Diaz Law Firm

Fort Worth Criminal Defense Attorney

Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney to Fight your Case

It’s intimidating—even terrifying—to face criminal charges. A criminal conviction can land you in prison with a permanent criminal record. It can cost you your freedom, your rights, your family, your career, and more.

A skilled criminal defense attorney can fight wrongful charges. Depending on the situation, they can also advocate for lesser penalties or even argue for a case dismissal (resulting in no criminal record).

At Diaz Law Firm, we pride ourselves on our dedication and experience. Over the past several years, our team has helped many individuals avoid harsh penalties or wrongful convictions. Call our office today to find out how we can help you protect your freedom.

Why Hiring the Right Criminal Defense Attorney Matters

A criminal defense attorney represents you in court when you face criminal charges. These charges can include traffic tickets, drunk driving, possession of illegal substances, domestic assault, or other crimes.

Many of these crimes carry harsh penalties, such as jail time or thousands of dollars in fines—even if it’s your first offense.

Your attorney will fight for your story to be heard and understood. They’ll stand up for your rights in court. Whenever possible, they will work to lessen the penalties you face, refute false charges, and see your case resolved in a satisfactory manner.

What makes a good criminal defense attorney in Fort Worth?

A good criminal defense attorney:

  • Understands local law and its impact on your charges
  • Listens to your case
  • Creates a custom strategy to fit your circumstances
  • Fights for you aggressively in court
  • Provides emotional support when proceedings and investigations are difficult
  • Acts with professionalism and discretion, especially around friends and family
  • Stands up for your rights
  • Works for a satisfactory conclusion to your case

Why hire Diaz Law Firm?

Award-Winning Fort Worth Attorneys

Your future is at risk. You need a dedicated, skilled lawyer to protect your freedom. An experienced criminal defense attorney can navigate Texas criminal codes, prove your case with solid evidence, and advocate for your interests.

Diaz Law Firm employs a core team of award-winning Fort Worth criminal defense lawyers. Reach out today to find out more about how we can put this experience to work for you.

Respect and Support

We believe every client deserves to be treated with dignity. This means:

  • We will always listen and respond to you without judgement
  • We’ll answer every question—big and small
  • We won’t talk down to you when explaining procedures, investigations, legal requirements, or processes
  • We’ll keep you updated on the status of your case
  • We’ll act with discretion when interacting with friends, family, and other individuals involved in your case
  • We’ll protect and support your reputation until a verdict is reached

Case Strategies Custom-Fit to Your Situation

At Diaz Law Firm, we understand that every case is unique. We don’t use one-size-fits-all legal strategies with our clients. Instead, we believe you deserve the highest level of personal service.

We’ll listen carefully to your story. We’ll build an argument around your specific circumstances, supplemented by solid evidence and investigations. Finally, we’ll aggressively fight for you in court.

Our goal is always to provide a satisfactory conclusion to your case, and that requires an individualized approach.

Practice Areas

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Types of Criminal Defense at Diaz Law Firm

Fort Worth Traffic Tickets and Violations

Drunk Driving, DUIs, and DWIs in Texas

Fort Worth Traffic Tickets and Violations

Tickets are some of the most common cases. In fact, if you receive a ticket, you may not think twice about it. However, tickets shouldn’t be taken lightly.

Many violations result in “points” on your drivers’ license. For each point, you have to pay an annual fine. These points can take years to fall off your record.

After receiving a ticket, you have two options: Pay the ticket or show up in court (the court date is specified on your ticket). If you do neither, you face additional, more serious charges.

Paying a ticket is considered an immediate admission of guilt.

Our attorneys can help you fight your ticket or advocate for lighter penalties. With the help of a criminal defense lawyer, you can minimize fees, exclude a ticket from your driving record, or even have your case dismissed.

Drunk Driving, DUIs, and DWIs in Texas

Drunk Driving, DUIs, and DWIs in Texas

Call us immediately if you’re facing DUI or DWI charges. Fort Worth regulations state that drivers must request a hearing within 15 days of their DUI to fight for their license.

