?

A nondisclosure could also be called sealing your criminal record. The records will still exist, but they will not appear in third party searches—like background checks. Per Texas law, it does not shield the records from law enforcement agencies and select employers. However, if an employer merely uses a standard background check, the records should not appear.

An order of nondisclosure is different from having your records expunged. That process destroys your records completely, and it is as if the charges never existed. Nothing will populate on background searches or to law enforcement agencies. A person with an expungement can technically tell employers and landlords that they have never been arrested.

Are There Any Instances That Do Not Qualify For An Order Of Nondisclosure?

There is a list of offenses that do not qualify for an order of nondisclosure. If your offense falls under one of these, a judge will not approve the order.

  • Stalking charges
  • Injury to a child, elderly, or disabled person
  • Murder or capital murder charges
  • Kidnapping
  • Abandonment of or endangerment of a child
  • Offenses that involved violence towards the family
  • Offenses that have required the individual to register as a sex offender
  • If an individual violated their bond or court orders on a case involving any of the following: child abuse, family violence, stalking, child neglect, human trafficking, sexual assault, and/or abuse.

Also, note that if you have a criminal record that already includes a charge(s) for any of these offenses, you will not be able to secure an order of nondisclosure for your current offense because of your past history. Additionally, an order of nondisclosure only covers the instance that you filed for, not your entire criminal history. This procedure would have to be repeated for each instance on your record.

What Are The Steps Required To Obtain An Order Of Nondisclosure?

To get an order of nondisclosure, there are a few steps you must take.

  1. You must be placed on deferred adjudication at your hearing. Deferred adjudication is a type of supervised probation. To receive this outcome, you must plead guilty at your proceeding, and your lawyer must ask the judge for this sentence.
  2. You must complete your period of adjudication successfully, and the judge must dismiss all charges and other issues attached to your case.
  3. Your case must not fall under any of the categories listed above.
  4. You must wait the required amount of time before filing your paperwork with the court. This could be anywhere from 2-5 years, depending upon the infraction.
  5. You must not receive any additional infractions during the time your paperwork is under consideration. This means that from the time you file until the judge approves it, you may not be charged with anything other than a “fine only” offense, like a traffic ticket.

Once you fulfill all these steps, a judge will consider your order for approval.

How To Petition The Court For An Order Of Nondisclosure

Once you have met all the filing requirements, you and your attorney can complete all necessary paperwork and send it to the county that your charges were in. A judge in that county will be the one to ensure that you meet all the qualifications and complete the order. Keep in mind a copy of this request goes to the State of Texas and the local district attorney’s office.

They have the right to challenge your order request. If the State or DA challenges your request order, you will have to appear at a hearing in that county. If there is no challenge from the State, a judge could still opt for a hearing on their own. But if neither of those things occurs, you won’t have to travel for your order to be approved.

Let Vinas & Graham Present Your Petition For An Order Of Nondisclosure

Matters of laws are constantly evolving. Trust your order of nondisclosure to Vinas & Graham. Our firm has the years of experience needed to navigate the process and bring you a positive outcome. Contact us today for your consultation and follow us on Facebook for updates on the latest legal news.

Common Money Laundering Schemes

money laundering

Money laundering is a term used to describe a scheme that involves carrying out financial transactions of illegally obtained money to conceal the source of funds. In other words, it consists of using the funds received through illegal means to carry out legitimate businesses before depositing it.

For instance, John Doe – who works at an organization – steals a large sum of money from the organization. To ensure that the bank doesn’t detect John’s transaction as suspicious, he breaks the money into smaller amounts and deposits it at a different period. Thereby, he ensures the money goes undetected. However, there are various other ways money laundering schemes occur.

Money Laundering: Ways By Which It Occurs

There are various ways money laundering occurs in our society. Nevertheless, some are more common and have more severe punishment than others. Some of the money laundering techniques include:

Cash-intensive business

This occurs when a business that legitimately transacts large amounts of cash regularly uses its accounts to deposit money obtained from business earnings and illegally-obtained capital.

This type of scheme is rampant in service-based businesses such as parking buildings, strip clubs, car washes, or other firms with relatively low variable cost. Often times, it is difficult for banks to know if the cash is dirty or not. By owning a business that involves transacting a considerable amount of money, you could be falsely indicted for money laundering.

Real estate laundering

This scheme occurs when an individual illegally gets money to purchase real estate property and then sells it off. Thus, it uses this act to make the proceeds from this transaction look legitimate.

