Safe Harbor Court in Houston, TX

This week, Houston announced the launch of a “Safe Harbor” court, allowing those who cannot afford court fines to resolve their cases without an arrest warrant. The announcement came from Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and the Municipal Courts Department director, Judge J. Elaine Marshall, on Friday, October 23, 2020. 

Although it is not immediately clear when operation begins, this new court is available to anyone who can prove their inability to pay fines. Two designated judges will be available Monday through Friday between the hours of 3 – 9 pm. 

According to Mayor Turner, this Houston safe harbor court might apply to more than a third of 100,000 cases currently in delinquency. He added that these cases date back to 2008. 

The Impact of Safe Harbor 

Delinquencies and arrest warrants often lead to arrests. However, they have unexpected impacts on people’s lives, as well. For instance, they can result in a hold on someone’s driver’s license. 

In turn, this cascades into a series of effects that impact your ability to keep a job, housing, and necessities. When people find themselves caught up in a whirlwind of fines, they are disproportionately people of color. 

As Houston criminal defense attorneys, we understand how severe the impact of these fees can be on people. Moreover, an arrest warrant carries a heavy toll on those who fall into delinquency. It is important to understand that how judges resolve the case is their decision. 

According to Judge Marshall, they have the authority to waive fees, reduce fees, or even grant community service alternatives. Marshall hopes that Houston residents will fully utilize this safe harbor court to avoid arrest warrants, increased fees, and potential jail time. 

Will I be arrested when I go to the Safe Harbor court? 

During the announcement, Judge Marshall addressed this concern, stating that she’s heard it from many Houston citizens. 

“If you come down to the city of Houston’s municipal court,” she said, “you will not be arrested.” 

She continued, encouraging people to utilize the court so that the city can help people to clear their records. Mayor Turner added that this effort is a key reform recommendation from his Task Force on Policing Reform. 

In their recommendation, the task force called for an improvement to the fairness in municipal courts. To do so, they recommended requiring alternatives to jail time when people are unable to afford their fines. 

Questions About Safe Harbor Court? Call Our Criminal Defense Attorneys 

Oftentimes, people are wary of initiatives put forward by city officials. With a variety of tactics used to lure in people with arrest warrants, this is understandable. If you feel hesitant about using the safe harbor court to clear or reduce your fines, feel free to contact our Houston criminal defense attorneys. 

Our legal team can work with you to explore your options and ensure you pursue the best possible outcome. Contact us today for a free consultation. 

Arrested for Warrants: Will They Check at the DMV? 

Getting arrested for warrants can happen in unexpected situations. Moreover, warrants for your arrest happen for a number of reasons. Administrators make mistakes, and so can you. For example, you might never receive court date information or miss court due to a scheduling conflict. 

However, whether on purpose or not, arrest warrants are an added annoyance to tedious legal situations. When your new court date is weeks away and you need to renew your license, it may leave you unsure of how the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) will treat a Houston resident. 

Does the DMV Check for Warrants When I Need a State ID? 

The short answer is yes. The DMV checks for outstanding warrants as well as bench warrants. Moreover, they might have a DPS officer on-site. Some cities use this tactic to have people arrested for warrants. 

However, the most common way people are arrested for warrants is when the police pull them over. The officer runs your ID information, and outstanding warrants can lead to your arrest. A Houston attorney can help you work through this process. 

Can I Still Go to the DMV with a Warrant? 

You are free to go to the DMV with outstanding warrants. However, they will see active warrants for your arrest whenever they run your information. 

If they do, they have several options. 

  • Signal a DPS officer or plainclothes officer. 
  • Deny your services until you handle the warrants. 
  • Call local law enforcement. 

Can I Get a License With Outstanding Warrants? 

You are more likely to be arrested for warrants. It is uncommon for a DMV employee to offer a new license or renew a license when someone has a warrant for their arrest. Oftentimes, officers at any government buildings, bus stations, and airports check your ID against a national police database. 