If you’ve already waited longer than 15 days, you should still call an experienced Fort Worth criminal defense attorney. You might lose your license, but could still avoid high fines, jail time, and other impactful consequences.

A DUI or DWI in Fort Worth can result in a prison sentence (even if it’s your first offense). Even if you’re not facing jail time, you may be required to surrender your license or pay thousands in fines. Additionally, a DUI or DWI can limit your future employment opportunities.

At Diaz Law Firm, we understand the complexities of Texas driving laws. We’ve helped many clients reach a satisfactory verdict. We’ve also seen many cases dismissed without charges. We will listen to the details of your case to understand your specific circumstances. Then, we’ll plan a strategy for defending your rights and protecting your freedom.

Domestic Violence or Abuse

Sexual Assault, Public Indecency, & Other Sexual Offenses

Domestic Violence or Abuse

Unfortunately, domestic violence charges can seriously impact your life. At their worst, these charges can result in loss of child custody, jail time, and felony on your record, among other consequences.

At Diaz Law Firm, we understand that family matters are complex. Sometimes, domestic abuse accusations are attempts to gain child custody or take revenge for an offense. Other times, they’re caused by misunderstandings or emotional outbursts. These actions don’t always merit jail time or a felony record. However, these charges can be difficult to fight.

Our team of criminal defense lawyers is experienced in family violence charges. We understand the ways Fort Worth courts tend to approach domestic abuse cases. As a result, we hold a number of successful strategies for defending your rights. Our attorneys will help you present the truth of your situation regardless of the opposition’s claims.

We also grasp the emotional difficulties of defending yourself against accusations from a loved one. We’ll treat your case with sensitivity, empathy, and professionalism. We’ll stand by you step by step, day by day, until your case is resolved.

Sexual Assault, Public Indecency, & Other Sexual Offenses

If you’ve been accused of sexual crimes, contact a Texas criminal defense lawyer immediately. These charges can carry lifelong consequences. Jail time, sexual offender registration, and a felony record are all possible outcomes of a conviction on sexual charges.

When discussing your case, our criminal defense lawyers always work with professionalism. We understand investigations can feel embarrassing or violating. At our Texas law firm, our goal is to support you in retelling your experience of the circumstances accurately in order to reach a satisfactory solution.

Our firm understands that sexual charges are complex. We work with each client to truly understand their situation. Accusations can arise out of misunderstandings, mistakes, or different experiences of the same set of circumstances. For example, you may not be aware that your partner felt pressured or coerced into a sexual situation. Other times, sexual offenses arise because you were unaware of specific Texas laws (such as incest or public indecency). We’ll listen to your side of the story and help you fight for a satisfactory outcome.

Sexual offenses in Fort Worth, Texas can include:

  • Offering or receiving payment for sexual services
  • Engaging in sexual conduct in a public place
  • Pressuring another individual to engage in sexual activities
  • Engaging in sexual conduct with a minor

Not all sexual cases result in convictions. Some cases are successful in proving a client’s innocence. Other cases are simply dismissed, resulting in no conviction and no criminal record. Our attorneys will explain the best strategy for your particular situation.

When you’re facing sexual offense charges, you need an attorney with skill and discretion. Contact our office to find out how our experienced Texas criminal defense lawyers can protect you.

Drug Possession, Drug Trafficking, & Other Drug Crimes

Various Felony Charges in Fort Worth Texas

Drug Possession, Drug Trafficking, & Other Drug Crimes

Drug crimes can range from simple to complex, but most carry significant charges. In Texas, even a misdemeanor drug conviction can result in several months in prison and several thousand in fines. More serious charges carry up to hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines and life sentences in prison.

It’s important to contact a lawyer immediately after a drug charge. With the help of an attorney, you may be able to reduce or avoid jail time, fines, and a criminal record. If you want to protect your freedom and your future, call our office today.

