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Could I Go to Jail for Hitting a Mailbox?

There are many misdemeanor crimes in Texas, such as traffic violations, that can land you in legal trouble beyond a simple ticket. For example, a Class B misdemeanor carries a maximum penalty of 180 days in jail and/or a fine not exceeding $2,000. And while that may not be as serious as felony, a misdemeanor conviction is still part of your criminal record.

Houston Court Upholds Conviction of Women Who Failed to “Immediately” Notify Owners of Damaged Property

If you think Houston-area prosecutors do not take misdemeanor crimes seriously, consider this recent decision by the 14th District Court of Appeals, Burks v. State. This case began when a woman–the defendant–was driving to work one morning. She accidentally struck and damaged a parked vehicle and a mailbox. A witness working in a nearby building observed what happened and called 911.

As it turned out, the mailbox belonged to a law firm. Two of the firm’s employees said they “heard a loud noise” from outside. Upon investigation, one of the employees discovered it was her vehicle the defendant struck.

For her part, the defendant said she did not realize there had been an accident until after she arrived at her own office and a co-worker noticed there was a flat tire on the defendant’s car. Later that day, the defendant retraced her steps and noticed the damaged vehicle parked outside the law firm. At this point, the defendant went into the law firm, notified the driver of what happened, and provided her insurance information.

You might think this would have been the end of the story. But the defendant then spoke with the police. After hearing the defendant’s story and reviewing surveillance footage taken from a nearby camera, prosecutors charged the defendant with two Class B misdemeanors, both related to her alleged failure to “immediately stop” and notify the owners of the car and mailbox, respectively, about the damage she caused.

A trial court found the defendant guilty of both counts and sentenced her to 12 months probation, 48 hours of community service, and a $1,250 fine. The defendant subsequently appealed her conviction, arguing there was insufficient evidence of her guilt. Specifically, she maintained that she was not aware of the collision with the unattended car or mailbox until after she arrived at work, and once she realized something happened, she promptly retraced her steps and took responsibility.

The Court of Appeals was not sympathetic. It declined to second-guess the trial court’s weighing of the defendant’s credibility against the other evidence presented. Of note, the 14th District pointed to the surveillance video, which “showed the [defendant] did not merely strike a glancing blow against the mailbox, but that she crossed a lane of oncoming traffic and jumped the curb on the opposite side of the street before squarely striking and destroying the mailbox.”

Contact a Galveston and League City Misdemeanor Crimes Defense Lawyer Today

As you can see, minor traffic accidents can quickly escalate into misdemeanor criminal charges. This is why you need to work with an experienced Houston criminal defense attorney if you are charged with any degree of misdemeanor offense. Contact the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates at (281) 280-0100 today if you require immediate legal assistance.