Criminal Defense Blog


Latest New Non-Disclosure Law – H.B. 3016

Latest New Non-Disclosure Law – H.B. 3016 – Simplified

Now You Can Seal DWI’s under H.B. 3016

As of September 1, 2017 the new non-disclosure laws enacted September 1, 2015 are retroactive. This means that the 2015 laws now apply to any offense date – not just offense dates of September 1, 2015 or after.

Additionally, the new 2017 non-disclosure law under H.B. 3016 allows you to seal some DWI’s – something the old 2015 law did not provide for.

Below is a basic summary of the new laws. Call our office at 832.328.0600 to discuss your particular case and determine eligibility, as the laws are complex.

The new laws are for first-time misdemeanor offenders only

  • The new categories of eligibility for sealing are for first-time offenders charged with certain misdemeanor offenses only
  • If this is not your first case or is your first case but is a felony you still may be eligible to seal it if you fall under the already-established categories of eligibility; call our office or use the contact form on this page for a free confidential discussion..

Automatic non-disclosures

  • For eligible misdemeanors only [misdemeanors which are not excluded or which do not carry a 2-year waiting period to seal]
  • For deferreds only
  • For first-time offenders only
  • Automatic does not mean it just happens – you still have to file a petition and have a hearing
  • The automatic part is that the judge does not have any discretion to deny it “in the best interests of justice” – it must be granted
  • 180 day waiting period from the start of your deferred adjudication
  • Other conditions of eligibility apply, the most important of which is that you must not have pleaded guilty to any case since pleading guilty to the case you are wanting to seal

Standard non-disclosures

  • At the discretion of the judge and can be denied “in the best interests of justice”, a very vague construct but one which we can do nothing about, unfortunately
  • All eligible misdemeanors that carry the 2-year waiting period to seal are standard; some misdemeanors are excluded
  • All eligible felonies are standard – they can all be denied “in the best interests of justice”; some felonies are excluded
  • All eligible felonies carry a 5-year waiting period to seal
  • [All other conditions of eligibility apply]

Non-Disclosures After Straight Probation

  • For eligible misdemeanors only
  • For first-time offenders – this must be the FIRST criminal case you have ever pleaded guilty to – a prior probation or deferred will disqualify you
  • You finished probation successfully – you were not revoked
  • You have paid all fines, costs and restitution
  • 2 year waiting period applies to some eligible misdemeanors
  • [All other conditions of eligibility apply]

Non-Disclosures After DWI Probation

  • For DWI 1st’s only with no accident involving another person including your passenger – so if you had no passenger and hit a tree or a parked car (with no one inside of it) you are eligible but if you had a passenger and hit a tree or a parked car you are not eligible
  • For first-time offenders only – if you have ever pleaded guilty to any criminal charge in the past you are not eligible to seal your DWI 1st
  • Must have successfully completed probation and paid all fines, costs and restitution
  • Waiting period of 2 years or 5 years from date of discharge from probation
  • 2 years if you had a breath interlock on for at least 6 months
  • 5 years if there was no interlock requirement
  • [All other eligibility requirements apply]

Non-Disclosures After Jail Time or Fine Only Convictions

  • For eligible misdemeanors only
  • For first time offenders only – you cannot have pleaded guilty to any criminal case in the past
  • Felony jail convictions still cannot be sealed
  • You must have completed all your jail time [if any] and be out of jail
  • You must have paid all fines, costs and restitution
  • If the judge determines the offense was violent or sexual in nature the judge can deny it
  • 2 year waiting period after release from confinement
  • [All other eligibility requirements apply]

Non-Disclosures After DWI Jail Time

  • For DWI 1st’s only with no accident involving another person including your passenger
  • For first-time offenders only – prior cases will disqualify you
  • You must have served all your time
  • You must have paid all fines, costs and restitution
  • Waiting period of 3 years or 5 years from date of release from jail
  • 3 years if you had a breath interlock requirement for at least 6 months
  • 5 years if there was no interlock requirement

