Houston Criminal Defense Attorney


What is a Confidential Informant?

Criminal Defense | Drugs

Being on trial for drug charges is an extremely serious matter. If convicted of a drug crime, the sentence can mean years in prison and very high fines. Government officials know that someone arrested on a serious drug charge will be worried about these punishments, and they will use this fact to gain leverage. The decision to comply with cooperation requests can completely alter the rest of the trial. The individual under arrest must decide whether or not to cooperate quickly. Any delay could mean the loss of a chance at a reduced sentence.

The Debriefing Process

When someone decides to cooperate with the government in a drug case, a specific process is set into motion. Although each case is different, this process will generally unfold according to certain standard procedures. First, the prosecution and police will set up a debriefing. A debriefing consists of an interrogative session between the person under arrest and law enforcement. Next, the defendant’s attorney will secure a special letter, known as a proffer letter, that will ensure that any information that the defendant provides cannot be used against him.

During the debriefing, law enforcement agents will ask the defendant to provide information that they already possess. This is done to determine if the defendant will be truthful. It can also get agents information that they do not already know. If the defendant provides new information, further sessions will be conducted to compile cases against other individuals. This type of information gathering is used by the federal government to accomplish most of their actions against drug distributors, and they are usually willing to greatly reduce a sentence for someone who offers good information.

The Risks of Being an Informant

For the most part, a defendant who cooperates in a drug conspiracy case will be protected by the government. However, the decision to cooperate carries a significant amount of risk. For example, a person who is arrested as a result of information provided by another person cooperating with law enforcement can sometimes, by deduction, figure out the identity of the person who pointed them out. Also, an attorney can file a motion to attempt to force the government to identify the cooperating individual or that individual may be called as a witness at a trial. Any of these scenarios can bring serious risk to someone cooperating with the government.

Drug criminals can be very dangerous people and, in the criminal community, no one is reviled more than a “snitch.” This is why it is so important for anyone arrested on drug charges to contact a qualified attorney as soon as possible.

To find out more about the process of cooperating with the government in a drug conspiracy case, talk to Madrid Law at 713-877-9400.

Maintaining Rights After Admitting Guilt at Punishment Stage

Criminal Defense

The following article was provided by Lauren Williams, Legal Writer for King Law Offices.

While deciding a recent case, Jacobson v. State, 2013 Tex. Crim. App. (2013), the Court of Criminal Appeals of Texas overruled any last vestiges of the doctrine set forth in De Garmo v. State, 691 S.W.2d 657 (Tex. Crim. App. 1985). Therefore, a defendant who admits his guilt at the punishment stage does not forfeit his right to challenge the errors occurring during the guilt stage.

Under the De Garmo doctrine, error that occurred during the guilt phase was waived by appellant’s judicial admissions at the punishment phase, not admissions at the guilt phase of the trial.

In Jacobson, the defendant objected to the prosecutor’s argument at the guilt stage.  The trial court overruled his objection.  Subsequently the jury found  Jacobson guilty of “aggravated sexual assault”.  Later, the defendant, at the punishment stage, testified and admitted to having a ‘sexual relationship’ with the victim, a twelve year old girl.  In the appeal, the defendant’s sole claim was that the trial court erred in overruling his objection to the prosecutor’s argument.

The court of criminal appeals concluded that “Leday’s (Leday v. State, 983 S.W.2d 713 (1998)) reasoning applied to all guilt-stage claims of error, not merely “fundamental” claims, and it overruled any last vestiges of the De Garmo doctrine. Therefore, a defendant who testified at the punishment stage of trial and admitted his guilt did not forfeit his right to argue on appeal about errors occurring during the guilt stage.

In Leday, The court held that the court of appeals erred in deeming the appellant’s point of error waived by his testimony at the guilt stage. The court noted that under the De Garmo doctrine, error that occurred during the guilt phase was waived by appellant’s judicial admissions at the punishment phase, not admissions at the guilt phase of the trial. It was further held that the De Garmo doctrine could not be invoked to prevent such appellate review and reversed and remanded the case for consideration of appellant’s points of error.

The court further observed in Jacobson that “the criminal justice system makes two promises to its citizens: a fundamentally fair trial and an accurate result. If either of those two promises is not met, the criminal justice system itself falls into disrepute and will eventually be disregarded. The doctrine of De Garmo v. State, 691 S.W.2d 657 (Tex. Crim. App. 1985) may arguably serve the interest of an accurate result at the guilt stage, but it may also negate the equally important societal goal of a fair trial.  The criminal-justice system depends upon trial judges making correct legal rulings. Texas laws provide for appellate review of those rulings to ensure that the system will deliver accurate results in a fair proceeding.

For more information regarding the rights of convicted or alleged criminals, contact Mario Madrid today at 713-877-9400.

