When "guilty" is not an option, hire the Guest and Gray team.

Chief of the criminal defense division

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.

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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.

Felony cases are different and I’d say the opportunity to help in those situations is greater, mainly because there is so much room to negotiate downward on a felony plea. Most prosecutors understand how serious it is to convict someone of a felony, or plea them to felony probation with a conviction (“straight probation”) and are willing to consider background information because of the gravity of the charges. Finally courts usually grant more time and resets to felony cases in the areas I practice, so a prosecutor may have more time to review information on a case. This is very court specific (for example we usually have more time on a Dallas/Kaufman County felony case than on a Rockwall felony case).

So yes, you should get some character reference letters together to share with your defense lawyer. At Guest and Gray we have also gone to issuing character background packets to our clients, so they can help us tell their story and explain some of the good things they are doing in life (working full time, going to school, volunteering, taking care of grandma etc). With this information clients have a chance at being considered more than an offense/criminal history/case number to the prosecutor.

If you are facing a criminal charge be ready to help your lawyer explain who you are, and why this charge you are facing shouldn’t define you. Obviously this works better for victimless crimes than say, agg assault with a deadly weapon, but the idea is the same. If your defense lawyers can humanize you with the ADA, and take you from being a “criminal defendant” to a human being, then you have made a lot of progress.

Prosecutors can be very resistant to this type of information, many develop thick skins and cynical disposition from hearing tales of woe from the defense bar. Some can’t even accept the idea that but/for the accident of their birth they could be the defendant they are looking down up today. Still, it never hurts to try and I’ve never had this type of information hurt a case. At worst, it will just not help.

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DMN has a story alleging Dallas DA Susan Hawk has struggled with prescription drug abuse and may continue to do so this day. The story links her struggle to erratic behavior in office (firing top assistants) and alleges a trip to a rehab facility in California. There seems to be a certain irony when DAs or ADAs are accused of potentially illegal behavior. Being addicted to pills is not always a criminal offense. Many people with chronic illness become reliant on the medication it takes to function normally. They have legal prescription but their bodies can not cease taking these drugs without repercussion, physical or physcological.

Having represented a lot of addicts I can tell you that going to treatment does not “cure” them. It can give them tools to succeed, but addiction and addictive personalities are something that come from biological and psychological underpinnings that are very difficult to change. Rehab helps many, but some still struggle even after many trips to rehab. Thank your DNA and brain chemistry that you not are predisposed to addiction before judging a “junkie” or “pill popper”.

The focus on treatment instead of prison is a welcome change in recent years, but we are still using the criminal justice system to address a public health issue with an “abstinence only” model when it comes to use and probation. There is a reason a dirty UA is called a “technical” violation even though it’s evidence of a crime, because they are so common we can not afford to revoke all those who fail a piss while on probation. And because probation is a shitty way to help addicts.

In Texas we still largely criminalize addiction, being caught with pills without a prescription can be a misdemeanor  or felony depending on the amount, and there is no defense for driving while intoxicated for those who are taking only prescribed drugs. We are so tough on crime, that we criminalize those who seek treatment for a condition (e.g. back pain) and then become addicted or reliant upon those treatment to function. What happens when someone gets addicted to opiates after a car accident, and then loses their health insurance? Addiction finds a way.

If Susan is struggling with prescription drug abuse how can we best help her, and others like her? Arrest? Put them on probation? Or maybe, just maybe, if being addicted to medication wasn’t seen as a weakness, or a crime, we could reach more people and help them manage their addiction in a medically safe way, or turn away from it altogether? Instead of being a shameful thing to hide, we could view addiction like the flu, or any other illness.

I hope that instead of a rush to judge Susan the people of Dallas will realize that we all know addicts. They deserve our compassion and assistance, not handcuffs, cages, or probation. They are not beneath us, or different than we are. They are your neighbors, your friends, your doctor, lawyer, your elected officials.

We need to move to an era of harm reduction. In a State where even DAs struggle with alcoholism and potentially even prescription drug abuse, it’s time to consider that maybe our criminal justice system isn’t the place to treat addicts. In fact, it’s because we use the criminal justice system to “catch” addicts we force others who need treatment to hide their condition and not seek help. The millions upon millions in tax dollars we spend on jails, lawyers, cops, hearings, appeals etc could all be better spent on doctors, counseling, and treatment.

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Our State’s most electable citizens have been hard at work protecting Texans from the plague of frivolous lawsuits that were destroying the very fabric of our State. Without our State’s tort reform laws in place who would be the voice for All State, Farmers, or other multi-billion dollar corporations as they face the wrath of regular citizens looking to be compensated for their injuries?