Various Felony Charges in Fort Worth Texas

Many of the crimes mentioned above can result in a felony. A range of other criminal charges can result in felony jail time and a criminal record.

Felonies are serious, life-changing convictions. A felony can affect many areas, including your:

  • Child custody
  • Employment
  • Admission to graduate schools
  • Right to own a firearm
  • Right to vote
  • Right to run for public office

In Texas, some of these rights can be contested in court or restored to you after a period of time. However, it’s important to take a felony charge seriously from the beginning. Some felony penalties include several years or decades in prison and thousands of dollars in fines.

It’s vital to start preparing your defense as soon as possible. Contact our office today to talk with a skilled Fort Worth attorney about the right strategy for protecting your rights.

Texas 3G Crimes

Texas 3G Crimes

3G offenses are some of the most serious criminal charges. If you or someone you love has been accused of a 3G crime, reach out to a Fort Worth criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible.

If you are convicted of a 3G offense, you face mandatory jail time. You will not be allowed parole until you have served at least half of your sentence. With a 3G charge, it’s especially important to have the right lawyer by your side.

In some cases, innocent individuals are falsely accused of 3G crimes. These cases mandate an aggressive approach. Our attorneys are skilled in exposing the truth in these situations.

Not sure whether your case qualifies as a 3G offense? Call our office. We’ll gladly answer your questions and help you determine the best next steps.

Call Our Award-Winning Defense Attorneys Today

A criminal conviction can change your life forever. Don’t gamble on your future. Instead, start your defense right away by calling one of our award-winning Fort Worth criminal defense attorneys.

If you’re facing criminal charges, we’re here to help.

Criminal Law FAQ

Criminal law in Texas and across the United States refers to the theories of law and laws that define conduct classified as “criminal” and the rules that dictate how individuals who commit such crimes can be arrested, charged and prosecuted. Criminal laws include those at the local, state and federal levels of government, with each having their own unique set of “penal codes” that detail specific crimes and corresponding punishments. In lay terms, a crime is committed by any act (or omission of an act) that is in direct or indirect violation of any law in the penal code that prohibits or commands it. 

Criminal offenses, although diverse, can typically be categorized as:

  • Statutory crimes
  • Financial crimes
  • Inchoate crimes
  • Property crimes; or
  • Personal crimes

Statuary Crimes

These crimes include financial/white collar crimes, drug crimes, alcohol-related crimes, and traffic offenses. They are crimes which are specifically prohibited by individual statues and cover a range of specific offenses under each category. For example, alcohol-related crimes include DUI/DWI, open container, boating DUI, minor possession of alcohol and other crimes.

 

Financial and Other Crimes

These crimes typically involve financial gain through deception or fraud. They include but are not limited to: embezzlement, fraud (mail/wire), cybercrime, money laundering, tax evasion, blackmail and more.

 

Inchoate Crimes

These crimes are those which were initiated but not completed. They also include any acts that may “assist” in the commission of a crime. In order to be found guilty of an inchoate crime the accused must be proven to have taken a “substantial step” towards the furtherment of the crime. Inchoate crimes include but are not limited to: conspiracy, attempt and aiding and abetting.

 

Property Crimes

Crimes that fall into this category are those that involve interference with another party’s property. This can involve deprivation or use of the enjoyment of the property by the property’s rightful owner. Such crimes include but are not limited to: burglary, auto theft, shoplifting, theft, larceny and more.

 

Personal Crimes

Personal crimes involve or result in either physical or mental harm to another individual. Such crimes include but are not limited to: assault and battery, rape, arson, child abuse, domestic abuse, kidnapping and more.

After a crime is committed, a law enforcement agency conducts its investigation. After the law enforcement agency has completed its investigation, the case may be filed with the prosecuting attorney for review and, if appropriate, criminal prosecution. The prosecuting attorney considers such matters as the legality of the arrest, whether certain evidence essential to the case was legally obtained, and/or whether additional investigation is required. Depending on the facts and law involved, the prosecuting attorney may: accept the case for prosecution as filed; increase/reduce the charge filed; file additional/different charges; return the case for further investigation; or reject the case for prosecution.

