Criminal Defense


Will Houston, Texas DWI Penalties Change in 2016?

DWI

In Houston, DWI laws are based on Texas state law rather than local law. Although Texas DWI laws have been amended many times over the years (and generally become tougher with each revision), it is difficult to say with a high degree of certainty what the Texas legislature will decide to do in 2016. Nevertheless, an understanding of the history of Texas DWI law and an awareness of the current local political environment does make it possible to offer a few educated guesses.

Current Texas DWI Penalties

Currently, Texas imposes a variety of penalties on DUI offenders including:

  • Jail time
  • Driver’s license suspension or revocation
  • Fines and court costs
  • Community service
  • Mandatory DWI education programs

These penalties increase dramatically for each subsequent offense – a first-time offender, for example, can expect a fine of up to $2,000, jail time of 3 to 180 days, mandatory DWI education, and a driver’s license suspension of up to two years. A third offense, by contrast, could result in a $10,000 fine and prison time of 2 to 10 years, among other penalties. Enhanced sentencing guidelines apply under certain circumstances, such as driving drunk while carrying a passenger under 15 years of age.

The Most Recent Change

In September 2015, Texas DWI law changed to allow certain first-time DWI offenders who might otherwise face a blanket suspension of their driver’s license to drive to work or to pick up children from school if they agree to purchase an ignition interlock device (IID) and have it installed on their car. Certain first-time DWI offenders will remain ineligible for this option, however, including offenders whose blood alcohol content (BAC) was at least 0.15 at the time of their arrest and offenders who were carrying a child in their car at the time of their arrest.

The MADD Demand

Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), a group that lobbies for tougher DWI/DUI laws, is dissatisfied with the most recent change in Texas DWI penalties. Instead, they propose that ignition interlock devices become mandatory for all first-time offenders instead of being offered as an option in exchange for limited driving privileges that are restored after a relatively brief period of a license suspension. Perhaps the Texas legislature will consider this idea in 2016.

Unfinished Business: Sobriety Checkpoints

In 2011 the Texas legislature considered but failed to approve sobriety checkpoints that would stop random motorists to check their sobriety. While most states allow sobriety checkpoints, the Texas legislature has been reluctant to allow them due to civil liberties concerns (because most drivers stopped at sobriety checkpoints are law-abiding). Perhaps 2016 will be the year that Texas finally permits this practice.

Body Cameras

One current trend in Houston that will likely accelerate in 2016 is a dramatic increase in the number of police officers wearing body cameras. Although strictly speaking, this policy does not constitute any change in DWI penalties, it does render it more likely that any irregularities in a DWI arrest can be proven in court, thereby deterring police from committing misconduct. Body cameras can also make it more likely that a DWI defendant who has been victimized by questionable arrest procedures will be in a better position to win an acquittal or plea bargain a DWI charge to a lesser offense.

If you have been charged with DWI in Houston, Texas, or if you simply need more information on Texas DWI law, pick up the phone and call Madrid Law, PLLC at 713-877-9400 for a free initial evaluation.

Who Should I Call if I get a DWI in Houston, Texas?

DWI

If you are charged with DWI, you are likely to have very little time between your arrest and your court date to prepare an effective defense. Since the Texas criminal justice system can be harsh on an unrepresented DWI defendant, it is imperative that you contact a top-tier Houston DWI lawyer as soon as you can. Since your choice of which lawyer to represent you could turn out to be the most important factor determining the outcome of your case, nothing could be more important than knowing what qualities to look for in a DWI defense lawyer.

Affordable Value

DWI defendants looking for a criminal defense lawyer must balance two competing concerns. On one hand, selecting a lawyer who charges exorbitant legal fees to win an acquittal or a plea bargain forces the defendant to choose between his wealth and his freedom. On the other hand, selecting a “discount” lawyer could result in an inadequate defense and even unnecessary incarceration. Finding a balance between these two extremes will require you to find a DWI lawyer who offers value – affordable financial arrangements combined with skilled and committed representation.

Houston DWI defense attorney Mario Madrid, for example, represents his clients for affordable legal fees. He is willing to work with defendants who can’t afford to pay upfront by offering payment plans that are tailored to his client’s individual financial needs.

