Varghese Summersett

Let’s face it. Young people make stupid mistakes, rash decisions, and poor choices. Sometimes, those lapses in judgment land them in the juvenile justice system. While this is certainly a scary prospect, there is hope for juvenile offenders in Tarrant County – especially for youth who want to learn from their mistakes.

Tarrant County offers several juvenile diversion programs, which focus on rehabilitation, treatment, and counseling, rather than adjudication and punishment. These programs are designed to keep youth, ages 10 to 16, out of the traditional juvenile justice system and, hopefully, put them on a positive, productive path.

This article explains the different types of juvenile diversion programs offered in Tarrant County and answers some frequently asked questions. If your child has been accused of committing an offense or violation in Tarrant County, it’s important to contact a skilled juvenile defense attorney who understands juvenile diversion programs.

Attorney Lisa Herrick is Board Certified in Juvenile Law and has extensive experience getting juveniles admitted into Tarrant County’s juvenile diversion programs. She believes in second chances and will work vigorously to help get your child back on the right track without negatively impacting their future.

Please take a moment to watch this video by Lisa in which she gives an overview of some of Tarrant County’s juvenile diversion programs.

What is a Juvenile Diversion Program?

A juvenile diversion program is a way to “divert” or redirect a young offender away from juvenile court and the traditional juvenile justice process. Rather than face criminal prosecution, juveniles who are admitted into diversion programs typically receive counseling, treatment, and rehabilitation services designed to help them turn their lives around. If they successfully complete the program, charges will not be filed and they will not be prosecuted.

The goal of juvenile diversion programs is to keep kids out of court, detention, and prison – and away from the influences that got them here in the first place. These programs provide an opportunity for young offenders to learn from their mistakes, take responsibility for their actions, and make amends, while also addressing the underlying issues that may have led to the negative or criminal behavior.

What Juvenile Diversion Programs are Offered in Tarrant County?

There are several types of juvenile diversion programs available in Tarrant County. Each program is tailored to fit the individual needs of the juvenile offender, taking into consideration their unique circumstances and backgrounds. If they successfully complete the program, they will avoid prosecution and a criminal record.

  • Deferred Prosecution Probation Program (DPP)

Tarrant County’s Juvenile Deferred Prosecution Probation program (DPP) is a type of informal probation that addresses the juvenile’s criminal behavior outside of the courtroom through a supervision program. If accepted into the program, the juvenile will be supervised by a probation officer and must abide by certain conditions, including attending school, obeying the law, abiding by a curfew, and attending classes or counseling, among other conditions.

If the juvenile successfully completes the program, the case will be closed and no charges will be filed. Basically, the prosecution stops. If the child fails to complete the program or violates the conditions, the prosecutor can file the charge and send the case to court. The prosecutor could also offer a second term of DPP. Learn more about Tarrant County’s Deferred Prosecution Program.

  • Juvenile First Offender Program

Tarrant County’s juvenile first-offender program is designed to give youth who have never before been in trouble with the law a second chance. This program is offered directly by the police department before the case ever gets referred to juvenile services. According to 52.031 of the Juvenile Justice Code, the program is for first-time offenders, who have been accused of or taken into custody for:

  • Conduct Indicating a Need for Supervision;
  • A Class C Offense (other than a traffic ticket);
  • Delinquent conduct other than a first, second, or third-degree felony, an aggravated controlled substance felony, a capital felony, a state jail felony or a misdemeanor involving violence to person or the use of or possession of a firearm, location-restricted knife, club or prohibited weapon.

Put more simply, the program is generally reserved for juveniles who commit a misdemeanor or state jail felony that doesn’t involve violence, guns, or sex offenses.

There are several court-approved first offenders programs available in Tarrant County, including at the Lena Pope Home in Fort Worth. The program involves intensive counseling and skill-building instruction. If the juvenile successfully completes a first-offender program, their case will be closed and the juvenile won’t be referred to juvenile court for prosecution. If the youth fails to complete the program, they will be referred to juvenile court for prosecution. Learn more about Tarrant County’s First Offender Program.

juvenile diversion in texas

  • Juvenile Drug Court

Juvenile Drug Court targets juvenile offenders who have been accused of drug crimes. The program offers juveniles the opportunity to receive outpatient substance abuse treatment instead of being placed on formal probation. The program seeks to address the issues that lead to drug use, as well as the drug use itself. In addition to drug treatment, the youth will also receive counseling, drug education, and family preservation services. If the youth successfully completes juvenile drug court, the criminal case will be dismissed.

  • Project SAFeR

Project SAFeR (Safety and Family Resiliency) is a pre-disposition program for very young juvenile offenders, ages 10 to 12, who have engaged in problematic sexual behavior. It is offered by the Lena Pope Home in Fort Worth. Juveniles are required to attend individual and family outpatient therapy to address sexual behavior, boundary setting, sex education, self-regulation, social skills, and how to acknowledge and apologize for inappropriate sexual behavior. The program is designed to prevent future problematic sexual behaviors, which go beyond normal sexual development for their age. It often involves activities between youth who are quite a bit different in age or maturity.

  • Teen Court

Teen court is a diversion program for youth in middle school or high school to keep a Class C misdemeanor off their permanent record. The teen will be given the opportunity to make amends by completing a sentence set by a jury of their peers. Generally, the sentence includes performing community service or attending educational classes.

If the youth successfully completes the teen court, their ticket will be dismissed and will not show up on their record. Teen courts are located in Fort Worth, Arlington, Southlake, and other cities in the surrounding area.

Juvenile Defense Lawyer Fort Worth | Board Certified Juvenile Defense

How Long do Juvenile Diversion Programs Take?

The length of juvenile diversion programs can vary depending on the specific program and the nature of the offense. Some programs may last a few months, while others may last up to a year.

What are the Benefits of Juvenile Diversion Programs in Tarrant County?

Juvenile diversion programs offer several benefits over traditional juvenile court proceedings. First and foremost, it’s way to resolve your child’s case without going through the criminal justice system. It also allows the juvenile to take responsibility for their actions, while learning from their mistakes in a more positive and constructive setting. Finally, it can provide youth with access to services that may help address underlying issues that have led to negative or criminal behavior, increasing the chances of rehabilitation and a successful future.

Child Accused of an Offense? Call Lisa Herrick.

If your child has been accused of a crime in Tarrant County, you need an experienced juvenile attorney to protect your child’s freedom and future. Attorney Lisa Herrick has devoted her career to juveniles accused of crimes. She is considered an expert in juvenile law, a highly specialized area that very few North Texas attorneys understand.