When you have an outstanding warrant, it is important to understand that it can prevent you from traveling, driving, or even looking for a job. When employers run background checks, they can see whether individuals have outstanding warrants. 

If I Have Warrants, How Can I Get an ID? 

The most important thing you can do is handle your warrant first. This may include paying fines, speaking with a probation officer, or attending a court date. If you are unsure of the problem, speak to a Houston criminal defense attorney. 

A Houston attorney has the ability to look up your record. Moreover, they can walk you through your options. 

Alternatively, you can have a police department look up your record. However, while you’re on the phone, they may know where you are. While the police might have you arrested for warrants, your Houston criminal defense attorney will advocate for your rights and fight to ensure the best outcome possible. 

Are You Worried About Being Arrested for Warrants? 

Warrants do not disappear on their own. They can follow you across state lines. If you want to avoid being arrested for warrants, these are your main options. 

  • Turn yourself in, preferably with a criminal defense attorney at your side 
  • Wait for the police to find you

Warrants for arrest are common for misdemeanors, vehicle registration issues, probation violations, and other similar legal issues. 

As Houston criminal defense attorneys, we offer legal advice to people who wish to protect their rights. When we build an attorney-client relationship, we defend our clients against their charges and fight to lower any fines. Ultimately, our goals is to have the state lift the warrant. 

To avoid being arrested for warrants, contact our Houston law firm today for a free consultation. 

felony dwi defense attorney
DUI concept. Law gavel, alcohol and car keys on a wooden desk, dark background

What Should I Know About Felony DWI Charges? 

Any criminal defense attorney will tell you that felony DWI charge is nothing to scoff at. We all know the word “felony” carries a lot of weight, but not everyone understands how quickly a misdemeanor can become much more serious. In mere moments, lives can be forever altered because of one decision to drink and drive. 

Driving while intoxicated is a crime that occurs when someone operates a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol with a BAC of .08% or higher. It is commonly referred to as a DWI or drunk driving. When arrested for a DWI, you can also have your driver’s license suspended.

Every state has its own laws for DWI offenses, and they can be difficult to navigate. A Houston DWI defense attorney can tell you about the specific DWI laws in Texas. When you’ve been arrested for a DWI, it is vital that you contact a DWI lawyer immediately. Doing so can improve your case significantly and potentially reduce your charges or even have them dismissed. 

An attorney versed in criminal law will help you to avoid a DWI conviction and provide the best legal advice for your case.

When Does a DWI Become a Felony? 

In many states, Texas included, driving while intoxicated is a misdemeanor offense. However, there are cases where the actions of the impaired driver can rise to the level of a felony. When this happens, it means there are specific factors present in the case. 

  • The person charged is a repeat offender charged on their third DWI charge.
    • Note: A second DWI offense is a class A misdemeanor. However, it can also rise to the level of a felony when any of the below factors are present in your case.
  • Intoxication assault, or a non-fatal injury, resulting from a DWI is a 3rd-degree felony.
  • Intoxication manslaughter, or a death as the result of a DWI incident, is a 2nd-degree felony.
  • The DWI involved other elements or reckless behavior or disregard for the safety of others. 
  • The DWI incident involved a minor’s presence in the vehicle, resulting in a state jail felony.

It is important to note that in Texas, felony DWI cases can be divided into into three (3) types of felonies from a state jail felony, 3rd degree, and 2nd degree. Again, this depends on the severity of the incident and the person’s criminal record. 

What Are Some of the Legal Penalties of a Felony DWI? 

The legal consequences of a felony DWI charge are quite severe. They include punishments that involve prison sentences over a year or longer along with hefty criminal fines of up to $10,000.

For example, state jail felonies range in punishment from 6 months to 2 years in the state jail. As with most felonies, the conviction can remain on their record for the rest of their life. This has a severe impact on their social life as well. 