Relevant Experience

A lawyer only a few months out of law school can represent a DWI defendant, as can a lawyer who specializes in corporate mergers and has little understanding of the principles of DWI defense. To effectively fight a DWI charge, you will need a lawyer with extensive experience in criminal law. Mario Madrid has been certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, and he is a member of the National College for DUI Defense. His broad experience in the Texas criminal justice system provides him with a unique perspective shared by few of his peers.

Mr. Madrid enjoyed six years of experience as a Houston criminal law judge, which provides him with an understanding of how a judge is likely to interpret and weigh evidence. His three years of experience as an Assistant District Attorney provided him with even more valuable experience in trying cases from a prosecutor’s perspective. Mr. Madrid’s experience as a prosecutor helps him to predict the prosecution’s strategy in advance and, if necessary, to effectively negotiate plea bargains that could spare a DWI defendant jail time and a criminal record.

Contact Mario Madrid Today

A good DWI lawyer can provide you with more than just an effective defense in court – he can also with the legal advice you need to accidentally avoid damaging your own case (by talking about your case to the police, for example). If you have been charged with DWI in the Houston, Texas metropolitan area, call Madrid Law, PLLC at 713-877-9400 for a free initial evaluation of your case so that we can discuss your legal options together.

Hit and Run Laws in Texas

Criminal Defense

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Hit and Run Laws in Texas
Leaving the scene of an accident without exchanging information or helping an injured person can lead to charges of Failure to Stop and Render Aid or Failure to Stop and Give Information, in Texas. It is not against the law to have an unintentional accident where there are no drugs, alcohol or negligence involved. An auto accident is a largely a civil matter. However criminal charges can be filed if a person involved in an accident does not stop and instead flees the scene. Recent hit and run incidents make it clear just how serious this action can be. Having an understanding about hit and run laws in Texas can help people avoid breaking the law or prepare a legal defense if they are facing charges.
Duty to Stop and Exchange Information
Drivers have a duty to stop and exchange information when involved in an accident. Texas Transportation Code Section 550.023 states that the operator of a vehicle involved in an accident resulting in the injury or death of a person or damage to a vehicle that is driven or attended by a person shall:
(1) give the operator’s name and address, the registration number of the vehicle the operator was driving, and the name of the operator’s motor vehicle liability insurer to any person injured or the operator or occupant of or person attending a vehicle involved in the collision;
(2) if requested and available, show the operator’s driver’s license to a person described by Subdivision (1); and
(3) provide any person injured in the accident reasonable assistance, including transporting or making arrangements for transporting the person to a physician or hospital for medical treatment if it is apparent that treatment is necessary, or if the injured person requests the transportation.

Legal Definition of Failure to Stop and Render Aid
Texas Transportation Code Section 550.021 defines the duty and law of Failure to Stop and Render Aid as follow:

ACCIDENT INVOLVING PERSONAL INJURY OR DEATH. (a) The operator of a vehicle involved in an accident that results or is reasonably likely to result in injury to or death of a person shall:
(1) immediately stop the vehicle at the scene of the accident or as close to the scene as possible;
(2) immediately return to the scene of the accident if the vehicle is not stopped at the scene of the accident;
(3) immediately determine whether a person is involved in the accident, and if a person is involved in the accident, whether that person requires aid; and
(4) remain at the scene of the accident until the operator complies with the requirements of Section 550.023
A person commits an offense if the person does not stop or does not comply with the requirements of this section.
Legal Penalties
The penalties for a Hit and Run conviction can vary depending on the accident and possible injuries or death. For example, if the accident involving injury leads to the death of a person the penalty can be:
• Conviction on a second degree felony charge
• Up to 20 years in state prison
• A fine of up to $10,000
• Possible restitution to the victim’s family
If a person is convicted of the above offense but a person sustains serious bodily injury as a result of the accident, the punishment can be:
• Imprisonment in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice for not more than five years or confinement in the county jail for not more than one year;
• A fine not to exceed $5,000;
• both the fine and the imprisonment or confinement.
Recent Hit and Run Cases in Texas
In October of 2015, a 20 year old woman was charged in the Hit and Run death of a cyclist The victim was riding his bike after midnight along Spencer Highway when he was hit by a pick-up truck and killed. The driver didn’t stop. The victim’s body was left on the road.