Don’t let your child become another statistic in the juvenile justice system. Contact Lisa today to discuss how she can get you and your family through this difficult time. Ultimately, her goal is for juveniles in Tarrant County to receive a second chance at a productive life and avoid future brushes with the law. Call 817-203-2220 for a free consultation with Lisa today.

Varghese Summersett

Texas Abortion Law

The Texas abortion law prohibits physicians from performing abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected. The Texas Heartbeat Bill became state law with a trigger in place that subjected it to a Supreme Court ruling which has now effectively enabled it. This legislation went into effect on September 1, 2021, sparking heated debates and legal challenges throughout the nation

Can I be criminally prosecuted for an abortion in Texas?

The Texas abortion law does not create a criminal cause of action against the mother or parent. It does create a criminal cause of action against doctors.

Texas abortion laws changed on Aug. 25, effectively outlawing all abortions in the state.

The Texas law was triggered by the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on Dobbs v. Jackson in June 2022. The decision overturned Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that decriminalized abortion nationwide. The 2022 ruling allowed states to set their own abortion laws.

texas abortion law

Under the new Texas abortion law, the woman who had the abortion can’t be prosecuted, but anyone who provided or aided in her abortion is open to criminal prosecution.

Even before the Supreme Court ruling, Texas abortion laws were restrictive, and recent changes to the law had already limited the work of abortion clinics around the state, with many declining to offer abortion services for fear of prosecution under Texas laws.

The Texas legislature passed the trigger law on abortion in 2021. It opens up doctors and medical staff to criminal prosecution and allows for civil lawsuits against the same party.

Are you being criminally prosecuted for assisting an abortion? If so, you need legal representation as soon as possible. Contact the criminal defense team at Varghese Summersett for a free consultation.

We will discuss your options and the potential penalties you face and create a plan of action tailored specifically to your needs.

In this post, we’ll explain the most recent changes to Texas’ abortion laws,

How has the Texas abortion law changed?

In September 2021, the Texas legislature changed the law to effectively ban most abortions once cardiac activity is detected, usually about six weeks into a pregnancy. The change was particularly controversial because many women don’t know they’re pregnant at that point, as it would only be two weeks after a missed menstrual cycle. The state also resurrected a 1925 law that opens abortion providers to lawsuits and civil penalties.

Abortion Laws in Texas

What is the Texas law that punishes people who perform or assist with abortion?

There are a number of laws on the books that penalize abortion. Some are new, such as the heartbeat and trigger law, and some have been in place for some time. Here’s an overview:

  • Texas Government Code Sec. 171.203 is commonly called the “heartbeat law.” This statute states that “a physician may not knowingly perform or induce an abortion on a pregnant woman unless the physician has determined, in accordance with this section, whether the woman’s unborn child has a detectable fetal heartbeat.

This law creates a civil penalty of $10,000 for anyone performing an abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected. There is no criminal penalty, but it allows any private citizen to sue for the $10,000, court costs, and attorney fees.

  • Health and Safety Code Section 171.018 sets out a penalty for doctors who perform an abortion without providing a sonogram, having the mother listen to the heart, and providing certain written and verbal explanations as a “misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $10,000.”
  • 171.065 makes it a state jail felony for a person to intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly cause a drug-induced abortion.
  • 171.102 makes it a state jail felony to perform a partial-birth abortion.
  • 171.153 makes it a state jail felony to perform a dismemberment abortion.
texas abortion law

What is the punishment for performing an abortion in Texas?

The Texas abortion law makes it a second-degree felony “for a person who knowingly performs, induces, or attempts an abortion.” The penalty is increased to a first-degree felony if the unborn child dies due to the offense.

Performing or aiding an abortion resulting in the unborn child’s death is a first-degree felony punishable by five to 99 years in prison, according to Texas Government Code Sec. 170A.002.

Under the law, administrative penalties include the mandatory revocation of a medical, nursing, or pharmacy license.

The statute also allows the Texas attorney general to seek a civil penalty of not less than $100,000, plus attorney’s fees and costs.

What are the exceptions under Texas abortion law?

The law criminalizes performing an abortion from the moment of fertilization unless the pregnant patient faces “a life-threatening physical condition aggravated by, caused by, or arising from a pregnancy.” There is no exception for rape or incest.

Can a pregnant patient be criminally prosecuted for abortion under Texas abortion law?

No. The statute explicitly prohibits prosecuting a pregnant patient who undergoes an abortion.

Who can be criminally prosecuted under the Texas abortion law?

Anyone who performs or aids an abortion or intends to perform or aid an abortion could be criminally prosecuted under the Texas abortion law.

Although a person receiving an abortion cannot be prosecuted under the law, anyone who helps the person have an abortion can be. Among those who could be sued under Texas abortion law include:

  • Medical personnel, including doctors and nurses
  • A family member or friend who helps pay for the procedure
  • A pharmacist who sells an abortion medication
  • Anyone who hands a medication abortion pill to another person
  • Anyone who drives the patient to a clinic or the place of the abortion (The ride-sharing companies Uber and Lyft have said they will cover the legal fees of any of their drivers sued under the law.)

Who can criminally prosecute under Texas abortion law?

Texas district attorneys can criminally prosecute abortions. Former Tarrant County Criminal District Attorney Sharen Wilson announced her office will enforce Texas abortion law.

However, other DA offices across the state, including in Dallas, Austin, and San Antonio, have publicly announced they would refrain from prosecuting.

Who can sue under the Texas abortion law?

Almost anyone. The legal “standing,” which determines whether one person can sue another for an injury or harm, is not necessary under the new Texas abortion law.

Can a rapist sue a victim if she aborts the pregnancy?

No. The perpetrator of rape, sexual assault, or incest can’t sue the victim or anyone who provided or assisted the victim in receiving an abortion.

But a non-perpetrator can sue over an abortion provided to the survivor, regardless of the circumstances surrounding the pregnancy.

Can a legal sex partner sue under Texas abortion law?

Yes, a man who impregnated the patient through legal, consensual sex can sue anyone who provides or aids in the abortion.

Can multiple plaintiffs sue the same defendant for the same abortion in Texas?

Yes, but only one plaintiff could collect damages. A Texas court cannot collect relief from the same defendant for the same abortion more than once.

The law doesn’t prevent one defendant from facing 10 different lawsuits from 10 different plaintiffs for the same abortion, but only one of the plaintiffs could collect damages.

This scenario could potentially cost significant time and money for the defendant.

Does the government enforce the Texas abortion law?

No. The law’s authors included provisions that prevent the government from enforcing or attempting to enforce the law. This was a legal maneuver by the law’s authors to help the law withstand any court challenges to its constitutionality.

How long does a plaintiff have to sue someone over a Texas abortion?

