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Have You Been Charged with a Crime in San Antonio? Criminal Attorney Charles Johnson Can Help You

San Antonio Criminal Lawyer Charles Johnson

The following are important answers to 50 questions that you may have at this moment. San Antonio Lawyer Charles Johnson WILL help you reach a resolution to the legal problem that has arisen in your life. At the Charles Johnson Law Firm, we want you to know what you are facing and that we can help you through this challenging time. Give us a call today. We are available 24/7, rain or shine.


How Are Criminal Charges Filed?

Criminal proceedings take place in a series of stages. Usually, the police are responding to a citizen’s complaint that a crime has been committed. Sometimes, the police observe suspicious activity. Once they are called, or see something suspicious, the police investigate, take statements from witnesses, and prepare a report on their findings. At times, they will arrest people during the course of their investigation. At other times, they will complete their report and submit it to the prosecutor’s office for evaluation, and a prosecutor will decide whether charges should be filed against any suspects named in the police report.The exact procedure for how charges are filed varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Some jurisdictions give the police greater discretion in charging defendants with specific crimes, while others place more power with the prosecutor’s office. After being stopped by the police, a person may be ticketed for a “civil infraction,” may be ticketed or arrested for a “misdemeanor,” or may be arrested for a “felony.”While it is common to speak in terms of being “charged by the police,” in many states this is not entirely accurate. The exact procedure for how charges are filed varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, and, although the police may arrest a person and may recommend a specific charge, in many jurisdictions criminal charges is chosen solely by the prosecutor’s office.

What happens if I am stopped by the Police?

Generally, the police may stop a person for committing a traffic violation, for suspicion of being engaged in criminal activity, or to arrest the person for a criminal act. After being stopped by the police, a person will typically be questioned.

Can The Police Stop And Question People Who Are Not Under Arrest?

Yes. The police can stop a person, and ask questions, without “arresting” the person. Upon seeing suspicious activity, the police may perform what is called a “Terry Stop,” and may temporarily detain people to request that they identify themselves and to question them about the suspicious activity. The scope of a “Terry Stop” is limited to investigation of the specific suspicious activity, and if the police detain people to question them about additional matters, the stop can turn into an “arrest.” For their own safety, the police can perform a “weapons frisk” on the outside of a person’s clothes (sometimes called “patting down the suspect”) during a “Terry Stop.” During this frisk, if they feel something that may be a weapon, they may remove it from the suspect for further examination. However, they are not entitled to remove items from person’s pockets that do not appear to be weapons, even if they believe that the items are contraband.

When Is A Person “Under Arrest”?

Many people think of an arrest as being a formal declaration by the police, “You are under arrest,” followed by the reading of the “Miranda rights”. (As seen on TV: “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 appointed to represent you.”)Reality is a bit more complicated. An arrest occurs when a person no longer reasonably expects that he is free to leave. A “Terry Stop” is not an arrest, even though the person can’t leave during the investigatory questioning, as the detention is of short duration and is limited in its scope. (A “Terry Stop” may involve little more than a short series of questions, such as, “What is your name? Where do you live? Why are you here?”) However, if a person is not allowed to leave the scene for an extended period of time, the person may be considered to be “under arrest,” even though those words are never used. If a person is handcuffed, is locked in the back of a police car, or is otherwise restrained from leaving, the person will ordinarily be considered to be “under arrest.”

If The Police Ask To Search Me, My House, Or My Car, Do I Have
To Say “Yes”?

No. You can refuse the police permission to conduct a search. Remember this – the only reason the police officer wants to perform a search is for evidence of criminal activity, and the fact that he is asking reflects an expectation that he will find some. You are entitled to say “No.” If the police officer has the legal authority to perform the search, he will do so whether or not you agree. However, if he does not have the legal authority to perform a search, your consent gives him that authority.During an investigative stop, or a traffic stop, a police officer may ask if he can search you or your car. However, if you give the police officer permission, he can perform the search even if he otherwise had no legal authority to do so. Some people don’t know, or forget, that they have an “open” bottle of liquor in the car – a bottle with the seal broken, whether or not the cap is off. Sometimes, people have knives or other weapons which can be classified as illegal “concealed weapons.” Sometimes, people forget that they have contraband in their cars, such as illegal drugs, or find to their chagrin that their teenaged child dropped a marijuana cigarette in the car. Unless you are the only person with access to the interior of your car, you may be in for a surprise if you grant permission for a search.

Do The Police Have To “Read Me My Rights” When I Am Arrested?

The police have no obligation to formally announce the arrest when it occurs, or to read a suspect his “Miranda Rights.” Typically, at some point the police will inform a suspect that he has been arrested. However, many defendants never receive their “Miranda Rights,” which relate to the validity of police questioning of suspects who are in custody, and not to the arrest itself.

What Is The Difference Between A “Terry Stop” And An “Arrest.”

While a “Terry Stop” can be made upon “reasonable suspicion” that a person may have been engaged in criminal activity, an arrest requires “probable cause” that a suspect committed a criminal offense.

Can the Police Arrest Me Without A Warrant?

For most misdemeanor offenses, a police officer can only make a warrantless arrest of a suspect if the offense was committed in the officer’s presence. Officers can arrest people for felonies based upon witness statements, or where a warrant for the person’s arrest has been issued.

What Happens If I am Arrested Without Legal Cause?

It is important to note that an “illegal arrest” does not mean that a person can’t be charged with a crime. If a person is arrested illegally, and is searched or questioned by the police, evidence gained through the search or questioning may be declared inadmissible. However, there are circumstances where that evidence will be admitted into court despite the illegality of the arrest. Further, if a person has outstanding warrants for other charges, he may be detained on those charges, even though his initial arrest was illegal.

If I Am Arrested, Can The Police Search Me?

The police have the authority to perform a search of a suspect and his immediate surroundings, “incident” to the arrest of the suspect. If the police arrest a person who was driving a car, they ordinarily get the authority to search the entire passenger compartment of the car – and will usually also be able to search passengers for weapons. If the car is impounded, the police may perform an “inventory search” of the entire car, including the contents of the trunk.

What Can The Police Charge Me With?

A person who has been stopped by the police may be ticketed for a “civil infraction,” may be ticketed or arrested for a “petty offense” or “misdemeanor,” or may be arrested for a “felony,” or may be released. It is possible for the person to later be charged, when the police complete their investigation.Sometimes, the person will be informed that charges have been filed, and will be asked to present himself at the police station by a particular date and time.At other times, a “warrant” for the person’s arrest may be entered into the state’s computer system, informing police officers to arrest the person if they find him. If the charges are serious, the police may go out to arrest the person.

Civil Infractions

A “civil infraction” is not a crime, although it is a charge filed by the state. The state has to prove that you committed a civil infraction by a “preponderance of the evidence,” which is to say; that it is more likely than not that you committed the violation. This is a much lower standard than the “proof beyond a reasonable doubt” standard that applies in civil cases. The typical civil infraction is decided by a judge or magistrate, without a jury, in what is typically a short proceeding.

Petty Offenses

Some states have a class of “petty offenses,” where the defendant may be tried without a jury before a judge or magistrate. Typically, the only punishment for a “petty offense” is a fine. However, these offenses may be of a criminal nature. If you are not sure whether you are charged with a criminal offense or a civil infraction, consult a lawyer.


A “misdemeanor” is a criminal offense, and conviction ordinarily results in a criminal record. Misdemeanors are technically less serious offenses, although the consequences of conviction can nonetheless be quite severe. Possible punishments for misdemeanors include imprisonment, probation, fines, and at times driver’s license sanctions. Some misdemeanors are classified as “sex crimes” and require that a convicted person be registered as a “sex offender”, and keep the police informed of his place of residence — a requirement that may continue for life.


Felonies are the most serious offenses that can be charged. Sometimes, the distinction between “felonies” and “misdemeanors” seems arbitrary. However, all of the most serious criminal offenses (such as murder, sexual assault, embezzlement, burglary, robbery, arson, and treason) are felonies.

How Do I Know If I Am Charged With A “Civil Infraction” Or A Crime?

Typical “civil infractions” include “moving violations”, such as “speeding” and “failure to yield.” Sometimes people get confused, when they are charged with a traffic misdemeanor, such as having invalid license plates or driving an uninsured automobile, and think that they are being charged with “civil infractions.” Traffic misdemeanors are criminal offenses, and will result in a criminal record. Many traffic misdemeanors also carry “points” which will be added to the defendant’s driving record, and some require the suspension or revocation of a driver’s license. If you are ticketed for a “misdemeanor,” the ticket will likely reflect the nature of the charge, and you will be required to appear in court. If the charge is a “civil infraction,” you typically will not have to go to court if you pay a fine by mail. Read the ticket carefully.

Do Defendants Have The Same Rights When Facing Misdemeanor
And Felony Charges?

A defendant charged with a misdemeanor has fewer legal rights than a defendant charged with a felony. If the defendant will not face imprisonment as a result of conviction, he has no right to an attorney. There is no right to indictment by grand jury, or to a “preliminary examination” to review the basis of the charges filed. In some states, misdemeanor charges are tried before six person juries, whereas felonies are ordinarily tried before twelve person juries. Most other rights are the same, for both felonies and misdemeanors.

If I Have Not Been Arrested, How Do I Find Out If I Am Charged
With A Crime?

If there is reason to believe that you have been charged with a crime, you may wish to have an attorney contact the police or prosecutor to find out if a warrant has been issued for your arrest. Many people who have been charged with criminal offenses do not find out about the charges until they are stopped for traffic violations. The police, while checking their identification, find “outstanding warrants” for the person. Sometimes, the warrants have a “limited pick-up radius,” or the police officer does not believe that an immediate arrest is necessary, and the officer will simply inform the driver that a warrant has been filed and that the driver should report to the police agency that requested the warrant. At other times, the officer will make an immediate arrest, and will take the person into custody.

What Happens After I Am Arrested?

After being arrested, a person is “booked” by the police. Ordinarily, the police obtain identifying information from the suspect, such as his name, address, telephone number and driver’s license number. The person is checked for outstanding warrants for other offenses. Usually, the police take the suspect’s photograph and fingerprints. They make a record of this information, along with the nature of the crime charged, and usually an assessment of the suspect’s physical condition. If a person is under arrest at the time he is booked, he will ordinarily be thoroughly searched. If the arrest was legal, any evidence found in this search can be used as evidence in court.

Should I Consult An Attorney Before I Am Charged?

Yes, if possible. Unless you were arrested on an outstanding warrant, the fact that you have been arrested does not necessarily mean that charges have been authorized. An attorney can advise you of your rights, and how to handle contacts with the police. It can be very helpful to have an attorney intercede on your behalf before a warrant has been issued, as he may be able to influence the prosecutor’s “charging decision.” Sometimes, an attorney will be able to convince a prosecutor to charge a less serious offense, to send the complaint back to the police for more investigation, or even to refuse to authorize a warrant. However, once a warrant is issued, it is very difficult to get a prosecutor’s office to change the charge.

Do I Need A Criminal Defense Lawyer?

Any person who is facing a criminal charge, no matter how minor, will benefit from consulting a competent criminal defense lawyer. Even if the lawyer is not retained to provide representation in court, a consultation will help a criminal defendant understand the nature of the charges filed, available defenses, what plea bargains are likely to be offered, and what is likely to happen in the event of conviction.For serious charges, it will be a rare defendant who does not benefit from having a competent criminal defense lawyer assist with the negotiation of a plea bargain, or to prepare a case for trial.A criminal defense lawyer should also be able to identify important pretrial issues, and to bring appropriate motions which might significantly improve a defendant’s situation, or even result in the dismissal of charges.

How Much Will My Defense Cost?

The cost of a criminal defense lawyer can vary significantly depending upon the jurisdiction, and the nature of the charges which have been filed (or which are expected to be filed) against the defendant. A lawyer will typically require a greater retainer for a complex case than for a simple case. The amount of a retainer will also typically increase with the severity of the charge filed against a defendant. Sometimes, though, a relatively minor charge can require a higher retainer, where the attorney expects to have to engage in extensive motion practice, or where it will be necessary to utilize expert witnesses.In a misdemeanor case, although as previously noted the typical fee will vary significantly between cities, counties, and states, it is not unusual for a lawyer to request a retainer of several thousand dollars. For felony cases, retainers often start at $5,000 – $10,000, and can be $25,000 or more for serious or life felonies, such as sexual assault cases or homicide. The anticipated cost of expert witnesses can also significantly increase a retainer.Be wary of entering into a retainer agreement which calls for additional payments if the case will go to trial. It is not unusual for appellate lawyers to hear clients recite that they entered into guilty pleas after they were unable to come up with the necessary funds to pay their lawyers to proceed with a trial. If you do decide to enter into an agreement whereby you will pay an additional retainer if your case goes to trial, make sure that it is an amount you can afford.

Finding a Criminal Defense Lawyer

It is unfortunately not always easy to find a good criminal defense lawyer. Here are some suggestions:Referrals– It may be possible to find a criminal defense lawyer from somebody who is familiar with the lawyer’s practice. For example, if you regularly work with a lawyer or law firm, that lawyer may be able to suggest a competent criminal defense lawyer in your area. If your county is served by a public defender’s office, sometimes a defender’s office will be willing to suggest a competent are defense lawyer. If you have a friend or family member who has been in trouble with the law, that person may be able to make some suggestions.

Courtroom Observation

– You may wish to sit through some public sessions of court while criminal cases are being argued. If you find a particular lawyer’s performance to be impressive, you may take note of the lawyer’s name and later contact the lawyer about the possibility of representing you.

State versus Federal Charges

– There are additional factors you may wish to consider when hiring a federal criminal defense attorney.

After you have located one or more attorneys whom you wish to consult about your case, call them to schedule appointments. (Find out at that time if they offer a free initial consultation, or if you will be charged for the meeting.) Try to speak with the criminal defense lawyer over the phone before scheduling the appointment. Ask about the lawyer’s general experience with criminal defense, and any specific experience with cases like yours.

Trust your instincts – if you aren’t comfortable with an attorney you consult, try a different office. You do not have any obligation to hire a lawyer merely because you consulted with that lawyer. If your lawyer is promising you that your case is easy, or makes promises that you won’t go to jail, speak to other lawyers before signing a retainer agreement – some lawyers misrepresent the gravity of a defendant’s situation or the complexity of a case in order to entice the defendant to pay a retainer, and then blame the judge or prosecutor when the rosy scenario they initially promised turns out to be a nightmare.

Read the entire fee agreement with the lawyer before you sign it, and make sure you get a copy for your own records.

Private Defense Counsel or Appointed Counsel?

People who are charged with felony offenses, and many individuals who are charged with misdemeanors, may be eligible for appointed counsel or for assistance through a public defender’s office. When a defendant petitions for a court-appointed lawyer, the trial judge will typically make an assessment of the defendant’s resources to determine if the defendant will qualify for an appointment of a criminal defense lawyer. When an appointment is made, although the defendant may be ordered to repay certain attorney fees following a guilty plea or conviction, there will not ordinarily be any fee in the event of acquittal or dismissal of the charges.Some people assume that a court appointed criminal defense lawyer will offer services which are inferior to a privately retained lawyer. While it is certainly true that some public defenders, some appointed lawyers and some private attorneys will prove to be insufficiently skilled or dedicated to their work to provide an effective defense, it is generally asserted that the average public defender will provide better representation than the average private criminal defense lawyer. The primary reasons for this include experience, as a professional public defender will typically have much more experience with criminal cases than a private lawyer, the ability to collaborate with other experienced lawyers within the office, and also due to the resources and systems available to a typical public defender’s office. Many private criminal defense lawyers take appointments – meaning that if you are charged in a jurisdiction that appoints private lawyers to represent criminal defendants, many of the lawyers you might otherwise retain will be among those to whom a court might assign your case. And even if you are ordered to repay legal fees, the cost of an appointed lawyer is almost always significantly lower than the cost of a retained lawyer.In short, if you can hire an effective criminal defense lawyer you should not hesitate to do so. But, if your means are limited, you should also not hesitate to request an appointed defense lawyer, and should not fear that you will receive inferior representation just because your lawyer was appointed.

Changing Lawyers

It is important to note that your constitutional right to effective assistance of counsel relates almost exclusively to the performance of appointed counsel. It is virtually impossible to convince an appellate court that the incompetence of counsel of your own choosing constitutes an error requiring reversal. If you are not comfortable with the competence of your lawyer, retained or appointed, consult with a second lawyer to have your situation reviewed. It may well turn out that your lawyer is competent – but it is you who could go to prison, not your lawyer, if the lawyer is inept.

What Happens When I Go To Court For The First Time?

Typically, a criminal defendant’s first court hearing is an “arraignment” before a judge or magistrate. An “arraignment” is an appearance in court where charges are formally read to a defendant. The judge or magistrate may also evaluate whether there was probable cause for an arrest, and may compel the prosecutor to allege additional facts to support the arrest. If probable cause is not established, the defendant must be released.If bail has not previously been set, it is often set at the same time as the arraignment. Bail (or “bond”) is often granted in a standard amount, depending upon the crime charged.In some jurisdictions, there is a subsequent “formal” arraignment, where the formal charges (“indictment” or “information”) are presented to the defendant. These charges are drafted by the prosecutor, and may vary from any original charges that were drafted by the police.

Do I Enter A Plea At The Arraignment?

At arraignment, the defendant is offered the opportunity to enter a formal plea. Sometimes, a defendant will plead “guilty” or “not guilty.” In some circumstances, the defendant may enter a “no contest” plea, which is treated by the court in the same manner as a guilty plea. Sometimes, the defendant will “stand mute,” and a “not guilty” plea will be entered by the court on his behalf. If a “not guilty” plea is entered, the court will ordinarily advise the suspect of his right to remain silent and his right to an attorney. If a defendant is indigent, he will usually be given the opportunity to petition the court for an appointed attorney.Usually, a defendant should speak to an attorney (even if only for a free consultation) before deciding whether or not to enter a plea of “guilty” or “no contest.” There is no need to rush into a plea to “get it over with” — particularly given that a bad decision can haunt you for the rest of your life.

Can I Get Released From Jail?

If bail is granted, and the defendant posts the required bail, he will be released. Sometimes, a defendant will be released on his own recognizance — his promise that he will appear for the next court hearing. Sometimes, bail is set in a very high amount. A defendant who is accused of very serious crimes may be denied bail, or have bail set in the millions of dollars. A defendant who is released on bail must attend all subsequent court hearings, or risk having his bail forfeited. (Keep this in mind — if you put your house or your car up as collateral for somebody else’s bail, you risk losing it if that person does not appear in court.)

What Happens After The Arraignment?

If you are charged with a misdemeanor, the next hearing is likely to be a “pretrial,” where the case is scheduled for trial. Sometimes, a defendant will enter a plea at the pretrial. At other times, the case will be scheduled for a “bench trial,” “jury trial,” or “plea hearing.”If a defendant is charged with a felony, but has not been “indicted” by a “grand jury,” the next step will likely be a “preliminary examination” where the prosecution must demonstrate to the satisfaction of a judge that there is reason to believe that a crime was committed, and that the defendant was the person who committed the crime. The defendant is allowed to question witnesses at this hearing. While the defendant ordinarily can present evidence, and may choose to testify, most defendants choose not to do so. If the Court is satisfied by the prosecutor’s evidence, the felony charges will be approved. Depending upon your state’s rules of criminal procedure, a defendant may be transferred to a different court for all further proceedings. He may be arraigned again, after the preliminary examination, and subsequently will have a pretrial.

What Do The Attorneys Do Between The Arraignment And The Trial?

During this time, the prosecutor and the defense attorney will likely demand “discovery” from each other. Often, this means nothing more than that the prosecutor gives the defense a copy of the police report, and perhaps some laboratory reports if the case involves drugs or drunk driving. While defense attorneys may differ, many prosecutors argue that this meager discovery fulfills their duties. The prosecution is obligated to provide the defense with the names and addresses of all relevant witnesses, and with copies of written or recorded statements made by the defendant or by co-defendants. The prosecution may be compelled by statute or court rule to provide additional information upon request, such as copies of witness statements, and reports from expert witnesses. The specific materials and information that must be exchanged will vary from state to state. Increasingly, the defense is required to provide certain information to the prosecutor, including witness lists, and may also be required to provide expert witness reports. In some states, the parties can conduct depositions of witnesses, where the witness testifies under oath before a court reporter, prior to trial. However, most states do not allow for depositions in criminal cases.Depending upon state law, a defendant will have to notify the prosecution if he plans to bring certain defenses to the criminal charges, such as an alibi defense, an insanity or diminished capacity defense. The purpose of the notice requirement is to allow the prosecutor to prepare for the defense, and to collect evidence and interview witnesses to challenge the defense. A defendant who is claiming insanity will ordinarily be examined by a state psychiatrist, and the refusal to submit to examination will usually prevent the defendant from raising that defense.

What If I Can’t Find A Witness?

The defendant generally has the right to request that the prosecutor’s office assist him in procuring witnesses for trial. Indigent defendants usually receive the greatest assistance, which may include issuance of subpoenas. However, due to the prosecutor’s access to information and police assistance that is not available to the defendant, the prosecutor is ordinarily obligated to help any defendant locate a missing witness.

What Is Involved In Pretrial “Motion Practice”?

Prior to the trial, either the defendant or the prosecutor may file motions with the trial court. Typical motions include motions to suppress evidence, motions in limine, and motions to dismiss. A motion to suppress evidence asks the trial court to exclude evidence from the trial, usually on the basis that it was collected in violation of the defendant’s constitutional rights. For example, if the defendant is arrested illegally, and is searched after his arrest, the evidence found during that search may be inadmissible. Similarly, a defendant may seek to exclude a statement or confession that he made to the police. A motion in limine asks the court to limit the issues or evidence at trial. For example, a defendant may wish to ask the court to exclude certain inflammatory allegations about him, which are not related to the charges against him, or portions of the defendant’s criminal record which are not properly admitted under the rules of evidence. The prosecutor may also wish to introduce evidence which cannot properly be linked to the defendant or the alleged crime, due to the circumstances or manner in which it was collected. A motion to dismiss asks the court to dismiss the charges against the defendant, usually on the basis of a procedural deficiency. A motion to dismiss may be filed following an illegal arrest, where all of the evidence presented by the prosecution was found as the result of that arrest.

What Is A “Diversion Program”?

At times, prior to trial, a defendant may be found eligible for a “diversion” program. These programs are not available in all communities. Typically, they are aimed at young offenders who have no significant criminal records. If a person successfully completes the conditions of a “diversion” program, which may include such requirements as counseling, attendance of “crime impact” classes, and regular attendance at school, either no charge is filed, or the charge is dismissed. If the defendant violates the terms of the diversion program, the charges are reinstated.

What Is The Significance Of My “Speedy Trial” Right?

A defendant has a constitutional right to a “speedy trial.” The meaning of “speedy,” and the benefits of demanding a “speedy trial,” varies from state to state. In some states, most defendants have to waive their right to a “speedy trial” in order to get sufficient time to prepare their defenses. If a defendant demands a “speedy trial,” he cannot later claim that he did not have time to prepare his defense. However, if a defendant demands a “speedy trial” and the prosecutor is not prepared to proceed to trial, the charges against the defendant may be dismissed.

What Is The Difference Between A “Bench Trial” And A “Jury Trial”?

A case that goes to trial will be heard by a judge in a “bench trial,” or by a judge and jury in a “jury trial.” In a jury trial, the judge decides the law, while the jury decides the facts. In a bench trial, the judge decides both the law and the facts. Both the prosecutor and the defendant have the right to demand a jury trial, although prosecutors are usually happy to consent to bench trials.

What Is “Jury Selection” And “Voir Dire”?

If a case is scheduled for jury trial, the parties engage in “jury selection.” During jury selection, a panel of jurors is questioned by the judge, by the attorneys, or both, in a process called “voir dire.” The purpose of this hearing is to determine if the jurors will be fair and impartial, and will decide the case based upon the evidence presented in court. Both the prosecution and defense can challenge jurors “for cause,” claiming that the jurors are prejudiced against their side. The judge determines if there is valid cause to exclude a particular juror from hearing a case. Both the prosecution and defense also receive a limited number of “peremptory challenges,” which allow them to remove jurors without any reason or explanation.

What Happens At Trial?

Typically, at the start of a trial the jury will be given preliminary instructions. The jury is instructed at this time that the defendant is presumed innocent, and that the presumption of innocence does not change until the jury begins deliberations. Jurors are not supposed to abandon the presumption of innocence before hearing all of the evidence in the case.Next, the attorneys will present opening statements. Witnesses are presented first by the prosecution, and next by the defense. At times, the defense will not present any witnesses, either because the prosecution called all of the relevant witnesses during its case, or because the defense wishes to argue that the prosecutor’s case is insufficient to justify conviction. The defendant cannot be compelled to testify against himself, but he has the right to testify in his own defense if he chooses to do so.At the conclusion of the defendant’s case, the prosecutor may present “rebuttal” witnesses to respond to arguments or evidence introduced by the defendant. Sometimes, the defendant will be allowed to present “rebuttal” to the prosecutor’s “rebuttal.”After all of the testimony has been taken, the attorneys will present their closing arguments. The jury is then given additional instructions, and commenced deliberations. Sometimes the defense attorney will request a “directed verdict” of not guilty, meaning that the judge will instruct the jury that the only verdict it can return is “not guilty.” These motions are commonly made, but are rarely granted. If the jury cannot reach a verdict, the judge will eventually discharge the jury. The prosecutor must then decide whether to dismiss the charges or to seek a new trial.

What Happens If The Jury Acquits The Defendant?

If the jury acquits the defendant, finding him not guilty, the case is usually over. (In the United States, the prosecutor cannot appeal an acquittal. However, in some other nations, the prosecutor has a limited right to appeal.)

