Some Sobering Facts About Driving Under the Influence

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Before going to that holiday party, remember the consequences of driving while intoxicated.

December is National Drunk and Drugged Driving prevention month.  And that makes sense: too many out-of-control holiday merrymakers get behind the wheel, unaware that their irresponsible behavior could potentially endanger the lives of those around them.

In all states including Texas, a person with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08 is considered legally intoxicated. But it doesn’t take much—just a few drinks for some people depending on such factors as height, weight and gender—for the effects of alcohol to take hold. Consider the following blood alcohol facts:

  • At a BAC of .02, a person experience loss of judgment and has trouble doing two tasks at the same time
  • At .05, he or she will have reduced coordination, a deteriorating ability to track objects and difficulty steering
  • At .08, the individual will have trouble controlling speed and have difficulty reasoning
  • At .10, a person will have greatly slowed reaction times and difficulty keeping a car in one lane
  • At a BAC of .15, she or she will be unable to control a vehicle

The effects of drugs—both legal and illegal—on driving are similar. Like alcohol, drugs also can impair a driver’s motor skills, reaction time and judgment and lead to equally devastating consequences.

According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), alcohol and/or drugs causes 52% of all fatal accidents on Christmas and 57% on New Year’s Day. When you are on the road this holiday season, stay aware of other drivers especially at night. However, if you or a loved one is involved in a collision with a drunk and/or drugged driver, count on the attorneys at the Barrera Law Firm to help you seek the legal and financial restitution you deserve.

False Reports of Child Abuse

Child abuse is an ugly subject.  It’s hard to imagine anything more despicable than deliberately harming a defenseless child.  

What, exactly, constitutes child abuse?

Child abuse includes:

    • Mental or emotional injury to a child that results in an observable and material impairment in the child’s growth, development, or psychological functioning
    • Causing or permitting the child to be in a situation in which the child sustains a mental or emotional injury that results in an observable and material impairment in the child’s growth, development, or psychological functioning
    • Physical injury that results in substantial charm to the child, or the genuine threat of substantial harm from physical injury to the child
    • Failure to make a reasonable effort to prevent an action by another person that results in physical injury causing substantial harm to the child
    • Sexual conduct harmful to a child’s mental, emotional, or physical welfare
    • Failure to make a reasonable effort to prevent sexual conduct harmful to a child
    • Compelling or encouraging the child to engage in sexual conduct
    • Causing, permitting, encouraging, engaging in, or allowing the photographic or other depiction of the child that is obscene
    • Using a controlled substance in a manner or to the extent that the use results in physical, mental, or emotional injury to a child
    • Causing, expressly permitting, or encouraging a child to use a controlled substance
    • Child trafficking
  • Forcing a child into marriage

Penalties for child abuse are swift and certain, as are penalties for false allegations of child abuse.  If it is established that a party knowingly made false allegations of child abuse, that false report can be used against the one making the false allegation during custody proceedings.

If you have been falsely accused of child abuse, contact us for help.  Call us at (956) 428-2822 for a free consultation or complete our online form.

First Step of Preparing Your Criminal Defense: Meeting With Your Lawyer

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Accused of a crime? Be sure you understand your rights, and be prepared. Call The Barrera Law Firm.
Preparing to go to trail in Harlingen, McAllen, Brownsville, or anywhere for that matter, to defend yourself in a criminal defense case is nothing short of nerve racking. You will be fighting for your freedom, and this is a battle that no one wants to lose. Without a good criminal defense lawyer, you could end up getting the book thrown at you, getting slapped with high fines and jail time. Your first meeting with your criminal defense lawyer will set the stage for your defense strategy. Being prepared for that meeting will get your case off to a great start by giving your lawyer a better chance at building a good defense strategy.

  1. Be prepared to answer some questions. Your lawyer is going to need all of the details about what happened. You may want to sit down a few days before your meeting and write down all of the details you remember about what happened to you before, during, and after your arrest. Your lawyer is going to ask you to remember the names and details of all the people involved in your case, their role, what they know and what you think they might know. You will also want to recount all the details you can remember about your arrest. If the arresting officers made mistakes and you can remember them, it may be important to your case.
  2. Have your own questions to ask. You will also want to prepare some questions of your own for your criminal defense lawyer. Ask how long they have been working in criminal defense, if they have had cases similar to your own, and what the outcome was. Ask their opinion on the outcome of your own case, including the best and worse case scenarios. Find out how much their services are going to cost and how they accept payment. Knowing up front all of the details will ensure that there are no surprises later on down the road.
  3. Bring documents and evidence with you. Bring all of the documents associated with your case to the meeting with your criminal defense lawyer. This includes items you feel could be used as evidence, such as letters, photos, emails or other documents. Bring your arrest records, and any paperwork you were given by the police. Your lawyer will be better prepared to build a winning defense strategy for your case if they have all of the evidence needed to back it up.
  4. Listen to your lawyer’s advice. Your lawyer will have some advice for you at the end of the meeting. They may tell you where to go and where to avoid, who to speak with and who to not speak with. Pay attention to their advice and even write it down. Your criminal defense lawyer is familiar with the system and knows what it will take to win your case. Going against their advice could end up costing you in the end if it causes your case to end in a guilty verdict.

