Defending Yourself Against Assault Charges in Texas

Assault charges can feel overwhelming and confusing. The actions usually arise in the heat of the moment, often involving alcohol and adrenaline. But, it is possible to overcome assault charges, especially if you were acting to protect yourself or someone else.

Self-Defense As Your Defense

Acting in self-defense is the most common way to beat assault charges in Texas. Under Texas law, a person isn’t guilty of assault when he or she acted in self-protection that was reasonable at the time.

To prove to the court that you were acting in self-defense, you must show several things:

  • There was a threat of harm
  • You had a real fear of harm
  • You did not harm or provoke anyone before the threat occurred
  • There was no chance of avoiding the situation

To use self-defense as your defense, your lawyer must also show the court that the amount of force used was “reasonable.” That means that you used the minimum amount of force necessary to fend off the attack—not more.

Protecting Another Person or Property

Protecting another person or property is also a defense to assault charges in Texas. Just like the court understands why you would resort to violence to protect yourself, the court allows a defense for protecting someone you care about.

Further, Texas’s Castle Doctrine/Stand Your Ground law says that a person may use “reasonable force” when protecting their home or vehicle. The law gives you the right to stand your ground against a home invader instead of having to retreat.

Consent to the Assault

In certain situations, consent can also be used as a defense to assault charges. This is especially true in sexual assault cases where the court tries to discern he-said, she-said situations. The alleged victim may have consented or appeared to consent to the encounter, only to decide later that it was actually an assault. 

Can Assault Charges Be Dropped?

Assault charges can also be dropped if the prosecutor does not have enough evidence to pursue them. That’s one of the reasons that it’s important to hire a lawyer as quickly as possible, even before charges are formally filed. 

Your attorney can start advocating for you from day one. By acting early, they may even be able to get charges dropped or help the prosecutor see why charges should never be filed at all.

Get a Strong Defense to Assault Charges

If you have been accused of assault, call 817-678-6771  or send us a message for a confidential consultation with the Fort Worth lawyers at Lee and Wood, LP. It’s important to get legal help as soon as possible after an arrest so that your attorneys can take immediate action to protect your rights, reputation and freedom.


Is Fishing Without a License a Crime in Texas?

Is fishing without a license a crime in Texas? It’s a common question. The Texas Parks & Wildlife Department publishes the many fishing rules and penalties that apply to residents and nonresidents fishing in Texas, and many sections of the Texas Parks & Wildlife Code pertain to fishing.

Under the Code, it is unlawful to fish on public water from private land without a fishing license. Fishing licenses are required of anyone who fishes in public waters in Texas, with some exceptions.

Penalties for Fishing Without a License in Texas

While fishing licenses are generally required, the penalties for fishing violations are sometimes minor. In most cases, people caught fishing without a license are fined less than $500. In those cases, it usually makes more sense to pay the fine than to hire a lawyer to fight the charges. However, it is important to pay the fine or resolve the issue. Failure to pay a fine can be considered a misdemeanor.

But, not all fishing violations are minor. The penalties can be steep when people fish for commercial purposes without a license, or when they fish rare and protected species of fish. Class B misdemeanors can lead to up to six months in jail, Class A misdemeanors can lead to up to a year in jail, and felonies can lead to up to two years in jail. Fines can also mount into the thousands of dollars.

Exceptions to the Fishing License Requirement

In some cases, you may not need a license to go fishing in Texas:

  • People under the age of 17 do not need a fishing license. The law encourages kids and teens to learn to fish at no cost.
  • Visitors to Texas State Parks can fish without a license. However, they must be within the boundary of the state park, and not all Texas parks are state parks.
  • People with intellectual disabilities may fish without a license. Fishing must be part of medically approved therapy, and the person must be accompanied by staff and carry authorization. People with intellectual disabilities can also fish under the supervision of licensed anglers who are family members or who have permission from their families to take them fishing. To do this, a doctor’s note is required.
  • People fishing on private land do not need a license. No license is required when fishing from a stock tank or other private body of water. However, if you are transporting the fish, you should carry documentation about where they came from. It is also unlawful to fish from private land into public waters without a license.

Get Legal Help After a Fishing Violation

If you have been accused of a fishing violation, call 817-678-6771 or send us a message for a confidential consultation with the Fort Worth lawyers at Lee and Wood, LP.  We have extensive experience defending people against wildlife crimes, including fishing violations.


When Teens Are Caught With THC Vape Pens

If you’re the parent of a teenager, you’re probably already aware of just how popular vape pens are. You may have seen other kids using them, but it can still come as a shock when your own is caught. 

