Sunday

Injury to a Disabled Person | Houston Criminal Defense Attorneys

Injury to a Disabled Individual

Assault is usually charged as a misdemeanor, however when the victim is disabled, the offender can be charged with a felony offense. The culpable mental state of the offender and the severity of the victim’s injury affect the degree of the felony charged and the possible resulting punishment.
Punishment for causing injury to a disabled person is more serious because a disabled person is generally less able or even unable to defend themselves because of physical or mental impairment. Because of this, offenders often face maximum sentences sought by aggressive prosecutors.
Considering the possibility of a lengthy prison sentence, it is important to understand the law and your defense options in order to have the best opportunity for a successful defense in court. Furthermore, Texas law provides several affirmative defenses against this type of charge.
Criminal Defense Attorney for Injury to a Disabled Individual in Houston, Texas
If you were arrested for injuring a disabled person in southeast Texas, it is in your best interest to retain an experienced criminal trial lawyer. James G. Sullivan and Associates defend clients accused of violent crimes in Harris County, Montgomery County, Fort Bend County, Waller County, Brazoria County, and Galveston County.
Since 1994, James Sullivan has successfully fought the government in jury trials in criminal district courts. Sullivan graduated from Gerry Spence’s Trial Lawyers College, the most selective and prestigious trial advocacy program in America. Sullivan has a proven record of defending people from all walks of life, faiths and countries in courts throughout southeast Texas.
Houston criminal defense attorney James Sullivan will fight for you in court with the goal to get your case dismissed or reduced to a misdemeanor. Call (281) 546-6428 for a free confidential consultation and case evaluation.
Texas Injury to a Disabled Individual Law
According to Texas Penal Code § 22.04(a), a person commits the offense of injury to a disabled individual when he intentionally, knowingly, recklessly, or with criminal negligence, by his action (or intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly by omission) causes serious bodily injury; serious mental deficiency, impairment, or injury; or bodily injury to a disabled individual.
Also, according to Texas Penal Code § 22.04(a-1), a person commits the offense of injury to a disabled individual if he is an owner, operator, or employee of a group home, nursing facility, assisted living facility, intermediate care facility for persons with mental retardation, or other institutional care facility and he intentionally, knowingly, recklessly, or with criminal negligence by omission  causes serious bodily injury; serious mental deficiency, impairment, or injury; or bodily injury to a disabled individual.
According to Texas Penal Code § 22.04(b), an omission that causes serious bodily injury; serious mental deficiency, impairment, or injury; or bodily injury to a disabled individual is an offense under this section if the actor has a legal or statutory duty to act; or the actor has assumed care, custody, or control of a disabled individual.
Definitions applicable to Injury to a Disabled Individual Statute
Disabled individual, according to Texas Penal Code § 22.04(c)(3)(A), means a person with one or more of the following:
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder, as defined by Texas Insurance Code § 1355.001, means a neurobiological disorder that includes autism, Asperger’s syndrome, or Pervasive Developmental Disorder;
  • Developmental Disability, as defined by Texas Human Resources Code § 112.042, means a severe, chronic disability that is attributable to a mental or physical impairment or to a combination of a mental and physical impairment; is manifested before a person reaches the age of 22; is likely to continue indefinitely; results in substantial functional limitations in three or more major life activities, including: self-care; receptive and expressive language; learning; mobility; self-direction; capacity for independent living; and economic sufficiency; and reflects the person’s needs for a combination and sequence of special interdisciplinary or generic care, treatment, or other lifelong or extended services that are individually planned and coordinated;
  • Intellectual Disability, as defined by Texas Health and Safety Code § 591.003, means significantly subaverage general intellectual functioning that is concurrent with deficits in adaptive behavior and originates during the developmental period;
  • Severe Emotional Disturbance, as defined by Texas Family Code § 261.001, means a mental, behavioral, or emotional disorder of sufficient duration to result in functional impairment that substantially interferes with or limits a person’s role or ability to function in family, school, or community activities; or
