Understanding the Impact of Social Media on Domestic Violence Cases

Each domestic violence case is different, and the evidence against a person can have a tremendous impact on the outcome. Even if you’re facing charges that are identical to what someone else is facing, the outcome will likely be different. Even facts that initially seem small can have a big effect on the outcome.

This is especially true when social media is involved. Our experienced domestic violence defense attorneys know that cases involving social media and domestic violence can be nuanced. Here are some key takeaways.

Social Media Can Be Used as Evidence of Domestic Violence

Like in other proceedings in Texas, social media can be used as evidence of a crime—or to help disprove allegations (often called “exculpatory evidence”). Under the law, social media evidence must meet certain requirements in order to be admissible in court.

First, it must be relevant. That means it tends to make an important fact seem more or less probable than it would without evidence. For example, social posts about you volunteering for charity last year may be found not relevant. But social posts threatening your accuser may be found to be relevant.

Second, it must be authenticated. Your accuser can’t simply produce evidence of social media posts at trial and claim that you wrote them. They must give you a chance to review the posts and object to their authenticity.

Social Media Posts Aren’t Private

Remember that social media postings are not private, even if you use privacy settings to hide your posts from people who are not your “friends.”

Social media sites’ privacy policies warn users that these posts aren’t private. Prosecutors and police can obtain the legal permissions necessary to get your subscriber information, history and social media posts.

Make Good Choices About What You Post

There’s a saying that “the internet is forever.” Thanks to screenshots, digital recordkeeping and sites like the Wayback Machine, records of your online activity can exist long after you delete posts.

The best way to avoid getting into trouble for social media posting is to take a deep breath before you type something. Calm down and consider the potential consequences. However, everyone makes mistakes. If something you posted could get you in trouble, talk with an attorney right away.

Have Questions? Reach Out for Legal Support.

To get the legal help you need, call our Fort Worth lawyers at 817-678-6771 or email us. Consultations are free and confidential.

Protective Orders, Criminal Charges and Stalking: What You Should Know About the Legal Process

Texas law takes allegations of stalking seriously, and the consequences can affect your entire life. In Texas, stalking can be a third-degree felony. If convicted, you could face a sentence of between two and ten years in prison. You could also face a fine of up to $10,000.

Here’s what our experienced domestic violence defense attorneys want you to know.

How Is Stalking Defined Under Texas Law?

Texas Penal Code § 42.072 defines stalking as occurring when:

  • A person engages in a pattern of repeated behavior,
  • That behavior is directed at a specific person or their loved ones, and
  • That behavior would cause a reasonable person to feel afraid.

Given this broad definition, many different actions can be seen as stalking under the law. This includes threatening to hurt or kill someone, their family or their pets. This also includes asking someone else to make those threats for you.

Defending Against Stalking Allegations

As with all criminal charges in the United States, defendants are innocent until proven guilty. If you’ve been accused of stalking, you don’t need to prove anything. Instead, the prosecutor has the “burden of proof.” They must prove that your case satisfies all of the legal elements of the law to convict you.

Stalking cases can be difficult for prosecutors to prove unless they have physical evidence against you, like records of harassing texts and emails. One of the trickier elements of the case for them to prove is that a reasonable person would have been afraid.

If prosecutors fail to meet their burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt, the defendant may be found not guilty.

The Protective Order Process

The Texas Code of Criminal Procedure article 7B allows people who believe they’re being stalked to seek a protective order against the alleged stalker. Unlike with domestic violence cases, there’s no relationship necessary.

Any person can seek a stalking-related order for protection against you, even if you’ve never dated, lived together, gotten married or had a police report filed against you. You can even have a protective order filed against you by someone you’ve never met face-to-face.

People who believe they have been stalked are often represented by legal aid offices or private attorneys, but some represent themselves. To obtain a protective order, they fill out an application and a supporting affidavit, a temporary ex parte order and a notice of a hearing.

These documents are then filed with a court clerk. They must also be served on you to be effective. If you are served, don’t ignore these papers. Violating a protective order, even accidentally, can mean serious trouble.

Accused of Stalking? Get Legal Help.

If you’re accused of stalking, you can always turn to our attorneys for help. Call our Fort Worth lawyers at 817-678-6771 or email us to set up a free and confidential consultation to discuss the situation.

Understanding the Legal Rights of Minors

As in many other states, 18 is the “age of majority” in Texas. That’s the age when people are considered to be adults. Before then, they’re considered to be “minors.” In Texas, a minor is a person who is under the age of 18 and has never been married or emancipated.

Age Affects Criminal Responsibility

In Texas, your age affects the punishment you’ll receive for any offense you’re convicted of. Criminal allegations against young offenders are filed as a petition in a court, and the petition states the age of the accused.

People who are between ages 10 and 15 are otherwise presumed incapable of committing an offense other than a juvenile curfew ordinance or order. A person may not be prosecuted for any offense if they are younger than 15, with the exception of these offenses:

  • Perjury (lying under oath) in some cases
  • Violation of a motor vehicle traffic ordinance
  • A misdemeanor punishable by a fine only
  • Certain very serious crimes, like capital felonies

Juvenile Courts Handle Cases Differently

In juvenile courts in Texas, people are called “respondents” instead of “defendants.” The hearings, procedural requirements and legal restrictions placed on juvenile cases are unique to this area of law. So are the purposes of this system: to rehabilitate the youth involved and to protect the public.