The truth is, good kids can make mistakes, and the best way to protect your teen’s future is to talk with a well-qualified defense attorney

Vape Pens and Teenagers

When it comes to tobacco, teens can get in some pretty serious trouble. Texas law prohibits the purchase, possession, and use of vape pens (also called e-cigarettes) by people under 21 years old or 18 years old and in the military. Teens caught with vape pens for inhaling tobacco products can be fined up to $100.

Vape pens are also prohibited on school premises. If a teen is caught with a vape pen on their high school or college campus, they may also face additional, separate consequences, including being suspended or expelled and losing critical financial aid.

THC and Juvenile Drug Charges

The law is much more strict when it comes to THC. Adults caught with THC vape pens can be charged with a felony and face jail time of six months to two years. For teenagers, charges involving small amounts of drugs—like a vape pen with trace amounts of THC in it—are usually juvenile court matters.

However, sometimes teens can be tried as adults in these matters. This can happen if the teen is almost an adult, for example, if they are 17. It can also happen if the quantities involved are large or if there are other factors that make the situation more serious.

Teens caught with vape pens containing even small amounts of THC can face juvenile drug charges that result in consequences such as:

  • Fines up to $500
  • Probation
  • Educational course on substance abuse requirements
  • Rehabilitation or treatment requirements
  • Suspension or expulsion from school (if on school property)

If Your Teen Is in Trouble, Call Our Fort Worth Lawyers

Teens caught with THC can face serious consequences. It’s important to get legal help right away. The sooner you act, the more time your attorney has to take action in your teen’s case.

If your teenager has been accused of possessing a vape pen with THC in it, call 817-678-6771 for a confidential consultation with the Fort Worth defense attorneys at Lee and Wood, LP. You can also send us a message.


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Can a Partner Drop Domestic Violence Charges in Texas?

Domestic violence charges often result from things that happened in the heat of the moment. An argument may have escalated until the neighbors reported the shouting to the police. Police may have mistaken an injury for a sign of domestic abuse. A household member may have made a report motivated by jealousy or anger, or to gain leverage in a family law proceeding.

Later the household member may want to drop their allegations. This is very common. In fact, it’s well documented that 80 to 90% of domestic violence victims recant their statements to police and investigators. 

What if a household member wants to take back what they said? Can a partner drop domestic violence charges in Texas?

About the Texas “No Drop” Policy

Texas has passed legislation to make sure that domestic violence charges are taken very seriously. Our state’s “no drop” policy means that, even if someone in your household wants to drop domestic violence charges, they do not have the power to do so on their own.

Domestic violence charges are brought by the prosecutor—not the alleged victim of domestic violence. Under Texas law, it’s the prosecutor’s decision whether to drop charges. Even if the alleged victim later changes their mind, they do not have the authority to drop charges on their own.

Instead, the prosecutor must be persuaded to drop the assault charges. It’s not impossible to accomplish, but it requires specific legal action and strategy.

Convincing a Prosecutor to Drop Domestic Violence Charges

Your partner or household member can’t decide to drop charges on their own, so your lawyer may need to emphasize other facts of your case. Each case is different, but a lawyer may emphasize a client’s lack of any past criminal record. They may also look to the facts of the case to help convince prosecutors that the charges need to be dropped.

Why Does Texas Have a “No Drop” Policy?

Our state’s “no drop” policy is tied to psychological research about the nature of abusive relationships. Abusive relationships often follow a cycle of gradual escalation of violence until a dramatic and significant episode. That episode is often followed by a period of calm during which the abuser tries to make it up to their partner.

Prosecutors are concerned that their clients will make statements directly after a violent episode, and then take them back when things are calm again—even though there’s likely to be a gradual escalation of violence in the future. 

Prosecutors are also concerned that abusive partners will pressure their victims into recanting out of fear. The state’s strict “no drop” policy is designed to protect against these situations.

Call Our Fort Worth Lawyers About Domestic Violence Charges

If someone in your household has made domestic violence allegations against you, call 817-678-6771 for a confidential consultation with the Fort Worth domestic violence defense lawyers at Lee and Wood, LP. 

We have extensive experience defending people against misdemeanor and felony assault charges. You may also send us a message.


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Warrantless Searches and Illegal Search and Seizure

The 4th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects people from illegal search and seizure by the government. It protects your personal privacy and extends to the privacy of your home, your property, your car (to a lesser extent), and your place of business. 

Search and seizure protections apply when:

  • The police stop you and ask to search your purse, backpack, or luggage. 
  • The police knock on the door of your home or apartment and ask to enter. 
  • The police stop you when driving and then ask to search your car or trunk.

