Soyars Law Offices

If you have legal questions or legal issues, this site is your resource for finding answers or the latest legal information. San Antonio Criminal Defense Attorney Jodi Soyars will try to provide you answers to anything related to the law.

Crimes Related to Family Violence Explained

family violenceAny form of family violence is considered a serious offense, which can result in a lengthy jail sentence, impede in family law and custody cases, or be stripped of your right to bear arms. If you are accused of an offense relating to family or domestic violence, you will need to hire a trustworthy and experienced San Antonio criminal defense attorney.

What is Family Violence?

In Texas, family and domestic violence refer to charges including domestic assault or assault which resulted in the bodily harm of a family member, assault by strangulation, the violation of a protective or restraining order, harassment, stalking, interfering with a 911 call, or even making terroristic threats. An act of family violence is a felony and can have severe consequences in a court of law.

Who Can File Charges of Family Violence?

When referring to an act of family or domestic violence, your lawyer is pertaining to a crime committed against both traditional and extended members of your family - by blood or by law - as well as anyone you may share a home or living space with. In the court, family violence charges can be filed by your immediate family - for example parents, children and siblings - family by marriage or adoption, a current or ex-spouse, a foster parent or child, the mother or father of your child, somebody with whom you are in - or have previously been in - a relationship with or a roommate with which you share a home.

What are the Penalties for Family Violence Charges?

There are different degrees relating to family violence charges, ranging from a misdemeanor to a first-degree felony. Each carries a different level of penalty, including jail time and fines, which can reach up to ninety-nine years and $10,0000 for a first-degree domestic violence felony. The sentence you receive will depend on the nature of the crime you are accused of and whether or not you have any previous criminal convictions.

A class C misdemeanor carries the least severe penalty of a conviction and fine of up to $5,000. Assault causing bodily harm is often categorized as a Class A misdemeanor in Texas, a criminal division which can result in up to one year in jail and / or a fine of up to $4,000. The other classifications of domestic violence include a third, second and first-degree felony.

Individuals charged with a third-degree felony can be given a sentence of between two to ten years in prison and face a fine of up to $10,000. A second-degree felony charge has a range of two to twenty years jail time, and a first-degree felony classification can range from five to ninety-nine years in prison. Both charges can carry a fine of up to $10,000.

A conviction for family violence, no matter what classification it falls under, will carry a fine known as restitution. This will cover any expenses the victim may have been required to pay due to the crime, such as medical costs, loss of earnings, legal fees or repairing damaged property.

If a charge of family or domestic violence is filed against you, the case will be investigated and often taken to court, regardless of whether or not the victim or individual responsible for filing the charges wishes to have them dropped. In cases of domestic abuse, only the prosecution can request to have any charges against the accused dropped.

Domestic Abuse and Assault

Calls regarding domestic disturbances are often how the authorities get involved in cases of family violence, with assault causing bodily injury and spousal abuse the most common charges.

In these cases, the police will respond to the call and take separate statements from each individual present within the home individually, including the person responsible for reporting the incident, the accused and the alleged victim.

Any arrests that may be made will be based on the evidence acquired during questioning. However, this does not always result in the arrest or conviction of the correct party. Arrests can also be made in cases involving family and domestic violence as a precaution, to separate the individuals and prevent any further incidents.

Benefits of Good Representation

If you find yourself in the position where you are facing criminal charges for domestic violence, you will be in need of competent and professional representation. In some cases, the court may grant the defendant a community supervision order of deferred adjudication, highlighting the importance of a knowledgeable defense lawyer.

A community supervision order can be put in place if a defendant pleads guilty and involves a form of probation. This can apply to a sentence of up to two years in misdemeanor cases and up to ten years in felony cases. The defendant will be required to spent time in jail for up to thirty days for a misdemeanor or 180 days for a felony, before being released to comply with the terms of probation. These can include regular meetings with a probation officer, probation costs, curfews, employment, and avoiding further criminal convictions.

Deferred adjudication can also apply if the defendant pleads guilty and involves the postponement of sentencing, placing the defendant on probation. While fulfilling the terms of their probation, the defendant may also be required to carry out volunteer work in the community. If a defendant meets these conditions, the case may be dismissed. Otherwise, a sentence will be passed. This mostly applies to first-time offenders in cases of domestic assault.

