What Happens When Police Have A Warrant in Your Name?

What Happens When Police Have A Warrant in Your Name?

Imagine you are going to celebrate your marriage next week. You are with your fiancée on a shopping spree. You got a call from home informing that two deputies approached your family seeking your custody. You are baffled to know that the police have a warrant issued in your name. What are your options? Should you ignore the warrant? Or contact the police and surrender? Can you seek a bail and avoid your arrest?

During my career as a Texas criminal attorney, I have often seen extremely frightening clients approaching me after coming to know about a warrant issued in their names. They not only look exceedingly concerned over their arrest, but also seem to be confused about their options. It may be due to their lack of understanding about a warrant and how it works or they are afraid that the police may show up at their place of job.

What is a warrant?

A warrant is an official document signed by a judge. It enables police to take one accused of a crime into their custody and present before a court. Chapter 15 of the Texas Criminal Procedure Code makes it mandatory that a warrant of arrest must spell out the name of the person to be arrested. If the name is not clear, there must be a definite description of him. It should also mention the offense he has been accused of. In many cases, a warrant specifies more details, such as when the suspect can be arrested and if he is eligible for bail or not.

Types of warrants

  • Arrest warrant

When the police have adequate evidence to believe that you are involved in a crime, they may approach the judge seeking issuance of an arrest warrant against you. This usually happens while the police are investigating a crime and need your custody. A police official files a sworn statement before the judge mentioning your name, crime, and involvement.  It may lead to your immediate arrest.

An arrest warrant may be issued if a grand jury indicts you when you are not in police custody.

  • Bench warrant

A judge may issue a bench warrant when the court requires you to be present before it. If you duck repeated court summons, fail to obey a court directive, ignores the court order to present as a witness, or engage in the contempt of court, a bench warrant is issued to bring you before the judge. You will be detained and presented before the court, which may free you or send to jail after your presence there. An unpaid traffic ticket may also lead to a warrant.

  • Search Warrant

If the police have reasonable evidence to suspect a criminal activity, it may get a warrant to search your home, office, car, and anything you own. It may lead to your arrest if they find any incriminatory evidence.

How is a warrant enforced?

Once a warrant is issued, police in Texas have the right to arrest you. Law enforcement officers may arrest you at any place, be it your home, office, hospital, or hotel. They may arrest at any public place, even after pulling you out of your car on the road.

However, at the time of your arrest, the officers must approach you, identify themselves, and show you the warrant. The document must clearly mention your name or description and the charges for which you are taken into custody.

There is no timeframe for the execution of a warrant. It remains valid as long as your custody is not secured by law-enforcement officers.

While executing a warrant, officers have the power to take any measure they feel appropriate. They may use force to overcome any resistance offered by you. You may be charged with third-degree felony assault if any officer is harmed by your action during the arrest.  

Does a warrant mean you will be jailed?

As soon as a warrant is issued, it is listed on the state database. This document visible to all law-enforcement officials across Texas, and they can arrest you anytime and anywhere.  However, often warrants for crimes not involved serious charges are not implemented right away. They remain as outstanding warrants. But the police can enforce them at any time and arrest you.

However, an arrest does not mean you are convicted. You may or may not be jailed. Police may detain you for investigation. In case of unpaid tickets or bench warrants, you may escape jail by paying for cash bonds, bails, or a surety bond.

Avoid Doing These Things

As soon as you come to know about a warrant, don’t ignore it. It is in force until you are arrested. It won’t stop if you overlook or hide from it. You will be subject to additional charges when you try you evade it by running away. When a warrant is there, don’t try to travel abroad, skirt any security check, or enter an unauthorized area, as it may be considered an attempt to flee the police.

Also, don’t surrender straight away.  It is not always right to accept the arrest to get rid of a warrant. Many prefer to serve jail term than paying their expensive tickets. However, it means you are pleading guilty and have to serve associated penalties, which can be a costly affair in case of some Class C convictions.

What should you do?

First of all, you need to be proactive and consult an expert Texas criminal attorney to explore your options. If you are charged with Class C misdemeanors, don’t go for surrender. Let your defense lawyer file a bond on your behalf and pay for the tickets/fines and get the warrant canceled.  

