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Craigslist Crimes in Texas

Texas’ Online Crime Marketplace: Craigslist Crimes, Craigslist Stings, and Craigslist Thefts

By | Computer Crimes, Theft

Craigslist-Related Crimes | New Crimes in the Digital Age

Craigslist Crimes in TexasGone are the days of flipping through your local newspaper’s classified section and circling your favorite ads. These days, Craigslist is the new classifieds of Fort Worth and Dallas. It is the one stop shop source to find a new car, truck, job, furniture, garage sale, or even a love interest. With the rise of Craigslist (and other online forums), there has also been an increase in criminal activity ranging from online scams to fraud and theft. Police stings based on advertisements from Craigslist are also common. Police have seen such a meteoric rise in these “Craigslist related crimes”, that many departments have established “safe exchange locations where transactions can occur under the watchful eye of local law enforcement.

Whenever people meet to engage in a transaction, crime can occur. These crimes can take place anywhere, whether you are in an urban or rural area, in the parking lot of the local shopping center, or even on your own front porch. Craigslist is easily accessible, and is increasingly used to create opportunities for one party to take advantage of another. It is essential to be vigilant whenever meeting up with anyone from the Internet.

Craigslist Criminal Investigations | Fort Worth, Texas

With the advent of Craigslist, law enforcement agencies have seen a few specific areas of criminal activity increase rapidly. These investigations into alleged crimes often facilitated by Craigslist include:

  • Craigslist Robbery: Increasingly, people will post ads on craigslist looking to buy or sell an expensive item, such as a cell phone, and when the other party arrives take either the item or the money by force. Avoid being a target by meeting buyers or sellers at a “safe exchange” location set up by the police department.
  • Craigslist Prostitution: Craigslist is full of ads looking for love, and both men and woman can get caught up in activity they may not have even realized was criminal until too late. Craigslist is used to source potential targets, and can result in charges from soliciting sex with a minor to soliciting sex for pay. Police departments are increasingly using Craigslist to set up sting operations to catch people trying to engage in prostitution.
  • Craigslist Drug Charges: Police are seeing an increase in advertisements for illegal drugs posted on Craigslist using code words. Engaging in a dialogue with someone posting one of these ads could lead police to believe you are involved in drug dealing or drug trafficking through ads placed on Craigslist.

Defending Craigslist-Related Criminal Cases

Defense of Craigslist-related criminal charges can be a very complex proposition, requiring legal counsel experienced in these types of matters and the technology it involves. Forensic Computer Specialists and other experts may be necessary to the investigation and protecting your constitutional rights. Seek counsel from experienced criminal defense attorneys at Barnett Howard & Williams PLLC, former prosecutors with an in-depth understanding of the criminal justice system and its applications in today’s Internet-oriented society.

Contact Our Fort Worth Craigslist Crimes Defense Attorneys Today!

At Barnett Howard & Williams PLLC, our attorneys understand how to investigate and defend against complex computer-related criminal charges, including Craigslist-related charges. To schedule a free consultation, contact us at our offices in Fort Worth, Texas, at 817-993-9249.


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Bait Cars Backpage Entrapment Texas

Bait Cars, Backpage, and the Entrapment Defense

By | Prostitution, Theft

Bait Cars Backpage Entrapment TexasOur firm has represented many defendants in Fort Worth with cases stemming from a bait car or a Backpage ad. For those of you not familiar with either, let me explain Bait Cars and Backpage.

What is a Bait Car?

A Bait Car is vehicle owned by the police department and equipped with GPS devices and cameras. But, the car looks like any regular car on the street. The police typically place something valuable inside the Bait Car, such as a paint spray rig, and then they park the car (with the keys inside) on the side of the street in a low-income part of town. If someone tries to steal the bait car or the valuables inside, the GPS is triggered, the camera is activated, and the police are alerted. In most cases, the person does not get very far before a patrol car arrives to arrest them for theft.