A criminal defense attorney in San Antonio can discuss your case and advise on the best course of action during a trial. This can include what kind of plea you enter and the best approach to defense. If you are advised to plead guilty, your lawyer may be able to help you obtain an appropriate sentence and can help you with the impact this will have on your reputation, for example in terms of employment and child custody arrangements. If you are involved in a case of family violence, consult a reputable family violence attorney before proceeding.

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Proving Assault With a Deadly Weapon

assault deadly weaponAny assault act is classed as a violent crime, but aggravated assault with a deadly weapon is one of the highest levels of assault you can be charged with. Assault with a deadly weapon includes putting another person in fear of injury or causing harm through the use of a weapon or dangerous instrument.

If you have been charged with aggravated assault using a deadly weapon, then you are going to need a criminal defense attorney that has experience. Get in contact with a San Antonio Criminal Defense Attorney before talking with prosecutors or investigators. A good lawyer will stay by your side during the entire case and fight to protect your rights.

Different types of assault

Here in Texas, there are two types of assault charges; aggravated assault and simple assault:

  • Aggravated assault - this is when the perpetrator has used a weapon to inflict injury upon the other person. Knowingly causing serious injury to another, using a deadly weapon or threatening to use a deadly weapon to cause bodily injury are all things that would be classed as aggravated assault.
  • Simple assault - this doesn’t usually involve the use of a weapon, and the victim’s injuries are often minor. It can be defined as causing bodily harm to another, threatening to inflict bodily harm on another or making contact with another to purposely cause offense.

Proving assault with a deadly weapon

For the defendant to be convicted of assault with a deadly weapon, the perpetrator must have used a deadly weapon or an instrument that caused serious bodily harm. The prosecutor or their attorney must state and prove the elements of the crime. There has to be evidence that the defendant threatened the victim with a deadly weapon, and the deadly weapon or dangerous instrument was either intended to be or used to inflict serious bodily harm or death on the other person.

The case must hold evidence about the weapon used and how deadly it was - that the weapon could have caused serious harm or death, or proof that the weapon was used to cause death or serious bodily injury. Proof that the victim was caused injury is not always needed when proving assault with a deadly weapon.

Often, the only evidence needed is the presence or threat of use of a deadly weapon or instrument that has the capability of causing serious bodily injury. Firearms, guns, and knives are classed as lethal weapons in all states, and there are a variety of instruments that can be classed as dangerous instruments. For an object to be classed as a deadly weapon, it has to have the capability of inflicting severe bodily injury or death.

Items that the courts class as deadly weapons include:

  • Knives or sharp objects
  • Guns or firearms
  • Baseball bats
  • Clubs
  • Hammers
  • Rocks or bricks
  • Metal bars or crowbars

Other items can be classed as deadly weapons; it depends on if the defendant used or intended to use that object to inflict severe bodily injury to the victim. For example, a woman's heel could be classed a deadly weapon if it had been used to inflict serious bodily harm. A car can also be classed as a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument if the perpetrator uses the car in a way that is capable of causing death or serious harm to another.

There has also been a case, here in Texas, where a man was charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon as he engaged in unprotected intercourse with multiple people, knowing he was HIV positive. In the end, this man was convicted of the crime.

Gathering evidence

If you are under investigation for assault with a deadly weapon offense, including murder, ensure that you must get yourself good representation from a San Antonio violent crime attorney.

The following may be carried out by law enforcement to discover evidence:

  • Look for DNA on your clothing, shoe or fingerprints
  • Confiscate any personal belongings that could hold evidence
  • Investigate your home, workplace, laptop, computer, or other electronic devices
  • Look for weapons that were used to commit the assault

Assault with a deadly weapon punishment

If you have been convicted of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, you can be punished with up to thirty years in prison. Your sentence will be decided depending on different factors, for example, the injury inflicted on the victim or the victim's age.

Assault with a deadly weapon is a serious charge so punishment will not be light. If you have been convicted of aggravated assault, it can affect your employment and education in the future. To ensure you get the best results, contact a reputable San Antonio Criminal Defense Attorney.

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Common Theft and Property Crimes

property crimeFor someone to be convicted of theft or property crime, they must have carried out the act of taking another's property without permission and not intending to return those items or purposely destroying or vandalizing someone else's property.

If you have been charged with theft or property crime, then contact your San Antonio criminal defense attorney to get a free consultation. An attorney who is experienced in criminal defense will know all the different charges and can explain everything you need to know. They will be able to evaluate the case and figure out the best course of action for the client. They will also make sure their client receives the best possible outcome.