Consecutive and Concurrent Sentences

Criminal Defense | Criminal Sentencing/Punishments

Often during the commission of a crime, a defendant breaks more than one law. For example, if an alleged defendant robs a liquor store and injures an employee during the robbery, the defendant would be charged with robbery and assault for the harm of the employee. He would be punished for each charge. When a judge sentences a defendant for several crimes during one sentencing hearing, he has the option to order a concurrent or consecutive punishment. Depending on the decision of the judge, a defendant may spend a very long time in prison.

The Difference Between Consecutive and Concurrent

Depending on the laws of the state, the judge has the discretion to order a consecutive or concurrent sentence. When a defendant is given two or more sentences, a consecutive sentence is one in which each sentence is served one after the other. Each sentence is served one at a time. When the first sentence ends, the next one begins until the defendant has endured each of his punishments.

A concurrent sentence is one in which two or more penalties are taken at the same time. If a defendant gets two sentences, each for five years, both are served concurrently at the same time. That means, instead of serving 10 years in prison, the defendant serves just five.

How a Judge Decides Sentencing for Multiple Sentences

State and federal laws determine whether a concurrent or consecutive sentence is ordered by a judge. Federal courts use the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, which describe the length of a criminal sentence and whether multiple charges should be served consecutively or concurrently.

As a general rule, sentences for multiple convictions should be ordered by default as concurrent sentences. A judge can order a defendant to serve more than one sentence at a time based on his or her discretion. When multiple sentences are ordered, the court includes whether or not they are consecutive or concurrent on the sentencing order. In most states, if this item is not on the sentencing order, the sentence is automatically considered to be consecutive in nature.

A judge will consider several factors when deciding to order a consecutive or concurrent sentence. Some of these factors include:

  • Nature of the crime
  • The defendant’s criminal history
  • Protection of society
  • Whether other punishments such as fines would be more appropriate
  • Whether the cumulative terms fit the crimes committed

By receiving concurrent sentences for multiple crimes, a defendant may spend significantly less time behind bars. An experienced criminal defense attorney can assist with a request for concurrent sentencing.

For additional information about multiple convictions, reach out to Madrid Law at 713-877-9400.

What is a Criminal Complaint?

Criminal Defense

A criminal complaint is the way that some criminal cases begin. They are essentially the documents that are filed in the legal system that formally accuse a person of having committed a crime. However, not all crimes require a criminal complaint, nor do all courts.

Whether or not a criminal complaint is filed depends upon:

What Does a Criminal Complaint Specifically Contain?

Despite some differences, both federal and state criminal complaints have some common elements. At both court levels, a complaint will:

  • Be a formally written list of charges, filed by the prosecution, against the accused (defendant)
  • Always contains the facts of the case that compose the grounds for the criminal charges
  • Enumerate the particular law, statute, or regulation that the defendant is charged with breaking
  • Be made under oath, i.e. the party filing the charge, typically the prosecutor, has sworn that the contents of the complaint are accurate and the whole truth
  • Be filed prior or after the individual is charged and arrested for the crime. The complaint can be filed like a request for a warrant to arrest the individual. In this sense it must demonstrate probable cause, i.e. how and why you are likely to have committed the crime. Once this paperwork is filed, if a judge agrees with the reasoning in the document, you will receive a summons to appear in court or be arrested.

I Got a Federal Criminal Complaint. What Now?

Federal criminal complaints tend to be more serious as they involve crimes against the federal government. If you are accused of a felony by the federal government, for example, a complaint may be filed against you. Before the case can be taken to a trial, however, a grand jury must approve the indictment. A federal grand jury is composed of 23 citizens (often fewer at the state level) who hear the case and examine the evidence that the federal government has against you. They then decide whether or not there is probable cause that you committed the crime in question.

What Types of Crimes Result in Criminal Complaints?

A federal felony is classified as any crime that can be punished by death or incarceration of more than one year. Examples of federal felonies include robbing a bank and homicide (murder). A misdemeanor, by contrast, is punishable by one year or less in jail and/or a fine. Federal misdemeanors, which don’t require a grand jury indictment, include trespassing on federal land or theft of under $1,000 of federal property.

For more information about criminal complaints, get in touch with Madrid Law at 713-877-9400 and schedule a free case evaluation.

What is a Field Sobriety Test?

Criminal Defense | DWI

All too often, a hardworking man or woman chooses to unwind after a long work week by going out for a few drinks, only to be pulled over by law enforcement on their way home from a bar or club. The majority of people will call a taxi cab or ask a designated driver to give them a ride; anyone who does not may be stopped and randomly tested for sobriety. A person who fails a sobriety test may face several long-lasting consequences.

