May 15, 2014

Texas mother on trial for death of baby

The trial is underway for Narjes Modarresi, charged with capital murder in connection with the death of the child in April 2010.
According to HPD, Modarresi initially said the baby was taken in his stroller in the 8000 block of Woodway by a man in a mid-sized brown or beige sedan. But after a lengthy interview with investigators, Modarresi led them to a wooded area near Buffalo Bayou where her son was buried alive in a shallow grave.
Defense attorney George Parnham said Modarresi had an extensive history of mental illness including bipolar disorder and post-partum depression. Parnham also represented Andrea Yates, the Houston woman who drowned her five kids in 2001.

While her family says Modarresi has a history of mental illness, it's unclear whether there was any official diagnosis of post-partum depression. George Parnham, an expert on post-partum depression, said the public should withhold judgment.
"I understand that the mother's Iranian, and there may be a cultural issue, whereby she has added pressure not to speak to relatives about examples of post-partum issues," he said.

"When we're dealing with a mother who's suffering post-partum psychosis, her reality -- and the reality in which she makes a a decision -- is different," he said.

Injury to a Child by Omission in Texas

"Injury to a child by omission" means that the legal guardian, or someone with the legal duty to support/protect the child, failed to take an action they should have taken and the failure to take that action caused injury to the child. 
“Injury to a Child” is defined by Texas Penal Code 22.04 which states;
(a)  A person commits an offense if he intentionally, knowingly, recklessly, or with criminal negligence, by act or intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly by omission, causes to a child, elderly individual, or disabled individual:
(1)  serious bodily injury;
(2)  serious mental deficiency, impairment, or injury; or
(3)  bodily injury.

Child abuse allegations are extremely serious in nature, and Texas law takes these matters so seriously that we are all charged with an affirmative duty in Texas to report any abuse or neglect of a child to the authorities. Charges of child abuse can be brought if someone is alleged to have acted “intentionally” or “knowingly”, or in the case of an “inchoate” crime; a crime of omission, or failing to act.

While most felony child abuse charges stem from a direct act by a defendant in the context of an assault, either intentionally or recklessly causing some contact with a child that results in an injury- child abuse also applies to omissions or things that a person failed to do. This is one of the few felony offenses where a person is punished for not doing something. 
Child abuse charges from omissions only apply to a parent or another person who has taken over the parenting or caretaking function, such as a nanny or babysitter. Examples could include punishment techniques involving the deprivation of food or water, or failing to obtain proper medical treatment for a child, even when the denial of treatment is based on religious beliefs.

There are several affirmative defenses available to people accused of injury to a child in Texas. A primary defense is provided by Texas Penal Code Section 9.61 which allows "the use of force, but not deadly force, against a child younger than 18 years of age (1) if the actor is the child’s parent or step-parent acting in loco parentis to the child (which includes grandparents, guardians, or any person acting by, through, or under the discretion of a court with jurisdiction over the child, and anyone that has the express or implied consent of the parent or parents of the child); and (2) when and to the degree the actor reasonably believes the force is necessary to discipline the child or to safeguard or promote his welfare."
This means that if a defendant can show that the injury was the result of reasonable discipline, then a defendant is allowed to submit an affirmative defense. The main focus is the reasonableness of the discipline;  if a parent spanks their child with a belt and leaves minimal red marks, they will probably be able to beat a felony child abuse charge. A spanking with a metal studded belt that lasted for an extensive period of time would not qualify as reasonable.

It is extremely common for law enforcement, either a local police agency or Child Protective Services (CPS) to conduct investigations of child abuse or endangerment without notifying the accused that they are  being investigated for a felony.  A seemingly innocuous request to have an in-person interview may be an attempt to get a confession.  

If you have any question about why you’ve been contacted for an investigation you should speak with a lawyer immediately. Contact the law offices of Parnham and McWilliams at 713.224.3967 or visit to schedule a free consultation.

May 13, 2014

Assault: Houston Texas Criminal Attorney

Simple assault in Texas is defined in Tex. Penal Code Ann. §22.01. and consists of intentionally, knowingly or recklessly causing bodily injury to another person; intentionally or knowingly threatening another person with imminent bodily injury, or intentionally or knowingly causing physical contact with another that the offender knows or reasonably should know the victim will find provocative or offensive.

Any injury such as a broken bone, disfigurement or loss of a limb that requires surgery or hospitalization is a considered “serious bodily injury”; simple assault involves only minor bodily injury like a cut, scrape, or bruise. In fact, assault does not even require actual physical contact with another individual: simply threatening another person with violence may be considered assault if that person has a reasonable fear that the act will be committed.

In addition, any abusive, violent, coercive, forceful, or threatening act or word inflicted by one member of a family or household on another can constitute a domestic assault. In Texas, domestic violence ranges from saying unkind or demeaning words (verbal assault) to physical actions such as grabbing a person's arm, hitting, kicking or choking them. Although domestic violence most often refers to violence between married or cohabiting couples, it may also refer to violence against other members of a household such as children or elderly relatives.

