Violent Crimes

Violent Crimes Attorney – Brett A Podolsky

Being convicted of any crime will affect a person’s day to day life but the consequences of being convicted of a violent crime can be especially harsh. The penalties from fines to jail or prison time will increase. The stigma associated with a violent crime also grows. A conviction for a violent crime will cause educational hardships, loss of certain jobs and will affect the relationships within a person’s life.

If someone has been accused of one of these crimes or another violent crime, it is critical that experienced legal counsel becomes involved in the case at its earliest stages. Time may become an important factor in preparing a complete defense. To convict a person for a violent crime, prosecutors must prove that he or she committed the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. Regardless of the stage of the proceedings, Brett A. Podolsky will provide his clients with an well-planned defensive strategy.

Charged with a violent crime in the Greater Houston area? Attorney Brett Podolsky will aggressively fight on your behalf to eliminate the charges against you. Click here to schedule a consultation today and discuss your case.

 

Are you facing criminal charges for violent crimes in the state of Texas? Allow attorney Brett Podolsky to help you navigate a complex legal system. He has a strong track record of defending his clients and getting the best results possible.

What Qualifies as a Violent Crime?

Texas considers violent crimes to be the most dangerous and harmful of all crimes. Violent crimes involve the use of force or the threat of force against another person, including pushing or slapping. These crimes can escalate if the individual uses a deadly weapon such as a blunt instrument, knife, or firearm. 

Even threatening to hurt someone in a way that would intimidate or frighten a reasonable person can be considered a violent crime. A variety of different crimes will be considered violent and many of them are felonies. Following is an overview of some of the crimes that fit this description.

Assault

Assault is intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causing bodily injury to another person. Under civil law, this action is called battery. Assault, which is covered by Texas Penal Code Section 22.01, includes causing bodily injury to your spouse or threatening to harm your spouse. If you use or threaten to use any kind of weapon, the charge can be increased to aggravated assault or assault with a deadly weapon.

Assault can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony depending on:

  • The reason for the assault
  • The relationship between the parties
  • Circumstances surrounding the assault 

Misdemeanor assault is also known as simple assault. It involves threats of bodily injury and, sometimes, causing minor injuries. Law enforcement must witness simple assault to make an arrest unless the alleged assault is against a family member or if witnesses at the scene identify the accused as the aggressor.

Felony assault involves a family member (domestic assault) or a weapon (aggravated assault or assault with a deadly weapon). It may result in serious bodily injuries. If there is a sexual component to the assault, the charge can be escalated to a higher degree felony charge.

Aggravated Assault

An assault is classified as aggravated if you intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly cause serious bodily harm to another person. It includes using or displaying a weapon while committing a crime or threatening another person with serious bodily injury.

Serious bodily injury is defined as any injury posting a risk of death, causes death or permanent disfigurement, or loss of function of any internal organ or body part. 

Reckless means any action committed without regard for consequences or the outcome of an act. It is not the deliberate intent to harm but the deliberate disregard for the consequences. Aggravated assault is a felony, with the penalty determined by the severity of the act. Inflicting bodily harm or using a deadly weapon can be charged as a second-degree felony with a prison sentence of two to 20 years. 

Aggravated Sexual Assault

Aggravated sexual assault is defined by the Texas Penal Code Section 22.011 as engaging in sexual conduct with another person without that person’s consent. It includes:

  • Threats of violence to force sexual contact
  • The use of drugs to incapacitate the victim
  • The use of authority to coerce another into sexual contact

People who cannot give consent include:

  • A person under the age of 17
  • A person unable to resist or understand sexual activity
  • A person who is physically incapable of refusing sexual contact
  • A person who is mentally unable to understand the situation cannot give consent.

Aggravated sexual assault is also applied when:

  • The victim is younger than 14 years old
  • Serious injuries occur in the course of committing the crime
  • The victim is elderly or disabled
  • A deadly weapon was used in committing the crime

Aggravated sexual assault includes rape with one or more aggravating factors listed above. It can also include attempting to kill the victim or causing the victim to fear serious bodily injury or death. You could be charged with aggravated sexual assault even if you did not commit the act, as long as the prosecution can prove you were an accomplice to someone who carried out the crime.

