Category Archives: Criminal Attorney

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.

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.

When Do the Police Need a Warrant in Texas?

A warrant is a written order issued by a judge that gives the police the authority to arrest someone or to perform an act that upholds the law. Warrants are powerful documents that are often required, but there are some key exceptions when the police don’t need them.

Types of Warrants

To know when the police need a warrant, it’s important to understand that there is more than one kind of warrant. These different types of warrants allow the police to take different types of action. Here are some key types:

  • Arrest warrants: These warrants empower the police to arrest someone who is accused of a crime. An arrest warrant must identify the person to be arrested and name the crime that they allegedly committed.
  • Search warrants: These warrants empower the police to search a place for evidence of a crime. The place could be your home, the place where you work, your vehicle or your personal belongings. A search warrant must clearly state the place to be searched and the items to be seized.
  • Bench warrants: If you are found to be in contempt of court, a judge may order a bench warrant. There are many reasons a person could be found to be in contempt, but one of the most common is failure to appear at a hearing. If a judge orders a bench warrant, it gives the police the power to immediately arrest you and bring you before the judge to resolve the matter.
  • Blue warrants: In Texas, blue warrants are issued if a parolee has violated parole. There are many reasons that this could have happened, from failure to obtain employment to missing a meeting with your parole officer. 

Exceptions to the Warrant Requirement Under Texas Law

Warrants are not needed in all situations. A common exception is for “exigent circumstances.” This means that a reasonable person would look at the circumstances and believe that quick action was needed to stop physical harm to the police or someone else, to stop the destruction of evidence, or to prevent the suspect from escaping.

Another common exception is for a pat-down search when the police have probable cause to believe that a person is carrying a weapon. In that case, a warrant is not needed for the officer to do a limited search looking for the weapon.

Talk With a Criminal Defense Attorney to Protect Your Rights

If you think your rights were violated by illegal search and seizure, talk to a lawyer about your options. Your lawyer can examine the facts of your case and take action if your rights were violated. For a confidential consultation with the Fort Worth defense attorneys at Lee and Wood, LP, call 817-678-6771 or send us a message today.

What Happens if You Were Arrested, But Not Read Your Rights?

What happens if the police don’t read you your rights? Can charges against you be dropped? As experienced criminal defense attorneys, these are questions we hear from our clients fairly often. People hope they may be able to reduce the consequences they face because the police failed to follow procedure.

Know Your Miranda Rights

Before you understand what happens when your rights aren’t read, it’s important to know what your rights are. Commonly called your Miranda rights, these rights originate from a landmark 1966 Supreme Court case called Arizona v. Miranda. In the case, a suspect was held and questioned by the police for two hours before confessing to crimes he did not commit.

The case changed criminal procedure in the United States. The procedural changes were written down in the form of a Miranda Warning, which summarizes your Fifth and Sixth Amendment Constitutional rights. The warning has become familiar to almost everyone who has ever watched a detective show:

“You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you. Do you understand the rights I have just read to you? With these rights in mind, do you wish to speak to me?”

Miranda Rights Are Only Required for Custodial Interrogation

Miranda v. Arizona changed criminal procedure by requiring the police to inform suspects of their rights. However, there are limits to this requirement. The police are only required to inform you of your rights “prior to interrogation” if your statement is to be used against you in court.

If the police were not interrogating you in custody—for example, if it was clear to you that you were free to go—then there was no requirement for them to read you your rights.

But even if you were not read your rights, those rights still exist. Even if the police don’t tell you that you can remain silent, it’s generally a good idea to exercise your right to remain silent other than to request an attorney.

A 2022 Ruling That Limits Miranda Lawsuits

Until fairly recently, some people who had their un-Mirandized statements used against them in court were able to file lawsuits under 42 U. S. C. §1983 for violation of their Constitutional rights.

In June 2022, the Supreme Court held that a violation of Miranda rights does not provide the basis for this kind of lawsuit. Still, whether you were read your rights can be an important factor in the outcome of your criminal matter. The best way to protect yourself is to talk with an attorney.

Talk With a Criminal Defense Lawyer to Protect Your Rights

If you think your rights were violated, talk to an attorney about your options. Call 817-678-6771 or send a message for a confidential consultation with the Fort Worth defense attorneys at Lee and Wood, LP. 

Is it Legal to Hunt and Kill Nuisance Animals in Texas?

For hunting enthusiasts, Texas is a great place to be, with several “no closed season” options for hunters. But does it include hunting and killing nuisance animals?

