Everyone Deserves a Competent Criminal Defense Attorney: The System Demands It
When you have been charged with a crime, you could be facing jail time and/or significant fines. You need a Texas criminal defense lawyer who knows the criminal justice system and understands exactly what you are up against. Jim Ross is a former police officer with the Arlington Police Department. Jim was also a task force officer in the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) -- a federal law enforcement agency.
Jim's background in law enforcement gives him insight into how the police collect evidence and work with the prosecution to build a case against a criminal defendant--a valuable skill as police officers are often key witnesses in the government's case. When you need a powerful advocate to stand up for your rights and your liberty, call on Jim Ross. He has a proven record as a skilled criminal defense attorney.
Criminal Law Basics: The Adult Criminal Justice System
Criminal charges fall into two broad categories: misdemeanor and felony charges. The classification of the charges filed against you make an enormous difference in the penalties that you could face.
One might think a misdemeanor charge (often pertaining to a "victimless" crime) is not serious, but a misdemeanor conviction can have tremendous consequences: a maximum of one year in jail, 3 years of community service, and fines up to $2,000.00. Even worse, the conviction becomes part of your criminal background. Misdemeanor crimes are further divided into 3 classes of severity:
Class C is the least severe with the potential of fines up to $500.00 and no jail sentence. Some examples of Class C misdemeanors are: possession of drug paraphernalia, public intoxication, minor-in-possession, and disorderly conduct.
Class B misdemeanors can be punished with up to 6 months in jail, up to $2,000.00 in fines, and up to three years community service. Some examples of Class B misdemeanors include: DWI first offense, possession of marijuana under 2 ounces, assault, criminal trespass, theft between $50.00 and $500.00, and prostitution or solicitation of a prostitute (for a first offense).
Class A misdemeanors, the most severe, can be punished by fines up to $4,000.00, 3 years community service, and/or up to a year in jail. Examples of Class A misdemeanors include: assault involving domestic violence, theft between $500.00 and $2,000.00, DWI second offense, and burglary of a motor vehicle.
Felony convictions carry a very wide range of punishment. For a state felony, a conviction could result in anywhere from 180 days to 2 years in jail and up to $10,000.00 in fines. For a third degree felony, punishment ranges from 2 to 10 years in prison and up to $10,000.00 in fines. A second degree felony conviction could result in from 2 to 20 years in prison and up to $10,000.00 in fines. If you are convicted of a first degree felony, you could face up to 99 years in prison and up to $10,000.00 in fines, and if the felony is a capital felony, you could face the death penalty.
The simple mistakes and/or assumptions made by law enforcement officers investigating a crime can make a big difference in the charges leveled against you and in the way your case is prosecuted. This phenomenon is especially noticeable in the area of drug crimes. Many drug crimes are considered felonies under Texas law and as such carry harsh sentences.
The most common examples of drug-related felonies are drug possession (of certain controlled substances such as cocaine or heroin) and drug possession with intent to distribute. Possession with intent to distribute is a more serious charge, carrying a greater possible penalty. The decision to charge someone with possession with intent to distribute, rather than mere possession, is often determined based on assumptions made by law enforcement when someone has a certain amount of drugs or even if the drugs are stored in small containers. If you are facing charges of drug possession or possession with intent to distribute, make sure that you have an attorney who knows how law enforcement officers think.
Drug smuggling and drug trafficking are also felonies that carry extremely serious potential sentences. Because these offenses involve crossing state or national borders with controlled substances, they are considered federal crimes, punishable under federal law. You will need an attorney like Jim Ross who is licensed in all of the federal district courts in Texas to defend your case.