Sexual assault is a second-degree felony. Aggravated sexual assault is a first-degree felony punishable by five to 99 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. Registration as a sex offender is mandatory. If the victim is under five years old, is under 14, is severely injured, was given intoxicating drugs, or was threatened with force, the minimum sentence is 25 years. 

Assault of a Family Member

The law considers family members to be:

  • Spouses 
  • Common-law partners 
  • Parents 
  • Children 

Note: normal discipline is not considered assault.

To be charged with assault of a family member, an injury does not need to occur. You merely need to make unwanted physical contact in a threatening manner. Officers are allowed to arrest based on probable cause, which means the offense occurred as determined by:

  • Witness testimony
  • Statements made by the victim and/or offender
  • The presence of injury that substantiates the domestic violence claim

Assault or aggravated assault of a family member with a deadly weapon is a first-degree felony. Punishment for the first offense is up to one year in jail, a fine of up to $4,000, community service, and anger management counseling.

For second and subsequent offenses, the crime is charged as a third-degree felony punishable with two to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. The prison sentence can be extended to 99 years and fines of $10,000 for each conviction.

In addition, the convicted is banned from carrying firearms for up to five years after completing the sentence. Protective orders bar the defendant from contact with the victim. A domestic violence conviction can make it difficult to obtain a security clearance for a government job or enlistment in the military.

Intoxication Assault

Intoxication assault occurs when someone has a vehicular accident after drinking and driving. It involves injury to another party. Intoxication assault can be charged even when the individual is not technically at fault for the accident.

The State must prove beyond reasonable doubt that the defendant was intoxicated and that another person suffered bodily harm as a result. The individual can also be charged with DUI (Driving Under the Influence). A conviction of intoxication assault is a third-degree felony punishable by two to 10 years in prison and a fine up to $10,000.

Intoxication assault is known as a 3(g) offense, defined by the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure as being especially detrimental to society. It provides the judge with flexibility in sentencing.

Manslaughter

According to Texas Penal Code Section 19.04, manslaughter is defined as a person’s reckless behavior that causes the death of another person. 

The charge does not require criminal intent as murder does. Murder is taking another person’s life with malicious intent, while manslaughter is charged when someone takes another person’s life without malice or when the person is killed because of another person’s reckless actions.

Manslaughter is considered criminal homicide. You do not have to intend for the victim to die or be seriously injured to be found guilty. The State merely needs to show you recklessly caused the death by act or omission (failure to act under a legal duty to do so).

Even if the act is not reckless, it is still possible for you to be found guilty of criminally negligent homicide. 

Criminally Negligent Homicide

Negligence is defined as an act that was not what a reasonable person would have done under the same circumstance. If you act unreasonably and someone dies. As a result, you can be held criminally liable for those actions.

Actions that can result in a charge of criminally negligent homicide include: 

  • Speeding
  • Driving while distracted or intoxicated by alcohol or controlled substances
  • Failing to maintain the vehicle properly
  • Drag racing or engaging in games such as chicken
Other Types of Manslaughter

Manslaughter includes vehicular manslaughter, intoxication manslaughter, and criminally negligent homicide.

Manslaughter is a felony, even though it is considered to be less serious than murder. It is a second-degree felony punishable by two to 20 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines. 

Intoxication Manslaughter

Intoxication manslaughter is slightly different. It occurs whenever a person operates a motor vehicle in a public place or operates an aircraft, watercraft, or an amusement ride, or assembles a mobile amusement ride while intoxicated.

If the individual is intoxicated when the death of another occurs by accident or mistake, intoxication manslaughter can be charged. The accident need not occur on public roadways. It can occur almost anywhere in the State of Texas, according to Texas Penal Code Section 49.08.

Penalties for intoxication manslaughter include:

  • Probation 
  • Two to 20 years in prison
  • Fines up to $10,000
  • Community service
  • A suspended driver’s license
  • Mandatory alcohol or drug treatment
  • Denial of the right to carry firearms

A conviction can cause you to be refused federal financial aid, including student loans. Also, you may not vote until the sentence is entirely carried out, including the completion of probation or parole requirements.