According to a court filing, the suspect’s vehicle, a 2008 Ford F-150, had the victim’s blood and hair on the inside and outside of the truck. The 20-year-old driver is now charged with failure to stop and render aid in a crash involving death and facing up to 20years in prison.
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Are you facing charges of Failure to Stop and Render Aid or Failure to Stop and Give Information? Did you panic and leave the scene of an auto accident? Attorney Mario Madrid can provide the defense you need in these difficult times. Contact his office today at (713) 877-9400.
photo credit: via photopin (license)

Do Police Need A Warrant to Search My Cell Phone?

Criminal Defense | Search and Seizure

SeachWarrantCell

FOURTH AMENDMENT PROTECTION

The United States Constitution provides protections in the Bill of the Rights. In particular, the Fourth Amendment provides for the protection of privacy from intrusions or searches from the government. The amendment states that “the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

Do we have an expectation of privacy to our cell phones? Most people have a password to prevent others from accessing their cell phone. So yes, I would say that we do have an expectation of privacy to our cell phones. With the current cell phones that we all use, they are the virtual equivalent of our desktops.

In a landmark decision in Riley v. California, the United States Supreme Court held unanimously that the warrantless search and seizure of digital contents of a  cell phone during an arrest is unconstitutional. In order to obtain a warrant, the police must have probable cause. In order to have probable cause the police must articulate why they believe that the search will uncover criminal activity or contraband. They must have legally sufficient reasons to believe a search is necessary.

EXCLUSIONARY RULE

Courts enforce the Fourth Amendment through the use of the exclusionary rule. If evidence is obtained in violation of the Fourth Amendment then a judge can rule that it is excluded or inadmissible in court. In other words, if the police violate a person’s rights’ by conducting an illegal search without probable cause, then the evidence cannot be used against the accused. An experienced criminal defense lawyer can file a motion to suppress evidence to have the evidence excluded. This often leads to dismissals. Without evidence the government cannot secure convictions.

However, the police can obtain information from a cell phone without a warrant or without obtaining your phone. One of the most common tactics is to subpoena cell phone records from a suspect’s cell phone provider. The cell phone records can help the police determine who the suspect is talking to and when the calls are made. Further, the state may seek cell phone locations to determine where a suspect may have been. These records  do not determine guilt or innocence and should be vigorously contested. A skilled lawyer can defend your rights and develop a winning defense.

If you or someone you know has been the subject of a possible illegal search or seizure, you are in need of an experienced Houston Criminal Defense Attorney. Texas Board Certified Attorney Mario Madrid has the experience to help. Contact his office today at (713) 877-9400.

State Can Use Juvenile Case To Enhance Punishment

Criminal Defense

In the State of Texas, if it is shown on the trial of a felony that the defendant has previously been finally convicted of a previous felony, the state can use the prior conviction to punish the defendant at a higher range of punishment. For example, if a defendant is charged with a second degree felony, found guilty and has a previous felony conviction of a third degree or above case, the second degree case will be bumped up to a first degree punishment range. Therefore, instead of facing two to twenty years in prison, the defendant would be subject to five to ninety nine years in prison. This is called an enhancement. That is a general synopsis of how enhancements work. They are different for misdemeanors and state jail felonies, but the main point to understand is that they are used to increase punishment.

If a defendant has a prior juvenile adjudication, can it be used to enhance their adult felony? It may come a surprise, but if your answer to the question is no, you would be wrong. In the state of Texas, the state can and does use prior juvenile adjudications to enhance adult punishment. The criteria to use the juvenile case is as follows. First, the juvenile case must have been for a felony. Second, the defendant would have had to be committed to the Texas Juvenile Justice Depart, what is commonly referred to as TDCJ. Third the juvenile offense would have to be committed after January 1, 1996.

If a defendant’s juvenile adjudication meets the three conditions, then they are final felony convictions that can be used to enhance adult felony convictions. As the example above explains, the second degree case would be punished as a first degree. A third degree case would be punished as second degree. For enhancement purposes in Texas, a first degree felony is raised from five to ninety nine years to fifteen to ninety nine years.