A law enforcement officer may order a vehicle to stop at a sobriety checkpoint or roadblock to investigate the driver for a variety of violations. An officer will often request a driver to pull over for questioning if he drives in a manner that indicates he may be driving while intoxicated. This includes behaviors like weaving in and out of designated driving lanes or crossing the center line in a road.

Types of Field Sobriety Tests

A police officer administers a field sobriety test to anyone whom he suspects of driving under the influence of alcohol. The following are the three most common field sobriety tests that were developed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration:

  • One-leg stand (OLS) test: A driver is required to stand in place with his arms down while he holds one foot a few inches off the ground. If he fails to do so, it may be an indication that he is intoxicated.
  • Walk-and-turn (WAT) test: A driver is asked to walk in a straight line while he places one foot directly in front of the other. By not retaining his balance, a suspect may be arrested for driving while intoxicated.
  • Horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) test: A police officer asks a driver to follow a moving object with his eyes. If the suspect’s eyes bounce, it may be an indication that his blood alcohol content (BAC) exceeds the legal limit that is established by the government. It is possible for a person’s eye impairments to cause a false positive on this test.

Challenging the Evidence From Field Sobriety Tests

A skilled criminal defense attorney understands the defects of field sobriety tests and can identify some common errors that may occur:

  • A police officer initiated an unlawful traffic stop.
  • There is no baseline for comparing results.
  • The officer’s way of conducting the field sobriety tests was flawed.
  • The test results were inaccurate because of factors like the driver’s age and weight.

If you would like to get more information about field sobriety tests or traffic stops, schedule a free consultation with attorney Mario Madrid by calling 713-877-9400.

A Person’s Right to a Speedy Trial

Constitutional Rights | Criminal Defense

According to the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, every civilian who is accused of committing a crime has a right to a “speedy” trial. Just as every defendant is entitled to a public hearing in a court of law, every defendant also has the opportunity to stand before an impartial judge and jury in a timely manner.

The right to a speedy trial exists primarily to safeguard the interests of the people. Without this rule, a defendant could be locked up for years before his case comes to trial. Pretrial delays could also cause irreparable harm to a defendant’s case as the passage of time erases evidence and witnesses from existence.

Determining Speedy Trial Violations

Once he has been charged with a crime, a defendant can claim at any time that his right to a speedy trial has been violated. The presiding judge must then weigh four specific factors to determine whether this claim has merit:

  • How long has the defendant waited? First, the judge will decide whether the duration of the delay is acceptable. Few speedy-trial violations are granted for delays that last less than a year after the defendant’s initial arrest. The prosecutor in the case is free to present an explanation for the unusual length of the pretrial delay.
  • What are the reasons for delaying the trial? Whether the prosecution or defense is ultimately responsible for the delay, the judge will then evaluate the stated reason for its occurrence. In general, neither the prosecution nor the defense may intentionally delay the court trial for the purpose of strengthening its own case. If a key witness has gone missing or more time is necessary for evidence collection and analysis, the judge may allow the delay to continue.
  • How has the delay affected the defendant? The judge will also evaluate the ongoing effects of the delay. If it appears to be benefiting the prosecution by causing key defense witnesses to disperse, the defendant may argue that his right to a speedy trial has been violated.
  • Did the defendant demand a speedy trial? Finally, the defendant must take action in order to ensure that his right to a speedy trial is upheld. In other words, the defendant cannot wait until the trial’s sentencing phase to voice his displeasure with the pace of the proceedings. An accused person who is unhappy about the length of pretrial delays should voice his dissatisfaction early on. If he sits back and silently endures a delay,  it is assumed that he waived his right to a fast criminal trial.

If the judge determines that the defendant’s right was in fact violated, he will either dismiss the case or overturn an existing conviction. The outcome of the violation depends entirely upon the defendant’s wishes.

Talk to attorney Mario Madrid at 713-877-9400 to learn more about a defendant’s constitutional rights in court.

What is Criminal Profiling?

Criminal Defense

The police and other law enforcement agencies have a variety of ways of solving crimes. One way that is highly publicized in the media is criminal profiling. Criminal profiling is a method that is employed particularly for violent crimes, such as murder, abductions, and sexual assaults. This method is also sometimes called offender profiling, and involves studying the tendencies, characteristics and mindset of a criminal in order to ascertain their identity. Criminal investigators will also analyze the crime scene to figure out the nature of the crime. This information can be used to supplement a criminal profiling.

What is Used in Creating a Criminal Profile?

Almost any element, or piece of evidence, associated with a crime is used in some way during a criminal profiling. Even minute details can often factor into the process. Important components for building a criminal profile include:

  • Forensic evidence
  • Crime scene evidence
  • Victim profile and characteristics

What are the Advantages of Criminal Profiling?