Hit and Run

Hit and run is also called leaving the scene of an accident. It is defined as leaving the scene of a vehicular accident that has caused personal injury, property damage, or death. Hit and run can include the driver striking another vehicle, a pedestrian, an animal, a bicyclist, or property. Many people leave the scene because of one or more of the following:

  • They have inadequate insurance or are uninsured
  • They have a suspended driver’s license
  • They panic
  • They are driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol
  • They have outstanding warrants
  • They are driving a stolen car
  • They are driving a company car and are afraid of getting in trouble with their employer
  • Other reasons or excuses unique to the situation

The charges in a hit and run escalate when someone is injured or killed or if the driver at fault is intoxicated.

In Texas, all drivers must respond in the affirmative in the event of a traffic accident that inflicts injury or property damage. That means you must:

  • Return to the scene of any traffic crash resulting in injury or death so you can render assistance, provide relevant personal information, and produce a valid driver’s license upon request
  • Observe the guidelines in the first point in the event of an accident involving an occupied vehicle
  • In the case of damage to an unoccupied vehicle, stop and search for the owner and provide your personal contact information. If you cannot locate the owner, you are required to leave a conspicuous note explaining the incident along with your personal contact information.
  • Stop and take appropriate action in the event of an accident that causes damage to the highway landscaping or fixtures, and file a police report if the damage exceeds $1,000

Even if you believe the other person is at fault, do not leave the scene of an accident and await medical care or an ambulance.

Charges for a hit and run can be a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the circumstances and severity of injury or death. With a first offense and no death or serious injury, and no previous felony convictions, you may get probation or community service. Or you may receive a short jail or prison term. If you have a previous offense, previous felony conviction, or a suspended license, you will likely receive higher fines and a stiffer prison sentence, particularly if there is death or serious injury.

A Class C misdemeanor is punishable with a fine of up to $500 for vehicle damage of $200 or less, and you leave without rendering aid. A Class B misdemeanor gets you up to six months in the county jail and/or a maximum fine of $2,000 for vehicle damage over $200. Felony hit and run can result in up to five years in prison or a fine of up to $5,000

  • If you leave the scene of a non-injury accident, you may get up to a year in jail. 
  • If you leave the scene after causing a non-serious injury, you may receive one to five years in state prison and a maximum fine of $5,000.
  • If you leave the scene of the accident after causing serious injury or death, it is considered a third-degree felony with up to 10 years in prison and a maximum fine of $10,000.

If you are involved in an accident, do not leave the scene. Do not accept fault, and do not volunteer information other than the basics to law enforcement or anybody else.

How Can Brett A. Podolsky Help?

Brett A. Podolsky is an experienced Houston violent crime defense attorney who is committed to helping his clients. He can successfully evaluate his client’s case and will prepare a defense based on that evaluation. If someone has been charged with a violent crime and wants experienced legal representation, it is imperative to contact the Law Office of Brett A. Podolsky.

Schedule Your Free Consultation Today

Murder

The Texas Penal Code Section 19.02 says murder is intentionally or knowingly causing the death of another person. In short, it means the intent was to kill or cause serious injury, which causes death. Murder may also be charged if the death of another person was caused while committing a felony or fleeing from a felony, which is sometimes called felony murder.

Second Degree Murder

Second-degree murder involves the death of someone resulting from an individual’s alleged wrongful actions, including death occurring during the commission of another crime or the defendant’s recklessness.

The decision to charge attempted murder depends on some subjective reasoning. The intention of the suspect determines whether or not attempted murder charges are filed. If the individual intends to carry out an act of murder but, for whatever reason, fails to accomplish it, the prosecutor may choose to charge attempted murder.

First-degree felony murder is punishable with five to 99 years in prison. If the murder was performed “in the heat of passion,” it may be downgraded to second-degree murder with a penalty of two to 20 years in prison and a maximum fine of $10,000.

The heat of passion means the crime occurred almost immediately without a cooling-off period. The circumstances must reflect how a normal person would react in the same situation. They must not have been a previous attempt or conspiracy to commit the same act when not provoked.

