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Criminal Law

Being investigated, detained or arrested on a charge can be a terrifying experience. Dealing with law enforcement can be intimidating and navigating the criminal law context on your own can be an ordeal. The stakes are high, your liberty is in jeopardy and you need solid representation to defend you in and out of court.

If you are not a U.S. Citizen, the immigration consequences of criminal conduct can be severe – you can be deported. Many crimes have extremely harsh consequences in the immigration context. Immigration law broadly defines the term “conviction” and even though taking Deferred Adjudication is not considered a under Texas law, it is a conviction under federal immigration law. Even if you have a valid green card or are legally present in the United States, a conviction or an admission to criminal conduct can take you straight into deportation proceedings.

Contact the Law Office of Aisha Khan-Sajjad to secure a diligent and comprehensive defense whichever stage your case may be in (investigative, pre-trial, trial, or post-conviction) and whatever your immigration status. We will evaluate your criminal case, determine the immigration risks of taking a plea and negotiate a structured a plea that will not jeopardize your life in the United States.

Criminal Law Services

- Criminal defense representation on current charges, arrests or investigation by law enforcement
Pre-trial
- Discovery and evaluation of the strength of the culpability stage
- Bail
Pleas
- Plea Agreements
- Immigration consequences of criminal conduct of non-citizens and undocumented persons
Probation
- Straight Probation
- Community Supervision
- Deferred Adjudication
- Pre-trial Diversions
Trial & Punishment
Post-conviction
- Probation
- Parole
- Parole Revocation
- Appeals
Potentially Clearing Your Record
- Expunction
- Petition for Non-Disclosure
- Sealing Juvenile Records

Crimes and Punishment in Texas State Court
- First Degree Felonies
- Second Degree Felonies
- Third Degree Felonies
- State Jail Felonies
- Class A Misdemeanors
- Class B Misdemeanors
- Class C Misdemeanors

Bail
Most accused persons have a right to bail and most counties set bail amounts with a standardized schedule. However, bail may be denied in two instances: for capital murder and for repeat offenders in certain circumstances. A hearing is required to deny bail and the judge may impose conditions on a defendant released on bail, such as not being able to go within a certain proximity of the victim or to submit to elecenteronic monitoring.

Presentation
After someone has been arrested on a criminal charge, he or she must be presented to a judicial officer within 48 hours of the arrest. The judicial officer will inform the person of the charges against him, his Miranda rights, and make an initial bail determination.

Indictment
An indictment is the formal charging instrument used by most Texas courts to inform the defendant of the for felony crime he is accused of. An indictment must be voted on a by a grand jury. The grand jury consists of twelve (12) persons. To get an indictment, the prosecutor must persuade nine (9) out of the twelve (12) grand jurors that probable cause exists that the defendant is guilty. This is known as a true-bill. When the prosecutor fails to get nine votes, a 'no-bill' occurs. If the indictment is no-billed, the prosecutor can still try again. In Texas, an accused person has no right to participate in a grand jury, nor does he have the right to know that a grand jury is considering his case.

Information
An information is the formal charging instrument used by most Texas courts to inform the defendant of the misdemeanor crime he is accused of. An information does not go to a grand jury. Rather, an information must be signed by a prosecutor and supported by a sworn complaint.

Motion to Suppress
A motion to suppress may be filed before trial as a way to keep out evidence that was obtained by law enforcement in violation of a defendant's constitutional rights.

Voir Dire
Voir dire is the process of selecting a jury. A panel of people will be questioned by both sides about their background, beliefs, and biases. Each side may make an unlimited number of challenges for cause (such as bias) and a limited number preemptory (unexplained) challenges. A certain number of prospective jurors may simply struck from consideration. However, they may not be struck on the basis of race.

Jury charge
Once all the trial testimony is finished, the judge will prepare a jury charge which contains law and instructions to help the jury decide the verdict.

Mistrial
A mistrial means that the trial concluded without a decision for guilt or innocence. The judge can declare a mistrial in the event the jury cannot reach a unanimous verdict or if if one side has violated the Rules of Evidence. For example, a defendant's past criminal convictions generally cannot be mentioned during trial. If the prosecutor improperly brings up the criminal conviction, the judge may declare a mistrial. After a mistrial, the state can usually try the defendant again.

Punishment Phase
Texas has a bifurcated trial system. After the trial on guilt or innocence is conducted and if the defendant is found guilty, the next phase is punishment. The judge is the default choice to decide the sentence. However, a defendant has a right to have a jury decide the sentence. The punishment phase is just like a trial, but information that would not be allowed into evidence during the guilt-innocence phase is allowed during the punishment phase. For example, the state may prove up the defendant's prior criminal record, put on witnesses to testify about the defendant's character, or try to prove that the defendant committed other bad acts.

