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Criminal Issues

Alcohol Crimes

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Minor in Consumption (MIC)

You cannot drink any alcohol if you are not 21 years old.  One sip is too much and can get you in trouble with the police.  An officer can write you a MIC ticket just for smelling alcohol on your breath.  No sobriety test is necessary.  This is a Class C ticket and will not result in an arrest.

Minor in Possession (MIP)

You cannot have free access to alcohol.  This means being in an apartment, hotel room, party, etc. where alcohol is available and you are free to help yourself.  As a result, it is not necessary for the police to actually witness you holding or drinking alcohol.  You can be ticketed simply for being in an apartment when a keg is present.  Common scenarios can include students standing at a table watching beer pong being played and students who agree to hold a friend's drink while they go to the bathroom.  If you share an apartment or dorm room with someone who is 21, they cannot leave alcohol in the fridge or you may be ticketed for being in possession.  It does not matter that you never intended to drink their alcohol because if you wanted to drink it, there would be no way to prevent you from getting it out of the cooler and that puts you in possession.  It also means that your roommate could be ticketed for Furnishing Alcohol to a Minor.  This is a Class C ticket and will not result in an arrest.

Misrepresentation of Age (Misrep)

You cannot lie about your age to buy alcohol or get into bars.  This is NOT the same thing as having a Fake ID.  Misrepresenting your age is simply lying or causing someone to believe you are older than 21.  Examples include sneaking into bars that have a 21 year old age requirement, telling a clerk in a liquor store that you forgot your ID but were born before 1990, and using a concert wristband that indicates you are older than 21.  Simply being present in a bar that requires patrons to be 21 years old is a misrepresentation of age.  This is a Class C ticket and will not result in an arrest.

Driving Under the Influence (DUI)

If you are under 21 and have consumed any amount of alcohol before driving, you are guilty of Driving of the Influence.  This is not the same thing as Driving While Intoxicated.  DUI is a charge for people under 21 who have consumed any alcohol but are not intoxicated.  DUI is a Class C ticket that will not result in an arrest.  DWI is a crime committed by people of any age who have drank so much that they are impaired while driving.  DWI is a minimum Class B misdemeanor and will result in you being immediately arrested and your car being towed.

Public Intoxication (P.I.)

Anyone, regardless of age, can be arrested for public intoxication.  The definition of public intoxication relies heavily on the police officer's opinion.  If the officer believes, due to their training and experience, that you have consumed so much alcohol as to be a threat to yourself or others, you are publicly intoxicated and will be arrested.  If a police officer indicates that you are being charged with P.I., there isn't usually anything you can say to change their mind.  In fact, too much arguing with the officer can result in additional charges of "Resisting Arrest" and "Failure to Obey Lawful Order."  If you believe that you are being charged by mistake, politely tell the officer that you disagree and then use your right to remain silent.  It is better to be quiet and leave a question as to your innocence than to speak up and erase all doubt. Public Intoxication is a Class C ticket but it DOES require an immediate arrest and puts a permanent blemish on your criminal record.

Possession of Fake ID (Fake ID)

In addition to simply lying about your age (Misrepresentation of Age), you might also be tempted to get a false identification card that claims you to be older.  Depending on the type of fake ID and the sophistication of its duplicity, you may be arrested for either a Fake ID or Tampering with a Government Record.  A Fake ID charge is a Class A misdemeanor that will result in an arrest, permanent blemish on your criminal record, and the need for an attorney.  Tampering with a Government Record is a Felony charge that also requires an arrest and assistance from a licensed attorney.