  • Traumatic Brain Injury, as defined by Texas Health and Safety Code § 92.001, means an acquired injury to the brain, including brain injuries caused by anoxia due to near drowning.  The term does not include brain dysfunction caused by congenital or degenerative disorders or birth trauma; or
  • A person who otherwise by reason of age or physical or mental disease, defect, or injury is substantially unable to protect the person’s self from harm or to provide food, shelter, or medical care for the person’s self.
Bodily Injury, as defined by Texas Penal Code § 1.07(8), means physical pain, illness, or any impairment of physical condition.
Serious Bodily Injury, as defined by Texas Penal Code § 1.07(46), means bodily injury that creates a substantial risk of death or that causes death, serious permanent disfigurement, or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ.
Punishment for Injury to a Disabled Individual in Harris County
When a person “intentionally or knowingly” causes serious bodily injury or serious mental deficiency, impairment, or injury to a disabled individual, it is considered a first degree felony. If convicted, this charge comes with a presumptive sentence of up to 99 years in prison and/or a fine not to exceed $10,000. When a person “recklessly” causes serious bodily injury or serious mental deficiency, impairment, or injury to a disabled individual, it is considered a second degree felony. If convicted, this charge comes with a presumptive sentence of up to 20 years in prison and/or a fine not to exceed $10,000.
When a person “intentionally or knowingly” causes bodily injury to a disabled individual, it is considered a third degree felony. If convictedthis charge comes with a presumptive sentence of up to 10 years in prison and a fine not to exceed $10,000. Except, it is a second degree felony when the conduct is committed intentionally or knowingly and the victim was a disabled individual residing in a state supported living center, as defined by Texas Health and Safety Code § 555.001, or in a facility licensed under Chapter 252 of the Texas Health and Safety Code, and the alleged offender is an employee of the center or facility whose employment involved providing direct care for the alleged victim. If convicted, this charge comes with a presumptive sentence of up to 20 years in prison and/or a fine not to exceed $10,000.
When a person “recklessly” causes bodily injury to a disabled individual, it is considered a state jail felony. If convicted, this charge comes with a presumptive sentence of up to 2 years in jail and/or a fine not to exceed $10,000.
When a person causes serious bodily injury, serious mental deficiency, impairment, or injury, or bodily injury to a disabled individual as the result of “criminal negligence”, it is also considered a state jail felony. If convicted, this charge comes with a presumptive sentence of up to 2 years in jail and / or a fine not to exceed $10,000
Definitions of Culpable Mental States
The culpable mental state of an offender significantly affects the level of the criminal charge in this type of case.  These mental states are defined and listed, according to Texas Penal Code § 6.03, as follows:
  1. A person acts “intentionally”, or with intent, with respect to the nature of his conduct or to a result of his conduct when it is his conscious objective or desire to engage in the conduct or cause the result.
  2. A person acts “knowingly”, or with knowledge, with respect to the nature of his conduct or to circumstances surrounding his conduct when he is aware of the nature of his conduct or that the circumstances exist. A person acts knowingly, or with knowledge, with respect to a result of his conduct when he is aware that his conduct is reasonably certain to cause the result.
  3. A person acts “recklessly”, or is reckless, with respect to circumstances surrounding his conduct or the result of his conduct when he is aware of but consciously disregards a substantial and unjustifiable risk that the circumstances exist or the result will occur. The risk must be of such a nature and degree that its disregard constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of care that an ordinary person would exercise under all the circumstances as viewed from the actor’s standpoint.
  4. A person acts with “criminal negligence”, or is criminally negligent, with respect to circumstances surrounding his conduct or the result of his conduct when he ought to be aware of a substantial and unjustifiable risk that the circumstances exist or the result will occur. The risk must be of such a nature and degree that the failure to perceive it constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of care that an ordinary person would exercise under all the circumstances as viewed from the actor’s standpoint.
Affirmative Defenses to a Houston Injury to a Disabled Individual Charge