What Happens If The Jury Convicts The Defendant?

A jury can also return a verdict of guilty. If a defendant is charged with more than one offense, the jury may convict the defendant of some charges while acquitting of others. At times, the jury will choose between related offenses. For some offenses charged, the jury may convict of a “lesser included” offense. For example, if a defendant is charged with “open murder,” the jury may convict him for first degree murder, second degree murder, voluntary manslaughter, involuntary manslaughter, or negligent homicide. (Please note that the names and elements of the various homicide offenses may vary from state to state.)After being convicted, a defendant may file post-trial motions, such as a motion for a new trial. These motions are rarely granted. The defendant may also file an appeal.

What Are The Possible Sentences For A Criminal Offense?

After sentencing, a defendant may simply be ordered to pay fines and costs, and be released. A defendant may also be ordered to participate in community service, or to spend time on a work crew. A defendant may be placed on probation, and may even be placed on “house arrest,” while wearing a “tether,” an electronic monitoring device. A defendant may also be sentenced to jail or prison. Courts can combine these various options, in fashioning a sentence for a defendant.

What Happens If I Am Placed On “Probation”?

A defendant may also be placed on probation. A defendant on probation will ordinarily meet with his probation officer monthly and at times more frequently. Sometimes, a defendant will be placed on “non-reporting” probation, where he does not meet with a probation officer.Typically, at the end of his probation, such a defendant will be asked to demonstrate that he complied with the terms of probation (such as by submitting attendance records from court-ordered Alcoholics Anonymous meetings), and his record will be checked for any further criminal activity. Sometimes, a defendant will be allowed to report by mail. This usually happens in cases where a defendant has been on probation without any problems for a long time, but his probation officer still wants periodic information on his activities.A defendant who has been convicted of a drug conviction may have to report to the probation office frequently for drug testing. A court may also order drug or alcohol counseling, or attendance of Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcaholics Anonymous meetings. During probation, a probationer must typically seek permission from his probation officer before moving or changing jobs. He may be restricted from leaving the state without his probation officer’s permission.

How Long Does Probation Last?

Probation usually lasts between one and three years, but can last longer depending upon the offense committed and state policies. Some states have “life probation” for certain drug offenses, where a person is placed on probation indefinitely. After a probationer has paid off his fines and other court assessments, and has completed other requirements of his probation (such as community service), a probation officer will sometimes consider an early discharge from probation. However, most probationers complete their entire terms of probation. Many, upon violating the terms of their probation, are in fact ordered to report to probation more frequently. If violations are of a serious or repeated nature, a probationer can be charged with violating his probation, and be ordered to appear before a judge for a hearing.

What Is A “Tether,” or “Electronic Monitoring”?

Tethers are increasingly sophisticated devices. A typical tether has a portable unit which is strapped to the probationer’s leg, and a “base unit” which is connected to the probationer’s telephone line. The portable unit sends a constant signal to the base unit. The base unit keeps a record of when that signal is interrupted, and transmits that information by telephone to the probation office. The probationer on “house arrest” is placed on a strict schedule, and must account for any absences from his home that are not pre-approved by his probation officer. If a probationer is not home at the times he is supposed to be, the probation officer may contact the probationer to inquire why he was not at home, or may contact the police and have the probationer arrested.

What Happens If I “Violate” My Probation?

A probation officer has the discretion to give a probationer a warning, or to make him appear before a court for a “probation violation” hearing. If you go to a hearing, the probation officer will typically ask that you face additional punishment, usually involving incarceration. There is no “hard and fast” rule for what type of probation violation will result in a probation violation hearing. One violation that is almost always considered serious is failing to appear for scheduled meetings with the probation officer. Being caught in possession of illegal drugs, or being arrested for another crime, will also typically result in a hearing before a judge. At times, the seriousness of the violation may depend upon the facts of the underlying offense — for example, if a person is convicted of being involved in a gang-related offense, the violation of probation through “association with known criminals” may be viewed more seriously than if the person is on probation for driving a car while his driver’s license was suspended.

What Are My Rights At A “Probation Violation” Hearing?

It is important to note that probation violations are typically tried under a “preponderance of the evidence” standard, where the prosecutor must show only that it is more likely than not that the probationer violated the terms of his probation. There have been many cases where a person’s probation was violated for engaging in new criminal activity, despite the fact that he was acquitted of the new charge, or was in fact never charged with a new offense.

What Happens If I Am Convicted Of A Probation Violation?

If a person is convicted of a probation violation, sometimes the court will extend his probation, or impose additional terms. Often, the court will sentence the probationer to a period of time in jail, followed by the continuation of his probation. Sometimes, the probationer will be resentenced to jail or prison, or will be ordered to complete a term that was previously “suspended.”

When Are Defendants Sentenced To Jail?

If the court feels that a more serious punishment is required than a term of probation, the offender may be sentenced to jail. “Jails” are typically run by County governments, and are used to house defendants prior to trial, and to punish people who have been convicted of less serious crimes. Although the exact terms vary from state to state, typically the maximum jail sentence is one year. At times, the offender will simply be sentenced to jail, while more typically the defendant will have to serve a term of probation after completing his jail sentence.

What If The Judge Thinks That Jail Is Not Enough?

If the defendant’s offenses are more serious, most states have a “boot camp” programs, which are intense, military-style facilities. Incarceration typically lasts about ninety days. Participants may be cautioned that if they drop out of the program, or are kicked out, they will be sent to prison. Some states reserve these programs for young offenders. As these programs can be physically strenuous, some people cannot participate in “boot camp” programs due to health conditions.If all else fails, the defendant will be sentenced to prison.

What Happens If I Go To Prison?

The most serious punishment for most crimes involves sentencing the defendant to prison, the “state penitentiary.” Following serving his “minimum term,” a portion of his sentence that varies from state to state, a defendant who is in prison will usually qualify for parole. Many defendants who are incarcerated can earn “good behavior” or “good time” credits, which allow them to qualify for an earlier release date by behaving. The idea is that model prisoners are less likely to re-offend, and that prisoners will behave better if they have an incentive not to cause trouble. Some prisoners will not be eligible for “good time,” due to the nature of their offenses. Often “habitual offenders” are not eligible for “good time” credits. Some jurisdictions have abolished “good time” for all prisoners.

Do All Prisoners Get Parole?

Parole is a privilege, not a right, and many prisoners are refused parole when they first apply. Parole boards expect to hear a prisoner admit responsibility for his crimes. They also expect that the prisoner will take advantage of the programs made available in prison, such as, if appropriate, GED programs, Alcoholics Anonymous, and vocational training. They will also look at the prisoner’s conduct during incarceration, and whether the prisoner has been cited for misconduct. (Typically, prisoners will be “ticketed” for their violations of prison rules, with offenses classified as “major” or “minor.” A prisoner who was involved in a fight would likely be ticketed for a “major” offense, while a prisoner who yelled at a guard might be ticketed for a “minor” offense, depending on the circumstances. These “tickets” can be challenged through administrative hearings, but are usually upheld as valid.) They may also look at the prisoner’s age, the amount of time he has served, the remaining time in his sentence, and his mental health. The exact criteria for parole vary from state to state.Perhaps the most important assessment that the parole board attempts to assess is the likelihood that the prisoner will re-offend. Parole boards have no interest in releasing people into society who will commit more crimes, particularly given that the media will sometimes hold the parole board as responsible as the criminal in such cases. Increasingly, potentially dangerous offenders, such as sex offenders, are finding that they are never granted parole, even in states where they are eligible.Some prisoners are not eligible for parole, either because of state policy, or because of the crime they committed. Some crimes carry a flat term of years, which must be completed without the possibility of parole. A defendant who is sentenced to “life” in prison will either be sentenced to “parolable life,” or to “non-parolable life.” If a person serving a “life” term is eligible for parole, he typically must serve fifteen or twenty years of his sentence before he can request parole. If a person is serving non-parolable life, he never becomes eligible for parole.

How Long Are People Kept On Parole?

The length of the parole will depend upon the nature of the crime committed, the length of the defendant’s sentence, and how well the defendant performs while on parole. A defendant who repeatedly gets into trouble or breaks the conditions of his parole may find that he is returned to prison. (Many states have jail-like facilities for “technical rule violators,” where they can send parolees who violate the terms of their paroles, but not to the level that the parole board wishes to return them to prison.) In most states, after a long enough period of good conduct, it is possible for a defendant to be discharged from parole.

Are Prisoners Simply “Released” From The Prison When They Receive Parole?

Release into the community may occur in stages. First, as the criminal nears his release date, he may be moved into less secure prison facilities. If he abuses the privileges at the less secure prison, he will be returned to a more secure facility. Prisoners in less secure facilities are sometimes allowed to work outside of the prison, either through a state program or sometimes through a private employer. If the prisoner continues to behave well, he may eventually qualify for placement in a half-way house, a residential facility where he can have a job, and may even qualify for day or weekend passes where he is free to do what he wants. If a prisoner successfully completes a term in a half-way house, he is usually paroled into the community.

What Happens After A Prisoner Is “Paroled Into The Community”?

A prisoner on parole is not without restriction. Sometimes, the prisoner will spend time on a “tether,” an electronic monitoring device that allows his parole officer to monitor his movements, and be restricted from doing much other than going to work. A parolee will typically not be allowed to move without permission from his parole officer. Sometimes, it will be a parole violation to get fired from a job. Parolees are typically restricted from associating with known criminals. If the parolee has drug or alcohol problems, he may be subjected to periodic testing for use. If the parolee has mental health problems, he may be ordered to participate in counseling or to obtain psychiatric treatment. (Increasingly, prisoners with mental health problems are refused parole, and simply serve out their time in prison.) Parolees may be surprised to learn how much control their parole officers exercise over their lives, and, depending upon the state, the extent of the parole officer’s powers to search the parolee or his residence upon suspicion that the parolee has engaged in illegal activities. Parolees often cannot move or change jobs without permission.

If I Am On Parole, Can I Leave The State?

Parolees are typically not permitted to leave the state without permission from their parole officers. Permission may be granted for short trips out of state, for example to attend funerals, or for longer trips, such as to assist a sick relative. However, some parolees are surprised to learn that, due to the nature of their offenses or a perceived risk of flight, their parole officers refuse to allow them to leave the state. If a parolee wishes to move to another state, and is granted permission to do so, his parole will typically continue, and will typically be transferred to the Department of Corrections in his new home state.

What Happens If A Person “Violates” His Parole?

If a parolee is accused of violating his parole, he is typically given the opportunity to challenge the accusation at an administrative hearing before the parole board. There will typically be two hearings, the first to determine if the parolee should be held in custody pending the full hearing, and the second to determine if the parolee violated the terms of his parole. Parolees who fail to report for meetings with their probation officer, who are caught with illegal drugs or concealed weapons, who associate with known criminals, or who are arrested on new criminal charges, are particularly likely to be returned to prison. It should be noted that being arrested can be enough to violate a person’s parole, even if no charges result from that arrest.
Contact San Antonio Criminal Lawyer Charles Johnson for experienced and dependable representation. He can be reached directly around the clock, 7 days/week at 210-431-3337.

Charged with Intoxication Manslaughter? Contact PROVEN Criminal Lawyer Charles Johnson for Expert Legal Counsel

Recommended Houston Criminal Lawyer: Intoxication Manslaughter
No one truly intends to commit intoxication manslaughter. They do not wake up and say “I’m going to get drunk tonight and drive and see who gets in my way.”

Accidents do happen and tragically, someone can die. Mitigating factors are thoroughly checked out such as whether the person broke any traffic laws, was driving with a suspended license, or if the person was negligent in some way. These are usually tried as misdemeanors. However, if a person is found to be intoxicated or under the influence of something, it is treated in Texas as a second degree felony and the prosecution goes after the person diligently. In intoxication manslaughter cases, the prosecution only has to prove that the driver was indeed, intoxicated. The term of incarceration could be anything from two years to twenty years.

If you have been charged with DWI after being in an accident that involved a death, you may be facing very serious charges of intoxication manslaughter. It is imperative that you speak with San Antonio Criminal Lawyer Charles Johnson as soon as possible after you have been charged, or think you may be charged. Attorney Johnson has the experience you can rely on for aggressive and effective defense strategies against the charges. The skilled attorneys at the Charles Johnson Law Firm do not believe there is any such thing as being slam-dunk guilty. No matter what the circumstances of the accident are, your personal story is behind the charges and will make a difference in the outcome of your case. We will make sure that the judge and jury know that this isn’t just about an intoxication manslaughter case. It is about you and your family.

Intoxication manslaughter is a Second Degree felony which holds people liable for any death which occurs because of criminal negligence, or a violation of traffic safety laws. A common use of the vehicular manslaughter laws involves prosecution for a death caused by driving under the influence (determined by excessive blood alcohol content levels set by individual U.S. states), although an independent infraction (such as driving with a suspended driver’s license), or negligence, is usually also required.

Intoxication manslaughter, vehicular manslaughter and other similar offences require a lesser mens rea (Latin for “guilty mind”. In criminal law, it is viewed as one of the necessary elements of a crime) than other manslaughter offenses. Furthermore, the fact that the defendant is entitled to use the alcohol, controlled substance, drug, dangerous drug, or other substance, is no defense. For example, in Texas, to prove intoxication manslaughter, it is not necessary to prove the person was negligent in causing the death of another, nor that they unlawfully used the substance that intoxicated them, but only that they were intoxicated, and operated a motor vehicle, and someone died as a result.

Types of Intoxication Manslaughter

In Texas, intoxication manslaughter does not only apply to automobile drivers. Individuals may be charged with this crime under any of the following circumstances:

If they are operating a car, truck, motorcycle, or any other type of motorized vehicle in a public place
If they are operating a boat, airplane, or amusement park ride
If they assemble an amusement park ride

If the alleged offender has done any of these things while intoxicated, and someone was killed by the vehicle they were operating or had assembled, they can be convicted of intoxication manslaughter. There is no requirement that the prosecutor prove negligence, that their intoxication was the direct cause of the crash, or that they were behaving unlawfully by using the substance that caused their intoxication.

Defenses For Intoxication Manslaughter

Intoxication manslaughter cases should be attacked on two fronts if the case is going to trial. Notwithstanding whether a person is or is not intoxicated, a good lawyer would examine the Texas Peace Officer collision report which was completed as part of the investigation. Just because a driver may be intoxicated does not mean that he should be held criminally liable for the death of another.

There have been cases where the deceased driver was as much at fault if not more at fault than the accused. Examples could include the deceased having run a red light, the deceased having operated his motor vehicle at night without lights, the deceased also being intoxicated, the deceased merging improperly into traffic, and the list goes on. A lawyer familiar with crash reconstruction and who has worked with reconstruction experts should be able to present this defense if it is available. The issue is one of causation and is set forth in Tex. Penal Code Section 6.04. In a nutshell, what 6.04 states is that if an accused’s conduct is insufficient in itself to cause the result, and the conduct of another contributed to the result and the contributing cause was sufficient to cause the result, the accused cannot be held liable.

A good accident reconstruction expert’s report may convince a prosecutor to agree to probation if causation is questionable. That in itself may be worth the investment in hiring both a reconstruction expert and a lawyer who knows how to present such findings.

The second line of defense is whether a person is intoxicated. Scientific evidence can be compelling for a jury. However, the State is allowed to rely upon opinion evidence based upon observations such as lack of coordination, blood shot eyes, smell of intoxicants on breath, slurred speech etc. Some of these symptom could be explained by lack of sleep, allergies, injury, but not all.

Most police departments have on board video cameras and video may very well have been used in this case. Video can be a two-edge sword. Many a video has convinced a defendant to make the best deal possible, while other videos have convinced an accused to take it to trial

In blood draws/test results, there are several considerations. A blood sample can be lost, yet there can be a medical record from a laboratory stating what the test result is. In fact, most hospitals don’t retain the blood samples, but for a very short period. If the blood draw was for medical treatment, sometimes there is a chain of custody problem that makes admission of the medical records unreliable. Most courts, when dealing with a chain of custody issue on medical records as the result of medical treatment rule that any problems goes to the weight of the evidence, not the admissibility, that is, the records gets admitted but the defense lawyer gets to argue that it is not reliable because of the poor chain of custody.

Mandatory blood draws can be attacked, however, you should hire a lawyer familiar with the statutory and administrative requirements for blood draws.

San Antonio Intoxication Manslaughter Defense Lawyer:  The Charles Johnson Law Firm

When you are charged with intoxication manslaughter or intoxication assault, you have more than just the prosecutor against you. You have the victim’s family and the public screaming for your head. You don’t have to go through this alone. The Charles Johnson Law Firm will fight aggressively to protect your rights and your future.

After a car accident in which there has been a fatality, it is an extremely upsetting situation for everyone involved. Law enforcement will collect evidence at the scene and this evidence is an important part of the documentation of the case. It is crucial that if you have been charged with intoxication manslaughter that you contact The Charles Johnson Law Firm quickly. The evidence in the case can be reviewed and an attorney can advise you what can be done in your case. San Antonio Criminal Lawyer Charles Johnson can offer a free evaluation of your case, and it is advised that you take advantage of this so it can be determined what can be done and what options may be possible in your case.

San Antonio Lawyer Charles Johnson can be reached 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Call us at 210-431-3337 or toll free at 877-308-0100.
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Defending Yourself from DWI Charges with the Right San Antonio Criminal Lawyer

Best Houston Criminal Defense Attorney

If you have been criminally charged for allegedly driving under the influence, DWI Attorney Charles Johnson represents clients throughout the state of Texas in state and federal courts from his convenient located office locations in Houston, Dallas, Austin and San Antonio.  The Charles Johnson Law Firm provides the highest level of representation in assisting our clients through the rigors of a DWI case. After you are charged with DWI in the San Antonio area, you are confronted with an unpleasant truth: anyone who drinks and drives is subject to arrest, whether or not they are actually affected by alcohol. However, being charged does not mean being convicted. Contact San Antonio DWI Lawyer Charles Johnson directly anytime day or night at 210-431-3337 to discuss your case.

Hire the Best San Antonio DWI Lawyer: The Charles Johnson Law Firm

When someone gets arrested for a DWI, they get a lot of advice from almost everyone around them; friends, family, co-workers, and sometimes even the arresting officer gives you advice about what to do. It probably seems like everyone has a different answer for what is “the best thing to do.” And then you may have received some annoying letters from attorneys who do not even know you, some of which can be very intimidating, frightening, or just plain obnoxious.

The fact is that no two DWI’s are alike, because penalties and options vary depending on the facts of what happened, your prior record, the county and city you were arrested in, and the status of your driver’s license.

To get superior DWI representation, you need the best of these three things:

The Best San Antonio DWI lawyer will be familiar with the city and county of your offense and should know how that jurisdiction treats DWI cases like yours. San Antonio Lawyer Charles Johnson is aware of the current DWI statutes and case law, which changes all the time. Finally, your DWI lawyer should take the time to know about your situation so the goals of your case suit your individual needs.

DWI cases are not easy to win, and the justice system is not about to do any favors for DWI offenders in today’s anti-DWI society. An effective strategy is one that preserves every possible opportunity to impact the various penalties you will be facing. That is the key to superior DWI Defense Strategy: preserving and taking advantage of opportunities. Whether it is for purposes of arguing the issues of your case, negotiating a settlement, or controlling the timing of the penalties you will be facing, a solid strategy will help you come out of this with as little damage as possible.

The Best San Antonio DWI Attorney will devote an adequate amount of time and resources to your defense. You do not want an attorney that does not take the time to explain the ins and outs of your case to you every step of the way. You DO want a DWI lawyer who is passionate about defending DWI cases. Our DWI clients have taken advantage of our Knowledge, Strategy, and Dedication for honest solutions to their DWI problems. Don’t let another day go by before you start working on your case. Contact the Best San Antonio DWI Lawyer Charles Johnson today at 210-431-3337 for a free case evaluation.

About DWI in Texas

In Texas, the legal limit for intoxication is .08 BAC. If an officer thinks your driving is impaired, you can still be stopped and arrested for DWI regardless of your BAC. Penalties get worse with every DWI offense.

Texas is a national leader in many areas?unfortunately, one of these is in the number of accidents and deaths related to driving while intoxicated (DWI). Each year, thousands of Texans are involved in this tragedy; about 2,000 of them die.

Texas is also a zero-tolerance state for underage drinking; any detectable amount of alcohol in drivers under 21 is a crime. Yet young drivers account for many alcohol-related traffic accidents, and the age group with the most violations and accidents are those between 21 and 34. Remember, teens and young people are actually more prone to reaching higher alcohol concentrations more quickly than older drinkers. Size and body weight also play a role. Big Uncle Fred may be able to toss back those shots of tequila and maintain an allegedly safe BAC but younger, smaller people may not be able to accomplish this feat.

While a DWI conviction requires a BAC of 0.08% or above, any driver can be cited for “driving while impaired” by drugs or lower concentrations of alcohol.

Texas DWI Penalties for Drunk Driving

Driving while intoxicated, first offense, is a Class B Misdemeanor that is defined at Texas Penal Code §49.04. That provision states that, “A person commits an offense if the person is intoxicated while operating a motor vehicle in a public place”.

This definition sets forth the elements that must be proven to sustain a conviction.  Those elements are:

  • The defendant, on or about a particular date
  • Was operating a motor vehicle
  • In a public place (street, highway, beach, parking lot, etc)
  • In a particular county
  • While intoxicated The Texas legislature has specifically defined the term “intoxication”, as that term is used for prosecution of DWI cases {Texas Penal Code §49.01(2)}

In addition, there are two definitions to encompass those who do or do not submit to chemical testing:

1) “not having the normal use of mental or physical faculties by reason of the introduction of alcohol, a controlled substance, a drug, a dangerous drug, a combination of two or more of those substances, or any other substance into the body; or

2) having an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more.”

It is important to note that the law provides for intoxication by the introduction of any intoxicating substance into the body. This is designed to make our roadways safe from dangerous drivers.

Typically, proof at trial is restricted to alcohol unless some statements or other indications suggest that the driver has become impaired by some other substance.  Equally as important, being on prescription drugs is not a defense to a DWI prosecution. If the label suggests that ingestion will impair one’s ability to operate a motor vehicle or machinery, taking such medicine and driving may subject you to DWI arrest and conviction.

At trial, the State therefore may prove intoxication in three (3) different ways:

  • not having the normal use of physical faculties OR
  • not having the normal use of mental faculties OR
  • having an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more

The jury does not have to be unanimous on the manner and means of intoxication, only that the person was intoxicated.

Plus, intoxication must occur and be proven to occur while driving. Many other States provide for prosecution of a “lesser included” offense other than DWI (i.e. reckless driving, impaired driving, driving under the influence, etc.). Texas however has no lesser included offense of DWI. Some counties offer plea bargain agreements to other charges than DWI, but they are the exception and not the rule.

Classifications and Range of Punishment for DWI Conviction

DWI, 1st Offense:  Class B Misdemeanor in Texas


A fine not to exceed $2,000.


Confinement in the County Jail for a term of not less the 72 hours nor more that six (6) months.

Open Container

If there was an open container of alcohol in your car when arrested, the minimum term of confinement is six (6) days in the county jail.

Community Service

Texas law mandates that a judge order not less than 24 hours nor more than 100 hours.

Absent unusual facts, most persons convicted of a first offense DWI are granted community supervision (“probation”) of any confinement ordered. The general length of DWI probation is from 1-2 years. There are also conditions of community supervision ordered that are fairly standard in most courts. Typical conditions imposed are: Drug/Alcohol Evaluation. A person convicted of DWI will be required to submit to evaluation for probability of committing DWI in the future and/or to disclose a potential problem with alcohol or drug abuse. If a problem is detected, additional terms and conditions of probation are ordered to be administered through the Community Supervision Department. Attend and complete an approved DWI Education class within 180 days from the date of conviction (Satisfying this requirement will avoid the one (1) year drivers license suspension, unless if you were a minor (under 21) at the time of the offense.) Attend and complete a Victim Impact Panel. This is a forum that presents victims of drunk drivers to address persons convicted of DWI and warn of the dangers and perils of driving while intoxicated. Work faithfully at suitable employment, commit no other crimes, remain at the same residence and employment unless notification is given to the community supervision officer, report monthly to the supervision office, pay all fines and costs in a timely manner. Pay a monthly supervisory fee. Perform a specified hours of community or volunteer service.  NOTE: If convicted, you will be given an Order Granting Probation. This Order will be specific and unique to your case and fully sets forth the terms and conditions of your probation which apply to you. It is the blueprint for your probation.

Additional Conditions of Probation that may be Ordered:

If your case presents unusual facts (accident, alcohol problem, prior alcohol contacts, bad driving record etc.), additional conditions may be ordered. Most conditions are designed to address a problem that appears from the facts or alcohol/drug evaluation that is performed on the subject after conviction. Again, a specific order is given after each conviction. The following list is only a general discussion of conditions that have been imposed in some DWI cases in my experience and may not apply to you.

Deep lung air device

This provision requires that you install and maintain a device on any car which you intend to drive during probation. The device requires a breath sample before it will allow your car to start. Some devices require periodic breaths while driving. This condition is sometimes recommended after an unfavorable drug/alcohol evaluation during a first-offense probation, and is almost always ordered as a condition of bond on a subsequent offense arrest.

Alcohol Treatment

Attendance at AA or other counseling programs offered through the probation department. In extreme cases outpatient programs may be ordered. This condition is recommended after an unfavorable drug/alcohol evaluation.

Consume no alcohol

Most courts require that a person not consume any alcohol during probation. This provision is monitored by periodic and random urinalysis at the probation office. Some courts will not even allow a probationer to enter a bar, tavern or lounge where alcohol is sold and consumed.


