Tarrant County DA & Misdemeanor Marijuana Cases in 2020

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Fort Worth Defense Blog by Kara Carrera

Tarrant County DA & Misdemeanor Marijuana Cases in 2020

The Tarrant County Criminal District Attorney’s Office may be how it handles misdemeanor marijuana cases.

The Tarrant County Criminal District Attorney’s Office on Monday, Nov. 23 said misdemeanor marijuana cases don’t need to clog up the court system. The office shared how people charged with possession of less than two ounces of marijuana can get that charged dismissed.

Anyone who has an outstanding misdemeanor charge of possession of marijuana and then has three clean drug tests in three months will have their charges dismissed. There were 3,750 such cases filed in 2019, according to the Tarrant County Criminal District Attorney’s Office.

“When you bring proof of three months of sobriety – 90 days – the charge will be dismissed,” said Tarrant County Criminal District Attorney Sharen Wilson. “Get sober. Get your case dismissed. Get on with your sober life.”

The office said the possession of less than two ounces of marijuana was the top offense in Tarrant County in 2019.

The other frequent offenses were:

2019 top offenses in Tarrant County

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    New Diversion Program for First Offenders in Tarrant County

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    New Diversion Program for First Offenders in Tarrant County

    Deferred Prosecution Initiative in Fort Worth Texas

    Deferred Prosecution Initiative (DPI) is deferred prosecution for first-time offenders. This program is specifically designed for those individuals over the age of 25 with no criminal history.

    You must speak with an attorney experienced in handling Fort Worth criminal cases to find out your eligibility.

    It’s important to get in contact with the lawyer as soon as possible because the deadline for entering into this program is 90 days from the date your case is filed with no exceptions.

    What to Expect in the DPI Program

    During the program, a participant will have to provide three drug follicle tests. If you live in Tarrant County that will be through the probation department in Tarrant County.  The program is still open and available to those who do not reside in Tarrant county, but those individuals are still required to provide hair follicle sample tests from a reputable laboratory where they reside.

    The first hair follicle test does not have to be clean.  The second hair follicle test must be substantially lower or clean. The third test must be clean.

    Program Costs

    The cost of the program is $300.

    Certain participants will be required to take drug and or alcohol classes.

    This program is set to launch November 1, 2020 and cases filed prior to November 1, 2020 will be considered through January 8, 2020.

    In addition to the $300 fee, they will have to pay restitution for lab fees.

    Deferred Prosecution Initiative Eligible Offenses

    Eligible offenses include:

    Limits to Rights for Expunction

    As part of the program, clients will agree to a limited expunction right. The Tarrant county district attorney’s office will maintain record of the name and date of birth of the individuals who completed their dpi program.  The office will maintain these records for five years after the completion of the dpi program. 

    This program is available for people who are out of state and requires no reporting.

    Call Kara Carreras, an experienced Fort Worth Criminal Defense lawyer to help guide you through the process.  

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      Can I get my bail reduced? Bail in Texas

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      Can I get my bail reduced? Bail in Texas

      Excessive Bail Isn’t Just Unfair—It’s Unconstitutional

      One Dallas woman was placed in solitary confinement after failing to pay bail—a $500 charge assessed after a misdemeanor. She sued the county for violating state and federal law. In 2016, Harris County also faced a lawsuit over unfair bail practices. Cash bail can be used to discriminate against those accused, but not convicted of, crimes: The reality of many systems nationwide is that anyone arrested and jailed must either pay or stay.

      Increasingly, people cannot afford the prices put on their freedom. The effects of the bail system ripple out; those who cannot afford pre-trial release are more likely to:

      If you’ve been accused of a crime, you deserve a fair chance to defend yourself. Excessive bail assessments have been shown to decrease rather than boost justice. If you’ve been quoted an unfair number just to walk free despite the presumption of innocence, we may be able to help.

      Texas Bail Reform Helps the Accused Return to Their Lives

      After a district judge instructed Dallas county to consider an arrestee’s flight risk when setting bail rather than basing their assessment on predetermined standards, our legislature took up bail reform. Many states have recognized the inherent unfairness of current bail practices.

      Aside from resulting in the detention of people who are completely innocent, high bail amounts can drive families to predatory bail bond lenders. New laws give judges leeway to provide more fitting bail. Inducing them to follow the new guidance has proven a bit harder.

      Our Broken Bail System

      Even last year, after judges were instructed to tailor bail requirements to constituents’ situations, videos showed bail hearings lasting between 15 and 30 seconds. The defendant was given no time to speak, meaning the judge did not even get to hear extenuating circumstances, much less consider them. The new laws requiring a bail hearing within 48 hours of arrest do little good if one party cannot meaningfully participate. Especially for those who don’t have a lawyer to advocate for them, the chance of getting a fair bail remains low.

      Is High Bail Unconstitutional?

      Excessive bail requirements may violate the Fifth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution. The disparity between the law and the reality of our criminal justice system has come under fire in multiple court cases, some of which originated in Texas. District and Circuit Courts have agreed high bail may be unconstitutional.

      Is There a Right to Bail?

      The Eighth Amendment doesn’t explicitly denote that anyone arrested has a right to bail, and the courts have opted for a strict interpretation of the law. A judge is not required to offer a defendant release between their detention and trial. However, this only applies to the most severe cases where a reasonable argument can be made that the defendant’s freedom would endanger others.

