Wednesday

Houston Juvenile Trial Lawyers' Strategies

 

Houston Juvenile lawyers use a variety of strategies to win jury trials

Some common strategies include:

  1. Jury Selection: One of the most important strategies is jury selection. Juvenile lawyers try to select jurors who are impartial, fair-minded, and open to their arguments. They may use psychological profiling, questionnaires, or other techniques to help identify potential jurors who are likely to be sympathetic to their client’s case.
  2. Evidence Suppression: Juvenile lawyers may challenge the admissibility of evidence that was obtained illegally or in violation of their client’s constitutional rights. If evidence is suppressed, it can weaken the prosecution’s case and increase the likelihood of a not guilty verdict.
  3. Cross-Examination: Juvenile lawyers may use cross-examination to challenge the credibility of prosecution witnesses and to highlight inconsistencies in their testimony. They may also use cross-examination to elicit testimony that supports their client’s case.
  4. Expert Witnesses: Juvenile lawyers may call on expert witnesses to testify on their client’s behalf. Expert witnesses can provide scientific or technical evidence that supports the defense’s case, and can help to explain complex issues to the jury.
  5. Defense Witnesses: Juvenile lawyers may call on witnesses to testify on their client’s behalf. Defense witnesses can provide testimony that supports the defense’s case, and can help to create doubt in the minds of the jurors.
  6. Closing Arguments: Juvenile lawyers use closing arguments to summarize the evidence, highlight weaknesses in the prosecution’s case, and make a persuasive argument in favor of their client’s innocence. A powerful closing argument can sway the opinions of the jurors and increase the likelihood of a not guilty verdict.
  7. Jury Instructions: Juvenile lawyers may seek specific jury instructions that favor their client’s case. Jury instructions provide guidance to the jurors on how to apply the law to the facts of the case and can significantly impact the outcome of the trial.


These are just a few of the strategies that juvenile attorneys use to win jury trials. Every case is unique, and a skilled criminal defense lawyer will tailor their strategy to the specific circumstances of the case.

Contact James Sullivan & Associates for a free initial consultation at 281-546-6428 about your child’s juvenile charges in Harris County.

Sunday

Houston Juvenile Lawyers - Choose Carefully

Choosing a Harris County juvenile defense lawyer is the most important decision as it can significantly impact the outcome of your child's case. Parents of prospective juvenile clients should consider the following factors when selecting a lawyer:

  1. Experience: Look for a lawyer who has experience handling cases similar to your own. Juvenile law is a complex and specialized area of law, and an experienced criminal defense lawyer will have the knowledge and skills necessary to navigate the legal system and provide effective representation. Is the lawyer board certified in juvenile law? How many juvenile cases has the lawyer tried to a jury? How many has the lawyer won at trial?
  2. Reputation: Look for a lawyer who has a good reputation in the legal community. A lawyer’s reputation can impact the outcome of a case, as judges, prosecutors, and other lawyers may be more likely to take their arguments seriously. Ask juvenile court staff if they know the lawyer and what their reputation is. Read their Google profile and pay attention to their negative reviews. Lawyers who take on more cases than they can reasonably handle are usually reflected in those reviews.
  3. Communication skills: Look for a lawyer who communicates clearly and effectively. A good juvenile defense lawyer should be able to explain legal concepts in a way that is easy to understand and should keep you informed about the status of your case. Lawyers that do not return calls, come to court very late if at all, or fail to keep clients informed of the status of their cases will usually receive bad reviews to that effect.
  4. Availability: Look for a lawyer who is available to answer your questions and address your concerns. A good juvenile defense lawyer should be responsive to your needs and should be willing to meet with you  outside of normal business hours if necessary. Lawyers who do not return calls timely and are never available after hours or on the weekend are certainly not putting their clients first.
  5. Strategy: Look for a lawyer who has a clear strategy for your case. A good juvenile defense lawyer should be able to explain their approach to your case and should be willing to discuss alternative strategies if necessary. Many young and inexperienced lawyers are still learning the trade, may not have any or little trial experience, and their approach to your case may be worlds apart from what a reputable trial lawyer can offer, so always talk to several lawyers before making a decision.
  6. Fees: Look for a lawyer who is transparent about their fees and expenses. A good juvenile defense lawyer should provide you with a clear explanation of their billing practices and should be willing to work with you to develop a payment plan that is manageable for you. Be wary if the fee is too high or too low. Some lawyers may set very high fees to give the impression they are the best when they may only be average and some lawyers that are not reputable may set very low fees because they earn a living handling cases in high volume but provide mediocre legal service.

It is important to take the time to research and interview several potential lawyers to find someone who is the right fit for you and your case. 