Driving While Intoxicated (DWI)

Drunk driving is one of the most serious and common crimes committed by students.  DWI laws are lengthy and vary based on the facts of each case.  Crimes in which another person is injured or blood alcohol tests indicate the driver was extremely intoxicated will result in higher charges and additional punishment.  A standard first-offense DWI is a Class B misdemeanor punishable by arrest, up to $1000 fine, and 1 year in jail.  In addition to the fine and possible jail time, you will also have to $3000 in surcharges to the Department of Public Safety in order to maintain your driver license.  If you fail to pay the surcharges, you can be arrested and charged with another Class B misdemeanor for "Driving on a Suspended License". For FAQs on what to do if stopped by the police, click HERE.

Marijuana, drugs, study drugs, illegal drugs

Possession of Drug Paraphernalia (PODP)

Any and all objects that have been used to prepare, inhale, inject, or use drugs can be considered drug paraphernalia.  This includes obvious items like marijuana pipes, water pipes (bongs), roach clips, dirty needles, and grinders.  It can also include less obvious objects like paper clips, aluminum cans, knives, lighters, and toothpicks.  Whether or not a particular item could be considered paraphernalia requires looking at the totality of the circumstances.  An ashtray and toothpicks do not automatically equal drug paraphernalia, but they will if the ashtray has marijuana stems and the toothpick is dirty with marijuana residue.  PODP is a Class C ticketable offense that is punishable by fine.

Possession of Marijuana (POM)

Possession of less than 2 ounces of marijuana is a Class B misdemeanor that will result in an arrest and can be punished with up to $2000 fine and six months in jail.  Possession of more than 2 ounces but less than 4 ounces is a Class A misdemeanor punishable by arrest, up to one year in jail, and a $4000 fine.  More than four ounces is a felony level charge and can result in prison time and a fine exceeding $10,000.  It is not necessary for a police officer to discover marijuana on your person or in your bag for them to charge you with possession.  You can also be arrested if you are driving a car and your friend brings weed along; if you share an apartment and your roommate leaves their weed in the living room; if you go to an outdoor festival and sit in a circle while other people use drugs.

Odor of marijuana is the only evidence necessary for a police officer to search a vehicle's cabin, any bags/purses/boxes inside the cabin, and the glove compartment.  Odor of marijuana is also enough to allow the officer to search your person and any other occupants in your car.  If the officer does not discover illegal drugs or paraphernalia in the vehicle cabin, they cannot then search the trunk unless you consent.  You never have to consent to a search of your vehicle.  It may be scary or difficult to deny a police officer, but click HERE for tips to make it easier.

NOTICE: In 2013, the states of Colorado and Washington elected to legalize marijuana for recreational purposes.  Tourists to both states may be able to purchase marijuana and use it while in those states.  However, marijuana continues to be illegal in Texas. Anyone caught bringing marijuana into Texas from another state is guilty of transporting drugs and could be arrested for a felony drug offense.  Do NOT take this risk.

Possession of Controlled Substance (POCS)

Possession of illegal narcotics (cocaine, ecstasy, LSC, mushrooms, etc.) is a felony crime punishable anywhere from 2-99 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine.  Prescription pills like Adderall, Xanax, and Ritalin are also considered controlled substances and require you to have a valid prescription (meaning it's not expired and is in your name, not someone else).  If you are caught with just one Adderall pill that you don't have an active prescription for, you will be arrested and charged with a 3rd Degree Felony.  This will create a permanent blemish on your criminal record and could result in you being expelled from school.  Do not share or sell study drugs.

Can I get in trouble for selling, buying, or using study drugs?

Using or possessing a prescription drug without having a valid, active prescription is illegal.  If you are caught using or possessing even one prescription pill without a doctor's permission, you will be arrested and charged with Possession of a Controlled Substance (POCS).  The minimum punishment range is a Third Degree Felony with 2-10 years jail and up to $10,000 fine.  A conviction for drug possession will prevent you from receiving federal student financial aid and ban you from receiving certain government benefits in the future.  Even if you are successful in avoiding a conviction, the arrest record and criminal court case will remain on your public criminal history until you spend more money to have it expunged. 