Plaintiffs have up to four years from when an abortion occurred to file a lawsuit against someone for performing or aiding in an abortion.

Is it illegal for a Texas resident to get an abortion in another state or country?

No. The new law, as stated earlier, prevents prosecution or lawsuits directed against people who get abortions. Furthermore, the new laws do not apply to anyone providing or assisting an abortion outside of Texas.

Does the Texas abortion law allow plaintiffs to sue anyone across the state?

Yes, the new Texas abortion law allows a plaintiff to file a suit against anyone in the state from the county of their residence. The law also prevents defendants from attempting to move the lawsuit venue to a different court unless the plaintiff agrees to the move. This part of the law could potentially cause significant expenses for defense attorneys if travel is necessary to argue multiple cases across Texas.

Is birth control and emergency contraception still legal in Texas?

Birth control and emergency contraceptives, such as Plan B or another morning-after pill that help prevent pregnancy within 72 hours after unprotected sex, remain legal under Texas abortion laws.

Plan B pills are different from medication abortion pills.

The U.S. Supreme Court added in its decision to overrule Roe v. Wade that the constitutional right to access contraceptives remains.

Need help against criminal prosecution of abortion? Call us.

The defense team at Varghese Summersett is ready to fight for you. Call us for a free consultation to discuss your options, the potential penalties, and the best way to move forward with a vigorous defense.

Call us at 817-203-2220.

Varghese Summersett

The most interesting part about any case is the evidence. This is especially true when a child is facing juvenile delinquency charges.  The first question on the minds of most parents, guardians, or loved ones of a juvenile facing charges is: What evidence is there and what proof exists that the juvenile committed the offense for which they are charged?

The law regarding what constitutes evidence, who must be given access to the evidence in juvenile cases, who may not be given access to the evidence in juvenile cases, and when evidence must be made available is found in several different legal sources. The US and Texas Constitutions, Texas Juvenile Justice Code, Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, Texas Rules of Evidence, and even rulings from prior appeals courts, including the United States Supreme Court, all have a say in these important questions.

This article explains the duties placed on the prosecuting attorney to produce evidence, the rights of the juvenile and their attorney to access evidence, and the limitations on the juvenile’s attorney when it comes to sharing evidence in juvenile cases.

Attorney Lisa Herrick is Lisa HerrickBoard Certified in Juvenile Law and has extensive experience obtaining and reviewing evidence in juvenile cases.  She believes in the importance of adhering to the law in order to get your child the best possible outcome while taking every step to protect their future.

Please take a moment to watch this video by Lisa in which she gives an overview of the usual procedure she follows when receiving and reviewing evidence in juvenile matters.

What is Considered Evidence in Juvenile Cases?

Anytime a police officer refers an allegation of juvenile delinquency to the juvenile probation intake department, that referral will include evidence supporting the officer’s belief that probable cause exists to find that the juvenile committed the offense or offenses alleged.  The evidence in juvenile cases may include 911 calls; officer body camera or in-car video recordings; written or recorded statements by witnesses, an alleged victim, or the accused juvenile; or forensic evidence like DNA tests, fingerprint analysis, toxicology analysis, or ballistics comparisons.  

The police officer or detective may continue the investigation after the referral is made, in which case all additional evidence would also be provided to the juvenile department.  Once the juvenile intake probation department gets the referral, the intake officer will conduct different evaluations, assessments, and interviews that become part of the juvenile’s file.  When the intake officer refers the case to the prosecutor’s office, the evidence gathered by the police department and the intake officer will be part of the file the prosecutor receives.  

After the prosecutor reviews all the evidence, including anything the prosecutor receives as a result of subpoenas or search warrants, the prosecutor will decide what charges, if any, should be filed against the juvenile.

juvenile evidence

evidence in juvenil cases

Who Has a Right to Access the Evidence in Juvenile Cases?

Any juvenile who has a case against them filed in the juvenile court has a right to have an attorney represent them.  According to Section 51.10(b) of the Juvenile Justice Code, The child shall not waive their right to an attorney in:

(1) a hearing to consider transfer to criminal code as required by Section 54.02;

(2) an adjudication hearing as required by Section 54.03;

(3) a disposition hearing as required by Section 54.04; 

(4) a hearing prior to commitment to the Texas Juvenile Justice Department as a modified disposition in accordance with Section 54.05(f); or

(5) hearings required by Chapter 55.

A juvenile must also be represented by an attorney at any detention hearings.

In short, this means a child must be represented by an attorney at every stage of the court proceedings.  Of course, nothing in the law prevents a child from retaining an attorney prior to or outside the scope of any court proceeding.

According to Article 39.14 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, after a child’s attorney requests the prosecutor to produce the evidence in a juvenile case, the prosecuting attorney “shall produce and permit the inspection and the electronic duplication, copying, and photographing… of any offense reports, any designated documents, papers, written or recorded statements… or any designated books, accounts, letters, photographs, or objects…that constitute or contain evidence material to any matter involved in the action and that are in the possession, custody, or control of the state or any person under contract with the state.” 

Section (e) of the same article states that the child’s attorney “…may not disclose to a third party any documents, evidence, materials, or witness statements received from the state under this article…” 

However, Section (f) provides that the attorney “may allow a [child], witness, or prospective witness to view the information provided under this article, but may not allow that person to have copies of the information provided, other than a copy of the witness’s own statement.”

Generally speaking, this means that the accused child has a right to review any and all evidence that exists in the case pending against the child, but the attorney may not allow the child to keep or copy any of that evidence.  This also means that, in most cases, the child’s parent or guardian may not be shown or given copies of any evidence in the case.

Attorney-Client Privilege

Separate and additional to the right to access evidence in their case, a child also has the right to communicate freely with their attorney and the attorney may not disclose to third parties any information the attorney learns through private conversations with the child.  This means that anything the child tells their attorney is confidential and the attorney is not permitted to repeat the information to anyone outside the legal team representing the child.

Rule 503(b)(2) of the Texas Rules of Evidence states that, “…a client has a privilege to prevent a lawyer or lawyers representative from disclosing any other fact that came to the knowledge of the lawyer or the lawyer’s representative by reason of the attorney-client relationship.”  

However, Rule 511(a) articulates that the attorney-client privilege, or confidentiality of communication, is waived if the child “…voluntarily discloses or consents to disclosure of any significant part of the privileged communications…”  This means that the communications between the child and their attorney are no longer protected and confidential if the information is repeated to anyone outside the child’s legal team or if the communication is made while others outside the child’s legal team are present when the otherwise privileged statements are made.

Juvenile Defense Lawyer Fort Worth | Board Certified Juvenile Defense

What Communication Can the Parent Expect from the Child’s Attorney?

