What Happens if You’re Caught Hunting Endangered, Threatened and Other Protected Animals?

In Texas, state laws and the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA) protect a long list of plants and animals. It’s unlawful for people to hunt these threatened or endangered nongame species or to buy or sell goods made from them.

Unfortunately, it can be easy to mistake one animal for another, and split-second decisions made out in the woods can have big consequences. Situations vary, however. For example, if you kill a federally-recognized endangered species, your first offense may mean a $3,500 fine. Even wounding or injuring certain endangered, threatened or protected animals will result in a $2,000 fine for an alleged wildlife crime.

Killing Black Bears Brings Penalties of Up to $10,000

Over the last 20 years, black bear conservation efforts in nearby states, including Louisiana, Oklahoma and Arkansas, have been extremely successful in restoring black bear populations within their historic range. The result has been increased sightings in Texas, as well.

While their numbers are up, black bears are still listed as a state-threatened species by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. They’re protected and cannot be hunted or killed. Hunters who kill black bears in Texas face penalties of up to $10,000, in addition to other consequences. These may include civil restitution fines, loss of all hunting privileges and even jail time.

This can be extremely distressing because, from a distance, black bears and wild hogs can look very similar. Hog hunters should be on high alert.

“Canned Hunts” of Dangerous Wild Animals

According to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, no person may kill or attempt to injure dangerous wild animals that are held in captivity in Texas (or that are released from captivity for the purpose of being killed). These “canned” hunts of exotic animals are illegal in our state.

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department list includes animals such as:

  • Elephants
  • Lions
  • Rhinoceroses
  • Tigers
  • Leopards
  • Cheetahs
  • Hyenas
  • Wolves
  • Bears

This list is long but not all-inclusive, and the term “canned hunt” isn’t yet defined by federal law. Hunters in Texas can legally shoot other rare or endangered species. These legal species include many types of exotic deer and antelope.

Protected Birds Can Be Hunted Only With a Federal Depredation Permit

In Texas, all indigenous birds, from raptors to songbirds, are protected by state and federal laws. They may not be hunted, taken from nests or possessed for any reason.;

However, if you have evidence clearly showing that protected wildlife is seriously damaging your commercial farming efforts or presents a threat to public safety, you may be able to obtain a federal depredation permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

In Legal Trouble for Hunting? Call a Lawyer.

Charges for hunting endangered, threatened or other protected animals are serious, but you don’t have to face them alone. With offices in Fort Worth, the experienced attorneys of Lee & Wood, LP, will help you through this challenging time. Call 817-678-6771 or send us a message online to request a free consultation.

Geofence Warrants and Keyword Warrants

More and more, people are realizing that their personal information is being made public. Most of us carry cell phones that are constantly gathering, and in some cases, sharing information we might not prefer they didn’t. Google alone has enough information about most of us to make suggestions that are either clairvoyant or intrusive, depending on how you feel about it.

This rapid growth in information gathering has another feature that should be concerning to the public. Data is being requested and turned over to authorities to help them with criminal investigations.

The way this is handled raises a number of issues and could easily be considered a violation of your rights. The use of “keyword” warrants and geofence warrants will likely lead to legal battles in the future.

The Basics of a Warrant

Getting a search warrant in Texas requires law enforcement to demonstrate a few key facts. Officials must provide a sworn affidavit containing facts that establish probable cause that:

  • A specific criminal offense has been committed
  • The property or items to be searched are evidence of the offense or evidence that a particular person committed that offense
  • The property or items to be searched for or seized are located at or on the particular person, place, or thing to be searched

While there are complications and exceptions, this is the general idea behind a search warrant.

What Are Keyword and Geofence Warrants?

A keyword warrant is a request from police to Google (or another search engine) to provide information about any users who entered particular search terms related to a crime and in the area around the crime. As an example, if someone robbed a bank, police might ask Google to provide information regarding anyone who searched for “how to rob a bank” in the region where the crime occurred.