An attempted assault is defined as attempting to cause serious physical harm resulting in significant injury. Examples of this include physical harm to a person or another person's unborn child and engaging in sexual conduct as a known carrier of a virus that causes acquired immunodeficiency syndrome.

In Texas, Assault can be a Class C Misdemeanor, a Class A Misdemeanor or a Felony;
"Simple Assault" generally falls under the Class C Misdemeanor charge. A regular Class A Assault is where a person “causes bodily injury to another”, meaning pain. For example, if someone pushes you, but it did not hurt, they may be charged with simple assault. If they push you and it hurts (even if there is no visible injury) they may be charged with a Class A misdemeanor assault.
The Class C Misdemeanor offense of simple assault is punishable by a fine only up to $500. It is possible to be charged with a simple assault involving domestic violence. A Class A Misdemeanor is punishable up to one year in county jail and a $4,000 fine. Aggravated Assault or an enhanced domestic violence assault is a second degree felony punishable by 2 to 20 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine.

When an assault is charged under the misdemeanor category, a law enforcement officer cannot arrest an individual without seeing them actually commit the assault. This does not mean you cannot be prosecuted for the assault. An officer can arrest an individual without seeing the assault, if the assault involves domestic violence.
Every arrest does not necessarily mean that the individual is guilty of committing simple assault; every case has its own facts and circumstances. The required intent can be met based upon recklessness; if the defendant is aware of some risk, but disregards the risk, they can still be liable for assault.

If an individual believed that an act is necessary to prevent harm to themselves or to protect their property from being stolen, they could be found to not have committed an assault: this self-defense argument can sometimes overlap and be used if an individual was defending/protecting another individual. Another defense against assault charges is that the actions were accidental if they were not intentional, knowing, or reckless. When the assault charge arises from threats, arguments can be raised that the complainant misinterpreted the actions of the accused.

If you have been accused of Assault, please contact Parnham & McWilliams today for a free consultation with an aggressive and resourceful criminal defense attorney. We will work tirelessly to ensure the best possible outcome for your case.

May 6, 2014

Aggravated Assault in Texas

"Assault" charges in Texas can range from a simple threats or fistfights to violent attacks with dangerous weapons. Under Texas law, you can be charged with assault resulting from an incident with no physical contact.
An act of assault can include intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causing bodily injury to another person, threatening someone with bodily injury or causing physical contact in a manner considered offensive or provocative.
For a threat to rise to the level of a criminal assault, the threat has to put the person in reasonable fear of injury.

For the police to actually arrest you on the spot on an assault charge, they have to actually witness the act.  If the police are not there to witness the assault, then they can write you a complaint (citation) or notice to appear in court, or they can seek an arrest warrant from a judge.
The exception to this is with domestic assault or domestic violence accusations, in which case the police in Texas are authorized to arrest you and remove you from the premises.

Under Texas Penal Code Section 22.02. an assault is considered an aggravated assault if serious bodily injury is caused, and/or a deadly weapon is used or exhibited in committing the assault.
"Bodily injury" does not necessarily require some sort of visible injury like a cut or bruise: in fact the legal definition includes mere physical pain. As a result, you can be charged with "Assault with Bodily Injury," if you are accused of merely slapping another person or pulling their hair.
The definition of "serious bodily injury" is more intuitive, meaning that the bodily injury "creates a substantial risk of death or causes death, serious permanent disfigurement, or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ."

In Texas, assault and battery laws carry penalties ranging from a "Class C" misdemeanor (monetary fine of up to $500) to a second degree felony (two to twenty years in prison and a fine of no more than $10,000). The primary factors influencing which type of penalty is likely to be imposed.
Aggravated assault, on the other hand, is always classified as either a first or second degree felony; generally it is prosecuted as a second degree felony, except in the following circumstances:
  • The victim is either someone living in the household of the defendant, related to the defendant by blood or affinity (including foster parents or foster children), or in a "dating relationship" with the defendant;
  • The defendant is a public servant acting under his/her office as a public servant;
  • The victim is a public servant and was acting under his/her duties at the time of the crime;
  • The victim is a security officer on duty at the time of the crime;
  • The defendant was in a motor vehicle at the time of the crime and recklessly discharges a firearm in the direction of a building, vehicle or habitation without knowledge of whether it was inhabited and causes serious bodily injury to a victim;

A conviction of second degree felony carries a penalty of two to twenty years in state prison and/or a fine of no more than $10,000.
If the conviction is for first degree felony, the penalty imposed may be between 5 to 99 years in state prison and/or a fine of no more than $10,000.

If you have been charged with criminal assault, including misdemeanor assault or felony aggravated assault, or if you are being investigated for state or federal assault charges, it is important to seek counsel from an experienced criminal defense attorney. For more information visit or contact   Parnham and McWilliams at 713.224.3967 to schedule a free consultation.