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Varghese Summersett

Legality of Delta 8 THC, Delta 9 THC, Delta 10 THC, and THCA in Texas

Contravening Winds of Change in Texas?

You can’t go very far in Texas without seeing a store that sells THC products, whether it is your local headshop or neighborhood convenience store. In fact, THC dispensing vending machines are popping up all over the Lone Star State. Given their widespread prevalence, you might wonder, “If it were illegal, they wouldn’t be able to sell these products, right?”

S Congress Vending machine
byu/tipsytarotalks in Austin

While you can buy THC products at just about every turn in Austin, the conversations happening between lawmakers inside the Texas State Capitol paint a very different picture of where Texas is heading. Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick has been vocal and direct about his stance on THC and marijuana legislation. This year, he previewed priorities for the 2025 legislative session, which included explicitly banning Delta 8 and Delta 9 THC. (To be clear Delta 9 THC with a concentration greater than .3% is already illegal – and a felony – in Texas.)

In this article, we will discuss the legality of Delta 8 THC, Delta 9 THC, Delta 10 THC, as well as THCA in Texas. We will also discuss the criminal risks associated with each of these products, particularly those sold as legal products in Texas.

When is THC illegal in Texas?

The simple answer is THC is illegal to possess in Texas if it is Delta 9 THC and the concentration of THC is greater than .3% by dry weight.

Specifically, Health and Safety Code Section 481.002(5) states that controlled substances do not include “tetrahydrocannabinols in hemp.” As we will discuss later in this article, this is a critical provision that affects how the suspected substances are evaluated and prosecuted.

Why are we discussing so many types of THC?

THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is a chemical compound found in the cannabis plant that is primarily responsible for the psychoactive effects associated with marijuana use. It interacts with the body’s endocannabinoid system, particularly the CB1 receptors in the brain, to produce effects such as euphoria, relaxation, altered perceptions, and increased appetite.

Quick Reminders from Chemistry Class 

Isomers: An isomer refers to a compound that shares the same chemical formula as another compound but has a different arrangement of atoms in the molecule, leading to different properties.

Precursor: A precursor is a compound that participates in a chemical reaction to produce another compound.

What is Delta 8, Delta 9, and Delta 10 THC and THCA?

Delta 8 THC, Delta 9 THC, and Delta 10 THC are isomers, meaning they have the same molecular formula but differ in the arrangement of atoms and the position of their double bonds within the molecule.

What is the difference between Delta 8 THC, Delta 9 THC, Delta 10 THC, and THCA?

Delta 9 THC

This is the most abundant form of THC found in cannabis plants and is well-known for its strong psychoactive effects. It is the standard form of THC that is most commonly associated with the use of cannabis.

Delta 8 THC

Delta 8 is chemically similar to delta 9 THC, but with the double bond on the eighth carbon in the chain, as opposed to the ninth. It is found in much lower concentrations in cannabis plants. Delta 8 THC is known for producing a milder high compared to Delta 9, with less anxiety and paranoia, which some users prefer. It also has potential medicinal benefits but is less potent.

Delta 10 THC

Like Delta 8, Delta 10 THC is found in only trace amounts in natural cannabis. The double bond in Delta 10 is located on the tenth carbon atom. It is generally considered to be less psychoactive than Delta 9 and Delta 8. Users report that Delta 10 offers a more energizing and less intense experience.

delta 8 thc delta 9 thc delta 10 thc

THCA

Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA) is a non-psychotropic acidic cannabinoid naturally occurring in the cannabis plant that serves as a precursor to tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). It is also the most abundant non-psychoactive cannabinoid found in cannabis.

THCA Chemical Compound

How is THC Prosecuted in Texas?

As the law stands right now in Texas, for THC to be prosecuted, it has to be delta-9 THC, and it has to be in a concentration of 0.3% or more by dry weight. If the prosecution believes that you possessed THC outside the marijuana plant and the concentration of THC is greater than 0.3% by dry weight, you can be charged with a felony.

our bench is deep

What are the risks of possessing Delta 8 THC and Delta 10 THC?

Delta 8 THC is not illegal in Texas; Neither is Delta 10 THC.

To understand why Delta 8 and Delta 10 aren’t illegal, you have first to understand how THC is criminalized in Texas.

Texas categorizes cases into penalty groups. Health and Safety Code Section 481.103 defines Penalty Group 2, which includes “any quantity of the following hallucinogenic substances, their salts, isomers, and salts of isomers unless specifically excepted.”

It goes on to include “tetrahydrocannabinols, other than marihuana, and synthetic equivalents of the substances contained in the plant… and their isomers with similar chemical structure and pharmacological activity.”

You would think this means if Delta 8 and Delta 10 are either synthetic equivalents or isomers with similar chemical structure and pharmacological activity they are illegal.

That would be true except for the exemption in Section 481.002, which excludes hemp and THC in hemp.

Hemp is defined in Agriculture Code Section 121.001 and includes “all derivatives, extracts, cannabinoids, isomers, acids, salts, and salts of isomers [of the Cannabis sativa L. plant], whether growing or not, with a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol concentration of not more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis.

As a result, any substance that is derived from the Cannabis sativa L. plant (genetically, both marijuana and hemp are the same plant) with a delta 9 THC concentration of 0.3 percent or less is legal, as are all cannabinoids (so THC 8 and 10) that have an equally low THC concentration. Does that mean there’s no risk in purchasing or possessing these products? No.

Read on to understand why possessing something legal in Texas can get you arrested, charged, and become a problem you will spend thousands of dollars to rectify.

  • In the field, the police cannot determine concentrations.

In Texas, police use the NARK II Duquenois-Levine Reagent to test for THC in the field. This reagent is part of a presumptive test designed to identify THC in marijuana and other cannabis-related substances. This test is qualitative, not quantitative, meaning it can indicate the presumptive presence of THC but does not specify the concentration. Further, it cannot differentiate between THC isomers such as Delta-9 THC, Delta-8 THC, Delta-10 THC, or THCA.

What this means is officers who suspect a substance might be illegal will use a reagent that cannot distinguish between types of THC (legal or illegal) and gives them no information about concentration. This means they can place you under arrest, and you’ll have to bond out, hire a lawyer, fight the case in court, and very likely pay for your own lab test before the case is resolved.

  • THC concentration may vary based on the testing method.

Gas Chromatography

There are several ways to test for THC concentration in a lab. Most criminal labs in Texas use gas chromatography. This is sufficiently accurate (for government work), and perhaps more importantly, it would be virtually impossible to find a criminal lab in Texas without a gas chromatograph. Gas chromatography (GC) is a method used to separate and analyze compounds that can be vaporized, commonly applied in the analysis of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the psychoactive component in cannabis.

High-performance liquid chromatography

High-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) has been reported as the best method for testing cannabinoids.

A key difference between HPLC and GC is that the suspected substance does not have to be heated, unlike GC, which depends on testing a vaporized substance.

Thin-Layer Chromatography

Finally, the cheapest way to test for THC is through Thin-Layer Chromatography (TLC). Producers, sellers, and vendors often use TLC because of the low testing cost. TLC has far lower sensitivity. TLC is more qualitative than quantitative, which means it is better at indicating the presence of a substance rather than accurately measuring its concentration. This can lead to underreporting when precise quantification is necessary, as TLC might not provide the exact levels of THC present.

Method Description Common Use by Law Enforcement Cost
Gas Chromatography (GC) Utilizes heat to vaporize and separate compounds, allowing for the detection of various substances, including THC. Often used with a mass spectrometer (GC-MS) for enhanced detection. Yes. GC is the most commonly used method. Medium to High
High-Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) Operates at room temperature and can differentiate between non-psychoactive and psychoactive components of cannabis, such as THCA and THC. No. Most labs do not have HPLC. High
Thin-Layer Chromatography (TLC) Involves applying samples to a plate and separating them. It is not as precise and is mainly used for screening rather than detailed analysis. Not used in criminal labs in Texas in THC testing. Low

Back to THC 8 and THC 10: 

If you purchase something with Delta 8 or Delta 10 THC, you still face a risk that a field officer will not be able to distinguish between the isomers of Delta 9 THC. This means you will likely be arrested and have to defend the case in court. You are also running the risk that the lab report you relied on in purchasing the product was not accurate or reliable for the reasons outlined above.

being proactive in criminal defense

What are the risks of possessing Delta 9 THC sold in low concentration?

Let’s say you buy a product that claims to have Delta 9 THC in a legal concentration that is equal to or less than 0.3 % by dry weight. Let’s say the seller even provides a lab test showing the concentration. You might be tempted to think your purchase and possession are perfectly legal, except there’s no way for an officer to know if the THC concentration is greater than 0.3% by dry weight or not. So once the reagent tests show a presumptive positive for THC, you are getting arrested.

What are the risks of possessing THCA?

THCA deserves its own section and explanation. THCA (tetrahydrocannabinolic acid) is not an isomer of Delta 9 THC; it is a cannabinoid precursor and an acidic form of THC. THCA itself is non-psychoactive, meaning it does not produce the “high” associated with THC. It is found in higher concentrations in fresh, undried cannabis plants, particularly in the raw cannabis buds.

THCA (C22H30O4): Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid is found in raw and live cannabis plants. It is the non-psychoactive acidic form of THC. THCA does not produce psychoactive effects unless it is decarboxylated, usually through heating.
Delta-9 THC (C21H30O2): When THCA is exposed to heat, it undergoes a chemical reaction known as decarboxylation, where it loses a carboxyl group (COOH) as carbon dioxide and water. This transformation changes THCA into Delta-9 THC, the well-known psychoactive compound found in cannabis.

THCA has become a popular alternative for individuals in Texas who want the effects of THC without having to possess marijuana and risk an arrest and prosecution that could come with that in Texas.

Is THCA legal in Texas?

THCA is legal in Texas.

Does that mean you can possess it or convert it to THC by smoking or vaporizing it without consequence? No.

If you were stopped while you were smoking or vaporizing THCA, you would no longer have THCA, you would be in possession of THC.

The other significant risk is the testing. Unlike the testing issues with THC-8 and THC-10, the significant risk here is that the testing itself can create the substance law enforcement is looking for and for which prosecutions are based.

Put simply, legal THCA becomes illegal Delta 9 THC when it is heated. In Texas, the most common way criminal labs test cannabinoids is gas chromatography. Heating and vaporizing a sample is a necessary step in gas chromatography. As a result, not only will you be arrested based on a non-specific reagent test, but you will also be prosecuted based on a lab report showing the presence of an illegal concentration of THC. While there are a number of ways to get a case dismissed, you may have to have the sample tested by an outside lab that uses HPLC to prove what you possessed was THCA and not THC.

Our lawyers are your bridge over troubled waters.