Minors Appear With their Parents in Juvenile Court

Unlike in adult court, minors accused of crimes appear with their parents or guardians in juvenile court. These parents or guardians are officially served a copy of the petition and summons. If they are not able to attend, the court will usually appoint a professional called a guardian ad litem who is there to protect the juvenile’s interests.

Juveniles May Have Their Criminal Records Sealed

One of the purposes of the juvenile justice system is “to remove, where appropriate, the taint of criminality from children committing certain unlawful acts.” That means juveniles may have their criminal records sealed if they are eligible.

If your record is sealed it may not be discoverable by most people doing a criminal background check on you. Because your records are sealed, offenses committed in your youth won’t prevent you from renting a nice apartment or getting a good job.

Get Legal Help to Protect Your Rights as a Minor

If you want to protect your rights as a minor in Texas, contact our experienced juvenile defense lawyers as soon as possible. Call our Fort Worth, Texas, law firm at 817-678-6771 or fill out our online contact form to talk with an experienced lawyer about your criminal defense.

The Impact of a Public Intoxication Charge on Your Future

People make mistakes. Sometimes, they do things in the moment without thinking about how their decisions could impact them in the long term. This is especially true of teenagers and college students who often find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Public Intoxication Is a Class C Misdemeanor in Texas

In Texas, a public intoxication charge carries serious consequences. However, it is possible to move forward after a public intoxication arrest. Public intoxication is a Class C Misdemeanor. That means it carries a fine, but the maximum fine does not exceed $500. There is no jail time involved. While public Intoxication is a rather minor offense, you should never just pay the fine and move on. If you do this, like many college kids do, it results in a conviction. Once you’ve received three of these, the fourth becomes a crime punishable by up to 180 days in jail.

By comparison, other Class C Misdemeanors include theft of something valued less than $100, assault with no injury, and possession of drug paraphernalia (without drugs).

You May Have a Criminal Record

Even though public intoxication is a misdemeanor, it should be taken seriously. Your public intoxication charge may become part of your permanent criminal record, which can impact future opportunities—from admission into your dream college to landing the perfect job. You may find yourself explaining the public intoxication charges during a job interview. Additionally it’s a conviction for an alcohol offense that can’t be expunged from your record. Sometimes that is difficult to explain to an employer.

If You Are Under 21, You May Lose Your Driver’s License

The law takes drinking seriously, especially when the people involved are not yet the legal drinking age. If you’re under 21, you may lose your driver’s license after a public intoxication conviction. You may also have to complete an alcohol awareness class and do up to 12 hours of community service.

You May Face Other Consequences Too

If you’re a member of an organization that has a code of conduct, like sports teams and youth leadership organizations, you could risk being kicked out after a public intoxication charge. The best way to protect your membership in these organizations is to hire an experienced attorney who can protect your interests.

Everyone Deserves a Chance to Move Forward. Get Legal Help.

At Lee & Wood, we understand that everyone deserves a chance to move forward, especially young people facing legal challenges. We won’t judge you for getting into trouble. Instead, we’ll work hard to give you the best possible chance at a bright future.

If you want to protect your rights and your freedom, contact us as soon as possible. Call our Fort Worth, Texas, law firm at 817-678-6771 or fill out our online contact form to talk with an experienced lawyer about your criminal defense.

Drug Possession Laws Across State Borders: What You Need to Be Aware Of

While THC is legal in many other states, it’s not yet legal in Texas. At Lee & Wood, we often hear from people who bought legal THC edibles or gummies for recreational purposes when on vacation and then forgot and brought them home.

We also know that our highway patrol often pulls over Texans on their way back from Oklahoma and Colorado, where they legally purchased medical marijuana. As a result, people who would never deliberately break the law are facing serious drug charges.

Crossing State Lines Can Mean Federal Charges

What’s legal in other states can lead to severe consequences in Texas. When an act takes place solely within Texas borders, it’s considered to be a state crime. However, if the act involves crossing state lines or the border with Mexico, it becomes a federal drug crime.

So, if you’re caught with drugs you transported across state lines, you could face charges for federal crimes that are independent of any state laws that you allegedly violated. This means serious trouble.

Drug Possession vs. Drug Trafficking Charges Depend on Drug Amounts

Prosecutors decide what the charges will be based on the facts of the case. When small amounts of drugs are found, they often charge defendants with drug possession.

When large amounts of drugs are found, they often infer that the drugs were intended for sale. They then charge defendants with the far more serious crime of drug trafficking.

Bringing Legally-Purchased THC Products Into Texas Can Be a Felony

Because marijuana has been legal in places like Colorado for so long, many Texans forget that bringing THC products back to Texas can get them in serious trouble. In Texas, if you’re caught bringing THC concentrates such as oils, waxes, shatter or dabs into our state, you could face felony charges.

The charges and fines involved increase with the amount of THC a person is caught with. Possession of less than a gram is a state jail felony, punishable by 180 days to two years in jail. It’s also punishable by a fine of up to $10,000.

Larger amounts of THC are punishable with increasing amounts of prison time. If a person is caught with a large amount of THC (200 to 400 grams), they could face up to 99 years in prison in addition to the $10,000 fine.

Need Help? Call An Experienced Criminal Defense Lawyer.

People often find themselves in trouble for drug crimes in Texas without ever realizing the consequences were so serious. This is especially true when the crime involves taking marijuana or THC across state borders. If you’re in trouble, get legal help now.

Call 817-678-6771 or send us a message online to request a free consultation with the attorneys at the Fort Worth law office of Lee & Wood, LP.

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.