As a general rule, a peace officer must obtain an arrest warrant before taking a person into custody. But a peace officer may arrest a person without a warrant only if: (1) there is probable cause to believe that the person committed an offense; and (2) the arrest falls within one of the exceptions specified in chapter 14 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. For example, article 14.01(b) provides that a peace officer may arrest an offender without a warrant for any offense committed in the officer’s presence or view.

 

A magistrate may issue an arrest warrant on the basis of an affidavit made by any person under oath before the magistrate, establishing probable cause to believe another person has committed an offense. The arrest warrant commands a peace officer or some other person specially named to take the body of the accused, to be dealt with according to law. A summons may be issued in any case where a warrant may be issued, and is in the same form as the warrant except that it summons the defendant to appear before a magistrate at a stated time and place. If a defendant fails to appear in response to the summons a warrant will be issued.

The person making an arrest is required without unnecessary delay, but not later than 48 hours after the person is arrested, to take the person arrested before a magistrate. The magistrate is required to inform in clear language the person arrested of: (1) the accusation against the person arrested and of any affidavit filed therewith; (2) the right to retain counsel; (3) the right to remain silent; (4) the right to have an attorney present during any interview with peace officers or attorneys representing the state; (5) the right to terminate the interview at any time; (6) the right to request the appointment of counsel if the person arrested is indigent and cannot afford counsel; (7) the procedures for requesting appointment of counsel; (8) the right to have an examining trial; and (9) the person arrested is not required to make a statement and any statement made may be used against the person arrested. The magistrate is also required to allow the accused reasonable time and opportunity to consult counsel and to be admitted to bail if allowed by law.

A peace officer who is charging a person with committing an offense that is a class C misdemeanor (other than public intoxication), may, instead of taking the person before a magistrate, issue a citation (ticket) to the person that contains written notice of the time and place the person must appear before a magistrate, the name and address of the person charged, and the offense charged.

Additional rights of an accused in a criminal prosecution include: the presumption of innocence until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt; the right against self-incrimination; the right to not be prosecuted for a felony unless indicted by a grand jury; the right to a copy of the accusation and a speedy trial by an impartial jury; the right to confront (cross-examine) the witnesses and to have compulsory process (subpoena) for obtaining witnesses, and the right of appeal.

The defendant in a criminal prosecution for any offense may waive any rights secured him/her by law. It should be noted, however, that in a capital felony prosecution in which the prosecutor notifies the court and the defendant that the state will seek the death penalty, the defendant does not have the right to waive trial by jury.

As a resident of Texas you have certain rights, even when arrested. These rights apply to everybody, including undocumented immigrants. One of those rights is the “right to remain silent”. This is part of your Miranda Rights and should be verbalized to you during (or as part of) your arrest. You also have the right to have an attorney present with you when you do decide to speak to the police. It is always advisable to politely assert these rights and to wait until your attorney is present before saying ANYTHING to the police. Ask if you are being arrested and/or charged. If you are informed that you are, politely and clearly state that you invoke the right to remain silent until such time as you have legal counsel present.

In most situations, contacting a Texas criminal defense attorney as soon as the first indication of potential trouble arises is your best option. The right criminal defense lawyer in Texas can advise you on the right course of action and the steps you can take to prevent an arrest, end an investigation, stop charges from being filed and more.

Our criminal defense attorneys will ensure you take every measure possible to position you for a positive outcome. 