In most cases, if the police don’t have a warrant, they don’t have a right to enter or search but there are some exceptions. The “plain view” exception allows the police to arrest you if there is evidence of a crime in clear view – though they still can’t search further without a search warrant. 

Warrantless Search of a Car

There is a reduced expectation of privacy in a car. 

Police can search your car without a warrant if you give them consent to do so. When the police ask to search your vehicle, you can say NO. You don’t have to give them permission, but a lot of people do. 

Police can search your car without a warrant if they have probable cause to believe there was a crime. What would qualify as probable cause? 

  • Seeing drug paraphernalia on the seat or smelling marijuana in the car would be probable cause. 
  • If the officer walked up to the car and overheard passengers talking about hiding drugs or other evidence, that would do it. 
  • If the police have a drug-sniffing dog that signals the presence of drugs, that would be probable cause. 

In the context of an arrest, police can legally search a person and their vehicle for a weapon (the police are protecting themselves) or to preserve evidence. But this ‘search incident to arrest’ (SITA) principle only applies if the arrest itself is lawful. 

And you must have been ‘in control” of the vehicle at the time to justify the search. Were you standing 5 feet away? Were you already in the back seat of the police car? They don’t have a right to search it because you don’t have the ability to destroy evidence or threaten them with a weapon.

That doesn’t mean they won’t find evidence in your car. 

The police can legally search your car if you’ve been arrested, and your car is headed to the police impound lot. They must take an inventory of anything of value in the car to ensure that when your car is returned to you, it is returned with all your property intact. If that cursory search turns up evidence, it could be used against you IF the arrest was lawful. If you’ve been arrested after for a crime because of a warrantless search, talk to a lawyer at Lee and Wood right away. Evidence obtained from illegal police search and seizure is not admissible in court. Our criminal defense lawyers will talk with you about the circumstances of your arrest and your legal rights. Call the Fort Worth area criminal defense attorneys at 817-678-6771 or contact us online

Poaching Trophy-Sized Animals Brings Trophy-Sized Fines

In February of this year, a Montana man was sentenced to a lifetime ban on hunting in his state and every other state that is a member of the Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact (IWVC). That agreement allows member states to share information about poachers.

If you were denied a hunting or fishing license in one state because you failed to comply with wildlife conservation laws, you can be denied a license in every other member state. Texas is a member of the IWVC, as are 48 other states as of 2021.

What was the Montana man’s violation? 

Poaching

Poaching is the illegal shooting or taking of game from private property or a place where hunting is forbidden. In this case, the poacher illegally killed a trophy-sized moose. 

The headless carcass of the trophy-sized moose had been found on a public road, so its full size was known when tipsters later pointed a finger at the poacher. They reported that he had trophy-sized antlers in his possession.

While many states don’t differentiate between the size of animals when deciding on poaching fines and penalties, Texas and 10 other states use the Boone and Crockett scoring system. The higher the number the animal scores, the higher the potential fines and penalties. 

The Montana “Poach and Pay” program used the Boone and Crockett scoring system to rate the antlers and horns. 

Penalties for Hunting Violations

In Texas, if you are found guilty of poaching – or any other type of hunting violation – you can face fines of $25 to $4,000. Poaching can be charged as a misdemeanor or as a felony in Texas. It’s a felony if it involves the taking of a big game animal. Then the fines rise from $1,500 to $10,000. 

That’s not all. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department can seek civil restitution to recover the value of that lost wildlife resource. The larger the animal, the larger your bill. 

At the end of the day, the Montana poacher was banned for life from hunting and trapping, received a 3-year suspension on his fishing privileges, a 5-year suspended prison sentence, and was ordered to pay $12,100 in fines and civil restitution. 

In Texas, he might also have to forfeit his hunting gear and the gun he used to poach wildlife. If you have had a run-in with a game warden or conservation officer and need advice about Texas hunting violations, call the Fort Worth criminal defense lawyers at Lee and Wood. We defend hunters and fishermen accused of wildlife violations. Call our law office at 817-678-6771 or contact us online

Texas Assault Charges: When Does an Assault Become a Hate Crime?

People get into fights. It happens every day. Most of the time those involved walk away from it and that’s the end. Sometimes one or both parties are charged with assault (misdemeanor or felony) or aggravated assault. 

Much less often, but much more serious, an assault charge can be accompanied by a charge of committing a hate crime. How does an assault become a hate crime? And what does that mean in terms of prosecution and punishment?

Texas Assault Law

The Texas Penal Code defines the crime of assault as:

  1. Intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causing bodily injury to another, including the person’s spouse,
  2. Intentionally or knowingly threatening another with imminent bodily injury, including the person’s spouse, or
  3. Intentionally or knowingly causing physical contact with another when the person knows or should reasonably believe that the other will regard that contact as offensive or provocative.