When waiting periods begin

  • Except for automatic non-disclosures waiting periods begin from the date of discharge and dismissal from your deferred adjudication or from the date you are released from jail

Eligibility

  • If you pleaded guilty in the past to certain (not all) offenses (not the case you are wanting to seal) you are ineligible for standard non-disclosures
  • For everyone – If you have pleaded guilty to any charge during any applicable waiting period or after pleading guilty to the case you want to seal you become ineligible to seal that case
  • If you are not eligible your petition will definitely be denied and you are wasting your money
  • If you are eligible your petition may be granted, or it may be denied “in the best interests of justice”, unless it’s automatic – in which case it will definitely be granted

Offenses that are not eligible

Many categories of offenses are not eligible for sealing.

The main categories are:

  • Sexual offenses
  • Child-related offenses (injury, abandonment, endangerment)
  • Family violence

We have had great success helping the people of Houston seal their records so that they can pursue their lives and happiness. If you are interested in having your records sealed, even if you don’t meet any of the requirements above we may be able to to help. Call our office at 832.328.0600 or use the email form on this page for a free confidential consultation and we will put over 30 years of winning legal experience to work fighting for you.


Drug Trafficking in Texas | Houston Defense Attorney

Drug Trafficking in Texas

Though every state in the United States is at risk for the transportation and distribution of illegal drugs, Texas consistently ranks at or near the top for the amount of major drugs seized within its borders. This is in part due to Texas’ proximity to Mexico, a constant source of illegal drugs, but also because it stands as a major gateway to the rest of the country.

What is Drug Trafficking?

Simply put, drug trafficking [Title 6 Chapter 481] is the act of transporting illegal drugs from one spot another, including distribution and importation. The penalties for drug trafficking can be severe, including years in prison, thousands of dollars in fines, loss of benefits and licenses, and difficulties finding employment.

Often, a charge of drug trafficking is applied to anyone found with illegal drugs in their possession. The difference trafficking and a drug possession charge can sometimes simple be the amount; if a person is found with drugs exceeding a certain weight, he or she will most likely be charged with drug trafficking as opposed to drug possession, which can carry much more severe consequences.

One example of this is a 2017 arrest of ten individuals charged with interstate drug trafficking. The Police Department conducted a seven-month investigation with police departments across Texas and eventually seized sixty-four pounds of marijuana, 230 prescription pills, six bottles of prescription syrup, 274 grams of cocaine, fourteen grams of psilocybin, three pistols, and seven assault rifles. The street value of these drugs was a quarter of a million dollars and partly based on the amount the individuals were charged with trafficking.

Every type of illegal drug, above a certain amount, can count as a drug trafficking charge, but some of the more common types include marijuana, heroin, cocaine, methamphetamines, and prescription drugs like oxycodone. Alternatively, if someone is caught with measuring equipment or plastic bags (and especially large amounts of cash), a drug trafficking charge is usually levelled as well.

Penalties for Drug Trafficking?

If someone is convicted of drug trafficking, they can face a stiff punishment. In the case of heroin or methamphetamine, a person convicted could be sentenced to five years in prison and a fine of up to $2,000. If a person is charged a second time the punishment can be multiplied exponentially with the accused facing anywhere from 10-99 years in prison and a fine not exceeding $10,000. Texas Law allows for any of these charges to be increased if further malfeasance can be proven, such as if a weapon is found.

If you or a loved one is charged with drug trafficking in Houston, TX or surrounding areas, it is very important to find an experienced criminal defense attorney who can competently defend you in court. Carl Haggard has over 30 years of experience defending the people of Texas against drug trafficking charges and has a verifiable winning court record. Call (832) 328-0600 or email The Haggard Law Firm today for a free confidential consultation about your case and we will go to work fighting for you!

Drug Trafficking Attorney Houston Texas

What Is Federal Embezzlement?