Legal Challenge For Prosecutors

It is important to note that possession charges in Texas require proof of knowledge of the substance’s illegal status. Therefore, having a lab report indicating that a product is within the legal THC limit could be beneficial. Similarly, having a report that documents you were in possession of THCA as opposed to any THC isomer could be helpful.

In summarizing the complexities and legal nuances surrounding the use of Delta 8 THC, Delta 9 THC, Delta 10 THC, and THCA in Texas, it becomes evident that the state’s stance on these substances is both intricate and evolving. Despite the apparent ubiquity of THC products in Texas, particularly in areas like Austin, the legal landscape is fraught with contradictions. As Texas moves towards the 2025 legislative session and THC products become more prevalent, it becomes imperative for every Texan to stay abreast of the changes in legislation surrounding these substances.

Additional Reading

The Legality of CBD Oil in Texas

Arrested for THC in North Texas? Contact Us.

If you have been arrested for possessing THC in North Texas, it’s important to have an experienced defense attorney who understands the intricacies of THC laws in Texas. As you can see, we have a deep understanding of the legal landscape surrounding THC in Texas, including the complexities of Delta 8, Delta 9, Delta 10 THC, and THCA. Our goal is to get the case dismissed at the outset or resolve it in a manner that will keep your record clean and not negatively impact your future. Call 817-203-2220 to speak with an experienced attorney today.

Varghese Summersett

The Legality of Delta 8 THC, Delta 9 THC, Delta 10 THC, and THCA in Texas

Contravening Winds of Change in Texas?

It seems like you can’t go very far in Texas without seeing a store that sells THC products, whether it is your local headshop or neighborhood convenience store. In fact, THC dispensing vending machines are popping up all over Texas. It is easy to think, “Well, if it were illegal, they wouldn’t be able to sell these products, right?”

S Congress Vending machine
byu/tipsytarotalks in Austin

While you can buy THC products at every turn in Austin, the conversations happening inside the Capitol paint a very different picture of where Texas is heading. Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick has been vocal and direct about his stance on THC and marijuana legislation. This year, he previewed priorities for the 2025 legislative session, which included explicitly banning Delta 8 and Delta 9 THC. (To be clear Delta 9 THC with a concentration greater than .3% is already illegal – and a felony – in Texas.)

In this article, we will discuss the legality of Delta 8 THC, Delta 9 THC, Delta 10 THC, as well as THCA in Texas. We will also discuss the criminal risks associated with each of these products, particularly those sold as legal products in Texas.

When is THC illegal in Texas?

The simple answer is THC is illegal to possess in Texas if it is Delta 9 THC and the concentration of THC is greater than .3% by dry weight.

Specifically Health and Safety Code Section 481.002(5) provides controlled substances do not include “tetrahydrocannabinols in hemp.” As we will discuss later in this article, this is a critical provision that affects how the suspected substances are evaluated and prosecuted.

Why are we discussing so many types of THC?

THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is a chemical compound found in the cannabis plant that is primarily responsible for the psychoactive effects associated with marijuana use. It interacts with the body’s endocannabinoid system, particularly the CB1 receptors in the brain, to produce effects such as euphoria, relaxation, altered perceptions, and increased appetite.

Quick Reminders from Chemistry Class 

Isomers: An isomer refers to a compound that shares the same chemical formula as another compound but has a different arrangement of atoms in the molecule, leading to different properties.

Precursor: A precursor is a compound that participates in a chemical reaction to produce another compound.

What is Delta 8, Delta 9, and Delta 10 THC and THCA?

Delta 8 THC, Delta 9 THC, and Delta 10 THC are isomers, meaning they have the same molecular formula but differ in the arrangement of atoms and the position of their double bonds within the molecule.

What is the difference between Delta 8 THC, Delta 9 THC, Delta 10 THC, and THCA?

Delta 9 THC

This is the most abundant form of THC found in cannabis plants and is well-known for its strong psychoactive effects. It is the standard form of THC that is most commonly associated with the use of cannabis.

Delta 8 THC

Delta 8 is chemically similar to delta 9 THC, but with the double bond on the eighth carbon in the chain, as opposed to the ninth. It is found in much lower concentrations in cannabis plants. Delta 8 THC is known for producing a milder high compared to Delta 9, with less anxiety and paranoia, which some users prefer. It also has potential medicinal benefits but is less potent.

Delta 10 THC

Like Delta 8, Delta 10 THC is found in only trace amounts in natural cannabis. The double bond in Delta 10 is located on the tenth carbon atom. It is generally considered to be less psychoactive than Delta 9 and Delta 8. Users report that Delta 10 offers a more energizing and less intense experience.

delta 8 thc delta 9 thc delta 10 thc

THCA

Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA) is a non-psychotropic acidic cannabinoid naturally occurring in the cannabis plant that serves as a precursor to tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). It is also the most abundant non-psychoactive cannabinoid found in cannabis.

THCA Chemical Compound

How is THC Prosecuted in Texas?

As the law stands right now in Texas, in order for THC to be prosecuted, it has to be delta-9 THC, and it has to be in a concentration of 0.3% or more by dry weight. If the prosecution believes that you possessed THC outside the marijuana plant and the concentration of THC is greater than 0.3% by dry weight, you will be charged with a felony.

our bench is deep

What are the risks of possessing Delta 8 THC and Delta 10 THC?

Delta 8 THC is not illegal in Texas. Neither is Delta 10 THC.

To understand why it is not, you have first to understand how THC is criminalized in Texas.

Texas categorizes cases into penalty groups. Health and Safety Code Section 481.103 defines Penalty Group 2. It includes “any quantity of the following hallucinogenic substances, their salts, isomers, and salts of isomers unless specifically excepted. It goes on to include “tetrahydrocannabinols, other than marihuana, and synthetic equivalents of the substances contained in the plant… and their isomers with similar chemical structure and pharmacological activity.”
You would think this means if Delta 8 and Delta 10 are either synthetic equivalents or isomers with similar chemical structure and pharmacological activity they are illegal.

That would be true except for the exemption in Section 481.002, which excludes hemp and THC in hemp.

Hemp is defined in Agriculture Code Section 121.001 and includes “all derivatives, extracts, cannabinoids, isomers, acids, salts, and salts of isomers [of the Cannabis sativa L. plant], whether growing or not, with a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol concentration of not more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis.

As a result, any substance that is derived from the Cannabis sativa L. plant (genetically, both marijuana and hemp are the same plant) with a delta 9 THC concentration of 0.3 percent or less is legal, as are all cannabinoids (so THC 8 and 10) that have an equally low THC concentration. Does that mean there’s no risk in purchasing or possessing these products? No. Read on to understand why possessing something that is legal in Texas can get you arrested, charged, and become a problem you will spend thousands of dollars to fix.

  • In the field, the police cannot determine concentrations.

In Texas, police use the NARK II Duquenois-Levine Reagent to test for THC in the field. This reagent is part of a presumptive test designed to identify THC in marijuana and other cannabis-related substances. This test is qualitative, not quantitative, meaning it can indicate the presumptive presence of THC but does not specify the concentration. Further, it cannot differentiate between THC isomers such as Delta-9 THC, Delta-8 THC, Delta-10 THC, or THCA.

What this means at a practical level is officers who suspect a substance might be illegal will use a reagent that cannot distinguish between types of THC (legal or illegal) and gives them no information about concentration to place you under arrest. This means you’ll have to bond out, hire a lawyer, fight the case in court, and very likely pay for your own lab test before the case is resolved.

  • THC concentration may vary based on the testing method.

Gas Chromatography

There are several ways to test for THC concentration in a lab. Most criminal labs in Texas use Gas Chromatography. This is sufficiently accurate (for government work?), and perhaps more importantly, it would be virtually impossible to find a criminal lab in Texas without a gas chromatograph. Gas chromatography (GC) is a method used to separate and analyze compounds that can be vaporized, commonly applied in the analysis of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the psychoactive component in cannabis.

High-performance liquid chromatography

High-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) has been reported as the best method for testing cannabinoids.

A key difference between HPLC and GC is that the suspected substance does not have to be heated, unlike GC, which depends on testing a vaporized substance.

Thin-Layer Chromatography

Finally, the cheapest way to test for THC is through Thin-Layer Chromatography (TLC). Producers, sellers, and vendors often use TLC because of the low testing cost. TLC has far lower sensitivity. TLC is more qualitative than quantitative, which means it is better at indicating the presence of a substance rather than accurately measuring its concentration. This can lead to underreporting when precise quantification is necessary, as TLC might not provide the exact levels of THC present.

Method Description Common Use by Law Enforcement Cost
Gas Chromatography (GC) Utilizes heat to vaporize and separate compounds, allowing for the detection of various substances, including THC. Often used with a mass spectrometer (GC-MS) for enhanced detection. Yes. GC is the most commonly used method. Medium to High
High-Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) Operates at room temperature and can differentiate between non-psychoactive and psychoactive components of cannabis, such as THCA and THC. No. Most labs do not have HPLC. High
Thin-Layer Chromatography (TLC) A simpler method where samples are applied on a plate and separated. Not as precise, mainly used for screening rather than detailed analysis. Not used in criminal labs in Texas in THC testing. Low

Back to THC 8 and THC 10: 

If you purchase something with Delta 8 or Delta 10 THC, you still face the problem that an officer in the field will not be able to distinguish between the isomers of Delta 9 THC and Delta 9 THC itself. This means you will likely be arrested and have to defend the case in court. You are also running the risk that the lab report you relied on in purchasing the product was not accurate or reliable for the reasons outlined above.

being proactive in criminal defense

What are the risks of possessing Delta 9 THC sold in low concentration?

Let’s say you buy a product that claims to have Delta 9 THC in a legal concentration that is equal to or less than 0.3 % by dry weight. Let’s say the seller even provides a lab test that shows you the concentration. You might be tempted to think your purchase and possession are perfectly legal, except there’s no way for an officer to know if the THC concentration is greater than 0.3% by dry weight or not. So once the reagent tests showing a presumptive positive for THC, you are getting arrested.

What are the risks of possessing THCA?

THCA derseves its own section and explantion. THCA (tetrahydrocannabinolic acid) is not an isomer of Delta 9 THC; it is a cannabinoid precursor and an acidic form of THC. THCA itself is non-psychoactive, meaning it does not produce the “high” associated with THC. It is found in higher concentrations in fresh, undried cannabis plants, particularly in the raw cannabis buds.

THCA (C22H30O4): Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid is found in raw and live cannabis plants. It is the non-psychoactive acidic form of THC. THCA does not produce psychoactive effects unless it is decarboxylated, usually through heating.
Delta-9 THC (C21H30O2): When THCA is exposed to heat, it undergoes a chemical reaction known as decarboxylation, where it loses a carboxyl group (COOH) as carbon dioxide and water. This transformation changes THCA into Delta-9 THC, the well-known psychoactive compound found in cannabis.