A geofence warrant is both more common and more controversial. A geofence warrant would have police ask for data from any devices that were located in the area where a crime occurred. In the previous example, it would mean gathering the information from every worker, customer, or bystander in or around the bank that was robbed at the time of the robbery.

What’s the Controversy?

Going back to the basics of a search warrant, you can identify a serious flaw in the unfettered use of geofence warrants. The vast majority of the information being gathered in these instances is not going to be evidence of the crime or that a particular person committed the crime.

Warrants are necessary because they protect the public from violations of our right to privacy. If someone steals your neighbor’s jewelry, police can’t search your house, and all the neighbor’s houses, in the hopes that maybe one of you did it. If they don’t have a valid reason to think you committed a crime, you can’t be searched.

Call an Experienced Attorney if You Are Served With a Warrant

The rules surrounding warrants and criminal investigations are complicated. If you’re involved in a criminal investigation, you should speak to a lawyer as soon as possible. At Lee & Wood, LP, our Fort Worth criminal defense attorneys have extensive experience. We can protect your rights. Call 817-678-6771 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.

Domestic Violence Restraining Orders and Gun Rights

A protection order, otherwise known as a restraining order, is not a criminal conviction. Having a domestic violence restraining order filed against you doesn’t mean you’ve been found guilty of anything.

Because of this, there’s broad disagreement over whether it’s a violation of your Constitutional rights to have to give up your firearms based on a restraining order. The Supreme Court is currently hearing arguments in a Texas case involving this issue.

Broad Terms of a Protective Order

The restraining order involved in the Texas case had a number of restrictions. Among them was that the subject had his handgun license suspended. He also was prohibited from possessing a firearm at any point while the order was in effect, a period of two years.

A later search warrant revealed that he had not given up his guns. He was then indicted under federal law based on his possession of guns while under the terms of the protective order.

Consequences of Violating a Protective Order

If you violate a restraining order, you’re facing serious trouble. A violation can land you in jail for up to a year and subject you to large fines.

If the judge rules that your violation was done with the intent to commit stalking or violence, you could be denied bail, meaning you’ll be in jail until the criminal trial that decides your guilt or innocence. The terms of the restraining order are important because they can create new paths for an otherwise innocent person to be held criminally liable.

Punishment Before Due Process

Protective orders are not the result of a criminal trial. They’re the result of a civil suit. What you have to prove to get a protective order is not the same as what you have to prove to get a criminal conviction.

One of the major disagreements about suspending the right to bear arms based on a restraining order is that you’re depriving someone of their constitutional rights without due process. In effect, you’re punishing someone without first doing what’s necessary to find them guilty.

Restraining Orders Are Serious Business

Regardless of whether gun rights are part of protective orders in the future, they’ll remain a serious matter. Violating a restraining order even a single time carries harsh penalties.

If you already have a conviction on your record, the penalties rise dramatically. You need to speak to an experienced Texas defense attorney if you’re accused of violating a protective order. There are defenses available, but you need to act quickly to protect your rights.

Call Today to Discuss Your Protective Order Situation

At the Fort Worth offices of Lee & Wood, LP, our experienced criminal defense lawyers provide aggressive legal protection. If you’ve been accused of violating a Texas protective order, you should call us at 817-678-6771 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.

A Shift in Attitude Toward Crime and Punishment

Facing criminal charges is incredibly stressful. The criminal justice system is complicated and intimidating. Most charges carry the potential to seriously harm your future. Heavy fines, time behind bars and damage to your family, career and lifestyle are all possible outcomes of a criminal prosecution. One consequence that can come as a surprise is the attitudes of friends, neighbors and acquaintances. However, there is some evidence that those attitudes might be changing.

Punishment or Prevention

Appearing to be tough on crime is a common tactic used by politicians at election time. Showing mercy or concern for people accused of crime is not generally a good way to appeal to the public. For many decades, criminal penalties were increased and the number of people behind bars rose. The focus is on punishment, as anyone who is accused of a crime will discover.

If the focus was on prevention, more people would talk about making neighborhoods safe and prosperous, and fewer would talk about locking people up and throwing away the key.