Again, in some extreme circumstances, the Court may order that a DWI offender serve confinement in the county jail as a condition of being granted probation.


If there was an accident followed by a DWI arrest, and if your insurance company has not paid damages to the other party, restitution of any unpaid amounts will be ordered by the Court as a condition of probation.

Enhanced Penalties (Prior alcohol or drug related criminal history)

Under Texas law, if it is shown that a person has been previously convicted of DWI, the punishment and penalties after conviction are increased or enhanced. The prior DWI conviction must have occurred within ten (10) years of the present arrest for DWI. Additionally, if a person has any prior DWI conviction within the previous ten year period (measured from dates of arrest), the State is then allowed to use any prior DWI conviction since obtaining a drivers license to enhance the accusation to a DWI, third offense. NOTE: Texas can use prior convictions that have occurred in other states for enhancement of punishment.

DWI, Second Offense: Class A Misdemeanor Special Condition for Jail Release on Bond:

It is important to note that if arrested and accused of a DWI Second or greater offense, Texas law now requires the Court to Order as a CONDITION OF RELEASE FROM JAIL ON BOND, that the person install and maintain a deep lung air device on the car that the person intends to drive and operate while charges are pending. The device requires a breath sample before it will allow you to start your car. They also require periodic breaths while driving to monitor and insure sobriety. New technology has made these devices “user sensitive” so that someone else cannot blow into the device for the driver.

Although this provision seems to run afoul of the presumption of innocence, Texas Courts have consistently held that such condition is necessary to protect a legitimate governmental interest in making public roadways safe for the motoring public.


A fine not to exceed $4,000.00.


Confinement in the County Jail for a term of not less than 72 hours nor more than one (1) year.

Community Service

Texas law mandates that a judge order not less than 80 hours nor more than 200 hours.

Deep lung air device

Typically deep lung devices are required for all DWI second offenders during probation.

Suspension of license

A person convicted of DWI, Second may have their driving privilege suspended for not less than 180 days or more than two (2) years.

DWI, Third Offense (or greater): Third degree FELONY


A fine not to exceed $10,000.00.


Confinement in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Institutional Division (Penitentiary) for a term of not less than 2 years nor more than ten (10) years.

Deep lung air device

Deep lung air devices are generally ordered on all persons convicted of three or more DWI’s both as conditions of bond and as conditions of any occupational or provisional licenses that may be awarded after conviction.

Community Service

Texas law mandates that a judge order not less than 160 hours nor more than 600 hours.

Suspension of license

A person convicted of DWI, Second may have their driving privilege suspended for not less than 180 days or more than two (2) years.


A third conviction for DWI indicates a significant problem with alcohol to the Court or jury assessing punishment. Some type of rehabilitative treatment is therefore mandated in punishment if confinement in the penitentiary is to be avoided. In some cases an in-patient, incarceration program (Substance Abuse Felony Probation SAFP) is ordered. This program requires confinement in a State Facility for alcohol rehabilitation. After successful completion of the SAFP program, the person is then released and placed on probation for a term not to exceed ten (10) years. Another popular condition for habitual DWI offenders is a prescription for a drug named “Antabuse”. This drug will make a person violently ill if any alcohol is consumed. The alcohol can be contained in mouthwash or marinated food and will still have the same effect on the user. If a person has any type of liver problems, this drug can cause liver failure and death.

Texas law does not provide for any increased punishment after DWI, third offense. If a person presents a DWI, fourth offense or beyond, the typical punishment is confinement in the penitentiary from two (2) to ten (10) years without probation being granted. In some cases SAFP may be granted upon proper request and showing that it is appropriate.

Intoxication Assault

Third degree Felony “A person commits an offense if the person, by accident or mistake, while operating a …. motor vehicle in a public place while intoxicated, by reason of that intoxication causes serious bodily injury to another” {Texas Penal Code §49.07}. ” ‘Serious Bodily Injury’ means injury that creates a substantial risk of death or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ”.


A fine not to exceed $10,000.00.


Confinement in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Institutional Division (Penitentiary) for a term of not less than 2 year nor more than ten (10) years.

Community Service

Texas law mandates that a judge order not less than 160 hours nor more than 600 hours.

Intoxication Manslaughter

Second Degree Felony “A person commits an offense if the person:

1) …operates a motor vehicle in a public place, and…

2) …is intoxicated and by reason of that intoxication causes the death of another by accident or mistake.”


A fine not to exceed $10,000.00.Jail: Confinement in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Institutional Division (Penitentiary) for a term of not less than 2 year nor more than twenty (20) years.

Community Service

Texas law mandates that a judge order not less than 240 hours nor more than 800 hours.


If a person is involved in an accident where there is risk of death or death, a mandatory blood sample will be taken for analysis and use in the prosecution of either Intoxication Assault or Intoxication Manslaughter.

Administrative License Revocation (ALR) Program

What is an ALR Hearing?
Many Texas drivers who are arrested for driving while intoxicated (DWI) do not realize that a DWI arrest creates two separate cases, one civil and one criminal.

Specifically, a DWI arrest results in both a criminal charge, and usually initiates a civil proceeding against the arrested driver’s driving privileges called an Administrative License Revocation, or ALR.

An ALR suspension is initiated against an arrested driver when he either refuses to submit to breath or blood testing, or alternatively, fails a breath or blood test. The legal authority to impose an ALR suspension against a driver lies in the Texas implied consent statute.

This law states that each person who operates a motor vehicle on Texas roadways has given his or her implied consent to provide a specimen of breath or blood if arrested for DWI and provided with the applicable consequences of refusing to submit to testing.

Notice of ALR Suspension
Many police officers, after arresting a citizen, will tell the arrested driver that if he does not agree to take a breath or blood test that his license will be automatically and immediately suspended.

This is incorrect. When making an arrest for DWI, peace officers are required to take possession of any Texas license issued by this state and held by the person arrested and issue the person a temporary driving permit that expires on the 41st day after the date of issuance. Further, a request for a hearing to challenge the proposed suspension will delay any ALR sanctions until a hearing takes place.

Hearing Request Provisions
ALR suspensions are automatic unless you request a hearing to challenge the suspension, in writing, WITHIN FIFTEEN (15) DAYS after receiving notice of suspension from the arresting agency on a Department of Public Safety approved form. This document is generally received on the day of arrest.

If a hearing is not requested in a timely manner, the suspension will automatically begin on the forty-first (41st) day after notice was received. If a hearing is requested, no action will be taken regarding suspension until after the hearing has taken place, even if the hearing takes place more than forty days after the arrest.

The ALR Hearing
The burden of proof at an ALR hearing is on the Department of Public Safety. Once a driver or his attorney has made a timely request for an ALR hearing, no suspension may be imposed against the driver until the Department of Public Safety proves the following elements by a preponderance of the evidence at the hearing:

  1. That there was reasonable suspicion to stop or probable cause to arrest the driver;
  2. That probable cause existed that the driver was driving or in actual physical control of a motor vehicle in a public place while intoxicated;
  3.  That the driver was placed under arrest and was offered an opportunity to give a specimen of breath or blood after being notified both orally and in writing of the consequences of either refusing or failing a breath or blood test; and
  4. That the driver refused to give a specimen on request of the officer, or, that the driver failed a breath or blood test by registering an alcohol concentration of .08 or greater.

Suspension Provisions for Adult Drivers
Without any prior alcohol or drug related contacts against the accused driver during the previous 10-year period, your license will be suspended for 90 days if your chemical test result is over a 0.08% or 180 days if you refuse a chemical test. If you have a prior alcohol or drug contact within ten years, your license will be suspended for one year if your chemical test is over 0.08% or 2 years if you refuse a chemical test. In certain circumstances you may be eligible for an Occupational License.

Possible Defenses for DWI Charges

In deciding which defenses could apply in your driving while intoxicated (DWI) case, San Antonio Drunk Driving Lawyer Charles Johnson will look at all the evidence produced by the police and interview witnesses. Some common defenses seen in DWI cases include:

Driving Observation Defenses
The prosecutor always relies (sometimes exclusively) on the arresting police officer’s testimony about how a DWI suspect was driving, including:

  • Very slow speeds
  • Uneven speeds (very fast, then very slow, for example)
  • Weaving from one side of a lane to the other
  • Crossing the center line of the highway
  • Running a red light
  • Hesitation in going through a green light

A good defense attorney will argue that there are many different explanations for these driving behaviors that don’t have anything to do with being alcohol-impaired.

Behavior Observation Defenses
An officer may also testify as to a DWI suspect’s appearance and behavior when questioned, including:

  • Slurred speech
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Inappropriate joking or incoherent speech
  • Stumbling or not being able to walk very far
  • Pupil enlargement

Defenses to these observations that don’t have anything to do with being intoxicated may include:

  • Lack of sleep
  • Allergies
  • Contact lenses
  • Stress due to personal circumstances
  • Medications
  • Foods recently ingested
  • Nervousness over being stopped by police
  • Physical impairments
  • Field Sobriety Test Defenses

When an officer suspects you may be too intoxicated to drive, he or she will likely ask you to perform what are called “field sobriety tests.” These tests are designed to assess your physical and mental alertness, and can include:

  • Walking a straight line
  • Walking backwards
  • Reciting the alphabet, frontwards or backwards
  • Standing on one leg
  • Officers also sometimes rely on what’s called a “nystagmus” test, in which the suspect is asked to shift eye gaze from one side to the other while the officer shines a light in his or her eyes. The theory is that the gaze of someone who is impaired by alcohol or drugs will be jerky rather than smooth.

The defenses to field sobriety tests are often the same as with officer observations. Medications and lack of sleep can make it considerably more difficult to perform these tests. Many people also have physical impairments caused by injuries – or simply aging -that make it impossible to perform these tasks under ideal conditions.

The Best San Antonio Lawyer will cross-examine the arresting officer in detail as to whether the officer asked you if you had physical impairments or there were particular circumstances that would make it difficult to perform the tests. He may also point out to the jury that many jury members may have similar difficulties performing the tests, such as by asking the jury if they could recite the alphabet backwards under the best of circumstances.

Blood Alcohol Content Defenses
When you consume alcoholic drinks, the alcohol is absorbed into your blood stream. The level of alcohol in your blood, called the Blood Alcohol Content (“BAC”) can be measured by different tests. In all states, you’re presumed to be drunk and unable to safely operate a vehicle if your BAC is .08 or greater. This measurement means that your blood contains eight/ one-hundredths percent of alcohol.

All states have lowered the BAC level defining intoxication to .08, and have “zero tolerance” laws that make it illegal for people under 21 to operate a vehicle with little or no amount of alcohol in their blood.

Many states also have more severe DWI or DUI penalties for driving with a high BAC, which is often defined as a level measuring more than .15 to .20.

Your BAC can be determined from a blood draw, which is often automatically taken if you are involved in an accident and there is a suspicion that you may have been drinking. Your blood will also be drawn if you are taken to the hospital because the police are concerned that you may have had so much to drink that you are in danger of alcohol poisoning and should be hospitalized for observation and/or treatment.

Most DWI suspects have their blood tested by blowing into a breath testing device. These devices can be faulty and not well-maintained or properly calibrated. They can register false results based on your consumption of food and other non-harmful substances other than alcohol or drugs.

The Best San Antonio DWI Lawyer will likely subpoena police records on how the breath testing machine operates and was maintained and calibrated. He may also want to bring in expert testimony that the particular breath testing machine the officer used is notorious for malfunctioning.

Depending on the jurisdiction, another defense to breath testing machines arises when the physical breath tests aren’t preserved as evidence, allowing for independent testing later. Your attorney can argue that there’s no way to know if the machine that was used was accurate, if your breath samples can’t be independently tested.

Many of the defenses against DWI charges require a lawyer’s expertise and experience. If you have been arrested for a DWI offense in Texas, do not try to handle the legal situation yourself. Contact the experienced and respected Texas DWI defense attorneys at the Charles Johnson Law Firm right away to make sure that your rights are protected.

We can be reached 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Call us at 210-431-3337 or toll free at 877-308-0100.
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Arrested for DWI in Harris County? Representation By The Best San Antonio Criminal Lawyer Is Crucial
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Facing an Illegal Search and Seizure? You Need an Experienced Criminal Lawyer in San Antonio

Charles Johnson Law Firm: The Best Houston Search and Seizure AttorneysAt the Charles Johnson Law Firm, we have extensive experience in the investigation of cases involving illegal search and seizure of property. Search and seizures can involve cases involving Drug Crimes, Federal White Collar Crimes or Child Pornography cases, as examples. Anytime local officials search your person, car, home, office or property, they must follow strict protocol to ensure compliance with your Fourth Amendment Constitutional Rights.

Has an illegal search of your home, vehicle, or other property resulted in drug charges involving possession, distribution or some other drug crime? Although the Constitution grants you the right against illegal search and seizure, it is often necessary to have a skilled lawyer on your side to advocate for and enforce your rights. Contact San Antonio Lawyer Charles Johnson for aggressive criminal defense representation anywhere in Texas. Attorney Johnson is available to discuss your case anytime night or day. You can reach him directly at 210-431-3337.

Search and seizure law today is built around three key questions. First, did the police “search” or “seize” anyone or anything? If not, the law leaves police action basically unregulated. If so, what justification must the police have — probable cause, reasonable suspicion, or (in rare cases) something else? Finally, what process must the police follow — must they seek permission in advance from a magistrate, or can they search first and defend themselves in a suppression hearing later?

Search and Seizure: Understanding The Laws

One of the hallmarks of the US criminal justice system is our search and seizure law. The Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution guarantees the right to be free from unlawful or “unreasonable” searches and seizures by the police and other law enforcement personnel. Generally, this means that the police have to have a good reason before they may search you or your property, seize your belongings or even seize or arrest you.

The key term here is “unreasonable.” Of course, not all searches and seizures are illegal. The lynchpins to the search and seizure law are probable cause and the expectation of privacy.

Probable Cause

In simple terms, probable cause means that there are facts or circumstances to justify a search or seizure of a place, things or a person. Generally, this means that there’s a good reason to believe that a person is or has committed crime or that evidence of a crime can be found in a particular place. Probable cause is the driving factor for any search or arrest.

With probable cause, a police officer may:

  • Convince a judge or magistrate to issue a warrant that authorizes him to search a certain and particular place for certain and particular things and seize them, or to arrest a particular person, or
  • Conduct a search and seize evidence of a crime, or make an arrest, without a warrant, if there are “exigent” or emergency circumstances that make getting a warrant impractical

For example, during an investigation, police officers gather evidence that a suspect is selling illegal drugs from his home. The officers may ask a judge or magistrate for a search warrant for the home (and an arrest warrant for the suspect), and if the magistrate thinks there’s enough evidence, they willl issue the warrant(s). However, if during a stakeout the officers learn that the suspect is about to destroy the drugs in his home, the officers may be justified to enter the home, search it, and seize any drugs and arrest the suspect, all without a warrant.

As a general rule, the police need to get a warrant. It’s the mechanism that makes the Fourth Amendment work, that is, it makes sure that a search and seizure is reasonable. If warrantless search and seizure is conducted, the police have to prove that a warrant was needed or that there was no time to get one.

Expectation of Privacy

Generally, unless you have a “reasonable expectation of privacy” in a certain place or thing, it may be searched and/or seized by the police without a search warrant. In other words, the Fourth Amendment doesn’t apply to any place or thing in which you don’t have a reasonable expectation of privacy. You have a reasonable expectation of privacy if:

  • You actually expect privacy in the place or thing. This is called the “subjective” expectation of privacy, and
  • Your expectation of privacy is one that that society as a whole would think is legitimate and reasonable. This is called the “objective” expectation of privacy

Some examples of places or things where you may have a reasonable expectation of privacy include:

  • Your home, or anywhere you actually live, including a rented apartment or a hotel room
  • The trunk of your car
  • Luggage or other containers that aren’t transparent or see-through, even if you’re carrying it in a public place, like an airport or bus station
  • Your business office
  • A public telephone booth, once you’ve shut the door

On the other hand, there are many places and things in which there is no reasonable expectation of privacy, such as

  • Things that are in “plain view,” that is, exposed or out in the open that anyone can see. Illegal drugs or weapons on the front seat of your car are good examples
  • Portions of your business office or building that’s open to the public, such as a reception area
  • Public places, likes restaurants and parks
  • Your trash or garbage, once you placed it at the curb for pick-up or collection

Protect Yourself

The laws on search and seizure can be complicated, and the facts and circumstances of each particular case are very important to determining if an unlawful search and seizure has taken place. If you or your property has been searched already, you should contact San Antonio Criminal Lawyer Charles Johnson immediately to make sure that your rights are protected. He can be reached anytime at 210-431-3337 to discuss your case.

Hire the Best San Antonio Search & Seizure Lawyer: San Antonio Criminal Lawyer Charles Johnson

Search and seizure law is complex and ever changing and the police always know it better than you. Don’t give them an even bigger advantage by agreeing to a search of your home, your car, or your person. The 4th Amendment to the Constitution says that you are supposed to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures unless the police have a warrant. In other words, the law specifically sets forth when an officer can look through your possessions and what he can take if he finds it during the search.
If I let the police search my car, new case law suggests that unless my consent is limited, they can search anywhere in the passenger compartment, including hidden places and containers. That means behind the door panels, speakers, or dash area.

Searches have been expanded to places the framers of the constitution could never have imagined, like inside your body. If the police stop your car and think you are intoxicated, they can ask a judge to give them a warrant to “search” inside your body for evidence of intoxication contained within your blood.

We have a huge body of case law that prevents the State from infringing on your right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures and ensures the police must follow all the applicable rules when searching your car or person, and all of it is thrown right out the window when you tell the police it is okay to go ahead and look through your car, house, pockets, or body.

Say NO. It really is that easy. Just like you should say “no” to drugs, you should also say “no” to searches. If you are carrying something you don’t want the police to find, do not let them search for it.

The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects personal privacy, and every citizen’s right to be free from unreasonable government intrusion into their persons, homes, businesses, and property — whether through police stops of citizens on the street, arrests, or searches of homes and businesses.

Lawmakers and the courts have put in place legal safeguards to ensure that law enforcement officers interfere with individuals’ Fourth Amendment rights only under limited circumstances, and through specific methods.

What Does the Fourth Amendment Protect?

In the criminal law realm, Fourth Amendment “search and seizure” protections extend to:

  • A law enforcement officer’s physical apprehension or “seizure” of a person, by way of a stop or arrest; and
  • Police searches of places and items in which an individual has a legitimate expectation of privacy — his or her person, clothing, purse, luggage, vehicle, house, apartment, hotel room, and place of business, to name a few examples.

The Fourth Amendment provides safeguards to individuals during searches and detentions, and prevents unlawfully seized items from being used as evidence in criminal cases. The degree of protection available in a particular case depends on the nature of the detention or arrest, the characteristics of the place searched, and the circumstances under which the search takes place.

When Does the Fourth Amendment Apply?

The legal standards derived from the Fourth Amendment provide constitutional protection to individuals in the following situations, among others:

  • An individual is stopped for police questioning while walking down the street.
  • An individual is pulled over for a minor traffic infraction, and the police officer searches the vehicle’s trunk.
  • An individual is arrested.
  • Police officers enter an individual’s house to place him or her under arrest.
  • Police officers enter an individual’s apartment to search for evidence of crime.
  • Police officers enter a corporation’s place of business to search for evidence of crime.
  • Police officers confiscate an individual’s vehicle or personal property and place it under police control.

Potential scenarios implicating the Fourth Amendment, and law enforcement’s legal obligation to protect Fourth Amendment rights in those scenarios, are too numerous to cover here. However, in most instances a police officer may not search or seize an individual or his or her property unless the officer has:

  • A valid search warrant;
  • A valid arrest warrant; or
  • A belief rising to the level of “probable cause” that an individual has committed a crime.

What if My Fourth Amendment Rights Are Violated?

When law enforcement officers violate an individual’s constitutional rights under the Fourth Amendment, and a search or seizure is deemed unlawful, any evidence derived from that search or seizure will almost certainly be kept out of any criminal case against the person whose rights were violated. For example:

  • An arrest is found to violate the Fourth Amendment because it was not supported by probable cause or a valid warrant. Any evidence obtained through that unlawful arrest, such as a confession, will be kept out of the case.
  • A police search of a home is conducted in violation of the homeowner’s Fourth Amendment rights, because no search warrant was issued and no special circumstances justified the search. Any evidence obtained as a result of that search cannot be used against the homeowner in a criminal case.

Search Warrant Requirements

Anyone who watches crime dramas on television is familiar with the scene where police officers enter a home or business brandishing a search warrant. The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees the people’s right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures, which often — but not always — means that government agents must have a warrant to search and seize your person and property.

Here is the full text of the Fourth Amendment:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

The Fourth Amendment protects the people from unreasonable searches and seizures, which means that many searches are fine as long as they meet certain requirements. Searches are generally considered reasonable when: 1) a judge issues a search warrant based on probable cause; or 2) certain situations occur that justify a search without a warrant (a search for weapons after an arrest, for example).

The Fourth Amendment’s requirements don’t apply when a person doesn’t have a “legitimate expectation of privacy” in the place or thing searched. If there isn’t an expectation of privacy, then the Fourth Amendment doesn’t come into play, and officers conducting a search don’t have to meet its requirements.

The United States Supreme Court has created a test for determining when a legitimate expectation of privacy exists. The test has two parts:

  • Did the person subjectively expect the place or thing to be private? I.e., did they actually feel that the place or thing would remain private?
  • Was that expectation objectively reasonable? I.e., would society as a whole agree that the place or thing should remain private?

An example might help clarify the point: most people feel that their homes are private, so there is a subjective expectation of privacy in one’s home. Most people in society would find this expectation reasonable, so a police search of one’s home must satisfy the Fourth Amendment’s reasonableness requirement.

If someone leaves evidence of a crime on their front lawn, however, it’s likely that a police seizure of that evidence would not constitute an unreasonable search since most people in a society would not expect that an object that was clearly visible to anyone passing by would remain private. Even if the owner of the home or the evidence genuinely expected that the area would remain private, that expectation would not be reasonable, and so the seizure would not have to meet the requirements of the Fourth Amendment.

Also keep in mind that the Fourth Amendment’s requirements only apply to government actors. Private individuals, including security guards, don’t fall under the Fourth Amendment’s restrictions. While a private individual may break other laws if they conduct a search of a person or their belongings, any evidence they discover in the process would still be admissible in court.

If a government actor conducts an illegal search (one that violates the Fourth Amendment), the government cannot present any evidence discovered during that search at trial. Known as the “exclusionary rule“, this rule aims to deter police officers from conducting unreasonable searches. Opponents of the exclusionary rule, however, argue that it lets guilty criminals go free on technicalities.

In addition, evidence obtained through illegal searches cannot lead police to the discovery of other evidence. This legal rule, known as the “fruit of the poisonous tree”, is also designed to prevent government actors from invading people’s privacy by conducting unreasonable searches. If police know, so the theory goes, that any evidence they obtain based on what they discover in an illegal search will be thrown out, they won’t conduct illegal searches in the first place.

Here are a few examples to illustrate the exclusionary rule and the fruit of the poisonous tree doctrine:

Officer Joe suspects that Chris is selling drugs. Without a warrant, Officer Joe walks into Chris’ house and finds drugs and a scale on the kitchen table. Officer Joe arrests Chris, but the judge throws out the evidence of the drugs and scale on the basis of the exclusionary rule.

In the example above, instead of finding drugs and a scale, Office Joe finds a map to locations throughout the city where Chris is storing his drugs for sale. Officer Joe collects the drugs and enters both them and the map as evidence. The map is thrown out because of the exclusionary rule, and, because Officer Joe would not have discovered the drugs without the map, the fruit of the poisonous tree doctrine prevents the use of the drugs as evidence.

It is important to note, however, that just because the prosecution can’t use certain evidence at trial, it doesn’t mean that a judge will dismiss a case or that a jury will acquit the defendant. Prosecutors may have enough other evidence to convict the defendant even without the results of the illegal search.

Plus, while prosecutors can’t use improperly obtained evidence to secure a conviction, that evidence may enter into other areas of the trial. For instance:

  • The evidence may become a factor in civil and immigration cases
  • Prosecutors can use the evidence to attack the credibility of a witness under certain circumstances
  • Judges may consider the evidence when determining a sentence after a conviction

Understanding the Difference between “Search” and “Seizure”

Searches,” in Fourth Amendment law, are police tactics that infringe a “reasonable expectation of privacy.” A reasonable expectation of privacy is the kind of expectation any citizen might have with respect to any other citizen. A fair translation of this standard might go as follows: Police can see and hear the things that any member of the public might see and hear, without fear of Fourth Amendment regulation. Only when police cross that line, only when they see and hear things that members of the public would not be allowed to see and hear, has a “search” taken place.

A few examples might clarify the standard. Eavesdropping on telephone conversations is a “search.” Overhearing a conversation on the street is not. Climbing over a backyard fence is a “search.” Observing the same backyard from the window of an airplane is not. Hiding in the bushes outside a house and looking inside is a “search.” Standing on a public street and looking through open curtains into a living room is not. Opening a briefcase to inspect its contents is a “search.” Observing someone carrying a briefcase on the street is not.

When applying the “reasonable expectation of privacy” standard, courts ask whether, at the moment the police officer observed the illegal behavior, he was in a position any member of the public might have been in. The duration and intensity of police observation does not matter. Thus, police officers can stake out a private home, taking up residence across the street and watching all comings and goings for a period of days or even weeks, and that behavior does not constitute a “search,” because at any given moment, any member of the public might have been looking. And police can follow a suspect’s movements along public streets, in shops or restaurants, and so forth; once again, such behavior is not a “search” (even though it amounts to something like stalking), because any member of the public might have seen any given transaction in public.