When you’re convicted of a felony DWI, you can lose many of your rights. These include the right to drive a motor vehicle, the right to vote in elections, and the right to retain custody of your children. Your status as a felon can also have a lasting impact on your ability to find a home or a job. Likewise, a felony conviction will strip you of your second amendment rights to arm yourself, meaning you will no longer be able to own firearms.

To contrast, in a misdemeanor DWI charge, you may be sentenced to less than a year in jail with much smaller fines. While it can still impact your ability to find a job later on, it does not carry the same weight as a felony DWI charge. 

Do I Need to Hire a Criminal Defense Attorney to Help with My Felony DWI Charge? 

Being charged with a felony DWI is an incredibly serious matter. Aside from the complex laws involved, an experienced Houston DWI attorney can advocate on your behalf and attempt to reduce your sentence. 

Your lawyer will prepare your case, research the laws in Harris County, and determine what defense or course of action is best for you. A Houston DWI lawyer will fight to protect your rights and strive to attain the best possible outcome for your case. 

If you are facing the possibility of a DWI felony, you need a defense plan that enhances your chances of reduced charges. The impact that jail time and fines have on you and your family is hard to imagine yet very severe. 

You need a DWI defense attorney who will help you to think of how to mitigate these circumstances. Herman Martinez has been working with DWI clients since 1999. He utilizes his vast experience and legal knowledge to provide the best possible defense. 

The Fifth Amendment is clear—

“no person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime…nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself.”

Law enforcement may or may not inform you of your rights, which means it is up to you to be informed and understand beforehand what your rights are.

Before interrogating an individual, police must provide them with their Miranda warnings and inform a person being arrested of their right to silence. This means law enforcement cannot use a suspect’s silence as evidence of guilt. If a suspect is not technically “in custody” police are obligated to let them know and that they are free to leave.

In order to keep the government from using your silence against you, you need to explicitly invoke your right to silence. You need to say something to the effect that you are invoking your privilege against self-incrimination.

If you have been arrested and wisely choose to exercise your right to silence until you have had the chance to speak with a Houston criminal defense attorney, you need to make this known to whomever is interrogating you. There is exact formula to invoke your Miranda right to silence; just clearly and briefly state you do not wish to speak with law enforcement.

Speak with The Martinez Law Firm today if you or a loved one has been arrested!

In Houston, the police have been accused of racial profiling when they arrested two African-Americans and a white teenager after seeing her with the two men and assuming she had been stolen or was a runaway. In reality, the girl was a dancer who was travelling with her dance partner and trainer throughout the United States to head to a hip-hop academy and tape a video.

The police stopped the unlikely trio at a gas station and handcuffed them, putting them all into patrol cars and taking them to the police station. When the police called the 13-year-old blonde girl’s parents, they were shocked by the law enforcement’s tone. They said that their daughter was exactly where they wanted her to be, and they had given her dance instructor a plethora of papers to help prove that they were travelling in a legal fashion.

The parents say that the dance instructor had his student’s birth certificate, insurance card, and every contact number that was necessary. He also had a signed letter from the parents acknowledging that he had permission to care for the teenager. The police eventually let the threesome go, but stirred up a lot of frustrations in the midst of the situation.

Sometimes, police will racially profile individuals and will make assumptions that are incorrect or are even hurtful. If you have been racially profiled by a police officer and accused of a crime based on your race or culture, then you will want an attorney to assist you in your case today. With the right Houston criminal defense attorney on your side, you may be able to prove that you were racially profiled in arrest and do not deserve the penalties that you are facing.
Contact the firm today to learn more about these types of cases!

When it comes to your car, you have fewer rights than you do concerning your home. The police may have the right to search your car in some circumstances, but generally you are protected from any unreasonable search and seizure of your property. According to the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution, if an officer pulls you over he or she may be able to search your car without a warrant. This depends on whether or not the police can see evidence to pinpoint the need for a car search. Cars are technically considered private spaces, but the court is treated differently from your person and home and is subject to less protection.