A Survey Shows a Change Might Be Coming

A recent survey of potential voters suggests that a growing percentage of the population, particularly among young people, prefer solutions based on preventing crime, rather than just punishing it. The tough-on-crime crowd still has many proponents, but there may come a time when the population as a whole rejects so-called tough-on-crime policies that have failed to make the population healthier or safer.

Be Ready to Fight From the Beginning

A change might be coming, but it’s important to deal with the situation facing us now. If you’re charged with a crime, you can’t expect to be treated kindly by a system designed to punish you. Your rights and your future depend on the defense you can put forward in court. If you and your attorney are not prepared to fight, you’re putting yourself in a bad situation.

In some cases, a criminal accusation can be enough to cause you harm. Your reputation is at stake, and it can suffer needlessly even if you end up with a good result. You need a strong defense as soon as possible to minimize the consequences of your legal troubles. Acting quickly can help you in many cases, and it will never harm you. Speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as you realize you may be facing criminal charges.

Lee & Wood, LP Offers Strong Criminal Defense

If you’ve been arrested or charged with a crime, you need a skilled attorney. Call our Fort Worth lawyers today at 817-678-6771 to get started.

Mutual Combat And Assault in Texas

The word “assault” can describe a wide range of scenarios. No two criminal cases are exactly alike, and this may be particularly relevant in cases involving assault allegations. Among the potential defenses against assault charges is that of consent. Under limited circumstances, you may be able to claim that a fight you engaged in was not an illegal assault because both parties consented to the action. Texas is one of the few jurisdictions in the country where mutual combat may be allowed outside of sanctioned combat sports.

What Constitutes Consent?

A written, signed and notarized agreement is ideal, but it isn’t necessary. The consent must be “effective,” meaning you must reasonably believe that the other person consented. This could be as simple as observable conduct indicating that you both wanted to fight. It can be entirely nonverbal. Of course, it does take more than both of you actively participating in the fight to prove there was consent. Someone defending themselves in a fight they didn’t want to be in has not “consented” to the fight.

Consent Alone Is Not Enough

Proving that the other person consented is not the end of the matter. Perhaps the biggest risk of relying on consent is how easily you can lose with that defense. To claim consent, the assault cannot threaten or inflict serious bodily injury. Serious bodily injury means anything that “creates a substantial risk of death or that causes death, serious permanent disfigurement, or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ.

In practice that means the defense is usually only applicable in fist fights. Any use of a weapon of any kind will negate the defense. It also means that the damage done in the fight has to be minimal. A broken bone can mean impairment of the function of a bodily member, which negates the defense.

The mutual combat defense is also invalid if the assault was part of a gang initiation or was done as a condition of being a gang member.

A Serious Charge Calls for a Serious Defense

Assault can lead to misdemeanor or felony charges, depending on a number of factors. Many assault cases involve alcohol which can confuse the situation further, raising questions about an issue as delicate as consent. The right defense strategy requires careful analysis. You need an experienced, dedicated Texas criminal defense attorney to help you protect yourself.

Call Lee & Wood Today if You Are Facing Assault Charges

You can’t afford to leave your assault defense to chance. Whether you believe your assault case involves mutual consent or not, you need a strong defense team to mount a strong defense. Call the skilled criminal defense lawyers of Lee & Wood at 817-678-6771 to discuss your situation today.

What Is Burglary in Texas?

Texas law classifies burglary crimes into several different degrees, each with different levels of punishment. Burglary is a common charge leveled by prosecutors in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, so it’s important to understand this crime and what it really means.

How Texas Defines Burglary

While most people think of burglary as a theft crime, you can be charged with burglary even if there’s no stolen property involved. What matters is your intent. The prosecutor will be trying to prove that you had a certain goal in mind when entering a building.

The legal definition of burglary is found in chapter 7, section 30.02 of the Texas Penal Code. It says burglary is committed when you, without consent of the property owner, do any of the following:

  • Enter a habitation or building with the intent to commit a felony, theft or assaultRemain concealed inside a habitation or building with the intent to commit a felony, theft or assault
  • Enter a habitation or building and commit or attempt to commit a felony, theft or assault

When you read the word “habitation,” think residence, a place where someone lives, and not a commercial building.