What is Backpage?

I doubt I can fully explain what Backpage is or how it is used, but in the cases that we see, Backpage is a website (akin to Craigslist) where escorts and ladies of the night advertise their services. Potential Johns can browse the Backpage website to arrange an interlude of momentary love. The police have been using Backpage and arranging for a female officer to meet men at a local motel room posing as a prostitute. With backup officers waiting in the bathroom, the John is arrested for Solicitation of a Prostitute when they arrive to meet the woman/officer they contacted on Backpage.

Is it Entrapment for the Police to Use a Bait Car or to Advertise on Backpage?

We get this question in every Bait Car or Backpage case. To answer the question, we typically explain that fairness and equity are not the same as the legal defense of entrapment. Just because the police conduct doesn’t seem fair or because we think the police are “creating the crimes,” does not mean that it is entrapment.

Section 8.06 of the Texas Penal Code defines the affirmative defense of Entrapment:

“It is a defense to prosecution that the actor engaged in the conduct charged because he was induced to do so by a law enforcement agent using persuasion or other means likely to cause persons to commit the offense.”

The Penal Code goes on to explain that: “Conduct merely affording a person an opportunity to commit an offense does not constitute entrapment.”

Therein lies the rub. By using a Bait Car and by advertising escort services on Backpage, the Fort Worth police are “merely affording a person an opportunity to commit an offense,” so under the law, entrapment would not apply to these situations. Don’t get me wrong, we hate Bait Cars and Backpage. We wish the police would use their time and resources toward real crimes, rather than “creating opportunities” for people to commit crimes. Why in the world would we want to create opportunities for people to commit crimes in the first place? That is similar to setting up a keg right outside the AA meeting with a sign for free beer.

Whether we like it or not, entrapment does not apply as an affirmative defense in these cases. Regardless, our attorneys still fight hard to get bait car and Backpage cases dismissed, reduced, or mitigated any way we can. Anecdotally, we’ve seen that a lot of prosecutors don’t like these cases any more than we do. Hopefully, we will see bait cars and Backpage go away soon, but until then, know that Entrapment won’t help you if you choose the wrong car or the wrong escort.


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Fort Worth violent crimes attorneys

Burglary of a Former Residence Leads to Capital Murder

By | Burglary, Murder

Felony Murder Conviction is Affirmed on Appeal

Fort Worth violent crimes attorneysGardner v. State (14th Court of Appeals, Houston 2015)

Herbert Gardner and his ex-girlfriend dated for four years and lived together in his ex-girlfriend’s home. When the couple broke up on November 2, 2012, Gardner moved into a hotel. On December 23, 2012, his ex-girlfriend was found murdered in her home and Gardner was found nearby, badly injured. On the way to the hospital Gardner stated to the police officer, “I should not have shot her.” A jury found Gardner guilty of an elevated charge of capital murder, and the trial court sentenced him to mandatory life in prison.

Gardner appealed to the Court of Appeals, arguing (1) that the evidence was insufficient to prove that he murdered his ex-girlfriend in the course of committing a burglary, an aggravating factor that elevates a murder charge to a capital offense with a heavier punishment; and (2) that the evidence was insufficient to prove that when he entered his ex-girlfriend’s home, he committed or intended to commit a felony, theft, or assault, which also carries a heavier punishment in Texas. The Court of Appeals disagreed with both of Gardner’s arguments, affirming his conviction.

First, the language of the statute under which Gardner was convicted states, “A person commits burglary if, without the effective consent of the owner, he: (1) enters a building or habitation with intent to commit a felony, theft or an assault, or, (2) enters a building or habitation and commits or attempts to commit a felony, theft or an assault.”

Gardner argued that he had an equal right to possession of the property and could not be found to have entered without his ex-girlfriend’s consent because he had lived in the home for four years, that the neighbors saw him in the home on a regular basis, and that he used the residence as home address on his driver’s license. The State argued that Gardner lost his right to possession before the murder because he moved into a hotel, his name was not on the property deed, that the front window of the home was broken and blood-stained with Gardner’s blood, that his vehicle registration reflected a different address, and that there were not any items that suggested a male was living in her home at the time of the murder.

