Federal Criminal Defense Attorney


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.

Texas Extradition Laws: Everything You Need to Stay in Texas

General Law

Extradition pertains to bringing a suspected or convicted criminal back to the state or country where the crime was committed. It is often an international process, and within its complexity involves bi-national treaties, the federal government and the court system. This formal procedure typically starts when the offender is accused or convicted in one particular country and then flees to another. The penalties are severe, and the case has to be handled by an experienced attorney who is familiar with international law. Fugitives can be extradited to enforce a sentence, to impose a sentence or to prosecute.

Accused individuals sometimes choose to hide from punishment, especially if the charges are extensive and require hefty fees or prolonged prison time. Regardless of the charges, the process of extradition in Texas is the same in all cases and includes the following:

  • The alleged fugitive is arrested in another jurisdiction and brought back to the jurisdiction where the crime took place.
  • The crime was committed elsewhere, and the jurisdiction is asking for the accused to be sent back.
  • The arrested individual agrees to go back willingly.
  • A hearing is held to decide if the fugitive should be sent back.

Extradited to the U.S. Before Proceedings Begin

Over 100 governments around the globe have an agreement with the United Sates, and the extradition is controlled by treaties that operate under the international law and follow similar protocols. Federal prosecution can indict the criminals under the terms and regulations of the treaty. The accused may be confined to jail in any city, county or state he may be passing through and must be kept safe until he is transported to the proper jurisdiction.

Extradition Refusal by Other Countries

Several countries are not affiliated with the United States under the treaty, including North Korea and China. Criminal suspects can enter these countries and potentially remain in hiding forever. A country can refuse the request for extradition if the following conditions are present:

  • The possibility of the death penalty in the jurisdiction of the crime.
  • The accused is a citizen of the country he is presently hiding in.
  • For political crimes, further investigation may be needed to prove guilt.

For additional information about the process of extradition, talk to Houston criminal attorney Mario Madrid and the Madrid Law staff at 713-877-9400 to get a free case evaluation.

What is the Hearsay Rule?

Testimony

The hearsay rule is used by both the defense and the prosecution to exclude unfounded information from court proceedings. The general idea of the hearsay rule is fairly simple to understand. Hearsay, or testimony based on what others have said, is usually not admissible in court. This is to ensure the defendant receives a fair trial based on factual, truthful information.

What is Hearsay?

Hearsay is commonly known as gossip, rumors or unfounded information. It includes testimony or documents that quote people who are not available to speak to the court. Hearsay is usually inadmissible in court, unless the judge has already ruled that it can be accepted as verification of the topic in question.

Hearsay may be testimony by a police officer about what someone else said, even if that testimony was written in the original police report. For the statement to be used in court, it usually has to be uttered by the person who originally said it.

Rules About Hearsay

The hearsay rule may seem fairly straightforward, but in actuality, it holds many, many exceptions. It helps guarantee that only factual evidence is used to prove guilt or innocence.

Hearsay can be very damaging to a case, even after it has been ruled out by a judge and stricken from the record. If the jury members hear a statement during testimony, it is difficult for them to forget it. Therefore, if an attorney has reason to believe a witness may give hearsay testimony, he files an objection before the actual testimony is made.

The hearsay rule is based on the idea that if you cannot see the person making the statement, you cannot judge their character or weigh how the statement was said. In addition, the defense does not have the option to question the witness about the validity of the statement.

Exceptions to the Hearsay Rule

Although the basis for the hearsay rule is fairly simple, there are about 30 exceptions. Some of these exceptions include:

  • Public records and documents (certificates of marriage, birth and divorce)
  • Records of family history
  • Statements from authentic documents that are at least 20 years old
  • Official notarized documents (contracts and promissory notes)
  • Prior testimony of an unavailable witness
  • Income tax returns and employment information
  • Admissions and confessions
  • Recorded past recollections

 

If you have any questions about the hearsay rule or its exceptions, talk to Mario Madrid and his associates at 713-877-9400.

Substantial Evidence is Required for the Denial of Bail

Bail Bond

Article provided by Lauren Williams, Legal Writer for The Law Offices of Randolph H. Wolf.
Article 1, § 11 of the Texas Constitution provides the right to bail to all defendants except those charged with capital offenses. Article 1, § 11a is one of the exceptions to Article 1, § 11. Under Article 1, § 11a, the courts can deny bail to a defendant. The Court of Criminal Appeals of Texas recently vacated the order of a trial court that denied bail under Tex. Const. Article 1, §11a stating that the State failed to present evidence “substantially showing” the Appellant’s guilt for the burglary of a habitation.