Degrees of Burglary and Possible Punishments in Texas

The severity of the burglary charge depends on the type of building involved:

  • The building is not a habitation/residence: Burglary of a non-residential building is a state jail felony; penalties include 6 months to 2 years in jail and fines up to $10,000.
  • The building is a place where controlled substances are stored: Burglary of a pharmacy, clinic, hospital, nursing facility or warehouse is a third-degree felony; penalties include 2 to 10 years in prison and fines up to $10,000.
  • The building a habitation/residence: Burglary of a residence is a second-degree felony with penalties of 2 to 20 years in prison and fines up to $10,000.

Burglary can also rise to a first-degree felony. This happens if any person participating in the burglary commits, or tries to commit, a felony other than theft. For example, if you or someone else entered a home intending to kill someone, that’s first-degree burglary, even if you don’t actually kill anyone. It’s the intent that matters. The punishment for first-degree burglary can be life in prison.

Burglary of a Vehicle in Texas

Texas has a separate crime called burglary of a vehicle. This is defined as breaking into and/or entering into a vehicle without the owner’s consent, with the intent to commit a theft or felony.

Burglary of a vehicle is a Class A misdemeanor with a minimum jail sentence of 6 months. However, if your record includes previous convictions for burglary of vehicles,the crime could become a felony and you could face a longer sentence.

Get Help Fighting Burglary Charges in Texas

Being charged with burglary is serious, and it requires a serious attorney in your corner. At Lee & Wood, LP our criminal defense lawyers will work to find weaknesses in the state’s case and do everything we can to have the charges reduced or dropped.

Call our Fort Worth law firm at 817-678-6771 or email us to arrange a free consultation to tell us about your situation and we’ll explain how we can help.

Vaping, THC and a New Texas Law Impacting Teenagers

In Texas, the rules on teenage vaping are simple: It’s illegal. Juveniles are not allowed to vape or smoke e-cigarettes at all, whether you’re talking nicotine or THC. And now, in addition to teenage vaping being a crime, a new Texas law will force students into alternative schools for vaping. In this article, our attorneys lay out the rules about vaping both THC and nicotine, plus we discuss the new law affecting students.

Vaping THC in Texas

Vaping THC is a felony in Texas, no matter how old you are. The law on this is Texas Health and Safety Code section 481.103. It makes it illegal to possess any amount of THC from sources other than the marijuana plant. These are the punishments for a THC possession conviction:

  • Under one gram: State jail felony; 6 months to 2 years in jail and fines up to $10,000.
  • 1-4 grams: Third-degree felony; 2 to 10 years in prison and fines up to $10,000.
  • 4-400 grams: Second-degree felony; 2 to 20 years in prison and fines up to $10,000.
  • More than 400 grams: First-degree felony; 5 to 99 years in prison and fines up to $50,000.

If the person is a juvenile, they will most likely be prosecuted in juvenile court, where these severe punishments will, thankfully, be off the table. Juveniles are more likely to be sentenced to drug counseling, probation, placement in a treatment facility or other non-prison options.

Vaping Nicotine in Texas

It’s illegal for anyone under age 21 to buy, possess or use a cigarette, e-cig or tobacco product. The one exception is military members: Active military members can buy and use tobacco starting at age 18.

Under Texas Health and Safety Code 161.252, people under 21 who use or possess tobacco, including in vape form, can be fined $100 and sentenced to community service. Remember, this law criminalizes vaping tobacco or nicotine, but that’s not the end of the list. It criminalizes chewing tobacco, cigars and anything else containing tobacco.

New Law Requires Alternative School for Teenage Vaping

As of September 1, 2023, any public school student found in possession of, using, selling or giving someone an e-cig/vape on school grounds or at a school-related event must be placed in the Disciplinary Alternative Education Program (DAEP).

The law, House Bill 114, requires temporary alternative schooling for any student caught with a vape/e-cigarette within 300 feet of school property. This is the penalty whether the vape contained THC or not. Essentially, this means vapes/e-cigs are now treated the same as bringing drugs or alcohol to school.