It is also a Felony crime to give or sell prescription drugs to another person.  This constitutes practicing medicine without a license and can result in multiple Felony charges being filed against the student.  Do NOT give or sell any prescription medicines to another person.  A common example is a student who gives their roommate/friend a few study pills to help them during finals.  Both the giver and the receiver have committed a crime.

Traffic tickets, defensive driving, speeding

What should do if I am stopped by the police?

  1. Be polite to the officer when receiving the ticket.  Being rude or argumentative may only result in a worse ticket or additional charges.  Ex: The officer stopped you for speeding and you failed to use your blinker when pulling over.  If you are nice, the ticket may only be for speeding and you are warned about using your blinker. If you are rude, you may get a speeding ticket AND a ticket for Failing to Signal Intent When Changing Lanes.
  2. Sign the ticket.  The officer will ask you to sign the ticket when it's given to you.  Signing the ticket is not an admission of guilt or an acknowledgement/agreement that the officer was correct about stopping you or ticketing you.  Signing the ticket only means that you understand you've been given a ticket and must contact the Court in the future. You can protest the ticket and demonstrate innocence in Court. If you refuse to sign the ticket, the officer MUST arrest you and this will create a permanent blemish on your criminal record. 
  3. Check the date.  Somewhere on the ticket (usually at the bottom) will be a court date.  This is not an actual date in which you are expected to show up in court and speak with a judge.  Instead, it is a date by which you must "appear" either by phone or mail to the Court and state how you wish to proceed on the ticket. You have 3 choices: Plead by Mail, Speak with a Prosecutor, or Request a Trial. 
  4. Contact the Court.  Let the Court know which of the three choices you are selecting.  In almost every situation, the best choice is to "Speak with a Prosecutor."  Only rare cases should be set for trial.  It is a myth that you can set a speeding ticket for trial and it will be dismissed if the officer doesn't show up.  Police officers today are compensated with overtime pay for attending traffic tickets hearings; this means that the cop has a financial incentive to come to the hearing.  Speaking with a prosecutor is usually the best choice because it gives you an opportunity to explain what happened and perhaps work out a plea agreement that results in all tickets being dismissed. 
  5. Plea Options.  Regardless of the type of ticket you received, there is a possibility that the ticket can be dismissed with either a Driver Safety Course (DSC) or Deferred Disposition. Texas law allows for every driver to dismiss one eligible ticket each year by taking a Driver Safety Course and paying a fine.  (Tickets which are not eligible include speeding more than 25mph over the posted limit and tickets in construction or school zones.)  This automatic DSC option means that even drivers who are guilty can have the charge dismissed by paying a fine and completing an 8 hour education class about driving laws.  Drivers who are not eligible for DSC may still be able to have their tickets dismissed if the prosecutor agrees to give them a Deferred Disposition.  Deferred Disposition is very similar to DSC because it also requires the driver to pay a fine and take an 8 hour education class.  However, it also requires the driver to not get any new tickets for the next 6 months.  If the driver is successful, the ticket will be dismissed.

Why is a dismissal so important?

Being convicted of a traffic ticket often seems harmless because there is no jail time and it won't affect your criminal history.  Unfortunately, traffic ticket convictions will put points on your driver's license which could lead to a suspension, may raise your car insurance rates, and can stick you with expensive surcharges.  The Texas Driver Responsibility Program (also known as the Surcharge system) charges drivers additional fines when they are convicted of crimes that involved the use of a car.  Tickets for not having insurance, speeding, and driving without a license carry additional fines of up to $750 that must be paid or your license will be suspended.  If you are caught driving on a license suspended from surcharges, you will be automatically arrested and charged with a Class B misdemeanor for Driving on a Suspended License.  For more information about the Driver Responsibility Program, click HERE.

What is deferred disposition?

Drivers who are not eligible for defensive driving (DSC) may still be able to have their tickets dismissed if the prosecutor agrees to give them a Deferred Disposition.  Deferred Disposition is very similar to DSC because it requires the driver to pay a fine and take an 8 hour education class.  However, it also requires the driver to not get any new tickets for the next 6 months.  If the driver is successful, the ticket will be dismissed.