One other feature of the definition of “search” bears mention. Consensual transactions are not “searches,” even if consent was given under false pretenses. So if a police officer poses as a drug buyer, and a suspect lets him into the suspect’s house in order to sell him drugs, anything the officer sees and hears in the house is fair game—no Fourth Amendment “search” has taken place. The use of undercover agents is thus routinely permitted by search and seizure law, whether or not the police have good reason to suspect the person with whom the undercover agent is dealing of any crime. Also, if a police officer asks permission to look in a suspect’s car or briefcase, and the suspect says yes, once again no “search” has taken place. This last point is particularly important. Police officers exert a certain amount of force just by virtue of their status. For many, perhaps most, a request from a police officer will sound like a command; the tendency will be to say yes whether one wants to or not. Nevertheless, if the police officer asks, and the suspect says yes, that almost always amounts to consent. Only if the officer behaves unusually coercively—if he pulls his weapon, or grabs hold of the suspect, or the like—will a court find that the consent was involuntary.

All these rules sound complicated; in practice, they are relatively simple. In general, the police are “searching” when they are either committing some kind of trespass—grabbing a suspect’s briefcase and looking inside, breaking into a house or apartment, climbing over a backyard fence—or are engaged in some kind of electronic eavesdropping—for example, wiretapping a phone. Most of the rest of what police do to gather information falls outside the Fourth Amendment.

Seizures” are harder to define. The Supreme Court says that a suspect has been “seized” if a reasonable person in the suspect’s shoes would not feel free to leave. If the Court took its own language seriously, every conversation between a police officer and a citizen would be a “seizure.” After all, few people, when approached on the street by an officer, feel free to turn on their heels and walk away. The consequences of that position would be huge; the police would need some adequate justification for every interaction.

Not surprisingly, the law does not operate that way in practice. The working standard seems to be roughly the same as the standard for consent. The dispositive question is this: Did the police officer behave coercively (not counting the coercion that is inherent in a police officer questioning a suspect)? If so, the encounter is a “seizure.” If not, it is not. Compared to the definition of “search,” which has acquired a good deal of definition over the years, the definition of “seizure” remains remarkably vague and open-ended. Conversations on the street between police officers and citizens often begin as consensual conversations; at some point the encounter often becomes a “seizure.” Neither the officer nor the suspect—nor, for that matter, courts—know precisely when that point is.

The Penalties for Illegal Searches and Seizures

To ensure that police officers respect individuals’ constitutional rights, the U.S. Supreme Court provides strict penalties. If the police perform an illegal search, the evidence they obtain as a result of this search will not be allowed in a courtroom.

This means that if police search you without probable cause, even if they find drugs, they will not be allowed to present this evidence to a jury. Illegal search and seizure is one of the strongest defenses available for any criminal matter.

If you have been accused of any crime, contact the firm to discuss your concerns with an experienced criminal defense attorney. San Antonio Attorney Charles Johnson can help you understand your rights and remedies following an illegal search or seizure.
Charles Johnson Law Firm: The Best Houston Search and Seizure Attorneys

Police Misconduct

San Antonio Search and Seizure Lawyer Charles Johnson will fight aggressively on your behalf to get the charges against you dismissed in cases of police misconduct, police brutality or violations of your civil rights. Those actions include:

  • Illegal search and seizure
  • Failure to read Miranda rights
  • Arresting you without a valid search warrant
  • Refusing you access to an attorney
  • Racial profiling
  • Making false statements to obtain a warrant
  • Making false statements in court

There are many other examples of police misconduct that could invalidate the charges against you. If you have been subjected to a search or seizure action, contact Attorney Johnson immediately to inquire about possible violations of your legal rights. San Antonio Lawyer Johnson has extensive experience challenging evidence that was gathered during an illegal search. Once the evidence against you is suppressed, there is no basis for the charges against you, which may lead to a dismissal of all charges.

Tips for avoiding all types of searches:

  • Keep your appearance neat and clean. Look like a criminal, get treated like one. There is a reason why middle-aged women driving minivans rarely get pulled over.
  • Keep your car clean. When I say clean I mean get your car detailed at least a couple of times a year. People who leave the inside of their car messy often forget about things they have tossed on the floor or cannot see items other people have left behind.
  • Keep your car in good working order. Don’t give the police a reason to stop you. Make sure your car is registered, inspected, and that all the lights work. A busted taillight can cost you thousands and a trip to jail.
  • Put questionable items in the trunk of your car. There is no excuse to leave illegal items in the passenger compartment of your car. Better yet, don’t put anything illegal in your car.
  • Don’t attract unwanted attention. If your stereo has to be that loud for you to hear it, get your hearing checked. All you are doing is inviting the police to pull you over and give you a hard time.
  • Don’t carry drugs on your person. This is common sense regarding illegal drugs, but prescription drugs carried outside the containers they are dispensed in can get you arrested as well.
  • Don’t carry cigarette packages or hide your drugs inside them. This is the first place police look for dope.
  • Don’t leave smoking paraphernalia where police can see it. Nobody believes you use that bong or water pipe to smoke tobacco! If an officer sees something like that it will only confirm that he or she really needs to find some legal way to search you, your car, or your home.
  • Be careful what a police officer can see when standing at your front door. A police officer standing at your front door can look inside when you open it. What the police see from your front door is considered in “plain view” and thus not an actual search. Once the police have lawfully seen something illegal in your home they can then seize it and get a warrant to look for more.
  • If you can see out, the police can see in. Looking through a window does not constitute a search in most instances. No one should be able to look into your home and watch what you are doing without you knowing about it. Put up window shears or install windows with either faceted glass or glass that distorts the viewable image.

The most important thing to remember when asked for consent to search is to say “NO”.

Contact the Best Search and Seizure Attorney in Texas: The Charles Johnson Law Firm

If you have been arrested, detained, stopped, or investigated in San Antonio or anywhere in the state of Texas, you may have legal defenses available to the contest the charge or mitigate possible penalties. San Antonio Criminal Lawyer Charles Johnson has extensive experience defending cases involving Fourth Amendment violations, motions to suppress evidence, and illegal police searches.

The Charles Johnson Law Firm is committed to providing the highest-quality defense. As a criminal defense law firm, they are dedicated to protecting their clients’ rights throughout the legal process. Attorney Johnson offers a free initial consultation that can be done over the phone. Contact him directly anytime night or day at 210-431-3337 or toll-free at (877) 308-0100.


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Facing Charges For Illegal Prescription Drugs? San Antonio Drug Crimes Lawyer Charles Johnson Is Your Best Defense

Best Prescription Drugs Defense Attorney

San Antonio Drug Crimes Lawyer Charles Johnson defends clients against charges of illegal prescription drug possession. Many of the firm’s clients are individuals who are addicted to prescription painkillers because of an injury or accident. The criminal charges are the result of their efforts to acquire the medicine they need after the prescription expires. They are not career criminals.

Other clients include individuals charged with illegally selling prescription drugs. Whatever the basis for the charge, The Charles Johnson Law Firm defends them vigorously, identifying weaknesses in the prosecution’s case and working hard to protect their rights. Attorney Johnson is well known as an efficient and effective defense lawyer with in-depth knowledge drawn from his extensive legal experience.

A drug can be legal when prescribed by a doctor, yet it can be illegal when someone uses it without a valid prescription. If you are being investigated for a prescription drug crime, you cannot afford to be poorly represented. San Antonio Criminal Lawyer Charles Johnson has expertly defended prescription drug charges in San Antonio and throughout Texas. You can contact him anytime night or day to discuss your case at  (210) 431-3337 or toll-free at (877) 308-0100.

The Charles Johnson Law Firm regularly assists clients with drug cases involving illegal prescription medications, such as:

  • Forging of prescriptions
  • Pharmacy fraud and prescription fraud
  • Illegal possession of prescription medications
  • Transportation of drugs
  • Distribution of drugs
  • Illegal buying prescription drugs online
  • Drug delivery, manufacturing and trafficking

If you have been charged with one or more of these offenses, you could be facing jail time and other significant consequences. It is important to know what to do in the days following an arrest and how an experienced attorney can build a vigorous defense for your charges. In many cases he will be able to have your case dismissed entirely. Call San Antonio Lawyer Charles Johnson at (210) 431-3337 to discuss your case. Attorney Johnson answers the phone 24 hours per day and offers you a free initial consultation.

Hire the Best San Antonio Drug Attorney: The Charles Johnson Law Firm

Prescription drug abuse is on the rise in Texas. There are many possible ways for someone to acquire prescription drugs for illegal use. Some people obtain the prescription drugs from a person who has a valid prescription. Others steal a doctor’s official prescription pad and forge the doctor’s signature for the medication, while some create a counterfeit prescription that resembles a doctor’s official prescription. There are some who do what is called “Doctor Shopping,” which entails going to many different doctors complaining about a medical condition to get prescriptions from each of them.

What is prescription drug abuse?

Prescription drug abuse is the use of a medication without a prescription, in a way other than as prescribed, or for the experience or feelings elicited. According to several national surveys, prescription medications, such as those used to treat pain, attention deficit disorders, and anxiety, are being abused at a rate second only to marijuana among illicit drug users. The consequences of this abuse have been steadily worsening, reflected in increased treatment admissions, emergency room visits, and overdose deaths.

How many people abuse prescription drugs?

According to results from the 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), an estimated 2.4 million Americans used prescription drugs nonmedically for the first time within the past year, which averages to approximately 6,600 initiates per day. More than one-half were females and about a third were aged 12 to 17. Although prescription drug abuse affects many Americans, certain populations, such as youth, older adults, and women, may be at particular risk.

Who abuses prescription drugs?

Individuals of all ages abuse prescription drugs — data reported in the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse indicate that an estimated 36 million U.S. residents aged 12 and older abused prescription drugs at least once in their lifetime. The survey also revealed that millions of teenagers and young adults abuse prescription drugs — 2.7 million individuals aged 12 to 17 and 6.9 million individuals aged 18 to 25 abused prescription drugs at least once. Prescription drug abuse among high school students is a particular concern. According to the University of Michigan’s Monitoring the Future Survey, more than 10 percent of high school seniors in the United States abused narcotics (other than heroin) at least once in their lifetime. Nearly 17 percent abused amphetamines (a type of stimulant), 10 percent abused barbiturates, and 11 percent abused tranquilizers at least once.

Adolescents and young adults

Abuse of prescription drugs is highest among young adults aged 18 to 25, with 5.9 percent reporting nonmedical use in the past month (NSDUH, 2010). Among youth aged 12 to 17, 3.0 percent reported past-month nonmedical use of prescription medications.

According to the 2010 MTF, prescription and OTC drugs are among the most commonly abused drugs by 12th graders, after alcohol, marijuana, and tobacco. While past-year nonmedical use of sedatives and tranquilizers decreased among 12th graders over the last 5 years, this is not the case for the nonmedical use of amphetamines or opioid pain relievers.

When asked how prescription opioids were obtained for nonmedical use, more than half of the 12th graders surveyed said they were given the drugs or bought them from a friend or relative. Interestingly, the number of students who purchased opioids over the Internet was negligible.

Youth who abuse prescription medications are also more likely to report use of other drugs. Multiple studies have revealed associations between prescription drug abuse and higher rates of cigarette smoking; heavy episodic drinking; and marijuana, cocaine, and other illicit drug use among adolescents, young adults, and college students in the United States.

Older adults

Persons aged 65 years and older comprise only 13 percent of the population, yet account for more than one-third of total outpatient spending on prescription medications in the United States. Older patients are more likely to be prescribed long-term and multiple prescriptions, and some experience cognitive decline, which could lead to improper use of medications. Alternatively, those on a fixed income may abuse another person’s remaining medication to save money.

The high rates of comorbid illnesses in older populations, age-related changes in drug metabolism, and the potential for drug interactions may make any of these practices more dangerous than in younger populations. Further, a large percentage of older adults also use OTC medicines and dietary supplements, which (in addition to alcohol) could compound any adverse health consequences resulting from prescription drug abuse.

What prescription drugs are commonly abused?

The prescription drugs that are commonly abused in the United States fall into several broad categories: opioids/narcotics/pain relievers, CNS (Central Nervous System) depressants, and stimulants. Individuals abuse these drugs because they are an easily accessible and inexpensive means of altering a user’s mental and physical state; the effects vary depending upon the drugs they abuse.

What are some of the commonly abused prescription drugs?

Although many medications can be abused, the following three classes are most commonly abused:

Opioids—usually prescribed to treat pain;

Central nervous system (CNS) depressants—used to treat anxiety and sleep disorders; and

Stimulants—most often prescribed to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

What are opioids?

Opioids are medications that relieve pain. They reduce the intensity of pain signals reaching the brain and affect those brain areas controlling emotion, which diminishes the effects of a painful stimulus. Medications that fall within this class include hydrocodone (e.g., Vicodin), oxycodone (e.g., OxyContin, Percocet), morphine (e.g., Kadian, Avinza), codeine, and related drugs. Hydrocodone products are the most commonly prescribed for a variety of painful conditions, including dental and injury-related pain. Morphine is often used before and after surgical procedures to alleviate severe pain. Codeine, on the other hand, is often prescribed for mild pain. In addition to their painrelieving properties, some of these drugs—codeine and diphenoxylate (Lomotil) for example—can be used to relieve coughs and severe diarrhea.

Drug Type:

Opioids/Narcotics/Pain Relievers

Common Brand Names:

  • Dilaudid (Dust, Juice, Smack, D, Footballs)
  • Lorcet (Pharmies, Beans, Hydro, Painkillers, Happy Pills)
  • Lortab (Tab, Hydro, Norco, Vikes, Viko)
  • Oxycontin (Hillbilly Heroin, Oxycet, Oxycotton)
  • Oxycodone which includes Percocet, Percodan & Tylox (Percs, Paulas, Roxicotten, Roxi’s, Blue Dynamite, 512s)
  • Vicodin (Happy Pills, Vikes)

What are CNS depressants?

CNS depressants, sometimes referred to as sedatives and tranquilizers, are substances that can slow brain activity. This property makes them useful for treating anxiety and sleep disorders. Among the medications commonly prescribed for these purposes are the following:

Benzodiazepines, such as diazepam (Valium) and alprazolam (Xanax), are sometimes prescribed to treat anxiety, acute stress reactions, and panic attacks. The more sedating benzodiazepines, such as triazolam (Halcion) and estazolam (ProSom) are prescribed for short-term treatment of sleep disorders. Usually, benzodiazepines are not prescribed for longterm use because of the risk for developing tolerance, dependence, or addiction.

Non-benzodiazepine sleep medications, such as zolpidem (Ambien), eszopiclone (Lunesta), and zalepon (Sonata), have a different chemical structure, but act on some of the same brain receptors as benzodiazepines. They are thought to have fewer side effects and less risk of dependence than benzodiazepines.

Barbiturates, such as mephobarbital (Mebaral), phenobarbital (Luminal Sodium), and pentobarbital sodium (Nembutal), are used less frequently to reduce anxiety or to help with sleep problems because of their higher risk of overdose compared to benzodiazepines. However, they are still used in surgical procedures and for seizure disorders.

Drug Type:

  • CNS Depressants
  • Tranquilizers
  • Sedatives

Common Brand Names:

  • Barbiturates which include Amytal, Nembutal, Seconal And Phenobarbital (Barbs, Blue Birds, Phennies, Tooties, Yellows, Reds, Yellow Jackets, Amytal, Downers, Nembutal, Phenobarbital, Red Birds, Red Devils, Seconal, Tuninal)
  • Benzodiazepines which include Ativan, Halcion, Librium, Valium Or Xanax (Candy, Downers, Sleeping Pills, And Tranks)
  • Flunitrazepam which includes Rohypnol (Known as a leading ‘date-rape’ drug, Forget-Me Pill, Mexican Valium, R2, Roche, Roofies, Rope)
  • Ketamine which includes Ketalar (Kat, Valium K, Special K, Vitamin K)

What are stimulants?

As the name suggests, stimulants increase alertness, attention, and energy, as well as elevate blood pressure, heart rate, and respiration. Stimulants historically were used to treat asthma and other respiratory problems, obesity, neurological disorders, and a variety of other ailments. But as their potential for abuse and addiction became apparent, the medical use of stimulants began to wane. Now, stimulants are prescribed to treat only a few health conditions, including ADHD, narcolepsy, and occasionally depression—in those who have not responded to other treatments.

Drug Type:


Common Brand Names:

  • Amphetamines which include Adderall, Dexedrine, Dextrostat, Desoxyn, ProCentra, Vyvanse and Biphetamine (Bennies, Black Beauties, Crosses, Hearts, LA Turnaround, Speed, Truck Drivers, Uppers)
  • Methylphenidate which includes Ritalin (Jif, Mph, R-Ball, Skippy, The Smart Drug, Vitamin R, Kiddy Cocaine, West Coast)

How are prescription drugs abused?

Prescription drugs are abused in a variety of ways. Many of the prescription drugs that are commonly abused are available as tablets. Typically abusers either consume the tablets orally or crush them into a powder, which they then snort. In some instances, abusers dissolve crushed tablets in water and then inject the solution.

How many people suffer adverse health consequences from abusing prescription drugs?

The Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN), which monitors emergency department (ED) visits in selected areas across the Nation, reported that approximately 1 million ED visits in 2009 could be attributed to prescription drug abuse. Roughly 343,000 involved prescription opioid pain relievers, a rate more than double that of 5 years prior. ED visits also more than doubled for CNS stimulants, involved in nearly 22,000 visits in 2009, as well as CNS depressants (anxiolytics, sedatives, and hypnotics), involved in 363,000 visits. Of the latter, benzodiazepines (e.g., Xanax) comprised the vast majority. Rates for a popular prescribed nonbenzodiazepine sleep aid, zolpidem (Ambien), rose from roughly 13,000 in 2004 to 29,000 in 2009. More than half of ED visits for prescription drug abuse involved multiple drugs.

San Antonio Drug AttorneyOne in five teens nationwide were reported abusing a prescription pain medication and one in ten reported abuse of a prescription stimulant. (The Partnership for a Drug-Free America)

More teens abuse prescription drugs than any other illicit drug, except marijuana—more than cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine combined. (The Partnership for a Drug-Free America)

Local school officials privately express concern about the selling and easy access of prescription drugs in their schools. School administrators, however, are reluctant to speak publicly about the problem.

Experts don’t know exactly why this type of drug abuse is increasing. The availability of drugs is probably one reason. Doctors are prescribing more drugs for more health problems than ever before. Online pharmacies make it easy to get prescription drugs without a prescription, even for youngsters.

San Antonio Drug Attorney

How are they obtained?

Prescription drugs are obtained in various ways. In some cases, unscrupulous pharmacists or other medical professionals either steal the drugs or sell fraudulent prescriptions. In a process known as doctor shopping, abusers visit several doctors to obtain multiple prescriptions. Individuals also call pharmacies with fraudulent prescription refills, or they alter prescriptions. Prescription drugs occasionally are stolen from pharmacies. Young people typically obtain prescription drugs from peers, friends, or family members. Some individuals who have legitimate prescriptions sell or give away their drugs. Young people also acquire prescription drugs by stealing them from relatives and other individuals with legitimate prescriptions or from school medicine dispensaries.

Is abusing prescription drugs illegal?

Yes, it is illegal to use prescription drugs without a valid prescription or to distribute them. The penalties associated with the abuse or illegal distribution of prescription drugs vary depending upon the drug type.

What are the penalties for possessing illegal prescription drugs in Texas?

Prescription drugs are offered legally through a prescription, however, possession of prescription pills without a legal prescription can land you in jail in Texas.

Sec. 481.115. OFFENSE: POSSESSION OF SUBSTANCE IN PENALTY GROUP 1. (a) Except as authorized by this chapter, a person commits an offense if the person knowingly or intentionally possesses a controlled substance listed in Penalty Group 1, unless the person obtained the substance directly from or under a valid prescription or order of a practitioner acting in the course of professional practice.

Sec. 481.117. OFFENSE: POSSESSION OF SUBSTANCE IN PENALTY GROUP 3. (a) Except as authorized by this chapter, a person commits an offense if the person knowingly or intentionally possesses a controlled substance listed in Penalty Group 3, unless the person obtains the substance directly from or under a valid prescription or order of a practitioner acting in the course of professional practice.

Group 1: Includes Opium, Oxycodone and some Prescription Pills
Weight of Drug
Type of Offense
Less than one gram
State jail felony
180 days to 2 yearsin a state jail
1 gram or more, less than 4 grams
Third-degree felony
2 to 10 yearsin a state prison
4 grams or more, but less than 200 grams
Second-degree felony
2 to 20 yearsin a state prison
200 grams or more, but less than 400 grams
First-degree felony
5 to 99 yearsin a state prison
400 grams or more
Enhanced first-degree felony
10 to 99 yearsin a state prison
Group 3 & 4: Many Prescription Pills like Xanax, Valium, Ritalin, & Drug Compounds
Weight of Drug
Type of Offense
Less than 28 grams
Class A misdemeanor
Not more than 1 year in a county jail
28 grams or more, but less than 200 grams
Third-degree felony
2 to 10 yearsin a state prison
200 grams or more, but less than 400 grams
Second-degree felony
2 to 20 yearsin a state prison
400 grams or more
EnhancedFirst-degree felony
5 to 99 yearsin a state prison

Possession With Intent to Distribute

Some states have laws making it illegal to be in possession of your own prescription drugs under certain circumstances. Most states have laws that make it illegal to carry around pills that are not in their labeled prescription bottle.

In other words, if you are carrying around pills that your doctor prescribed to you, but have them loose in your pocket or purse, that is illegal. The presumption is that you are carrying them in that manner so that you can distribute them.

Purchasing Prescription Drugs over the Internet

Federal law prohibits buying controlled substances such as narcotic pain relievers (e.g., OxyContin®, Vicodin®), sedatives (e.g., Valium®, Xanax®, Ambien®), stimulants (e.g., phentermine, phendimetrazine, Adderall®, Ritalin®) and anabolic steroids (e.g., Winstrol®, Equipoise®) without a valid prescription from your doctor. This means there must be a real doctor-patient relationship, which by most state laws requires a physical examination. Prescriptions written by “cyber doctors” relying on online questionnaires are not legitimate under the law.

Buying controlled substances online without a valid prescription may be punishable by imprisonment under Federal law. Often drugs ordered from rogue websites come from foreign countries. It is a felony to import drugs into the United States and ship to a non-DEA registrant.

Buying drugs online may not be only illegal, but dangerous. The American Medical Association and state boards of medicine and pharmacy have all condemned the practice of cyber doctors issuing online prescriptions as unacceptable medical care. Drugs delivered by rogue websites may be the wrong drugs, adulterated or expired, the wrong dosage strength, or have no dosage directions or warnings.

Hire the Best San Antonio Prescription Drugs Attorney: The Charles Johnson Law Firm

Some people believe that crimes that involve prescription drugs are treated less seriously than crimes that involve marijuana, cocaine and other illegal drugs. This is not true, however, and the penalties for prescription drug crimes in San Antonio can be just as severe as penalties for illegal drug crimes. Depending on the type and amount of drug, the consequences could be significant.

If you have been charged with an offense involving illegal prescription medications, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney who can successfully represent you and protect your rights. San Antonio Lawyer Charles Johnson has expertly defended prescription drug charges for many years. In many cases he will be able to have your case dismissed entirely. Contact him now for your free consultation.

Charged With Drug Trafficking? The Importance Of Hiring The Right San Antonio Criminal Lawyer

Best San Antonio Drug Trafficking Lawyer

A drug trafficking offense in Texas can result in a felony criminal charge. It is an illegal and dangerous undertaking. The definition of drug trafficking is: the trade or dealing of illicit drugs and/or the sale or exchange of drugs.  Heroin, cocaine, marijuana and ecstasy are the most common drugs found in drug trafficking cases.  Texas takes a no tolerance stance on the fight against drugs.  Drug offenses often lead to more serious crime and cause destruction within communities.

Drug trafficking is generally referred to as the manufacturing, transporting and distributing of large quantities of drugs. It often involves more than one person. Drug trafficking charges are wide and varied depending on the scope of the trafficking. Additionally, if the drug trafficking was directed towards minors, then prosecutors will seek enhancements to the charges. State and federal governments have adopted strict laws and severe penalties regarding the trafficking of drugs. Penalties can approach seven figures and decades in prison for severe cases. San Antonio Criminal Lawyer Charles Johnson has proven how to successfully approach and handle these types of cases and he should be contacted immediately when an arrest is made for drug trafficking. Attorney Johnson can be reached anytime night or day to discuss your case at 210-431-3337.

Drug Trafficking is probably the most charged offense in federal court and is also quite prevalent in state courts. Because of the severity of the sentences, evidence and all circumstances and conditions regarding your arrest will be thoroughly examined by the Charles Johnson Law Firm and their team of experienced investigators. Drug trafficking cases can be quite involved, and with the vast amounts of drugs coming in from Mexico, prosecutors are aggressively pursuing convictions.

Types of Drug Trafficking Laws

Drug trafficking laws vary by country and region, but generally include distribution, manufacturing, and dispensing certain categories of controlled substances. Usually, the drugs are classified according to type and the addictive nature of the drug. Highly addictive narcotics like heroin and crack typically fall into one class, while marijuana and prescription drugs are considered less harmful. International drug trafficking laws are commonly handled under customs law.

Possession of drugs with the intent to sell routinely falls under drug trafficking statutes. If someone is found with a large amount of narcotics, it may be presumed that he or she intends to distribute the drugs for money. Different regions determine how much and what kind of drug is considered outside limits for personal use. Penalties for violations of these drug trafficking laws are often based on the quantity of the substance and its type.