Common Theft and Property Crimes

When it comes to theft and property crimes, there is a broad range of charges; from burglary to trespassing and arson. Any experienced property crime attorney will be able to tell you the different aspects of each, along with the penalties involved.

Below are the most common theft or property crime acts:

  • Shoplifting - Pretending to be a customer while taking items from a shop with no intention to pay for them.
  • Trespass - Entering someone else’s property without their permission.
  • Arson - Deliberately causing damage by setting fire to buildings or other people's property.
  • Criminal mischief - Maliciously damaging by any means the property of another - often through vandalism.
  • Buying or receiving stolen property - Knowingly receiving or buying stolen property.
  • Robbery or burglary - Taking items from another person by force or breaking into a property to steal other people’s valuables.
  • Motor vehicle theft - Taking someone else’s car, motorbike, scooter, etc. without the consent of the owner.

Theft or property crime consequences

Every theft or property crime has a different penalty. Depending on which crime has been carried out, the punishment can be anything from a fine to imprisonment. Depending on the items stolen, theft can be classified as either a felony or misdemeanor.

  • Felony - A felony is classed as a serious crime; they can be non-violent and violent crimes. A felony crime will have a much bigger punishment, for example, a lengthy prison sentence.
  • Misdemeanor - A misdemeanor is a crime that is more serious than an infraction but not as serious as a felony. A misdemeanor crime will often be punished by incarceration in your local jail, a fine, or both.

If the property that has been stolen is valued between $100 and $300, it is classed as petty theft, so a misdemeanor crime. If property that has been stolen is valued at more than that, the theft is considered grand, so this would be classed as a felony.

When it comes to grand theft, it is split into four categories - first degree, second degree, third degree and fourth degree - being convicted of first degree grand theft would have the highest penalties. When someone is accused of property crime, whether they are charged with a felony or misdemeanor is based on the amount of property that has been damaged and the value of anything that has been stolen.

Theft or property crimes can have their penalties increased depending on how the crime was carried out. Robbery starts out as a second-degree felony, but if the victim was disabled, elderly or if a weapon had been used against them, it would increase to a first-degree felony. This would then be classed as aggravated robbery, and the punishment would be a lot more severe than that of un-aggravated robbery.

When someone has been convicted of theft or property crime, these are the punishments they could receive:

  • Jail or prison time - Depending on the crime, the perpetrator will be given a sentence in their local jail or be sentenced to lengthy time in prison.
  • Restitution - The court will order the offender to repay the victim for their losses from the crime.
  • Court costs or fines - Similar to restitution, but a fine or court cost is a punishment paid to the court and not the victim.
  • Community supervision - This is also referred to as probation. The offender will not be in incarceration but will have a parole officer supervising them at all times. If the probation is violated, then a judge could order the perpetrator to serve the remaining amount of time of the original sentence back in jail. If the violation consisted of another crime, then they will also face new charges based on that crime.

Here in Texas, there is a Texas Theft Liability Act - not only will the offender receive punishment by law, but the victim can also sue the defendant for damages. This would be carried out in a civil court and would be a separate lawsuit.

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What You Need to Know About Sex Crimes

sexual assaultSexual assault also, referred to as rape, is a serious offense that can lead to a lengthy prison sentence if you are convicted. Here in Texas, if a sexual assault crime has been carried out, the person being convicted will in most cases have to do prison time, pay a fine, and also be made to sign the register as a sex offender.

Being on the sex offenders register can have an impact on the person's career as employers will be a lot less likely to employ them, and relationships with friends and family can also be affected. Sexual assault crimes are taken very seriously in San Antonio by law enforcement and by attorneys.

San Antonio Criminal Defense Attorney

Many lawyers will be reluctant to take on sex offense cases, as they can be quite tough to deal with. If you have been arrested or charged with sexual assault, contact a lawyer who is experienced in handling sexual assault cases. A good sex crime attorney will have plenty of experience, as well as the capability of supporting you through the difficult case.

Sexual Assault Charges

Under Texas law, sexual assault involves the alleged offender forcing another person to be part of a sexual act, without the consent of that person. The sexual act could be contact or penetration of a sexual organ, the mouth, or anus. The offender would be charged accordingly depending on how the assault was carried out. The term sexual assault can be broken down into several different sex-related crimes.

Aggravated Sexual Assault:

Aggravated sexual assault is when the accused has used violence towards the victim, or the victim's life has been put in danger. Aggravated sexual assault is a first-degree felony.

