Criminal Law

DWI, Drugs, Assault, Probation Revocation, Sexual Offenses, Theft, Juvenile Defense. Felony and Misdemeanor Offenses in State and Federal Court

DWI

Driving While Intoxicated, DWI and Your Drivers License Forney, Texas DWI Defense Lawyer.

Juvenile Law

Sexual Offenses, Drug Offenses, Assault and Violent Crimes, Theft, Truancy/School Related Criminal Charges.

A majority of Dallas City Council members said today that they’d like police to try a pilot program that’d ticket people caught with marijuana instead of arresting them. Some council…

Source: City Council members give first nod to pilot program that’d allow tickets instead of arrests for marijuana possession | | Dallas Morning News

I’m for anything that moves us further away from cannabis prohibition inanity, but the recent move by Dallas to write tickets for pot isn’t as great as you think.

One of the stranger local practices in Kaufman County is the requirement of paying court costs up front in misdemeanor cases. That is, you are supposed to pay court costs on the day you plead guilty. This local preference is often a requirement to enter a plea, with some exceptions and variation among our County Courts. It’s the only county I practice in that has this policy and it’s one I’ve never understood.

I have not taken court appointments for a while, so it’s less of an issue for my clients who can usually get a few hundred bucks together on the date of the ple for costs. However, for indigent defendants paying $261-$460 at the time of plea can be impossible. Worse, indigent defendants have even gone to jail to “sit out” court costs if they did not bring them to court.

Recently Etta Mullins, widely regarded as the worst criminal judge in Dallas County when she was on the bench, was reprimanded by a special court of review for the same practice, inter alia. The opinion talks about (see Charge VI)  the role of the judge in accepting plea bargains and/or requiring costs or fines up front. Basically, it’s bad and you shouldn’t do it.

Calculating back time is an issue that slows down many a plea bargain. It’s not as simple as just adding up the days you were in jail. There are issues of when the warrant was issued, figuring out all the different jails you may have been in, getting those agencies to respond, and finally giving any “good time” credit the local sheriff may afford. In Kaufman County the District Attorney’s office will calculate the back for us, which is nice. In Dallas you can allegedly use their DHARMA initiative DOS computer (JI 55) to do this, but I avoid those like the plague (or like the MRSA infection that lives on those keyboards).

So if you are sitting in the county jail and looking at a plea bargain for pen time or county time how can you figure out your back time? Not by using this blog post, since I don’t know a single county jail with internet access, but I digress.

First, it depends on what kind of case you are pleading guilty to. Misdemeanor sentences are eligible for good time credit provided by the Sheriff towards any sentence. For example, in Rockwall you get 2 for 1 credit on misdemeanors. So if you get a 30 days sentence for your DWI you are out in 15. Kaufman County is day-for-day, which is nuts and serves no real purpose beyond keeping poor people in jail longer and costing local taxpayers to lock up DWI and POM offenders.

As any believer in sound money will tell you, inflation eats away at the purchasing power of your dollar. But without indexing for inflation, a thief who steals $49 worth of good 15 years ago, got a lot better deal than one who stole something 15 months ago.

In acknowledgement of this economic fact the legislature recently lowered the theft penalty ranges, by increasing how much shit you can steal before it becomes a felony, or class B misdemeanor.

The new amounts, for theft offenses committed after 9/1/2015, are as follows-

Now that gays are guaranteed the right to marry and protected by the US Constitution, would it be illegal for a county clerk to refuse to offer a gay couple a marriage license? Has Ken Paxton (our admitted felon AG) opened up county clerks across the State to criminal liability with his letter advising them they can not provide marriage licenses to same-sex couples?

Let’s look at the Official Oppression statute for a minute. It’s TPC 39.03 (so no rule of lenity here). I’m going to add some emphasis.

Sec. 39.03. OFFICIAL OPPRESSION. (a) A public servant acting under color of his office or employment commits an offense if he:

Oh the Blue Warrant, the enemy of all those who are on paper. A blue warrant is what we call a warrant issued for a parole violation. Allegedly, they used to be on blue paper, hence the name.