What is an affirmative defense? According to Texas Penal Code § 2.04, it is a defense in which the defendant introduces evidence, which, if found to be credible, will negate criminal liability, even if it is proven that the defendant committed the alleged acts.
Texas law provides several affirmative defenses against the criminal charge of injury to a disabled individual.
According to Texas Penal Code § 22.04(i), it is an affirmative defense to prosecution of a person who assumed care, custody, or control of a disabled individual that before the person’s conduct or omission caused serious bodily injury; serious mental deficiency, impairment, or injury; or bodily injury to a disabled individual that the offender:
  1. notified in person the child, elderly individual, or disabled individual that he would no longer provide any of the care described by Texas Penal Code § 22.04(d); and
  2. notified in writing the parents or person other than himself acting in loco parentis to the disabled individual that he would no longer provide any of the care described by Texas Penal Code § 22.04(d); or
  3. notified in writing the Department of Protective and Regulatory Services that he would no longer provide any of the care set forth in Texas Penal Code § 22.04(d).
Furthermore, written notification under Texas Penal Code § 22.04(i)(2) or (i)(3) is not effective unless it contains the name and address of the actor, the name and address of the disabled individual, the type of care provided by the actor, and the date the care was discontinued.
According to Texas Penal Code § 22.04(k), it is also a defense to prosecution under this section that the act or omission consisted of reasonable medical care occurring under the direction of or by a licensed physician; or emergency medical care administered in good faith and with reasonable care by a person not licensed in the healing arts.
According to Texas Penal Code § 22.04(l), it is an affirmative defense to prosecution under this section:
  • that the act or omission was based on treatment in accordance with the tenets and practices of a recognized religious method of healing with a generally accepted record of efficacy;
  • for a person charged with an act of omission causing serious bodily injury; serious mental deficiency, impairment, or injury; or bodily injury to a disabled individual that:
  1. there is no evidence that, on the date prior to the offense charged, the defendant was aware of an incident of injury to a disabled individual and failed to report the incident; and
  2. the person:
    1. was a victim of family violence committed by a person who is also charged with an offense against the disabled individual;
    2. did not cause a serious bodily injury; serious mental deficiency, impairment, or injury; or bodily injury; and
    3. did not reasonably believe at the time of the omission that an effort to prevent the person also charged with an offense against the disabled individual from committing the offense would have an effect.
  • That:
    1. the offender was not more than three years older than the victim at the time of the offense; and
    2. the victim was a nondisabled or disabled child at the time of the offense.
According to Texas Penal Code § 22.04(m), it is an affirmative defense to prosecution under Texas Penal Code § 22.04(a)(1), (2), and (3) for injury to a disabled individual that the offender did not know and could not reasonably have known that the victim was a disabled individual at the time of the offense.
James G. Sullivan and Associates | Houston Injury to a Disabled Individual Defense Attorney
If you are currently dealing with an assault charge that involves injury to a disabled person in southeast Texas, take the steps necessary to protect your freedom and contact the experienced and knowledgeable criminal defense attorneys in Houston at the law offices of James G. Sullivan and Associates.
It is important to hire an experienced Houston criminal defense lawyer because criminal charges for injury to a disabled individual do not have to result in a conviction and the resulting lifelong consequences. In order to convict you, the state prosecutor must prove to a jury that you committed every element of the felony offense beyond a reasonable doubt.  With an experienced trial lawyer defending you, this is a very difficult burden to meet, and any reasonable doubt in the mind of any of the members of the jury can result in a not guilty verdict or a hung jury. Therefore, it is vital to contact an experienced criminal trial attorney in Houston who will fight for you.
If you have been charged with the criminal offense of injury to a disabled individual in Harris county or any of the surrounding counties in Texas, contact James G. Sullivan and Associates for a free phone consultation at (281) 546-6428.  Attorney James (Jim) Sullivan is an experienced trial lawyer who will fight for your rights, freedom and future.