Does the lawyer answer your answer your most important questions? Does the lawyer rush you off the phone or take the time to truly understand your legal problem? 

Ultimately, the most important factor in choosing a juvenile defense attorney is finding someone with whom you feel comfortable and confident.

Contact James G. Sullivan & Associates to consult with a board certified Houston Juvenile Lawyer at (281) 546-6428.

Wednesday

Houston Texas Criminal Process

 

If you have been arrested in the Greater Houston / Harris County area for a Class A or B misdemeanor or felony offense, it is important to consult with a reputable criminal trial attorney who understands the Texas criminal process in Houston. You want to hire someone who will show you their actual case results and how likely they are to be successful in your case.

If you have an open warrant for your arrest in Harris County, it is important to hire a criminal defense attorney in Houston, TX to represent you throughout all crucial elements of your case. The attorney may be able to represent you in court to get a bond set so you can do a walk through in the processing center, so that you do not have to turn yourself in first at the processing center and wait for a judge to set the bond and then be processed out as that can take many hours.

In most cases, criminal defendants want an aggressive lawyer who will go to trial and fight on their behalf if their case requires it, who will try to negotiate an agreement to get the case dismissed so it can later be expunged, or who will suggest their client enter a plea deal if that is the best option for their case.

Texas Criminal Process Defense Lawyer in Cypress, Jersey Village, Tomball, Katy, Northwest Houston

If you have been arrested for any criminal offense in Houston, James Sullivan is an experienced trial attorney who will make every effort to help you obtain the most desirable outcome in your specific situation by representing you throughout every important phase of the criminal process.

Call James G. Sullivan & Associates today at 281-546-6428 for a consultation about your alleged criminal offense in Houston, Cypress, Katy, Tomball, and surrounding areas of Harris County, Texas. Our firm will work to potentially get your criminal charges dismissed or reduced.

Houston Booking and Case Filing

After an alleged criminal offender has been arrested for a criminal offense in Houston, they will be held in jail until they appear before a judge. Immediately after the arrest, criminal defendants are taken to booking where their photographs and fingerprints are taken. Additionally, a fingerprint report, or rap sheet, is prepared that shows the defendant’s criminal history.

In misdemeanor cases, while the defendant is held in jail, the arresting officer files the criminal charges with the district attorney’s (DA) office. If the district attorney wants to pursue the case, the DA will prepare a charging instrument called an “information.” This is a written statement that is filed and presented on behalf of the state of Texas that charges the defendant with a crime. The information also puts the defendant on notice that they have been charged with a criminal offense.  After the information is processed, the case is assigned to one of the 16 misdemeanor courts in Houston through a random process.

In felony cases, the arresting law enforcement agency will also file charges with the DA’s office.

If a defendant is formally charged with a felony offense, their case will be assigned to one of the 26 felony (district) courts in Harris County.

Initial Appearance, Bail, and Arraignment in Houston

While the criminal defendant is held in jail, the jail will determine whether to set bail, to release the defendant from jail without bail (personal recognizance), or to hold the defendant in jail without bail. If bail is set, it can be posted at any time while the defendant is held in jail.

If bail is set, the amount can be posted by a bail bondsman, or another person. After the amount of bail has been posted, the defendant is guaranteed they will appear at any subsequent hearings or at trial. If they do appear as ordered, the amount of the bond, less any fees paid to secure the bond, will be returned to the individual who posted it. If the defendant does not appear, the amount of the bond will be forfeited.

After an information has been filed and the judge has decided whether to set bail or not, the defendant is entitled to an initial appearance, which is also known as the arraignment, where they will be advised of the charges that have been brought against them. The judge will also conduct a probable cause hearing to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to file criminal charges against the defendant. If the judge finds probable cause, the case continues. If the judge finds no probable cause, the prosecutor may decide to present the case to the grand jury or dismiss the charge.

The judge will also identify the defendant’s lawyer if one was hired or may appoint a lawyer to represent the defendant and set bail conditions at the arraignment.

Additionally, your attorney will have an opportunity to argue the amount of bail that should be set, and if the prosecutor has requested the defendant be held in jail, your attorney will also argue for your release. At the end of the arraignment, the defendant will enter a plea of not guilty, nolo contendere, or guilty, and will be informed of the date of their next court appearance.

Between the first and second court settings, these charges usually will then be presented to the grand jury to decide if there is enough evidence to charge the defendant with the crime. If the grand jury does decide there is enough evidence, they will file an indictment. This charging instrument is a written statement that formally accuses the person named of the criminal offense. The grand jury is a private proceeding that is comprised of a panel of citizens who are randomly selected to review criminal complaints provided by the police.