THCA has become a popular alternative for individuals in Texas who want the effects of THC without having the possess marijuana and the risks of arrest and prosecution that come with that in Texas.

Is THCA legal in Texas?

THCA is legal in Texas.

Does that mean you can possess it or convert it to THC by smoking or vaporizing it without consequence? No.

If you were stopped while you were smoking or vaporizing THCA, you would no longer have THCA, you would be in possession of THC.

The other significant risk is the testing. Unlike the testing issues with THC-8 and THC-10, here a significant risk is that the testing itself can create the substance law enforcement is looking for and prosecutions are based.

Put simply, legal THCA becomes illegal Delta 9 THC when it is heated. In Texas, the most common way criminal labs test cannabinoids is gas chromatography. Heating and vaporizing a sample is a necessary step in gas chromatography. As a result, not only will you be arrested based on a non-specific reagent test, but you will also be prosecuted based on a lab report showing the presence of an an illegal concentration of THC. While there are a number of ways to get a case dismissed, you may have to have the sample tested by an outside lab that uses HPLC to prove what you possessed was THCA and not THC.

Our lawyers are your bridge over troubled waters.

Legal Challenge For Prosecutors

It is important to note that possession charges in Texas require proof of knowledge of the substance’s illegal status. Therefore, having a lab report indicating that a product is within the legal THC limit could be beneficial. Similarly, having a report that documents you were in possession of THCA as opposed to any THC isomer could be helpful.

In summarizing the complexities and legal nuances surrounding the use of Delta 8 THC, Delta 9 THC, Delta 10 THC, and THCA in Texas, it becomes evident that the state’s stance on these substances is both intricate and evolving. Despite the apparent ubiquity of THC products in Texas, particularly in areas like Austin, the legal landscape is fraught with contradictions. As Texas moves towards the 2025 legislative session and THC products become more prevalent, it becomes imperative for every Texan to stay abreast of the changes in legislation surrounding these substances.

Additional Reading

The Legality of CBD Oil in Texas

Varghese Summersett

Southlake officials canceled classes at two high schools on Wednesday after learning of a potential threat of a school shooting.

Officials said the threat involved a message written on a bathroom school door “by someone referring to the STARR test and a potential school shooting” on Wednesday.

Police are investigating the incident, and no one has been taken into custody. Still, the person(s) responsible for the threat could face criminal charges—regardless of whether it was a hoax to disrupt a test or whether they are a juvenile or an adult.

In this article, the criminal defense attorneys at Varghese Summersett explain the various types of offenses that could stem from making school threats in Texas, which are often pranks or false alarms but are still taken extremely seriously by law enforcement and school officials. Juvenile law expert Lisa Herrick also details the procedures and legal processes involved when a minor is taken into custody.

What Constitutes a School Threat?

A school threat is any statement, action, or behavior that expresses an intent to harm students, teachers, or staff at a school. This can include written messages, verbal statements, social media posts, drawings, or physical acts. The intent may be direct and specific, such as naming a particular person or group, or it may be more general and vague.

It is important to note that even if the person making the threat does not have the means or intent to carry out the act, their actions can still be considered criminal offenses. This is because any threat of violence against a school community causes fear and disrupts the learning environment for students.
Types of School Threats

Types of School Threats

Making a threat to a school can result in different criminal charges depending on the nature and severity of the threat. Here are some examples of school threats and their potential consequences:

Terroristic Threat

According to Section 22.07 of the Texas Penal Code, a person commits an offense if they threaten to commit any crime of violence to any person or property with the intent to:

  1. Cause a reaction of any type by an official or volunteer agency organized to deal with emergencies;
  2. Place any person in fear of imminent serious bodily injury;
  3. Prevent or interrupt the occupation or use of a building, room, place of assembly, place to which the public has access, place of employment or occupation, aircraft, automobile, or other public place;
  4. Cause impairment or interruption of public communications, public transportation, public water, gas, or power supply or other public service;
  5. Place the public or a substantial group of the public in fear of serious bodily injury; or
  6. Influence the conduct or activities of a branch or agency of the federal government, the state, or a political subdivision of the state.

Depending on the facts and circumstances, making a threat against a school or a student can certainly fall under this statute. The severity of the offense and punishment depends on the specific intent and target of the threat, ranging from a Class B misdemeanor to a third-degree felony. Read more about terroristic threats here and please take a minute to watch this video by Board Certified Juvenile Lawyer Lisa Herrick who explains when online bullying or banter can cross the line into making a terroristic threat.

Making a False Alarm or Threat

According to 42.06 of the Texas Penal Code, making a false alarm or threat  is committed if a person knowingly initiates, communicates or circulates a report of a present, past or future bombing, fire, offense or other emergency that he or she knows is false or baseless and that would ordinarily:

  1. cause action by an official or volunteer agency organized to deal with emergencies;
  2. place a person in fear of imminent serious bodily injury; or
  3. prevents or interrupts the occupation of a building, room, place of assembly, place to which the public has access, or aircraft, automobile or other mode of conveyance.

The severity of the punishment for making a false report or alarm depends on where the false alarm is reported to have occurred, not the location of the actor. If the false report involves a public or private institution of higher education or involves a public primary or secondary school, the offense is a state jail felony, punishable by six months to two years in a state jail facility and up to a $10,000 fine. If the alarm or false report involves any other location, it is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and up to a $4,000 fine.

For example, pulling a fire alarm in a high school to get out of a test or calling in a false bomb threat at a university would be a state jail felony. Learn more about making a false alarm or threat.

Hoax Bombs

Under Texas Penal Code Section 46.08, a person commits an offense if they knowingly manufacture, sell, purchase, transport, or possesses a hoax bomb with intent to use the hoax bomb to:

  1. make another believe that the hoax bomb is an explosive or incendiary device;  or
  2. cause alarm or reaction of any type by an official of a public safety agency or volunteer agency organized to deal with emergencies.

This statute could apply if the threat to the school involves a fake bomb or even dropping a note saying there is a bomb in the school. Using a hoax bomb is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail and $4,000 in fines. Read more about hoax bombs in Texas.

Disruption Activities/Disruption of Classes

Texas Education Code Section 37.123 makes it an offense for a person, alone or in concert with others, to intentionally engage in disruptive activity on the campus or property of any private or public school. Disruptive activity includes:

  1. Obstructing or restraining the passage of persons in an exit, entrance, or hallway without authorization from the school administration;
  2. Seizing control of a building or portion of a building to interfere with an authorized activity;
  3. Preventing or attempting to prevent by force, violence, or threat a lawful assembly authorized by the school administration;
  4. Disrupting by force, violence, or threat a lawful assembly in progress;
  5. Obstructing or restraining the passage of a person at an exit or entrance, or preventing their ingress or egress, without authorization;

This statute can apply if a threat leads to the evacuation or significant disruption of school activities. An offense under this section is a Class B misdemeanor. Repeat offenders may also become ineligible to attend state-funded higher education institutions

child taken into custody

Juvenile Offenders: What Happens if Your Child is Taken Into Custody?

In Texas, offenses committed by an individual who is 10 years or older but under 17 are handled through the juvenile justice system. This process differs significantly from that for adults. Unlike adults, juveniles are not taken to a conventional jail to be processed. They are not “booked into jail.” Instead, they go through a procedure known as juvenile intake, which is specifically designed to handle minors with a focus on rehabilitation rather than punishment.

The Role of Juvenile Intake

Juvenile intake is a critical first step when a minor is taken into custody or accused of a crime. This process is triggered when authorities, be it school officials, citizens, or parents, report a juvenile’s alleged illegal activities. Law enforcement officers may respond by taking the child into custody for a formal intake or issuing a warning notice requiring the juvenile and their parents to attend a scheduled intake session.

Procedures Upon Custody

If a child is taken into custody, they are brought to a juvenile processing office — a designated area within a police station or similar facility, where they can be legally detained for up to six hours. This setting is not punitive like jail cells used for adults but is designed to safely secure the juvenile while processing them according to legal requirements. These include administrative tasks like completing essential forms, fingerprinting, and issuing required warnings.

Juvenile Intake Process in Tarrant County

During the juvenile intake process in Tarrant County, the case is initially handled by a juvenile intake probation officer. This officer reviews the offense report, conducts interviews with the juvenile and their parents, and assesses the situation. The goal is to determine the most appropriate next steps, which could range from referral for prosecution to supervised release with conditions.

During the intake process, the child will be fingerprinted and photographed. It is required by the Texas Department of Public Safety, regardless if you are a juvenile or an adult. In Tarrant County, the child will be taken to a specific fingerprint and photograph office at the detention center, where the photos and fingerprints will be taken.

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Juvenile Intake Interview

The intake interview is pivotal. It aims not to interrogate but to gather comprehensive information about the juvenile’s background, which includes their family environment, educational situation, and any potential mental health or substance abuse issues. This data helps build a social history that will guide the court in deciding how to proceed with the case. The process is designed to be non-adversarial, emphasizing the best interest of the child and family.

Outcomes of the Juvenile Intake Process

After the juvenile intake process concludes, the probation officer determines the appropriate next steps based on the severity and specifics of the case. There are several potential outcomes including:

  • Supervisory Caution: Here, the probation officer advises the juvenile on their behavior and may direct them to a social service agency or a community program designed for first offenders. Under this outcome, the case does not advance to the District Attorney’s Office, and no formal charges are placed.
  • Deferred Prosecution Probation: This option allows the juvenile to enter into a probation agreement. If they successfully adhere to its conditions and complete the program, the charges are dismissed, and the case is closed. However, failure to comply or complete the program could lead to the case being escalated to the prosecutor for formal charging.
  • Referral to District Attorney for Prosecution: In more severe instances, such as felonies or crimes involving assault or weapons, the probation officer must send the case to the District Attorney’s Office for further review and potential prosecution.

The Importance of Legal Representation and Expertise

Throughout this process, it is crucial for a juvenile to have skilled and specialized legal representation. Lisa Herrick, a board-certified juvenile law expert, is vital to the Varghese Summersett team. Her expertise is especially important during the juvenile intake process, ensuring the juvenile’s rights are protected. If your child has been accused of making a school threat, having Lisa by their side can make a significant difference in the outcome of the case.

If you are an adult in the eyes of the law – age 17 or older – and have been accused of making school threats, you will be handled as an adult in the criminal justice system. At Varghese Summersett, we have the top attorneys in Texas on our roster who will fight for the best possible outcome in your case. Our goal is to resolve the case in a manner that will keep your record clean and not negatively impact your future. Call 817-203-2220 to speak to an experienced attorney today.
School Threats in Texas: The Crimes and Consequences

Varghese Summersett

Assault on a pregnant woman is a very serious crime in Texas. Not only is it a felony to assault a pregnant woman, but a conviction can have far-reaching consequences on your personal and professional life. The laws in Texas are very strict when it comes to protecting pregnant women and their unborn children.