Accused of Arson? Call Houston Criminal Defense Attorneys

Harris County Arson Defense Attorneys

In Texas, arson is charged as a very serious offense because fires or explosions can result in devastating property damage, serious personal injury and even death. Because of these extreme and potential consequences, the Texas government dedicates enormous resources to investigate these crimes. The State Fire Marshal is the chief investigator in charge of the investigation of arson and suspected arson in the State of Texas. By statutory authority (Texas Government Code), the State Fire Marshall commissions law enforcement officers to act as fire and arson investigators under his supervision.
Arson cases are usually very circumstantial in nature because the start of a fire is seldom seen by independent witnesses. When fires are intentionally started, the motives can be to commit insurance fraud, hate crimes, retaliation, destroy evidence or to cover up other crimes, such as homicide. According to the Texas Department of Public safety, juveniles commit about 25 percent of arson crimes. Like a moth to the flame, youthful and curious firebugs are drawn to the primal and destructive nature of fire.
Arson charges are extremely serious. Individuals convicted of arson are usually sentenced to prison and forced to pay steep fines. To have the best chance of avoiding a conviction, it is important to hire an experienced Houston property crimes attorney.
Arson Defense Attorney in Houston
If you are under investigation for arson, it is vitally important to consult a lawyer before speaking to law enforcement or arson investigators.
If have been charged with arson in Harris County or any of the surrounding counties in Southeast Texas, contact James G. Sullivan and Associates for a free, confidential phone consultation at (281) 546-6428. James (Jim) Sullivan is an experienced trial lawyer who defends clients accused of property crimes.
Arson Law in Texas
According to Texas Penal Code Sec. 28.02, a person commits arson if he or she starts a fire (regardless of whether the fire continues after ignition) or causes an explosion with intent to destroy or damage:
  1. any vegetation, fence or structure on open-space land; or
  2. any building, habitation or vehicle:
    1. while knowing that it is within the limits of an incorporated city or town;
    2. while knowing that it is insured against damage or destruction;
    3. while knowing that it is subject to a mortgage or other security interest;
    4. while knowing that it is located on property belonging to another;
    5. while knowing that it has property located within in that belongs to another; or
    6. when the person is reckless about whether the burning or explosion will endanger the life of some individual or the safety of the property of another.
In Texas, arson is usually charged as a second degree felony. If the arson caused the bodily injury or death of any person, or if the property intended to be damaged or destroyed was a habitation or place of assembly or worship, the offender can be charged with a first degree felony.
A person can also be charged with arson if he or she recklessly starts a fire or causes an explosion while manufacturing or attempting to manufacture a controlled substance and the fire or explosion damages a building, vehicle, or habitation. This type of arson is usually charged as a state jail felony, however the offender can be charged with a third degree felony if the offense resulted in the death or bodily injury to another.
Controlled Burning Defense
It is a defense to the destruction of damage of any vegetation, fence or structure on open-space land if the fire or explosion was a part of the controlled burning of open-space land.