      A Lawyer Can Help You Request Reduced Bail

      Under Texas Code, your lawyer must request a second hearing for reduced bail. The law also lays out a list of limitations the court must follow when assigning a bond. Your lawyer can challenge any violations of these rules:

      If the court cannot affirm probable cause for the defendant’s arrest, there are further rules they may be pressed on. A lawyer can help you understand how you may be able to negotiate reduced (and reasonable) bail.

      No matter what happened, you deserve a strong defender to protect your rights. Contact our team online or call (817) 318-6022 to speak with a lawyer today.

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        Criminal Enhancements in Texas

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        Criminal Enhancements in Texas

        Texas law allows for harsher punishments for repeat and habitual criminal offenders. This means that when you have been previously convicted of certain crimes, the State can enhance, or increase your range of punishment on your current charge.

        The range of punishment refers to the amount of time and/or fine that a person can receive as punishment, if convicted of a crime. The range starts with the minimum penalty and goes all the way up to the maximum penalty.

        Enhancements affect the range of punishment by increasing the minimum range of punishment to a higher classification of crime. Commonly, enhancements can occur simply based on the fact that a person has been previously convicted of certain crimes. The short answer to the question is, yes, the law in Texas mandates that a repeat or habitual offender face a higher range of punishment than they ordinarily would, had there been no prior conviction(s).

        To understand how enhancements work, it is important to understand what the ordinary ranges of punishment are for felony offenses. The key to this is first determining what degree of felony you are being charged with.

        All felony offenses are broken down into different degrees. Chapter 12 of the Texas Penal Code identifies punishments for all classifications of offenses. For a complete list of punishments, please refer to Chapter 12 of the Texas Penal Code.

        For example, we will be looking at a few pieces of different felony punishments, and the potential jail time and fines you could face if you are charged with a felony. The degrees of felonies, along with their general ranges of punishment, are in order from least to greatest, and are as follows:

        State Jail Felony Punishment (Tex. Pen. Code Ann. § 12.35)

        Third Degree Felony Punishment (Tex. Pen. Code Ann. § 12.34)

        Second Degree Felony Punishment (Tex. Pen. Code Ann. § 12.33)

        First Degree Felony Punishment (Tex. Pen. Code Ann. § 12.32)

        Now that you know what the ordinary punishments are supposed to be, the question becomes, how will I know if my charges have been enhanced?

        First, you should look to the indictment, or formal charging document, to see if there is an enhancement paragraph within that document. The enhancement paragraph is often included near the bottom of an indictment.

        The paragraph is located below the allegations and will include the reason, or past crime the State is using to enhance the charge. If the reason your charge is being enhanced is a prior conviction, the State must have proof of your past conviction. This is typically done by using a past judgment of conviction. The judgment should state what crime you were found guilty of, where you were convicted, and will most often contain your fingerprint.

        Remember, just because the Government or prosecutor is alleging an enhancement (prior conviction) it does not mean that they can prove it or that you have to plead guilty to that enhanced charge. You need to work with your attorney to find out your best options.

        Though it should be noted that there are exceptions to the general rules, let’s walk through some enhancement scenarios below.

        Examples of Enhancements

        State Jail Felony → Third Degree Felony

        If it is shown on the trial of a state jail felony punishable under Section 12.35(a) that the defendant has previously been finally convicted of two state jail felonies under Section 12.35(a), on conviction the defendant shall be punished for a felony of the third degree. (Tex. Pen. Code Ann. § 12.425(a)).

        Alternative:

        If you are charged with a state jail felony, and you have previously been convicted of two state jail felonies, if convicted, you can be punished as if the state jail felony were a third degree felony.

        Third Degree Felony → Second Degree Felony

        If it is shown on the trial of a felony of the third degree that the defendant has previously been finally convicted of a felony other than a state jail felony punishable under Section 12.35(a), on conviction the defendant shall be punished for a felony of the second degree. (Tex. Pen. Code Ann. § 12.42(a)).

        Alternative:

        If you are charged with a third degree felony, and you have previously been convicted of a felony (not including state jail felonies under section 12.35(a)), if convicted, you can be punished as if the third degree felony were a second degree felony.

        Second Degree Felony → First Degree Felony

        If it is shown on the trial of a felony of the second degree that the defendant has previously been finally convicted of a felony other than a state jail felony, on conviction the defendant shall be punished for a felony of the first degree. (Tex. Pen. Code Ann. § 12.42(b)).

        Alternative:

        If you are charged with a second degree felony, and you have previously been convicted of a felony (not including state jail felonies under section 12.35(a)), if convicted, you can be punished as if the second degree felony were a first degree felony.

        First Degree Felony

        If it is shown on the trial of a felony of the first degree that the defendant has previously been finally convicted of a felony other than a state jail felony, on conviction the defendant shall be punished by imprisonment in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice for life, or for any term of not more than 99 years or less than 15 years. In addition to imprisonment, an individual may be punished by a fine not to exceed $10,000. (Tex. Pen. Code Ann. § 12.42(c)(1)).

        Alternative

        If you are charged with a first degree felony, and you have previously been convicted of a felony (not including state jail felonies under section 12.35(a)), if convicted, you will be punished by imprisonment in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice for life, or for any term from 15-99 years. In addition to imprisonment, a fine of $10,00 may be assessed.

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