Facing Vaping Accusations? How Lee & Wood, LP Can Protect Your Child’s Future

If your child is accused of vaping, whether on school grounds or not, you should contact an experienced attorney right away. The defense lawyers of Lee & Wood, LP handle THC and juvenile law issues every day. We’ll fight to prevent a minor incident from haunting your child’s future.

Call our Fort Worth lawyers at 817-678-6771 or email us to set up a free consultation to discuss the situation.

Defending Against BUI Charges in Texas

Boating under the influence (BUI) is a serious offense in Texas, carrying penalties that can include fines, imprisonment, loss of boating privileges, and even the loss of a driver’s license.

If you find yourself facing BUI charges, it’s crucial to understand the unique legal landscape surrounding this offense and to engage an experienced criminal defense attorney to help protect your rights.

Understanding BUI Laws

In Texas, it’s illegal to operate a boat while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The legal blood alcohol content (BAC) limit for boating is the same as for driving a motor vehicle: 0.08%.

However, you can still be charged with BUI even if your BAC is below this threshold if your ability to operate the boat is impaired.

Field Sobriety Tests on Water

Unlike DUI arrests, BUI arrests often come with unique challenges related to field sobriety testing on the water. The rocking motion of a boat can affect balance and coordination, and officers must account for these factors when conducting field sobriety tests.

An experienced BUI defense attorney can scrutinize the administration of these tests, looking for inconsistencies or irregularities that may weaken the prosecution’s case.

Chemical Testing

Law enforcement uses breath or blood tests to determine BAC levels in a BUI case. As with field sobriety tests, these tests must be administered according to specific guidelines.

If there were any irregularities in how the tests were conducted or the devices were calibrated, the results can be challenged in court.

Penalties and Consequences

BUI charges can lead to severe penalties, including:

  • Fines up to $2,000 for a first offense, with higher penalties for subsequent offenses
  • Jail time ranging from 72 hours to 180 days for a first offense, with longer sentences for repeat offenders
  • Loss of boating privileges
  • Potential impact on your driver’s license

These penalties underscore the importance of taking BUI charges seriously and seeking experienced legal representation.

Strategies for Defense

Defending against BUI charges requires an understanding of both boating laws and DUI defense strategies.

Here are some common defense approaches:

  • Challenging the stop: Was the initial stop by law enforcement lawful? If there was no reasonable suspicion to stop you, the case might be dismissed.
  • Examining the tests: As mentioned above, the administration of field sobriety tests and chemical tests can be scrutinized for mistakes or inconsistencies.
  • Exploring other explanations: Medical conditions, medications, or even the natural movement of the boat may have contributed to the appearance of impairment. These factors can be explored as part of the defense.

The Role of a Criminal Defense Attorney

A criminal defense attorney with experience in BUI cases can provide invaluable assistance. From the initial stages of the case through trial, an attorney can guide you through the complex legal process, work to protect your rights and seek the best possible outcome.

Choosing the Right Criminal Defense Attorney

Getting charged with a BUI is not something you should take lightly. Getting the guidance of a criminal defense lawyer is paramount.

If you want to learn more about the services we provide at Lee and Wood, LP, please call us today at 817-678-6771 or send us a message.

The Impact of False Domestic Violence Accusations

In the sphere of domestic relationships, domestic violence is a deeply troubling and unfortunately common issue. The laws surrounding domestic violence exist to protect victims and bring perpetrators to justice.

However, there is a side to this coin that often goes unaddressed. What is the impact of false domestic violence accusations?

False accusations can have devastating consequences on the accused, affecting their reputation, career, personal life, and even their legal standing.

If you are falsely accused of domestic violence, a criminal defense attorney will ensure that your rights are protected and help clear your name.

Personal and Professional Repercussions

Legal troubles are only the beginning if you’re falsely accused of domestic violence.

Those falsely accused of domestic violence can have immediate personal and professional fallout.

Friends and family may distance themselves, perhaps due to the stigma attached to the accusation or uncertainty about the truth.