Signs you Should Contact a Criminal Defense Attorney:

  • People have told you the police are asking about you
  • You have been contacted by law enforcement 
  • You have been arrested or charged
  • The police have informed you that you are under investigation or that you are a suspect or “person of interest” in a case

The exact process and steps will vary depending on the unique circumstances surrounding your case. However, the basic steps and procedures in Texas are as follows:

  • Arrest
  • Booking
  • Charged / Arraignment 
  • Bail
  • Preliminary hearing
  • Trial 
  • Sentencing
  • Punishment or exoneration (fines, probation, jail, or exoneration)
  • Appeal

The Texas Legislature designates criminal offenses in our state’s Penal Code as misdemeanors or felonies. Based on the relative seriousness of the offense, misdemeanors and felonies are classified into these categories:

Capital Felony

  • death or life imprisonment

1st Degree Felony

  • 5 to 99 years imprisonment; and 
  • may also be fined up to $10,000

2nd Degree Felony

  • 2 to 20 years imprisonment; and 
  • may also be fined up to $10,000

3rd Degree Felony

  • 2 to 10 years imprisonment; and 
  • may also be fined up to $10,000

State Jail Felony

  • 180 days to 2 years in state jail and an optional fine not to exceed $10,000 OR
  • the Court may impose Class A misdemeanor punishment

Class A Misdemeanor

  • up to 1 year in county jail and/or
  • a fine up to $4,000

Class B Misdemeanor

  • up to 180 days in county jail and/or
  • a fine up to $2,000

Class C Misdemeanor

  • a fine up to $500

A criminal case is prosecuted in the name of the State of Texas against the accused (defendant), and is conducted by the appropriate prosecuting attorney (prosecutor) acting under the authority of the state.

Prosecution of a class C misdemeanor in municipal or justice court is initiated by filing a complaint. A complaint is a written affidavit made by some credible person charging the defendant with the commission of an offense.

Prosecution of a class A or B misdemeanor in a county court, county court at law or county criminal court is initiated by filing an information. An information is a written statement presented in behalf of the state by the prosecutor, charging the defendant with the commission of an offense. An information must be based on a proper complaint and the complaint must be filed with the information.

A felony is prosecuted in a district court or criminal district court and an indictment (sometimes called “bill of indictment”) is required unless waived by the defendant. An indictment is a written statement of a grand jury presented to a court accusing a named person of some act or omission which, by law, is declared to be an offense.

The grand jury, organized by the district judge for a set term (usually 3 to 6 months), has jurisdiction only over offenses occurring in its own county. The prosecutor is entitled to go before the grand jury and inform them of offenses liable to indictment at any time except when they are discussing or voting upon the issuance of an indictment. The grand jury determines whether there is sufficient evidence to require the accused to stand trial for a criminal offense. At least 9 of the 12 grand jurors must concur to issue an indictment (“true bill”) and be present when the indictment is delivered to the judge or clerk of the court (to be filed in the court’s records). If the grand jury does not find sufficient evidence the case is “no-billed” and the suspect discharged. A no-bill does not bar indictment by the same or different grand jury at a later date.

When an information or indictment is filed, if the defendant is not in custody or under bond, a capias may issue. A capias is a writ issued by the court or clerk, and directed “To any peace officer of the State of Texas,” commanding the officer to arrest a person accused of an offense and to bring the accused before that court immediately, or on a day or at a term stated in the writ. Instead of a capias, the prosecutor may request that a summons be issued. A summons is in the same form as a capias except that it summons the defendant to appear before the proper court at a stated time and place. If the defendant fails to appear in response to the summons a capias will be issued.

The court may set any criminal case for a pre-trial hearing before it is set for trial upon its merits. The pre-trial hearing is to determine legal issues only such as: (1) arraignment of the defendant, if such be necessary; (2) appointment of counsel to represent the defendant, if such be necessary; (3) motions for change of venue; (4) motions for continuance; (5) defense motions to discover the state’s evidence in the case; (6) defense motions to suppress (exclude) evidence; and (7) any other defense motion. These matters are decided by the judge; sometimes the defense and/or prosecution present evidence and/or witness testimony.