If you or a loved one is facing a charge of assault on a pregnant woman in North Texas, it’s imperative to contact a seasoned defense attorney as soon as possible. Our attorneys have vast experience handling the most serious cases in Tarrant and Dallas counties and understand the gravity of this accusation. In this article, we explain the crime, consequences, and possible defenses to assault on a pregnant woman in Texas.

Texas Law _ Assault on Pregnant Woman

The Law: Assault on a Pregnant Woman in Texas

Under Section 22.01 of the Texas Penal Code, a person commits assault on a pregnant woman if he or she intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causes bodily injury to:

  • a pregnant individual to force an abortion; or
  • to a person they “know is pregnant at the time of the offense.”

In Texas, bodily injury is any physical pain, illness, or impairment of physical condition. This definition is very broad—bodily injury does not require visible injuries, medical treatment, or even emergency services being called. The victim simply stating they felt pain is sufficient to establish bodily injury under Texas law.

So, for example, let’s say a person pushes their pregnant partner during an argument. Even if the push did not cause any visible injuries or require medical treatment, the fact that it caused pain to the victim could be considered bodily injury and, therefore, qualify as assault on a pregnant woman, which is a felony in Texas.

It’s important to point out that, to be convicted of fetal assault, the accused must have known or reasonably should have known that the woman was pregnant at the time of the assault. This means that if the woman was not showing any signs of pregnancy or didn’t tell anyone, it may be difficult to prove that the defendant knew or should have known she was pregnant.

Penalties for Assaulting Pregnant Woman

Punishment for Assault on a Pregnant Woman

In Texas, assault on a pregnant woman is a third-degree felony, punishable by 2 to 10 years in prison and a maximum $10,000 fine. The punishment used to be a Class A misdemeanor, but Texas lawmakers passed a law in September 2019 that elevated the punishment.

This change was made to take the safety of pregnant women more seriously, as statistics show domestic abuse is common during pregnancy and can have severe consequences for both the mother and unborn child.

Assault on a Pregnant Women if Fetus Dies

If an assault was committed against a pregnant woman and the fetus died, the defendant could potentially face a capital murder charge. Texas law recognizes an unborn child as a potential victim of a separate offense under the state’s criminal homicide chapter.

Texas Penal Code 19.03 states that a person commits the offense of capital murder if the person intentionally or knowingly causes the death of an individual and the person murders an individual under 10 years of age. The Texas Penal Code 1.07 (26) further defines an individual as “a human being who is alive, including an unborn child at every stage of gestation from fertilization until birth.” This means if an assault on a pregnant woman results in the death of a fetus, charges could potentially include capital murder if the situation meets the necessary legal criteria.

Capital murder is the most serious charge in Texas, punishable by life in prison without parole or the death penalty.

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Collateral Consequences of Assault on a Pregnant Woman

A conviction for assault on a pregnant woman in Texas can lead to prison time and hefty times, but the collateral consequences can be just as severe. These include:

  • Loss of employment opportunities: Employers are hesitant to hire someone with a felony conviction, particularly one involving violence.
  • Difficulty finding housing: Landlords may refuse to rent to individuals with violent criminal records.
  • Loss of civil rights: Convicted felons may lose their right to vote, own firearms, and other civil liberties.
  • Impact on family relationships: Such a conviction can strain or sever familial bonds and affect custody or visitation rights with children.
  • Damage to reputation: The stigma attached to a violent felony conviction can cause long-lasting damage to one’s social standing and personal relationships.
  • Potential deportation for non-citizens: A domestic violence conviction can lead to deportation proceedings for non-citizens.As you can see, the collateral consequences of an assault on a pregnant woman charge in Texas can be far-reaching, impacting employment, professional licenses, firearm ownership, family rights, and overall reputation, even beyond the direct criminal penalties.

It is crucial to seek experienced legal representation if you have been accused of assaulting a pregnant woman to minimize these consequences and improve your chances of a favorable outcome. The legal team at Varghese Summersett has a proven track record of successfully defending clients against assault charges.

Assault on a Pregnant Woman in Texas | Pregnant Person Assault

Possible Defenses to Assault on a Pregnant Woman in Texas

Defending against a charge of assault on a pregnant woman in Texas involves navigating complex legal strategies. Here are some possible defenses that could be used, depending on the circumstances of the case:

  1. Lack of Knowledge: The defendant may argue that they were unaware that the woman was pregnant. Under Texas law, to be convicted of assault against a pregnant woman, it must be proven that the defendant knew or should have known of the pregnancy.
  2. Lack of Intent: The defense might assert that the defendant did not intend to cause harm. This can be a crucial factor, as intent is a necessary element to establish many assault charges.
  3. Accident: The defendant could claim that any injury caused was accidental and not a result of intentional or reckless behavior. This would involve demonstrating that there was no intent to harm and that reasonable care was taken.
  4. Self-Defense: If the defendant believed they were in imminent danger of being harmed, they might claim self-defense. This requires showing that the use of force was necessary and proportionate to the threat faced.
  5. Defense of Others: Similar to self-defense, this argument asserts that the defendant was protecting another person from immediate harm. The force used must be shown to have been necessary and reasonable under the circumstances.
  6. Insufficient Evidence: The defense may simply argue that the prosecution has not met its burden of proof to establish the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. This can involve challenging the credibility of witnesses or the integrity of evidence.
  7. Mistake of Fact: This defense involves the defendant having a mistaken belief that, if true, would negate an element of the offense (such as not knowing the individual was pregnant).

Each case is unique, so the applicability of these defenses would depend on the specific facts and evidence of the situation. Legal representation is crucial for anyone facing such serious charges, as a qualified attorney can discuss the best defense strategy based on the details of the case.

Speak to an Experienced Criminal Attorney Today.

Are you or a loved one facing a charge of assault on a pregnant woman in Tarrant, Dallas, Wise, or Collin counties? What you do next can change the trajectory of your life. It’s important to contact an experienced defense lawyer who has experience, expertise and exceptional results. We can help.

The attorneys at Varghese Summersett have an unparalleled track record of success defending tough cases. From the initial phone call, you will experience how we are different. Call us today at (817) 203-2220 for a complimentary strategy session.

Fort Worth Criminal Defense Lawyers

Varghese Summersett

When someone has been injured in an accident and receives a personal injury settlement, the money is intended to cover medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other losses. But what if the victim is paying child support? Can personal injury settlements affect child support in Texas?

The short answer is yes. However, the specifics of how and to what extent depend on various factors, including whether you are behind on your child support payments. In this article, our experienced attorneys explain how personal injury settlements affect child support in Texas and what you should do if you need assistance with a child support lien or modification due to a personal injury settlement.

How Personal Injury Settlements Affect Child Support

How Personal Injury Settlements Affect Child Support

If you receive a personal injury settlement and you owe back child support, you can expect your child support obligation to be paid out of your settlement before you receive any money. This is because Texas law gives a priority lien to unpaid child support. This means that the state has first rights to any funds owed for past-due child support.

But what if you are not behind on your child support payments? The fact that you received a personal injury settlement does not automatically mean your child support payments will increase. A modification to your existing child support agreement must be requested (usually by the other parent) and approved by the court. If a modification is not sought and you don’t owe back child support, your child support payments will remain the same.

Let’s examine both scenarios—garnishment with child support liens and modification due to increased income—in more detail.

Can Personal Injury Settlements Affect Child Support in Texas?

Child Support Liens On Personal Injury Settlements

It is not uncommon for people who are injured in an accident to struggle financially. This can lead to difficulties in meeting their child support obligations. When a parent who owes back child support receives a personal injury settlement, part of the settlement can be garnished or seized to cover the overdue payments.

In Texas, under Section 157.317 of the Texas Family Code, the state can place a lien on the settlement proceeds from personal injury claims. This means that before the parent receives any money from the settlement, the owed child support may be subtracted from the total amount. Here’s how child support clients work on personal injury settlements.

  1. Identification of Liabilities: Once a personal injury settlement is awarded, the court or the child support enforcement agency identifies any existing child support arrearages (past-due payments) associated with the recipient of the settlement.
  2. Placement of a Lien: The state places a lien on the settlement proceeds. This legal claim on the funds ensures that before any disbursement is made to the injured party, the amount owed in back child support is first subtracted from the total settlement.
  3. Garnishment of Funds: The mechanism of garnishing the settlement involves legally redirecting part of the settlement to satisfy the debt of back child support. The entity managing the settlement, such as an insurance company or a law firm handling the personal injury claim, is typically instructed to withhold the owed amount and directly transfer it to the child support enforcement agency.
  4. Disbursement of Remaining Funds: After the child support lien is satisfied, any remaining funds from the settlement are released to the recipient. This ensures that the parent meets their child support obligations without further delay, potentially alleviating some financial challenges they face post-accident.

Applying a child support lien on a personal injury settlement carries both legal and financial implications. Legally, it enforces that parental responsibilities cannot be evaded, even amidst personal financial gain or recovery from injury. Financially, it prioritizes the welfare of the child over the financial gain of the parent, ensuring that the child support payments are made promptly, thereby reducing the potential financial hardship experienced by the custodial parent and the child.

Can Personal Injury Settlements Affect Child Support in Texas?

Modification of Child Support After a Personal Injury Settlement

In cases where a parent receives a substantial personal injury settlement, there may be a presumption that their financial circumstances have improved, potentially leading to an increase in child support payments. However, this is not automatic. For child support payments to be adjusted, the following steps typically occur:

  1. Request for Modification: The custodial parent or their lawyer must formally request a modification of the child support order. This request is usually submitted to the court that issued the original child support order.
  2. Court Evaluation: The court will then evaluate the request, considering the parent’s new financial status, including any significant income from the settlement. The court must determine whether there has been a material and substantial change in the circumstances of the child or the non-custodial parent that warrants a revision of the child support payments.
  3. Decision on Modification: If the court finds that the non-custodial parent’s financial situation has significantly improved, it may increase the child support payments. However, if the settlement is deemed non-recurring or designated for specific expenses related to the injury (like medical bills or disability-related costs), the court might decide not to adjust the child support payments.

It’s important for parents to understand that receiving a personal injury settlement does not automatically change child support obligations. Legal processes and considerations are involved to ensure that any adjustments are fair and reflect the current needs and resources of all parties involved. This approach helps maintain stability for the children supported by these funds and acknowledges the complex nature of personal and financial recovery following an injury.

Are PI Settlements Considered Child Support Income

Are Personal Injury Settlements Considered Income?

In Texas, personal injury settlements are generally not considered income for the purpose of calculating child support. Child support calculations typically focus on what is considered “net resources,” which include wages, salary, commissions, tips, overtime, and bonuses, among other types of income.