Of course, the profits realized from this transaction will be considered entirely legal because it involved exchanging value. Nonetheless, it will be taken as an act of money laundering because of the source of the money.

Trade-based laundering

Another form of laundering is through trading. This type of scheme is similar to embezzlement. It occurs when invoices or business documents are altered to conceal the origin of “dirty” money.

Simply put, it involves increasing or decreasing the amount on an invoice meant for a business transaction to disguise the movement of money. Just as in cash-intensive business, trade-based laundering is difficult for banks to suspect.

Smurfing

This is also referred to as “structuring,” It is said to occur when a large amount of stolen cash is broken down into smaller, less suspicious amounts, which are then used to purchase money orders or cashier’s checks.

The advent of peer-to-peer marketplaces has made this scheme easier to conceal stolen funds. This could take place in the form of “dirty” money moving to online merchants, which are then passed through legitimate payment ecosystems.

Casino laundering

By extension, casino laundering is when an individual spends illegally obtained money in a casino. Here, the individual purchases chips with the stolen funds, gambles a small amount for a while, then turns the chips back in for cash, and claims all the money as gambling winnings.

Gambling winnings are regarded as legal and mostly received in cash. Though some might want to view gambling winning of “dirty” cash as legal, it is considered money laundering in the court of law.

How To Protect Your Business Against Money Laundering

Credit cards

As a business owner, you have to be extra careful with the use of prepaid credit cards. If you notice customers are making large purchases on prepaid cards, consider this a red flag. Many launderers use prepaid credit cards to disguise their stolen money.

Know your customers

As a business owner, you should document the source of large purchases. Take note of regular customers who are making multiple larger transactions. You may be at more risk, especially when it is unusual.

Educate your team

There are various forms by which money laundering occurs. It is, therefore, essential to educate yourself and your team about the tactics that they happen. Fudging invoices, overestimating, and other means may be employed to hide dirty money.

Money Laundering In Houston

Money laundering is a serious crime that can have severe consequences for you, such as hefty fines and prison sentences. You might have been a money mule without your prior knowledge. If you are facing charges for money laundering, you need experienced legal counsel to protect your rights. Vinas & Graham PLLC have won cases in both state and federal courts, and have the knowledge and tools to defend you.

Contact us on 713-229-9992 or online to schedule a consultation. Follow us on our Facebook page for more information about our law firm.

Theft Crimes That Can Land You With Federal Crime Charges

theft crimes

Theft crimes include robbery, burglary, extortion, money laundering, and acts involving unlawful taking or using a property that belongs to another person to deprive the rightful owner of it. Most people take theft with frivolity but it could have a detrimental effect on them.

Factors that determine the type of theft crime committed depend on the (financial or economic) value of the property stolen and circumstances around the case, which forms the basis of classification into petty or grand theft.

Different Types Of Theft Crimes

Out of the different criminal offenses in Houston, theft crimes are one of the most common types. Often, they carry severe punishment and could affect your future dreams and aspirations.

Here are the various types of theft crimes that fall under federal crime:

Shoplifting

Shoplifting involves taking items from a shop or store without paying for them, which is very common among kids. However, there are cases reported foradults as well. The consequences of shoplifting are serious and can be harsh for high dollar value goods.

You will be charged for shoplifting if you steal goods at a store or intentionally changethe price tag at a store to pay a different price. As mentioned above, shoplifting penalties are harsh when the stolen goods’ dollar value is high, or the person has a past criminal record.

Robbery

There are different forms of robbery cases considered in the court. Hence, the punishment for a case of robbery varies based on the amount of money stolen.

Class C Misdemeanor is levied against a person who stole property less than $100 while a person who stole above $200,000 is charged for a 1st-degree felony. Being charged for a felony could result in a jail term or prison.

On the other hand, using a gun, knife, or another weapon during a theft is termed armed robbery and has a stiffer punishment than a robbery.

Embezzlement

Cash skimming is one of the most common forms of embezzlement. Typical examples of embezzlement is a bank teller who pockets deposits, the storekeeper who takes customers refunds, and the payroll clerk who does not deposit the correct amount of employment tax due to personal gain.

If you misappropriate assets (money or property) entrusted to your care, a charge of embezzlement can be filed against you. Embezzlement comes under white-collar theft or theft and property crime cases. The value of the property or money which is taken determines the punishment to be meted out. It can be punished as petty or grand theft.

Money Laundering

Money laundering generally refers to the concealment of the origins of illegally obtained money or investments through an outside party or body.