Deferred disposition can be used to dismiss just about any Class C ticket but it requires the Court's approval.  Each Court has its own rules about when it will grant a deferral.

driver license

How do I apply for a driver's license?

 

If you are over the age of 25, it is very easy to get a license to drive in Texas.  You must apply in person, pay a fee, provide proof of citizenship or lawful residency, and pass a written exam about traffic rules.  For complete information and details about the application process, visit the Texas Department of Public Safety @ http://www.txdps.state.tx.us/DriverLicense/ApplyforLicense.htm

Do I have to carry my license with me all the time?

Yes, you must have your driver's license with you anytime you operate a motor vehicle.

Must I show my license to an officer?

Yes.  If an officer asks you to identify yourself and present a photo ID, you must obey.  You can decline to answer other questions, but you must identify yourself by name and present your ID when asked.

What is the Texas Point System?

 

Texas wants every driver on the road to have insurance and obey the law. The point system is a method used by the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) to grade drivers based on their driving and criminal records. If you are accused of breaking the law while using your car, you may be convicted and required to pay fines and court costs.  IN ADDITION to any fines or court costs, a conviction for certain moving violations will cause DPS to put 2 points on your driving record. If you receive 6 points in a 3 years period, your driver's license will be automatically suspended for having too many points and you will incur a $150 yearly surcharge for the next three years. For more information about the point system, including which tickets carry points, visit the DPS website @http://www.txdps.state.tx.us/DriverLicense/drp.htm

What are surcharges?

 

In 2003, the Texas Driver Responsibility Program was enacted to provide additional funding for public education by fining certain drivers a surcharge.  Surcharges are fines charged by Texas DPS to punish you for having been convicted of a crime involving the use a vehicle.  These fines are IN ADDITION to any fine or court costs that you may have paid or owe to the criminal court. 

Example: You receive a ticket for not having insurance (Failure to Maintain Financial Responsibility).  You plead No Contest and pay a $300 fine to the San Marcos Municipal Court.  Because you were convicted of a ticket that involved the use of a vehicle, Texas DPS also charges you $250 to keep your driver's license in good standing. You owe this $250 each year for the next 3 years.  If you fail to pay the $750 surcharges, your driving privileges will be suspended and, if caught driving, you will be arrested for driving without a license.

What if I don't pay the surcharges?

You cannot legally drive in Texas until the surcharges are paid or removed.  If you move to another state, you will likely be denied driving privileges in that state because most states uphold the suspensions and revocations of driving privilege of another state (it's known as full faith & credit).  Essentially, you cannot avoid paying these fines forever.  If you cannot afford to pay the surcharges, you may be eligible for a reduced fine.  For more information about the surcharge system, including how to apply for a reduced fine, visit the DPS website @ http://www.txsurchargeonline.com/(S(123egpmlujgdd1vnnyje0fh4))/default.aspx

Help! My license has been suspended/revoked. Is there a legal way for me to keep driving?

Maybe. If you have an essential need to use a vehicle, you may be eligible to apply for an Occupational License.  This is a special type of driver's license with limited privileges that allow a driver to use the vehicle only for the purposes of going to work, school, medical appointments, or to care for minor children.

How do I apply for an occupational license?

You will need to file an application with a court in the county where you live, pay a filing fee, purchase a special type of insurance known as SR-22 coverage, and prove to the court that you have an essential need to use a car.  Proof of need can usually be established with proof of employment, proof of school enrollment, or proof of familial responsibilities. Call AFS at (512) 245-2370 to schedule an appointment for help understanding the law, deciding if you qualify for an occupational license, and assistance with the court paperwork.

theft

What is the punishment for Theft?