Plea Bargaining

The disposition of criminal charges by agreement between the prosecutor and the defendant, under judicial supervision, is called “plea bargaining.” In exchange for the defendant pleading guilty or nolo contendere (no contest) and waiving the right of trial by jury, the prosecutor recommends a specific punishment which the judge can follow or reject. If the judge rejects the agreement, the defendant is permitted to withdraw his/her plea. If the judge follows the agreement, the defendant must obtain the judge’s permission before the defendant may appeal any matter in the case except matters raised by written motions filed prior to trial. The defendant usually waives the right of appeal as part of the plea bargain. The vast majority of all criminal cases are resolved by plea bargaining.

 

Non-negotiated Guilty Plea (Open Plea)

A defendant may plead guilty or nolo contendere to a criminal charge without an agreement with the prosecutor as to the punishment the prosecutor will recommend. The judge has the responsibility to assess the punishment applicable to the offense unless the defendant requests that a jury assess punishment. This is called a “non-negotiated guilty plea” or “pleading open to the court.” The defendant retains the right to appeal, but non-jurisdictional defects occurring prior to the entry of the plea may have been waived.

 

Trial

The Texas Constitution guarantees the accused in all criminal prosecutions the right to a trial by jury. The defendant may waive trial by jury and proceed with trial to the court (judge) with the consent and approval of the judge and the prosecutor in any criminal prosecution except a capital felony in which the prosecutor notifies the court and the defendant that the state will seek the death penalty.

 

Dismissal

The prosecutor may, with the consent of the judge, dismiss a criminal case. Common reasons for dismissal include: (1) insufficient evidence – for example, after indictment trial preparation reveals a fatal lack of evidence such that the court would instruct a verdict for the defendant; (2) crucial evidence is suppressed (excluded) because of an illegal arrest or search; (3) the case is re-filed to correct mistakes in the information or indictment or to better plead the case; (4) at the request of the victim; (5) the defendant pleads guilty to other offenses; (6) the defendant has never been arrested; and/or (7) necessary witnesses cannot be located.

Local correctional facilities designated by law for the confinement of persons include: (1) municipal (city) jails – generally hold arrested persons until either bonded or transferred to county jails; (2) county jails – hold defendants awaiting trial or transfer to prison, or confined for misdemeanor punishment or a condition or violation of a community supervision; and (3) community corrections facilities – such as restitution centers, boot camps, and substance abuse treatment facilities. 

The institutional division of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice operates and manages the state prison system with more than 100 facilities located across the state, including: (1) transfer facilities – hold defendants awaiting transfer to prison; (2) boot camps – for first time felony (except state jail) offenders (age 17-25) using a regimented program similar to military boot camps; (3) state jail facilities – for defendants convicted of state jail (4th degree) felonies; (4) substance abuse felony punishment facilities (SAFPFs); (5) psychiatric and minimum, medium, and maximum security units (prisons) for inmates convicted of capital, 1st, 2nd and 3rd degree felonies, and inmates awaiting execution; and (6) private prisons – serve as prerelease centers for prisoners awaiting release on parole.

Community supervision, formerly called “probation,” means that the defendant is released into the community under certain conditions set by the court and subject to court supervision. The maximum period of community supervision is ten years in a felony case; two years in a misdemeanor case (three years if extended by the judge). However, if the offense is indecency with a child, sexual assault, or aggravated sexual assault, the judge may extend the period of supervision for a period not to exceed 10 additional years. And the judge may extend the period in a misdemeanor case not to exceed an additional two years beyond the limit to pay the fine, costs, or restitution.

Basic conditions of community supervision include, for example, that the defendant: (1) commit no criminal offense; (2) report to the supervision officer as directed; (3) permit the supervision officer to visit at the defendant’s home or elsewhere; (4) work faithfully at suitable employment and support his/her dependents; (5) remain within a specified place; and (6) pay restitution to the victim and any fine assessed and all court costs. Defendants placed on community supervision are supervised by community supervision officers, formerly called “probation officers.”

A defendant’s eligibility for community supervision depends on factors including: (1) the type of community supervision; (2) the offense involved; (3) whether the defendant used or exhibited a deadly weapon or knew that a deadly weapon would be used or exhibited; (4) whether the defendant has previously been convicted of a felony offense or placed on community supervision; (5) whether the judge or jury sets the defendant’s punishment; and (6) whether the defendant is sentenced to a term of imprisonment exceeding ten years.