When the property involved in a financial transaction comes from the proceeds of some form of illegal activity that conceals or disguises the nature, source, ownership, or control of the proceeds of specified illegal activity, such would be considered money laundering.

Burglary

Burglary does not require the use of threat, physical violence, or firearm, unlike robbery. There are two forms in which burglary occurs. One is to break into a building unlawfully to commit a felony while the other is to commit a felony (e.g., after work hours) while inside an enclosed building such as a place of work to steal, though permission was granted lawfully to be inside.

For example, let us say that you work at a clothing store, if you decide to take a piece of clothing from the store after looking around, that may be considered petty theft.

Auto Theft

Auto theft is also referred to as car theft. Auto theft is when a person takes another’s car without the intention of returning it later. Also, using a car without the owner’s permission or awareness, even when you have the intention to return it, is considered auto theft.

Another form of auto theft is when a person fails to return a rental car. The serious version of auto theft is when you take a car from the owner by force, threat, or physical violence.

Theft Crimes In Houston

If charged with any of the above theft crimes or fraud cases, you need the services of competent defense attorneys who have experience taking on the federal government to give you proper advice, protect your rights and fiercely pursue your case to secure the best outcome.

Contact us at713-229-9992 or online to schedule a consultation. Follow us on our Facebook page for more information about our law firm.

How Can A Houston Defense Attorney Help With Federal Crime Charges?

federal crime charges

If you are being investigated or have been charged with a federal crime, attorneys at Vinas & Graham, PLLC, know that your best defense is a skilled federal crime charges attorney. Many criminal defense attorneys regularly practice at the state level but have limited, if any, experience at the federal level. When you are looking for a federal crime attorney, the first question you should ask is how many federal cases they have handled.

Federal sentencing guidelines provide significant penalties for federal offenses. Sentencing and fines are often much more severe when crimes are tried at the federal level compared to state-level sentencing. Federal crime attorneys know what you are up against in federal court, and they know how to handle different types of charges. Keep reading to learn more about common federal criminal charges.

Immigration Fraud And Illegal Reentry

Immigration fraud and illegal reentry are federal crimes related to immigration offenses. Both crimes can come with serious consequences, including prison, fines, and deportation. Immigration fraud is typically associated with marriage fraud, fraud in immigration paperwork, or fraudulent immigration services. Illegal reentry occurs when an immigrant is caught in the United States or attempting to enter the U.S. after being previously deported.

As mentioned above, both of these crimes have serious consequences, but an attorney can help you work through your defense and challenge the immigration charges. Your argument against fraud may simply be that you did not commit fraud. For example, if you are accused of marriage fraud, your defense might be that your marriage was genuine. If you were charged with illegal reentry, your defense might be that a prior deportation was invalid.

White-Collar Crimes

White-collar crime is typically understood to be crimes that are committed for one’s financial gain. Federal laws are very tough on white-collar criminals, and even a conviction on one charge can significantly alter the rest of your life.

When it comes to white-collar crimes, your best defense is to contact an attorney as soon as possible. Even if you have not been charged, but you believe you are being investigated for a white-collar crime, an attorney can help. Your attorney will go over the facts of your case, discuss potential defenses, and preemptively meet with federal agents and prosecutors if it benefits your case.

Common types of white-collar crime charges include the following:

  • Conspiracy
  • Corporate fraud
  • Securities fraud
  • Identity theft
  • Healthcare fraud
  • Mortgage fraud
  • Insurance fraud
  • Embezzlement
  • Extortion
  • Bankruptcy fraud

Weapons Charges

Federal weapons charges typically involve crimes with firearms, such as illegal possession of a firearm, fraudulently obtaining a firearm permit, and firearms trafficking. Additionally, the use of a firearm during the commission of a crime will often upgrade your charge to a ‘violent’ crime.

Sentencing for weapons charges generally results in enhancements, which increase the severity of conviction punishments. For example, if your gun has been illegally altered, it was used in the commission of a drug crime, the gun was reported stolen, or the serial number has been removed, you will likely see sentencing enhancements.

Internet Crimes

There is a wide range of internet crimes, and the one commonality is that crimes committed are related to the use of the internet. Internet crimes frequently involve fraud, where the prosecution alleges that the defendant secured financial gains through an online scam. Common internet scams include credit card fraud, phishing, spoofing, identity theft, and data breach.