Attempted Murder

Attempted murder includes both action and intent. The prosecutor must prove:

  • Willful intent to physically harm or kill another person
  • The demonstration of willful disregard for human life through the use of reckless physical assault
  • The defendant took one or more direct steps to kill and had a specific intent to murder the victim

A direct step goes beyond the concept that someone is prepared to murder. It must cross from mental decision to action, in which the individual takes steps to perpetrate the murder. Such steps include:

  • Preparation – discussing the performance of a crime, thinking about committing it, or planning other ways to execute the murder
  • Perpetration – taking one or more actions to put the plan into action and committing an intentional killing

Actions that may qualify in the charge of attempted murder include:

  • Tracking, ambushing, and stalking
  • Luring the victim
  • Breaking into the victim’s house
  • Constructing a lethal weapon
  • Soliciting another party to commit the murder

The penalty for an attempted murder charge varies according to the circumstances. Typically, the charge is one degree of severity lower than for a murder conviction. A felony conviction for attempted murder can result in up to 20 years in a state prison and fines up to $10,000. If other felony charges accompany it, penalties are escalated.

Capital Murder

Capital murder is also called murder in the first degree or first-degree murder. Capital murder is defined by the Texas Penal Code Section 19.03 as murder plus another factor that causes the defendant to receive a sentence of capital punishment — death.

Charges of capital murder can be brought for the following reasons:

  • The defendant kills a firefighter or police officer who was acting lawfully at the time of the crime
  • The defendant intended to commit murder in the commission of another crime such as kidnapping, terroristic threat, burglary, retaliation, robbery, arson, or aggravated sexual assault or attempt to commit treason
  • The defendant was paid to commit a murder or paid another party to commit murder
  • The defendant committed the murder in the act of escaping from a Texas penal institution
  • The defendant killed another person while in jail or prison
  • The defendant murdered more than one individual, at the same time or on two or more separate occasions
  • The defendant murders a child under the age of six
  • The defendant murdered someone to retaliate against or on account of judiciary duty such as taking the life of a judge, employee of the courts, or on-duty firefighter or police officer

To convict, the State must prove beyond a reasonable doubt:

  • The accused intentionally and knowingly took another individual’s life
  • The accused intentionally caused serious bodily injury and committed acts that endangered human life
  • The accused actions cause the death of another person
  • The accused committed or attempted to commit a felony crime other than manslaughter and, in the performance of the felony, the accused endangered human life and caused the death of another person

A conviction of capital murder allows the option of the death penalty. If the defendant is incapacitated through mental disability or declared insane by psychiatric experts, the defendant may be spared the death penalty. Otherwise, the penalty can be life in prison without parole. 

Domestic Violence

Domestic violence is also called family violence or assault on a family member. It can involve more than couples. It can involve:

  • Current or former spouses
  • Anyone in a dating relationship
  • Parents and children
  • Domestic partners
  • People with a child in common
  • Grandparents and grandchildren
  • The child of a spouse or former spouse
  • A foster child
  • A family member by blood, adoption, or marriage
  • Another person with whom the accused lives

Domestic violence is defined as intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causing another person bodily injury or threatening to commit bodily injury on an imminent basis. It also includes committing an action the offender knows the victim may find offensive or provocative, like making that person feel insecure or violated.

Domestic violence is considered aggravated if perpetrated upon a spouse, another family member, or dating partner by intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causes serious bodily injury or exhibits or uses a weapon while committing the assault. Using a deadly weapon in an aggravated domestic assault can escalate the charge to first-degree felony charges. Domestic violence includes physical violence, verbal abuse, threats, stalking, forcible sexual relations, economic abuse, or emotional abuse.

Domestic violence has one of the highest rates of false accusations. According to the Stop Abusive Violence Environments (SAVE), 10% of people accused of domestic violence face false accusations of sexual assault, domestic assault, or child abuse.

Continuous violence against the family occurs when the offender commits two or more domestic assault crimes within 12 months. The offender may be convicted of this charge even without conviction or arrest on assault charges. The violence need not occur with the same family member.

The charge depends on specific facts and circumstances. If no previous domestic assault convictions are present, then you could be charged with a Class A misdemeanor. If prior convictions exist, you could be charged with a third-degree felony.

The penalties include:

  • Jail or prison time
  • Fines and court fees
  • Community supervision, also known as probation
  • Community service
  • Possible payment of restitution
  • No further contact with the spouse, child, or other close relationship

A Class A misdemeanor is punishable with 12 months in jail and/or a maximum fine of $4,000. A third-degree felony can result in two to 10 years in prison and a maximum fine of $10,000. Second-degree felony results in two to 20 years in prison and fines up to $10,000. A first-degree felony can get you five to 99 years in prison and fines up to $10,000.