A person can be accused of aggravated sexual assault if they have committed one of the below:

  • The victim is 14 years old or younger.
  • The accused is related to, a guardian or a foster parent of the victim who is under 16 years old.
  • If the defendant is armed with a weapon, or has fashioned an object into a weapon, then used it or threatened to use it on the victim.
  • If the accused has also committed the act of kidnapping, arson, homicide, robbery or burglary.
  • If the accused has used physical force, resulting in serious injuries being sustained by the victim.
  • If the individual has carried out the sexual assault on a vulnerable person who has a defect or a mental disorder.
  • It can also be classed as aggravated sexual assault if the accused has administered a substance to the other person.

Indecency with a Child by Contact or Exposure:

Indecency with a child by contact or exposure can involve the breasts, sexual organs, or the anus of a child under the age of 17. Indecency with a child by contact is a second-degree felony. Indecency with a child by exposure is a third-degree felony and can involve the offender exposing their genitals or anus or exposing the child’s genitals or anus for sexual gratification reasons.

Internet Sex Crimes:

Types of Internet sex crimes:

  • Solicitation
  • Possession of child pornography
  • Distribution of child pornography
  • Luring a child to meet in person
  • Soliciting sexual acts to a minor

If the accused has been involved in an Internet sex crime with a minor, the other person would be 14 years old or younger. If the defendant knows the person is 14 or younger, then it would be a second-degree felony. If the accused believes the other person is a 14-year-old or younger but they aren't, then it would be a third-degree felony.

Registering as a Sex Offender

The sex offender’s register contains the details of individuals who have been convicted of sexual assault. In Texas, if you have been convicted of sexual assault then you are required the sign the sex offender’s register.

The offender will be registered as a sex offender for a specific amount of time, which is dependent on the severity of the conviction. The offender will be placed on the sex offenders register:

  • Indefinitely if they have been sentenced to jail for more than 30 months, imprisonment and admission to a hospital with a restriction order, or incarceration for life.
  • For ten years if they have been sentenced to imprisonment for less than 30 months but more than six months.
  • For seven years if their incarceration sentence is less that six months.
  • For two years if they have been cautioned for a sexual offense. If the offender is under 18 years old, they will be placed on the register for one year.

It is important that you are fully aware of the seriousness of these charges and how they can impact your life. If you require further information, then speak to a qualified criminal defense attorney.

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Expunction & Non-Disclosure

Expunction and Non-DisclosureLooking to get your case expunged or erased off your criminal record in the San Antonio area?  Do not be fooled! “Deferred Adjudication” dismissals do not qualify for expunction in Texas.  Here at the Soyars Law Firm, our criminal defense  knowledgeable and experience can help you before you decide to enter into a Deferred Adjudication.


Expunction

“Expunction” is the term used to describe the process of getting your arrest erased off your criminal record. Not all cases qualify for expunction.  Generally speaking, your case must have been “DISMISSED,” or you have to have been “ACQUITED,” or received a “PARDON” in order to qualify for an expunction. If you got your case dismissed, the arrest will continue to show up on your criminal record until you take the additional step necessary to get it expunged. The expunction process is completely separate from the criminal court process and requires a petition to be filed in a civil court rather than a criminal court. Expunctions can be complicated in that you have to know if you actually qualify, how to ask for it, where to file it, and who all you have to ask to erase the actual reference of the arrest. Soyars Law Offices, P.C. routinely handles expunctions. CALL US TODAY TO DISCUSS WHAT WE CAN DO TO HELP GET YOUR ARREST ERASED OFF YOUR CRIMINAL RECORD.

Deferred Adjudication Dismissals

Most citizens would be surprised to learn that even once they successfully complete their deferred adjudication that the arrest and reference to the offense continue to show up on their criminal record. Deferred Adjudication dismissals will not be eligible for expunction unless the underlying offense was actually a Class C misdemeanor. SO BEWARE! Before you enter into a deferred adjudication plea agreement, make sure you are okay with always having the offense show up on your criminal record as “Dismissed” through deferred adjudication.

Class C Deferred Adjudication Dismissals

Deferred Adjudication dismissals on a class C misdemeanor, however, are an exception to the general rule. If you successfully complete a class C deferred, you may apply for an expunction by filing a civil petition seeking that relief.

Pretrial Intervention Program

Successful completion of Pretrial Intervention Program is also a recognized exception to the general rule, permitting you to apply for an expunction in most instances as well.