However, the portion of a personal injury settlement that represents lost wages might be considered part of the obligor’s net resources for calculating child support, since lost wages replace regular income that would have been counted towards child support obligations. The parts of the settlement intended for pain and suffering, medical bills, and attorney fees are not usually included as income for these calculations.

It’s important to consult with a legal professional or a family law expert to understand how these specifics might apply in a particular case, as individual circumstances can vary.

Can Personal Injury Settlements Affect Child Support in Texas?

How Do Insurance Companies Discover Child Support Liens and Attach them to Injury Settlements?

In Texas, when an individual has a child support lien due to unpaid child support, insurance companies typically discover these liens through several mechanisms before disbursing funds from a personal injury settlement:

  1. State Lien Registry: Texas maintains a child support lien docket, which is a public record of all child support liens. Insurance companies can access this docket to verify if there are any outstanding child support liens against an individual before settling a claim.
  2. Notification from the Attorney General’s Office: The Texas Attorney General’s Office, which oversees child support enforcement, often notifies relevant parties, including insurance companies, of any existing child support liens. This ensures that the insurance company is aware of the lien before they issue payment.
  3. Legal Requirement for Disclosure: Individuals involved in a personal injury lawsuit or settlement may be legally required to disclose any child support obligations during the legal process. Failure to do so can result in legal penalties.
  4. Due Diligence by the Insurance Company: Insurance companies typically perform a due diligence process before disbursing settlement funds. This process includes checking for any liens or other legal encumbrances that may affect the settlement amount.

Once a child support lien is discovered, the insurance company is legally obligated to satisfy the lien from the settlement proceeds before disbursing the remainder to the claimant. This ensures that back child support is paid in accordance with state laws, helping to enforce child support obligations and protect the interests of children.

Can Personal Injury Settlements Affect Child Support in Texas?

Does My Attorney Have to Pay My Child Support Lien First?

In Texas, if you have a child support lien and are receiving a personal injury settlement, your personal injury attorney is legally required to ensure that any existing child support liens are paid from the settlement funds before you receive any money. This obligation arises because Texas law clearly prioritizes satisfying child support debts.

Here’s how it generally works:

  1. Notification and Verification: Once your attorney is informed of or discovers a child support lien—either through notification by the Texas Attorney General’s Office or through their own due diligence—they are required to verify the amount of the lien and ensure that it is valid.
  2. Withholding and Payment: If there is a verified child support lien, your attorney must withhold the amount of the lien from your settlement proceeds. The attorney then pays that amount directly to the state child support enforcement agency or through the court, as directed.
  3. Release of Funds: Only after the child support lien is satisfied can your attorney disburse the remaining settlement funds to you.

The process is designed to ensure that legal obligations for child support are met before the settlement recipient receives their portion. This legal requirement helps protect the financial interests of the children involved and ensures that child support laws are enforced. Failure by an attorney to comply with these requirements can lead to serious legal consequences, including potential disciplinary action.

Can a Child Support Lien Be Negotiated?

In Texas, while the amount of child support owed as per court orders is generally non-negotiable, certain aspects related to the enforcement of child support liens might be subject to negotiation. However, these negotiations usually don’t involve reducing the amount of child support owed. Still, they may involve the repayment terms or how a child support lien is applied to a specific settlement.

Here are a few scenarios where negotiation might be possible:

  1. Payment Plan Arrangements: If the lien amount is substantial, it might be possible to negotiate a payment plan with the state’s child support enforcement agency. This would allow the responsible parent to satisfy the lien over a period of time rather than through a single lump sum from a personal injury settlement.
  2. Release or Adjustment of the Lien: In some cases, if the settlement funds are needed immediately for critical expenses (such as medical bills related to the injury), it may be possible to negotiate the terms under which the lien is applied. This could involve requesting the child support enforcement agency to temporarily lift or adjust the lien to allow for the payment of urgent expenses.
  3. Legal Disputes Over the Lien: Legal proceedings might be necessary if there is a dispute regarding the validity or the amount of the lien. In such cases, negotiation can occur in the context of a broader legal challenge to the lien itself.
  4. Settlement Allocation: Sometimes, negotiation with the opposing party in the personal injury case about how the settlement is categorized can influence the impact of a child support lien. If portions of the settlement are allocated to non-wage compensatory damages like pain and suffering, these might not be subject to a lien, depending on the specifics of Texas law and the nature of the lien.

To navigate these negotiations, working with a knowledgeable attorney who understands family law and personal injury law in Texas is crucial. They can help you understand your options and represent your interests effectively in negotiations or court proceedings, if necessary.

Legal Implications for Back Child Support

Legal Implications for Failing to Back Pay Child Support After a PI Settlement

Failing to account for child support in a personal injury settlement in Texas can have significant legal implications, primarily because it can lead to a violation of state laws regarding child support obligations. Here’s what might happen:

  1. Legal Enforcement Actions: If the child support lien is not satisfied from the settlement proceeds, the Texas Attorney General’s Office, which enforces child support orders, can initiate legal actions to recover the owed amounts. This could include garnishing wages, seizing bank accounts, or taking other collection actions against the individual.
  2. Interest and Penalties: Unpaid child support accrues interest in Texas, and failing to pay can lead to additional financial penalties. These costs can add up over time, increasing the overall debt beyond the original child support arrears.
  3. Contempt of Court: Not adhering to a court order, including payment of child support, can be considered contempt of court. This can result in various penalties, including fines or even jail time, depending on the severity and duration of the non-compliance.
  4. Impact on Settlement Distribution: If a personal injury attorney improperly distributes settlement funds without accounting for a child support lien, they could face legal and professional consequences. This might include disciplinary actions from the bar association, lawsuits for malpractice, or other legal claims from the affected parties.
  5. Loss of Licenses: In Texas, failure to pay child support can lead to the suspension of various state-issued licenses, including driver’s licenses and professional licenses, which can impact one’s ability to work and earn income.

To avoid these implications, individuals receiving a personal injury settlement must disclose any existing child support liens and ensure they are addressed in the distribution of the settlement funds. It’s also advisable to work with an attorney familiar with both personal injury and family law in Texas to ensure compliance and avoid potential legal issues.

Speak to Experienced Attorney Today.

At Varghese Summersett, we have both a family law division and a personal injury division – each with their own dedicated team of attorneys. Because you may need both – a personal injury lawyer and a family lawyer – we are uniquely situated to handle any issue that arises from personal injury settlement proceeds and child support.

If you need assistance with a child support lien or modification due to a personal injury settlement, our experienced attorneys are here to help. Contact us today at 817-203-2220 for a consultation and learn more about how personal injury settlements affect child support in Texas.

Can Personal Injury Settlements Affect Child Support in Texas?

Varghese Summersett

Earlier this month, 55 people at the University of Texas in Austin were arrested at a pro-Palestine protest. Most were charged with criminal trespass, a Class B misdemeanor in Texas. The arrests occurred during a pro-Palestinian demonstration where students were demanding the university divest from companies supplying weapons to Israel for its strikes on Gaza. Since then, dozens of protests have been held at college campuses nationwide, including at the University of Texas at Dallas.

The Right to Protest in Texas

The right to protest in the United States is protected under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which states that “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech or the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” This fundamental right ensures that individuals are free to express their opinions publicly and engage in peaceful protests without undue interference from the government.

Similarly, the Texas Constitution also safeguards the right to protest. Article I, sections 8 and 27 protect the “liberty to speak, write or publish … opinions on any subject” and “the right … to assemble.”

Freedom of Speech and Assembly Are Not Unlimited Rights

While the right to protest is protected under both the U.S. Constitution and the Texas Constitution, the government can impose certain limitations. These limitations generally relate to maintaining peace and public order and can regulate how, when, and where protests occur.

Time, Place, and Manner Restrictions

The government may impose time, place, and manner restrictions on protests, and these must be content-neutral restrictions that do not regard the content of the expression. Restrictions are considered content-neutral if they are not based on the content or viewpoint of the expression. The restrictions must be designed to address the needs of public order and safety without targeting the message being conveyed.

The University of Texas has created its own time, place, and manner restrictions here.

When are time, place, and manner restrictions permissible?

Here are the key conditions under which such restrictions are permissible:

  1. Narrowly Tailored: The restrictions must be narrowly tailored to serve a significant government interest. This means they should not be broader than necessary to achieve the government’s legitimate objectives.
  2. Significant Government Interest: The restrictions must advance a significant government interest, such as traffic control, public safety, or the prevention of disorder. This interest must be substantial and not a pretext for suppressing the expression itself.
  3. Content-Neutral: The restrictions must be unrelated to the content of the speech. They cannot be used to favor or disfavor any viewpoint or subject matter. For example, the government cannot impose a restriction that only applies to political protests but not to other types of gatherings.
  4. Ample Alternative Channels: The restrictions must leave open ample alternative channels for communication. Protesters must have adequate alternative means to convey their message, even if it is not their preferred or most effective method.
  5. Not Based on Viewpoint: The government cannot regulate or restrict speech based on its viewpoint. Even if the views expressed are unpopular or controversial, they are still protected under the First Amendment.
  6. Applied Equitably: The restrictions must be applied equitably to all groups, without discrimination. For instance, the government cannot allow one group to protest in a public space while denying another group the same opportunity based on the content of their message.
  7. Avoiding a Heckler’s Veto: The government cannot deny a permit or impose restrictions based on the anticipated reaction or hostility of counter-protesters. This is known as a “heckler’s veto” and is generally considered an invalid reason for restricting speech.

These principles ensure that while the government can regulate the logistics of protests to maintain public order, it cannot do so in a way that suppresses free expression based on its content. The restrictions must be justified without reference to the content of the regulated speech and must be the least restrictive means necessary to further the government’s content-neutral interests.

Free Speech Zones

Some colleges have attempted to restrict protests to designated “free speech zones,” but the law often supports the right of students to protest in open, public areas of campus. In 2019, Texas passed a free speech law that established all common outdoor areas at public universities as traditional public forums, allowing anyone to exercise free speech there, as long as their activities are lawful and do not disrupt the normal functions of the university. This law effectively prohibits public universities in Texas from confining free speech to small, designated zones.

Unprotected Speech

Certain types of speech, such as true threats, incitement to imminent violence, and unlawful conduct like civil disobedience, are not protected.

Intervention in Discriminatory Harassment

While free speech protections are broad, colleges may need to intervene when speech crosses into federal anti-discrimination law violations.

What charges could stem from a demonstration or protest?