But if warrants include Class B misdemeanors and above, turning yourself in may show that you are not at the risk of absconding and this plays a part in seeking a reduced bail bond.  Talk to your lawyer and arrange a Bail Bondsman before you surrender to arrange for a bond in advance – known as “walk-through.” This will help you get out of the jail quickly.

If you are facing a warrant in Texas, contact a criminal defense attorney at Zavala Law (832) 819-3723 to know your best option, learn how to evade jail term, and take steps to effectively deal with the warrant.

 

Probation vs Deferred Adjudication: 5 Key Differences

Probation vs Deferred Adjudication: 5 Key Differences

As a criminal lawyer, I often find clients eager to know more about how probation works in Texas. It is always best to fight the prosecution and prove your innocence. But when there is indisputable evidence to establish your guilt, you may want to explore the option of probation, community supervision, as mentioned by Article 42.12 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, enables you to avoid jail time.

No doubt, it is better to plead guilty and be placed on probation than going to prison. However, probation is not the sole option. You may avoid prison and substitute the jail term with community supervision in two ways – probation and deferred adjudication. Let’s find out the similarities and major differences between the two.

  • Conviction and Sentence

Probation follows your conviction if you opt to plead guilty. The court determines that you are at fault and pronounces the sentence. However, in the interest of justice, public, or your favorable record, the judge may suspend the sentence and order you to remain under community supervision with certain conditions. Though listed as guilty, you can avoid incarceration if you can maintain a clean record during the period and adhere to set conditions.

However, with deferred adjudication, the court spares you by not convicting you. Deferred adjudication means the court is postponing your prosecution. Following your plea to no contest, the judge may find evidence sufficient to establish your liability. However, he puts the process on hold and orders community supervision for a period. After successful completion of deferred adjudication one can seek a way to have their records sealed.

In both instances, supervision conditions remain the same, but probation will show as a guilty and deferred adjudication can be sealed/hidden.

  • Eligibility and Charges

You may get a straight probation only after you are convicted by a jury verdict  or plea bargaining. The judge must approve the plea of probation negotiated between the prosecutor and the defense attorney. Since probation is a negotiated deal, repeat offenders or more serious crimes may not be eligible for probation.

In Texas, all charges in and above Class B misdemeanor are punishable with prison terms. Deferred Adjudication can apply to both misdemeanors and felony cases. However, as deferred adjudication is viewed as more lenient, it is less likely to be granted when you face serious charges depending on the facts.

  • Violation and Punishment

If you violate probation terms, you have to go through the original sentence. For example, you are found guilty of a charge that carries 2-10 years of jail. You got a 5-year sentence after pleading guilty and the court sends you on probation. You may end up in prison for 5 years if you infringe the probation.  

But if you are on a deferred adjudication, this violation may cause more trouble. The prosecution will restart and you may be awarded anywhere between 2 to 10 years sentence. The judge may not favor a regular probation and even announce the maximum punishment. However, if you have a competent criminal lawyer defending you, you have a chance of securing probation or lower the sentence.

  • Termination of Supervision

According to the Texas state law, no straight probation can be terminated before half the term. You can claim specific time credits for your good work and accelerate your reach to the half-way mark. However, their application may vary from one case to another.

In the case of deferred adjudication, your sentence is not fixed yet. So, you have a chance that the court may terminate your supervision at any time. Having an experienced criminal defense attorney who is familiar with the local court system may help you reach these results.

  • Criminal Record

If you were on  probation that means you were convicted and the police have records of it. The probation period is equivalent to your sentence, though without any jail term. But with a deferred adjudication in Texas, you can potentially hide your criminal record from potential employers and the public.

However, it is a myth that the offense disappears once you complete the deferred adjudication. Once you complete deferred adjudication you can request what is called an Order of Non-Disclosure. This will allow you to seal your record so that the public cannot see it.

Even if you receive deferred adjudication, the federal laws consider deferred adjudication a conviction for the purposes of immigration. Therefore if someone is applying or in immigration proceedings, they should know that deferred is a conviction.

Contacting an experienced criminal defense attorney can be a big difference in your case. Call us at Zavala Texas Law (832) 819-3723.

 

Notice to Appear – Houston Immigration Court

What is a “Notice to Appear” in Immigration Court?

