If you have been arrested, charged or are currently under investigation for Obstruction or Retaliation in Fort Worth or a surrounding city in Tarrant County, Texas, you need to immediately contact The Hampton Law Firm and ask to speak to Jeff Hampton regarding your case.
Have you been arrested or are you under investigation? If you have already been arrested and charged, it is time for you to start planning your criminal defense and preparing for court hearings. However, if you have not yet been arrested, it is critical to know what is coming your way. At this stage, it is critical that you are prepared for how to deal with a criminal detective. Should you speak to the detective? Do you ignore him? If you cooperate, what should you say?
What Should You Do If A Detective Calls You?
If you have been contacted by a Fort Worth police detective or a detective from another city in Tarrant County, Texas and asked to meet with him to give a statement so that you can “tell your side of the story,” it is critical that you tell the detective that you are only comfortable with giving a statement if you have a criminal attorney present during questioning.
The number one mistake made by citizens facing a criminal investigation is to agree to police questioning without a criminal lawyer present. The police detective is not interested in your “side of the story.” Police detectives are trained to focus all of their efforts during suspect interviews towards interrogating the suspect and attempting to make innocent statements appear incriminating in order to justify an arrest warrant.
For example, a common technique used by criminal investigators is to ask you questions about surrounding facts that make State’s witnesses appear more credible. For Obstruction or Retaliation Charges, the detective might ask you questions regarding your location at a particular date and time or other surrounding facts the alleged victim provided. Any opportunity to corroborate statements made from the alleged victim will make it easier for the criminal investigator to build a case against you.
If you are smart about this situation, you will immediately contact an experienced and aggressive Fort Worth criminal defense attorney to protect you from the techniques of the criminal detective. By hiring a criminal attorney, you have exercised your 6th Amendment Right to Counsel. Immediately upon hiring a criminal lawyer, the detective is prohibited from speaking to you about the investigation and is only allowed to speak to your lawyer regarding any questions.
Your criminal attorney has the opportunity to answer the detective’s questions in a manner favorable to your position, while shielding you from the detective twisting and interpreting your words into a confession. Under Texas criminal law, everything your criminal defense lawyer says to law enforcement is hearsay and cannot be used against you in court. However, anything you say can and will be used against you in a trial.
What Does It Mean To Be Charged With Obstruction Or Retaliation In Texas?
To simplify this law, the crime of Obstruction or Retaliation is the Texas law that criminalizes threats made against judges, police officers and other public servants. If you make a threat against a police officer, judge, or other defined public servant OR you publicly post contact information regarding a public servant or their family member, you could be facing a serious criminal charge of Obstruction or Retaliation. Let us examine the relevant Texas Penal Code provision:
Under Texas Penal Code, Section 36.06, a person commits the criminal offense of Retaliation if he intentionally or knowingly harms or threatens to harm another by an unlawful act:
in retaliation for or on account of the service or status of another as a: public servant, witness, prospective witness, or informant; or person who has reported or who the actor knows intends to report the occurrence of a crime; or to prevent or delay the service of another as a: public servant, witness, prospective witness, or informant; or person who has reported or who the actor knows intends to report the occurrence of a crime. Additionally, A person commits an offense if the person posts on a publicly accessible website the residence address or telephone number of an individual the actor knows is a public servant or a member of a public servant’s family or household with the intent to cause harm or a threat of harm to the individual or a member of the individual’s family or household in retaliation for or on account of the service or status of the individual as a public servant.
Is There A Difference Between Obstruction And Retaliation?
The primary distinction between obstruction and retaliation is when the harm or threat of harm took place. Did it take place before a public servant or witness does something or after? Obstruction involves a harm or threat of harm to a witness or public servant BEFORE the crime is reported or action is taken!
Obstruction is defined as the act of delaying or preventing someone’s actions as a witness, informant, whistleblower to a crime or actions as a public servant. In order to be convicted of the crime of Obstruction, it must be proven by the State of Texas beyond a reasonable doubt that you caused harm or threatened harm that was unlawful.
The harm or threatened harm can be physical but it can also be non-physical harm. For example, threats to cause property damage, financial damage by firing or destruction of character by slander are sufficient to establish Obstruction. However, these threats must be proven to have been made to PREVENT the public servant or witness from doing their job or offering their testimony.
Although this does not happen as much as in times past, you will still find examples of someone committing the crime of Obstruction by threatening a witness in a criminal case that they will experience harm if they testify at trial. You will also find examples of overbearing parents becoming very upset with a police officer deciding to arrest their child. We have seen instances where a parent will be arrested and charged with obstruction when they get very upset at the officer and threaten the police officer or a member of their family if they make the mistake of arresting their child for something they did not do.