Texas authorities can use various laws to break up a peaceful demonstration if certain conditions are met. These include:

Anti-Riot Law | Penal Code 42.02

Texas has specific laws that define and address rioting, primarily codified in the Texas Penal Code Section 42.02. According to this statute, a “riot” is defined as the assembly of seven or more persons resulting in conduct that either creates an immediate danger of damage to property or injury to persons, substantially obstructs law enforcement or other governmental functions or services, or by force, threat of force, or physical action deprives any person of a legal right or disturbs any person in the enjoyment of a legal right. Participation in a riot is considered a criminal offense.

Criminal Trespass | Penal Code 30.05

Even though a university is a public institution, the property is still owned by the university, which can set rules for its use. If a protest is held in an area not designated for public assembly or after being asked to leave, participants may be charged with criminal trespass. Texas law deems all outdoor common spaces a public forum, subject to any time, place, and manner restrictions adopted by the institution.

Obstruction of a Highway | Penal Code 42.03

A person commits an offense if they, without legal privilege or authority, intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly:

Obstruct a highway, street, sidewalk, railway, waterway, elevator, aisle, hallway, entrance, or exit to which the public or a substantial group of the public has access or any other place used for the passage of persons, vehicles, or conveyances.

Disobeying Orders to Move | Penal Code 42.03(a)(2)

Obstruction also includes disobeying a reasonable request or order to move issued by a person known to be or identified as a peace officer, a firefighter, or a person with authority to control the use of the premises under certain circumstances. The order to move must be based on the person obstructing a passageway, entrance, or exit. It wouldn’t apply to areas that are not public passageways.

Alternatively, the order can be used to maintain public safety by dispersing those gathered in dangerous proximity to a fire, riot, or other hazard. Riot is not specifically defined in the obstruction statute (Penal Code 42.03), but it is used and defined in the previous section. Penal Code 42.02 defines riot as mentioned above in the Anti-Riot Law statute.

For both obstruction generally and disobeying orders to move,  “obstruct” means to render impassable or to render passage unreasonably inconvenient or hazardous.

All the offenses listed above are Class B misdemeanors in Texas.

Class B Misdemeanor

Disorderly Conduct | Penal Code 42.01

Disorderly conduct in Texas can include making an offensive gesture or display in public that tends to incite an immediate breach of the peace or making unreasonable noise in a public place. Under these circumstances, Disorderly conduct is a Class C misdemeanor. It is punishable by up to a 500 fine and no jail time. However, a person can be arrested for this Class C misdemeanor to bring the charge against them.

Class-C-Misdemeanor-Texas

It’s important to note that while these laws exist, the application must be consistent with the First Amendment rights to free speech and assembly. The use of these laws to break up a peaceful protest should be a last resort and done in a way that minimally infringes on these constitutional rights.

Order to Disperse Required

Texas Penal Code 42.04 states that if an offense primarily involves speech, gathering to hear speech, or nonviolent expression — specifically offenses listed under Section 42.01(a)(5) for making unreasonable noise, Section 42.03 for obstructing a passageway, or Section 42.055 for disrupting funeral services — the law mandates a particular procedure to be followed before an individual can be arrested.

This order must be issued before any arrest can be made. It may be issued by peace officers (like police), firefighters, authority figures in control of the premises (like a building manager), or persons directly affected by the violation (like someone whose funeral service is being disrupted).

Further, a defense can be claimed if:

  • No Order Given: The person can argue that they were not given any order to remedy the violation, which is required before an arrest.
  • Unreasonable Order: The order given was unreasonable in scope, making it impractical or unfair to comply.
  • Order Obeyed: The individual promptly obeyed the order when given.

This is at least one order the University of Texas sent out:

order to disperse

What happened with the arrestees?

The Travis County Attorney’s office decided to drop charges against 46 of the 55 protesters due to deficiencies in the probable cause affidavits provided by law enforcement.

Why were the cases dropped?

The arrested protesters were charged with criminal trespass. Criminal trespass is not one of the charges for which the Order to Disperse and associated defenses under Penal Code 42.04 apply. Instead, criminal trespass depends on notice that entry was forbidden or that a person on the property was being asked to leave.

The notice above doesn’t say that certain individuals or groups of individuals were given notice to leave. The notice is asking the group to disperse. It is unclear at this point what other notices were issued, if any. For those wondering, yes, it is possible for the University to trespass a person criminally. Typically, this would involve giving the person a trespass warning and creating documentation that the trespass warning was issued so that in the future, there’s a record that a certain individual was no longer allowed on campus. This is also consistent with what the University has published, which states that the University may issue “a Criminal Trespass Warning and escort[] them off campus. If the person returns, they will then be subject to arrest.” While this is undoubtedly an atypical situation, for a criminal trespass charge to stick, there would have to have been notice and failure to comply with that notice to leave at the very least. Probable cause means that there are facts and circumstances based on reasonably trustworthy information that would lead a person of reasonable caution to believe that a crime is being committed. The County Attorney, by throwing out these cases, is saying that even at that low level of proof, all the elements of the charge had not been met.

What’s the University’s position today?

Notice to UT Students

Second Statement from UT

Varghese Summersett

Illegal Internet Search Attorney

When Is An Internet Search Illegal in Texas?

Google averaged 8.5 billion searches a day in 2022. That’s nearly 100,000 Internet searches every second. Anyone with a smartphone – just about everyone these days – has the information superhighway at their fingertips and access to almost anything. We search everything from directions to a restaurant to movie showtimes to the latest news on our favorite team. Some Internet searches, however, are illegal and could land you in trouble with law enforcement. In some cases, just searching certain topics could result in an arrest and legal issues.

If you are being investigated for an Internet computer crime, contact an experienced illegal internet search attorney as soon as possible. The team at Varghese Summersett includes Board Certified criminal defense attorneys with unmatched success for over three decades in North Texas.

What is illegal to search on the Internet in Texas?

Most of us know that possessing pornographic material involving juveniles under age 18 is against the law. And viewing child pornography online is against the law.

However, just searching for child porn on the Internet can be enough to result in a search warrant being executed at your home, or even an arrest. That’s right, just searching for underage pornography without viewing it can be enough for law enforcement to arrest you. It doesn’t matter if you didn’t download illegal material. An active search for child porn could indicate your intent to view or possess child porn to law enforcement officials. Police can use your search history to establish intent or conspiracy to commit a worse offense like possession of child pornography.

A Specific Example of Nationwide Arrests Without Proof of Downloading Illicit Materials

The Playpen investigation involved a child pornography trafficking site that was accessible through Tor, a network designed to anonymize internet usage. During the investigation, the FBO took control of the server and deployed a network investigative technique (NIT) to identify users who accessed the site instead of shutting it down. This technique allowed them to collect the IP addresses and the MAC addresses, host names, and operating systems of the machines that accessed the server.

The use of NIT was significant because it did not require the suspects to download any material to be identified. Accessing the server through Tor was enough for the FBI to capture the necessary information to trace the users. Individuals who merely accessed the site could be identified and were subsequently arrested without the need for them to have downloaded any illegal content. The legal argument was that by accessing the server, users demonstrated intent to engage with the prohibited material, which was enough for law enforcement to make nationwide arrests.

The topics you search and view online, including illegal material, are usually stored in your Internet browser cache. Legally, that can be categorized as possessing child pornography. The laws against child porn at the Federal and Texas levels are severe and can result in lengthy prison terms. Hiring a well-respected illegal internet search attorney is indispensable for a favorable outcome.

Illegal internet searches example

What is the Texas law on possessing or promoting child porn?

Texas Penal Code Sec. 43.26 addresses the possession or promotion of child pornography.

According to Texas law, an offense is committed if:

“the person knowingly or intentionally possesses or knowingly or intentionally accesses with intent to view, visual material that visually depicts a child under age 18 at the time the image was made who is engaging in sexual conduct.
AND
“the person knows that the material depicts the child as described” above.

What if I accidentally viewed child pornography?

Technically, inadvertently viewing illegal pornographic images or videos online is not a crime, but you could be forced to prove it was accidental if investigated by law enforcement.

Of course, child pornography, or at least material that could be construed as child porn, is sometimes viewed accidentally by Internet users searching for what otherwise is considered legal pornography involving adults. Under these circumstances, a person being investigated for a computer sex crime would be forced to explain how the viewing was accidental. This can be challenging to show and embarrassing and requires an illegal internet search attorney well-versed in cybercrime cases.

What if I’m accused of viewing child porn online?

If someone accuses you of viewing child pornography online, consult with a criminal defense attorney immediately.

Even if viewing the material was unintentional, having a lawyer guide you through an investigation is integral. Your future and freedom are too important. A child porn-related conviction could result in years in prison, hefty fines, and other collateral consequences.

If law enforcement officials open an investigation, they will likely confiscate your computers, smartphone, and other electronic devices. Investigators will examine your search history, stored files, and all of your online activities.

Take note: If you didn’t search for the alleged illegal material that instigated the investigation, any previous suspicious search history could be used against you. That’s another reason why seeking counsel from a top illegal internet search attorney is so important.

What about other illegal searches and material online?

Searches related to terrorism or acts of public violence often draw the attention of law enforcement and initiate an investigation and possible arrest.

It doesn’t matter if the person ever acted on the search material. If officials believe the person intends to carry out an act of terrorism or another illegal act, it could result in criminal charges. Certain internet searches could alarm law enforcement that illegal activity could be pending and start investigating.

Search topics such as illegally modifying weapons or creating explosives could be enough to put you in the crosshairs of law enforcement.

If you suspect you’re being investigated by law enforcement for your online activity, consult with an illegal internet search attorney. Don’t wait to be arrested. Contact Varghese Summersett.

What actions online are illegal in Texas?

The Texas Penal Code includes specific internet crimes, including the following:

  • Hiring a person for illicit or criminal purposes
  • Solicitation of a minor
  • Catfishing
  • Phishing
  • Torrent downloading copyrighted material
  • Online harassment
  • Impersonation
  • Breaching computer security
  • Unlawful decryption

What Internet material breaks Federal law?

States have different definitions of what constitutes illegal online content.

Federal law, however, spells it out for the entire country. Some Internet searches violate both federal and state laws.

Federal law prohibits searching the internet for the following:

  • Video and images of child sexual abuse or exploitation
  • Promoting terrorism or advocating terrorist acts
  • Promoting, inciting, or instructing crime or violence
  • Video and images of real violence, cruelty, and criminal activity

Internet crimes are defined in federal statutes, including the following:

Whether you’re facing state or federal charges, a conviction could bring severe consequences. Promptly consult with an illegal internet search attorney.

Is visiting a website that hosts child porn illegal?

Even if you didn’t intend to go to the site or did not know what it contained, it could still be grounds for a crime. Possession of child pornography does not have an intent element. Law enforcement can use your unique Internet Protocol address (typically referred to as your IP address) to trace your search and download behavior. If police find what they believe to be illegal internet activity, you could be arrested. If you are being accused of such, a dedicated illegal internet search attorney will offer a strategy to protect your freedom and your reputation.