While it may be frustrating to learn that, as a parent, you do not have a right to access the evidence in your child’s case, that doesn’t mean you should expect to be excluded from the process.  Your child’s attorney should ask you about the events of the allegation, if you have any knowledge about what happened.  The attorney should have a conversation with you about your child and ask about your child’s background, education, medical history, past contact with police or with the juvenile justice system, and anything else that would be important to know about your child.  The attorney should keep you updated on any hearings that are scheduled and should prepare you and your child for what to expect at each one.  The attorney should also discuss any plea negotiations with you and give your child a chance to discuss them with you.  Ultimately, the attorney should allow the parent to be involved in the process to the extent the child feels comfortable.

Child Accused of a Crime?  Call Lisa Herrick.

The right to both review and access evidence in a case is a right held only by the accused person and their attorney, even if the accused person is a juvenile.  If your child is accused of a crime in Tarrant County, you need an experienced juvenile attorney who can carefully analyze all evidence in your child’s case.  Your child also needs an attorney who can explain the evidence to them and answer any questions they may have. 

 When you are seeking representation for your child, look for an attorney who has expertise in handling juvenile cases and who will protect your child’s freedom and future.  Attorney Lisa Herrick has devoted her career to juveniles accused of crimes. She is considered an expert in juvenile law, a highly specialized area that very few North Texas attorneys understand.

Don’t let your child become another statistic in the juvenile justice system. Contact Lisa today to discuss how she can get you and your family through this difficult time. Ultimately, her goal is for juveniles in Tarrant County to receive a second chance at a productive life and avoid future brushes with the law. Call 817-203-2220 for a free consultation with Lisa today.

Varghese Summersett

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 is also illegal. 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.

The topics you search and view online, including illegal material, is 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 towards receiving a favorable outcome.

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.
“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 it illegal to search
Illegal Internet Search Attorney

Is visiting a website that hosts child porn illegal?

Yes, even if you didn’t intend on going to the site or did not know what it contained, it could still be grounds for a crime.

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 it’s vital to contact an illegal internet search attorney at Varghese Summersett.

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

According to the Texas Department of Public Safety, nearly 90,000 Texas drivers were pulled over on suspicion of driving while intoxicated in 2021.

Of those cases, nearly 12,000 were convicted of a crime, including more than 8,000 of DWI.

That leaves about 75,000 DWI cases without a conviction.

Many of those drivers either proved they weren’t inebriated or handled the incident properly from the moment they saw the police lights in their rearview mirror.

In this post, we’ll go over the 7 Things You Should Never Do If Stopped for DWI (or any other offense, for that matter).

Of course, you should never try to operate a moving vehicle if intoxicated. In fact, even if you weigh 300 pounds and consumed only one beer in over two hours, it’s not worth the headache, especially in this day and age when we have such easy ride-sharing apps at our fingertips to get us home safely and relatively cheaply.

If you’re facing a DWI offense, it’s important to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. The sooner a Varghese Summersett defense team member takes on your case, the better the chances for the most favorable outcome.

7 Things You Should Never Do If Stopped for DWI

Pull Over and Be Polite

Once you see a law enforcement officer pulling you over, put on your blinker to let them know you are complying and pull over at the soonest safe area, preferably off a major road or highway.
Remember, a smile and kindness go a long way. Have your license, registration, and insurance ready.

It will look better if you’re not shuffling through paperwork in the glove compartment or frantically rifling through your car looking for the documents when a law enforcement officer asks to see them.
If you haven’t yet gathered your documents, ask the officer if it’s OK for you to move to grab them. You should move slowly and deliberately.

Don’t act annoyed or defensive to the officer. Be curt but courteous.

Heads up: Remember that in most cases, the entire incident is being caught on video and audio. Being difficult or having an attitude toward the officer will not play well with a jury. If your case ends up in a trial, a video showing you being polite to the officer will make it much easier for the jurors to put themselves in your shoes.

No, You Don’t Know Why You Were Pulled Over

If the officer asks, “Do you know why I pulled you over?” your answer should be no. Don’t guess or assume the officer knows anything. Politely tell the officer, “No, sir (or ma’am).”
This open question by the officer is often a way to get a driver to admit to something, perhaps even something the officer wasn’t aware of. Don’t offer up a reason to arrest you to the officer.

In DWI cases, the state of Texas must show the officer had a good reason for pulling you over in the first place. Don’t give them options by answering, “I was driving too fast” or “I didn’t use my blinker.”

By answering their question this way, you are giving the officer a justifiable reason for stopping you, even if they didn’t realize you were speeding or failed to use your blinker.

7 Things You Should Never Do If Stopped For DWI

7 Things You Should Never Do If Stopped For DWI in Texas

Don’t Talk

Besides answering a few rudimentary questions (while being polite), you don’t need to keep talking to the officer. Don’t admit anything or give any kind of statement to the police and politely decline to answer questions. If the officer asks you how much you’ve had to drink or the time of your last drink, DO NOT answer these questions.

Never admit to consuming alcohol. The officer is likely to use anything you say in their retrograde extrapolation calculation. For instance, if you think telling an officer that you had a drink or two more than an hour ago, that information will be used by police to determine your blood-alcohol concentration, or BAC, at the time you are pulled over based on other known factors.

No one has ever explained their way out of a DWI arrest. You probably aren’t as convincing as you think, and that’s especially true if you’ve been drinking and are slurring your speech, stumbling, or swaying in front of the police.
Lastly, most people aren’t exactly about when they last had a drink, which can inaccurately make them seem more intoxicated through retrograde extrapolation.

Don’t Get Out of Your Vehicle

Don’t get out of your car unless law enforcement requests that you do so. Getting out and moving around is, in a way, your body language talking to the officer. They will be watching your movements, your gate, and how stable you are. Remember, we said DON’T TALK. That goes for body language, too. Stay put, stay still, unless the officer asks you to step out.

If you have alcohol on your breath, it’s better not to be face-to-face with an officer. That’s another reason to keep your mouth shut and say next to nothing because they will be looking to detect any smell of alcohol.

Decline all Field Sobriety, Blood, or Chemical Tests

You are required to step out of the vehicle if asked by the police. However, you are not required to submit to any roadside sobriety test. In fact, politely decline to perform any tests, give blood or submit to chemical tests. Even if you’re sure you’re sober, don’t volunteer to give a specimen of blood or perform a breath test.

Never. Ever.

Why? There are several reasons. These tests can be unreliable and inaccurate. A driver with an outrageous BAC might pass while a sober person might fail. Field sobriety tests aren’t required by law.

Take note: If you refuse a breathalyzer test, you could be convicted of driving under the influence, which could result in serious penalties. However, a skilled DWI defense lawyer will look for ways to invalidate the breathalyzer results.