The crime of Retaliation is related to the act of harm or threat of harm to a witness or public servant after a crime has been reported. Specifically, if the State of Texas can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you harmed or threatened to harm a public servant or witness for giving testimony, reporting a crime or acting in the scope of the duties of a public servant, you could face a Retaliation charge. Here, we are looking at a threat because someone reported a crime or acted upon their duties as a public servant.
The spirit and purpose of the obstruction and retaliation law is to prevent illegal acts that will stand in the way of the criminal justice system functioning properly.
The most common situation where Retaliation charges are filed in Tarrant County is when a criminal defendant makes a statement to a prospective witness or alleged victim in a pending case and the witness overreacts and takes the statement as an express or implied threat and reports the statement to the Tarrant County Criminal District Attorney’s Office.
As you can see, the ability to establish the criminal elements of intent and threat are based upon the subjective opinion of the witness. It is critical that you hire an experienced criminal attorney that can evaluate the facts of your case, thoroughly investigate the facts and witnesses and determine the appropriate strategy to seek a no-bill or dismissal of your Retaliation case.
Is Obstruction Retaliation A Felony In Texas?
Being charged with Obstruction or Retaliation is a serious crime that poses serious personal and criminal consequences. The criminal offense of Retaliation is classified as a felony of the third degree, punishable by a term in prison of not more than 10 years, but not less than 2 years and up to a $10,000 fine.
However, if the alleged victim of the offense was harmed or threatened because of the victim’s service or status as a juror, the offense will be classified as a felony of the second degree, punishable by a term in prison of not more than 20 years but not less than 2 years and up to a $10,000 fine.
Defenses To Obstruction Or Retaliation Charges In Texas
Facing an arrest and charge of obstruction or retaliation is a serious matter. Your number one priority should be to hire the best criminal attorney in Fort Worth, Texas to protect your freedom and prepare a criminal defense strategy to help you get your obstruction or retaliation charge dismissed. After hiring counsel, you must then educate yourself on Texas Retaliation Laws and possible defenses available to you in court. Let us examine a few common defenses that have been successful.
Lack of Criminal Intent
In order to be convicted of Obstruction or Retaliation, the State of Texas must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you intentionally or knowingly harmed or threatened to cause harm to a public servant or witness and the harm was unlawful. As you read this requirement, you notice the wording “intentionally or knowingly.” This language makes it certain that the harm or threat of harm must have been made specifically to the witness or public servant and with criminal intent.
What if the alleged threat of harm was made mistakenly or accidentally? What if the mental state was negligent or reckless but not intentionally or knowingly? If a threat was made by a defendant but there is doubt regarding the object of the threat or the intent of the threat, your retaliation charge may be dismissed.
For example: we represented a client charged with retaliation for making a threat of harm. The police officer believed that the threat was made to him and he became enraged at what he heard so he used the threat as probable cause for an arrest. However, upon reviewing the video and body cameras of the incident, it became clear that the threat of harm was actually made to someone else at the scene. In fact, the other person at the scene was not even involved as a witness to the incident. As a result, we were able to use this piece of evidence as a means to get our client’s retaliation charge dismissed.
How? By preparing a packet of evidence for presentation to the grand jury. Because Obstruction or Retaliation is a felony crime in Texas, it must be presented to a grand jury for indictment. By presenting evidence to the grand jury, we gave our client the best opportunity to have their case no billed by a grand jury, the equivalent of full exoneration. This result allowed our client to be eligible for an expunction of the arrest and criminal case records.
“Threat” Can Not Be Proven
As we learned from the definition above, the State of Texas must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that harm was done or a threat of harm was made against a witness or public servant. What if threat was not a threat at all? What if it was a statement that was full of rage and anger but non-specific in the threat?
One important point to make is that the harm done or the threat of harm does not require threat of bodily harm. Non-physical threats are sufficient. Threatening to damage someone’s car or firing someone for reporting a crime or examples of threats of harm sufficient to substantiate a criminal charge.
However, if the alleged threat of harm was more frustration and lacking specificity as to the specific harm being threatened, your criminal defense attorney may be able to use this as a leverage point to get your obstruction or retaliation charge dismissed.
If you are facing an Obstruction or Retaliation charge in Fort Worth or a surrounding city in Tarrant County, Texas, your number one priority should be to call The Hampton Law Firm now for a free consultation do learn about your legal rights and options under the law.
At The Hampton Law Firm, you will find an aggressive and experienced team of criminal defense lawyers that have worked as Former Tarrant County Prosecutors, with over 85 years of criminal law experience and over 550 criminal jury trials. We will take the time to answer all of your questions and explore all possible legal defenses available to you under the law.
Call The Hampton Law Firm now for a free consultation and an opportunity to speak to me about the facts of your case and the options you have under Texas law. Call Jeff Hampton at The Hampton Law Firm at 817-826-9905.
Contact the Hampton Law Firm now to schedule a free consultation to determine your rights and legal options.