The appellant, Burton Leon Spell, was arrested on January 6, 2013 and jailed for a new offense of burglary. After a hearing on January 8, 2013, the trial court denied bail under Article 1, §11a, because Appellant was alleged to have committed a felony (burglary of a habitation) while released on bail for a prior felony for which he had been indicted. On appeal, the appellant contended that State failed to present evidence “substantially showing” his guilt for the burglary of a habitation.

The State presented Deputy William Land to provide evidence against the appellant. The Deputy testified that he met and spoke with the owners of a mobile home who told him that ‘someone’ had broken into their home and removed the copper wiring from the ceiling fans. The owners could only tell that someone had been staying in their mobile home without permission as they did not live in the home. The owners did not know if any other property was missing from the home. Land also testified that the people who lived next door to the mobile home told him that the appellant and his girlfriend had been staying at that home the week prior to the Deputy’s visit to the mobile home.

For guilty of burglary, the State has the burden to present evidence “substantially showing” defendant’s guilt. The courts generally consider the evidence in light of general rule that favors the allowance of bail.

In the present case, the State could produce evidence to show that appellant had been staying in the mobile home without permission about a week before the visit of the Deputy. The State could not produce any evidence to show when the owners had last checked the mobile home as they did not live in there. Moreover, the State failed to produce any evidence to show that how long the home had been vacant so as to provide a time frame in which the theft of the copper wire could be ascertained. The State could produce only evidence to show the presence of the appellant for a week without any connection to the theft of the copper wire.

The Court of Criminal Appeals held that the evidence presented by the State does not substantially show the guilt of the appellant. Therefore, the Court set aside the order of the trial court and remanded the case to the trial court to set a reasonable bail.

The opinion on this case can be found here: http://law.justia.com/cases/texas/court-of-criminal-appeals/2013/ap-76-962-1.html

The above article does not necessarily reflect the opinions of Madrid Law.

What Are The Federal Drug Sentencing Guidelines?

Drugs

The below article was written courtesy of The Rosenblum Law Group.

If you have been charged with a federal drug offense then it is important that you read this article to get a better understanding of federal drug charges and their penalties.  The federal court system can be quite complex and a federal drug conviction can result in pretty severe penalties.  Your best option is to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney that can advise you about your options and represent you in federal court.

The Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970, is a United States federal law that classifies narcotics, marijuana and other controlled substances into five classes or schedules.  The schedules allow judges to classify the drugs and attach the required penalties.  The Act also establishes the requirements relating to the manufacture and distribution of drugs and also defines the penalties for federal drug law violations.  Criminal penalties are imposed based on the type of drug involved and the quantity involved.

What Kind Of Drug Crimes Are Considered Federal Offenses?

There are a number of scenarios in which a person can be charged with a federal drug crime.  Crimes can escalate from a state charge to a federal charge rather quickly.  Generally the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) helps investigate drug crimes and enforces federal drug laws.  Federal charges are considered felony crimes which allow for more severe penalties.  Some of the most commons federal drug charges include:

  • Drug trafficking: the manufacturing, distributing and possessing of a controlled dangerous substance with the intent to distribute.  Usually the accused has crossed state lines, or was caught with drugs at an airport  with a large enough quantity of the drugs that intent to distribute was apparent.
  • Manufacturing controlled substances: involves operating a place or facility for the purpose of manufacturing and distributing drugs.

What Are The Federal Sentencing Guidelines For Drug Related Crimes?

In 1984, Congress gave authority to the United States Sentencing Commission to create written guidelines for all federal crimes in an effort to provide more proportional sentencing for similar criminal situations.  Prior to 2005, judges were forced to strictly adhere to the sentencing guidelines and had limited secretion to deviate from the mandatory minimum sentences.  The Supreme Court decided in the Booker v. United States that judges will be granted more flexibility and should sentence individuals no greater than necessary to achieve the purpose of punishment.

It should be noted however that if certain relevant factors exist in a person’s case such as a high quantity of drugs or weapons were involved then the judge will have little discretion to avoid the mandatory minimum for sentencing guidelines.  Generally a judge does have some discretion to avoid imposing the mandatory minimums in cases where the person accused of the drug charge is a nonviolent, low-level, first time offender that did not carry a weapon and cooperated with the government to provide any and all information related to the case.  For a detailed listing of the Federal Sentencing guidelines related to drug offenses please refer to the following chart.  