“Controlled burning” means the burning of unwanted vegetation with the consent of the owner of the property on which the vegetation is located and in such a manner that the fire is controlled and limited to a designated area.
“Open-space land” means real property that is undeveloped for the purpose of human habitation.
Texas Fire Marshal Investigations
The State Fire Marshal’s Office (SFMO), a program of the Texas Department of Insurance, is headquartered in Austin, however employees are strategically located across the state to respond quickly to requests from local communities. Because Texas experiences thousands of fires each year, the State Fire Marshal’s Fire Investigations Division (FID) uses an Investigation Protocol to effectively allocate the SFMO’s resources. Although any community that has suffered a fire-related incident may contact the FID for assistance, catastrophic fires that have resulted in death, significant property damage or pose a serious threat to public health and safety rank highest according to the protocol. Also included in the protocol are fires believed to be started by a serial arsonist, related to hate crime, or where the operation of a vital public institution is compromised,
Based on this protocol, the FID dispatches appropriate personnel to a fire scene to determine the fire’s origin and cause, and to assist local officials in the collection and analysis of evidence that may lead to prosecution of an alleged arsonist. The FID also has an Accelerant Detection Canine Unit which sends out canine handlers and their specially trained dogs to help determine the presence of ignitable liquids, such as gasoline, at fire scenes. The evidence collected is sent for analysis to the State Fire Marshal’s Forensic Arson Laboratory.
Punishment for Arson in Texas
Chapter 12 of the Texas Penal Code lists the felony punishment for arson.
A conviction for a second degree felony is punishable by a prison sentence ranging from two to 20 years and a fine up to $10,000.
A conviction for a first degree felony is punishable by a prison sentence ranging from five to 99 years or life in prison and a fine up to $10,000.
A conviction for a state jail felony is punishable by a state jail sentence ranging from 180 days to two years and a fine of up to $10,000.
Definitions of Terms
Texas Penal Code Sec. 28.01 lists the definitions of arson-related terms.
“Habitation” means a structure or vehicle that is adapted for the overnight accommodation of persons and includes each separately secured or occupied portion of the structure or vehicle and each structure appurtenant to or connected with the structure or vehicle.
“Building” means any structure or enclosure intended for use or occupation as a habitation or for some purpose of trade, manufacture, ornament, or use.
“Vehicle” includes any device in, on, or by which any person or property is or may be propelled, moved or drawn in the normal course of commerce or transportation.
James G. Sullivan and Associates | Harris County Arson Defense Attorneys
Houston arson defense lawyer James Sullivan will discuss with you the seriousness of your charge and the various effective defense strategies that are best suited for your particular case. Before you make your plea in court, it is important that you consult a property crimes lawyer in Houston, Texas.  Houston criminal attorney James Sullivan gets proven results.
James Sullivan graduated the Trial Lawyers College founded by Legendary lawyer Gerry. Sullivan has a proven record of defending people from all walks of life, faiths and countries in courts throughout Texas.
Contact James Sullivan & Associates for a free phone consultation at (281) 546-6428 about your arson charges in Harris County (Houston), Montgomery County (Conroe), Fort Bend County (Richmond), Brazoria County (Angleton), Galveston County (Galveston), Waller County (Hempstead) and throughout Texas.