Professionally, you may face suspension or termination, especially if you work in a field where background checks and moral character are paramount.

Legal Consequences

From a legal standpoint, a false accusation can lead to arrest, court appearances, and even a potential conviction if not appropriately handled.

If children are involved, a restraining order may limit your access to your home or children.

Even if the charges are dismissed or cleared, the legal costs and the toll on your personal life can be devastating.

Emotional Impact

It’s easy to focus on the legal, professional, and personal impact of being falsely accused of domestic violence.

However, The emotional strain of being falsely accused can be just as overwhelming. The feelings of betrayal, anger, confusion, and fear can have long-lasting effects on your mental health.

Support from a mental health professional, alongside legal counsel, may be necessary to help you navigate this challenging period.

The Role of the Criminal Defense Attorney

If you’re faced with a false domestic violence accusation, a skilled criminal defense attorney is essential.

An experienced attorney will understand the complexities of domestic violence laws and can:

  • Investigate the claim: Gathering evidence, interviewing witnesses, and establishing an accurate timeline are crucial to disproving a false accusation.
  • Navigate the legal system: The legal maze of domestic violence accusations requires a seasoned professional to guide the process, ensuring that all legal rights are protected.
  • Negotiate with prosecutors: If evidence suggests the accusation is false, an attorney can negotiate with prosecutors, possibly leading to dropped charges.
  • Represent you in court: If the case goes to trial, a criminal defense attorney will represent your interests, presenting the evidence and arguments needed to secure a just outcome.

Choosing the Right Criminal Defense Attorney

Going through a false domestic violence accusation is devastating. Your whole life is turned upside down in a blink of an eye.

You don’t have to go through it alone. The legal experts at Lee & Wood are here to help you navigate the legal process. We’ll stand by you and fight for your rights.

If you want to learn more about our services, please call us today at 817-678-6771 or send us a message for a confidential consultation with the Fort Worth lawyers at Lee and Wood, LP.

The Bail Process in Texas: What You Need to Know

When a person is charged with a crime in Texas, the court schedules the trial date and the judge sets the bail amount. The defendant can either choose to stay in custody until the day of trial or pay bail.

Once the bail is paid (or “posted”) the defendant can leave custody and await their trial while free. But, if the bail isn’t posted, the defendant will most likely be held in custody until trial.

It’s important to know that bail isn’t always an option. Defendants are sometimes held without bail. Courts can also release some defendants on personal recognizance. “PR release” allows defendants to await their trial at home without posting any bail at all.

How Bail Amounts Are Set

In Texas, every court has a bond schedule that guides the judges on how to set bail, but judges and magistrates are free to adjust the amount depending on the case. The amount of bail depends on things like the charges being brought against the defendant and the court hearing the case.

Other factors can influence the amount too. Under relatively recent changes to Texas bail laws, judges are required to look at a person’s criminal history before setting bail.

Bail Bonds: How to Get Money for Bail

When it comes to bail, the defendant can either get a cash bail or bond bail. If the defendant has the cash, they simply pay the total amount to the court and get a release with a pending trial. They get this money back after they appear at trial. However, if they fail to appear, the court keeps the money.

If defendants can’t raise the cash, they then apply for something called a “bail bond.” The bail bond agent arranges how the defendant will get a bond bail from the bonds company. The defendant then signs an agreement with the bail bonds company in order to post the bail.

Bail bonds do cost money. In Texas, defendants usually pay about 10% of the total bail amount to the bail bonds company. The bonds company then pays the defendant’s bail. Accordingly, the company becomes responsible and assures the court that the defendant will appear at trial.

Get a Free Consultation With a Texas Criminal Defense Attorney

If you or someone you care about has been charged with a crime in Texas, get legal help as soon as possible. The attorneys of Lee & Wood have decades of experience defending people against a full range of criminal charges in Fort Worth, Weatherford, Granbury and all surrounding areas.

We can help guide you through the legal system and protect your rights at every step of the way. Call 817-678-6771 or email us today. We offer free initial consultations.