In Texas, if a defendant has two prior felony convictions, they are given habitual status. This means that the range of punishment is twenty five years to life in prison, if a defendant has two prior convictions. It is extremely important to note that, although a prior juvenile adjudication that meets the above criteria can be used to enhance punishment, it cannot be used as one of the two prior felony convictions to enhance a defendant to a habitual.

The criminal justice system in both Texas Juvenile Courts and in Texas Criminal Courts is complicated, scary and potentially life changing. An experienced, Texas Board Certified Attorney is your best choice when faced with a crisis that could involve prison time. Mario Madrid is a Houston Criminal Defense Lawyer who has over twenty years of experience. If you need the help of a Houston Criminal Defense Attorney, call Mario Madrid at 713-877-9400, for a free consultation.

Always Seek Legal Representation In Texas

Criminal Defense

In the state of Texas, being charged with a crime related to heroin or cocaine will require that you have a competent criminal defense attorney in your corner if you ever want to see the light of day again, or have a fighting chance of beating the case in the court of law.

Its very possible to win a felony drug case in Harris County, but only lawyers of distinguished pedigree seem to have luck actually getting not guilty verdicts when possible.

Its not that inexperienced lawyers are bad people, or want to see their clients in jail, its just that either they are public defenders responsible for an ever increasingly insurmountable caseload, or are fresh out of law school, still wet behind the ears, and couldn’t find their way out of a paper briefing folder if they wandered into one.

Depending on the circumstances of your case, you could be facing serious criminal penalties that can come down on you like a ton of bricks if you’re not represented by a Houston criminal lawyer with experience fighting allegations of the possession of dangerous drugs, and winning.

Even in cases that seemingly can’t be won, you know, those cases where the cops did everything right according to the Constitution of The United States, and found you in possession of a bag of hundreds of pounds of marijuana in your trunk, or with thousands of kilos of cocaine in your possession, having a criminal defense lawyer in Houston on your side, who has experience fighting drug charges, is the best way to respond to such a challenge and the best chance at winning in court.

You May Be Able To Stay Out Of Jail

Houston Criminal Law Attorney Mario Madrid
Attorney Mario Madrid

If you don’t have an extensive criminal history, or a record showing habitual criminal activity for the crime in which you were charged, there is the possibility that you can avoid jail time even when charged with a felonious offense in Houston, Texas.

Being able to avoid prison is often seen as a second chance mechanism to keep non-violent offenders out of the prison system. However, there will be consequences if you plead guilty to a felony in Houston. You may have to deal with a period of house-arrest, or a strict probationary term in the event that your lawyer has the know-how and ability to keep you out of jail for a felony offense in Houston.

If the case the DA has against you isn’t rock solid, or if the police violated your rights & didn’t take the proper steps in evidence collection as required by law, Houston criminal defense attorney Mario Madrid will likely be able to beat your case outright, or at bare minimum, have any and all unlawfully collected evidence thrown out of court and have you plead to lesser charges, if any, and consider the matter resolved to the best extent possible.

Even If You Have To Go To Prison

In some cases when a person is charged with a serious crime there’s seemingly no way to avoid the possibility of jail time. Having the police find you red-handed in possession of a large amount of narcotics, or in possession of a murder weapon alleged to have been used in a homicide you’ve been accused of committing, will make it difficult to gain a NOT GUILTY verdict from a Harris County jury, but not impossible.

Even if you are found guilty there’s no need to avoid the fight for lesser charges, a lower sentence, or for the elimination of certain criminal charges in the event that you’re facing prosecution on more than one offense.

If this sounds like a situation you or a loved one are in, contact Houston criminal law attorney Mario Madrid, by calling our law office at 713-877-9400.

We’re here to help. We offer affordable payment options.

Always Seek Legal Representation In Texas

The Consequences Are Serious

Clear Your Record

Being found guilty of a criminal offense is a serious situation with ramifications that can follow you for a lifetime. There are a number of good people around us who have lost opportunities that may have changed their lives for the better due to an existing, or recent, criminal offense appearing on their background record.

This is understandable.