Criminal Law and Your Constitutional Rights

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Our attorneys know your rights. Call The Barrera Law Firm.
One of the areas of law The Barrera Law Firm participates in is criminal law, more appropriately called constitutional law. When one is accused of a crime, when one is called before a court to answer up on a crime, people need to know they have rights, and those rights come from the Constitution and those rights come from under the law themselves. Individuals will often feel the full force and burden of the state or federal government when they are accused of a federal crime. Often, people aren’t even aware they are committing a crime. Sometimes people are inaccurately or inappropriately accused of crimes. Either way, they should immediately seek the assistance of an attorney to fight for their rights, to ensure that all avenues are explored and that the government meets its burden to provide evidence on every allegation they bring forth.

When you hire an attorney you should ensure that attorney cares about your case. You should ensure that attorney will sit down with you and listen to all your needs and concerns, and that the attorney is there for you. An important aspect of choosing an attorney is being able to feel comfortable with communicating to that attorney and feeling like that attorney is comfortable in communicating to you. Through communication you can achieve quite a bit and it is important that an attorney especially cares about you and he cares about your case.

Making a Strong Criminal Defense Strategy

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Help justice fall in your favor. Call The Barrera Law Firm for a free consultation.
Ending up on the wrong end of the law, whether you are guilty of an actual crime or not, is no laughing matter. It is a serious situation that deserves a your utmost attention. Building a strong criminal defense strategy is important as it is all that stands between you and your freedom and heavy fines. Don’t wait until the last minute to plan your defense strategy as you want to give yourself plenty of time to prepare so your defense will go smoothly when you finally have your day in court.

  1. Choose your criminal defense team wisely. Always research at least three criminal defense lawyers before you decide on one. Choose one that has had experience with your specific type of situation. You may want to ask friends and family if they have had any experience with criminal defense lawyers. If you know of anyone who has had a case like yours and won, make sure you give their lawyer a try. A criminal defense team that is familiar with your type of case will better your chances of getting a verdict that falls in your favor.
  2. Discuss your defense options. Talk to your lawyer about your defense options. There are generally three versions of events that defendants of criminal defense cases have. The three options are a confession, in which you admit your guilt, a complete denial, in which you deny your part in the crime, and an admit and explain story, in which you admit to part of the story but not all of it.
  3. Disclose any and all details of your case to your criminal defense team. It is important to give your criminal defense team all of the details concerning your story. They need to know if there is any chance of surprise evidence or witnesses coming forward for the prosecutor. When your lawyer knows the whole story, they can prepare your defense around it.
  4. Decide on a strategy and then stick with your story. Once you and your criminal defense team have decided on a defense strategy, you will need to come up with a solid story. Practice your story day and night. Go over every detail until you know it by heart. Its easy to get scared and confused once you get up on the witness stand to be interrogated by the prosecutor. Having your side of the story completely planned and ready to go will help take the edge off so you wont’ appear so nervous to the jury when you are in the hot seat.
  5. Look professional when you show up in court. When you show up in court, make sure you look your best. For men, you should wear either a suit or at least a button down shirt and slacks. Try to cover, or minimize, tattoos and jewelry. Women should look professional as well, in either a pants suit or dress. Looking your best for court shows that you are serious. Since this will be the first impression the jury has of you, make sure it is a good one as they will be deciding your fate.

Expunge or Non Disclose; What’s the Difference?

In Texas, people sometimes confuse the law on whether they qualify to expunge an arrest record and record of prosecution.  Some people will request an expunction, although they pleaded guilty. If you pleaded guilty, most likely, you do not qualify for an expunction. Pre Trial Diversion Program completions may qualify, depending on what their Pre Trial Diversion Contract says. Also, depending on the method of dismissal, a waiting period may apply to expunge your criminal case as well.  Another important distinction is whether you received a deferred ajudication when you case was dismissed. If you did, and your offense is a Class B Misdemeanor or higher, than you likely do not qualify for an expunction and you would instead have to get an Order of Non Disclosure.

What’s the difference between the two?

The difference is an expunction is an order to destroy all records of arrest and prosecution and a non disclosure basically orders Texas DPS and other governmental agencies to not disclose the record of arrest and prosecution to certain private entities only.


For more information, please schedule a free consultation with Attorney Ricardo A. Barrera at (956) 428 2822.


Teenagers and the Law

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Studies show police may be arresting more The Barrera Law Firm for a free legal consulation.
In recent years, it’s become increasingly common for adolescents who run afoul of the law to be charged as adults. Law enforcement officers are treating behaviors like shoplifting or drug possession that were once viewed as youthful mistakes with much greater severity.

