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Counterfeit Currency and User Intent

By Gary Churak,

Using counterfeit money in the U.S. is a crime in every state. It also remains a crime that can be punished at the federal level.

People who intentionally use fake money can be charged in federal or state court with fraud or forgery. However, the key to prosecuting this crime involves proving the accused individual’s intent to defraud a bank or business with counterfeit cash. Someone who faces this crime can benefit by knowing how both the prosecution and the defense may present a counterfeit money case in court.

Prosecuting a Counterfeit Money Case

When presenting a case in court, the prosecutor must prove to the judge or jury that the accused had every intention of defrauding the business, bank, or location at which he or she used the fake money. To prove this intent, the prosecutor may provide a range of evidence to bolster the argument.

For example, the court may be shown video surveillance that shows the accused individual using the money and then hurriedly trying to leave the business. The prosecuting attorney may say that the person’s haste to leave after the transaction indicates that this individual knew that the money was fake and that a crime was being committed.

Likewise, the attorney may have evidence, such as software from the person’s computer or texts and emails from the accused to other accomplices that show that the person actively made and distributed fake cash. This proof can solidify the prosecution’s case in court and help convict a person who knowingly used counterfeit currency.

Counterfeit Currency Defenses

Just as the prosecuting attorney can present evidence, so can the defense attorney representing the alleged counterfeiter. Some of the more common defenses for these cases involving explaining to the judge or jury that the person did not know that the money was indeed fake.

For example, the defense may argue that the money was so well made that the person using it was not aware that it was counterfeit. Realistic, but fake money can be so creatively designed that it can pass for real currency. The defense may argue that it would take a currency expert to detect this kind of fraud.

Likewise, if the defense can prove that the person got the money from another source, the case may fall apart and help exonerate the accused individual. If, for instance, the person was given the money as change at a store or restaurant, it would prove that that the money did not originate with the suspect and that someone else created it.

Nonetheless, people convicted of counterfeiting can face significant penalties that include up to 15 years in jail and fines of up to $15,000. The court must find that people intended to defraud a business before inflicting the prescribed punishment for this crime.

Rand Mintzer, Attorney at Law is a Houston area attorney. For more information on the legal services he provides, visit his website at www.mintzerlaw.com.

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Murder Conviction, 70-Year Sentence Tossed For Daughter Of SAPD Sergeant

By Gary Churak,

Attorney Gary Churak comments on news item in www.MySanAntonio.com about highest criminal appeals court that on Wednesday upheld the decision to toss the murder conviction and 70-year prison sentenced for the daughter of a San Antonio Police sergeant.

Having practiced in Bexar County Courtrooms for 33 years and participated in numerous jury trials the ruling on the Appellate Court comes as no surprise. Often the courtrooms are not large enough to accommodate the jury panel and spectators. I have personally experienced the bailiffs asking everyone but the attorneys and defendant to leave the courtroom during jury selection. It could be a brilliant move by the defense counsel to base the appeal on the issue of a public trial, however this will lead to a two edged sword.

Based upon the opinion of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals what would stop the prosecution from bringing in family and friends of the victim? Can you imagine an intoxication manslaughter trial with the courtroom being full of the victim’s family and friends? Worse yet say the victim was a student and his or her class-mates show up for jury selection.

In my opinion Pandora’s Box has been opened by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals and although the ruling benefited the Defendant in that case I can foresee only negative benefits to the Defense Bar.

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Pre-Trial Diversion What It Means To You

By Gary Churak,

Whose says there is no such thing as a second chance. If you have committed a crime for the first time it is not the end of the world. A number of courts in Texas both County Court at Law and District Courts are placing Defendant’s on Pre-Trial Diversion. This is done as part of an agreement with the prosecutor. Basically your case is put on hold for a period of time, you enter no plea before the court and are placed on probation. You pay a fee, perform community service and stay out of trouble and you case is dropped. Once the case is dropped you are eligible for an Expunction to seal the case and keep it off your criminal record. Each County that utilizes a Pre-Trial diversion program has different rules. 

Bexar County for instance requires that an Application be made to the District Attorney Office by your lawyer under the Miles Program, If approved the period of probation is rather short 60-90 days. In Comal, Hays, Guadalupe and Kerr County Texas the prosecutor will offer Pre-Trial Diversion as part of the plea agreement. Probation periods can run up to one year for Misdemeanors and multiple years for felonies. I you are a first time offender and would like to have pre-trial diversion for your offense contact an experienced criminal defense attorney who knows how to get it done.

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Texas Lawyer Wants Crime Scene Note Made Public

By Gary Churak,

Attorney Gary Churak comments on news item in www.MYSanAntonio.com about Texas lawyer who wants crime scene note made public.

In Texas the prosecution is required to provide to defense counsel all exculpatory evidence (Brady) that may reflect on the innocence of the Defendant.  This requirement is the result of a United States Supreme Court case Brady v. Maryland where the State withheld evidence from the defense establishing the defendant’s innocence.

If the notes contain evidence regarding the case and either can be exculpatory or relevant to the charge the defense should be entitled to review the evidence and make copies of same.

If there is a question of the relevancy or exculpatory nature of the evidence often the Court will conduct an in camera inspection of the documents and enter a ruling regarding there production to the defense.  On occasions the court will limit the dissimulation of the documents to individuals other than Defense counsel.  The defense wanting to make the notes public can serve no purpose but to create media attention to the case and perhaps limit the jury pool.

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