Those who manufacture drugs may be charged under drug trafficking laws in most places. These sections of the law typically include possession of chemicals or equipment needed to make the controlled substance. Narcotics laws in each country outline the exact chemicals or equipment considered illegal.

Drug trafficking laws may include a provision that allows law enforcement to seize assets used to commit a crime. For example, if drugs are sold from a house or vehicle, a judge may order that those assets be forfeited to the government. The property is typically sold at a public auction, with the proceeds going to fund narcotics operations.

Almost any scheduled narcotic can qualify for a drug trafficking charge. In state courts the amount of drugs (cocaine, cannabis, extasy, crystal meth, acid, heroine, prescription medication) will determine if a possession charges becomes a trafficking charge. Even if you are only going to used the drugs for your personal consumption, the amount that you possess could bring a trafficking charge. You may also qualify for a distribution charge if it appears that a small amount of drugs was packaged for distribution. Each state is different as to the amount necessary for the trafficking charge. Under the federal statute you can be charged for the amount you have and or the amount you were trying to buy from a government agent. You may never actually possess the drugs, but you will be charged.

Supplying drugs to children or using minors to distribute narcotics generally carries tougher penalties than those that apply to adults. In some areas, maintaining a home for the purpose of making or distributing drugs where children live is also considered a more serious drug trafficking offense. Stiffer sanctions might also be imposed for those who sell drugs near schools, playgrounds, arcades, and other areas where children congregate.

Laws also exist that regulate drug trafficking by criminal gangs or organized groups. Penalties might be enhanced if weapons are used in the distribution of a controlled substance. Those with profits from organized sales of narcotics can also be prosecuted under money laundering statutes in some jurisdictions.

Defenses for Drug Trafficking Charges

San Antonio Criminal Lawyer Charles Johnson will provide skilled advice and representation to clients facing state or federal drug charges. He is considered an expert when defending against charges related to:

  • Interception of a drug shipment
  • Drug conspiracy charges
  • Interstate drug distribution
  • Undercover interstate trafficking stings
  • Illegal sale and trafficking of prescription drugs
  • Illegal sale and trafficking of cocaine, heroin, marijuana, methamphetamine (meth), MDMA (Ecstasy)

Drug trafficking charges often hinge on the prosecution’s illegal search and seizure of your vehicle, undercover drug operations, and confidential informants who are attempting to make a deal. As an expert lawyer skilled in drug cases, Attorney Johnson will thoroughly investigate how the prosecution came upon the evidence collected and determine if the method of collecting the evidence is in violation of your constitutional rights.

The court will have no choice but to keep any illegally obtained evidence out of trial. Attorney Johnson’s ability to thoroughly investigate drug cases and vigorously challenge the factual and constitutional merits of the prosecution’s case has proven effective in his defense of clients facing drug trafficking charges involving cocaine, heroin, marijuana, methamphetamine (meth) or prescription narcotics.

Even if the police find drugs directly in a person’s possession, the drugs and other evidence could be suppressed (thrown away) if the police did not follow the proper procedures required under the U.S. Constitution. One of the first things Attorney Johnson will look for when defending someone accused of a drug offense is whether the police themselves acted in a legal manner. Other defenses include areas such as whether the actual weight of the substance was correct when allowing for hydration, whether the chemical composition of the substance was correct as charged, whether there was joint or constructive possession of the substance which could subject the case to a Motion to Dismiss and whether the accused was entrapped into committing the offense by law enforcement or one of its informants.

Another possible defense for drug trafficking charges would involve a violation of constitutional right to counsel and right to remain silent. Once charged or in custody, you are required to be informed of your rights and given access to legal representation if you request it. Contact San Antonio Criminal Lawyer Charles Johnson immediately upon arrest before saying anything that could be used against you in the future. This can often mean the difference between a conviction and walking away free of any charges. You would be surprised at how many cases result in a conviction due largely to statements made by the accused.

Other possible defenses may include:

  • Lack of knowledge
  • Mistake of fact (For example, thinking the drug was sugar when in fact, it was cocaine.)
  • Duress (For example, if Bob was forced to transport the cocaine because if he refused, something bad would happen to his family.)
  • The substance was not intended for human consumption

Lastly, Attorney Johnson will determine if inappropriate charges were filed. Drug trafficking is a highly political issue, and you may find yourself facing inflated charges. The right attorney can insure that any charges you do face are appropriate to the acts alleged by the prosecutor.

At the Charles Johnson Law Firm, we have the experience and know-how to guide you through this complicated process from the moment of your arrest through trial, if necessary.

The defense of drug-related crimes can be difficult and complex and requires an attorney with special skills, experience and knowledge. San Antonio Criminal Lawyer Charles Johnson is highly qualified to defend your case. Whether it is identifying a drug addiction issue so that we may assist in getting them treatment or counseling, negotiating a fair resolution in an effort to have charges or a sentence reduced or preparing and taking a case to trial, the Best San Antonio Criminal Lawyer is available to assist and defend you.

As an extremely experienced criminal lawyer specializing in drug cases at both the Federal and State level, San Antonio Criminal Lawyer Charles Johnson is well aware of the strategies, theories and methods employed by prosecutors when they prosecute a drug case. Attorney Johnson will use this knowledge to his client’s advantage while defending their cases to get the best possible outcome on their behalf.

We are proud to represent and care about our clients. We know the devastation that a drug conviction, an addiction or incarceration for a drug offense can bring to an individual or his/her family. We will answer your questions and guide you through the whole process, working to take away some of the confusion and uncertainty that comes along any drug offense charge, while all along seeking the most favorable outcome for you or your loved one.

Drug Trafficking by Criminal Gangs

There are nearly 1 million active gang members in the United States, based on analysis of federal, state, and local data, and the involvement of criminal gangs in domestic drug trafficking is becoming increasingly complex. Since 2001, many gangs have advanced beyond their traditional role as local retail drug distributors in large cities to become more organized, adaptable, deliberate, and influential in large-scale drug trafficking. Much of their growing influence has come at the expense of local independent dealers and small local criminal groups who cannot compete with gangs that establish control in smaller drug markets.

The influence of Hispanic and African American street gangs is expanding as these gangs gain greater control over drug distribution in rural and suburban areas and acquire drugs directly from Drug Trafficking Organizations (“DTOs”) in Mexico or along the Southwest Border.

In 2009, midlevel and retail drug distribution in the United States was dominated by more than 900,000 criminally active gang members representing approximately 20,000 domestic street gangs in more than 2,500 cities. These street gangs vary greatly with respect to their ethnic or racial identities, the types and amounts of drugs that they distribute, their strength and influence, and their adaptability. Their prevalence varies geographically, with the greatest concentration of street gangs occurring in the Great Lakes, Pacific, Southeast, and Southwest Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) Regions.

Many Hispanic and, to a lesser extent, African American gangs are gaining control over drug distribution outside urban areas that were previously supplied by local independent dealers or small local criminal groups. Around 2007, Hispanic and African American gangs throughout the country, but especially in the Southwest and Great Lakes Regions, began to command greater influence over drug distribution in many rural and suburban areas. This trend continued in 2009. For example, in 2009, the Avenues street gang based in Los Angeles, California, expanded its operations to distribute drugs in suburban and rural locations throughout southern California.

To increase their control over drug trafficking in smaller markets, street gangs have been increasingly acquiring larger wholesale quantities of drugs at lower prices directly from DTOs in Mexico and along the Southwest Border. Several Southwest Border street gangs, such as Shelltown 38th Street, Tri-City Bombers, and Vallucos, smuggle wholesale quantities of drugs obtained in Mexico into the United States. By purchasing directly from Mexican wholesale sources in Mexico or along the Southwest Border, gangs throughout the country realize cost savings that enable them to sell drugs at lower prices than local independent dealers in small communities, driving these dealers out of business. For example, members of the Chicago-based Latin Kings street gang who operate in Midland, Texas, purchase cocaine from Mexican traffickers in south Texas for $16,000 to $18,000 per kilogram, compared with $25,000 to $35,000 per kilogram from wholesale traffickers in Chicago. With this savings, the gang undersells other local dealers who do not have the capacity to buy large wholesale quantities directly from Mexican DTOs in Mexico or along the Southwest Border.

Hispanic prison gangs, primarily in Southwest Border states, are gaining strength by working directly with Mexican DTOs to acquire wholesale quantities of drugs and by controlling most street gangs in areas along the Southwest Border.

Prison gangs are active in all 50 states and are increasing their influence over drug trafficking in areas along the Southwest Border (see Table B4 in Appendix B). Prior to 2001, the criminal influence of prison gangs was limited primarily to retail-level drug distribution. However, since that time, Hispanic prison gangs have become increasingly involved in the transportation and wholesale distribution of drugs.

Hispanic prison gangs such as Hermanos de Pistoleros Latinos (HPL) and Raza Unida operating in Southwest Border states have increased their involvement in wholesale drug distribution activities through cooperative relationships with Mexican DTOs. Through these relationships, Hispanic prison gangs are able to gain access to wholesale quantities of drugs. For example, in September 2009, 21 members of HPL were convicted in the Southern District of Texas (San Antonio) of conspiring to distribute more than 150 kilograms of cocaine and laundering millions of dollars in drug proceeds. In April 2009, 15 members and associates of the Raza Unida prison gang were indicted for trafficking multikilogram quantities of cocaine and methamphetamine weekly in McAllen and San Antonio, Texas.

To ensure a consistent profit stream from the wholesale drugs that they purchase from Mexican DTOs, Hispanic prison gangs distribute drugs through street gangs that they largely, if not entirely, control. Through force or intimidation, Hispanic prison gangs exercise significant control over local gangs that distribute their drugs in the Southwest Border region. For example, Barrio Azteca prison gang members operating in El Paso, Texas, collect drug payments and taxes from 47 street-level gangs and independent drug dealers trafficking drugs in El Paso.

Potential Penalties for Drug Trafficking

The penalties for drug trafficking offenses vary and depend on a number of factors. These include the type and amount of illegal drugs (also called “controlled substances”) found in a person’s possession, whether the person is a repeat offender and the state in which the person is charged.

Drug trafficking or distribution in Texas is a felony upon which a wide range of penalties may be imposed. It may be anywhere from a state jail felony, which carries the lightest sentence, to a first degree felony, which carries the harshest. The factors influencing which sentence will be imposed are: (1) the amount of the drug being distributed or delivered; and (2) the type of drug and which of the four groups of drugs it is classified under. The smaller the amount of a drug in a certain group, the lighter the sentence may be.

Texas has some very heavy penalties for drug trafficking. Prosecutors may often offer plea deals to defendants where they may offer a charge with a lesser penalty in exchange for information that would help them gather evidence for a higher priority investigation.

The sentences involved may range anywhere from 180 days to two years in state jail and/or a fine of no more than $10,000 for a state jail felony, to life in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice or a term of 15 to 99 years in prison and/or a fine of not more than $250,000 for the heaviest first degree felony. The harshness of the sentence imposed depends on how much of the drug is being trafficked. For example, trafficking or distributing less than one gram of a substance in the first grouping of drugs carries a state jail felony charge, whereas trafficking 400 grams or more of any one of the same drugs carries a first degree felony charge that may include a life sentence.

At the Federal level, the Controlled Substances Act (PL 91-513, 1970, last amended in 2000) provides penalties for the unlawful manufacture, distribution, and dispensing (or trafficking) of controlled substances, based on the schedule (rank) of the drug or substance. Generally, the more dangerous the drug and the larger the quantity involved, the stiffer the penalty. Trafficking of heroin, cocaine, LSD, and PCP, all Schedule I or II drugs (see Table 2.1 in Chapter 2), includes mandatory jail time and fines. A person caught selling at least five hundred grams but less than five kilograms of cocaine powder (seventeen ounces to just under eleven pounds) will receive a minimum of five years in prison and may be fined up to $2 million for a first offense. (See Table 6.1.) The same penalty is imposed for the sale of five to forty-nine grams of cocaine base (“crack”). Five grams are equal to the weight of six plain M&Ms candies, and forty-nine grams are a little more than a bag of M&Ms candies (47.9 grams). The high penalty for selling crack is an expression of the unusual severity with which legislators are trying to curb the use of this drug.

Penalties double with the second offense to ten years in prison and up to $4 million in fines. When higher quantities are involved (five or more kilograms of cocaine powder, fifty grams or more of crack, etc.), penalties for the first offense are ten years, and fines up to $4 million may be levied. For the second offense, twenty years and up to $8 million in fines are given, and the third offense results in mandatory life imprisonment. These examples are for an individual. Higher penalties apply if an organized group is involved or if a death or injury is associated with the arrest event.

These penalties apply also to the sale of fentanyl (a powerful painkiller medicine) or like-acting drugs, heroin, LSD, methamphetamine, and PCP. The smallest amount, which can earn someone a minimum sentence of five years in prison and a fine of up to $2 million, involves trafficking in LSD, where a one-gram amount carries a five-year minimum sentence in prison.

Special penalties exist for marijuana trafficking, since it may be traded in large quantities or grown in substantial amounts. The lower the amounts sold or the fewer the plants grown, the lower the sentence. A person cultivating one to forty-nine plants or selling less than fifty kilograms of marijuana mixture, ten kilograms or less of hashish, or one kilogram or less of hashish oil may get a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000. Sentences for second offenses involving large amounts of marijuana may earn the trafficker up to life imprisonment.

The penalties for drug trafficking are harsh, and reflect the seriousness of this felony offense and the current political climate. A conviction can lead to jail time, forfeiture of property and fines, but that is only part of the story. It places your current employment in jeopardy, places a severe emotional strain on you and your family, adversely affects your ability to find new work, and places your entire future at risk.

Hire the Best San Antonio Drug Trafficking Lawyer: The Charles Johnson Law Firm

A drug trafficking conviction can have an extremely adverse effect on a person’s current and future life in many regards. Both state and federal prosecutors have their eye on a conviction of the most severe charges possible and not on your rights. San Antonio Criminal Lawyer Charles Johnson will work diligently with prosecutors regarding any circumstances or conditions that could result in charges being dropped or reduced. If necessary, our firm can take your case to court and present a strong defense on your behalf.

The Charles Johnson Law Firm expertly handles all types of Texas drug-related offenses, from the less severe, like simple possession of a small amount of certain drugs, to the more serious ones, such as participating in an organized drug trafficking business with sale, distribution and manufacturing activities. We also defend charges involving controlled substances, such as, marijuana, crack, paraphernalia, cocaine, heroin, ecstasy, methamphetamines (meth), hallucinogens such as LSD, oxycontin, oxycodone, hydrocode, xanax, and Rohypnol club drugs. We represent all levels of people charged with drug offenses, from the student or small time person, to the professional, medical doctor or person accused of being a large scale distributor or trafficker.

If you have been arrested for drug trafficking in San Antonio, TX, take fast action with a skilled and resourceful San Antonio Criminal Lawyer. Contact the Charles Johnson Law Firm immediately anytime night or day for a free phone consultation to discuss your case.

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Defense of Online Solicitation of a Child Charges by San Antonio Sex Crimes Lawyer Charles Johnson

Top San Antonio Sex Crimes LawyersThe Online Solicitation of Minors or Importuning is a significant crime that is vigorously prosecuted by law enforcement. These charges are pursued very seriously. Online solicitation that takes place in chat rooms and elsewhere on the Internet can bring about offenses with criminal penalties that include lengthy imprisonment and lifetime required registration on the sex offender registry.

As a result of the increased efforts of local and national law enforcement task forces to discover Online Solicitation of Minors, San Antonio Sex Crimes Lawyer Charles Johnson has frequently represented individuals who have been accused of communicating with a minor using the computer. In fact, the law in most jurisdictions allows for an officer to pose as a minor while communicating with a suspect. Soliciting either an actual minor or a police officer posing as a minor may result in the filing of charges and subsequent prosecution. A common misconception is that no crime is committed unless there is an actual meeting. In actuality, the offense of On-line Solicitation or Importuning may be completed merely through the communication or “chat.” If there is an attempt to actually meet, additional charges may be warranted.

San Antonio Criminal Lawyer Charles Johnson is well-versed in the various defenses that must be explored in all cases of this kind. These defenses may include issues of entrapment, client knowledge, or jurisdictional questions.

Accusation of soliciting a minor online can often result from entrapment-type situations commonly depicted on televisions shows. However, soliciting a minor online can also be the result of a mistake or an accident. For example, an individual can be charged with soliciting a minor when they thought they were communicating with an adult on the computer, but may have actually been talking to an underage person. No matter the reason for the false claims against you, it is important to contact an experienced sex crimes defense lawyer who will make every effort to find defenses or other mitigating factors that will result in an acquittal of the charges against you.

An allegation of On-line Solicitation or Importuning calls for great effort and resources, as the stakes are high – one faces not only a potential prison term, but also the stigmatizing and debilitating effects of sex offender public registration, which makes it difficult if not impossible to obtain employment, and may even severely restrict one’s ability to reside in certain locations.

Jurors are often familiar with programs like “To Catch a Predator”, giving them preconceived notions which need to be addressed and diffused. Our lawyers know first-hand that with thoughtful and extensive examination of pertinent case law and pre-trial motions, a successful defense of On-line Solicitation and Importuning allegations can be achieved.

It is important to remember that if you have been accused of soliciting a minor online, the state prosecutor is required to prove every element of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt. This can be a very difficult burden of proof to meet, and any doubt in the mind of the judge or jury can result in a dismissal or reduction of the charges against you. Therefore, it is essential to contact an experienced Child Sex Abuse lawyer to help you begin developing the best legal defense for your particular case. Contact San Antonio Criminal Lawyer Charles Johnson for a free consultation today at 210-431-3337  anytime, night or day if you have been falsely accused of soliciting a minor online.

Online Solicitation of a Minor Defined

Since the 1990’s, the internet has changed the way we communicate, do business, meet people, and almost all other aspects of our lives. Unfortunately, it has also led to new criminal charges, many of which carry steep penalties. The most severe online offenses are those related to the potential harm of an underage person, such as online solicitation of a minor.

Online solicitation of a minor is communication with a minor via the internet that aims to arouse, sexually gratify, harass, or arrange to meet a minor face-to-face in the real world. In Texas, a minor is any person who is 17 years of age or younger. Exchanging sexually oriented materials, conversations, or invitations with a minor is a serious legal offense in our state.

Sexual exploitation can result in numerous physical and psychological consequences for children that may be multiplied for victims of child pornography because they face a lifetime of possible revictimization through the continued distribution of videos, photographs, or computer images depicting their exploitation (Klain, 2001). The mass media continues to feed into the stereotype that all Internet offenders are “predators” or “pedophiles”. According to ABC World News Tonight in June 2006, there are approximately 563,000 registered sex offenders nationally. However, decades of research indicates that only ten percent (10%) of sex offenders are truly predatory in nature.

This is not to discount that Internet victimization is one of the most dangerous Internet threats, but society must be cautious in using such characteristics without empirical data to support such a homogenous label. In the National Juvenile Online Victimization (N-JOV) study, approximately seventy-eight percent (78%) of cases, the offender was one of the victim’s family members, second generation family member such as grandparents, uncle or aunt, or stepparents or parent’s intimate partner.

Children exploring the Internet for education and entertainment are at risk of encountering sexually explicit material, sexual exploitation, and Internet offenses while remaining undetected by parents. The Internet has become a conduit for sexually explicit material and offenses against children. Children are extremely vulnerable to victimization due to their curiosity, naiveté, and trusting nature. These crimes present law enforcement with many complex problems due to the fact that they transcend jurisdictional boundaries and often involve multiple victims in multiple states and countries. Internet crimes must be pursued vigorously by law enforcement.

The greatest obstacle facing law enforcement is that children and parents do not report the majority of Internet crimes. In situations where the abuse is a parent, a relative, or acquaintance, the abuse may be more likely to come to light inadvertently as a result of inquiries by social welfare and reports from neighbors, rather than as a result of police inquiries into online crime (Wolak, 2005, in press). Community involvement, parental supervision, and early intervention and prevention programs on Internet safety are essential in protecting children from online solicitation and exposure to pornography.

General Information

The computer age presents complex challenges for law enforcement, victim services, parents, legislators, and the community. The proliferation of computer technology obviously has enhanced our lives in many ways, such as enabling improved productivity and efficiency at work, school, and home (U.S. Department of Justice, 2001). Unfortunately, this technology is not without potential threats and harm for criminals to prey upon innocent victims. According to ABC World News Tonight in June 2006, there are approximately 563,000 registered sex offenders nationally. End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes (EPCAT) International reports violence and harms against children and young people in cyberspace include: the production, distribution, and use of materials depicting child sexual abuse; online solicitation; exposure to materials that can cause psychological harm, lead to physical harm, or facilitate other detriments to a child; and harassment and intimidation.

Today the Internet has approximately two hundred (200) million users worldwide who can communicate with each other. Children of all ages are browsing the Internet. Forty-five (45%) of children in the United States, more than thirty (30) million of whom are younger than eighteen (18) use the Internet. By 2005, it was estimated that there are seventy-seven (77) million children online. Approximately one hundred three (103) million people use instant messaging (IM) programs such as AOL’s AIM, Microsoft’s MSN Messenger, and others. MySpace.com reports more than eighty-five (85) million members and the number of visitors to MySpace went from 4.9 million in 2005 to currently over sixty-seven (67) million. Like most new technological developments, this brings both positive and negative implications, especially for parents and their children.

Some children are especially at risk due to a range of vulnerability-enhancing factors common to all environments. They are in socially and economically difficult situations, have experienced sexual abuse and exploitation, are lonely, or feel alienated from their parents. Others have low self-esteem, feel awkward, are confused about their personal identity and sexuality, and lack confidence. Gender is also seen to be a risk factor, with seemingly more girls than boys appearing to be harmed through cyberspace interactions (although boys are increasingly featured in pornographic images circulating online).

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Demographics of an Internet Offender

Sex offenders and child pornographers are a heterogeneous mixture. Before the advent of the Internet, between one-fifth and one-third of people arrested for possession of child pornography were also involved in actual abuse. The majority are male and come from all socio-economic and racial backgrounds. Many are skilled in technology. Not all fit the clinical classification of “pedophilia”. The mass media continues to feed into the stereotype that all Internet offenders are “predators” or “pedophiles”. This is not to discount that Internet victimization is one of the most dangerous Internet threats but society must be cautious in using such characteristics without empirical data to support such a homogenous label. We have to remember that in a previous generation, campaigns to prevent child molestation characterized the threat as “playground predator” or “stranger danger” so that for years the problem of youth, acquaintance, and intra-family perpetrators went unrecognized.

In an analysis of 600 cases of child sexual abuse in which the Internet played a role, either the offender- victim relationship was initiated or conducted online, the case involved the online sharing or distribution of child pornography, or the case involved child pornography stored on a computer or digital media. One hundred twenty six (126) cases involved a face-to-face relationship between the offender and the victim prior to any use of the Internet in committing abuse. N-JOV data indicated that the Internet was involved in eighteen percent (18%) of all sex crimes against minors and that nearly half of the eighteen percent (18%) were committed by acquaintances or family members, with a total of at least 460 arrests a year. This study found ninety-five percent (95%) were non-Hispanic Caucasians and forty-seven percent (47%) were twenty-six (26) or older. Thirty-five percent (35%) were married and over a third lived in small towns. Eighty percent (80%) were employed full time and fifty-one percent (51%) had incomes ranging from $20,000-$50,000 per year.

Identifying Internet Offenders

There is no one type of Internet child pornography user, and there is no easy way to recognize an offender. In the 2005 Wolak survey, solicitors did not match the stereotype of the older male “Internet predator”. Many were identified as other youth and some were female. Having a preconceived idea of a child sex offender can be unhelpful and prove a distraction for investigating police. Those convicted of sexually abusing children will not necessarily seek out or collect pornography, with one study putting the number of offenders who do so at around ten percent (10%).

This explosion of computer use, and the ease with which identities can be concealed on-line, has offered obvious opportunities to those who produce and consume pornography and those who seek to exploit vulnerable populations for sexual gratification. The Internet technology affords perpetrators a foundation for repeated, long-term victimization of a child. These crimes present law enforcement with many complex problems due to the fact that they transcend jurisdictional boundaries and often involve multiple victims in multiple states and countries.

N-JOV data reflected that the most common use of the Internet with family (70%) and acquaintance (65%) offenders was for seduction or grooming of victims either through online conversations or sharing of pornographic images. Forty-nine percent (49%) of family offenders and thirty-nine percent (39%) of acquaintance offenders produced pornographic images of their victims, which they stored or disseminated using the Internet. Forty-three percent (43%) used the Internet to arrange a face-to-face meeting. Relatively small numbers of offenders (2-4%) used the Internet as an inducement to enter the offender’s home and use it to advertise or sell victims online. Seventy-five percent (75%) of these cases involved some form of sexual contact and forty-five percent (45%) involved intercourse or other penetration. In a quarter of these cases, the sexual contact continued for over a year before being reported to the police.

How Sex Offenders Select Victims

A greater number of sex offenders are using the Internet searching for potential child victims through “kid only” or “kid friendly” chat rooms, online games, and instant messenger. The “set-up” for victimization requires long-term thought and planning. But a distinctive aspect of interaction in cyberspace that facilitates the grooming process is the rapid speed with which communication can become intimate. Chat rooms can be frequented by sex offenders that groom and manipulate their victims by playing on the emotional immaturity of children in virtual anonymity. The goal of the “set-up” is to gain control over the victim. The length of time spent during the “set-up” varies upon the vulnerability of the child. The longer an offender knows a child the better they are at “zeroing” in their grooming tactics and strategies.

