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.

Medicine kind of sucks these days, for all the magic of life saving pills and procedures nothing can make you broke faster than the medical industry. As a lawyer we have multiple ethics rules covering what fees we can charge, and how they have to be reasonable and fair and nice etc. You know who doesn’t give a shit about billing ethics? Hospitals. They hide their prices, bill at insane rates, send bill collectors after people who are sick and can’t pay etc. Yet doctors are heroes in the world, and lawyers are the assholes. But I digress.

Here’s a scenario- you are pulled over for DWI, you assert your constitutional right to not give blood, the police ignore that and get a warrant from Judge Rubberstamp. The warrant comes with an order requiring the nurses to comply and help the police (so much for limited government, we’ve drafted nurses into law enforcement). Later, the suspect gets a bill for a few hundred bucks. That’s been happening more often lately, and it’s a chance to reflect on this intersection of law and medicine.

A few things-

One of the most common questions I get from potential clients is “the officer didn’t read me my rights, does that matter?” Often it doesn’t, and the reason is the police only have to read Mirandize you when you are under arrest or subject to custodial interrogation. That is, the longer the cops can go without arresting you, the longer they can question you (which is another reason to never talk to cops, ask for a lawyer). This issue of when an arrest occurs is litigated often, so let’s look at the law in Texas.

From the Code of Criminal Procedure-

Art. 15.22. WHEN A PERSON IS ARRESTED. A person is arrested when he has been actually placed under restraint or taken into custody by an officer or person executing a warrant of arrest, or by an officer or person arresting without a warrant.

By now you know that you should never consent to a search of your car. But what if you actually have a joint in the console (terrible hiding place by the way), or you are a mule and worried the popo will find the package? Same advice, just say no to a search.

A few pieces of advice.

  1. Get through the traffic investigation quickly. Once the police finish their traffic investigation they need another reason to hold you. That is, they need probable cause or reasonable suspicion of some other crime to keep your ass on the side of the road. Now how long does it take to investigate a speeding offense? A few minutes tops, but the law also gives the cops time to run your license and see if you have any warrants. Then they can decide to give you a ticket or citation, or not. That is when they need another reason if they want to keep you. So have your license and insurance handy. Make sure everyone in the car is warrant-free (and preferably criminal history free), and has a similar story on where you are going and what you are doing. Also, make sure the damn car doesn’t smell like weed. Seriously people, rookie mistake.

One of the problems with DWI cases is that it can take months, years sometimes, before a DWI video appears from the DA’s office. For example, we have a case set for trial in Dallas and the video didn’t show up for nearly two years. That’s unusual, but what isn’t is for your defense lawyer to get the police reports early, for the ALR hearing, but have to wait on the DA’s office for the video. Also, you could end up in a court that gets pissy about resetting cases and this can help give your lawyer and expert time to review the video before court.

Now anyone, even you, can request your DWI video straight from the arresting agency. That is, the cops, deputies, or DPS Trooper who arrested you have to get you a copy. Although you probably want a lawyer to help.

What’s the law on requesting your DWI video?

Source: Dallas’ Black Population Faces Much Higher Odds of Arrest for Marijuana than Whites

You can tell who the politically powerless are by who gets arrested for petty bullshit, like simple pot possession. Actually, I shouldn’t say “simple” pot possession. The conservative brain trust in Austin has fought attempts to decriminalize marijuana in the past, so ANY USABLE AMOUNT of weed in Texas is a class B misdemeanor with a punishment range that even most prosecutors are embarrassed by (up to 6 months in county, seriously.)

In Texas our criminal justice is known for targeting minorities and the poor, and that starts with who we arrest. The Dallas Observer highlights what most defense lawyers already know, the cops arrest blacks for petty bullshit at a greater % than whites. But don’t say anyone in the system is racist, or people get offended.

One area of growth in the criminal justice system is speciality courts for probationers. It started with drug courts, which were a way of accepting the idea that the drug war is a monumental failure without legalizing anything. Drugs courts have flourished and found their way into counties across Texas include Kaufman County. The idea behind speciality courts is that helping people succeed at probation is a better investment than locking people up for bullshit technical violations.

Kaufman County has two speciality courts for defendants, DWI and Drug Court (though drug court also handles mental health issues). What we’ve lacked is a program for pre trial diversion that tackles these issues. Why the delay? Well, with pre trial diversion you are not on probation, so the usually sanctions of locking people up for failing drug tests isn’t available. Instead, you have to find other ways to gain compliance and deal with the very difficult issues that are present with mental health disorders. The other difficulty is that the defendant hasn’t actually pled guilty to anything, so technically they could still have a trial and anything they say in mental health diversion court could be used against them.

Right now the counties have to find solutions for these issues themselves, and Kaufman County has a pretty long application process and waiver that offers some solutions. I’m hopeful that the lege will help expand these courts and offer some protections for defendants on these cases. At least until the point we maybe quit arresting the mentally ill and those who simply possess drugs? I mean, I can dream right?

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.

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