Texas has been home to its share of riots throughout its history. Many recent riots have taken place inside state prisons. But riots can happen just about anywhere. Some may start with no intent to riot in mind while other riots are started with intent. All it takes is a gathering of seven or more persons who (1) create an immediate danger of property damage or bodily injury to other persons; or (2) substantially obstructs law enforcement or other government functions and services; or (3) deprives another person of his or her legal rights or enjoyment thereof through force, threats, or physical action.
If you have been charged with a riot offense, retain an experienced criminal defense lawyer to pursue your case. Doug Murphy, who is Board Certified in criminal law and is a veteran trial attorney, will act aggressively to defend your case. He has the resources, insight, and skills available to him to be effective. Clients -- both former and current -- confirm his capabilities.
Doug Murphy is based in Houston, Texas, but represents clients throughout the region, including the counties of Austin, Brazoria, Colorado, Fayette, Galveston, Grimes, Harris, Fort Bend, Lavaca, Liberty, Matagorda, Montgomery, Walker, Waller, Washington, and Wharton.
Riot: the Offense According to Texas Law
Texas Penal Code § 42.02 states that a riot is “an assemblage of seven or more persons resulting in conduct” that:
(1) creates an immediate danger of damage to property or injury to persons;
(2) substantially obstructs law enforcement or other governmental functions or services; or
(3) by force, threat of force, or physical action deprives any person of a legal right or disturbs any person in the enjoyment of a legal right.
The statute also states that a person commits a riot offense if he or she “knowingly participates in a riot.”
Riot: What the Prosecution Must Prove
From the statute, we can identify two elements that must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt in order for a conviction of a riot to be successful. These elements are criminal act and criminal intent.
First, the state must prove there was a riot. If the requisite number of persons were not involved, then the thing that happened is not a riot. If there were at least 7 persons involved, then one of the three conducts above-described must have manifested.
Second, the State must prove that a person knew that he or she was participating in a riot. If you were simply at a place at the wrong time and were not aware of what was about to happen or was happening, then you did not possess the required mental state to satisfy a riot crime conviction.
Though you may feel because you were charged, the State must have a solid case against you -- that thinking is simply not accurate. A charge happens based on probable cause not because there is complete and convincing evidence to back up the charge. Probable cause refers to an officer's knowledge of certain facts that would lead both the officer as well as a reasonable person to believe that you are committing, have committed or are about to commit a crime. That knowledge of facts could -- in a riot situation -- simply mean being present while the riot is occurring. But the prosecution is going to have to prove you knew you were participating in a riot -- that's easier said than done.
Riot: An Aggressive, Comprehensive Defense
An aggressive criminal defense attorney will look at the facts and circumstances of your case and will develop a defense strategy that considers all aspects of the case. Your attorney will challenge any evidence and put the judge and jury on notice that they can only find you guilty if the State has proved its case beyond a reasonable doubt.
Doug Murphy will view your case from all angles and create a defense strategy that works in your best interests. He will challenge the evidence. He will argue aggressively on your behalf. He will not compromise or recommend a plea deal unless it is in your best interests. Doug Murphy commits himself to your case and everything he does is one step forward to the dismissal of the case or your acquittal at trial.
In riot cases, there is one affirmative defense that may apply to you. According to Tex. Penal Code § 42.02(c), it is an affirmative defense if the assembly of 7 persons or more was initially lawful but then one of the assembled persons moved to engage in activity that constitutes a riot and you removed yourself from the assembly. Here, Doug Murphy will show that you left the assembly in due time and went far enough as to disassociate yourself with the riot. Of course, the State will try to claim that you did not remove yourself from the assembly in enough time to assert this affirmative defense. It will be up to the jury to determine whether or not you left in due time and left far enough. Doug Murphy will fight to ensure by a preponderance of the evidence that you did so.
Keep in mind, too, that if someone who belonged to the assembly and subsequent riot was not arrested, prosecuted, or convicted -- that fact is not a defense in your case. Likewise, if someone who belonged to the assembly and subsequent riot was convicted of a different offense or a different class of offense or is immune from prosecution for some reason -- those facts, too, are not a defense in your case. So, if either of these instances has occurred, don't get it in your head your case will be easy -- because it won't. You need to be ready for the fight while Doug Murphy prepares for it.
Riot: The Penalties and Consequences of a Conviction
In Texas, the penalties associated with a conviction are dependent on the classification of the charge. A riot charge is usually filed as a Class B misdemeanor, which carries with it the possibility of jail time up to 180 days and/or a fine not to exceed $2,000.
In Texas, however, a riot charge can be enhanced. According to Tex. Penal Code § 42.02(f), if a higher grade offense occurred either (1) in furtherance of the riot's purpose or (2) as a result of what could have been anticipated, then the jury can sentence you according to the higher grade offense -- if the State proved the higher grade offense.
For example, if assault could have been anticipated as a result of the assembly and assault actually occurs, the riot charged could be enhanced from a Class B misdemeanor to a Class A misdemeanor, which would mean potentially more time in jail and a steeper fine.
But a conviction does not end with jail and/or fines. The consequences are just beginning upon a conviction. With your criminal record, you can anticipate problems in the future finding or maintaining a good job, finding and maintaining housing in a safe location, obtaining student loans or student housing. Further, if the charge was enhanced to a felony, you can anticipate your right to own and use a gun to be stripped from you, your voting rights to be taken, your custody battle of your child to be lost, your professional license to be suspended or revoked, and your security clearance not to be renewed. Most of all, your reputation is at stake.
There's a lot to consider -- more than just jail and fines -- when you decide whether to fight the charge and which attorney you should retain.
Riot Criminal Defense Lawyer in Houston TX
If you have been charged with a riot offense, you need legal representation from someone with the experience, skills, resources, and insight to deliver the best results in your unique circumstances. Doug Murphy, a veteran criminal defense trial attorney and Board Certified in criminal law, takes a comprehensive, aggressive approach to defending his clients. His capabilities have been recognized by the legal community, which has endorsed his name through accolades and frequent invitations to speak at seminars so that he can provide his insight and teach legal defense skills to other criminal defense attorneys throughout Texas and the United States.
At Doug Murphy Law Firm, P.C., you can expect commitment and the best result according to the facts and circumstances of your case. Contact Doug Murphy Law Firm, P.C. today.