A charge of aggravated assault may be brought if serious injuries resulted from an assault or if a weapon was used. (Many things can be defined as a weapon.) 

Texas Hate Crime Law

The James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Act defines a hate crime as any crime motivated by “prejudice, hatred or advocacy of violence.” Hate crime charges can be added to criminal charges of arson, criminal mischief, graffiti, or (more often) crimes against a person. 

Hate crime charges may be brought if the crime was committed against the victim because of their:

  • Race, color, national origin 
  • Sexual orientation 
  • Religion
  • Disability
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Gender identity 
  • Work as a judge or law enforcement officer

In high-profile cases, the FBI may investigate and federal criminal charges may be filed. 

Prosecuting a Crime as a Hate Crime

In order to be convicted of a hate crime, the prosecutor must convince a jury that the underlying crime occurred, and that it was motivated by prejudice or hate. 

“Hate speech” is not a crime, but statements of hate can be used as evidence of the motivation of the accused person. Often the prosecutor will present something the accused said to the victim. That speech was used as evidence in the 2019 case of a Dallas man who shot a transgender woman while shouting slurs at her. He was convicted of a hate crime. 

But a homophobic slur spoken before an assault on two gay men in Austin was not enough to support a hate crime charge. In that case, a plea deal resulted in misdemeanor assault charges.

What else might prosecutors use as evidence of motive for a hate crime?

  • Things the accused has written on social media, online, as graffiti, or tattoos they are wearing
  • The location of the incident (for example, a synagogue or mosque for a religiously motivated crime, or in the case of an Atlanta killer, at Asian-owned nail salons)
  • Possession of literature or membership in a group that espouses hatred toward a certain group of people 

Punishment for Hate Crimes

A conviction for a hate crime enhances the punishment applied to the original offense. It “bumps it up” one level. So, if a person was found guilty of a Class C misdemeanor, they would face punishments for a Class B misdemeanor. A Class A misdemeanor will not be sentenced as a felony but the amount of jail time could be increased to 180 days. 

The same applies to felony charges. The punishment is increased, except for a conviction of a 1st degree felony, which already has the potential for life in prison. 

If you could be facing criminal charges for a Texas hate crime, call the Fort Worth criminal defense lawyers at Lee and Wood. We have extensive experience defending people against misdemeanor and felony assault charges. Call our law office at 817-678-6771 or contact us online

Street Racing Could Get You Charged with a Crime

All across the country, law enforcement has seen a significant increase in speeding since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Nationwide, the number of traffic deaths from speeding and reckless driving rose 7.2% in 2020, the largest number in a decade. 

Texas has seen a big increase in illegal street racing. In March 2021, more than 100 arrests were made in just one weekend in Harris County. But Houston isn’t the only city with street racers. In Fort Worth, 67 people were arrested for street racing in August of 2021. It’s become such a concern that the state legislature recently passed the Street Racing Bill (HB 2315

Speeding or Racing?

In Texas, you can’t be arrested for speeding, but you can be arrested for racing on a highway and for reckless driving. Texas Transportation Code 545.420 defines the offense of racing on a highway, which includes drag racing and “testing the endurance of the driver” in long distance races. 

A drag race is two or more vehicles positioned side-by-side and accelerating to try to outdistance one another, or prevent another vehicle from passing, or to arrive ahead of another vehicle. 

Punishments for the Offense of Street Racing

Racing on a highway can be charged as a Class A misdemeanor with jail time and costly fines. It can also be charged as a felony, with fines and imprisonment. And as of September 1, 2021, law enforcement can seize “contraband” relating to crime of racing on a highway. That means the police can confiscate cars – and anything in those cars. 

If you’ve been arrested and charged with racing on a highway, the consequences are too severe to give up without a fight. Don’t enter a plea until you’ve spoken with an experienced criminal defense lawyer. Call Lee & Wood: 817-678-6771 or contact us online

Arrested? How to Find the Best Criminal Defense Lawyer for Your Case Near Fort Worth

If you (or a loved one) have been arrested for the first time, how do you find the right criminal defense lawyer for your specific case? If you’ve never looked for a lawyer before, how do you pick one from the many lawyers available? 

This article looks at how to find the right lawyer for your kind of case, and how to find the right lawyer for you.

Where to Look for a Lawyer

Often people start their search for a lawyer by asking for a lawyer referral from friends and family. With a criminal case, that can feel awkward unless you’ve been arrested for something relatively common, like drunk driving. Even then, you may prefer the privacy of finding a lawyer online. 