Grooming is a term used to describe the process of desensitizing and manipulating the victim(s) and/or others for the purpose of gaining an opportunity to commit a sexually deviant act [Title 22, Texas Administrative Code, Chapter 810.2(b)(15)]. Grooming inflicts psychological harm on the child. In teen chat rooms, the activities that precede the process of initiating direct contact with a child may simply involve the offender providing a description of themselves to all of the users of the public chat room so that the offender is masquerading as a particular kind of child, of a particular age, in the hope of attracting an equivalent age and the same or opposite sex child (i.e. 14/m/tx) (O’Connell, 2001). A sex offender may begin victim selection by observation in which an offender may “lurk” in chat rooms or massive multiplayer online games listening to conversations between children. An offender may search public profiles that include information such as name, age, location, hobbies, interests, and photographs. The offender will then wait for a child’s response and determine if they will initiate a conversation. After selecting a victim, the offender will introduce him or herself by instant message (IM) or by a private message to the child. Additionally, victim selection can involve viewing the child’s public profile. A victim’s information may be obtained through an Internet service provider request or a URL a child must provide in order to create their own website.

In the initial stages of grooming, the offender will suggest that the child move from a public domain to a private chat room or IM for an exclusive one-to-one conversation. The offender will engage in conversations related to school, home, hobbies, parental relationships, or interests of the child. The offender will gather information regarding the likelihood of activities being detected. The offender will manipulate the child to create an illusion of being the child’s best friend. The interactions take on the characteristics of a strong sense of mutuality (i.e. a mutual respect club comprised of two people that must ultimately remain a secret from all others). During these interactions, the child is praised, made to feel special, and very positive conversations are tailored to the age of the child. Gifts or money may be offered to the child. Sadly, sex offenders tend to target children who are neglected or come from dysfunctional homes. For these children, the sex offender offers an alternative relationship that makes the child feel special and loved.

The offender introduces the idea of trust, affection, and loyalty but it is based on deception and manipulation. This grooming tactic provides a forum to move into the next stage of victimization. The offender will begin to exploit social norms and test the child’s boundaries. The offender could ask the child “have you been kissed?”, “have you ever been skinny dipping?”, or “do you wear a bikini?” If the child does not respond negatively to the boundary violation, it is tantamount to accepting the behavior or language. During boundary violations, the offender has positioned the child into believing that they share a deep sense of mutual trust.

Offenders who intend to maintain a relationship with a child will progress carefully and methodically into sexually explicit language. The nature of the conversations will progress from mild conversations (i.e. “I love you” or “I want to kiss you”) to extremely explicit (i.e. masturbation or oral sex). The target child may be drawn into producing pornography by sending photos, using a web-cam or engaging in sexual discussions. To silence the child and ensure their continued compliance in sexual exploitation, the offender may use a variety of tactics including rewards, violence, threats, bribery, punishment, coercion, peer pressure, and fear (Klain, 2001). Research indicates that this pattern of conversations is characteristic of an online relationship that may progress to a request for a face-to-face meeting.

Child Pornography Under federal law, child pornography is defined as a visual depiction of any kind, including a drawing, cartoon, sculpture, or painting, photograph, film, video, or computer-generated image or picture, whether made or produced by electronic, mechanical, or other means, of sexually explicit conduct, where it

  • depicts a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct and is obscene, or
  • depicts an image that is, or appears to be, of a minor engaging in graphic bestiality, sadistic or masochistic abuse, or sexual intercourse, including genital-genital, oral-genital, anal-genital, or oral-anal, whether between persons of the same or opposite sex, and such depiction lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value (18 U.S.C §1466A and 18 U.S.C. §2256)

Sexually explicit conduct includes various forms of sexual activity such as intercourse, bestiality, masturbation, sadistic or masochistic abuse, and lascivious exhibition of the genitals. It is illegal to possess, distribute, or manufacture these images.

Pornography and Child Pornography on the Internet

Both adult and child pornography has saturated the Internet due to the lack of censorship by the industry. The Internet provides the social, individual, and technological circumstances in which an interest in child pornography flourishes. Cyberspace is host to more than one (1) million images of tens of thousands of children subjected to sexual abuse and exploitation. Of the estimated 24.7 million Internet users between the ages of ten (10) and seventeen (17), approximately 8.4 million youths received unwanted exposure to sexual material.

Child pornography is the second highest category, after indecent exposure, of sexual re-offense behavior. The vast majority of children who appear in child pornography have not been abducted or physically forced to participate. In most cases the child knows the producer and it may even be their father who manipulates the child into taking part by more subtle means. Most children feel a pressure to cooperate with the offender and not to disclose the offense, both out of loyalty to the offender and a sense of shame about their own behavior.

Physical contact between a child and a perpetrator does not need to occur for a child to become a victim or for a crime to be committed. Innocent pictures or images of children can be digitally transformed into pornographic material and distributed across the Internet without the victim’s knowledge (U.S. Department of Justice, 2001). Digital graphic software (i.e. Photoshop, Illustrator, Microsoft PhotoEditor) allow offenders to edit “innocent” pictures. After a picture is scanned into a computer, these image-editing programs can be used to put several photos together or to distort pictures and create a believable image of a reality that never existed. This process is called “morphing”. In some countries, morphed images or pictures are not illegal. Offenders may claim in court that a picture is morphed, no matter how disturbing, is not a picture of a real child or a situation which actually took place, and thus is not illegal.

In April 2002, the United States Supreme Court found that provisions of the Child Pornography Act (CPPA), which prohibited the depiction of virtual and simulated child pornography, were invalid under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The Court found that in the absence of a “real” child, the Court could see no “direct link” between such images and the sexual abuse of children. The Court’s majority could not see a substantial risk of producers of child pornography using virtual images of children. Additionally, children can be exposed to “virtual” pornography. Virtual pornography is legal the United States and in some other countries.

In the 2005 Wolak study, almost all of the arrested child pornography possessors (91%) used home computers to access child pornography and almost one (1) in five (5) arrested (18%) used a home computer in more than one (1) location to access child pornography. Additionally, Wolak found that in fourteen percent (14%) of child pornography investigations, the offenders not only had possessed pornography but had sexually victimized children and two percent (2%) possessed pornography and attempted to sexually victimize children. Eighty-four percent (84%) of the investigations involving child pornography did not detect concurrent child sexual victimization or attempts at victimization (Wolak, 2005). According to the United States Postal Inspection Service, forty percent (40%) of child pornographers investigated have sexually molested children. From January 1997 through March 2004, 1,807 child pornographers were arrested and 620 (34%) of these offenders were confirmed child molesters (Kim, 2004).

Although most Internet pornography is created offline, technology has evolved to create “real” life pornography that can be viewed in real time, using web-cameras, phone cameras, digital cameras, and streaming video. A user can be notified of the date and time to log on the computer to view a child being sexually abused. The advent of mini-cameras has allowed for pictures and videos to be created without the subject’s knowledge. The user may pay money or exchange images with the direct abuser (Palmer, 2004).
These illegal images can be presented in various forms including print media, videotape, film, compact disc, read-only memory (CD-ROM), or digital versatile technology (DVD) (Klain, 2001) and can be transmitted through computer bulletin-board systems (BBS), USENET Newsgroups, Internet Relay Chat, web-based groups, peer-to-peer technology, and an array of constantly changing world wide web sites.

Using Child Pornography to Groom Children

Children can be exposed to pornography through spam or potential abusers. The accessibility of pornography online, the ease and perceived anonymity of transmission, and the environment of “virtuality” itself makes the use of pornography in online grooming easier for an abuser. Pornography is a tool for inducting and socializing a child into behaviors that reflect the content of the pornographic materials. Sex offenders frequently use pornography as a tool to assist them in the grooming process.

Children exploring the Internet for education and entertainment are at risk of encountering sexually explicit material, sexual exploitation, and offenses against children while remaining undetected by parents. Children are extremely vulnerable to victimization due to their curiosity, naiveté, and trusting nature. The Internet has become a conduit for sexually explicit material and offenses against children. In 2006, Wolak reported fifty-four percent (54%) of boys and forty-six percent (46%) of girls received unwanted exposure to sexual material. Ninety percent (90%) of all solicitations happened to teenagers (ages 13 to 17). Eighty-six percent (86%) received images of naked people and fifty-seven percent (57%) received pictures of people having sex and/or violent or deviant images. Lastly, eighty-three percent (83%) of unwanted exposures occurred when youth were surfing the web and eighty-nine percent (89%) of incidents the senders were unable to be identified.

Sex offenders use pornography to escalate the relationship with the child. According to the Klain study, the most common purposes for which offenders use child pornography are:

  • Pornography creates a permanent record for sexual arousal and gratification.
  • Pornography lowers the child’s inhibitions to engage in sexual behavior.
  • Pornography may be used to teach children how to behave, pose, or re-enact scenes.
  • Pornography may be used to blackmail child victims by threatening to show the photographs, videos, or other depictions to parents, friends, or teachers. The threat becomes more potent because the child may fear punishment by the criminal justice system.
  • Pornography created to sell for profit or trade between individuals. The Internet’s anonymity, enhanced by increasingly sophisticated encryption technology, facilitates the increasing demand for child pornography.

Repeated exposure to adult and child pornography is deliberately used to diminish the child’s inhibitions, break barriers to sexual arousal, desensitize the child that sex is normal, and arouse the victim. Children depicted in pictures are often smiling or have neutral expressions, a factor that appears to be designed to represent the children as willing participants in sexual or degrading acts. There is a recent trend for pictures to be taken in domestic settings such as a kitchen or bedroom, thus further “normalizing” the activity for children who view images.

It has been reported that children under ten (10) who have been exposed to sexually exploitative material have themselves become users of it. Eight percent (8%) of youths admitted to going voluntarily to X-rated sites. Children at most risk of being violated through pornography productions are within the home and family. The child knows their abuser as a parent, a relative, a guardian, or an acquaintance. In these situations, the abuse may be more likely to come to light inadvertently as a result of inquiries by social welfare and reports from neighbors, rather than as a result of police inquiries into online crime.

Reporting Internet Crimes

The impact of online child victimization (i.e. solicitation and harassment) is not completely understood. Family dynamics often play a significant role in children’s denial of a crime and their willingness to participate in the investigation and prosecution. A child’s ability to acknowledge and accept the crime can be linked to family values, peer pressure, and feelings of guilt, shame, and embarrassment. Only three percent (3%) of all incidents of predators harassing children on the Internet is reported. The Crimes against Children Research Center found less than ten percent (10%) of sexual solicitations and only three percent (3%) of unwanted exposure episodes were reported to authorities such as a law-enforcement agency, an Internet service provider, or a hotline. In 2005, only one (1) incident out of more than 500 incidents of sexually explicit material was ever reported to an Internet service provider.

Online Language

Ninety-five percent (95%) of parents could not identify common chat room lingo that teenagers use to warn people they are chatting with that their parents were watching (NCMEC, 2005). Ninety-two percent (92%) of parents did not know the meaning of A/S/L (Age/Sex/Location) (NCMEC, 2005). Parents should watch for the following questionable abbreviations:

  • 53x means “sex”
  • 121 means “one to one”
  • A/S/L means age, sex, location. Watch for personal information being exchanged (i.e. 14/m/tx). This is a 14 year old male from Texas.
  • CYBER used as a verb and means “cybersex”
  • CONNECT means “to talk privately”
  • DIKU means “do I know you”
  • ESAD means “eat sh*t and die”
  • F2F, FTF means “face to face” or “let’s meet F2F”
  • FOAD means “f*ck off and die”
  • GP means “go private”
  • H4U means “hot for you”
  • H&K means “hugs and kisses”
  • ILU means “I love you”
  • IWALU means “I will always love you”
  • KOC means “kiss on the cheek”
  • KOL means “kiss on the lips”
  • LTR means “long term relationship”
  • LMIRL means “lets meet in real life”
  • LUWAMH means “love you with all my heart”
  • LU means “love you”
  • MOSS means “member of the same sex”
  • MOTOS means “member of the opposite sex”
  • MUSM means “miss you so much”
  • NIFOC means “naked in front of the computer”
  • OLL means “online love”
  • P2P means “person to person”
  • P911 means “my parents are coming”
  • PA means “parent alert”
  • PAL means “parents are listening”
  • PANB means “parents are near by”
  • PM means “private message or one on one chat”
  • POS means “parent over shoulder”
  • pr0n is an alternate spelling for porn or pornography
  • PDA means “public display of affection”
  • RL, IRL means “in real life as in “wants to see you IRL”
  • SWAK means “sealed with a kiss”
  • TOY means “thinking of you”
  • WIBNI means “wouldn’t it be nice if”
  • WTGP means “want to go private”
  • WUF means “where are you from”
  • WTF means “what the f*ck”

Acronyms and words used in daily IM or discussion boards

  • AFAIK means “as far as I know”
  • BTW means “by the way”
  • CUL means “see you later”
  • HHOK means “ha ha only kidding”
  • IANAL means “I am not a lawyer”
  • IIRC means “if I remember correctly”
  • IMHO means “in my humble opinion”
  • KEWL means “cool”
  • OMG means “oh my god”
  • OTOH means “on the other hand”
  • WUT^2 “what up with you too”

Characteristics of Youth Who Form Close Online Relationships

  • Sixteen percent (16%) of girls and twelve (12%) of boys have close online relationships.
  • Girls aged fourteen (14) to seventeen (17) were twice as likely as girls ten (10) to thirteen (13) to form close online relationships.
  • High parent-child conflict and being highly troubled were associated with close online relationships. Girls with high levels of parent-child conflict report yelling, nagging, and privileges by parents at higher levels than other girls. The highly troubled girls had levels of depression, victimization, and troubling life events at higher levels than other girls.
  • Boys who had low communications with their parents, and who also reported that their parents were less likely to know where and who they were with were the most strongly associated with close online relationships.
  • Girls and boys who reported high levels of Internet use and home Internet access were more likely to report close online relationships.
  • Youths with problems were most likely to attend a face-to-face meeting with people they first met online.

Warning Signs that a Child may be at Risk

  • Excessive use of online services especially during the late night hours
  • Unsupervised time in unmonitored chat rooms
  • Mood swings and withdraws
  • Greater desire to spend time with people online than with “real life” people
  • Unexplained files downloaded (i.e. .jpd, .gif, .bmp, .tif, .pcx, .mov, .avi, .wmv, or .mpg)

Defenses to Online Solicitation of a Minor

People are often arrested and charged with online solicitation when they meet the minor in question in person. However, it is important to note that a person can still be charged with this offense even if the meeting never occurs. Despite this, a person may be found innocent of online solicitation if one or both of the following apply:

  • He or she is legally married to the minor in question
  • He or she is less than three years older than the minor

Solicitation of a minor laws have frequently been challenged by defendants on the basis that they violate a defendant’s right to free speech, but have survived such claims. Viable defenses remaining will depend on a particular state’s laws. Some earlier laws required a defendant to actually communicate with a child and defendants could raise the defense of impossibility where prosecution involved communication with an officer who was merely posing as a child but who was in actuality an adult. In response to the success of the impossibility defense, many state statutes changed their laws to permit a conviction based on a defendant’s belief that they were talking to a minor. Other states have also built in “Romeo and Juliet” defenses for a defendant who is involved in a dating relationship with a child who was not more than three years younger than the defendant.

Although not an outright “defense,” another defensive angle is to prove that the defendant did not know that the person on the other end was a minor. Most states have strict liability laws — which means the state is not required to prove that a defendant knew how old the child was, only that the child was underage. However, some juries have engaged in “jury nullification,” by finding a defendant not guilty if they believed that the defendant did not have a reason to believe the child was underage. Showing that the conversation was just an online fantasy or proving that they never intended to actually meet the minor are generally not good defenses. Before a defendant decides to pursue a defensive theory, they should discuss the practicality of the defense with a criminal attorney in their area.
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Solicitation of a Minor: Misdemeanor or Felony?

Online solicitation of a minor is usually classified as a felony level offense. As with most felonies, the range of punishment can include a deferred or suspended sentence, up to several years in prison. A defendant in Texas can receive anywhere from two to twenty years in prison. Although a deferred sentence can allow a defendant to remain free, the restrictions of probation tend to be more intense for online solicitation charges because they are considered sexually related offenses. The court can order a defendant to submit to maintenance polygraphs, complete individual or group sex offender counseling, to submit to a sex offender evaluation, and to refrain from being around any children while on probation. The court can also require a defendant to pay for these programs which can run up to $500.00 or more per month.

The long-term consequences can be even more severe. Because online solicitation of a minor is considered a sexually related offense, a defendant can be required to register as a sex offender. If a defendant fails to register, they can be charged with a new felony offense of failure to register as a sex offender. Once a defendant has a sexually related offense on their record, some states will significantly increase the punishment for a second offense if a defendant is ever charged with another sexually related offense. Beyond the court system, online solicitation will also affect employment opportunities. With more open access to the court systems, more employers are performing background checks and will not hire certain candidates. Applicants with sexually related offenses are generally the first to get cut.

Contact Us

When you have been charged with a severe legal offense, it is very important to understand your rights and defense options. An experienced San Antonio Criminal Lawyer can help you decide what steps you need to take next. The attorneys of the Charles Johnson Law Firm are aggressive child sex crime defense lawyers who will make every effort to fight the allegations against you. Contact San Antonio Online Solicitation Lawyer Charles Johnson directly for a free consultation today at 210-431-3337  anytime, night or day if you have been falsely accused of soliciting a minor online.

Arrested For Online Solicitation of a Minor? The Right San Antonio Criminal Lawyer Can Make a Difference
by Charles Johnson

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Defending Yourself from Charges of Child Pornography with the Right San Antonio Criminal Lawyer

Top San Antonio Criminal Defense Lawyer

Increasingly, child pornography laws are being used to punish the use of computer technology and the Internet to obtain, share and distribute pornographic material involving minors under the age of 18, including films and images. Courts have held that such material my be banned even if it is not legally obscene and does not involve nudity.

Child pornography is a crime that one can commit or be charged with committing even without one’s knowledge. The mere presence of pornographic images on a computer, even if it was downloaded without your knowledge, can implicate you in these crimes.

San Antonio Lawyer Charles Johnson aggressively defends clients charged with a sexual offense. He handles all sexual offense charges, whether in state or federal court, and whether the sex crime allegations are against children or adults.

Parties in contentious divorce or custody proceedings have been known to encourage children to say the other parent “touched” them a certain way or otherwise imply molestation. Child care workers, pastors, teachers, coaches, and others are frequently falsely accused. Parents have even been known to target individuals for extortion by coaching children. They may be coached by well-meaning social service and health care professionals, law enforcement officers, and prosecuting attorneys who want to make sure they obtain a conviction regardless of the truth.

Allegations of sex crimes are taken very seriously in Texas, and across the nation. With more stringent penalties being imposed, a false claim unchallenged or a single error in judgment can require you to be a lifelong member of the sex offenders’ registry and database. Before your reputation is devastated, invoke your right to an attorney and your right to remain silent. Contact San Antonio Criminal Lawyer Charles Johnson for a free phone consultation when you are under investigation for sex crimes or if charges have been brought against you for anything from possession and distribution of child pornography to sexual assault and rape.

How is Child Pornography Defined?

Federal and state laws make it a crime to produce, possess, distribute, or sell pornographic materials that exploit or portray a minor. Increasingly, child pornography laws are being utilized to punish use of computer technology and the Internet to obtain, share, and distribute pornographic material involving children, including images and films.

Under federal law (18 U.S.C. §2256), child pornography is defined as any visual depiction, including any photograph, film, video, picture, or computer or computer-generated image or picture, whether made or produced by electronic, mechanical, or other means, of sexually explicit conduct, where

  • the production of the visual depiction involves the use of a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct; or
  • the visual depiction is a digital image, computer image, or computer-generated image that is, or is indistinguishable from, that of a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct; or
  • the visual depiction has been created, adapted, or modified to appear that an identifiable minor is engaging in sexually explicit conduct.Federal law (18 U.S.C. §1466A) also criminalizes knowingly producing, distributing, receiving, or possessing with intent to distribute, a visual depiction of any kind, including a drawing, cartoon, sculpture or painting, that
  • depicts a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct and is obscene, or
  • depicts an image that is, or appears to be, of a minor engaging in graphic bestiality, sadistic or masochistic abuse, or sexual intercourse, including genital-genital, oral-genital, anal-genital, or oral-anal, whether between persons of the same or opposite sex and such depiction lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.

Sexually explicit conduct is defined under federal law (18 U.S.C. §2256) as actual or simulated sexual intercourse (including genital-genital, oral-genital, anal-genital, or oral-anal, whether between persons of the same or opposite sex), bestiality, masturbation, sadistic or masochistic abuse, or lascivious exhibition of the genitals or pubic area of any person.

Who Is a Minor?

For purposes of enforcing the federal law (18 U.S.C. §2256), “minor” is defined as a person under the age of 18.

Is Child Pornography a Crime?

Yes, it is a federal crime to knowingly possess, manufacture, distribute, or access with intent to view child pornography (18 U.S.C. §2252). In addition, all 50 states and the District of Columbia have laws criminalizing the possession, manufacture, and distribution of child pornography. As a result, a person who violates these laws may face federal and/or state charges.

Where Is Child Pornography Predominantly Found?

Child pornography exists in multiple formats including print media, videotape, film, CD-ROM, or DVD. It is transmitted on various platforms within the Internet including newsgroups, Internet Relay Chat (chatrooms), Instant Message, File Transfer Protocol, e-mail, websites, and peer-to-peer technology.

What Motivates People Who Possess Child Pornography?

Limited research about the motivations of people who possess child pornography suggests that child pornography possessors are a diverse group, including people who are

  • sexually interested in prepubescent children or young adolescents, who use child pornography for sexual fantasy and gratification
  • sexually “indiscriminate,” meaning they are constantly looking for new and different sexual stimuli
  • sexually curious, downloading a few images to satisfy that curiosity
  • interested in profiting financially by selling images or setting up web sites requiring payment for access

Who Possesses Child Pornography?

It is difficult to describe a “typical” child pornography possessor because there is not just one type of person who commits this crime.

In a study of 1,713 people arrested for the possession of child pornography in a 1-year period, the possessors ran the gamut in terms of income, education level, marital status, and age. Virtually all of those who were arrested were men, 91% were white, and most were unmarried at the time of their crime, either because they had never married (41%) or because they were separated, divorced, or widowed (21%).3

Forty percent (40%) of those arrested were “dual offenders,” who sexually victimized children and possessed child pornography, with both crimes discovered in the same investigation. An additional 15% were dual offenders who attempted to sexually victimize children by soliciting undercover investigators who posed online as minors.4

Who Produces Child Pornography?

Based on information provided by law enforcement to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children’s Child Victim Identification Program, more than half of the child victims were abused by someone who had legitimate access to them such as parents, other relatives, neighborhood/family friends, babysitters, and coaches.

What is the Nature of These Images?

The content in these illegal images varies from exposure of genitalia to graphic sexual abuse, such as penetration by objects, anal penetration, and bestiality.

Of the child pornography victims identified by law enforcement, 42% appear to be pubescent, 52% appear to be prepubescent, and 6% appear to be infants or toddlers.

Possible Punishment for Sexual Exploitation of a Minor/Child Pornography

If the photographs include children who are fourteen (14) years of age or younger, it is a Dangerous Crimes Against Children (DCAC) and carries a very severe penalty. A first offense carries the following punishment for each and every conviction: ten (10) years minimum in prison; seventeen (17) years presumptive in prison; twenty-four (24) years maximum incarceration.

If convicted of one previous predicate felony (which includes a prior DCAC, among other serious felonies), the range of punishment increases to a minimum twenty-one (21) years, presumptive twenty-eight years (28), and maximum thirty-five (35) years. Because this is a DCAC, 100% of the prison time must be served before being eligible for release. In addition, if the person is convicted of two (2) counts, they must be run consecutive to each other (i.e., the minimum is now twenty (20) years in prison, and all other ranges double). This is why these charges are sometimes referred to as “life enders”.

The maximum penalty on a Sexual Exploitation charge actually carries more time than the maximum penalty on a Second Degree Murder charge. A conviction will require you to register as a Sex Offender for the rest of your life, and you are not allowed to have any contact with anyone under the age of eighteen (18) (this includes your own children), without going through numerous testing procedures and only with the consent of your Probation Officer.

If the child was ages fifteen – seventeen (15-17), it is not sentenced pursuant to the DCAC statute. A first offense class two (2) felony, carries punishment of probation with zero (0) days in jail up to one (1) year in jail, or prison of three (3) years to twelve and one half (12.5) years of incarceration. If the person has one (1) allegeable historical prior conviction, then the “prison only” range is four and one half (4.5) years to twenty-three and one quarter (23.25) years in prison. If the person has two (2) allegeable historical prior convictions, then the “prison only” range is ten and one half (10.5) to thirty-five (35) years of incarceration.

Possible Defenses for Sexual Exploitation of a Minor/Child Pornography

The critical defenses to Child Porn charges involve showing that the person did not “knowingly” possess, receive, or do any of the listed actions with the images. One way of asserting this defense is by presenting evidence that the defendant was not the person who accessed the images. If it can be shown that there were multiple users who had access to the computer, and who did in fact use the computer often, then it is much more difficult for the State to prove the defendant actually accessed the images, rather than some other person. This defense is especially appropriate when the defendant lacks any other sexual crime convictions. In order to assert this defense, we need to present a variety of our own evidence to contradict whatever has been presented by the prosecution. Typically, the State would normally have executed a search warrant and confiscated the computer involved, then searched for the “IP address” and passwords that were used to trace the activates to a particular time, date, and user. Before they do any of this they will have “cloned” the hard drive in order to avoid any accusations that they have somehow tampered with the computer by adding images.

Another typical defense is that the defendant inadvertently came across the images on his computer, and thus it was not a “knowing” exchange. It is an affirmative defense to Child Pornography charges if a person timely reports that they have received unsolicited images on their computer. Usually, reporting within three (3) days of discovering the child pornography is considered to be “timely reporting.”