In assessing the sufficiency of evidence, the Court of Appeals must view all evidence in the light most favorable to the verdict to determine whether the trial court could have found the elements of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt. Here, the Court of Appeals agreed with the State, that there was indeed sufficient evidence for a rational jury to conclude that Gardner no longer lived with his ex-girlfriend and no longer had consent to enter the home at the time of the murder. Because the evidence was sufficient to prove the unlawful entry element of burglary, the Court of Appeals overruled Gardner’s first argument.

Second, the language of the statute under which Gardner was convicted states, “A person commits capital murder if he intentionally or knowingly causes an individual’s death while in the course of committing or attempting to commit burglary.” Gardner argued that the State wrongly used his murder to establish the murder requirement for capital murder and to establish the felony component of the underlying burglary. The State argued that the Court of Criminal Appeals—the court of last resort for criminal matters in Texas— has held in several cases that a murder occurring after a break-in can indeed serve as both the basis for the murder charge and the underlying felony required for burglary.

Under the legal doctrine of Stare Decisis, courts must follow the precedent established by the higher court from cases the higher court has heard from previous years. In criminal appeals, these prior cases serve as an example for lower courts to follow when making decisions about upholding or overturning convictions. Here, the Court of Appeals overruled Gardner’s second argument because the court is bound to follow precedent set forth by the Court of Criminal Appeals. The State could use Gardner’s murder to establish the murder requirement for capital murder and to establish the felony component of the underlying burglary in order to elevate the murder to capital murder, which incurs a higher penalty in Texas.

In criminal appeals, the court is primarily responsible for ensuring that proper form and procedures are followed in the trial courts, rather than determining the facts of the case. The trial court is tasked with determining and recording the facts of the case, to be used later on appeal if necessary.

A criminal defense attorney in Fort Worth will understand the subtle nuances of the statutory language found in the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure and in legal doctrines, such as Stare Decisis. As you can see from the case above, statutory language and legal doctrine have a direct impact on establishing the elements of a crime, elements that may determine the severity of the penalty in the punishment phase of a trial. This essay does not replace legal counsel or advice.

Free Consultation with a Dedicated Team of Fort Worth Criminal Defense Attorneys

Barnett Howard & Williams PLLC is a proven and dedicated criminal defense law firm. With offices in Fort Worth, Keller, and Grapevine, our attorneys stand ready to defend your liberty and your future. Call our office at (817) 993-9249 to arrange a Free consultation of your criminal case today. Do not wait until it is too late.

Fort Worth, Texas Theft Attorneys

How Jerry Seinfeld Violated Texas Theft Law

By | Theft

Obscure Texas Laws | Fort Worth Criminal Defense Attorneys

Fort Worth, Texas Theft AttorneysNo, I’m not talking about a Good Samaritan Law, but Texas does have some obscure laws on the books that you might not suspect.  We are hoping to bring some of them to your attention.  For the first obscure Texas law, we look to one of the most successful television shows in history.

For all of the Seinfeld fans out there, you probably remember the episode where Kramer tries to entice Jerry to have cable illegally installed by two Russians.  Well, Jerry’s actions would be a Class C misdemeanor Theft offense here in Texas punishable by a fine up to $500.

Section 31.12 – Theft of or Tampering With Multichannel Video or Information

Under this law:

[a] person commits an offense if, without the authorization of the multichannel video or information services provider, the person intentionally or knowingly makes or maintains a connection, whether physically, electrically, electronically, or inductively, to a television set, videotape recorder, or other receiver attached to a multichannel video or information system.