Domestic Violence Offenses

If you were arrested for a domestic violence offense and you receive deferred adjudication and successfully complete it, you may be eligible to apply for a Non-Disclosure, however, you are not eligible for an expunction.  To find out more about Non-Disclosure read below.


Non-Disclosure

If you have successfully completed a Deferred Adjudication, you can apply for Non-Disclosure. Non-Disclosure is not as good as an Expunction, but it may help you obtain employment in the private sector if the employer does not qualify for any of the exceptions that would permit that employer to petition the government for access to that information. Some of these exceptions include employers that work with children, elderly, security, medical, etc. Also, if you are attempting to obtain a license through the State of Texas to practice your trade or profession, the licensing board will have access to your criminal record and this may prevent you from obtaining the license that permits you to practice your trade or profession.

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Who Qualifies to See Non-Disclosed Offenses

Non-DisclosureListed below are the exceptions as to who can see information covered by a Non-Disclosure Order.

Texas Government Code § 411.081

A criminal justice agency may disclose criminal history record information that is the subject of the order only to other criminal justice agencies, for criminal justice or regulatory licensing purposes, an agency or entity listed in Subsection (i), or the person who is the subject of the order.

Subsection (i) A criminal justice agency may disclose criminal history record information that is the subject of an order of nondisclosure to the following noncriminal justice agencies or entities only:

(1) the State Board for Educator Certification;

(2) a school district, charter school, private school, regional education service center, commercial transportation company, or education shared service arrangement;

(3) the Texas Medical Board;

(4) the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired;

(5) the Board of Law Examiners;

(6) the State Bar of Texas;

(7) a district court regarding a petition for name change under Subchapter B, Chapter 45, Family Code;

(8) the Texas School for the Deaf;

(9) the Department of Family and Protective Services;

(10) the Texas Youth Commission;

(11) the Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services;

(12) the Department of State Health Services, a local mental health service, a local mental retardation authority, or a community center providing services to persons with mental illness or retardation;

(13) the Texas Private Security Board;

(14) a municipal or volunteer fire department;

(15) the Texas Board of Nursing;

(16) a safe house providing shelter to children in harmful situations;

(17) a public or nonprofit hospital or hospital district;

(18) the Texas Juvenile Probation Commission;

(19) the securities commissioner, the banking commissioner, the savings and mortgage lending commissioner, the consumer credit commissioner, or the credit union commissioner;

(20) the Texas State Board of Public Accountancy;

(21) the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation;

(22) the Health and Human Services Commission;

(23) the Department of Aging and Disability Services;

(24) the Texas Education Agency;

(25) the Guardianship Certification Board;

(26) a county clerk's office in relation to a proceeding for the appointment of a guardian under Chapter XIII, Texas Probate Code;

(27) the Department of Information Resources but only regarding an employee, applicant for employment, contractor, subcontractor, intern, or volunteer who provides network security services under Chapter 2059 to:

(A) the Department of Information Resources; or

(B) a contractor or subcontractor of the Department of Information Resources;

(28) the Court Reporters Certification Board; and

(29) the Texas Department of Insurance.

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Courts

San Antonio and Bexar County CourtsSoyars Law Offices, P.C. through its attorney Jodi Soyars provides criminal defense services to those facing misdemeanor and felony charges in Bexar, Comal, Guadalupe and Hays Counties. Jodi Soyars has been practicing in these counties since 2002 and understands that each of these Counties have very different operating procedures and tactics. Knowing how to best defend yourself in the specific court in which you are facing criminal prosecution is extremely important. What works in one county or one court will not necessarily work in another one.

For instance, some counties offer Pretrial Diversion or Intervention Programs.  If you happen to be in Hays, Bexar or Guadalupe County, then Jodi will make sure you are aware of these programs and discuss whether they are right for you and your particular situation. 


Practicing in multiple counties in South Texas also helps Jodi make sure she continues to think outside the box and that she is doing everything that can be done in your particular case to ensure you get the best possible defense. Because not every county operates the same way, new trends may be developing or taking off in surrounding counties before they reach your county.  By being exposed to such different and unique approaches in the surrounding counties, Jodi is able to advocate for the adoption of new approaches or legal arguments in your county.

You don’t want an attorney that’s just going to settle for the status quo, if the status quo is not in your favor.  You want someone defending you that is advocating intelligently, creatively and aggressively for you and your freedom!

Call Jodi Soyars today to discuss your case and your specific court and county.

Click below for more information related to your particular court or county.

Bexar County
Hays County
Guadalupe County
Comal County

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