Joseph W. Varela
Houston Criminal Defense And Appeals

Case Results


The client was accused of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. He was facing a sentence of 25 years in prison to life. The prosecutor offered 30 years in prison as a plea bargain offer. I investigated the alleged victim and discovered records that I knew would be harmful to him in cross examination. We turned the 30 year offer down. At the trial the client did not testify, because I wanted to put the State's complaining witness on trial. The jury found the client "not guilty" based on my cross examination of the victim.

The client was on trial for assault. He stayed in a bar at closing time, because his wife was in the bathroom. Naturally enough, he wanted to wait a few minutes for his wife to finish using the bathroom, rather than leaving her alone in the bar. The bar personnel wouldn't listen and they got rough trying to eject him. At the trial they testified that they only held him on the floor until the police arrived. What the prosecutor and his witnesses didn't know - and I didn't tell anyone - was that I had photographs showing injuries to my client. After the State's witnesses locked themselves into their story, I pulled out the photographs. The jury hung up and the State dismissed the case.

The client was accused of possession of cocaine. The cocaine was in a small baggie in his pants pocket when the police pulled his car over. He had just been released from prison following a conviction for the same offense. I was able to prove that he had borrowed the pants a couple of hours before, and therefore did not know the cocaine was there. The jury found him not guilty.

Grand Jury Nobills

The client was accused in a conspiracy case involving a "pill mill," where many prescriptions were filled for opioids based on flimsy medical examinations. There were several people arrested with her when the police informant was wearing a "wire" and recording conversations concerning drug transactions. I moved quickly to get a transcription of the informant's conversations. I was able to show that the other people arrested did all the talking, and that my client had little to do with the transactions. The Grand Jury nobilled her and therefore her case was dismissed without a trial.

The client was charged with robbing the same acquaintance in two separate incidents. The client purchased the car from the alleged victim, who represented that he owned the car. In reality, the "victim" was behind on the payments and did not have a good title to the car. He convinced the client that he did have good title and the client gave him money to make a "final payment" and the car would be the client's. The trouble started when the car was repossessed. To cover his own criminal behavior, the "victim" told the police that my client had "robbed" him twice. The problem with that was that while these "robberies" were supposed to be happening, the client and the "victim" were exchanging text messages negotiating for the purchase of the car. I obtained these text messages and records relating to the ownership of the car, and prepared a presentation to the Grand Jury. The Grand Jury nobilled the client and the case was dismissed.

Suppression of illegal searches

The client's car was sitting at a house where someone was supposed to repair it. It was not running and it had been awaiting repair for some time. There was a drug transaction at the house. The client's car was searched and drugs were found in the car. The State charged my client with possession with intent to deliver drugs. The possible punishment was 15 years to life in prison. I was able to show that there was no warrant that authorized the search of the car and no probable cause for the search. The court agreed and suppressed the drugs. The State dismissed the case.


The client was charged with murder stemming from a robbery. The sentence was life in prison. The client's position was that it was a dispute over money and he shot to save his own life. I was able to show on appeal that the judge had improperly refused to instruct that jury that they could consider self defense. The court of appeals agreed and ordered a new trial.


The teen-age client was assaulted by her estranged father, who had a history of drug and alcohol abuse. When they police arrived, they arrested not her father, but her, even though she was the victim. I obtained the 911 call showing that it was she who had called the police. I also got pictures showing that she had suffered facial injury consistent with what she told the dispatcher on the 911 call. Also, I investigated the father's criminal and divorce records, which showed he had a tendency towards violence. Confronted by all this information, the State dismissed the case.

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