Based on his actions (or inability to stop Kramer), Jerry could be arrested and issued a Class C criminal citation.  Like all penal statutes, there is much more to it than that.  If you’re curious about whether you may have violated this one in the past (long before the statute of limitations ran out, of course), see the full text of the Texas Theft Statute and look for Section 31.12.

Contact Fort Worth Theft Attorneys

If you or a loved one are charged with any theft offense in Texas, don’t call Jacky Chiles.  Contact the experienced (and non-fictional) criminal defense attorneys at Barnett Howard & Williams PLLC by calling (817) 993-9249.

Tarrant County Shoplifting Charges

Retailers Demanding Money From Shoplifters for Theft

By | Theft

Why did I get a letter from Wal-Mart demanding that I pay them $350?

Tarrant County Shoplifting ChargesWhen a person is arrested for theft or shoplifting in Fort Worth and comes to consult with one of our Fort Worth criminal defense attorneys, one of the most common issues we’re asked about is what to do about a civil demand letter.

What is a civil demand letter?

When a person is arrested for shoplifting, many times the larger retailers will follow up the arrest with a civil demand letter. These letters demand payment of a civil penalty to the retailer. Typically, these letters will be sent directly from the store, a law firm or debt collector and they usually ask for between $200.00 – $400.00 (regardless of the amount that was stolen). The key to remember is that this is civil demand and is separate from the criminal case. What happens with the civil demand letter will have no bearing on the criminal case.

Should I pay Wal-Mart on the demand letter?

Your options when you receive a dmeand letter after an arrest for theft are:

  1. Pay the penalty if you want to stop the letters from being sent, or
  2. Don’t pay and force them to sue if they choose to.

Technically, the amount that the store is demanding is not owed but is something the store feels like it could sue for. What’s important to remember is that for a store to sue a shoplifter for these types of damages, they would have to pursue their cause of action under the Texas Theft Liability Act.

What if the store recovered the property on the scene?

Under this act, a person may be liable for damages resulting from the theft. But, the act specifically states that a store may only recover the amount of actual damages sustained not to exceed $1000.00. The key term here is “actual damages.” In the majority of shoplifting cases, the property being stolen is recovered. In that case, there would be no “actual damages” because the store has not suffered any true loss. If so, the store would not be able to prove that they’ve suffered any actual damages and would not be able to recover a judgment.

So, whether or not they would be successful in a lawsuit is one issue. Another is whether the retailer feels like expending the fees to bring a suit is even worth it if even the most they could recover would be $1000.00. I have yet to have a client (and have yet to speak with any other attorneys with clients) who has received one of these letters being actually sued by one of these retailers – regardless of whether they pay or not.

Ultimately, whether you pay a retailer after receiving one of these civil demand letters is up to you. But, don’t expect the trial of the century if you don’t.

Contact our Fort Worth Theft Defense Attorneys if You Have Received a Civil Demand Letter

Our criminal defense attorneys, with offices in Fort Worth, Keller, and Grapevine, are experienced in all types of theft cases in Tarrant County. Contact us today for a FREE consultation at (817) 993-9249.

Texas Theft Update

Theft is On the Rise in Texas

By | Theft

Changes to Texas Theft Laws | Fort Worth Theft Crimes Attorneys

Texas Theft Update Fort Worth Theft CrimesAs the prices of gas and groceries rise, so must the theft laws in Texas. With House Bill 1396, the Texas Legislature has amended the Texas theft laws (and several other laws involving the monetary value of property), raising the monetary values of the property involved as follows:

  • Theft Under $50 Theft Under $100
  • Theft $50 – $500 Theft $100 – $750
  • Theft $500 – $1,500 Theft $750 – $2,500
  • Theft $1,500 – $20,000 Theft 2,500 – $30,000
  • Theft $20,000 – $100,000 Theft $30,000 – $150,000
  • Theft $100,000 – $300,000 Theft $150,000 – $300,000

The new values for these offenses will apply to all offenses committed on or after September 1, 2015.  For offenses that pre-date 9/1/15, that theft offenses will remain under the old statutory scheme.