The punishment range for theft ranges from a ticket to life in prison.  The severity of a theft crime is determined by the value of the items taken (ex: makeup vs. television) and the manner in which is was taken (ex: armed robbery v. shoplifting).

  • Class C Misdemeanor if the value of the property is less than $50 (or $20 if acquired by check)
  • Class B Misdemeanor if the value of the property was $50 to $500 (or between $20 and $500 if acquired by check)
  • Class A Misdemeanor if the value of the property was $500 to $1,500
  • State Jail Felony if the value was $1,500 to $20,000 or the item stolen was a firearm or the theft was off of a person
  • Third Degree Felony if the value of the property was $20,000 and $100,000
  • Second Degree Felony if the value of the property was $100, 000 and $200,000
  • First Degree Felony if the value of the property is over $200,000.

What is a crime of moral turpitude?

If you are accused or arrested for theft, it is very important that you seek immediate advice from an attorney.  A conviction for theft is considered a crime of moral turpitude and can prevent you from receiving a wide range of jobs and benefits.  The phrase "crime of moral turpitude" is given to criminal acts which are considered especially harmful to society and that usually involve an element of dishonesty.

Certain industries and career paths will not accept persons with convictions for crimes of moral turpitude.  Common examples include doctors, teachers, realtors, bartenders, bar owners, and accountants.

Could I be sued for stealing?

In addition to the criminal court penalties and fines, a student convicted of shoplifting may also receive civil demands for damages supposedly suffered by the store. These letters are often from law firms with long names and imply that a person could get in additional trouble if they do not pay the fine demanded immediately.  In many situations, these types of civil demands are illegal and unenforceable.  If you receive a similar letter, do NOT pay any money until you have spoken with an attorney.  Contact the AFS office at (512) 245-2370 to schedule a free appointment.

Could a charge of theft get me kicked out of school?

If the conduct in question occurs on campus, then the student would be referred to the office of Student Justice and will be handled on a case by case basis based on the Texas State Code of Student Conduct. If the student's conduct occurs off campus, then based on the severity of the incident, it may also be referred to the office of Student Justice. The range of sanctions are listed on page 54, Section 3.02 (Student Policies and Regulations) of the Texas State Student Handbook.

Assault

What is the legal definition of Assault?

 The term "assault" can be used to describe any situation in which you intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly injure or threaten to injure another person.  This is broad enough to include mere threats of violence if an ordinary person would have been frightened by the statement.

Example: An athletic, well-built student goes to a bar to watch sporting event and gets into angry discussion with another patron about the game.  The other patron is much smaller and shorter than the student. The student points his finger at the patron and angrily yells "I'm going punch you out right now if you don't admit the Astros are horrible team!"  An off-duty police officer overhears the student's threat and tickets the student for assault. 

 

What is Aggravated Assault?

An assault crime can be enhanced if it is alleged that the victim suffered serious bodily injury or if a deadly weapon was used. 

Example: A student gets into an argument with a patron at a sports bar.  The student picks up their empty beer bottle by the neck, breaks it in half on the table, and begins shaking threateningly it at the patron while yelling "I'm going hit you if you don't admit the Astros are horrible team!"  An off-duty police officer witnesses the situation and arrests the student for Aggravated Assault with a Deadly Weapon. 

 

What counts as Domestic/Family Violence?

Domestic violence is also known as family violence and is a term used to classify assault crimes that require enhanced punishments.  Any assault crime will be considered a domestic violence crime if it is alleged to have been committed against a member of your immediate family, a resident in your household, or someone with whom you are currently dating or used to date. 

Example: A student moves into their new apartment. The next day they get into a shouting match with their new roommate over dirty dishes. In a moment of anger, the student slaps the hand of the roommate.  A neighbor heard the yelling and called the police. The police arrive and arrest the angry student for Assault - Domestic Violence. 

 

What is Sexual Assault?