Immigration court proceeding is the name given to the process when the Department of Homeland Security is trying to remove someone from the USA. Under the Immigration and Nationality act, a person being removed from the country has the right to a court appearance.

To initiate court proceedings the DHS has to serve a Notice to Appear to the “respondent.” Respondent is the term given to the person who is in the process of deportation. DHS will serve upon the respondent a Notice to Appear, which notifies the respondent that they must present themselves at an immigration court on a certain date and time. Serving the Notice to Appear is the first step to start immigration removal proceedings. After the respondent has been given the notice, they should hire a experienced immigration attorney to help on their case.

What is in a Notice to Appear?

A Notice to Appear will contain a lot of useful information about your immigration case. Your immigration lawyer will need to see a copy of the Notice to Appear so that they can see the formal charges the government is bringing against you.

Information within the Notice to Appear

-Respondent’s name

-Alien Number

-Designation of Immigrant Class

-The facts against you

-The reason they are trying to deport you from the USA.

-Location and Time of Immigration Court

 

What happens after you have been served a Notice to Appear ?

After you have received your Notice to Appear, the Department of Homeland Security can now start its case against you. If you or someone you know received a Notice to Appear, it is extremely important you consult an immigration lawyer. Under no circumstance should you ignore the date and location given on the Notice to Appear. If you do not present yourself to court as indicated on the NTA, the judge will automatically grant you an order of deportation in absentia. Just by not showing up, you lose your case and have now been ordered deported from the USA.

 

Criminal Convictions and Green Cards aka Legal Permanent Residents

Criminal Convictions and Green Cards aka Legal Permanent Residents

Even if you have a green card aka Legal Permanent Residence, the US government can still deny you the residence in the USA if you have certain criminal convictions. There are two sets of rules that apply when it comes to criminal convictions and legal permanent residents. One is called inadmissibility and the other deportation/removability.

Inadmissibility

Admissibility only comes into play if a permanent resident left the USA for whatever reason and upon entry back into the USA was stopped by immigration services. At this point the government will determine if you deserve to be admitted into the United States. They will ask you for your immigrant visa and will look at any criminal convictions you have. The reason they will look at your criminal history is to determine if you have been convicted of any crimes that make you inadmissible. If you are found to have a crime that makes you inadmissible, the immigration officer has the discretion to not let you into the country and will place you in court proceedings.

Deportation or Removability

Now let’s pretend the green card holder never left the USA but instead got arrested and convicted here in the USA. Depending on what the crime was he may or may not have immigration consequences. Let’s assume it’s a crime that carries immigration consequences and the green card holder is placed in immigration proceedings. At this point Immigration Judge has the right to remove his green card and deport them from the country.

Relief for Green Card Holders (Cancellation of Removal)

If a green card holder finds themselves inadmissible at an airport or deportable inside the USA, there is still something that maybe done. Depending on the certain facts of the green card holder, they may be eligible for Cancellation of Removal 42A. If the green card holder can prove everything needed by law the judge could grant their application and they would be allowed to remain within the country.

It is very important to consult with an experienced immigration and criminal attorney to see if they are eligible for Cancellation of Removal. This is a very important application that if granted by the judge can only be done once in a lifetime. Therefore, it’s very important you put a very strong case together and make sure that you will be able to win the case in front of the immigration judge.

Difference between THC and CBD in Marijuana

“Wax, Oil and Buds… Oh my!” Difference between THC and CBD in Marijuana

It is no surprise that marijuana laws are starting to relax in the United States. As of today 8 states allow legal recreational use with another 22 states who allow marijuana in some sense. Since marijuana is turning into a booming industry, many companies have started to find other marijuana products to sell such as oil and wax.

Marijuana 101

Originally, marijuana is a plant that is grown from a seed. People smoke the flower of the plant and it gives the “high” feeling. The active ingredient in marijuana that creates the high feeling is THC aka  tetrahydrocannabinol. It is ingested in the body most commonly by smoking. More recently however people have created ways to extract other ingredients from the marijuana plant such as CBD aka Cannabidiol. This CBD is collected and is sold in forms of wax or oil in states where recreational marijuana is legal.