The New Value Ladder

The Texas Penal Code uses a standard value ladder in cases of theft and many other property and economic crimes to determine the grade of an offense. On September 1, 2015, HB 1396 changed the standard value ladder for theft in Texas—this is the first time this has happened since 1993. Under the value ladder, as the value of property lost increases, the seriousness of the crime increases. Below are the updated values:

  • Under $100 is a Class C Misdemeanor;
  • $100 or more, but less than $750 is a Class B Misdemeanor;
  • $750 or more, but les than $2,500 is a Class A Misdemeanor;
  • $2,500 or more, but less than $30,000 is a State Jail Felony;
  • $30,000 or more, but less than $150,000 is a Third Degree Felony;
  • $150,000 or more, but less than $300,000 is a Second Degree Felony; and
  • More than $300,000 is a First Degree Felony.

The change in law also includes a savings clause. This clause provides that the change in law applies only to an offense committed on or after the effective date of the article. As such, an offense is committed before the effective date of the article if any element of the offense occurs before the effective date. This savings clause is an important factor when dealing with aggregate theft.

What is Aggregate Theft?

Aggregate theft is an offense where two or more thefts were committed “pursuant to one scheme or continuing course of conduct” and the amounts are combined to determine the grade of the offense. Tex. Penal Code § 31.09. Pursuant to Section 31.09 of the Texas Penal Code, aggregate theft may be considered as one offense—it is a sum of all its parts. The Court of Criminal Appeals has held that the State need only prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant unlawfully appropriated enough property to meet the aggregated value alleged. Since the value alleged will determine the grade of offense charged, applying the correct statute is essential.

How Does the New Value Ladder Apply to Aggregate Thefts?

The Court of Criminal Appeals has held time and time again that we are to interpret statutes in accordance with their plain meaning unless the language is ambiguous or the plain meaning would lead to absurd results. Thus, applying the plain meaning of the savings clause found in Section 31.09, the former law’s penalties apply to the offense of aggregated theft if any element of a continuing theft was committed before the effective date of the new law. The Court of Criminal Appeals held that this “interpretation does not lead to absurd results because one could reasonably conclude that the legislature intended for the old penalties to attach to a scheme or continuing course of conduct that was begun before the effective date of the new law.” Dickens v. State, 981 S.W.2d 186, 187-88 (Tex. Crim. App. 1998). Thus, if a defendant is being charged with aggregate theft and any element of their charge occurred before September 1, 2015, former law will apply to determine the grade of the offense.

Theft Crime Defense Lawyers | Fort Worth Criminal Defense Firm

The Fort Worth criminal defense attorneys at Barnett Howard & Williams PLLC handle all ranges of property crimes from simple shoplifting to armed robbery and everywhere in between. If you are under investigation for a property or theft offense or have already been charged, contact Barnett Howard & Williams PLLC today for a free consultation of your case at 817.993.9249.

Fort Worth Forgery Attorneys

The Wide Net of Forgery in Texas

By | Forgery

Fort Worth Forgery AttorneysTo the average person, the offense of Forgery probably doesn’t sound like something that occurs on a regular basis. The term “forgery” usually conjures up the image of a shady artist carefully recreating some poor, unsuspecting victim’s signature and then passing themselves off using the victim’s identity. While an act like this most certainly would be forgery, the offense in Texas actually encompasses a broad range of activities and, because of that, it is much more common than most people realize.

The definition of forgery is laid out in Sec. 32.21(b), which states that,

a person commits an offense if he forges a writing with intent to defraud another.

Simple enough, right? Not quite. The simple definition of forgery begs multiple questions. For instance, what is the definition of “forge?” And, what is the definition of “writing?” This is where the net gets bigger.