One type of community supervision is a regular community supervision. The defendant is convicted and given a term of confinement which the judge immediately suspends and then places the defendant on community supervision.

In a deferred adjudication community supervision, after receiving the defendant’s plea of guilty or nolo contendere, hearing the evidence, and finding that it substantiates the defendant’s guilt, the judge defers further proceedings without entering an adjudication of guilt and places the defendant on community supervision. Unlike the other types of community supervision, if the defendant successfully completes the supervision period, the judge is required to dismiss the proceedings and discharge the defendant. However, if the defendant violates a condition of the deferred adjudication community supervision, the defendant may not appeal the court’s decision to proceed with the adjudication of guilt on the original charge.

Finally, in a continuing jurisdiction community supervision (formerly called “shock probation”) or state boot camp program, the defendant is convicted and given a sentence requiring confinement. After serving a set period of confinement, the judge may suspend further execution of the sentence and place the defendant on community supervision.

At any time during the period of any community supervision, the prosecutor may file a motion to revoke and the judge may issue a warrant for violation of any of the conditions of the supervision and cause the defendant to be arrested and held without bond until a hearing within 20 days after demand. The state must prove by a preponderance of the evidence (greater weight and degree of credible evidence) that the defendant violated the conditions of the community supervision. After a hearing without a jury, the judge may either continue, extend, modify or revoke the community supervision or, in a deferred adjudication community supervision, proceed to adjudication. In a deferred adjudication, the judge may assess the full range of punishment prescribed for the offense; if it is one of the other types of community supervision, the judge may not go beyond the original term of confinement. No part of the time that the defendant is on community supervision shall be considered as any part of the time that he/she shall be sentenced to serve.

An appeal generally occurs after a conviction when the defendant requests a higher (appellate) court to determine whether errors were committed in the trial that require a retrial or acquittal. The decision of the appellate court is made without a jury. If the case is affirmed, then the sentence must be served; if the court finds error that beyond a reasonable doubt contributed to the conviction or punishment, the case is reversed and a new trial or punishment hearing may be ordered. Sometimes, though rarely, a case may be reversed and the defendant ordered acquitted, that is, set free (e.g., state failed to provide sufficient evidence of guilt).

The state is entitled to appeal a limited number of orders of a court in a criminal case. For example, the state may appeal an order: dismissing all or any portion of an indictment or information; granting a new trial; or granting a defendant’s pre-trial motion to exclude evidence or a confession. The state may not appeal from a judge’s decision or jury’s verdict finding a defendant not guilty of an offense.

Parole is a system by which a prisoner earns the privilege to be released from prison prior to completing the full sentence. A prisoner may earn time off his/her sentence through the award of good conduct time. Prison authorities may award good conduct time to a prisoner who exhibits good behavior, diligence in carrying out prison work assignments, and attempts rehabilitation. If a prisoner engages in misconduct, prison authorities may also take away all or part of any good conduct time earned by the prisoner.

A prisoner under sentence of death is not eligible for parole. A prisoner serving a life sentence for a capital felony committed on or after September 1, 2005, is not eligible for parole. If a prisoner is serving a life sentence for a capital felony committed on or after September 1, 1993, the prisoner is not eligible for release on parole until the actual calendar time the prisoner has served, without consideration of good conduct time, equals 40 calendar years; it is one-half of the maximum sentence or 30 calendar years, whichever is less, if the trial court enters an affirmative finding that the prisoner used or exhibited a deadly weapon or knew that a deadly weapon would be used or exhibited, or the prisoner is serving a sentence for murder, indecency with a child, aggravated kidnapping, aggravated sexual assault, aggravated robbery, or sexual assault. In most other cases prisoners may be eligible for release on parole when their calendar time served plus good conduct time equals one-fourth of the maximum sentence or 15 years, whichever is less.