If the grand jury decides to true bill the alleged offender, or formally charge them, the grand jury has determined there is sufficient evidence (probable cause) to charge the defendant with the alleged criminal offense and will issue an indictment. If the grand jury decides to no bill the alleged offender, the defendant will not be charged with a criminal offense because the grand jury did not find probable cause to proceed with the case.

Criminal Process and Pre-Trial Negotiations in Houston

Prior to any appearances, hearing, or trial for the defendant’s criminal charges, the defendant’s attorney and the prosecutor will have an opportunity to discuss any pretrial negotiations or enter a plea deal. They will also be able to enter a plea deal at the arraignment if this is in the defendant’s best interest.

The defendant’s attorney and the prosecutor will determine if there are any immediate reasons to dismiss the case. More commonly discussed prior to trial, a plea deal is a resolution of the case where both the prosecutor and the defendant agree to a certain punishment without ultimately having a trial to determine the defendant’s guilt. Additionally, at any of these pretrial negotiations, the case may be reset, postponed, rescheduled, or a continuance may be requested by either party.

Houston Hearings, Appearances, and Pre-Trial Motions

After the defendant is released from jail on bail or bond, they will be informed of their next hearing date at their arraignment. The defendant is required to appear on the date and time where they were instructed to appear, or else they will risk losing the amount of bond and a warrant will be issued for their arrest.

After any pretrial negotiations, but before trial, the court will set a date to hear all pretrial motions filed by both sides. The defendant’s attorney can file any motions arguing why the case should be dismissed or to suppress certain evidence. The most common pre-trial motions filed on behalf of a defendant can include any of the following:

  • Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Probable Cause
  • Motion to Exclude a Non-credible Witnesses’ Testimony
  • Motion to Exclude the Defendant’s Confession
  • Motion to Strike Prior Convictions
  • Motion to Suppress Illegally Obtained Evidence

Houston Criminal Trial

If a defendant has rejected all pre-trial negotiations, the case has not been dismissed, and the defendant has pleaded not guilty to an alleged criminal offense, the case will be set for trial. The defendant can choose to have a bench trial or a jury trial.

A bench trial is a trial without a jury where only the judge determines if the defendant is guilty or innocent. Additionally, in bench trials, the defendant waives any error in the case upon any subsequent appeals.  A jury trial is comprised of a panel of 12 jury members for felony cases and six jury members for misdemeanor cases. The jury members are citizens in the county where the trial is held and are chosen through a process called voir dire (jury selection).

After the jurors are seated, the guilt/innocence phase of the trial will begin. This phase involves the presentation of all evidence, and all witnesses are called to testify. The prosecutor has the burden of proving the defendant committed every element to the offense beyond a reasonable doubt. This is a very high burden of proof and often difficult to meet. The defense does not have to prove anything.

In order to convict a defendant, all jurors must unanimously agree the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. If they do not all agree, the jury is called a hung jury and the judge must declare a mistrial. The case will then later be retried if the prosecutor believes another jury will be able to reach a unanimous decision. The prosecutor also could dismiss the charge or offer the defendant a deal on a reduced charge instead of having another trial.

If the defendant is found guilty, the punishment phase of the trial will occur next. This phase is used to determine the defendant’s punishment for their alleged offense. Prior to the beginning of trial, the defendant must choose whether to go to the judge or the jury to determine their punishment.

If the defendant believes a legal error occurred in the trial based on the judge’s instructions to the jury or for permitting inadmissible evidence, they can file an appeal to the next highest court. The criminal appeal is not a pre-trial rehearing of the evidence.

Find a Houston Criminal Trial Attorney | James G. Sullivan & Associates

Contact us today for a consultation about your arrest and criminal charges in Harris County in Texas. James Sullivan is a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney in Houston who will make every effort to fight for you at every stage of the criminal process.

Contact James G. Sullivan & Associates today at 281-546-6428 for a consultation about your alleged offense in Houston, Cypress, Katy, Tomball, and surrounding areas of Harris County, Texas. Our firm will work with the goal to get your criminal charges dismissed, won at trial, or reduced.

Friday

Criminal Law FAQs

 

Do I really need a lawyer for my criminal case?

Yes. You really do. Simply by being accused of a crime places you at greater risk for spending time in prison or jail. And you do not want to find yourself lost and alone in the Texas criminal justice system. It can be just as cold, harsh, and unforgiving as for those lost in the wilderness. The old saying that one who represents himself has a fool for a lawyer is certainly true. It is risky to represent yourself. You place yourself at the mercy of prosecutors who can take advantage of you, even if you have no criminal record, and overburden you with a punishment much more harsh than usual.