Conviction
A conviction generally means a finding of guilt.

Community Supervision
In community supervision, a defendant is allowed by the judge to stay in the community and be supervised by the court rather than being punished through incarceration in a jail or prison. The supervision term can be up to two years for misdemeanor and up to ten years for a felony. The judge may impose certain conditions on the community supervision, such as drug testing, an employment requirement, and/or participation in community service. A person cannot pick up another offense while on community supervision. Violation of the community supervision terms may result in revocation of probation and incarceration.

There are three major differences between deferred adjudication and regular community supervision:
1) A regular community supervision usually results in a conviction and thus can never be sealed or expunged
2) Regular community supervision is usually a punishment option if a person elects to have a jury trial
3) If regular community supervision is revoked, the maximum punishment is usually not the statutory maximum. The maximum jail or prison term will already be set at the time of the plea.
 
Probation
In Texas, probation is called community supervision. There are two types of community supervision in our state deferred adjudication and regular community supervision. Probation results in a final conviction that can never be expunged.

Deferred Adjudication
Deferred adjudication is usually offered to first time offenders. It is typically a better deal than regular community supervision because if a person finishes the term successfully, the person does not have a conviction in the criminal law context. If a person on deferred adjudication does not comply with the conditions of his community supervision, the judge can revoke community supervision and sentence the person to any term in the statutory range of punishment, but after a hearing. A deferred sentence will still be on your criminal history after you complete the probation period. However, a successfully completed deferred adjudication often can be sealed from public view with a non-disclosure. To erase the criminal record and be able to deny the arrest, you must file a petition for Non- Disclosure. Some deferred sentences are ineligible for Non-Disclosure and can never be sealed, such as crimes involving family violence. Additionally, some offenses require a waiting period before the petition for non- disclosure can be filed.

Appeals
There are strict deadlines for filing a direct appeal. You must give formal notice to the trial court of your intent to appeal within thirty days (30) of receiving your sentence. A motion for new trial expands the deadline to ninety days. A motion for new trial must be filed within thirty days of the sentence. While your appeal is pending, you are eligible for an appeal bond if your sentence was less than ten years and not for an aggravated felony

Appellate Courts
There are fourteen (14) courts of appeals in Texas. An appeal from a trial court will go to one of them depending on your region. Houston has two courts of appeals. If you lose at the Court of Appeals, you may appeal to the highest court in the state the Court of Criminal Appeals. If you lose at the Court of Criminal Appeals and your case contains a federal question, you may appeal the United States Supreme Court.

Court of Criminal Appeals
If you lose at the Court of Appeals, you may appeal to the highest court in the state the Court of Criminal Appeals. Such an appeal is known as a petition for discretionary review. Direct Appeal A direct appeal is requesting the Court of Appeals to overturn your sentence because of a legal error made by the judge during your trial. Objections to the error must be preserved in the trial record in order to raise them upon direct appeal.

Expunction
Texas law allows you the opportunity to clear an adult criminal record and deny the arrest and prosecution, under certain circumstances. You can have arrest and/or prosecution records expunged in the following circumstances: if you were arrested, but charges were dismissed; if you were tried and found not-guilty; if the court dismissed the charges against you; you were pardoned; if you appeal your conviction and are acquitted by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals; if you have been the victim of identity theft. Final convictions and straight probation cannot be erased from a criminal record. If your record is expunged, you may deny that you were arrested or prosecuted on employment, mortgage, college and other applications to private entities. If granted an expunction, criminal justice agencies will cease to release your criminal record. However, there are a few exceptions stated in the law. Law enforcement agencies will have access to the information as will certain other government entities. If you are ineligible for an expunction, the only other two to clear your record are winning a pardon from the governor or president or filing a writ of Habeas Corpus.

Petition for Non-Disclosure
The only way (other than an expunction) to clear an adult criminal record in Texas is called a petition for Non-Disclosure. This is only available to those who have successfully completed deferred adjudication probation. Felonies and misdemeanors have different time periods that need to elapse before a petition for non-disclosure can be filed. A person who completes deferred adjudication probation and wins a petition for non-disclosure can have the offense record sealed. This means that criminal justice agencies will not be allowed to disclose information about the offense. Furthermore, he/she may deny the arrest (except in a future criminal prosecution) or the existence of an expunction order. The law still allows for certain government agencies to obtain information about the offense. Non-disclosure orders do not apply in a few other limited instances, such as an application to be a school nurse, teacher, lawyer or in adoption applications.