A good defense attorney understands internet crime law and knows that these cases can be difficult to prove when the defendant has a solid defense. For example, if others have access to the computer used to commit the crimes, it may be difficult to pin the blame on you. Other defenses may include that your computer was stolen and used by someone else, you did not intend to commit a crime, or that you followed someone else’s instructions without knowing that you were furthering another person’s crime.

Houston Federal Crime Charges Attorney

We know that federal crime charges and investigations can be alarming, but charges do not have to become convictions when you have a good defense and a skilled attorney. Criminal defense attorneys at Vinas & Graham, PLLC have the experience and knowledge to handle all types of federal crime cases.

If you are the subject of a federal investigation or have been charged with a federal crime, contact our office at 713-229-9992 or submit an online form to schedule a case evaluation. Follow us on Facebook to learn more about our federal crimes attorneys and our legal practice.

How Do I Obtain A Restraining Order For Domestic Violence?

domestic violence

In Texas, victims of domestic violence may secure restraining orders to protect themselves and members of their households. To obtain a restraining order, the domestic violence victim must file a restraining order request along with details of the domestic violence abuse he or she suffered.

In some cases, an emergency protective order may be issued by a criminal court when the abuser has been arrested for domestic violence. Houston attorneys at Vinas & Graham, PLLC, represent clients with restraining order matters. We know that domestic abuse cases can be difficult and emotional for victims and their family members, and we want to help our clients secure the protection that they need.

Types Of Domestic Violence Restraining Orders And How To Obtain Them

There are three types of domestic violence restraining orders in Texas, including emergency protection orders, temporary restraining orders, and permanent restraining orders. See below for an explanation of the orders.

Magistrates order of emergency protection – This type of restraining order is commonly known as an emergency protective order and is generally issued after someone has been arrested and charged with domestic violence. Emergency protection orders will typically last between 31 and 91 days.

The victim, the state, or law enforcement officers may request that the judge issue an order of emergency protection for the domestic violence victim, and in most cases, the judge has the discretion to issue an order or deny the request. However, in cases where the defendant inflicted serious bodily injury or brandished a deadly weapon, the court must issue an emergency protective order.

Ex parte temporary restraining order – Victims of domestic abuse are often in need of immediate restraining orders, and they may ask the court to issue a temporary restraining order. Unlike emergency protection orders, temporary and permanent restraining orders are civil court matters. The judge may issue a temporary restraining order at your application for restraining order hearing.

Ex parte means that the judge makes a decision without all of the parties present; therefore, it is not necessary for the abuser to be present for the judge to issue a temporary restraining order. Temporary restraining orders are generally in effect for 20 days, and you may request an extension of the order if necessary.

Permanent restraining order – In Texas, domestic violence victims can complete and file protective order forms requesting the court to issue an order of protection against their domestic violence abuser. There will be a protective order application hearing, and the permanent restraining order hearing will be set for a future date.

Restraining orders are typically in effect for a maximum of two years, but there are exceptions under some circumstances. For example, if the court finds that the defendant committed an act of domestic violence constituting a felony offense or caused serious bodily injury, the terms of the restraining order may exceed two years.

What Does A Domestic Violence Restraining Order Do?

Depending on case-specific facts, restraining orders can order domestic abusers to do certain things, such as move out of your home. They can also order defendants to refrain from specific conduct and activities. In a domestic violence restraining order, the judge can order the restrained person to do the following:

  • Stay away from you and certain places, such as your place of work or your child’s school.
  • Cease contact with you – directly and through other people.
  • Attend anger management classes.
  • Move out of your home.
  • Pay child support.
  • Relinquish possession of all firearms.
  • Cease harassment or threats against you and your child.
  • Undergo drug testing.
  • Enter a treatment program for substance abuse.
  • Follow the terms and conditions of a visitation schedule.

How We Can Help

When it comes to your safety, it is important that you have a legal advocate in your restraining order matter. To secure a permanent restraining order, you must present credible evidence of the defendant’s violent conduct and the injuries you suffered. Our attorneys can help gather necessary evidence, prepare your restraining order application, and argue your case to the judge.

Domestic Violence Restraining Order Attorney

If you need help obtaining a domestic violence restraining order, attorneys at Vinas & Graham, PLLC, can help. We handle restraining order cases for our clients in Houston, and we will do everything we can to help you get protection and security for you and your family.

Contact our office at 713-229-9992 or on our website to schedule an initial consultation. Follow our Facebook page for more information about domestic violence restraining orders and other types of cases that our law firm handles.