However, its important to be open to the idea that the person that committed a misdemeanor or felony criminal offense when they were 18 years old aren’t necessarily the same person now, at the age of 30.

However, that same 30 year old may not be able to make positive advancements life, when the opportunity arises, due to a mistake 12 years earlier. This makes it important to be represented by a sharp criminal defense lawyer if you’ve been accused of a criminal offense in Houston, or know who to talk with in the event that you want to get old criminal records off your back.

Potential Consequences of a Criminal Record

There are a number consequences involved with having a criminal record with one facet of being that “many licensing and permit statutes authorize an agency to suspend or revoke a license or permit based on conviction of a felony”, including everything listed below and more.

  • Architects.
  • Private detectives, watchmen, guards, and patrol services.
  • Professions under the jurisdiction of the Department of Public Health specifically including healing arts, medicine and surgery, osteopathy, chiropractic, natureopathy, podiatry, physical therapists, nursing, nurse’s aides, dentistry, optometry, opticians, psychologists, marital and family therapists, clinical social workers, professional counselors, veterinary medicine, massage therapists, dietician-nutritionists, acupuncturists, paramedics, embalmers and funeral directors, barbers, hairdressers and cosmeticians, and hypertrichologists.
  • Attorneys.
  • Judges, family support magistrates, workers’ compensation commissioners.
  • Radiographers and radiologic technologists.
  • Midwives.
  • Licensed: electricians; plumbers; heating, piping, and cooling contractors and journeymen; elevator contractors and craftsmen; solar contractors and journeymen; fire protection sprinkler contractors and journeymen; irrigation contrators and journeymen; sheet metal contractors and journeymen; and automotive and flat glass contractors and journeymen.
  • Major contractors.
  • Lead abatement consultants, contractors, and workers.
  • Public service gas technicians.
  • Certified public accountants.
  • Psychologists.
  • Individuals and businesses selling insurance.
  • Licensed social workers.
  • Athlete agents.

Licenses, Permits and Particular Criminal Offenses

Other licensing and permit statutes include provisions on suspension or revocation on conviction of certain crimes (such as those related to the profession, fraud, or extortion) or crimes of moral turpitude. These statutes include the following.

  • Consumer collection agencies (for actions of a partner, officer, director, or employee).
  • Real estate appraisers.
  • Occupational therapists.
  • Real estate brokers and salespersons.
  • Television and radio service dealers, electronics technicians, apprentice electronics technicians, and antenna technicians, radio electronics technicians.
  • Sanitarians.
  • Landscape architects.
  • Interior designers.
  • Hearing aid dealers.
  • Community association managers.
  • Pharmacy licensees.
  • Practitioners distributing, administering, or dispensing controlled substances.
  • New home construction contractors.
  • Physical Therapists and physical therapy assistants.

As you may gather from the information you’ve reviewed, there are a number of consequences involved with having a criminal background, and keep in mind, we didn’t list them all. There no good outcome to not legally fighting any criminal charges levied against you in Texas and you can be sure that Houston attorney Mario R. Madrid will be ready to help.

Houston Lawyer Mario Madrid Will Help You

Criminal defense attorneys like Mario R. Madrid come few and far in between in a city the size of Houston, but you can be sure that Mario is who he says he is when it comes to being one the most qualified lawyers in Houston. He’s practiced criminal law in Houston for nearly 20 years and prides himself on being affordable to the people who need him most, yet prestigious enough by way of his experience, credentials, and record, to represent even the most high profile of those who may need the best legal defense they can get.

The Consequences Are Serious

Do I Qualify for the Safety Valve in terms of my Federal Sentence?

Criminal Sentencing/Punishments | Drugs

Punishment for federal criminal offenses can be harsh. If you are charged with a federal crime it is important to hire an attorney with experience with and knowledge of the federal sentencing guidelines.

Many offenses carry mandatory minimum sentences which is a minimum sentence that a judge must impose. For example a drug offense may carry a minimum 10 year sentence up to life in prison. The Safety Valve was enacted to provide relief for harsh mandatory minimum sentences.