What are the penalties for internet crimes in Texas?

Texas law prohibits producing, distributing, or possessing media depicting a person under age 18 engaging in sexual conduct.

What is considered sexual conduct? Texas law defines it as actual or simulated intercourse, masturbation, deviate sexual intercourse, sexual bestiality, lewd exhibition of the genitals, anus, or female breast, and sadomasochistic abuse.

Viewing or possessing child pornography is a third-degree felony in Texas. A conviction is punishable by two to 10 years in prison and a maximum $10,000 fine. Your freedom is at stake. You need a tough illegal internet search attorney fighting for your rights.

If you have a prior child porn conviction, it’s a second-degree felony, punishable by a maximum of 20 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
Any subsequent conviction for child porn could result in a maximum sentence of 99 years.
The penalties for online sex crimes depend on the specific type of crime, the nature of the victim, and whether the defendant has a criminal history.

The penalties for Texas’ most common online sex crime charges include the following:

Class B misdemeanor: Maximum 180 days in jail, $2,000 fine
Class A misdemeanor: Maximum one year in jail, $4,000 fine
Third-degree felony: Two to 10 years in prison, $10,000 fine
Second-degree felony: Two to 20 years in prison, $10,000 fine
First-degree felony: Five years to life in prison, $10,000 fine

What are defense strategies against computer crime charges in Texas?

An experienced illegal internet search attorney will use every possible defense strategy at their disposal to defend their client. In the case of computer or online crimes, the defense could include the following:

Unaware: Some online computer crimes require that the defendant knew and intended to do what they did to be charged and convicted.

Identity theft: The defendant’s online identity or computer was hacked with a virus. According to antivirus software company McAfee, the online identity of 15 million Americans was stolen in 2021.

Coercion: The defendant was forced to commit a computer crime under threat of harm to themselves or a family member.

Have you been charged with computer crime? Call us.

Prosecutors often seek the maximum penalty for internet sex crimes, especially ones involving child pornography. Just being implicated in such a crime can ruin a person’s reputation and destroy lives. That’s why contacting an illegal internet search attorney at Varghese Summersett is vital.

Police need a warrant before searching your home or property. Make them get one, and don’t answer any questions without a lawyer. Contact one of our sex crimes defense lawyers. Cybercrime cases can be complicated and require experienced criminal defense attorneys with a strong understanding of the internet and computing. Our team has unmatched success in North Texas, defending clients in such cases. For a complimentary consultation with one of our attorneys, call us at 817-203-2220.

Varghese Summersett

It happens more often than you think. A married couple, once deeply in love, finds themselves essentially living separate lives. They become emotionally detached and disconnected and are more like roommates than romantic partners.

Referred to as a “silent divorce” — or an invisible or emotional divorce — this type of marriage is a complex dynamic where two people remain legally married, but one or both spouses have checked out of the relationship.

In this article, the experienced family law attorneys at Varghese Summersett explain the signs of a silent divorce, why couples may choose to stay in this type of relationship, and when it may be time to consider a permanent separation or legal divorce.

What is a Silent Divorce?

What is a Silent or Invisible Divorce?

A “silent divorce” or an “invisible divorce” generally refers to the same concept. Both phrases describe a situation where a married couple remains legally married but has effectively ended their emotional and often physical relationship. They live separate lives under the guise of a normal marital relationship without the formal process of a legal divorce. This can involve living in the same house with minimal interaction or even leading completely separate lives while still maintaining the legal status of marriage. The terms emphasize the lack of outward signs of discord that typically accompany a traditional divorce, making the separation “silent” or “invisible” to outsiders.

Signs of a Silent Divorce

8 Signs of a Silent Divorce

Identifying a silent, invisible, or emotional divorce can be challenging, as the signs are often subtle and slowly emerge over time. However, recognizing these signs is crucial for couples to address the issues in their relationship or to begin the process of healing or legal separation. Here are some key indicators that a couple might be experiencing a silent divorce:

1. Lack of Communication

Communication is the cornerstone of any relationship. In cases of silent divorce, conversations that once involved shared dreams and deep emotions turn into discussions about mundane, day-to-day tasks, if they happen at all.

2. Absence of Conflict Resolution

Every couple encounters conflicts, but in a silently divorcing marriage, these issues remain unresolved. There’s often a conspicuous avoidance of conflict, suggesting that one or both parties have disengaged and no longer consider the relationship worth the effort of resolving disputes.

3. Physical and Emotional Distance

An increasing physical and emotional gap between partners is a clear sign. This might include less physical affection, rarity of intimate moments, and a general feeling of living with a roommate rather than a life partner.

4. Separate Lives

When couples lead largely separate lives, including socializing without each other, pursuing separate hobbies, and maintaining distinct groups of friends, it can indicate a lack of shared interests and commitment.

5. Indifference

One of the most telling signs is indifference towards each other’s lives. Whether it’s a lack of interest in each other’s day-to-day activities or major life events, this apathy can signify emotional detachment.

6. Living in Separate Rooms

A significant indicator of a silent divorce is when spouses choose to sleep or live in separate rooms. This physical separation within the home often reflects the emotional distance that has grown between them.

7. Lack of Future Planning

Couples unsure about their relationship’s future often avoid making long-term plans together. This might include not planning vacations, hesitating to make joint financial decisions, or avoiding discussions about future goals.

8. Feeling Tied Down by Legal or Financial Reasons

Often, one or both partners feel that staying legally married is necessary despite a lack of emotional connection, often for financial reasons, insurance benefits, or social appearances.

Recognizing these signs can help couples understand the true state of their marriage. Whether they choose to work on their relationship or move towards a formal separation, addressing a silent divorce is the first step toward resolution. For those unsure how to proceed, consulting with a divorce attorney can provide guidance tailored to their specific situation.

 Reasons for a Silent Divorce

Why Couples Choose a Silent Divorce Over Legal Separation

Choosing a silent divorce, or choosing to remain legally married while effectively ending the marital relationship, can be motivated by a variety of complex and personal reasons. Understanding why some couples opt for this path instead of pursuing a formal legal divorce can provide insight into the dynamics of relationships and the pragmatic decisions couples face. Here are some common reasons:

Financial Considerations

One of the most significant factors in choosing a silent divorce is financial stability. Legal divorce can lead to financial strain due to the costs of separate residences, legal fees, and potential alimony or child support. Couples may also wish to preserve joint investments, retirement benefits, or manage debt more effectively together.

Insurance Benefits

Health insurance is a critical factor, especially in the United States where health care costs are high and insurance coverage is often tied to employment. Staying legally married allows one spouse to maintain coverage under the other’s insurance policy, which can be crucial if one partner has health issues or if there is no affordable alternative available.

Children’s Wellbeing

Some couples choose to maintain a silent divorce to provide a stable environment for their children. They may believe that keeping the family unit legally intact, despite emotional separation, can minimize disruption in their children’s lives and keep parenting arrangements straightforward.

Social and Religious Reasons

Cultural, social, or religious stigmas associated with divorce can lead couples to choose a silent divorce. In some communities, divorce may be looked upon unfavorably, prompting couples to avoid legal separation to maintain their social standing or comply with religious doctrines against divorce.

Complexity and Hassle of Divorce Proceedings

The process of getting a divorce can be lengthy, emotionally taxing, and complex. Some couples opt for a silent divorce to avoid the stress and confrontations that often accompany divorce negotiations and court proceedings.

Hope for Reconciliation

In some cases, couples may choose a silent divorce as a temporary measure, holding onto the hope that with time and space, they may reconcile and restore their relationship.

Privacy Concerns

Going through a public divorce process can expose personal details and conflicts to the public, especially in cases involving high-profile individuals or sensitive circumstances. A silent divorce allows couples to handle their separation discreetly and privately.

By choosing a silent divorce, couples can navigate their separation in a way that meets their specific needs and circumstances, though it’s important to recognize that this choice may also bring about its own set of challenges and complications.

When to Consider a Legal Divorce

Reasons a Legal Divorce Should Be Considered

Deciding to transition from a silent divorce to a permanent, legal divorce is a significant step. Recognizing when it’s time to make this change can help individuals move forward in their lives more healthily and productively. Here are some tell-tale signs that a permanent divorce should be considered:

Emotional and Physical Well-Being

If staying in the marriage is causing significant stress, anxiety, or depression, it might be time to consider divorce. Prioritizing mental and physical health is crucial, and a toxic relationship can have long-term negative effects on both.

Financial Independence

When one or both partners reach a point of financial independence where the disadvantages of remaining legally tied no longer outweigh the benefits, a legal divorce might be the logical next step. This can be particularly relevant when financial entanglements complicate personal financial goals or new relationships.

Entering a New Relationship

Starting a new romantic relationship can be the catalyst for making a silent divorce legal. Legal ties to a previous partner can complicate or hinder the development of a new, serious relationship, making divorce a necessary step.

Legal Complications

If legal issues arise that are complicated by the marriage—such as inheritance issues, tax complications, or legal liability—it may be prudent to consider a permanent divorce to simplify or resolve these matters.

Closure and Personal Growth

Sometimes, the lack of formal closure in a silent divorce can prevent individuals from fully moving on and experiencing personal growth. A legal divorce can provide psychological closure, allowing both parties to leave the past behind and focus on their futures.

Long-Term Plans and Commitments

If making long-term plans—like purchasing property, relocating, or making significant career changes—is being hindered by the status of being married, pursuing a legal divorce could clear the way for these commitments.

Children’s Stability and Clarity

For couples with children, the ambiguity of a silent divorce can sometimes create confusion and instability in the children’s lives. A legal divorce might provide clearer boundaries and structured arrangements that benefit the children’s emotional and psychological well-being.

Recognizing these signs can help individuals assess their situations more clearly and make informed decisions about whether to continue in a silent divorce or to move towards a permanent, legal separation. When considering such a significant change, consulting with a divorce attorney can provide valuable guidance tailored to the specific circumstances.

Speak to an Experienced Divorce Attorney Today.

If you are in an invisible divorce, then you are probably conflicted about whether you should legally separate or stay married. Speaking to an experienced divorce attorney can help provide the clarity you need to make the best decision for your future.

At Varghese Summersett, we have a team of skilled family law attorneys who can guide you through this challenging time and help you understand your options. Don’t let a silent divorce keep you from living your best life. Call 817-203-2220 today to schedule a consultation with a highly skilled divorce attorney.

Together But Apart: The Dynamics of a Silent Divorce

Varghese Summersett

Can you “quit” a jury?

The media is reporting that a “juror quit over the fear of being outed” in the historic Trump Hush Money Trial. Is it possible for a juror to quit?

First, it’s important to understand that a jury has not been empaneled in former President Trump’s case. They are still in jury selection. In regards to the juror who reportedly “quit,” this is a critically important factor.

Can a juror quit?