What should I look for in hiring a criminal defense attorney?

Choosing a criminal defense attorney to represent you or a loved one is a huge decision. The outcome of your case can highly depend on the experience, expertise, and reputation of the criminal defense lawyer you hire. It is important you hire the right one.

Experience. You need a lawyer with significant experience in the area of law where your problem lies. If you or a loved one are charged with a crime, you need a lawyer experienced in criminal law.

Expertise. Criminal law is a specialized area of law that follows different procedures and rules. Few lawyers specialize in this area of law. Many lawyers are general practitioners, so-called “jacks of all trade,” that practice many different areas of law yet lack significant experience in any one area.

Reputation. Lawyers that have a reputation for winning cases at trial generally obtain better results for their clients than lawyers that do not fight cases at trial. Does the lawyer genuinely care for his clients? What do other lawyers think of him or her? Has the lawyer ever been sanctioned for misconduct? Answers to these questions can be found at www.avvo.com and www.texasbar.com.

At James G. Sullivan & Associates, our Houston trial lawyers are experienced in criminal law. Our lawyers have fought and won felony and misdemeanor jury trials in criminal court. They have handled thousands of criminal cases. James Sullivan has practiced criminal law since 1994, and Nancy Botts since 1988. Sullivan graduated from The Trial Lawyers College, the most selective and prestigious trial advocacy program in America.

When should I hire an attorney?

It is smart to hire a lawyer as soon as possible. Lawyers can take steps to put their clients in a better position to get a case dismissed or to negotiate a plea before trial begins. Seasoned criminal trial attorneys know how to conduct a thorough investigation of the criminal issue and can present evidence supporting your case.

When you retain our firm, we will start working on your legal matter promptly so that your legal concern can be resolved quickly.

How much does it cost to hire a criminal defense lawyer in Harris County?

Legal fees are also an important consideration in selecting a lawyer, but do you really want the cheapest criminal defense lawyer when your freedom and reputation are at stake? The old saying you get what you pay for is most certainly true when it comes to legal fees. Quality and effective representation is what you deserve and hope to find, and that representation ought to come at a fair price.

At James G. Sullivan & Associates, we aim to provide quality and effective representation at a reasonable cost.

Do I have to appear in court?

Yes. If you have an order to appear in court and you fail to make it, your bond could be revoked, and you could go to jail. It is wise to arrange for child care and time off from work for your court date so that you can appear.

Note: During the pandemic, you may have the option to appear in court remotely via Zoom. You should contact the court or your attorney in advance to find out.

Should I stop smoking marijuana after an arrest?

Yes. If you are released on bond, you should follow the court-ordered terms of your release. Engaging in unlawful activity, such as smoking marijuana or using other illegal narcotics, may violate these terms. You could go back to jail for committing a crime while awaiting your trial.

Isn’t it cheaper to pay the fine and accept the punishment than fight minor charges?

No, not in the long way. Whether you have been charged with a misdemeanor shoplifting or an assault causing bodily injury, pleading guilty to these offenses and other misdemeanors can have expensive, long-term consequences. Misdemeanor theft or assault convictions are recorded on your permanent criminal record, which potential employers or landlords can access through background checks. Even a misdemeanor charge can cost you a potential job, career choice, or housing option. Over a lifetime, the potential loss of higher income for not being able to pursue a more lucrative career path or the cost of having to pay higher interest rates for auto and home loans can be staggering.

Contact James G. Sullivan & Associates to consult with experienced Houston Criminal Lawyers at (281) 546-6428.