The legislature defined “forge” in Sec. 32.21(1) to include a wide range of acts. These include altering, making, completing, executing, or authenticating any writing with the intent to defraud in addition to issuing, transferring, registering the transfer of, passing, publishing, or otherwise uttering a writing that is forged. What is a “writing” you ask? Well, the legislature decided to stretch the net even further by defining a writing as a printing or any other method of recording information as well as money, coins, tokens, stamps, seals, credit cards, badges, trademarks, symbols of value, right, privilege or identification.

Most forgery cases in Texas deal with the writing or passing of forged checks or fake currency. Occasionally, we see cases involving credit or debit cards charged as forgery (although there is another offense in the code more accurate to charge these types of offenses). While we see quite a few of these more common offenses involving checks, I can’t say that we’ve ever seen as case of forgery involving publishing a symbol of privilege with the intent to defraud.

But, as you can see the net is wide and I’m sure someplace, sometime one of those exotic forgery fishes will be caught up in the State’s tangled web.

Contractor Convicted of Theft

Texas Contractor Convicted for Theft: Upheld by High Court

By | Theft

Can a bad contractor be convicted for theft?

Contractor Convicted of TheftIf you’ve ever gone through a home renovation or something similar, you have likely experienced periods of frustration with your contractor or construction crew.  This may stem from missed deadlines, shoddy workmanship, mistakes, or general incompetence. In extreme cases, you might have felt duped by the contractor, so much that you think he should be held criminally liable for the promises on which he failed to deliver.

Can a contractor be held criminally liable for his failures?  Texas law says YES (in certain circumstances).

In a recent case out of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, the court upheld the felony criminal conviction of a contractor for theft when he accepted money and failed to deliver under the contract for services.  The court explained that in most cases, dissatisfied consumers will have to resort to the civil courts, but in extreme cases, a contractor could be convicted of theft when he accepts money and utterly fails to perform.

You can read the full opinion of the court regarding Contractor Theft.

Barnett Howard & Williams PLLC is a criminal defense law firm in Fort Worth, Texas.  Call us today for a free consultation of your criminal matter at (817) 993-9249.

Fort Worth Weapon Charges Defense Lawyers

5th Circuit Opens the Barn Door on 4th Amendment Searches

By | Theft

Fort Worth Weapon Charges Defense LawyersBelow is a case update from the 5th Circuit (Federal)

U.S. v. Cooke, 5th Circuit, March 13, 2012

While appellant was in jail, federal agents approached him and asked for consent to search his house.  He refused.  A week later, while he was still in jail, federal agents went to his house to conduct a knock-and-talk interview.  Appellant’s house was a windowless structure that had two large sliding exterior barn doors.  Behind the barn doors was a large area with a dirt floor and a paved sidewalk path that led to a stoop and another set of doors.  Behind these interior doors were the living quarters where appellant, his wife and his mother lived.  When the agents approached the house, they noticed that one of the exterior barn doors was damaged, allowing them access to walk directly up to the interior doors.  Believing that knocking on the barn door would be futile, the agents walked through the open barn door and knocked on the interior set of doors.  Appellant’s mother answered the door and granted the agents consent to enter the house.  Once inside the house, the agents saw a shotgun shell and gun safe in plain view.  Based on these observations, the agents obtained a search warrant and found illegal firearms, ammunition and a bulletproof vest in appellant’s house.

Appellant argued that the agents unlawfully entered the curtilage of his house when they crossed the threshold of the barn door without a warrant or consent.  The court held that the area inside the barn doors, but outside the interior doors was not part of the curtilage, so the agents did not violate appellant’s Fourth Amendment rights by entering the area without consent or a warrant in order to knock on the interior doors.  First, the area had a dirt floor and a paved sidewalk that led to the interior doors.  Second, the contents of the area included non-operating washing machines and dryers, ladders, a grill and other items indicating that the space was used for storage.  Finally, the barn door was open wide enough such that the items stored there were exposed to the elements, the public could see into the area from the street, and anyone would reasonably think that they would have to enter and knock on the interior doors when visiting.