CBD vs THC

Even though THC and CBD both come from the same plant the law views them differently and because of that they have different classifications. Under the Texas Health and Safety Code, the definition for marijuana is

“Marihuana” means the plant Cannabis sativa L., whether growing or not, the seeds of that plant, and every compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of that plant or its seeds.The term does not include:

(A)  the resin extracted from a part of the plant or a compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of the resin;

(B)  the mature stalks of the plant or fiber produced from the stalks;

(C)  oil or cake made from the seeds of the plant;

(D)  a compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of the mature stalks, fiber, oil, or cake; or

(E)  the sterilized seeds of the plant that are incapable of beginning germination”

At the time there was not a definition for CBD because it was not a known substance to the general public. Technically it could not be called marijuana because it fell under the first exemption of the definition above. Therefore in 2015 Texas added a new definition to cover these new compounds.

THC – CBD – Marijuana Consequences

A big difference between THC and CBD is how Texas law punishes possession of the substance. Assuming you only have a small personal amount, marijuana is a Class B misdemeanor. CBD is however a State Jail Felony and can carry up to 2 year jail time. Many people think smoking wax or oil is the same as marijuana, unfortunately the law does not view it that way. The law classifies them differently and treats CBD harsher.

Conclusion

Even though marijuana is still illegal in Texas it can commonly be seen used by people. Things to remember next time you are with people consuming marijuana is whether they are smoking the plant or the oil/wax. It may be a good idea to minimize risk and stick to the plant to help protect yourself. If you find yourself in a tough situation and need legal help, feel free to contact us at Zavala Texas Law. We are here to help and have helped many Houstonians with their drug charges.

What happens during a criminal case?

Criminal Case Process

Ever wondered what happens in a criminal case after someone gets arrested? We decided to explain to you the steps and the outcomes of a criminal case. If you have any questions please feel free to ask or just check out the following info-graph.

Criminal Case Process
How a criminal case is handled

What is 12.44a and 12.44b?

12.44a vs 12.44b

The Texas Criminal Penal Code is full of statutes and procedures to navigate the criminal justice system. Knowing these rules can greatly increase the support and help you can give your client. Today I will explain the difference between an important section of the law to know, 12.44a and 12.44b. These two sub sections of the law can help make a big difference in your criminal case.

Who does this apply to?

12.44a and 12.44b only apply to people who are being charged with a State Jail Felony. This is the least serious of all felony crimes and can be punishable by imprisonment of 180 days up to 2 years. The downfall about State Jail Felony crimes is that the time you serve must be day for day. Which means you don’t get any 2 for 1 or any deals. You have to spend your entire sentence in jail.

Because the defendant would  have to spend the entire time in jail, lawmakers decided to create 12.44a and 12.44b to help lawyers negotiate better deals. Both sides must agree however for these rules to take effect.

12.44a

The exact law reads as follows,

“Sec. 12.44. REDUCTION OF STATE JAIL FELONY PUNISHMENT TO MISDEMEANOR PUNISHMENT.

(a) A court may punish a defendant who is convicted of a state jail felony by imposing the confinement permissible as punishment for a Class A misdemeanor if, after considering the gravity and circumstances of the felony committed and the history, character, and rehabilitative needs of the defendant, the court finds that such punishment would best serve the ends of justice.”

What 12.44a means is that instead of giving you the punishment of a State Jail Felony (180 days-2 years), they will instead give you a punishment of a Class A misdemeanor which is maximum 1 year of jail. When you are given jail for a misdemeanor you CAN get 2 for 1 and even 3 for 1 on your jail time. Thus greatly reducing your sentence, however the conviction still remains as a felony. The punishment is the only part reduced to a misdemeanor.

12.44b

(b) At the request of the prosecuting attorney, the court may authorize the prosecuting attorney to prosecute a state jail felony as a Class A misdemeanor.

12.44b is better than the previous one because now they reduce the felony to a misdemeanor. Even on your record it will show as a misdemeanor not a felony. This is much harder to obtain but is much better for the client.

Contact Us

If you are charged with a State Jail Felony, please contact us so that we can help you with your case. An experienced criminal defense lawyer will help you get the best outcome for your case.

 

Immigration Hold

The Criminal Justice System and Immigration Courts are two entirely different judicial proceedings, though they ultimately can be tied in together for certain defendants. When a person is in this country illegally, they are by default “removable” (the politically correct term for deportable).