Also, be advised: Refusing to submit to an indirect chemical test (urine or breath) or direct chemical test (blood) could result in a year-long administrative license suspension.

Refusing the tests doesn’t mean you will be convicted of DUI, but in most cases, you will have to serve the license suspension, pay additional fines, and install an interlock device on your car, among other potential penalties.

Under Texas’ implied consent laws, if you refuse to submit to such BACs, you are subject to a license suspension under the Administrative License Revocation program. You will also face a suspension for submitting and failing the test. In either case, your lawyer can help you fight a pending suspension.

If you refuse the test, the officer could attempt to obtain a warrant, allowing him or her to forcibly draw your blood for testing, but getting a warrant takes time, which could be a factor in challenging the test results.

Remember, you could be arrested after refusing BACs. However, the other evidence law enforcement may be relying on to arrest you could be challenged by an adept North Texas DWI defense lawyer.

Invoke Your Right to Remain Silent

Remember, we all have Miranda rights. If you have been placed in handcuffs, you must ask the officer to read your Miranda rights before they say anything else to you.

Before you’re in the custody of law enforcement, your statements are admissible in court. That’s why it’s essential that you are properly read your Miranda rights.

Your fifth amendment right only becomes relevant after law enforcement has read the Miranda warning to you.

Call Varghese Summersett ASAP

If you didn’t follow these 7 Things You Should Never Do If Stopped For DWI, all is not lost.
If you are facing DWI charges in North Texas, it’s imperative to consult with a dependable law firm with a track record of success.

Varghese Summersett provides unmatched service and results for its clients with a team of Board Certified criminal defense attorneys and former prosecutors with half a century of combined experience in Texas courtrooms.

For a free consultation, call us at 817-203-2220.

Varghese Summersett

What is an Arraignment in Texas?

An arraignment in Texas can mean two different things.

First, a person is arraigned at the inception of the case against them. This is when the judge reads and describes the nature of the charge aloud to the defendant. If a bond hasn’t been set, the judge will address the bond at this point in the arraignment process in Texas.

Second, another arraignment occurs after the case is filed. This is a critical stage in the Texas criminal justice system. The defendant is formally charged with an offense and enters a plea. During this arraignment, the judge reads the charges against the defendant, who then enters a plea of guilty, not guilty, or no contest.

In some jurisdictions, this occurs at a preliminary setting. In other jurisdictions, a defendant is arraigned when the case is set for trial.

This article will distinguish the two arraignments as the preliminary arraignment and the formal arraignment.

what happens at an arraignment

How does the Arraignment Process work in Texas?

Timeframe: The preliminary arraignment process in Texas typically occurs within 48 to 72 hours after an arrest. Texas Code of Criminal Procedure Article 26.01 states that the defendant must be arraigned in court without unnecessary delay.

Legal representation: At the preliminary arraignment, when the defendant is advised of his charge, attorneys for either side are not present.

At the formal arraignment, the defendant has the right to an attorney. The court appoints a public defender if the defendant cannot afford an attorney.

Plea options: The defendant will be asked to enter a plea during the arraignment. The options are:


    • Guilty – Defendant admits guilt, and the case proceeds to the sentencing phase.

    • Not Guilty – Defendant denies guilt, and the case proceeds to pretrial hearings and possibly a trial.

    • No contest (Nolo contendere) – Defendant neither admits nor disputes the charges, and the case proceeds to sentencing. Not all courts accept a plea of no contest. It is sometimes used to avoid the civil collateral consequences of a guilty plea in the criminal context.

What are the Bail and Bond Conditions at Preliminary Arraignments in Texas?

During the preliminary arraignment, Texas judges determine if the defendant should be released on bail or remain in custody until trial. The judges consider factors such as the defendant’s criminal history, flight risk, and the nature of the alleged offense.

If the judge sets bail, the defendant may be released upon payment of a bond, a financial guarantee that the defendant will return to court for future proceedings. Bail conditions may also be imposed, such as a no-contact order or substance-abuse treatment requirements.

How should you prepare for your formal arraignment in Texas?

For the best outcome in your case, you should follow these steps ahead of your formal arraignment:

Hire an experienced criminal defense attorney: Retain an attorney who specializes in criminal defense and is familiar with the local courts and Texas laws.

Gather documentation: Obtain copies of police reports, witness statements, and any other evidence that may support your defense. Provide those to your attorney.

Review your options: Discuss your plea options and potential defense strategies with your attorney. Remember, you don’t have to navigate this process alone. The defense team at Varghese Summersett will guide you through the arraignment process in Texas, help gather the documents, and have you fully prepared for each step. Call us today at 817-203-2220 or contact us online.

Are you or a family member facing an arraignment hearing? Call us.

Don’t face the arraignment process alone. Call Varghese Summersett today for expert legal representation. Our team has unmatched results over four decades of defending clients in North Texas. We can help you throughout the arraignment process in Texas.

For a complimentary consultation, call us at 817-203-2220 or contact us online.

If you fail to appear at your arraignment, the judge may issue an arrest warrant, and you could face additional charges for failure to appear in court.

Yes, you can change your plea after the arraignment, but you must request permission from the court. The judge will consider factors such as the stage of the case, the reason for the change, and potential prejudice to the prosecution before granting or denying the request.

If you do not understand the charges at the preliminary arraignment, inform the judge and ask for clarification. If it is a formal arraignment, consult with your attorney.

In some circumstances, the arraignment can be waived with the consent of the court. Your attorney can file a written waiver on your behalf, which generally will include your plea of not guilty and any requests for discovery.

Yes, you can request a jury trial during the formal arraignment. In Texas, the right to a jury trial is guaranteed for all criminal cases.

Following the arraignment, the case proceeds to pretrial hearings, where your attorney can negotiate with the prosecutor, file motions, and address any legal issues. If the case is not resolved through a plea agreement or dismissal, it proceeds to trial.

In some cases, the judge may release a defendant on their own recognizance, which means the defendant is released without posting bail, based on a promise to appear in court for future proceedings.

Factors considered include the defendant’s ties to the community, employment, criminal history, and the nature of the alleged offense.

Accordion Content

Texas does not formally recognize conditional pleas, where a defendant pleads guilty while preserving the right to appeal specific legal issues.

However, your attorney can work with the prosecutor to structure a plea agreement that addresses your concerns and provides for a potential appeal.

Dress professionally and conservatively for your arraignment. Appropriate attire includes a suit, dress shirt, slacks, or a dress. Avoid wearing casual clothing, including jeans, t-shirts, or sneakers.

Yes, the prosecution can amend the charges against you after the arraignment if they discover new evidence or determine that different charges are more appropriate. Your attorney will have the opportunity to review any changes and advise you on how to proceed.