The term sexual assault includes a wide range of crimes against another person and can generally be thought of as any crime involving unwanted, non-consensual sexual contact against another person.  Under Texas law, all forcible sex crimes, including rape, are classified as a sexual assaults with Aggravated Sexual Assault being the worst offense.  Sexual assault crimes carry a punishment range of 2 to 20 years.  Offenses involving minors may also require the defendant be registered as a sex offender in state and national databases.

What constitutes Rape?

Texas law defines rape as an Aggravated Sexual Assault and makes it illegal to intentionally or knowingly penetrate the anus or sexual organ of another person by any means without their consent.  This also includes nonconsensual oral sex.  Aggravated Sexual Assault is a Second Degree Felony. 

Statutory rape is also a crime in Texas.  It is illegal for anyone to intentionally or knowingly penetrate a person under the age of 17, other than their spouse.  The defendant has an affirmative defense if the victim is not more than three years older than the victim, who must be at least 14 years old.  

What is Incest?

Sexual contact between family members is illegal.  The Texas law defining what constitutes a family member is broad and includes immediate family members like parents and siblings, stepparents and stepchildren, adopted children, aunts and uncles, and grandparents.  Crimes against one's own children is a first degree felony; crimes committed against another family member are second degree felonies.

What is Harassment?

The term "harassment" is often used in popular culture to describe any situation in which someone is bothering or annoying another person.  However, those situations rarely match the legal definition of harassment.  Texas law prohibits someone from knowingly and repeatedly contacting another person with intent to harass, annoy, alarm, abuse, torment, or embarrass that person.  Harassment is charged as a Class B misdemeanor for first offenses.  If you feel that another person is harassing you, please contact the AFS office to schedule a free and confidential appointment to discuss the law and your options.  It is never too early to seek help when you are concerned about harassment.

What constitutes Stalking?

Any person who repeatedly and knowingly causes another person to fear for their physical safety, the physical safety of a family member, or the safety of their personal possessions may be guilty of 3rd Degree Felony stalking.  If you are concerned for yourself or someone else, it is never to early to seek help from an attorney.  If you are immediate danger, please contact the local police department now.

Where can I get help or protection from an abuser, harasser, or stalker?

Call 911 if you are in immediate danger.

If you or someone you know has been the victim of a sexual crime, please know that the Attorney for Students office is a safe location and we will maintain your confidentiality at all times.  You can contact the office between 8am-5pm, Monday-Friday via phone @ (512) 245-2370 or email @ legalhelp@txstate.edu.   For more information, you can also visit the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault @ http://www.taasa.org/.

Call the County Attorney's office in the county where you live to get help seeking a protective/restraining order.

 

What is a protective/restraining order?

A protective order, restraining order, or stay-away order is an Order given by a court in the county where you live that makes it a crime for a specific person to contact you, come near you, or use a third person to try and contact you.

A person who has been ordered to stay away can be arrested and jailed for violating the terms of the Order.

You must apply for an Order in the county where you currently reside and prove that you have valid reasons to feel immediately threatened or frightened for your safety.

Forms, documents, maps

HCGovtctr (PDF, 208 KB)
Can you clean up your record : Expunction (DOCX, 17 KB)
CourtCostsFeesFines : Court Costs Fees and Fines (PDF, 982 KB)

 

Hays County Government Center

Hays County Gov Center

712 South Stagecoach Trail, San Marcos, TX 78666

From IH-35: Take Exit 202/Wonder World Drive/RR 12 on the south side of San Marcos and turn west. Go over the railroad track overpass and at the bottom make an immediate right (north) on South Stagecoach Trail.

From Hunter Road/FM 2439: Turn east on Wonder World Drive/RR 12 toward I-35. Turn left (north) on South Stagecoach Trail at the bottom of the railroad overpass.

The Government Center is on the right at the end of the street. All walk-in visitors must enter through the front entrance (shown above) and go through Security checkpoints. There is a drive-thru for Tax Office services on the east side of the building.