The truth is that the number of undocumented people in this country far exceeds the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) capacity to deport. So, in 2014, the DHS created a “Removal Priority System,” a ranking system for people who are to be deported based on the country’s priority to deport them. At the top of the list are people with criminal convictions and they will have an Immigration hold placed on them.

I frequently see clients who either already have or fear an immigration hold. An immigration hold is a form of detention placed by Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE), the immigration police arm of DHS. ICE will instruct the local jail housing the inmate not to allow them out under any circumstances until ICE comes and gets them. Remember, DHS is trying to remove people with criminal convictions.

At this point, the defendant is at the mercy of DHS. Even if the defendant bonds out of jail, the jail will notify ICE who will take him or her into custody. If the defendant pleads guilty, the same will happen. The only way to remove an ICE hold is if a defendant’s case is dismissed or if he is determined not guilty. At that point, since the defendant no longer has criminal proceedings against him or her, the defendant drops to DHS’ second priority, dramatically reducing the likelihood for deportation.

I have found that in Harris County, due to the immense amount of criminal proceedings occurring daily, ICE will only apply an immigration hold if the charge is a felony or a serious misdemeanor. The reason being that serious criminals should be the highest priority of removal from this country.

If ICE does detain and transfer a defendant to immigration jail, the defendant may or may not be eligible for a bond under Immigration Nationality Act 236, depending on the criminal conviction. The Immigration Nationality Act sets the rules governing immigration proceedings, while the Texas Penal Code is what governs criminal proceedings.

Sometimes serving undocumented clients means an attorney has to face both criminal and immigration issues. Criminal convictions can have serious consequences in the immigration realm, and it’s important to have a lawyer who knows that.

Always consult with an immigration attorney if the defendant is undocumented because after the criminal case, there may be an immigration case following.

Immigration Law: Aggravated Felony

An “aggravated felony” conviction can be a lifetime bar to almost all forms of immigration relief. Under United States immigration laws, an aggravated felony is the highest form of criminal charge one can face and can make any non-citizen deportable, even one with legal status.

Even more troubling, a crime classified as a misdemeanor under state law could be considered an aggravated felony under immigration law. Today’s tip explains a certain type of aggravated felony and how to handle those situations to avoid immigration consequences.

Under the large umbrella of aggravated felonies, the Immigration Nationality Act sub-divides crimes into multiple categories. One category is termed “crimes of violence.” These usually include assaults and aggravated assaults. While states may define these crimes differently, immigration law establishes its own definition.

If the state definition of a given crime matches the immigration definition of an aggravated felony, then that charge is treated as an aggravated felony for immigration purposes. Unfortunately, this means that a person can be convicted of a misdemeanor in state court, yet that charge will be viewed as an aggravated felony in the eyes of immigration.

I hope I haven’t lost your attention just yet.

Admittedly, the world of aggravated felonies under immigration law is a highly complex area of law because it differs from state to state. One way to prevent being convicted of an aggravated felony of a crime of violence is to avoid 365 days or more in prison.

What this means is, if you are charged with assault here in Texas and are sentenced to 365 days in jail, it is automatically considered an aggravated felony of a crime of violence under immigration laws. While it may sound arbitrary, if you are being convicted of a crime of violence, the one-year marker is the determining factor of whether immigration law considers the charge an aggravated felony.

So, let’s consider a hypothetical situation. Diego has a green card thus is in the USA legally. Green card holders have the best immigration status achievable aside from being a citizen. Green card holders can only get deported if they commit aggravated felonies or other certain specific crimes established by law.

Diego gets arrested in Texas for assault. He got in a fight at a bar, and now Texas is bringing criminal charges against him. Assault under Texas law can be punishable up to 1 year in jail. Let’s assume Diego is found guilty and sentenced to 365 days in jail. After Diego completes his time, Immigration Customs Enforcement will pick him up and place him in deportation proceedings because he has an aggravated felony that stems from 365 days in jail.

Now, let’s assume Diego is in the same situation, except he hired a lawyer who knows about immigration law. The lawyer should work for an outcome that does not involve 365 days of prison. For example, the lawyer could negotiate a deal for 364 days and avoid causing an aggravated felony of a crime of violence under immigration law, and Diego would not need to worry about deportation proceedings.