How to Find a Lawyer Online

There are hundreds of lawyers in your area. To narrow your search, use several words in your online search query.  

Include the name of the town or the county where you have been arrested or where you will be going to court. It is usually helpful to work with a lawyer who has experience with local judges, prosecutors, and court personnel. They may have a better understanding of how a judge operates, how the prosecutor negotiates, and alternative sentencing options available in that jurisdiction.

That doesn’t mean the lawyer has to be officed in your exact town. Some people prefer to work with a criminal defense lawyer who doesn’t live in their town. Most criminal lawyers take cases in several nearby jurisdictions. They regularly work in several courts. 

Include the kind of lawyer you want. For most state-level criminal charges, you can just include the words criminal defense lawyer. If you are facing federal charges, search for a federal criminal defense attorney. If the accused is aged 17 or under, search for a juvenile defense lawyer. Fewer lawyers focus on juvenile crimes or federal crimes so this will narrow your search results. 

Include the type of criminal charge you need defense against. If you know the specific charge against you, type that in, but it’s usually sufficient to type in a general crime, like drug charges rather than possession of THC oil

Sometimes you do want to be very specific about the crime.

Find The Best Defense Attorney for You

Once you’ve found a few lawyers with experience in your kind of criminal case, now it’s time to determine if they are a good fit for you. You can do this in two ways:

On their website, review the About Us page to learn more about the law firm, and click on the specific attorney profiles. Their biography may tell you what courts they operate in. It will include additional certifications they have received, and honors and awards. You may find they are involved in the community in ways that connect with you. 

Some websites have testimonials, either on a page or other places on the website. Do you see anything about how they work with clients? 

Now you are ready to call and talk to one or more lawyers who seem like the best fit. You want to see if you feel comfortable with this person. You want a sense of how they handle a case like yours. 

REMEMBER, you haven’t hired this person yet so don’t share specifics of your case. 

You can ask questions like: 

  • Have you taken cases to trial in this county or city court?
  • Have you handled similar cases to mine? 
  • What do you consider a successful outcome?
  • What has been your success rate? 
  • How do you work with clients? 
  • Would you handle my case personally? 
  • What are your fees?

Call an Experienced Criminal Defense Lawyer

At Lee and Wood, LP, we understand the fears and uncertainty of being arrested for the first time. We explain the criminal justice process, what you can expect, and how we can help. We represent clients in Weatherford, Fort Worth, Burleson, and Cleburne. Call our Fort Worth law office at 817-678-6771 or contact us online

Felony Vehicular Manslaughter Charges After Tesla Autopilot Car Crash

People make mistakes. And sometimes machines do, too.

Prosecutors in California have filed criminal charges of vehicular manslaughter against the driver of a Tesla Model S. In this first-of-its-kind criminal case, the driver was using the autopilot feature of the car when it ran a red light and collided with another vehicle. Both people in the other vehicle died in the crash. 

While the criminal complaint does not mention the autopilot feature specifically, it’s known that it was in use at the time of the crash. Whether prosecutors will claim criminal negligence as a result of autopilot use remains to be seen. The driver’s first hearing in criminal court is scheduled for Feb. 23.

In the U.S., 765,000 Tesla cars are equipped with driver-assist features. This 2019 crash wasn’t the first collision to involve the use of autopilot. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has investigated at least 26 Tesla autopilot crashes in the last five years. Almost a dozen people have died as a result. 

Proving Negligence or Recklessness

Is it the fault of the driver? Or the fault of the technology?

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has created a term for what they consider to be human misuse of technology. They call it automation complacency. The NTSB says people rely too much on technology and become inattentive and disengaged. 

The laws in every state hold the human driver responsible in case of a crash. Drivers may not know this. And they may not understand when and how to use this old technology in a new way. After all, autopilot technology has been in use in planes for a long time. 

Tesla has said that the autopilot feature and its “full self-driving” system cannot drive themselves, despite their name. Human drivers need to be ready to react. But is Tesla immune from responsibility for the use of its technology? 

Have they created a dangerous technology that could leave drivers’ criminally liable?

The families of the crash victims are suing the driver for negligence and Tesla for selling a defective vehicle. They say the vehicle could accelerate suddenly and that it lacked an effective automatic braking system. These civil cases go to trial next year. 

The family also says the driver was an unsafe driver, with moving violations on his driving record. Evidence of past driving violations could be damaging. 

If you have been charged with a vehicle-related crime – reckless driving or vehicular manslaughter – you need a strong defense. Call the Fort Worth criminal defense attorneys at Lee and Wood, LP: 817-678-6771 or contact us online