Criminal profiling is an effective tool in helping law enforcement investigators narrow down the list of suspects for a crime, or create an outline of their possible characteristics. This compiled information can be used to determine patterns in behavior, to guess where the criminal resides or where a future crime might be committed.

What is the Process for a Criminal Profiling?

Criminal profiling involves a number of steps. First, all relevant information is gathered about the crime, including all evidence collected by the police. The next step is to apply this information to try to answer some important questions such as:

  • Where did the crime occur?
  • What was the primary motive?
  • Was the crime violent? And if so, how violent?
  • What risks did the criminal take by committing the crime?

As patterns start to emerge from the evidence, these questions can be more easily answered. The personality or character of the criminal can be supposed by breaking down the behavior into four phases:

  • Antecedent: The suspect’s thoughts and plans before the crime occurred
  • Method and manner: How the crime was committed, any unique elements are identified
  • Disposal of the victim’s body
  • Post-crime actions

With all this information and some questions possibly answered, the profile can be compiled to include features such as sex, age, ethnicity, psychological state, religious affiliation and intelligence.

What are the Disadvantages of Criminal Profiling?

Criminal profiling is far from a perfect science and relies heavily on stereotyping, i.e. assuming something based on a small amount of information. Incorrect criminal profiles can be created by faulty logic or broad stereotyping. For this reason, criminal profiling remains controversial, and professionals continue to look for ways to more accurately categorize criminal suspects.

For more information about the criminal profiling process, talk to an attorney at Madrid Law today.

Pretrial Diversion In Houston

Clear Your Record | Criminal Defense

A common goal for anyone charged with a criminal offense is that the case is ultimately dismissed and removed from their record. One avenue to achieve this goal is through a Pretrial Diversion program.

A District Attorney’s Office is given the ability to administer a Pretrial Diversion Program through Texas Government Code Section 76.011 where it states that  the department may operate programs for the supervision and rehabilitation of persons in pretrial intervention programs. Programs may include testing for controlled substances. A person in a pretrial intervention program may be supervised for a period not to exceed two years.

The Pretrial Diversion program operates much like a community supervision or what is commonly referred to as Probation. The program consists of monthly visits with a community supervision officer, random drug urinalysis, possible drug treatment and other possible classes depending on the charge against the defendant.

After successful completion of the program the case is dismissed. Additionally, after the proscribed period for the offense, the case can be expunged.

If you or someone you know is in need of a Houston Lawyer to Clear Your Record, call Houston Criminal Attorney Mario Madrid at 713-877-9400.

Assault Family Violence Consequence

Criminal Defense | Family Violence

One of the many consequences of a conviction for Assault Family Violence is the restriction on the 2nd Amendment constitutional right to bear arms.

Often times a defendant will choose to plea guilty and receive deferred adjudication and assume or be given bad advice that  the case is not on their record. This is far from the case. In fact the case can be used in the future to enhance any future family violence charges to a felony.

As to the right to bear arms, under Title 18, United States Code, section 922(g), it is unlawful for any person to ship, transport, possess, receive or purchase any firearm or ammunition, the person has been convicted in any court of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence. Further, it is unlawful under Texas Penal Code Section 46.04 for a person  convicted of the Class A Misdemeanor of Assault involving a family member to possess a firearm for a period of five years after release of confinement or community supervision.

The range of punishment for the Class A Misdemeanor of Assault is up to 180 days in jail and a fine up to $4,000.

If you or someone you know is need of Family Violence Attorney in Houston call Houston Assault Lawyer Mario Madrid at 713-877-9400.

You Have A Right To Confront Your Accusers

Constitutional Rights | Criminal Defense

The Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution  provides that in all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to be confronted with the witnesses against him. Generally, the right is to have a face-to-face confrontation with witnesses who are offering testimonial evidence against the accused in the form of cross-examination during a trial.Supreme_Court

Our founding fathers found it important that if you are charged with a crime you have the right to look your accuser in the eye and confront him. In Bullcoming v. New Mexico, 131 S.Ct. 2705, the United States Supreme Court addressed the issue as to whether the confrontation clause allows prosecutors to introduce introduce a forensic lab report containing a testimonial certification, through the testimony of an analyst who did not personally perform or observe the tests reported in the certification.

The court did not allow the testimony, unless the witness who made the statement was unavailable  and the defendant had a prior opportunity to confront the witness. It is an important decision as it protects us all in unwanted prosecutions.

The government must bring the accuser.

Science is being used more and more in the courtroom. It is important to hold the government to its burden and force them prove up the tests or analysis that they use in their prosecution, with more than a piece of paper.

If you are someone you know is in need of the services of a Houston defense lawyer for criminal cases, call Texas Board Certified Attorney Mario Madrid at 713-877-9400.

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