This is a critical factor to be mindful of when dealing with crimes of violence in a state court. Knowing this little fact can help prevent a permanent bar to immigration relief.

If you have any questions regarding aggravated felonies or the cross-over between criminal and immigration laws, please feel free to contact me at (832) 819-3723.

Criminal Bars to DACA

Donald Trump has promised important changes to immigration policy within his first 100 days in office, and the last few days have certainly borne that out.  As an immigration attorney, I have been anxiously awaiting his policy decisions about Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), also known as “the Dream Act”.

DACA is a program that benefits children who entered this country illegally at a young age. If you are accepted into the DACA program, the government essentially overlooks your illegal entry into this country and you can remain. The policy reason for this act was to prevent children who had entered at a young age, through no fault or act of their own, from being removed to a country they never knew.

The prerequisites are that the child be in school or have graduated, and been physically present in the United States before June 2007. Once the application is approved the child has DACA status. Once you have DACA your only responsibility is to renew it. However, you can lose your DACA status if you are convicted of certain criminal charges.

I want to cover the criminal side of the DACA program and how to best maneuver the situation for criminal defense attorneys. First, if an applicant has plead guilty to a state or federal felony, they will become ineligible for DACA renewal. This includes BOTH convictions and deferred adjudication.

Therefore, reduction to a misdemeanor could be the difference between your client’s ability to stay in the US and being subject to deportation. In fact, many other forms of immigration approval are balanced on felony convictions, as well, and will likely cause problems for the non-citizen client. To classify as a felony under Immigration law, the crime must be punishable by one year or more in prison.

Therefore misdemeanors, which carry a maximum of one year jail time in Texas, cannot constitute a felony for immigration purposes. Example, if you are convicted of a crime which is punishable for more than a year, it doesn’t matter if you get deferred or probation. It will make you ineligible for DACA.

Immigration also has its own definition for “Aggravated Felony”, which is more complicated but doesn’t apply to DACA standards.

If an individual pleads guilty to a “significant misdemeanor” they will also become ineligible for DACA. To classify as a significant misdemeanor the individual must have been convicted of a state misdemeanor and sentenced to more than 90 days of confinement OR be convicted of one of these enumerated charges:

A lawyer should see if the charge can be changed so it doesn’t fit within the meaning of “significant misdemeanor.” For example, if a DACA applicant were charged with Driving Under the Influence, a conviction would render him ineligible for approval or renewal. However, a conviction for a lesser offense, such as Reckless Driving, would not affect DACA acceptance.

An applicant is also rendered ineligible for DACA by pleading guilty to three non-significant misdemeanors. Essentially, it’s a three strikes you’re out rule. If you are convicted of any three misdemeanors not arising out of the same situation, you will be ineligible for DACA.

It doesn’t matter if you got them 5 years apart from each other. Three strikes and you are out. Interestingly, the law specifies that traffic offenses and other minor offenses, in some places categorized as citations rather than misdemeanors, don’t count toward the three misdemeanors. If you can, explore reduction to a traffic offense.

When an applicant’s DACA application is under review the United States Customs Immigration Service (USCIS) has complete power over the application. An agent looks over the application and they have the discretion to approve or deny it. Despite never being convicted of a crime, if the agent finds that you are a “threat to national security or public safety,” they can deny an application outright.

I am concerned that this may be where the Trump administration exercises its discretion, and denies good DACA applicants out of misguided and discriminatory intent. In my experience, under the Obama administration, the Dream Act was meant to benefit more than to punish.

I have had a few clients who lost DACA status due to a criminal conviction, but I have also seen the happiness a family gets when they open their acceptance letters.

The connection between immigration and criminal law is an important factor when dealing with the government. On one side, you have the United States who wants to make sure they aren’t allowing bad people into our country to do harm. On the other side, you have good immigrants who just got caught in a bad situation.

It is for this reason that having a lawyer who knows both areas of the law will greatly affect the outcome. With Trump mentioning he will sign more Executive Orders soon, I am curious to see the implications it will have on the DACA program.

If you are considering DACA and have had previous arrests, please call us for a free consultation with a Houston immigration lawyer at (832) 819-3723.