Varghese Summersett

When a juvenile is adjudicated of a crime in Texas, they will receive either a determinate or indeterminate sentence. These two sentencing options have different implications for the juvenile’s future, so it’s important to understand both – especially if you have a child facing juvenile prosecution.

Like most everything in the juvenile system, determinate and indeterminate sentences can be confusing – even for attorneys and legal professionals. That’s why it is so important to have an experienced juvenile defense attorney in your corner if your child has been taken into custody.

At Varghese Summersett, we are fortunate to have one of the foremost experts in Texas juvenile law on our team. Attorney Lisa Herrick is Board Certified in Juvenile Law – one of only a handful of attorneys in North Texas who holds this distinction.

In this article, we will explore the key differences between determinate and indeterminate sentences in Texas juvenile justice system and answer some frequently asked questions. But first please, take a moment to watch this video by Lisa in which she gives an overview of determinate and indeterminate sentencing in Texas.

What are the Main Differences Between a Determinate and Indeterminate Sentence for Texas Juveniles?

It’s important for juveniles and their parents to understand the differences between a determinate and indeterminate sentence because it dictates how long the justice system will have jurisdiction over the youth.

  • Determinate Sentence

A determinate sentence is a fixed length, meaning the juvenile offender will be placed on probation or incarcerated for a specified period of time. For example, if a 16-year-old boy is sentenced to 10 years in prison for aggravated robbery, he will be under court supervision for 10 years.

The teen would start the sentence at the Texas Juvenile Justice Department (TJJD), which is juvenile prison. Just before his 19th birthday, a hearing will be conducted to determine whether the youth will be transferred to the adult prison to complete his sentence or discharged. If the judge does transfer him, he will be eligble for parole under the normal parole rules for adult offenders.

A determinate sentence typically applies to older juveniles or repeat offenders who committed a very serious felony offense, such as murder, aggravated robbery, and sexual assault. In fact, a determinate sentence can only be used for certain felony offenses, which we explain below.

  • Indeterminate Sentence

An indeterminate sentence is not a set prison sentence. A number of years or months is not attached to a conviction, which is referred to as “adjudication” in the juvenile system.

Instead, juvenile authorities at TJJD will determine how long a youth will be incarcerated based on how well they “work the program.” The sentence depends on the youth’s progress, behavior, commitment to treatment, rehabilitation, and risk of reoffending.

If the child is placed on probation, however, the judge will give a set length of time. However, a juvenile cannot be kept on probation for an indeterminate sentence past their 18th birthday or held in TJJD past their 19th birthday. Once those ages are reached, the juvenile must be discharged and juvenile authorities lose jurisdiction entirely. A juvenile also cannot be placed on parole past their 19th birthday.


Determinate vs. Indeterminate Sentencing in Texas

Who Determines Whether to Seek a Determinate or Indeterminate Sentence?

The type of sentence a juvenile faces is determined by the prosecutor. An indeterminate sentence is the standard for most juvenile cases. However, if the prosecutor believes that a determinate sentence is warranted, they can’t just make they can’t make that decision unilaterally. They must first get approval by a grand jury.  This is the equivalent of a grand jury indictment in adult criminal court.

If the prosecutor’s petition for a determinate sentence is approved by the grand jury, then it becomes a determinate sentencing case. If the petition is denied, then the youth will receive an indeterminate sentence if convicted, which means authorities in the juvenile justice system will determine how long a youth serves.

What Offenses are Eligible for a Determinate Sentence?

Section 53.045 of the Texas Family Code lists offenses that are eligible for determinate sentencing, including:

When deciding whether to pursue a determinate sentence, the prosecutor will consider the nature and severity of the offense, the juvenile’s age, criminal history, and level of culpability, progress, behavior in detention, and risk of re-offending.

What is the Range of Punishment for a Determinate Sentence?

If a juvenile is adjudicated (convicted) on a determinate sentencing case, he or she faces the following punishment:

  • Third Degree Felony: 0 to 10 years
  • Second Degree Felony: 0 to 20 years
  • First Degree Felony: 0 to 40 years

As you can see, there is no minimum punishment range on determinate sentencing cases and the maximum punishment is capped at 40 years. In the adult criminal justice system there is a minimum punishment and the maximum punishment for a first-degree felony is life in prison.

punishment for determinate sentences in texas

Who Asseses Punishment after a Juvenile is Ajudicated (Convicted?)

For an indeterminate sentencing case, the judge will assess punishment, basically deciding whether probation or incarceration at TJJD is appropriate. However, for determinate sentencing cases, the juvenile may choose to have a judge or jury assess punishment.

Can a Determinate Sentence be Changed to an Indeterminate Sentence?

Once a sentence has been imposed, it cannot be changed to a different type of sentence. However, the prosecutor has the power to waive determinate sentencing before the juvenile has been adjudication. This sometimes occurs during plea negotiations, when the prosecutor offers an indeterminate sentence in exchange for the juvenile admitting guilt.

When Do Prosecutors Seek to Certify a Child as an Adult?

In extremely serious cases, prosecutors may forgo determinate or indeterminate sentencing and seek to certify a juvenile as an adult. The decision to certify a child to stand trial as an adult must be granted by a juvenile judge after a hearing. If the judge agrees to certify the juvenile, the case will be transferred to adult criminal court and the minor will be tried as an adult and will face the full range of adult punishment associated with the offense for which they are charged.

If the judge does not agree to certify the child, the juvenile court retains jurisdiction and the prosecutor can proceed under determinate and indeterminate sentencing.

Can a Juvenile’s Record be Sealed if they Receive a Determinate Sentence?

No, if a juvenile receives a determinate sentence their record cannot be sealed. Unfortunately, the offense can follow them for the rest of their life. That’s one of the reasons why it is so important to have a highly skilled juvenile attorney advocating for them every step of the way in an effort to receive the best possible outcome.

Child Accused of a Crime? Call Lisa Herrick.

Attorney Lisa Herrick has extensive experience handling determinate and indeterminate juvenile cases. Before going into private practice as a juvenile defense attorney, she spent years as a juvenile prosecutor. Serving on both sides, coupled with Board Certification in juvenile law, puts Lisa in an elite class of juvenile attorneys in North Texas. She is devoted to helping juvenile offenders get their lives back on track so they can have a successful future.

If your child has been accused of a crime, call Lisa at 817-203-2220 for a free consultation today.

Juvenile Defense Lawyer Fort Worth | Board Certified Juvenile Defense

Varghese Summersett

What is Conduct Indicating a Need for Supervision in Texas?

Conduct indicating a need for supervision, or CINS, involves a fine-only offense other than a traffic violation.