In the United States, once a juror is officially empaneled and sworn in for a trial, they cannot simply “quit” or voluntarily leave their duty without facing potential legal consequences. Jurors are expected to fulfill their civic duty unless the court excuses them for valid reasons.

Can a potential juror quit?

During the jury selection process, known as voir dire, potential jurors can be dismissed for various reasons, including personal hardships, biases, or conflicts of interest that might affect their ability to serve impartially. So, if the potential juror came forward and said they could not be fair or would consider something outside the evidence presented in the courtroom, they could be excused for cause. If the judge did not dismiss the potential juror for cause at that point, either side could use a peremptory challenge. So in essence, by speaking up and expressing a bias or outside influence that they could not set aside, a juror can effectively ensure they will not be on the jury.

Challenges for Cause vs. Peremptory Challenges

The difference between a challenge for cause and a peremptory challenge lies primarily in the reasons and justifications required for each during the jury selection process.

Challenge for Cause

A challenge for cause requires a specific, legally valid reason to disqualify a potential juror. This type of challenge is used when there is evidence that a juror may not be able to perform their duties impartially. Common reasons for a challenge for cause include:

  • Conflicts of interest, such as a relationship with someone involved in the trial
  • Pre-existing knowledge or strong opinions about the case that could prevent objective judgment
  • Inability to communicate effectively or understand the proceedings due to language barriers or disabilities
  • Demonstrable bias or prejudice against one of the parties involved in the trial
  • Judges must approve challenges for cause, and there is no limit to the number of these challenges a party can make, provided they can substantiate each one

Peremptory Challenge

Peremptory challenges, on the other hand, allow attorneys to exclude potential jurors without providing a specific reason or justification. However, these challenges are limited in number and cannot be used to discriminate based on race, ethnicity, or sex, as established by the Batson v. Kentucky decision. Peremptory challenges primarily aim to help attorneys shape the jury composition based on their instincts or strategic considerations about how jurors might react to the case.

How many jurors will serve in Trump’s hush money trial?

In Donald Trump’s hush money trial, the plan is to have 12 jurors and 6 alternates, so a total of 18 jurors will be selected. This is a high number of alternates and the setup is intended to ensure that there are sufficient jurors to continue the trial without interruption, even if some jurors must be excused during the proceedings.

What are alternate jurors, and what will they do in Trump’s trial?

Six alternate jurors are selected in the Donald Trump hush money trial. Alternate jurors are crucial in ensuring that the trial can proceed without interruption due to losing any of the main jurors. They listen to the evidence and are prepared to step in and replace any main juror who cannot continue due to illness, personal emergencies, or being disqualified during the trial. If an alternate juror replaces a main juror after deliberations have begun, the entire jury must start their deliberations over. This ensures that all jurors participating in the final deliberations have been present for all deliberative discussions.

What happens if a juror “quits” or just stops showing up?

Once a jury is empaneled, if a juror does not show up or “quits,” the court has several mechanisms to address the situation, ensuring the trial can proceed without undue disruption.

Legal Consequences for the Juror

If a juror fails to show up without a valid reason or attempts to quit mid-trial without being formally excused by the judge, they could potentially face legal penalties, including fines or other sanctions, depending on the jurisdiction’s laws regarding jury duty. It could be considered juror misconduct and would likely result in contempt of court.

Replacement with an Alternate Juror

If a juror is unable to continue serving due to illness, personal emergency, or other valid reasons, and the trial has not yet reached the deliberation stage, an alternate juror can be called upon to replace the original juror. This ensures that the jury remains at its full complement for the duration of the trial

Continuing with a Smaller Jury

In some jurisdictions, the trial can proceed with a smaller jury if jurors are reduced after the trial has begun and both parties agree to it. This is less common and typically requires the consent of both the defense and the prosecution.

Mistrial

If a juror leaves during deliberations and an alternate is unavailable or the departure significantly impacts the trial’s fairness, the judge may declare a mistrial. This would result in the trial being restarted with a new jury.

The primary reason a judge would seat so many alternate jurors in this case is to avoid the possibility of having to declare a mistrial or having to continue with a smaller jury.

The specific course of action depends on the timing of the juror’s departure, the availability of alternates, and the legal standards in the particular jurisdiction. The judge plays a crucial role in deciding how to proceed in such situations to maintain the integrity of the trial process.

Varghese Summersett

In the midst of a nation shifting its view on cannabis, one question arises: will Texas legalize marijuana? Some ask, “When will Texas legalize marijuana.” Texas has a long-standing history of having harsher marijuana laws than the rest of the country. While general sentiments around marijuana continue to evolve, there’s more at play in Texas than public opinion. In this article, we unpack the current debates and the political environment in Texas and discuss whether legalization will take root in the Lone Star State.

Marijuana Legalization in Texas: The High Points

  • Texas is one of 26 remaining states where marijuana is still illegal. Any amount of usable marijuana remains a jailable offense in Texas.
  • The most notable exception to criminalized marijuana possession is for prescribed medical purposes. Yet medical use in one state does not translate to approved medical use in Texas.
  • In recent years, Texas has adopted and expanded its Compassionate Use Program, which allows low-level THC cannabis for medical use under a narrow set of circumstances.
  • Public opinion in Texas shows significant support for legalizing recreational marijuana, but a key actor in the Texas legislature will almost single-handedly prevent marijuana from being legalized.
  • Federal legislation mirrored by Texas makes the prosecution of marijuana (and required distinction from hemp) an expensive proposition for prosecutors.
  • Any amount of delta 9 THC at a concentration greater than .3% outside of the plant is a felony offense in Texas.

Exploring the Current Cannabis Climate in Texas

The distinction between hemp and marijuana is an important one under federal and Texas law. This increases the cost of testing and prosecution in Texas. Similarly, while the state’s Compassionate Use Program allows low-THC cannabis for medical purposes, this provision is much narrower than most other states, and a “medical use card” from another state has no legal significance in Texas.

legalization of marijuana
Support for marijuana is growing in Texas.

Hemp and CBD: Legal Status

To make sense of the cannabis confusion in Texas, one must grasp the subtleties of hemp and CBD. House Bill 1325 was a game-changer, legally distinguishing hemp-derived products such as CBD, Delta-8, and Delta-9 THC from hemp, as long as they contain less than 0.3% THC. But don’t light up just yet—while you can legally enjoy these compounds in Texas, the issue of smokable hemp is still up in the air.

Compassionate Use in Texas

The Texas Compassionate Use Program (CUP) has undergone significant expansions since its inception in 2015, broadening its scope to include a wider array of qualifying medical conditions in subsequent years, particularly in 2019 and 2021. Initially established through Senate Bill 339 during the 84th Legislative Session, the program was designed to allow certain qualified physicians to prescribe low-THC cannabis to patients diagnosed with intractable epilepsy.

In 2019, the program experienced its first major expansion. House Bill 3703 was passed during the 86th Texas Legislature, updating the Texas Compassionate Use Act to permit board-certified specialists to prescribe low-THC cannabis to patients diagnosed with a broader range of conditions beyond intractable epilepsy. The list of qualifying conditions was expanded to include epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, autism, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), terminal cancer, spasticity, and neurodegenerative diseases. This expansion marked a significant step forward in making medical cannabis more accessible to Texans suffering from a variety of debilitating conditions.

The program saw further expansion in 2021 when additional legislative changes were enacted. House Bill 1535, signed into law, modestly increased the THC cap from 0.5% to 1% and added post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and all forms of cancer to the list of qualifying conditions. This adjustment in the THC cap and the inclusion of more conditions underlined the state’s ongoing efforts to refine and improve the program, making it more inclusive and responsive to the needs of patients.

compassionate use in texas

The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) has administered the CUP throughout these expansions. The DPS maintains the Compassionate Use Registry of Texas (CURT), a secure online registry of qualified physicians authorized to prescribe low-THC cannabis. CURT serves as a critical component of the program, ensuring that prescriptions are regulated and that patients can legally access low-THC cannabis from licensed dispensary organizations. In 2022 alone, there were 43,056 patients enrolled in the Compassionate Use Program.

When will Marijuana be Legalized in Texas?

Short answer: not as long as Dan Patrick is the Lieutenant Governor. As Lieutenant Governor, he can ensure this never becomes law in Texas. There’s no doubt his position is truly the most powerful political office in Texas. He has prevented marijuana reform in Texas on multiple occasions, and there’s no reason to expect that would change. Meanwhile, the Texas Attorney General is suing cities that are not enforcing marijuana laws. Until 2022, the Republican Party Platform supported decriminalization of marijuana. Former Republican Governor Rick Perry supported decriminalization of marijuana, pushing for alternative “drug courts” that offer treatment and softer penalties for minor offenses, emphasizing a move towards decriminalization by introducing policies that could reduce jail time for marijuana users. He signed cite and release policies into law that allow law enforcement officers to issue citations for certain low-level offenses, such as possessing small amounts of marijuana, instead of making an arrest. These policies aim to reduce the jail population for non-violent offenders and save law enforcement resources. Yet even in 2024, many jurisdictions don’t use cite and release at all.

Health Perspectives on Cannabis Legalization

In Texas, the numbers speak for themselves: a striking 22% of middle and high school students have tried marijuana at least once, and 14% are current users. However, like alcohol and tobacco, the effect of marijuana on youth is very different than it is when used by adults. According to the CDC, regular use of marijuana by youth is associated with an increased risk of mental health issues, such as depression and social anxiety, and more severe conditions like psychosis and schizophrenia, especially when use begins at an early age.

The Federal Stance on Cannabis

The health debate forms only part of the narrative. The federal government’s position on cannabis adds another layer of complexity. Despite state-level legalization efforts, marijuana remains a Schedule I controlled substance at the federal level, deemed to have no accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. It’s a contradictory position that’s slowly shifting, with President Biden issuing executive actions to pardon individuals charged with simple marijuana possession, building on previous pardons.

The proposed States Act of 2023 aims to legalize marijuana by:

  • Bridging the gap between federal, state, and local government policies
  • Potentially removing marijuana from the federal Schedule of Controlled Substances for those over 21
  • Giving states the reins on legalization.

Cross-State Line Considerations

Traveling from Texas to a state where marijuana is legal—or vice versa—can lead to complex and often severe legal challenges. The disparities between state laws and federal prohibition mean that a Texan could find themselves in hot water for possessing or transporting a substance that’s legal just a few miles away. It is illegal to bring marijuana into Texas from another state, regardless of whether it was purchased legally elsewhere or if it’s for medical use. This includes individuals who have a layover in a Texas airport while traveling between two jurisdictions where marijuana is legal.

Summary

While Texas has expanded medical marijuana under the Compassionate Use Program and public support for legalization has increased, Texas is not in a place where efforts for major decriminalization or legalization will pass.