Tuesday

Harris County Kidnapping Attorneys

Greater Houston Kidnapping Defense

Kidnapping is a serious felony offense and occurs when a person intentionally or knowingly abducts another person—usually a child. Kidnapping of children most commonly occurs when a couple is separating or divorcing. The people involved are often parents, relatives, or guardians of the victim and the circumstances are both legally complicated and emotionally charged.
It is important to hire an experienced Houston criminal defense lawyer because criminal charges for kidnapping or a related offense do not have to result in a conviction and the resulting lifelong consequences. You may have been acting fully within your rights and could be eligible for a reduction or dismissal of your charges under the Texas Penal Code. In order to convict you, the state prosecutor must prove to a jury that you committed every element of the felony offense beyond a reasonable doubt. With an experienced trial lawyer defending you, this is a difficult burden to meet, and any reasonable doubt in the mind of any of the members of the jury can result in a not guilty verdict or a hung jury.  Therefore, it is vital to contact an experienced criminal attorney in Houston who will fight for you.
Harris County Kidnapping Defense Attorney
If you have been charged with kidnapping in Harris County, Fort Bend County, Montgomery County, or any of the surrounding counties, contact James G. Sullivan and Associates for a free phone consultation at 281-546-6428. Attorney James (Jim) Sullivan is an experienced trial lawyer who will fight for your rights, freedom and future.
Restrain vs. Abduct under Texas Law
In Texas criminal law, these two terms are very important. The difference in meaning between these terms as applied to the facts of your case could affect the seriousness of the charges against you, how your case is handled and whether or not your case has the potential to be dismissed by the grand jury or prosecutor.
According to section 20.01(1) of the Texas Penal Code, “Restrain” means to restrict a person’s movements without consent by moving the person from one place to another or by confining the person. Restraint is “without consent” if it is accomplished by:
  1. force, intimidation, or deception, or
  2. any means, including acquiescence of the victim, if:
    1. the victim is under 14 years of age and the parent or guardian have not acquiesced; or
    2. the victim is between 14 to 17 years of age and is taken outside of the state and outside of a 120-mile radius from the victim’s residence and the parent or guardian have not acquiesced in the movement.
According to section 20.01(2) of the Texas Penal Code, “Abduct” means to restrain a person without consent with intent to prevent his rescue by holding the individual in a place where he is not likely to be found or by threatening violence.
Kidnapping related charges
The purpose of defining restraint and abduction in the code is to provide guidance on how the three different kidnapping related offenses should be charged. These three related offenses are unlawful restraint, kidnapping and aggravated kidnapping.
Unlawful Restraint
According to section 20.04 of the Texas Penal Code, a person can be charged with unlawful restraint if he restrains another person. It is an affirmative defense to prosecution under this section that the person restrained was younger than 14 years of age; the actor was a relative of the child; and the actor’s sole intent was to assume lawful control of the child.
Unlawful Restraint is a Class A Misdemeanor, except the offense is a:
  1. State Jail Felony if the person restrained is under 17 years of age; or
  2. Third Degree Felony if the actor recklessly endangers the victim; or the actor restrains a public servant.
Kidnapping
According to section 20.03 of the Texas Penal Code, a person can be charged with kidnapping if he abducts another person. It is an affirmative defense to prosecution under this section that the abduction did not involve threats of violence; the actor was a relative of the person abducted; and the actor’s sole intent was to assume lawful control of the victim.
Kidnapping is a Third Degree Felony.
Aggravated Kidnapping
According to section 20.04 of the Texas Penal Code, a person can be charged with kidnapping if he abducts another person with the intent to:
  1. hold him for ransom;
  2. use him as a shield or hostage;
  3. facilitate the commission of a felony or the flight after the attempt or commission of a felony;
  4. inflict bodily injury on him or violate or abuse him sexually;
  5. terrorize him or a third person;
  6. interfere with the performance of any governmental or political function.
A person commits an offense if the person abducts another person and uses or exhibits a deadly weapon during the commission of the offense.
Kidnapping is a First Degree Felony, except a Second Degree Felony is possible if the defendant voluntarily releases the victim in a safe place.
The penalties for these offenses are severe and can significantly impact your future, such as by losing many educational, employment and housing opportunities. A conviction for kidnapping will also prevent you from ever owning or possessing a firearm. An experienced Harris County kidnapping defense lawyer will be able to review your case and fight to get your charges dismissed or reduced.
Punishment for Kidnapping related offenses in Texas
Chapter 12 of the Texas Penal Code lists the punishment for kidnapping related offenses in Texas.
A Class A Misdemeanor is punishable by up to a $4,000 fine; confinement in jail for up to 1 year; or both.
A State Jail Felony is punishable by between 180 days to 2 years in a state jail; and by up to a $10,000 fine.
A Third Degree Felony is punishable by between 2 to 10 years in prison; and up to a $10,000 fine.
A Second Degree Felony is punishable by between 2 to 20 years in prison; and up to a $10,000 fine.
A First Degree Felony is punishable by between 5 to 99 years or life in prison; and up to a $10,000 fine.
Depending on the facts of the case, there may be mitigating circumstances that reduce the severity of the charges. These circumstances include the age difference between the victim and the defendant, the relationship between the victim and the defendant, whether violence was used against the victim and other ulterior motives of the defendant. It is important to contact an experienced Houston kidnapping lawyer to learn if any of these mitigating circumstances might apply in order to get your case reduced or dismissed.
James G. Sullivan & Associates | Houston Kidnapping Defense Attorneys
James Sullivan graduated from Gerry Spence’s Trial Lawyers College, the most selective and prestigious trial advocacy program in America. Sullivan has a proven record of defending people from all walks of life, faiths and countries in courts throughout southeast Texas.
Contact James Sullivan & Associates for a free phone consultation at 281-546-6428 about your kidnapping charges in Harris County (Houston), Montgomery County (Conroe), Fort Bend County (Richmond) or Brazoria County (Angleton).