Sealing Juvenile Records
In Texas, a juvenile is ten (10) to sixteen (16) years old. An adult is seventeen and older. Expunction and non- disclosure are the two main mechanisms to clear an offense that occurred as an adult. Juvenile records are sealed. When a juvenile record is sealed, all of the records are destroyed except the court file which is kept by the court clerk. Any mention of the record in computer or paper indices is removed. The judge shall immediately seal a record when a juvenile is found not guilty after a trial. When a juvenile's records have been sealed, he is allowed to deny the arrest, even in a subsequent criminal proceeding.

Crimes and Punishment in Texas State Court
  • First Degree Felonies
  • Second Degree Felonies
  • Third Degree Felonies
  • State Jail Felonies
  • Class A Misdemeanors
  • Class B Misdemeanors
  • Class C Misdemeanors

 

First Degree Felonies
- Confinement for life or from five to ninety-nine years and a possible fine not to exceed $10,000
- Possibility of community supervision
Examples:
Aggravated assault of public servant
Aggravated kidnapping
Aggravated robbery
Aggravated sexual assault
Attempted capital murder
Arson of habitation
Burglary of a habitation with intent to commit or commission of a felony
Causing serious bodily injury to child, senior citizen, or disabled person
Escape from custody (if serious bodily injury occurs) Murder
Solicitation of capital murder
Trafficking of persons under the age of fourteen

Second Degree Felonies
- Two to twenty years in prison and possible fine not exceed $10,000 - Possibility of community supervision
Examples:
Aggravated assault
Arson
Bigamy
Bribery
Evading arrest (and death of another occurs)
Improper relationship between educator and student
Indecent contact with a child
Intoxication manslaughter
Manslaughter
Online solicitation of a minor under fourteen
Possession of fifty to 2000 pounds of marijuana
Robbery
Sexual assault
Stalking-second offense
Trafficking of persons

Third Degree Felonies
- Two to ten years in prison and possible fine not to exceed $10,000
- Possibility of community supervision
Examples:
Aggravated perjury
Bail jumping of a felony arrest
Deadly conduct with a firearm
Escape from felony custody
Indecent exposure to a child
Intoxication assault
Possession of a firearm by a felon
Retaliation
Stalking
DWI (third offense)
Tampering with evidence
Violation of protective order (third offense)

State Jail Felonies
- 180 days to two years in a state jail and possible fine not to exceed $10,000
- Possibility of community supervision - Possibility of punishment as Class A misdemeanor
Examples:
Burglary of a building
Coercing a minor to join a gang by threatening violence
Credit card abuse
Criminally negligent homicide
Criminal nonsupport
Cruelty to animals
DWI with child passenger
Evading arrest in a vehicle
False alarm or report
Forgery of a check
Fraudulent use or possession of identifying information
Improper photography or visual recording
Interference of child custody
Possession of less than one gram of a controlled substance
Theft of something valued between $1500 and $20,000
Unauthorized use of a vehicle

Class A Misdemeanors
- Up to one year in the county jail and/or a fine not to exceed $4000.
- Up to two years of community supervision or three years with an extension
Examples:
Assault with bodily injury
Bail jumping of misdemeanor offense
Burglary of coin operated machine
Burglary of a vehicle
Cruelty to animals
DWI (2nd offense)
Escape from misdemeanor custody
Evading arrest on foot
Interference with 911 call
Obscenity
Perjury
Possession of two to four ounces of marijuana
Promoting gambling
Public lewdness
Resisting arrest
Stealing check
Unlawfully carrying a weapon
Violation of protective order

Class B Misdemeanors
- Up to 180 days in the county jail and/or fine not to exceed $2000
- Up to two years of community supervision or three years with an extension
Examples:
Criminal Trespass
DWI
False report to police officer
Fraudulent degree
Harassment
Indecent exposure
Possession of 2 ounces or less of marijuana
Prostitution
Riot
Silent Calls to 911
Terroristic threat

Class C Misdemeanors
- Fine not to exceed $500
Examples:
Assault by threat
Disorderly conduct
Gambling
Issuance of bad check
Leaving child in a vehicle
Minor in possession of alcohol
Possession of alcoholic beverage in motor vehicle
Public intoxication
Use of Laser pointers

LINKS Texas Penal Code
http://www.constitution.legis.state.tx.us/