Appellant also argued that under Georgia v. Randolph the warrantless search was invalid because his mother’s consent to the agents’ entry into the house was trumped by his previous refusal to consent.  The court disagreed, stating that Randolph only applied to co-tenants who were physically present and immediately objected to the other co-tenant’s consent.  Here, appellant was not a present and objecting co tenant, but rather was miles away from his home and in jail when he objected to the search.

The Seventh and Eighth Circuits agree and allow searches under similar circumstances; however, the Ninth Circuit does not.

Legal Sufficiency of Evidence

Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Updates – Sufficiency of Evidence

By | Assault, Theft

Legal Sufficiency of EvidenceThe CCA handed down two opinions today dealing with legal sufficiency of evidence.  Johnson v. State (Tex. Crim. App. 2012) involved a variance between allegations in the charging instrument and the sufficiency of the proof presented at trial.  Wirth v. State (Tex. Crim. App. 2012) involved a general question of legal sufficiency in light of the recent case, Brooks v. State, 922 S.W.2d 126 (Tex. Cr. App. 1996).

In Johnson v. State, Appellant was convicted on various counts of aggravated assault.  The indictment read that appellant did then and there, “intentionally or knowingly cause serious bodily injury to [the victim] by hitting her with his hand or twisting her arm with his hand.” The complaining witness in the case testified that appellant threw her against the wall and that hitting the wall caused her to fall to the floor and break her arm.  Appellant’s criminal defense attorney argued that the variance between pleading and proof rendered the evidence legally insufficient to support the conviction.  The CCA held that ultimately, “the act that caused the injury does not define or help define the allowable unit of prosecution for this type of aggravated assault offense, so variance at issue cannot be material.” The CCA also stated that this type of variance involved immaterial non-statutory allegations and when a variance like this presents itself it will not render the evidence legally insufficient.

I thought this case was interesting because, as a former criminal prosecutor, I used to try and charge the most accurate manner and means possible.  I came across cases like this occasionally where we alleged one way that a defendant had assaulted a victim and then upon further investigation or questioning of the victim, it looked as if there was going to be a variance.  In those cases, I would amend the indictment to reflect the more accurate description of the manner and means.  Another method that is commonly used by prosecutors is to allege a very broad manner and means.  Often, you will see the manner and means in an assault alleged, “by striking with defendant’s hands.” This language covers various types of assaults (slapping, punching, grabbing, squeezing).  But, in looking at the Johnson opinion, it looks like the bottom-line is that if the language in the indictment involves immaterial non-statutory allegations, it will likely not render the evidence legally insufficient if different evidence comes up at trial.

In Wirth v. State, the Appellant was convicted of the offense of Theft of $20,000 or more but less than $100,000, a third degree felony.  The Sixth Court of Appeals (Texarkana) held that the evidence was legally insufficient to support the conviction and rendered a judgment of acquittal. The State filed a petition for discretionary review.  The CCA found that the Sixth Court of Appeals had erred and reversed the Court’s decision, reinstating the Appellant’s conviction.  The CCA recognized that the Sixth Court of Appeals had reviewed the Appellant’s case and found that the evidence was factually insufficient to support the verdict based on Clewis v. State, 922 S.W.2d 126 (Tex. Cr. App. 1996).  As the Court noted, at the time that the Court of Appeals considered the Appellant’s case, the CCA had not issued its opinion in Brooks v. State, 323 S.W.3d 893 (Tex. Cr. App. 2010) which essentially overruled the factual sufficiency analysis (see our previous post on this issue here).  In light of the Brooks decision, the CCA analyzed Appellant’s case based on the legal sufficiency of the evidence and held that there was legally sufficient evidence (even given that the evidence was purely circumstantial and that the defendant was a party to the crime) to support the jury’s prior verdict of guilt. Accordingly, the CCA reversed the judgment of the Sixth Court of Appeals and affirmed the judgment of the trial court.