The decision whether to grant parole is made by the pardons and paroles division of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (512/406-5250; for victims only 1-800-848-4284). A prisoner released on parole remains under the division’s supervision and control subject to conditions much like a defendant placed on community supervision (e.g., report to a parole officer as directed; pay restitution to the victim).

Illegal reentry is considered to be a serious offense that can result in heavy monetary fines and imprisonment. The maximum term of imprisonment will depend on the criminal history of the defendant. The maximum terms are the following:

  • Imprisonment for no more than 2 years;
  • If the defendant has 3 or more misdemeanors involving drugs, crimes against the person, or a felony that is not an aggravated felony, imprisonment for no more than 10 years; and
  • If the defendant has a conviction of an aggravated felony, imprisonment for no more than 20 years.

In Texas, Aggravated Assault is when a person commits assault and he/she either:

1. Causes serious bodily injury to another, or

2. Uses or exhibits a deadly weapon during the commission of the assault.

Overall, when one considers collateral consequences, the government treats the assault of a family member as a more serious crime than the assault of a stranger. It isn’t uncommon for Travis County judges to issue emergency protective orders (EPOs) in family violence cases that forbid defendants from returning to their homes and sometimes even prevents them from seeing their children. If children were present at the time of the incident then Texas CPS (Child Protective Services) may also investigate.

In divorce court, a family violence conviction can be used to deny child custody and limit visitation rights. A family violence conviction can also cause you to permanently lose for any reason. If you are in the military, you may be discharged; if you work in law enforcement, you may be reassigned or fired.

A family violence conviction could cost you a professional license or, if you are a skilled tradesman, make it impossible for you to be bonded. It will appear in your criminal record and will show up in pre-employment and pre-leasing background checks.

Non-citizens convicted of family violence may be denied a green card or deported and denied re-entry.

If you are convicted of even the lowest level of family violence assault, any future misdemeanor family violence or stalking charges may be prosecuted and punished as third degree felonies and you are permanently disqualified for an order of non-disclosure if you successfully complete deferred adjudication probation for any type of offense in the future.

Texas law allows prosecutors to seek a “family violence” conviction even when the defendant and alleged victim are not what one might ordinarily consider family. In addition to blood relatives, a family violence allegation can be made against a foster child or parent, former spouse, domestic partner, roommate, boyfriend, girlfriend, and even a former boyfriend or girlfriend. Depending on the relationship, the term “dating violence” is sometimes used in place of “family violence.”

You might think the term “bodily injury” would require some sort of visible injury like a cut or even a bruise but the legal definition includes mere physical pain. As a result, you can be charged with “Assault with Bodily Injury,” a Class A Misdemeanor and jailable offense, if you are accused of merely slapping another person or pulling his or her hair.

The definition of “serious bodily injury” is more intuitive. It means bodily injury that “creates a substantial risk of death or that causes death, serious permanent disfigurement, or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ.”

Texas law does not require the alleged victim to sustain an actual injury in an assault case. Physical contact that merely causes pain can suffice for an assault with “bodily injury,” which is a Class A Misdemeanor, punishable by up to 180 days in the county jail and a fine of up to $4,000 (note that a jail sentence may be probated, depending on various factors, in which case a defendant may not actually spend any time in jail).

Furthermore, a mere verbal threat or “offensive” physical contact can qualify as Class C Misdemeanor Assault under Texas law. This lesser assault is the equivalent of a traffic ticket.

To begin the process for expunction of records, one must first file a petition. A hearing will be set no sooner than 30 days after the petition is filed. Usually the expunction will be granted at that time, assuming the petitioner is eligible. From that point forward, the petitioner can legally deny the arrest which has been expunged. The arrest records, however, will not be destroyed immediately. Instead an order is transmitted to the agencies that maintain the records instructing them to destroy the records. Typically it takes up to 90 days for the agencies to destroy the records. It is important to check for compliance with this order since agencies often fail to fully comply with the order.

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