If your child is facing a juvenile violation in Tarrant County, contact an experienced Fort Worth CINS juvenile attorney.

CINS violations often require varying levels of probation but don’t include juvenile detention, jail, or prison. These cases are tried in juvenile court.

It’s essential to consult with an experienced Fort Worth CINS juvenile attorney as soon as possible. Varghese Summersett’s Lisa Herrick is one of three Board Certified juvenile defense attorneys in Tarrant County.

In this post, we’ll explain what Texas considers conduct indicating a need for supervision, the potential consequences, and how CINS are different than delinquent conduct.

What happens if my child is accused of a CINS violation in Fort Worth?

Juveniles accused of a CINS violation or delinquent conduct are usually referred to juvenile court. Depending on the alleged violation, the child could be returned home or be charged with an offense.

CINS violations are less serious offenses than delinquent behavior, but could still result in probation or other actions required by Tarrant County Juvenile Services.

Having a dedicated Fort Worth CINS juvenile attorney guiding you and your child through the process is indispensable. Call Varghese Summersett to discuss your case with Lisa.

What are the major CINS violations in Texas?

Conduct indicating a need for supervision offenses are less serious types of juvenile offenses.
CINS are offenses that would not force adults to jail or prison if they committed the same offense, and adults would likely only receive a fine if convicted.
Although offenses such as truancy, alcohol or tobacco use, or violations of certain court orders could require a CINS designation, Texas classifies the following six behaviors as CINS offenses for juveniles in the Juvenile Justice Code:

Any fineable offense
Running away
Inhalant abuse
expulsion from school
Conduct violating a court order for a child declared at risk

What are the consequences of CINS in Fort Worth?

CINS are not criminal offenses. However, juveniles do face legal consequences if adjudicated.
The state has a wide range of options if a juvenile is charged with conduct indicating a need for supervision.
A judge can issue probation but can’t send a juvenile to the Texas Juvenile Justice Department for detention for a CINS violation. Probation restrictions set by the judge typically depend on the seriousness of the infraction.

For offenses involving emotional, sexual, or behavioral issues, juveniles can be required to complete a diversionary program. If drugs or alcohol are involved, they could be required to enroll in a substance abuse treatment program.
To better understand the type of consequences for your child, consult with a top Fort Worth CINS juvenile attorney.

Fort Worth CINS juvenile attorney

How is delinquent conduct different than CINS?

Texas law describes delinquent conduct as any state or federal law violation that is punishable by jail or prison for adults other than traffic offenses.

A juvenile offense classified as delinquent conduct is comparable to a felony or Class B misdemeanor or higher, such as driving while intoxicated, intoxication assault, sex offenses, or contempt of court.

Is your child facing legal trouble? Call Varghese Summersett.

If your child has been accused of a CINS violation or is facing a legal issue, contact a skilled Fort Worth CINS juvenile attorney as soon as possible. Lisa Herrick at Varghese Summersett is one of three Board Certified juvenile defense attorneys in Tarrant County.

She will protect your child’s rights and work to resolve the issue in the most favorable manner possible.

For a free consultation, call us at 817-203-2220.

Varghese Summersett

What is a juvenile adjudication hearing in Texas?

The juvenile justice system in Texas is much different than the adult system. The terminology and procedures are different, and it is easy to get confused – especially when words like “juvenile adjudication” and “delinquent conduct” are used.

In short, a juvenile adjudication hearing is a trial – similar to an adult criminal trial – in which a judge or jury determines if a juvenile committed an offense. The words “guilty” and “not guilty” are not used in the juvenile system. Instead, they use the words “true” or “not true.”

In the article, we’ll explain what happens during a juvenile adjudication hearing and what happens when a child is found to have engaged in delinquent conduct – the equivalent of being convicted in the adult system.Lisa Herrick Juvenile Defense Lawyer

If your child has been accused of committing a crime in Tarrant County or North Texas, it’s important to contact an experienced juvenile attorney as soon as possible. Attorney Lisa Herrick is a highly-regarded Board Certified Juvenile Attorney at Varghese Summersett, where she specializes in defending youth ages 10 through 16.

Important Juvenile Terms to Know

If your child has been accused of committing an offense and is facing a juvenile trial – legally referred to as an adjudication hearing – it’s important to familiarize yourself with common terms that you will likely hear your attorney say or in court.

Respondent: In the juvenile system, youth accused of crimes are referred to as “respondents.” In the adult system, individuals accused of a crime are referred to as “defendants.”

Delinquent Conduct: Under Section 51.03 (a) (1) of the Texas Family Code, delinquent conduct is defined as conduct, other than a traffic offense, that violates a state or federal law and, if committed by an adult, would be punishable by prison or jail. This includes Class A and B misdemeanors, as well as felony offenses. Think of delinquent conduct as a “charge” and can include:

Adjudication hearing: An adjudication hearing is a trial where a judge or jury will decide whether the allegations made against the juvenile are true or not true. An adjudication hearing will only occur if the juvenile is pleading “not true” – that is, “not guilty” – to the crime for which he or she is charged. 

Adjudicated delinquent: If a juvenile has been adjudicated delinquent, that means a judge or jury has found the allegations against the juvenile to be true and is in need of rehabilitation. In other words, they will face consequences/punishment. This is the equivalent to a “guilty” verdict in adult court.

Adjudicated not delinquent: When a juvenile has been adjudicated not delinquent after a trial, that means the allegations against the juvenile have been found not true by a judge or jury. The case (or petition) against the juvenile will be dismissed. This is the equivalent to a “not guilty” verdict in adult court.

What happens during a juvenile adjudication hearing?

As mentioned, a juvenile adjudication hearing is basically the equivalent to an adult criminal trial. The hearing must be before a jury of 12 people unless the juvenile waives that right and elects to have a trial before a judge instead. In that case, a judge – not a jury- will decide if the child engaged in delinquent conduct by committing a crime.

At the beginning of the hearing, the juvenile court judge will explain to the child, as well as his or her parents or guardian, the allegations, the nature and possible consequences of the proceedings, and the juvenile’s legal rights.

Afterward, just like in an adult criminal trial, both sides will present evidence. The prosecution will call witnesses and introduce evidence in an effort to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the child committed the offense for which he or she is accused. The defense will defend the child by cross-examining the state’s witnesses and present evidence on behalf of the juvenile. Afterward, both sides will have an opportunity to give closing arguments.

At the conclusion, the jury will deliberate (or the judge if it is a bench trial) and issue its decision as to whether or not the juvenile engaged in delinquent conduct.

If the state did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the child engaged in the alleged conduct, the court must dismiss the case. This is referred to as adjudicated not delinquent.