The safety valve is set forth in 5C1.2 of the Federal Sentencing Guidelines. It is important to note that the safety valve only applies to federal drug offenses. It provides relief from the mandatory minimum sentence if the defendant has little to no criminal history (which is defined as 0 or 1 criminal history points) and if the defendant truthfully discloses everything he knows about the crime he committed prior to sentencing. The defendant must meet the following criteria to be eligible for the safety valve:

(1) the defendant does not have more than 1 criminal history point, as determined under
the sentencing guidelines;

(2) the defendant did not use violence or credible threats of violence or possess a firearm or other dangerous weapon (or induce another participant to do so) in connection with the offense;

(3) the offense did not result in death or serious bodily injury to any person;

(4) the defendant was not an organizer, leader, manager, or supervisor of others in the offense, as determined under the sentencing guidelines and was not engaged in a continuing criminal enterprise, as defined in section 408 of the Controlled SubstancesAct; and

(5) not later than the time of the sentencing hearing, the defendant has truthfully provided to the Government all information and evidence the defendant has concerning the offense or offenses that were part of the same course of conduct or of a common scheme or plan, but the fact that the defendant has no relevant or useful other information to provide or that the Government is already aware of the information shall not preclude a determination by the court that the defendant has complied with this requirement.

If a defendant is eligible for the safety valve, the sentencing judge has the ability to sentence under the mandatory minimum sentence. It is imperative if you or someone you know is charged with a federal crime to contact an experienced federal criminal defense attorney to defend and guide you through this complicated process.

What Are DWI Surcharges In Texas?

DWI

Texas DWI Surcharge

A common question I get as a Houston DWI Attorney is, what are surcharges and will I owe any? In Texas surcharges were established as part of the The Driver Responsibility Program which is governed by Texas Transportation Code, Chapter 708, which set up a system to assess surcharges based on certain traffic offenses that have occurred on or after September 1, 2003.

A surcharge is an administrative fee that is charged to a driver based on the convictions reported to the driver record. There are two criteria that determine if a surcharge will be assessed, they are the point system (bases on the number of traffic violations) and Conviction Based surcharges (which include DWI convictions.)

It is important to note that surcharges are in addition to all other reinstatement fees required for other administrative actions and do not replace any administrative suspension, revocation, disqualification or cancellation action that results from these same convictions. The bottom line is the State uses DWI to raise money and will get yours if you are convicted and care to ever get you license back.

Drivers convicted of DWI face the following surcharges.

  • For a first time DWI conviction the surcharge is $1,0000 for 3 years.
  • A subsequent conviction is $1,500 for 3 years.
  • A DWI with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.16 is $2,000 for 3 years.

An arrest for DWI is an expensive proposition. A conviction for a DWI is even more expensive. If you or someone you know is need of a Houston DWI Lawyer, call Texas Board Certified Attorney Mario Madrid at 713-877-9400.

Texas DWI Surcharge | Madrid Criminal Law

Attorney Madrid on Felony & Misdemeanor Drug Cases

Criminal Defense | Drugs | Search and Seizure | Video Q & A

Whether you’ve been charged with the possession of a small amount of marijuana or arrested for a major cocaine distribution conspiracy, it helps to have an experienced Houston drug crimes lawyer with a résumé including 1000’s of drug cases on your side.

Do you trust the government?

I didn’t think so.

This is why it’s very important that we have criminal defense attorneys otherwise everyone would be guilty at arrest, as charged. Police make mistakes all the time, and only a lawyer with 10’s of thousands of hours of experience dissecting arrest reports in contrast with witness testimony and evidence under the scope of a keen understanding of the law, could spot a seemingly minor detail that could lead to freeing a suspect accused of trafficking 1000’s of kilos of cocaine.

Minor details that could lead to a dismissed case could rise out of one of the situations listed below.

  • The lawyer knowing of alternative sentences that can keep you out of prison.
  • Did the police have the right to make that traffic stop?
  • Did the police lawfully search the vehicle or your person?
  • Were your Constitutional Rights violated?
  • Did law enforcement have probable cause to invade a residence?
  • Did the police make mistakes, or an unlawful arrest?

Are you looking for a qualified criminal defense attorney in Houston to discuss drug crime arrest details with at no charge? Call me to schedule a review of your case at 713-877-9400 today.

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