When owning land in Texas, it’s natural that you’ll come across nuisance animals. These are pesky critters and creatures that can wreak havoc on your land or are simply an irritation. So what can you legally do about the problem? Is killing or removing a nuisance animal a wildlife crime? Let’s find out what Texas law says in this helpful guide.

What Are “Nuisance Animals”?

Simply put, nuisance animals depredate or pose a threat to human health or safety. They may create a hazard for motorists or put housepets at risk. They may also trespass on property, make messes by tipping over garbage cans or destroy a lawn or garden.

There are many types of nuisance animals, including:

  • Raccoons
  • Foxes
  • Coyotes
  • Bobcat
  • Otter
  • Skunks
  • Badgers
  • Beavers
  • Mink
  • Muskrat

Texas Law on Fur-Bearing Nuisance Animals

According to Texas Parks & Wildlife, landowners or their agents may take nuisance fur-bearing animals in any number by any means and at any time on that person’s land. There’s no need for a hunting or trapping license.

If you’d prefer to capture and relocate the animal instead of killing it, you can do so. To capture and relocate, you need to get authorization from the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department and the owner of the property where the release will occur. 

You’ll also need to submit a monthly report on the number and kind of nuisance animals that you captured. Include the number, the location of the release site, and your name and address.

It’s important to know that no one except licensed trappers can take these animals or their pelts during their lawful open season and possession periods. It’s a crime (a Class C misdemeanor) to transport or sell live foxes, coyotes, or raccoons in Texas. It’s also a crime to take fur-bearing animals on land owned by someone else without that person’s consent. 

Why Is Knowing Texas Wildlife Law Important?

As a landowner, getting rid of nuisance animals is important. It will help keep your land pristine and help you avoid certain risks that these animals present. Knowing Texas wildlife law will help you do it safely and in the best interest of everyone. It will also protect you from potential legal issues.

If you kill and hunt nuisance animals incorrectly, you could run afoul of Texas hunting, fishing or wildlife laws. The consequences of a violation can be costly, including fines, loss of hunting licenses and even jail time.

Get Legal Assistance for Wildlife Crimes

Texas has an abundance of nuisance animals, and it can be difficult to know all the intricacies of wildlife law. The Fort Worth lawyers at Lee and Wood, LP. have extensive experience defending people against wildlife crimes, including those involving nuisance animals. If you have been accused of a wildlife crime or want to learn more, call us today at 817-678-6771  or send us a message for a confidential consultation.

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.

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

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

Knowledge of Drug Sales Gets Nightclub Owner Convicted of Drug Premises Conspiracy

In November 2021, Dallas nightclub owner, Alfredo Hinojosa, and two of his nightclub managers were found guilty of allowing cocaine sales at his nightclubs in Fort Worth and Dallas.

An investigation that began in 2012, ended with 30 people convicted of a variety of drug crimes

Knowledge of a Crime is Enough For Charges

According to a Dallas Morning News article, the owner and managers were not themselves selling drugs or accepting money from drug sales. Their defense attorney said they did not know who was selling drugs; federal authorities said they did and allowed the drug sales to continue because it attracted customers. 

Wiretaps, Bugs and Cameras

In 2015, the FBI received court approval to install bugs and a camera in the office of the nightclub owner. They also conducted wiretaps. This FBI evidence was key in getting the conviction. The owner was recorded saying that he really couldn’t clean up the drug sales “because we lose business.” 

Because that demonstrated knowledge of drug activities on the property, they were found guilty of managing a drug premises, conspiracy to manage drug premises, and conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine.

Informants and Witnesses

Security guards testified against the owner and managers as well as drug traffickers themselves who sold out of the clubs. While it’s unknown what happened behind the scenes in this case, it’s not unusual for prosecutors to cut a plea deal with some parties in order to get evidence against other parties. The owner and the managers were the last people to go to trial. 

Two former Dallas police officers who worked at the clubs were also charged and convicted. One received three years’ probation; the other – the supervisor of nightclub security – faces a possible prison sentence. 

Indictment in 2017; Court Case in 2021

The nightclub owner was indicted by a federal grand jury in 2017. When he appeared before a judge, he initially pled guilty. He later changed his plea to not guilty. Hinajosa’s case was originally intended to go to trial in March of 2020 but was delayed until September 2021 due to COVID. COVID safety precautions have led to many long delays in the justice system.

He made statements to federal authorities after his arrest that were recorded and played to the jury at his trial. 

Talk to a Defense Lawyer If You Are Facing Drug Charges

Before you make any statement to law enforcement, talk to a lawyer. The drug crimes defense attorneys at Lee and Wood have extensive experience defending people against all types of drug crime charges.  Call our Fort Worth law office at 817-678-6771 or contact us online