Greater police intolerance for even the most seemingly minor of illegal activities may help to explain why more young people are being arrested and charged with juvenile crimes in the last few decades. A study published in the journal Pediatrics reports that 16 to 27% of study participants were arrested by age 18 and that up to to 41% of American adolescents have been arrested at least once for the age of 23 for offenses other than minor traffic violations.

Investigators looked at findings derived from a national survey that tracked 7000 young people between 1997 and 2008.  If the results are wide-ranging, it is likely because not all participants remained involved with the study for the full 11 years. Still, the study is important because it reveals that the rate of arrests among adolescents has increased rather dramatically since researchers last revisited the issue in the mid-1960s.

The data is also significant for what it suggests not only about American young people, but also about changes in the culture of law enforcement. While no definitive conclusion can be reached based on a single study, what is clear is that while youth arrests may be more prevalent now, they are no less stigmatized by society.

If a teenaged loved one has been arrested and charged with a crime, it’s imperative that you get the young adult involved to seek legal assistance.


Early Termination of Probation in Texas

Early termination of probation was created by the Texas Legislature to reward those who have complied with their requirements of probation and have reformed as a result of it. The Texas Code of Criminal Procedure Article 42.12 Section 12, allows a defendant to apply for early termination who has completed either 1/3rd of there probation or 18 months- whichever is less.

Early termination of probation is best applied for when you have paid all fines, court costs and restitution (if required). Also, courts look to see if you have violated your probation in the past. Individuals that are on community supervision as result of a Deferred Adjudication may also be eligible for early termination. There are circumstances and certain offenses that will prevent you from being accepted for early termination of community supervision or probation that can be complex.

Can You Go to Jail for Hot Checks in Texas?

hot checks texasIn Texas, a person commits a crime if they write a check in exchange for something, knowing they do not have enough funds to pay for that thing at the time they wrote it.

While prosecuting you, prosecutors will have the benefit of automatically showing you knew there was not enough funds if you:

1. fail to pay the hot check within 10 days after you received the proper and mandatory notification under law stating that you had insufficient funds, and

2. providing that the bank let you know within 30 days after you gave the hot check to another in exchange for something.

If a check is under $1,500, is over two years old, and an arrest warrant was not issued during that two year period, the case may be defeated on the grounds that the statute of limitations has run. If the check is more that $1,500, is over five years old, and an arrest warrant was not issued during that five year period, the case may also be defeated on the grounds of statute of limitations. Hot check cases that are over $20 are punishable by jail time, fines, and court costs.

It is important that a competent attorney be retained that will force the prosecution to prove that the person that wrote the check knew that there were insufficient funds and that they did actually receive proper notification of the bad check. With the correct legal challenges, hot check cases may be thrown out of court or dismissed.

5 Things You Should Know About Criminal Appeals in Texas

Court houseThe criminal appeals process can seem alien to people outside the legal system. The most important thing to remember is that while every case is different, the process itself remains the same. By understanding some  of the basic elements of criminal appeal procedure, however, you can get a better understanding of what’s happening in your case.

Following are explanations of five basic points that pertain to the criminal appeals process in Texas:


A criminal appeal is essentially a review of a trial to ascertain whether or not it was fair. What the appeal court does is review the actions taken by the trial judge, and specifically whether any rulings made either before or during the trial were correct.


In Texas, the first criminal appeal goes to one of 14 appellate courts. Each court has three judges and most have more. Appeal court judges are elected like other judges. Each appeal is decided by a panel of three judges and the courts of appeal hear both criminal and civil appeals.


A court of appeal does not decide guilt or innocence. What it will do is review a verdict to determine whether there is any evidence to support it. This is known as a “legal sufficiency review.”

In some cases, the court can review the verdict to see whether it is “manifestly unjust.” This is called a “factual sufficiency review.”  This is because the court only has the written record to look at.   How witnesses look on paper and how they look in person are often quite different.


To start the process you first must file a notice of appeal, which tells the court:

  • that you want to appeal;
  •  what you are appealing from; and
  •  and which appellate court will hear the appeal itself.

You file this appeal in the Clerk’s office of the court where you were convicted. The Clerk will then send the notice, along with other information about the case to the appellate court. 

In Texas, you must file the notice of appeal in a criminal case within 30 days of the date you are sentenced.

If you have filed a motion for a new trial, you must file the notice of appeal within 30 days after the court denies the motion for new trial.


After you file the notice of appeal and your record is completed, an attorney must file a brief. The state then has an opportunity to file a response. After they do, the case is ready to be considered by the court.

The attorneys at the Barrera Law Firm are experienced in all areas of criminal law, including appeals.  We work closely with each of our clients to bring about the most successful outcome possible. When you need expert criminal defense from attorneys who care, contact us!