Many courts require the offender to undergo counseling. 

 

Kidnapping

In general, kidnapping is the unlawful restraint or holding of a person against their will with a motive for taking that person somewhere else. The abduction is intentional and includes restricting someone’s freedom by hiding or concealing them or threatening to use deadly force.

Kidnapping is a third-degree felony, which may be reduced if the person was family, there was no threat of violence, or there was no motive.

The charges depend on the motive. You can receive harsher penalties for the following:

  • Asking for ransom
  • Restraining a person while committing a felony
  • Harassing the victim
  • Restraining a person in various ways that prevent their liberties

Below are some similar charges to kidnapping:

  • Unlawful Restraint – Unlawful restraint is the physical act of preventing someone from moving without their consent and can include confining them. Unlawful restraint is a Class A misdemeanor, but it can be enhanced due to aggravating circumstances like abducting a minor or harming someone while they are restrained.
  • Aggravated KidnappingAggravated kidnapping carries the harshest penalties. It includes holding someone for ransom, sexual assault of the victim, committing harm against the victim, or using a lethal weapon at the time of the kidnapping.  It also includes kidnapping someone to use as a hostage or human shield, to facilitate a felony or flight from a felony, to terrorize the kidnapped person or another person, or to interfere with government or police functions. A charge of aggravated kidnapping can be brought if the defendant tried to prevent a political event with the kidnapping.
  • Unlawful TransportUnlawful transport means the victim was transported after the abduction. Additionally, the defendant must have tried to hide the abduction from the police.
Penalties

Unlawful restraint is a Class A misdemeanor that can be upgraded to a third-degree felony if the person taken is under 17 or was recklessly endangered.

Third-degree kidnapping comes with a third-degree felony conviction. The sentence is two to 10 years, and you may be charged a fine of up to $10,000. Second-degree kidnapping is a second-degree felony conviction. The sentence is up to 20 years and comes with a fine of up to $10,000.

First-degree kidnapping is a first-degree felony conviction with five to 99 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines. A first-degree kidnapping may be reduced to the second-degree if you willingly release the victim in a safe place.

Terroristic Threats

A terroristic threat is committed when an individual or a group states they will inflict great bodily harm or death of another person or group of people. The specific intent of this threat is to cause great fear and make the intended target feel danger is imminent. 

A threat becomes terroristic when the intent is to:

  • Disrupt a public transportation system
  • Influence the activities of a branch of government
  • Impair the ability of the populace to utilize a public space for gatherings
  • Cause the disruption of any public communication methods
  • Interrupt or influence the activities of volunteer organizations that handle emergencies

The penalties for making a terroristic threat range from a Class B misdemeanor with 180 days in the county jail and $2,000 in fines to a third-degree felony with two to 10 years in prison and $10,000 in fines.

Other consequences include:

  • The inability to serve in the armed forces
  • Inability to obtain a student or small business loan
  • Inability to obtain or keep a concealed handgun license
  • Inability to vote or hold public office
  • Inability to serve on a jury

Violent crime comes in many forms. Most require intent to cause bodily injury or death or frighten someone into believing they may be injured or killed. In some cases, such as manslaughter, the crime is an accident, but you must still pay a debt to society.

Penalties for a Conviction

Because of the wide range of crimes that qualify under the description of violent crimes, numerous different penalties exist. Each specific crime will have its own range of punishment. The penalties of these crimes can be increased by the specific crime and criminal history of the defendant.  Some common penalties of violent crimes include:

  • Death (for capital murder)
  • Incarceration (possibly for life)
  • Community Supervision
  • Fines
  • Restitution
  • Court-ordered counseling like anger management

Other penalties will not be given by the court but will still affect a person’s life and livelihood. For example, many employers will not hire someone who has committed a violent crime or may fire an employee for a conviction. On a personal level, many people will not associate with someone who has been accused of a violent crime.

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Are you or someone you know facing criminal charges? Contact attorney Brett Podolsky today for aggressive legal defense.

Houston criminal defense lawyer Brett A. Podolsky is a former prosecutor for the State of Texas. He uses his years of criminal trial experience and knowledge of the criminal laws to advise and defend people.

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