Sunday

Houston Improper Educator-Student Relationship Attorney

Improper Relationship Between Educator and Student
The Texas Penal Code statute of Improper Relationship Between Educator and Student was recently changed. As of Sept. 1, 2017, it is now a felony for any employee of any school district to have sex with any student, regardless of whether they are in the same district–even if the student is 18 years of age or older. This statute also prohibits online solicitation of a minor between any employee of any school district with any student, regardless of the age of that student.
In this modern age of electronic communication and social media, students have far more access to teachers and school district employees than even before. As a result, online communications between educators and students are often misunderstood or misconstrued by concerned parents or even other students. This misunderstanding can lead to complaints and investigations into alleged improper relationship when there was no actual misconduct.
Harris County Lawyer for Improper Relationship Between Educator and Student
Are you a teacher in southeast Texas who was arrested or is under investigation for allegedly having a sexual relationship with a student? You should have legal representation before speaking to the authorities. Contact the law offices of James G. Sullivan and Associates for a free consultation.
James Sullivan is an experienced criminal defense attorney in Houston who represent clients accused of sex crimes in Houston, Spring, Cypress, Katy, Pasadena, Conroe, The Woodlands, Hempstead, Waller, Richmond, Sugar Land, Pearland and Angleton. Call (281) 546-6428 for a thorough and honest evaluation of your case.
What is the law of Improper Relationship Between Educator and Student?
According to Texas Penal Code § 21.12(a), an employee of a public or private primary or secondary school commits this crime if the employee:
  • Engages in sexual contact, sexual intercourse, or deviate sexual intercourse with a person who is enrolled in a public or private primary or secondary school;
  • holds a position described by Section 21.003(a) or (b), Education Code, regardless of whether the employee holds the appropriate certificate, permit, license, or credential for the position, and engages in sexual contact, sexual intercourse, or deviate sexual intercourse with a person the employee knows is:
    1. enrolled in a public primary or secondary school; or
    2. a student participant in an educational activity that is sponsored by a school district or a public or private primary or secondary school, if students enrolled in a public or private primary or secondary school are the primary participants in the activity; or
  • Engages in online solicitation of a minor with a person the employee knows is a student enrolled in a public primary or secondary school, or a student participant in an educational activity that is sponsored by a school district or a public or private primary or secondary school, if students enrolled in a public or private primary or secondary school are the primary participants in the activity and the employee provides education services to those participants, regardless of the age of that student.
Texas Penal Code § 21.01 provides the following definitions relating to this statute:
“Deviate sexual intercourse” means any contact between any part of the genitals of one person and the mouth or anus of another person; or, the penetration of the genitals or the anus of another person with an object.
“Sexual contact” means any touching of the anus, breast, or any part of the genitals of another person with intent to arouse or gratify the sexual desire of any person.
“Sexual intercourse” means any penetration of the female sex organ by the male sex organ.
Are there any Affirmative Defenses to this crime?
Yes. According to Texas Penal Code § 21.12(b-1), it is an affirmative defense to prosecution for improper relationship between educator and student if the employee:
  • was the spouse of the enrolled student at the time of the offense; or
  • was not more than three years older than the enrolled student and, at the time of the offense, the employee and the enrolled student were in a relationship that began before the employee was hired by the public or private primary or secondary school.
Punishment for Improper Relationship Between Educator and Student in Houston
Improper Relationship Between Educator and Student is a felony of the second degree punishable by a prison sentence ranging from 2 to 20 years and a fine of up to $10,000.
Defending Improper Relationship Between Educator and Student cases
It is certainly true that some accusations of impropriety are exaggerated or completely false. An experienced criminal defense attorney should always look for inconsistencies in an alleged victim’s statements, biases or motives of an alleged victim or other evidentiary flaws that could result in criminal charges being minimized or dismissed.
Where can I learn more about these cases in Texas?
The Austin American-Statesman did a recent article about the rising number of these types of crimes. The journalists requested and received from the Texas Education Agency (TEA) the names of teachers who surrendered their teaching licenses or whose licenses were revoked after being investigated by the TEA for engaging in an improper relationship with a student. According to the TEA data, from January 2010 through December 2016, 686 teachers in Texas permanently lost their teaching licenses following allegations of impropriety with a student. 308 of these teachers, about half, were charged with a crime. The most common charge was the felony of improper relationship between educator and student.
In the one-year period that ended Sept. 1, 2017, the Texas Education Agency opened 302 cases against public teachers who have been accused of having improper relationships with students, a 36 percent increase from 2016.
James G. Sullivan and Associates | Houston Improper Teacher Student Relationship Defense Lawyer
If you are teacher in southeast Texas who is under investigation or has already been arrested for an alleged improper relationship with a student, it is extremely important to retain legal counsel. The defense attorneys at James G. Sullivan and Associates defend individuals all over the greater Houston area, including Harris County, Montgomery County, Fort Bend County, Brazoria County, Galveston County and Waller County.
Harris County criminal defense attorney James Sullivan will work to help you receive the most favorable outcome to your case. Call (281) 546-6428 for a  free confidential consultation to review your case and discuss your legal options.