Embezzlement is theft [18 US Code Chapter 31]. This crime occurs when a person in a position of trust lies, misappropriates, or transfers funds or property in an unlawful manner. For instance, an accountant may use false pretenses to enrich their bank account. Embezzlement can occur on many levels and with different types of tangible assets. Though the premise is the same, federal embezzlement is a bit different. It becomes a federal crime when an agency of the United States government is involved.

The value of the property or money affected is important in determining which federal laws will be applicable. For instance, if the value of the assets is more than $1,000, then jail time is possible. A person can be sentenced up to 10 years for this type of theft. It can include tangible property, materials, or public records. A fine will be attached, but it cannot exceed $250,000.

When the value of the theft is less than $1,000, then the maximum fine is $100,000 or less. The maximum jail time also decreases to a one-year term. While less than higher property value embezzlement, this is still a very serious crime that can have life change repercussions. Any tools or instruments that are used to make counterfeit currency is considered to be an aggravated crime. The fine in this instance will be $250,000 and a person can be sentenced up to ten years in prison. The United States Treasury typically invokes these provisions.

The most common application of federal embezzlement is taking public money. Anyone that is charged with theft of public funds may receive enhanced penalties for their crimes. The $1,000 benchmark determines a suitable sentence. Any embezzlement over $1,000 or more will result in a fine of up to $250,000, and it can lead up to a 10-year term in prison. When the theft is less in value, then the fine is substantially reduced and the prison term reduced to a year or under.

Anything under $1,000, will be classified as a misdemeanor, which brings about a lesser charge. Anything over $1,000 is charged as a felony. Depending on the amount, the prison term can be a few months or it can be up to thirty years. When sentencing the defendant, their criminal history and the extent of trust given will be taken into consideration.

With federal embezzlement, a point system was developed to help determine the appropriate sentence. The lowest number of points possible, which is considered six in a federal case, is called the “Base Offense Level.” According to the guidelines, 36 is the highest number of points a person can receive. If the loss is under $5,000, then six points are assigned. To receive 36 points, the loss must be over $400 million.

Almost all non-capital, federal crimes have a statute of limitations of five years, and a perpetrator cannot be punished unless an indictment is handed down within that time frame. Federal law does not provide a longer statute of limitations for embezzlement, though it is one of the few crimes that it does not.

For embezzlement, especially at the federal level, the punishments are severe. If you or a loved one has been charged or are being investigated for embezzlement, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney with a winning legal track record to fight for you. Carl Haggard of The Haggard Law Firm has over 30 years of experience and is licensed to practice in all Texas Federal Districts. Call (832) 328-0600 or email today to schedule a free confidential consultation and we will immediately go to work for you providing the best defense possible.

Federal Crimes Main Page

Federal Embezzlement Attorney

White Collar Federal Crimes in Texas

When the term “white collar crime” comes up, it usually brings up images of professionals involved in financial crimes such as money laundering or embezzlement. For the most part, this characterization is true. Most white collar crime does involve money, deceit, and fraud within a business setting or involving government employees. White collar crime sometimes involves a large multi-layered fraud scheme, such as a pyramid scheme. Based on the nature and scope of the crimes, white collar crime can be prosecuted under both state and federal law.

The term white collar is itself used to reference the professionals who are often prosecuted or convicted on a wide range of financial crimes. These professionals wear a white collar to work, and are usually members of the educated middle to upper class. The person does not make the crime however, and just because a professional is arrested on a drug possession charge, does not mean that drug possession is also a white collar crime.

Examples of white collar crimes include:

  • Public corruption
  • Embezzlement fraud
  • Tax evasion
  • Tax fraud
  • Mortgage fraud
  • Health care fraud
  • Securities and commodities violations
  • Insider trading
  • Government bid rigging or procurement fraud
  • Internet crimes
  • Intellectual property theft

These are crimes that the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) characterizes as white collar crimes. This list is not exhaustive, however, and there are many other crimes that fall into this category.