At the Charles Johnson Law Firm, we handle a very high percentage of “Sex Crimes” cases. We have one of the largest libraries with research materials devoted to challenging accusations involving sex crimes. Registering as Sex Offender has drastic consequences and leaves a black mark on your record; do not underestimate the potential severity of this charge.

Additionally, because our law firm fights conviction from all angles, we would assert a wide range of defenses and challenges to constitutional violations that apply in all criminal cases. The possibilities are numerous and diverse. One of those we frequently assert is a “Miranda rights violation.” In Texas, the standard of whether any incriminating statement (i.e., a statement which tends to admit guilt) is admissible into evidence is based upon a “voluntariness” standard. If we can demonstrate that the police coerced you (i.e., intimidated or tricked you) into making a confession or inculpatory statement, or that they did not properly read you your Miranda Rights, then we can suppress those statements and any evidence gathered as a direct result of those statements.

In addition, the “denial of right to Counsel” is another common defense which is often raised. This occurs when a suspect is in custody and requests to speak to their attorney, but is denied and questioning continues. Other defenses may include challenging the validity of any search warrant, or whether there were any “forensic flaws” during the investigation of your case. Depending on what else you have been charged with, this could include exposing flawed procedures regarding blood, breath, and urine testing; fingerprints analysis; DNA testing; computer analysis/cloning hard drive procedures; forensic financial accounting reviews; etc. Lastly, one of the most common defense tactics is exposing sloppy or misleading police reports which include everything from misstatements, false statements, flawed photo line-ups and inaccurate crime scene reconstruction. It is important to hire a skilled lawyer to defend you who has knowledge of all the possible defenses to assert in your case.

Do Not Make Statements. Obviously, the best defense begins before a defendant is ever charged. Often, in a misguided attempt to help law enforcement, defendants make statements that are twisted and turned into prosecutorial evidence. It is important to remember not to allow yourself be interviewed government agencies without an attorney present.

Any interview will be sent to the police and the county attorney’s office and can be used against you. An obvious corollary is do not let yourself be interviewed again by the police without your attorney present.

Computerized Evidence. Internet child pornography is a growing offense across the nation. Often files can be downloaded to a computer without the user knowing the content of the download. In such cases the electronic file will often include tell tale electronic evidence about the file, where it came from and its date of download. Using this evidence or challenging law enforcement’s sloppy investigation and acquisition of potentially exculpatory information is the best way for a defense lawyer to prove actual innocence.

Examine Prosecution Expert’s Background. An important part of every case is the ability to counter the reports and testimony of computer professionals, caseworkers and “experts” who examine pornographic evidence. To effectively counter a prosecution expert, the defense attorney must be well educated on the expert’s education, work history, published works and testimony in prior cases.

Use a Polygraph. When it is advantageous to the defense against a sexual assault, defense attorneys should obtain a credible polygraph examination from a respected professionals.

Texas Sex Offender Registration

In addition to the prison terms and fines one can face when convicted of any of these offenses, you may be required to register as a sex offender. This means you will be tracked for the rest of your life.

Knowing where to turn when facing charges as dark as these can be difficult. You have likely already seen people turn their backs on you because of the charges and you haven’t even gone to trial. You need someone in your corner fighting for your good name.

You are innocent until proven guilty. With my help we will see to it that you get the best possible results on your day in court.

San Antonio Child Pornography Defense Lawyer: The Charles Johnson Law Firm

Attorney Charles Johnson defends against sexual assault allegations throughout Texas, no matter how small or large the city. He has developed a unique understanding of the dynamics of these very serious cases. His competent, aggressive and thorough representation has made him a leading criminal defense attorney in dealing with sex and pornography related criminal charges.

Defending in these areas is a very specialized area of criminal defense. Unfortunately, the very accusations themselves are often treated as conclusive proof of criminal activity. If San Antonio Lawyer Charles Johnson is retained at an early stage in the investigation, he is sometimes able to avoid charges altogether. At a minimum he is often able to avoid the trauma and embarrassment of his client being arrested at home or at the workplace by contacting law enforcement and the court in order to make the necessary arrangements.

Depending on the facts of your case and the evidence against you, San Antonio Child Pornography Lawyer Charles Johnson will work to help you beat a false accusation or try to lessen the punishment. We understand your freedom is at stake and that a conviction of possession of child pornography may result in lifetime registration as a sex offender. To protect your rights and liberty, we conduct thorough investigations to prepare for trial or to minimize the consequences or sentence.

San Antonio Criminal Lawyer Charles Johnson can be reached 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Call us at 210-431-3337 or toll free at 877-308-0100.
Major Credit Cards Accepted.

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Arrested on Federal Conspiracy Charges? Finding The Best San Antonio Criminal Lawyer Is Imperative

Top San Antonio Federal Criminal LawyerIf you are charged with conspiracy to commit an offense in Federal Court, your rights and your future are in jeopardy.  Choosing the right criminal defense attorney to defend your case and protect your rights is critical. If you have been charged with conspiracy, or if you have reason to believe you are under investigation by law enforcement agents, the sooner you hire a criminal defense lawyer, the better positioned you will be. San Antonio Criminal Lawyer Charles Johnson provides a strong defense to conspiracy charges at both the state and federal level.

Conspiracy is one of the most often used crimes in the arsenal of the United State’s Attorneys Office.

This all encompassing charge has the ability to touch almost every Federal Crime.  Common conspiracy charges include:

  • Conspiracy to deal in illegal narcotics,
  • Conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute Cocaine, Crack Cocaine, Marijuana, or Methamphetamine.
  • Conspiracy to commit Mail Fraud, Wire Fraud, Health Care Fraud, and Tax Fraud and other White Collar Crimes

It is important to speak to an experienced federal criminal defense attorney as soon as possible if you are being investigated or have been arrested for any federal offense. Why?

  • Federal authorities tend to spend a lot of time and money investigating a suspect before they make an arrest.
  • They frequently have tape of your telephone conversations with an informant. Both can present significant challenges for the defense.
  • Conviction for a federal offense can have extremely serious consequences, including long periods of incarceration and huge fines.

Time Is Not on Your Side

Don’t delay. The earlier you retain legal counsel, the more options we will be able to pursue. For example, we may be able to negotiate with the prosecutor to get the charges dismissed or reduced before a grand jury convenes to issue an indictment. San Antonio Federal Criminal Lawyer Charles Johnson may be able to intervene on your behalf even before an arrest is made. If you believe you are the target of an investigation by any federal authority, please contact our office immediately.

Effective Defense Against Federal and Conspiracy Charges

In order to prove conspiracy, the government must prove each of the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

  • An agreement between at least two parties to achieve an illegal goal
  • That the defendant became a member of the conspiracy knowing at least one of its goals and intending to accomplish it
  • At least one conspirator committed an act to further the conspiracy.

As you can see, you can be charged with conspiracy even if you did nothing to actually commit a crime. The “crime” itself does not even have to be completed. In many cases, individuals with a limited role, or no role whatsoever in a criminal scheme, are charged with conspiracy. Suddenly even someone with a minor role in a broader conspiracy may be facing extreme consequences if convicted.

The Charles Johnson Law Firm will fight every aspect of these charges. We will hold the government to its burden of proof and will find any potential evidentiary or Constitutional violations in your case. You can contact Attorney Johnson anytime day or night and talk with him directly about your case. He can be reached at (210) 431-3337 around the clock.

Federal Conspiracy: Summary

Zacarias Moussaoui, members of the Colombian drug cartels, members of organized crime, and some of the former Enron executives have at least one thing in common: they all have federal conspiracy convictions. The essence of conspiracy is an agreement of two or more persons to engage in some form of prohibited misconduct. The crime is complete upon agreement, although some statutes require prosecutors to show that at least one of the conspirators has taken some concrete step or committed some overt act in furtherance of the scheme. There are dozens of federal conspiracy statutes. One, 18 U. S. C. 371, outlaws conspiracy to commit some other federal crime. The others outlaw conspiracy to engage in various specific forms of proscribed conduct. General Section 371 conspiracies are punishable by imprisonment for not more than five years; drug trafficking, terrorist, and racketeering conspiracies all carry the same penalties as their underlying substantive offenses, and thus are punished more severely than are Section 371 conspiracies. All are subject to fines of not more than $250,000 (not more than $500,000 for organizations), most may serve as the basis for a restitution order, and some for a forfeiture order.

The law makes several exceptions for conspiracy because of its unusual nature. Because many united in crime pose a greater danger than the isolated offender, conspirators may be punished for the conspiracy, any completed substantive offense which is the object of the plot, and any foreseeable other offenses which one of the conspirators commits in furtherance of the scheme. Since conspiracy is an omnipresent crime, it may be prosecuted wherever an overt act is committed in its furtherance. Because conspiracy is a continuing crime, its statute of limitations does not begin to run until the last overt act committed for its benefit. Since conspiracy is a separate crime, it may be prosecuted following conviction for the underlying substantive offense, without offending constitutional double jeopardy principles; because conspiracy is a continuing offense, it may be punished when it straddles enactment of the prohibiting statute, without offending constitutional ex post facto principles. Accused conspirators are likely to be tried together, and the statements of one may often be admitted in evidence against all.

In some respects, conspiracy is similar to attempt, to solicitation, and to aiding and abetting. Unlike aiding and abetting, however, it does not require commission of the underlying offense. Unlike attempt and solicitation, conspiracy does not merge with the substantive offense; a conspirator may be punished for both.


Terrorists, drug traffickers, mafia members, and corrupt corporate executives have one thing in common: most are conspirators subject to federal prosecution. Federal conspiracy laws rest on the belief that criminal schemes are equally or more reprehensible than are the substantive offenses to which they are devoted. The Supreme Court has explained that a “collective criminal agreement – a partnership in crime – presents a greater potential threat to the public than individual delicts. Concerted action both increases the likelihood that the criminal object will be successfully attained and decreases the probability that the individuals involved will depart from their path of criminality.” Moreover, observed the Court, “group association for criminal purposes often, if not normally, makes possible the attainment of ends more complex than those which one criminal could accomplish. Nor is the danger of a conspiratorial group limited to the particular end toward which it has embarked.” Finally, “combination in crime makes more likely the commission of crimes unrelated to the original purpose for which the group was formed.” In sum, “the danger which a conspiracy generates is not confined to the substantive offense which is the immediate aim of the enterprise.” Congress and the courts have fashioned federal conspiracy law accordingly.

The United States Code contains dozens of criminal conspiracy statutes. One, 18 U. S. C. 371, outlaws conspiracy to commit any other federal crime. The others outlaw conspiracy to commit some specific form of misconduct, ranging from civil rights violations to drug trafficking. Conspiracy is a separate offense under most of these statutes, regardless of whether conspiracy accomplishes its objective. The various conspiracy statutes, however, differ in several other respects. A few, including Section 371, require at least one conspirator to take some affirmative step in furtherance of the scheme. Most have no such overt act requirement.

Section 371 has two prongs. One outlaws conspiracy to commit a federal offense; a second, conspiracy to defraud the United States. Conspiracy to commit a federal crime under Section 371 requires that the underlying misconduct be a federal crime. Conspiracy to defraud the United States under Section 371 and in several other instances has no such prerequisite. Section 371 conspiracies are punishable by imprisonment for not more than five years. Elsewhere, conspirators often face more severe penalties.

These differences aside, federal conspiracy statutes share much common ground because Congress decided they should. As the Court observed in Salinas, “When Congress uses well-settled terminology of criminal law, its words are presumed to have their ordinary meaning and definition. When the relevant statutory phrase is ‘to conspire,’ we presume Congress intended to use the term in its conventional sense, and certain well-established principles follow.”

These principles include the fact that regardless of its statutory setting, every conspiracy has at least two elements: (1) an agreement (2) between two or more persons. Members of the conspiracy are also liable for the foreseeable crimes of their fellows committed in furtherance of the common plot. Moreover, statements by one conspirator are admissible evidence against all. Conspiracies are considered continuing offenses for purposes of the statute of limitations and venue. They are also considered separate offenses for purposes of sentencing and of challenges under the Constitution’s ex post facto and double jeopardy clauses. This is a brief discussion of the common features of federal conspiracy law that evolved over the years, with passing references to some of the distinctive features of some of the statutory provisions.


Although it is not without common law antecedents, federal conspiracy law is largely of our own making. It is what Congress provided, and what the courts understood Congress intended. This is not to say that conspiracy was unknown in pre-colonial and colonial England, but simply that it was a faint shadow of the crime we now know. Then, it was essentially a narrow form of malicious prosecution, subject to both a civil remedy and prosecution. In the late 18 and early 19 centuries, state courts and legislatures recognized a rapidly expanding accumulation of narrowly described wrongs as ” conspiracy.” The patchwork reached a point where one commentator explained that there were “few things left so doubtful in the criminal law, as the point at which a combination of several persons in a common object becomes illegal.”

Congress, however, enacted few conspiracy statutes prior to the Civil War. It did pass a provision in 1790 that outlawed confining the master of a ship or endeavoring revolt on board. This, Justice Story, sitting as a circuit judge, interpreted to include any conspiracy to confine the prerogatives of the master of ship to navigate, maintain, or police his ship. The same year, 1825, Congress outlawed conspiracies to engage in maritime insurance fraud. Otherwise, there were no federal conspiracy statutes until well after the mid-century mark.

During the War Between the States, however, Congress enacted four sweeping conspiracy provisions, creating federal crimes that have come down to us with little substantive change. The first, perhaps thought more pressing at the beginning of the war, was a seditious conspiracy statute. Shortly thereafter, Congress outlawed conspiracies to defraud the United States through the submission of false claim, and followed that four years later with a prohibition on conspiracies to violate federal law or to defraud the United States.

Subsequent conspiracy statutes, though perhaps no less significant, were more topically focused. The Reconstruction civil rights conspiracy provisions, the Sherman Act anti-trust provisions,and the drug and racketeering statutesmay be the best known of these. All of them begin the same way — with an agreement by two or more persons.

Two or More Persons

There are no one-man conspiracies. At common law where husband and wife were considered one, this meant that the two could not be guilty of conspiracy without the participation of some third person. This is no longer the case. In like manner at common law, corporations could not be charged with a crime. This too is no longer the case. A corporation is criminally liable for the crimes, including conspiracy, committed at least in part for its benefit, by its employees and agents. Moreover, a corporation may be criminally liable for intra-corporate conspiracies, as long as at least two of its officers, employees, or agents are parties to the plot. Notwithstanding the two-party requirement, no co-conspirator need have been tried or even identified, as long as the government produces evidence from which the conspiracy might be inferred. Even the acquittal of a co-conspirator is no defense. In fact, a person may conspire for the commission of a crime by a third person though he himself is legally incapable of committing the underlying offense.

On the other hand, two people may not always be enough. The so-called Wharton’s Rule placed a limitation on conspiracy prosecutions when the number of conspirators equaled the number of individuals necessary for the commission of the underlying offense. Under federal law, the rule “stands as an exception to the general principle that a conspiracy and the substantive offense that is its immediate end do not merge upon proof of the latter.” And under federal law, the rule reaches no further than to the types of offenses that birth its recognition — dueling, adultery, bigamy, and incest.


It is not enough, however, to show that the defendant agreed only with an undercover officer to commit the underlying offense, for there is no agreement on a common purpose in such cases. As has been said, the essence of conspiracy is an agreement, an agreement to commit some act condemned by law either as a separate federal offense or for purposes of the conspiracy statute. The agreement may be evidenced by word or action; that is, the government may prove the existence of the agreement either by direct evidence or by circumstantial evidence from which the agreement may be inferred. “Relevant circumstantial evidence may include: the joint appearance of defendants at transactions and negotiations in furtherance of the conspiracy; the relationship among codefendants; mutual representation of defendants to third parties; and other evidence suggesting unity of purpose or common design and understanding among conspirators to accomplish the objects of the conspiracy.

The lower federal appellate courts have acknowledged that evidence of a mere buyer-seller relationship is insufficient to support a drug trafficking conspiracy charge. Some do so under the rationale that there is no singularity of purpose, no necessary agreement, in such cases: “the buyer’s purpose is to buy; the seller’s purpose is to sell.” Others do so to avoid sweeping mere customers into a large-scale trafficking operation. Still others do so lest traffickers and their addicted customers face the same severe penalties. All agree, however, that purchasers may be liable as conspirators when they are part of a large scheme.

Again, in most cases the essence of conspiracy is agreement. “Nevertheless, mere association, standing alone, is inadequate; an individual does not become a member of a conspiracy merely associating with conspirators known to be involved in crime.”

One or Many Overlapping Conspiracies

The task of sifting agreement from mere association becomes more difficult and more important with the suggestion of overlapping conspiracies. Criminal enterprises may involve one or many conspiracies. Some time ago, the Supreme Court noted that “thieves who dispose of their loot to a single receiver – a single ‘fence’ – do not by that fact alone become confederates: They may, but it takes more than knowledge that he is a ‘fence’ to make them such.” Whether it is a fence, or a drug dealer, or a money launderer, when several seemingly independent criminal groups share a common point of contact, the question becomes whether they present one overarching conspiracy or several separate conspiracies with a coincidental overlap. In the analogy suggested by the Court, when separate spokes meet at the common hub they can only function as a wheel if the spokes and hub are enclosed within a rim. When several criminal enterprises overlap, they are one overarching conspiracy or several overlapping conspiracies depending upon whether they share a single unifying purpose and understanding—one common agreement.

In determining whether they are faced with a single conspiracy or a rimless collection of overlapping schemes, the courts will look for “the existence of a common purpose . . . (2) interdependence of various elements of the overall play; and (3) overlap among the participants.” “Interdependence is present if the activities of a defendant charged with conspiracy facilitated the endeavors of other alleged co-conspirators or facilitated the venture as a whole.

If this common agreement exists, it is of no consequence that a particular conspirator joined the plot after its inception as long as he joined it knowingly and voluntarily. Nor does it matter that a defendant does not know all of the details of a scheme or all of its participants, or that his role is relatively minor.

Overt Acts

Conviction under 18 U. S. C. 371 for conspiracy to commit a substantive offense requires proof that one of the conspirators committed an overt act in furtherance of the conspiracy. In the case of prosecution under other federal conspiracy statutes that have no such requirement, the existence of an overt act may be important for evidentiary and procedural reasons. The overt act need not be the substantive crime which is the object of the conspiracy, an element of that offense, nor even a crime in its own right. Moreover, a single overt act by any of the conspirators in furtherance of plot will suffice.

Conspiracy to Defraud the United States

Federal law contains several statutes that outlaw defrauding the United States. Two of the most commonly prosecuted are 18 U. S. C. 286, which outlaws conspiracy to defraud the United States through the submission of a false claim, and 18 U. S. C. 371, which in addition to conspiracies to violate federal law, outlaws conspiracies to defraud the United States of property or by obstructing the performance of its agencies. Section 371 has an overt act requirement; section 286 does not. The general principles of federal conspiracy law apply to both.

The elements of conspiracy to defraud the United States under 18 U. S. C. 371 are (1) an agreement of two or more persons; (2) to defraud the United States; and (3) an overt act in furtherance of the conspiracy committed by one of the conspirators. The “fraud covered by the statute reaches any conspiracy for the purpose of impairing, obstructing or defeating the lawful functions of any department of the Government” by “deceit, craft or trickery, or at least by means that are dishonest.” The plot must be directed against the United States or entity; a scheme to defraud the recipient of federal funds is not sufficient. The scheme may be designed to deprive the United States of money or property, but it need not be so; a plot calculated to frustrate the functions of an entity of the United States will suffice.

In contrast, a second federal statute, 18 U. S. C. 286, condemns conspiracies to defraud the United States of money or property through submission of a false claim. The elements of a section 286 violation are that “the defendant entered into a conspiracy to obtain payment or allowance of a claim against a department or agency of the United States; (2) the claim was false, fictitious, or fraudulent; (3) the defendant knew or was deliberately ignorant of the claim’s falsity, fictitiousness, or fraudulence; (4) the defendant knew of the conspiracy and intended to join it; and (5) the defendant voluntarily participated in the conspiracy.” Conviction does not require proof of an overt act in furtherance of the conspiracy.

When Does It End

Conspiracy is a crime which begins with a scheme and may continue on until its objective is achieved or abandoned. The liability of individual conspirators continues on from the time they joined the plot until it ends or until they withdraw. The want of an individual’s continued active participation is no defense as long as the underlying conspiracy lives and he has not withdrawn. An individual who claims to have withdrawn bears the burden of establishing either that he took some action to make his departure clear to his co-conspirators or that he disclosed the scheme to the authorities. As a general rule, overt acts of concealment do not extend the life of the conspiracy beyond the date of the accomplishment of its main objectives. On the other hand, the rule does not apply when concealment is one of the main objectives of the conspiracy.


Imprisonment and Fines

Section 371 felony conspiracies are punishable by imprisonment for not more than five years and a fine of not more than $250,000 (not more than $500,000 for organizations). Most drug trafficking, terrorism, racketeering, and many white collar conspirators face the same penalties as those who committed the underlying substantive offense, e. g. , 21 U. S. C. 846 ( “Any person who . . . conspires to commit any offense defined in the Controlled Substances Act shall be subject to the same penalties as those prescribed for the offense, the commission of which was the object of the . . . conspiracy” ); 18 U. S. C. 2339B ( “Whoever knowingly provides material support or resources to a foreign terrorist organization . . . . or conspires to do so, shall be fined under this title, or imprisoned not more than 15 years, or both” ); 18 U. S. C. 1962(d), 1963(a)( “(d) It shall be unlawful for any person to conspire to violate any of the racketeering provisions of subsection (a), (b), or (c) of this section. . . . (a) Whoever violates any provision of section 1962 . . . shall be fined under this title, or imprisoned for not more than 20 years. . . or both ” ); 18 U. S. C. 1349 ( ” Any person who . . . conspires to commit any offense under this chapter relating to mail fraud, wire fraud, etc. shall be subject to the same penalties as those prescribed for the offense, the commission of which was the object of . . . the conspiracy” ).

The United States Sentencing Guidelines greatly influence the sentences for federal crimes. Federal courts are bound to impose a sentence within the statutory maximums and minimums. Their decision of what sentence to impose within those boundaries, however, must begin with a determination of the sentencing recommendation under the guidelines. Reasonableness standards govern review of their sentencing decisions,and a sentence within the Sentencing Guideline range is presumed reasonable.

The Sentencing Guidelines system is essentially a scoring system. Federal crimes are each assigned a numerical base offense level and levels are added and subtracted to account for the various aggravating and mitigating factors in a particular case. Thus, for example, providing material support to a terrorist organization, 18 U. S. C. 2339B, has a base offense level of 26, which may be increased by 2 levels if the support comes in the form of explosives, U. S. S. G. §2M5. 3(a), (b) and may be increased or decreased still further for other factors. The guidelines designate six sentencing ranges of each total offense level; the appropriate range within the six is determined by extent of the offender’s criminal record. For instance, the sentencing range for a first-time offender with a total offense level of 28 would be imprisonment for between 78 and 97 months (Category I); while the range for an offender in the highest criminal history category (Category VI) would be imprisonment for between 140 and 175 months.

The base offense level for conspiracy is generally the same as that for the underlying offense, either by operation of an individual guideline, for example, U. S. C. §2D1. 1 (drug trafficking), or by operation of the general conspiracy guideline, U. S. S. C. §2X1. 1. In any event, conspirators who play a leadership role in an enterprise are subject to an increase of from 2 to 4 levels,

U. S. S. G. §3B1. 1, and those who play a more subservient role may be entitled to reduction of from 2 to 4 levels, U. S. S. G. §3B1. 2. In the case of terrorism offenses, conspirators may also be subject to a special enhancement which sets the minimum total offense level at 32 and the criminal history category at VI (regardless of the extent of the offender’s criminal record), U. S. S. G. §3A1. 4.

The Sentencing Guidelines also address the imposition of fines below the statutory maximum. The total offense level dictates the recommended fine range for individual and organizational defendants. For instance, the fine range for an individual with a total offense level of 28 is $12,500 to $125,000, U. S. C. §5E1. 2. The recommended fine range for an organization with a total offense level of 28 is $6,300,000 (assuming the loss or gain associated with the organization offense exceeds the usual $500,000 ceiling), U. S. S. G. §8C2. 4.


A conspirator’s liability for restitution is a matter of circumstance. Most conspiracy statutes do not expressly provide for restitution, but in most instances restitution may be required or permitted under any number of grounds. As a general rule, federal law requires restitution for certain offenses and permits it for others. A sentencing court is generally required to order a defendant to make restitution following conviction for a crime of violence or for a crime against property (including fraud), 18 U. S. C. 366A(a), (c). Those entitled to restitution under Section 3663A include those ” directly and proximately harmed ” by the crime of conviction and “in the case of an offense that involves as an element a scheme, conspiracy, or pattern of criminal activity, any person directly harmed by the defendant’s criminal conduct in the course of the scheme, conspiracy or pattern,” 18 U. S. C. 3663A(b).

Otherwise, a court is permitted to order restitution (a) following conviction for an offense prescribed under title 18 of the United States Code or for drug trafficking, 18 U. S. C. 3663; (b) as a condition of probation or supervised release, 18 U. S. C. 3563(b)(2), 3583(d); or (c) pursuant to a plea agreement, 18 U. S. C. 3663(a)(3), 3663A(c)(2).