Abbott’s magic pen recently signed SB790, so on 9/1/15 you will be able to actually have a bond set on if you meet certain requirements. Blue warrants have typically meant a very extended stay in county while the system sorted out your new case (which is the cause of many blue warrants) or the Parole Board decided what to do about your technicals (dirty UAs, missing meetings etc). Bond just wasn’t an option, but it will be soon.

This move should save counties a nice pile of cash. Kaufman County has 19 “Hold For TDCJ” inmates right now, that’s more than any other criminal offense. This bill is parter of a larger Smart on Crime movement, which is a nice way of saying that up until recently, we have been stupid on crime, or more accurately TUFF ON CRIME!. Being stupid, and/or tuff, is expensive. Holding people who pose no threat to public safety is a great way to waste tax dollars, letting people out on bond saves you money, so we only pay to lock up people we are truly scared of, not merely mad at.

Who can get bail set on a blue warrant/parole hold?

I’m glad you asked. To be eligible you must meet some requirements. I’ll just quote the statute and save us some time. Basically, you can’t be the guy described below.

    (1)  has not been previously convicted of:
                   (A)  an offense under Chapter 29, Penal Code;
                   (B)  an offense under Title 5, Penal Code,
punishable as a felony; or
                   (C)  an offense involving family violence, as
defined by Section 71.004, Family Code;
             (2)  is not on intensive supervision or super-intensive
supervision;
             (3)  is not an absconder; and
             (4)  is not a threat to public safety.

 

You’d think we were all watching different videos given the reaction to the McKinney pool party videos. Conservatives and authoritarians lining up to defend Casebolt against the THUGS (which feels like a substitute for a racial slur) and libertarians/liberals standing up for the individuals affected by Casebolt’s recklessly aggressive form of barrell roll Rambo-style policing. One thing to note about authoritarian thinking, and the right/left divide in this country, is that it may be neurological. And your reaction to the Casebolt video isn’t because of what an objective common-sense individual  you are, but how your brain tells you to feel about the video. 

So if you wonder why the facebook debates regarding this arrest don’t actually get anywhere, or why the upcoming presidential race will see millions of tweets/debates/comment wars that convert no one, it may be because we are more hard wired to our politics than we are able to freely choose to be a Libertarian, Green or Tea Party Patriot. It’s also a reason that many a defense voir dire seminar emphasizes striking authoritarians as they enjoy aggression against outliers and are fans of submission to, and violence by, authority.

Is this a turning point in our national debate over modern policing? 

There is some general confusion about the role of polygraph examinations in criminal cases. Let’s cover some basics. Polygraphs examination results are not admissible in a criminal trial. There was one really bad appellate opinion that seemed to open the door to that possibility, but it was reconsidered. So passing a polygraph really doesn’t help you in a criminal trial.

Polygraphs can not detect if someone is lying. Instead they monitor blood pressure, pulse, respiration etc. The idea is that when you lie you body has a stress response that can be measured as “deception”. However, there are a lot of reasons someone could have these exact same symptoms while telling the truth.

So why take one?

This is a question we get a lot at Guest and Gray. Clients want to know if character reference letters will help their case, or help them get a better plea offer. The answer is “it might help, but it can’t hurt”. I tell my clients that they should get as many letters as they can from the most credible/important people they know who are not relatives (letters from mom don’t really help). And that at the right time we might share these with the prosecutor (the timing is more art than science).

Let’s start with misdemeanors- if you are facing a DWI or pot case most prosecutors won’t think you are a scumbag criminal anyway (the exception being noob true believer ADAs), so there is not a lot of room to improve your character in their eyes because they should understand you just got caught in the unlucky lottery of the criminal justice system. One challenge is that misdemeanor prosecutors typically have hundreds of cases at any given time, and it can be hard to get them to review much new information on any one case.

Still, it can’t hurt. Will it get your case dismissed? No, but it can help move the needle a little in plea negotiations. For example, I’ve had cases where I was looking to get a deferred offer down to a pre trial diversion, and character evidence has helped in those situations.

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