Tuesday

Houston Unlawful Restraint Attorney | Harris County Violent Crime Defense Lawyer

Unlawful Restraint

Houston Violent Crime Attorneys
In the United States, people have the freedom to live and move about freely. Thus it is illegal to interfere with a person’s liberty against his or her will by restricting the person’s movements, by moving the person from one place to another or by confining the person. Because illegal restraint or confinement can leave long lasting psychological trauma on victims, the laws regarding unlawful restraint are strictly enforced by Texas law enforcement and prosecutors frequently seek severe punishment. If you have been charged with unlawful restraint, it is important that you contact an experienced violent crimes defense lawyer.
Houston Unlawful Restraint Attorneys
If you have been charged with unlawful restraint in the Greater Houston area, including Katy, Cypress, Jersey Village, Bellaire, Spring, Humble, Pasadena, Channelview, Conroe, The Woodlands, Hempstead, Richmond, Sugar Land, Missouri City, Pearland, Angleton, Friendswood and Galveston, you can contact the law offices of James G. Sullivan and Associates at (281) 546-6428 for a free phone consultation and case evaluation. They are experienced criminal trial lawyers who will fight for your rights, freedom and future.
What is Unlawful Restraint in Texas?
According to §20.02 of the Texas Penal Code, a person can be charged with unlawful restraint if he or she intentionally or knowingly restrains another person without consent by using force, intimidation, or deception. However, unlawful restraint can be done by any means, including acquiescence of the victim, if:
  • the victim is a child less than 14 years of age or an incompetent person and the parent, guardian, or person or institution acting in loco parentis has not acquiesced in the movement or confinement; or
  • the victim is a child between 14 years of age or older and younger than 17 years of age, the victim is taken outside of the state and outside a 120-mile radius from the victim’s residence, and the parent, guardian, or person or institution acting in loco parentis has not acquiesced in the movement.
In addition, there are affirmative defenses which might be used by the defense to get the charges dismissed.
Punishment for Unlawful Restraint in Harris County
Unlawful restraint is charged as a Class A misdemeanor, however it can be enhanced to a State Jail Felony if the victim was a child less than 17 years of age.
It can also be enhanced to a Third Degree felony if the offender recklessly exposes the victim to a substantial risk of serious bodily injury, the offender knowingly restrains an on duty public servant, or the offender while in custody restrains any other person.
According to Chapter 12 of the Texas Penal Code, a person charged with unlawful restraint can receive any of the following punishment and consequences if they are convicted of the offense:
  • A person convicted of a Class A misdemeanor can be sentenced to up to a year in jail, and/or a fine of up to $4,000;
  • A person convicted of a State Jail felony can be sentenced between 180 days to 2 years in a state jail, and a fine of up to $10,000; and,
  • A person convicted of a Third Degree felony can be sentenced between 2 to 10 years in prison, and a fine of up to $10,000.
Although the punishment for unlawful restraint is less severe than that of kidnapping, it is still a serious offense. Contact an experienced criminal defense attorney who will provide effective and aggressive representation.
Unlawful Restraint Defense in Houston
If you have accused of unlawfully restraining someone in Harris County, Montgomery County, Fort Bend County, Waller County or Brazoria County, contact the law offices of James G. Sullivan and Associates. We are experienced defense lawyers in northwest Houston who will make every effort to help you receive the best outcome for your particular case.  Call (281) 546-6428 for a free phone consultation and case evaluation, the first step in providing you a strong defense.