The Supreme Court allows three different types of searches. The law enforcement can conduct a search incident to arrest, which is a search of the immediate vicinity of the driver inside the car. This is typically the search used when a police officer suspects that an individual was drinking and driving. Police also have the right to conduct an inventory search, which is when the police arrest the driver and impound the car. This can only happen when the police have the cause to arrest the individual already.

Also, police have the freedom to conduct a probably cause search. This is when the police have a reasonable suspicion that there are illegal items in the car, such as a weapon or drugs. If you have had your car searched, and you believe that the search was illegal, then you will want to talk with a Houston criminal defense attorney about the issue right away. At The Martinez Law Firm, a dedicated attorney may be able to help you with your case and assist you in getting the representation that you need. Hire a lawyer today to learn more!

<span><p><strong>As a practising Houston Criminal Lawyer I have always found it to be annoying that the Harris County, Texas District Attorney’s Office (HCDAO) makes me take notes of my client’s offense reports. Many other jurisdictions in Texas give the lawyer representing the accused a copy of the report. Luckily, the policy changed recently in Harris County. Nevertheless, that does does not mean that this allows me to release the report to my client. Many clients want the offense report for their own records. In fact, </strong>DWI clients
<strong>frequently obtain what they think to be the complete report from the polilce agency that arrested them for drunk driving, but these reports are not complete. The reports that are given to the public exclude essential details of the offense/crime. Once I go over the report that I obtain from the HCDAO my client inevitably wants their copy. Regretfully, I have to tell my client that despite the fact that my file is essentially their file I can not give them the offense report because in order to get the report I have to enter into the following agreement.</strong>
</p>
<p align=”center”></p>
<p align=”center”></p>
<p align=”center”><strong>NO.___________________________</strong></p>
<p><strong>STATE OF TEXAS </strong><strong>§ IN THE COUNTY CRIMINAL</strong>
</p>
<p><strong>§ COURT OF LAW NO. ____ </strong></p>
<p><strong>Vs.</strong></p>
<p><strong>JOE SMITH § HARRIS COUNTY, TEXAS</strong></p>
<p align=”center”><strong>CONFIDENTIALITY AGREEMENT</strong></p>
<p>TO THE HONORABLE JUDGE OF SAID COURT:</p>
<p>The State of Texas files this Confidentiality Agreement in the above styled case wherein counsel of record for the defendant agrees as follows:</p>
<p>I, Herman Martinez, hereby agree, individually and on behalf of my client, to the following with respect to the State’s disclosure of information, documents, or items in the above- reference cause:</p>
<ul>
<li>That I and any experts or qualified staff or consultants acting on my behalf or my client’s behalf under my direction/ supervision, agree to use any documents and or items from the State’s file solely for the purpose of defending against the charges in the above-captioned case and for no other purpose.</li>
<li>Any items provided to me, including copies of police reports, will not be disseminated to the media, to the defendant, to the defendant’s family or friends, or to any other person, expect defense experts, qualified legal staff, or legal consultants acting on my behalf or my client’s behalf and under my direction/ supervision.</li>
<li>The access I am provided to the State’s file and/ or items therein does not constitute a voluntary disclosure or waiver by the State under the Texas Public Information Act.</li>
<li>A Defense attorney who acts in violation of this discovery policy may be denied copies of police offense reports and/ or access to the State’s files.</li>
</ul>
<p align=”center”>___________________________________</p>
<p>Counsel for Defendant</p>
<p>__________________________________</p>
<p>Date</p>
<p>Respectfully submitted,</p>
<p>__________________________________</p>
<p>Assistant District Attorney,</p>
<p>Harris County, Texas</p></span>

I was amused today at the courthouse by a person showing their arm when they were asked what part of town they were from today by the elevators. Apparently, it is common for people to tatoo their neighborhood on their arm. I wonder what happens when they move?

While I am not against tatoos most prosecutors and judges are against them. Thus, I suggest to my clients that have “sleeve tatoos” to wear a long shirt so that they are covered. I would hate for one of my clients to be judged because they wanted to display their indivdualism.