The treatment of forfeiture in conspiracy cases is perhaps even more individualistic than restitution in conspiracy cases. The general criminal forfeiture statute, 18 U. S. C. 982, authorizes confiscation for several classes of property as a consequence of a particular conspiracy conviction, for example, 18 U. S. C. 982(a)(2)(calling for the confiscation of proceeds realized from “a violation of, or a conspiracy to – (A) section . . . 1341, 1343, 1344 of this title relating to mail, wire and bank fraud, affecting a financial institution” ); 18 U. S. C. 982(a)(8)(calling for the confiscation of proceeds from, and property used to facilitate or promote, “an offense under section . . . 1341, or 1343, or of a conspiracy to commit such an offense, if the offense involves telemarketing” ).

In the case of drug trafficking, forfeiture turns on the fact that it is authorized for any Controlled Substance Act violation, 21 U. S. C. 853, of which conspiracy is one, 21 U. S. C. 846. The same can be said of racketeering conspiracy provisions of 18 U. S. C. 1962(d).

Relation of Conspiracy to Other Crimes

Conspiracy is a completed crime upon agreement, or upon agreement and the commission of an overt act under statutes with an overt act requirement. Conviction does not require commission of the crime that is the object of the conspiracy. On the other hand, conspirators may be prosecuted for conspiracy, for any completed offense which is the object of the conspiracy, as well as for any foreseeable offense committed in furtherance of the conspiracy.

Aid and Abet

Anyone who “aids, abets, counsels, commands, induces, or procures” the commission of a federal crime by another is punishable as a principal, that is, as though he had committed the offense himself, 18 U. S. C. 2. If the other agrees and an overt act is committed, they are conspirators, each liable for conspiracy and any criminal act committed to accomplish it. If the other commits the offense, they are equally punishable for the basic offense. “Typically, the same evidence will support both a conspiracy and an aiding and abetting conviction.” The two are clearly distinct, however, as the Ninth Circuit has noted:

The difference between the classic common law elements of aiding and abetting and a criminal conspiracy underscores this material distinction, although at first blush the two appear similar. Aiding and abetting the commission of a specific crime, we have held, includes four elements: (1) that the accused had the specific intent to facilitate the commission of a crime by another, (2) that the accused had the requisite intent to commit the underlying substantive offense, (3) that the accused assisted or participated in the commission of the underlying substantive offense, and (4) that the principal committed the underlying offense. As Lopez emphasized, the accused generally must associate himself with the venture . . . participate in it as something he wishes to bring about, and sought by his action to make it succeed.

By contrast, a classic criminal conspiracy as charged in 18 U. S. C. § 371 is broader. The government need only prove (1) an agreement to engage in criminal activity, (2) one or more overt acts taken to implement the agreement, and (3) the requisite intent to commit the substantive crime. Indeed, a drug conspiracy does not even require commission of an overt act in furtherance of the conspiracy.

Two distinctions become readily apparent after a more careful comparison. First, the substantive offense which may be the object in a § 371 conspiracy need not be completed. Second, the emphasis in a § 371 conspiracy is on whether one or more overt acts was undertaken. This language necessarily is couched in passive voice for it matters only that a co-conspirator commit the overt act, not necessarily that the accused herself does so. In an aiding and abetting case, not only must the underlying substantive offense actually be completed by someone, but the accused must take some action, a substantial step, toward associating herself with the criminal venture. United States v. Hernandez-Orellana, 539 F. 3d 994, 1006-1007 (9th Cir. 2008).


Conspiracy and attempt are both inchoate offenses, unfinished crimes in a sense. They are forms of introductory misconduct that the law condemns lest they result in some completed form of misconduct. Federal law has no general attempt statute. Congress, however, has outlawed attempt to commit a number of specific federal offenses. Like conspiracy, a conviction for attempt does not require the commission of the underlying offense. Both require an intent to commit the contemplated substantive offense. Like conspiracy, the fact that it may be impossible to commit the target offense is no defense to a charge of attempt to commit it. Unlike conspiracy, attempt can be committed by a single individual. Attempt only becomes a crime when it closely approaches a substantive offense. Conspiracy becomes a crime far sooner. Mere acts of preparation will satisfy the most demanding conspiracy statute, not so with attempt. Conspiracy requires no more than an overt act in furtherance; attempt, a substantial step to completion. Moreover, unlike a conspirator, an accused may not be convicted of both attempt and the underlying substantive offense.

An individual may be guilty of both conspiring with others to commit an offense and of attempting to commit the same offense, either himself or through his confederates. In some circumstances, he may be guilty of attempted conspiracy. Congress has outlawed at least one example of an attempt to conspire in the statute which prohibits certain invitations to conspire, that is, solicitation to commit a federal crime of violence, 18 U. S. C. 373.


Section 373 prohibits efforts to induce another to commit a crime of violence “under circumstances strongly corroborative” of intent to see the crime committed, 18 U. S. C. 373(a). Section 373’s crimes of violence are federal “felonies that have as an element the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against property or against the person of another,” id. Examples of “strongly corroborative” circumstances include “the defendant offering or promising payment or another benefit in exchange for committing the offense; threatening harm or other detriment for refusing to commit the offense; repeatedly soliciting or discussing at length in soliciting the commission of the offense, or making explicit that the solicitation is serious; believing or knowing that the persons solicited had previously committed similar offenses; and acquiring weapons, tools, or information or use in committing the offense, or making other apparent preparations for its commission.” As is the case of attempt, “an individual cannot be guilty of both the solicitation of a crime and the substantive crime.” Although the crime of solicitation is complete upon communication with the requisite intent, renunciation prior to commission of the substantive offense is a defense. The offender’s legal incapacity to commit the solicited offense himself, however, is not a defense.

Procedural Attributes

Statute of Limitations

The statute of limitations for most federal crimes is five years, 18 U. S. C. 3282. The five-year limitation applies to the general conspiracy statute, 18 U. S. C. 371, and to the false claims conspiracy statute, 18 U. S. C. 286. Section 371 requires proof of an overt act; section 286 does not. For conspiracy offenses with an overt act requirement like those under Section 371, the statute of limitations begins with completion of the last overt act in furtherance of the conspiracy. For conspiracy offenses with no such requirement like those under section 286, the statute of limitations begins with the abandonment of the conspiracy or the accomplishment of its objectives.


The presence or absence of an overt act requirement makes a difference for statute of limitations purposes. For venue purposes, it apparently does not. The Supreme Court has observed in passing that “this Court has long held that venue is proper in any district in which an overt act in furtherance of the conspiracy was committed, even where an overt act is not a required element of the conspiracy offense.” The lower federal appellate courts are seemingly of the same view, for they have found venue proper for a conspiracy prosecution wherever an overt act occurs — under overt act statutes and non-overt act statutes alike.

Joinder and Severance (One Conspiracy, One Trial)

Three rules of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure govern joinder and severance for federal criminal trials. Rule 8 permits the joinder of common criminal charges and defendants. Rule 12 insists that a motion for severance be filed prior to trial. Rule 14 authorizes the court to grant severance for separate trials as a remedy for prejudicial joinder.

The Supreme Court has pointed out that “there is a preference in the federal system for joint trials of defendants who are indicted together. Joint trials play a vital role in the criminal justice system. They promote efficiency and serve the interests of justice by avoiding the scandal and inequity of inconsistent verdicts.” In conspiracy cases, a ” conspiracy charge combined with substantive counts arising out of that conspiracy is a proper basis for joinder under Rule 8(b).” Moreover, “the preference in a conspiracy trial is that persons charged together should be tried together.” In fact, “it will be the rare case, if ever, where a district court should sever the trial of alleged co-conspirators.” The Supreme Court has reminded the lower courts that “a district court should grant a severance under Rule 14 only if there is a serious risk that a joint trial would compromise a specific trial right of one of the defendants, or prevent the jury from making a reliable judgment about guilt or innocence.” The Court noted that the risk may be more substantial in complex cases with multiple defendants, but that “less drastic measures, such as limiting instructions, often will suffice to cure any risk of prejudice.” Subsequently lower federal appellate court opinions have emphasized the curative effect of appropriate jury instructions.

Double Jeopardy and Ex Post Facto

Because conspiracy is a continuing offense, it stands as an exception to the usual ex post facto principles. Because it is a separate crime, it also stands as an exception to the usual double jeopardy principles.

The ex post facto clauses of the Constitution forbid the application of criminal laws which punish conduct that was innocent when it was committed or punishes more severely criminal conduct than when it was committed. Increasing the penalty for an ongoing conspiracy, however, does not offend ex post facto constraints as long as the conspiracy straddles the date of the legislative penalty enhancement.

The double jeopardy clause of the Fifth Amendment declares that no person shall “be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb.” This prohibition condemns successive prosecutions, successive punishments, and successive use of charges rejected in acquittal.

For successive prosecution or punishment, the critical factor is the presence or absence of the same offense. Offenses may overlap, but they are not the same crime as long as each requires proof of an element that the other does not. 130 Since conspiracy and its attendant substantive offense are ordinarily separate crimes — one alone requiring agreement and the other alone requiring completion of the substantive offense — the double jeopardy clause poses no impediment to successive prosecution or to successive punishment of the two.

Double jeopardy issues arise most often in a conspiracy context when a case presents the question of whether the activities of the accused conspirators constitute a single conspiracy or several overlapping conspiracies. Multiple conspiracies may be prosecuted sequentially and punished with multiple sanctions; single conspiracies must be tried and punished once. Asked to determine whether they are faced with one or more than one conspiracy, the courts have said they inquire whether:

  1. the locus criminis place of the two alleged conspiracies is the same;
  2. there is a significant degree of temporal overlap between the two conspiracies charged;
  3. there is an overlap of personnel between the two conspiracies (including unindicted as well as indicted co-conspirators);
  4. the over acts charged are related;
  5. the role played by the defendant relates to both;
  6. there was a common goal among the conspirators;
  7. whether the agreement contemplated bringing to pass a continuous result that will not continue without the continuous cooperation of the conspirators; and
  8. the extent to which the participants overlapped in their various dealings.

Co-conspirator Declarations

At trial, the law favors the testimony of live witnesses — under oath, subject to cross examination, and in the presence of the accused and the jury — over the presentation of their evidence in writing or through the mouths of others. The hearsay rule is a product of this preference. Exceptions and definitions narrow the rule’s reach. For example, hearsay is usually defined to include only those out-of-court statements which are offered in evidence “to prove the truth of the matter asserted.”

Although often referred to as the exception for co-conspirator declarations, the Federal Rules of Evidence treats the matter within its definition of hearsay. Thus, Rule 801(d)(2)(E) of the Federal Rules provides that an out-of-court “statement is not hearsay if . . . (2) The statement is offered against a party and is . . . (E) a statement by a coconspirator of a party during the course and in furtherance of the conspiracy.”

To admit a co-conspirator declaration into evidence under the Rule, a “court must find: (1) the conspiracy existed; (2) the defendant was a member of the conspiracy; and (3) the co-conspirator made the proffered statements in furtherance of the conspiracy.” The court, however, may receive the statement preliminarily subject to the prosecution’s subsequent demonstration of its admissibility by a preponderance of the evidence. As to the first two elements, a co­conspirator’s statement without more is insufficient; there must be ” some extrinsic evidence sufficient to delineate the conspiracy and corroborate the declarant’s and the defendant’s roles in it.” As to the third element, “a statement is in furtherance of a conspiracy if it is intended to promote the objectives of the conspiracy.” A statement is in furtherance, for instance, if it describes for the benefit of a co-conspirator the status of the scheme, its participants, or its methods. Bragging, or “mere idle chatter or casual conversation about past events, “however, are not considered statements in furtherance of a conspiracy.

Under some circumstances, evidence admissible under the hearsay rule may nevertheless be inadmissible because of Sixth Amendment restrictions. The Sixth Amendment provides, among other things, that “in all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right . . . to be confronted with the witnesses against him.” The provision was inspired in part by reactions to the trial of Sir Walter Raleigh, who argued in vain that he should be allowed to confront the alleged co-conspirator who had accused him of treason. Given its broadest possible construction, the confrontation clause would eliminate any hearsay exceptions or limitations. The Supreme Court in Crawford v. Washington explained, however, that the clause has a more precise reach. The clause uses the word “witnesses” to bring within its scope only those who testify or whose accusations are made in a testimonial context. In a testimonial context, the confrontation clause permits use at trial of prior testimonial accusations only if the witness is unavailable and only if the accused had the opportunity to cross examine him when the testimony was taken. The Court elected to “leave for another day any effort to spell out a comprehensive definition of ‘testimonial,'” but has suggested that the term includes “affidavits, depositions, prior testimony, or confessions ,and other statements that were made under circumstances which would lead an objective witness reasonably to believe that the statement would be available for use at a later trial.” Since Crawford, the lower federal courts have generally held that the confrontation clause poses no obstacle to the admissibility of the co-conspirator statements at issue in the cases before them, either because the statements were not testimonial; were not offered to establish the truth of the asserted statement; or because the clause does not bar co-conspirator declarations generally.

Obtain the Best Defense Against Federal Conspiracy Charges

Many people charged with federal drug conspiracies are concerned with predicting the outcome of their cases. They often wonder about the likelihood of a conviction and the length of a potential sentence. The truth is that, if you are charged with a drug conspiracy, your case can be very serious and complicated. A lot may depend on the drug quantity, the testimony of witnesses and on cooperation with the prosecution. Federal Criminal Lawyer Charles Johnson can help you navigate the legal system so that you can make decisions based on in-depth understanding of the consequences you may face.

In federal drug conspiracy cases, a lot has to do with the strength of the evidence. Experienced Attorney Charles Johnson skilled at helping clients evaluate whether to take a case to trial or whether to find other ways to resolve the issue more favorably. At the Charles Johnson Law Firm, we place a large emphasis on honesty with our clients. Although it is often more difficult to be realistic with clients than to promise miracles, we know that our clients and their families deserve the truth about the seriousness of federal drug conspiracy charges.

They also deserve the skilled legal representation we provide. Whether you are charged with criminal conspiracy, a continuing criminal enterprise or with a violation the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (commonly called RICO), we will use our knowledge and experience to strive for the best results possible.

Contact San Antonio Lawyer Charles Johnson anytime night or day at (210) 431-3337 to speak with him directly. Our law firm is dedicated to helping clients face drug conspiracy charges with confidence and dignity.

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Arrested for Marijuana Possession or Sales? The Best San Antonio Criminal Lawyer Offers a Powerful Defense

Finest San Antonio Criminal Defense Attorney

The Charles Johnson Law Firm is one of the foremost criminal defense law firms in San Antonio in defending people from drug convictions, including the possession and sale of marijuana. Our unique strategy gives our clients the best opportunity to avoid criminal penalties, and our criminal defense law firm’s familiarity with drug laws, both felonies and misdemeanors, is unrivaled. We provide each client a high-quality legal defense that is superior. San Antonio Criminal Lawyer Charles Johnson can defend against any criminal drug charge in both federal and state courts, and our firm’s track record of success continues to grow.

Hire the Best San Antonio Drug Crimes Defense Lawyer: The Charles Johnson Law Firm

Criminal Marijuana Penalties

Marijuana possession and sale charges can be either misdemeanors or felonies, but both carry serious penalties. Jail time, heavy fines, probation, mandatory rehab programs and more are all possible penalties for drug charges. Attorney Johnson’s finely tuned defense techniques have evolved from years of experience, and he brings that knowledge and experience to those facing marijuana-related criminal charges.

Marijuana Possession

Of all the marijuana laws in Texas, possession of marijuana may be the most unfair. It punishes otherwise responsible citizens merely for keeping some pot for personal use and who have no intention of ever doing anything hurtful with it or profiting from it. Nonetheless, it is an offense to possess, distribute or cultivate marijuana in Texas. Depending on the quantity, possession of marijuana can be charged as a misdemeanor of felony in both state and federal court.

The prosecution may argue that you’re “in possession” of marijuana in San Antonio, TX, if you’re found smoking marijuana or if you knowingly “exercised control” over the marijuana. Therefore, the location of the marijuana is very important:

  • If the marijuana is found on your person, in your car, in or around your home, in a storage unit belonging to you, or in any other place that you have some authority over, the prosecution will argue that you were in possession of the marijuana since you had some control over the location.
  • Furthermore, if marijuana is found in your system during a drug test or you were caught driving under the influence of marijuana in Texas, the prosecution may try to use that to prove you’ve been in possession of marijuana since you presumably “exercise control” over your body.

Marijuana Possession Penalties in Texas

  • Two ounces or less include a fine up to $2,000, up to 180 days in jail or both
  • More than two ounces, but less than four ounces. Penalties include a fine of up to $4,000, up to one year in jail, or both.
  • Four ounces or more, up to and including five pounds. Penalties include a fine of up to $10,000, between 180 days and two years in prison, or both.
  • More than five pounds, up to and including 50 pounds. Penalties include a fine of up to $10,000, between two and ten years in prison, or both.
  • More than 50 pounds, up to and including 2,000 pounds. Penalties include a fine of up to $10,000, between two and 20 years in prison, or both.
  • More than 2,000 pounds. Penalties include a fine of up to $50,000, between five and 99 years in prison, or both.

Sale of Marijuana

Various states have different marijuana laws, and Texas is no different. Texas treats marijuana sales as a much more serious crime than possession, which is reflected in the penalties. The sale of any amount of marijuana can lead to prison time, even for small amounts.

Sale of Marijuana Penalties in Texas

  • 1/4 oz – 5 lbs: 6 months – 2 years, $10,000 fine
  • 5 lbs – 50 lbs: 2 – 20 years, $10,000 fine
  • 50 lbs – 1 ton: 5 – 99 years, $10,000 fine
  • 1 ton or more: Mandatory minimum of 10 – 99 years, with a $100,000 fine

These are for either the sale OR delivery, meaning it is irrelevant whether or not you are actually paid or just just giving it to someone. On top of that, if the delivery or sale is to a minor (in ANY amount), that is punishable by an additional 2 – 20 years in prison. Also, sale within 1,000 feet of a school or within 300 feet of a youth center, public pool or video arcade increases the penalty classification to the next highest level (which in some cases is a difference of many years).

The San Antonio Lawyer Charles Johnson understands the unique nature of Texas marijuana laws, and can provide a skilled defense. His unparalleled knowledge of state and federal drug laws gives him a unique ability to provide excellent legal services for you and your loved ones. If you are in need of criminal defense legal representation in the San Antonio area, contact Attorney Johnson anytime day or night at 210-431-3337 to discuss your situation.

What Is Marijuana?

Cannabis sativa: There are two species of Cannabis. One species is Cannabis sativa, originally cultivated to make hemp. The stalks of the plant contain fibers that are woven to make rope, cloth, and paper. The other species is Cannabis indica, known for its psychoactive properties. Hashish is derived from Cannabis indica. In Africa, cannabis is know as “dagga,” in China as “ma,” and in India as “ganga” or “bhang”. Marijuana is the Mexican colloquial name for Cannabis sativa. Marijuana is a greenish-gray mixture of dried, shredded leaves, stems, seeds, and flowers of the hemp plant.

THC is the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. THC or delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol is found in the plant’s resin. The amount of THC determines the potency of the marijuana. The resin is mostly concentrated in the flowers of the plant. Because of various cultivation techniques the amount of THC varies considerably in the flowers of individual plants.

Other Chemicals: Marijuana is a complex drug and is made up of 420 chemical components. Sixty-one of these chemicals are called cannabinoids and are unique to marijuana. Many scientific studies focus on the primary psychoactive chemical, THC but don’t know how these other cannabinoids affect the various organs, brain, and behavior.

Grades of Marijuana

  • Low-grade marijuana is made from leaves of both sexes of the plant.
  • Medium-grade marijuana is made of the flowering tops of female plants fertilized by male plants.
  • High-grade marijuana is made of the flowering tops of female plants raised in isolation to male plants. This marijuana is called sinsemilla because it does not produce a seed.
  • Hashish is produced when resin is collected from the Cannabis indica plant. The THC-rich resin is dried and then compressed into a variety of forms, such as balls, cakes, or cookie-like sheets. Pieces are then broken off, placed in pipes, and smoked or rolled into a cigarette along with tobacco or low-grade marijuana. The Middle East, North Africa, Pakistan, and Afghanistan are the main sources of hashish. THC content of hashish can vary from 8% to 20%.

What are the Physical Effects of Marijuana usage?

When marijuana is smoked, the affects are felt in minutes. The high usually peaks within a couple of hours. Marijuana affects users differently. The “high” can include a feeling of relaxation, improved sense perception, and emotional well-being. Music and visual images may seem more vibrant and intense. Time seems to slow down. Some people experience physical hunger and a range of emotion from laughter to introspection. Marijuana does not always produce pleasant feelings and may cause paranoia and hallucinations. Emergency room visits have increased because some people feel anxious or fearful after smoking high-grade marijuana. Whether the marijuana is smoked or eaten, THC can remain in the body for days. About half the THC is in the blood 20 hours after smoking. Although the initial high has disappeared, physical and mental functions may be affected for days.

The physical effects of marijuana depend on many individual factors such as personal health, the time of day that marijuana is used, the problems it causes, and how well a person is able to control his or her use. Research studies have shown that one of the primary concerns for those who use marijuana is cardiovascular damage. Marijuana causes damage to lungs that is similar to that caused by cigarettes. For people who inhale deeply or hold the smoke in their lungs longer, the risk can be greater. One study that compared cigarette and marijuana smokers found that marijuana smokers absorbed five times the amount of carbon monoxide, and had five times the tar in their lungs, as compared to cigarette smokers. For those who smoke both marijuana and cigarettes, the damage can be exponentially greater than that caused by marijuana or cigarettes alone.

Research shows that people who use marijuana more than one time during the day tend to have more social and physical problems than those who only use in the evenings. Those who use at multiple times may also be more likely to be smoking to avoid problems they feel unable to confront. A person who uses marijuana in addition to alcohol or other drugs can be at additional risk. The effects of some drugs become exponentially greater when taken together. In addition, the physical tolerance that one drug produces can sometimes affect another drug, and lead to dependence on multiple substances.

Is Marijuana Addictive?

While marijuana is not in the same addictive league as cocaine, heroin, and even alcohol, recent studies raise the possibility that THC affects the level of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is a chemical in the brain that affects the pleasure circuits. Many addictive drugs cause the release of dopamine from the neurons. One report by the National Institute of Drug Abuse states that long-term marijuana use can lead to addiction for some people. This report concludes that along with craving, withdrawal symptoms can make it hard for long-term marijuana smokers to stop using the drug. People trying to quit report irritability, difficulty sleeping, and anxiety.

Drug Paraphernalia

Texas does not prosecute possession of drugs only. In fact, Texas will prosecute a person for possession of drug paraphernalia. Thus, it is a separate criminal charge classified as a Class C Misdemeanor and typically carries a penalty of $500. Normally, if one is charged with a possession of controlled substance, then a possession of drug paraphernalia will be charged against the person, as well.

Under federal law the term drug paraphernalia means “any equipment, product or material of any kind which is primarily intended or designed for use in manufacturing, compounding, converting, concealing, producing, processing, preparing, injecting, ingesting, inhaling, or otherwise introducing into the human body a controlled substance.”

Drug paraphernalia is any legitimate equipment, product, or material that is modified for making, using, or concealing illegal drugs such as cocaine, heroin, marijuana, and methamphetamine. Drug paraphernalia generally falls into two categories:

User-specific products

User-specific products are marketed to drug users to assist them in taking or concealing illegal drugs. These products include certain pipes, smoking masks, bongs, cocaine freebase kits, marijuana grow kits, roach clips, and items such as hollowed out cosmetic cases or fake pagers used to conceal illegal drugs.

Dealer-specific products

Dealer-specific products are used by drug traffickers for preparing illegal drugs for distribution at the street level. Items such as scales, vials, and baggies fall into this category. Drug paraphernalia does not include any items traditionally used with tobacco, like pipes and rolling papers.

With the rise of the drug culture in the United States in the 1960s and 1970s, the country began to see the appearance of “head shops,” which were stores that sold a wide range of drug paraphernalia. While some of the paraphernalia was crude and home-made, much was being commercially manufactured to cater to a fast-growing market. Enterprising individuals even sold items openly in the street, until anti-paraphernalia laws in the 1980s eventually ended such blatant sales. Today, law enforcement faces another challenge. With the advent of the Internet, criminals have greatly expanded their illicit sales to a worldwide market for drug paraphernalia. For example, in a recent law enforcement effort, Operation Pipedreams, the 18 companies targeted accounted for more than a quarter of a billion dollars in retail drug paraphernalia sales annually. Typically, such illicit businesses operate retail stores as well as websites posing as retailers of legitimate tobacco accessories when in reality the products are intended for the illegal drug trade.

Identifying drug paraphernalia can be challenging because products often are marketed as though they were designed for legitimate purposes. Marijuana pipes and bongs, for example, frequently carry a misleading disclaimer indicating that they are intended to be used only with tobacco products. Recognizing drug paraphernalia often involves considering other factors such as the manner in which items are displayed for sale, descriptive materials or instructions accompanying the items, and the type of business selling the items.

Marijuana-Related Crimes

The Charles Johnson Law Firm is experienced in marijuana-related matters involving:

Contact the Best San Antonio Marijuana Possession Lawyer: The Charles Johnson Law Firm

Before someone can be convicted of marijuana possession in San Antonio, the state must prove that the accused actually had possession or took action to control the drug. Drug possession cases are complicated and depend the police’s adherence to strict guidelines concerning search and seizure of the drug.

As you could be facing fines, probation, drug classes, community service, and jail, it is crucial that you speak with an experienced San Antonio criminal attorney if you have been accused of this crime. Our team at the Charles Johnson Law Firm is well-equipped to handle any type of drug crime, including those involving possession of marijuana and/or drug paraphernalia. We understand that mistakes can happen and not everyone who has been accused of a crime is guilty. No matter how serious you may believe your case to be, contact The San Antonio Lawyer Charles Johnson directly by calling 210-431-3337 anytime, day or night to discuss your case.

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