Consequences for While Collar Crime Conviction

Despite the common belief that people who face white collar charges may not be harshly prosecuted, white collar crimes are eligible for tough sentences under both the federal sentencing guidelines and Texas law. People convicted of white collar crimes can face many years in prison and monetary fines, or receive a combination of both prison time and fines. There is also no guarantee that a person convicted of a white collar crime will be sentenced to a minimum security prison. In addition, the government could try and recover the financial loss to the victims of the crime through asset forfeiture and disgorgement.

This means that the government will try and recover the profits from a business that benefited from the alleged crime, or take any assets that are attributed to the crime. Sometimes, asset forfeiture results in assets that have nothing to do with the charged crime being seized, as well. If the person who is convicted of a white collar crime has a professional license, he or she may lose this license after the conviction. Losing a professional license can mean that even after the person gets out of prison, he or she may have a hard time getting readjusted and making a living.

Federal Criminal Defense Attorney in Texas

If you are charged with a white collar crime or have received a letter from the FBI informing you that you are the target of an investigation, you need to contact a federal criminal defense attorney with experience handling white collar crimes. Carl Haggard has over 30 years of experience with a verified winning case record. Carl accepts cases in all Texas Federal Judicial Districts. You need your attorney with you before you speak to any state or federal law enforcement officers. Contact The Haggard Law Firm for a free confidential consultation regarding your case and we will go to work fighting for you!

White Collar Federal Attorney

Failure to Stop After a Houston Traffic Accident

Hit-and-run accidents are not simple matters that can be resolved by merely filing an insurance claim. For a driver who is involved in a car accident and then leaves the scene without providing his or her information, the hit-and-run can result in serious criminal charges – most often: failure to stop and give information. Depending on the level of damage caused and the seriousness of the injuries incurred by those involved, a driver who causes an accident and then flees the scene can be charged with either a misdemeanor or a felony.

Failure Stop Give Information AttorneyIn Houston, it is a criminal offense to flee the scene of an accident, even when a person has a compelling reason for doing so. The compelling reason can be used as a defense to the failure to stop and give information and the failure to stop and render aid charges that usually result from this type of behavior.

For example, a driver who is afraid to stop after causing an accident because he believes that the other driver is likely to cause him physical harm may still be arrested for failing to stop, but could claim the fear for his own safety as a defense. This is especially true if the driver called the police after getting to a safe location after the accident.

When the accident results in property damage alone, drivers are allowed to move their cars to an accident investigation site if the cars can be driven to the sites safely. Similarly, if there is only damage to the vehicles, the driver does not necessarily have to stop at the site of the accident, and can return to the scene as soon as it is possible to do so. This may happen when stopping the car at the scene of the accident would result in blocking traffic and creating the danger of additional accidents.

Providing Information and Failure to Stop

The kind of information a driver is required to give after an accident includes name and address, the car’s registration number, and insurance information. This information should be provided to anyone involved in or injured in the accident. The driver who caused the accident may also be required to show his or her driver’s license to law enforcement officers.

If a person is seriously injured in an accident, the driver who caused the accident has an additional duty to either give assistance, or ensure that medical assistance is provided by calling 911.

When the accident results in death or the other driver or passengers sustain serious injuries, the penalties for failing to stop and give information increase, and the fleeing driver can be sentenced to up to five years in prison. Depending on how the accident occurred, the driver may also face additional criminal charges that could lead to the possibility of more prison time.

In addition to the criminal charges that a driver may face, there may also be civil penalties if the other person injured in the accident decides to pursue a personal injury lawsuit.

Get Help with Failure to Stop Charges

If you were involved in a car accident and left the scene of the accident, or you have been arrested for failing to stop after a car accident to give your information, you need a Houston criminal defense lawyer with experience handling failure to stop cases. Contact the Haggard Law Firm today at (832) 328-0600 or use the short email form for a free confidential consultation.

Failure to Stop and Give Information