If the judge or jury (by a unanimous verdict) finds that the child engaged in delinquent conduct, the court will adjudicate delinquent and set a date for a disposition, or a sentencing hearing. Most of the time in Tarrant County, the disposition hearing will occur on the same day, directly after the adjudication hearing

Can a child plead true (or guilty) and avoid a trial?

Yes, if the juvenile chooses to waive a trial, and admit responsibility, he or she can stipulate to the evidence and enter a plea of “true.” The case can then proceed to a disposition hearing. If all parties come to an agreement about appropriate punishment, the case could also potentially be resolved through a plea bargain agreement if approved by the judge.

What happens during a juvenile disposition hearing?

During the disposition hearing, a judge will hear evidence to decide the appropriate punishment and rehabilitation for the juvenile offender. There is no right to a jury in a disposition hearing except in determinate sentencing cases, which are reserved for the most serious crimes. Punishment can include anything from probation, placement out of the home, or commitment to the Texas Juvenile Justice Department (TJJD), which is basically prison for juveniles.

Who is in the courtroom during a juvenile adjudication hearing?

The judge, juvenile, prosecutor, defense attorney, probation officer, bailiff and court reporter will all be present in the courtroom at the juvenile adjudication hearing. The juvenile’s parent or guardian will also be present in the courtroom. If the parents are unable to attend, the court will appoint a guardian ad litem. Witnesses are required to stay outside the courtroom until they are called to testify. Juvenile courtrooms are also generally open to the public if the child is 14 or older.

How common are juvenile adjudication hearings in Tarrant County?

In 2021, there were a total 1043 juvenile adjudication hearings held in Tarrant County, according to a 2021 Tarrant County Juvenile Services Annual Report. That accounts for about 20 percent of all juvenile hearings in the county.

Juvenile accused of a crime in North Texas? Contact Attorney Lisa Herrick.

If you are in search of a highly experienced juvenile defense attorney in Fort Worth, Dallas, or the surrounding areas, you have come to the right place. Attorney Lisa Herrick is Board Certified in Juvenile law – one of only three attorneys in Tarrant County to hold this prestigious distinction. Board certification means she is considered a legal expert, making her the best of the best in this highly specialized area of law.

Not only is Lisa extremely knowledgeable and highly skilled, but she is a fighter. She will leave no stone unturned in her effort to protect your child’s rights and freedom. Call Lisa today for a free consultation at 817-203-2220.

Varghese Summersett

Overview of Insurance Fraud in Texas

Insurance fraud is a white-collar crime that occurs when an individual or entity intentionally provides false or misleading information to an insurance company for financial gain. In Texas, insurance fraud can be charged under the Texas Penal Code Section 35.02, which makes it illegal to knowingly or intentionally engage in fraudulent activities related to insurance claims or policies.

If you have been accused of insurance fraud in Texas, contact Varghese Summersett as soon as possible. Our team of criminal defense attorneys includes Board Certified specialists and former prosecutors with more than four decades of combined experience fighting insurance fraud claims.

Types of Insurance Fraud

There are various forms of insurance fraud that can be committed in Texas. Some common examples include:

False Claims

Submitting false or exaggerated claims to an insurance company to receive undeserved benefits. This can occur in various types of insurance, such as auto, health, life, or property insurance.

Application Fraud

Providing false information on an insurance application to obtain coverage or lower premiums. This can involve misrepresenting facts about one’s personal history, health conditions, or property conditions.

Fraudulent Policies

Selling or issuing counterfeit or unauthorized insurance policies or knowingly assisting others in obtaining such policies.

Agent and Broker Fraud

Insurance agents or brokers engaging in deceptive practices, such as embezzling premiums, forging signatures, or steering clients towards unnecessary or overpriced coverage.

Elements of Insurance Fraud

To be charged with insurance fraud under Section 35.02, an individual must knowingly or intentionally:

  • Prepare, present, or cause to be presented a statement in support of a claim for payment or other benefits under an insurance policy that the individual knows contains false or misleading material information.
  • Solicit, offer, pay, or accept any benefit in connection with a claim for payment or other benefits under an insurance policy, knowing the claim contains false or misleading material information.
  • Conceal, remove, or dispose of property with the intent to defraud or deceive an insurer.
  • Prepare or cause to be prepared a statement for use in an application for an insurance policy that the individual knows contains false or misleading material information.

Penalties for Insurance Fraud in Texas

The penalties for insurance fraud in Texas are determined based on the value of the claim or benefits obtained or sought through the fraudulent act:

  • Less than $2,500: Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to 1 year in jail and a fine of up to $4,000.
  • $2,500 to $30,000: Third-degree felony, punishable by 2 to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
  • $30,000 to $150,000: Second-degree felony, punishable by 2 to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
  • $150,000 or more: First-degree felony, punishable by 5 to 99 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

understanding insurance fraud in texas

Defending Against Insurance Fraud Allegations

A skilled defense attorney can evaluate your case and develop a tailored strategy to contest insurance fraud charges. Some potential defenses include:

Lack of Intent

Demonstrating that you did not knowingly or intentionally provide false or misleading information to the insurance company. This may involve proving that any inaccuracies were the result of a mistake or misunderstanding.

Insufficient Evidence

Challenging the evidence presented by the prosecution, such as by questioning the validity of documents or the credibility of witnesses, to establish that there is not enough evidence to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.


Arguing that law enforcement induced you to commit insurance fraud when you would not have otherwise done so through coercion, persuasion, or other means.

Good Faith

Asserting that you had a reasonable, good-faith belief that the information you provided was accurate, even if it later turned out to be incorrect.

Recent Texas insurance fraud cases in the news

  • In February 2023, former NFL receiver Corey Bradford pleaded guilty to submitting fraudulent health reimbursement claims after an investigation by the Texas Department of Insurance Fraud Unit. Bradford submitted claims for more than $224,000 to the NFL Player Health Reimbursement Plan for medical treatments he never received. He received 10 years deferred adjudication, 60 hours of community service, and was ordered to pay restitution.
  • In February 2023, the Louisiana Department of Insurance ordered a Houston-based law firm to cease and desist after finding it engaged in insurance fraud and unfair trade practices through an illegal scheme involving Alabama-based Apex Roofing and Restoration.
  • In January 2023, San Elizario mayor Isela Reyes was arrested for insurance fraud. She is accused of filing a fraudulent insurance claim with a value between $2,500 and $30,000 in March 2022.

Do you or a loved one need an insurance fraud lawyer? Call us.

If you are facing an insurance fraud accusation, don’t hesitate to protect your rights and reputation. The defense firm at Varghese Summersett can help.

For a complimentary consultation, call us today at 817-203-2220 or contact us online.