Sunday

Harris County Family Violence Charges

Family Violence

Family violence in Houston is a very serious matter that can result in severe consequences to alleged offenders. By the end of September, the Houston Police Department has received almost 24,000 reports of domestic violence so far in 2019. Since taking office in 2017, Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg has increased the number of family violence cases that prosecutors file from about 9,000 a year to almost 12,000 cases a year—a 33 percent increase in charges against a family member or someone in a dating relationship!
Obviously, many accusations of family violence or domestic violence are not true. Alleged victims often will falsely accuse someone they are in a dating relationship with or a family member of domestic violence. These serious and false allegations frequently arise from anger, jealousy, divorce or child custody disputes.
If you have been accused of a domestic or family violence crime, it is important to consult an experienced and reputable criminal defense attorney in Houston to defend you.
Houston Family Violence Lawyer
If you have been accused of family violence or domestic violence in the Greater Houston area, including Katy, Cypress, Jersey Village, Tomball, Spring, Humble, Pasadena, and many other nearby communities, contact James G. Sullivan and Associates.
Attorney James G. Sullivan will fight the allegations against you and strive to help you avoid serious consequences and punishments to your alleged offense. Call James G. Sullivan and Associates for a free consultation at (281) 546-6428 about your family violence charges.
Definitions of Family Violence in Harris County
Often, domestic violence or family violence cases involve legal terms that are unfamiliar to most people. These terms are defined in Chapter 71 of the Texas Family Code and are listed below.
  • Family Violence is often more commonly referred to as domestic violence, domestic abuse or dating violence, and is defined as an intentional act or threat by one family member against another that causes physical harm, bodily injury, assault or sexual assault.
  • Dating Violence is defined as an intentional act or threat by a person in a dating relationship against a person they are currently in a dating relationship with or were previously in a dating relationship with that causes physical or bodily harm.
  • Family Member is anyone who is related by blood, related by marriage, a former spouse, parent of the same child, step-parent or foster parent.
  • Household Member is anyone who resides or has previously resided in the same home, including individuals who are not in the same family such as roommates.
  • Protective Order is more commonly referred to as a restraining order, protection against family violence, or protection order, and is a court order issued by the judge if the judge determines family violence has occurred and is likely to occur again.
  • Protective Order Hearing is a hearing in which the judge determines whether or not family violence has occurred and is likely to occur in the future after both sides present evidence and any witnesses. If the judge determines family violence has occurred, the judge will issue a protective order
Family Violence Offenses in Houston
Some of the most commonly charged family violence offenses in Harris County can include, but are not limited to, the following—
According to Texas Penal Code § 22.01, an individual can be charged with domestic assault if they intentionally, knowingly or recklessly cause bodily injury; threaten; or, physically contact a family member, household member or person they are in a dating relationship with in a manner in which the other person would regard as offensive or provocative.
As defined in Texas Penal Code § 22.02, an individual can be charged with aggravated domestic assault if they commit assault with a deadly weapon against a family member or cause serious bodily injury to a family member, household member or person they are in a dating relationship with.
As defined in Texas Penal Code § 25.07, a violation of a protective order is cause by an individual knowingly or intentionally violating the terms of a protective order against them. This can include communicating with the family member who requested the protective order or going to their home or place of employment.
As defined by Texas Penal Code § 42.072, stalking is defined as repeatedly and knowingly engaging in conduct targeted at a specific person—
  • They will perceive as threatening,
  • that causes them to be afraid they will be seriously harmed, and
  • that would cause a reasonable person to fear injury or death to herself or her family members.
This offense can also include cyberstalking, which is defined as communicating with another person through e-mail or other electronic means strictly to harass that person.
According to Texas Penal Code § 22.04, an individual can be charged with injury to a child (child abuse) or injury to the elderly if they intentionally, knowingly, recklessly or with criminal negligence cause any type of bodily injury to a child or elderly adult.
Houston Punishment for Domestic Violence
Chapter 12 of the Texas Penal Code defines the general penalties to many family violence offenses in Houston. However, these penalties can vary, depending on whether the victim was elderly, disabled or a child, whether a weapon was used during the commission of the offense, the degree of domestic violence, whether bodily injury or death resulted from the offense, and whether the alleged offender has any previous criminal history.
  • An individual charged with a Class C misdemeanor domestic assault offense can result in a fine up to $500 (although we do not handle Class C misdemeanor offenses).
  • An individual convicted of a Class A misdemeanor domestic assault offense can receive a jail sentence up to one year and/or a fine up to $4,000.
  • An individual charged with a Class A misdemeanor violation of a protection order can receive a jail sentence up to one year and/or a fine up to $4,000.
  • A conviction for a felony of the third degree domestic assault, violation of a protective order, stalking, or child abuse offense can result in a prison sentence ranging from two to ten years and/or a fine not more than $10,000.
  • An individual charged with felony of the second degree domestic assault, aggravated domestic assault, stalking or child abuse offense can receive a prison sentence ranging from two to 20 years and/or a fine up to $10,000.
  • An individual convicted of a first degree aggravated domestic assault or child abuse offense can receive a prison term from five to 99 years or life imprisonment and/or a fine not more than $10,000.
Additionally, anyone who commits Continuous Violence Against a Family or household member can be convicted of a third degree felony offense, according to Texas Penal Code § 25.11. Continuous violence is defined as committing a family violence offense two or more times within a 12 month period.
James G. Sullivan and Associates | Houston Domestic Violence Attorney
Contact James G. Sullivan and Associates today at (281) 546-6428 for a free consultation about your family violence charges throughout Harris County in Texas. James Sullivan is an experienced criminal defense attorney in Houston who will make every effort to help you achieve the best outcome for your case.