If you are being charged with a federal drug crime, your first call should be to a licensed criminal defense attorney that can help your fight the charges.

Author Bio

Adam Rosenblum is a licensed criminal attorney in the Federal Courts in both New York and New Jersey.

Defending White Collar Crime Accusations

Fraud | White-Collar

White-collar crimes are criminal offenses that are committed by workers who are employed in the business or financial industries. Typical white-collar crimes include bribery, insider trading, embezzlementmoney laundering, forgery and fraud. The majority of white-collar offenses are committed for monetary profit. However, businesses and professionals may be guilty of committing other offenses that are not explicitly for financial gain. Illicit activities such as the improper disposal of toxic waste or exaggerated claims about a prescription medication’s effectiveness are also categorized as white-collar offenses.

White-collar crimes are generally tried as felonies because the suspects are accused of violating federal laws. When a suspect is being investigated for a white-collar crime, he might receive a subpoena that requests documentation or his appearance in court for testimony. Federal authorities might also issue a search warrant for business records. While it is important and necessary to cooperate with investigators, a suspect should hire a criminal defense lawyer before he discusses the details of an investigation.

The Penalties for White-Collar Crimes

The occurrence of white-collar crimes have tripled since the dawn of the Internet. To deter the rise of white-collar offenses, the federal government enacted some very severe punishments. Individuals who are convicted of these crimes may face consequences such as:

  • Time in confinement
  • House arrest
  • Heavy criminal fines
  • Restitution to the victims

It is widely believed that those who are punished for white-collar crimes enjoy their sentences at “Club Fed” prisons, which are comfortable, minimum security correctional facilities. This is simply untrue. People who are convicted of white-collar crimes are punished just as severely as other criminals.

Civil Liability for White-Collar Crimes

In addition to criminal felony charges, a defendant may be sued civilly by the government or victims. In these instances, the government may authorize asset forfeiture. Asset forfeiture is the process of seizing the defendant’s property until it is determined which items were obtained illegally. The belongings may be handed over to the government or the victims from whom they were taken.

Defenses for White-Collar Crimes

A criminal defense lawyer who is experienced in defending white-collar offenses can offer legal advice and support to those who are facing charges. A white-collar crimes attorney can employ the following defenses:

  • Incapacity: This defense argues that the suspect was not capable of committing the offense.
  • Temporary insanity: The accused was not in his right mind when he committed the offense.
  • Entrapment or duress: A defendant was coerced or enticed into committing a crime that he normally would never commit.
  • Intoxication: A defense lawyer claims that his client was inebriated during the crime’s commission.
  • Absence of intent: The defendant did not intend to commit the crime. In other words, he may have accidentally committed the offense.

Call Mario Madrid and his associates at 713-877-9400 if you would like to hear more about white-collar crimes and their defenses.

International Consequence of a DWI in Texas

DWI | Immigration

Having a criminal history, particularly a conviction for a DWI or DUI, can affect your travels to Canada. By having a conviction for either of these offenses, a person will become criminally inadmissible, and therefore, not allowed to enter Canada.

The Canadian Immigration Refugee Protection Act, in Section 36, lists the ways a foreign national can become criminally inadmissible into Canada. One of these ways in which a person may be refused admittance into Canada is if the individual has been convicted of an offense that has an equivalent offense in the Canadian Criminal Code.

The Texas Penal Code offense of Driving While Intoxicated is an offense that does have an equivalent offense in the Canadian Criminal Code, §253 “Operation While Impaired.” In addition, due to the Canadian offense of “Dangerous Operation of Motor Vehicles,” the problems with admissibility into Canada will remain even if someone charged with a DWI or DUI pleads guilty to a reduced charge.

There are avenues of relief for inadmissibility if an individual has been convicted of a DWI or DUI in Texas. One of these avenues is to argue against the equivalence of the Canadian and Texas offense.

An individual may also solve their admissibility problem by getting a Temporary Resident Permit. This can be done by showing a significant reason for the person to be in Canada. In addition, a person may find permanent relief from criminal inadmissibility by Criminal Rehabilitation. This permanent solution can only be done five years after all of the terms of the sentence have been completed.

Having a court date for an impending DWI charge is a serious matter. If you need to talk with an experienced Houston criminal defense attorney, contact us.

0