Now that we have effectively granted immunity to the healthcare industry and Big Insurance let us focus our tort reform energy on the criminal justice system. It’s worth repeating that prosecutor in Texas are the most powerful and least accountable members of the legal profession. They can unilaterally decide someone is guilty and convince nearly anyone, guilty or innocent, to plead guilty rather than face the rigged game we call a criminal jury trial. Let’s look at some tort reform ideas that could serve the criminal justice system.

Caps of Damages

In the civil tort reform world they recognize that caps on damages can help dissuade a frivolous lawsuit. For example, if a doctor shows up drunk to surgery and accidentally kills grandma, the pain and suffering of the family and granny is worth only $250k. Which means it’s hard for someone to sue over dead granny because of the cost of litigation (that’s by design btw).

In Texas the range of punishment reflects the damages that a defendant pays for violating anyone of our State’s thousands of criminal offenses. Possession of .0001 grams of cocaine is a State Jail Felony. Really, some idiot thought that we should threaten people with prison who party like W and Obama did.

What’s the point of this horrible sentencing scheme? To shake down defendants to plead with a horrible range of punishment. On your first go round on a State Jail Felony you have to get probation, so this has turned into more of a make work project for local governments, but still, why should anyone be looking at 2 years in a cage for possession less than a gram of anything? We are talking about possession, not use, or being under the influence, or committing a real crime (one with a victim), but just having less than a gram of a substance in your console. More than a gram? 2-10 buddy.

Misdemeanor sentencing options are equally inane. That joint in your backpack, up to 6 months in the county jail. Wrote a check that bounced? 6 months in county jail? Stole a $51 worth of DVD’s from Target, up to 6 months in county jail. Bar fight, up to a year in county jail. Fail to grovel in front of the police as they arrest you- up to a year in county for “resisting” by actually struggling while they tackle you. This is nuts. Why should we lock anyone up for 6 months for Class B misdemeanors? We all only have so long to live, and throwing someone in a government cage is taking away our most precious resource, time.

Misdemeanors are among the most “Who give’s a shit?” of all offenses besides State Jail Felony dope cases. Prosecutors use the horrible punishment ranges to make probation look like a good deal and avoid trial setting on junk cases.

So if we want to quit convicting the innocent we need to cap damages on those who choose to exercise their Constitutional right to trial. I know these are just individual and Constitutional rights we are talking about, but they should at least as important the right of Big Health and Big Insurance to socialize their losses and avoid responsibility for malfeasance.

If a crime has no victim it should be fine only. We are merely criminalizing taste and preference, not actually protecting anyone from being harmed by a defendant. That would get the consensual crimes and hot checks into ticket court, where nonsense cases belong.

Summary Judgment-

Summary judgment in civil cases is a way to get shit cases thrown out early. It does not exist in criminal law. Judges can not screen the State’s case and see if they have enough evidence to go forward. We have no rules for speedy disposition for lesser cases like 91(a) that allow for a speedy trial in civil cases under $100k. Those rules are designed to minimize cost so that parties will get to trial quickly. We had a speedy trial act in Texas, but the pro conviction Court of Criminal Appeals decided to rule that law unconstitutional under some “separation of powers” idea that we should never limit the power of the State to convict on their schedule. We need a law to dismiss all cases when there is not clear and convincing evidence of guilt. Let the judge decide if the State has enough evidence to go to trial. That would be worth more than the grand jury system we have know (which is really a cover so that prosecutors can avoid making tough decisions, as well as prosecuting whoever they want whenever they want).

Instead of a summary judgment hearing we try to maximize the cost to defendants to go to trial by wasting their time. Most courts require the defendant to appear at every announcement setting. Why? So that they miss work and get sick of waiting around the courthouse for hours and plead guilty. There is no reason to make people sit in the hallway for a court setting that is not contested other than to put pressure on them to finalize the case. Why not make the police appear at every setting? Or even the prosecutor?

Loser Pays

How about loser pays? If the State wins at trial, the defendant pays with his freedom, not to mention the cost of litigation and all the time he wastes waiting to go to trial. If the State loses nothing happens. Really, there is no accountability for bringing a junk criminal case to trial. Prosecutors know that if you scare a jury with enough BS they might just convict anyone, so why not roll the dice? But if the State had was held responsible  for trial decisions that would change. Make them pay the defendant for the cost of fighting a case where reasonable doubt exists, and they would be more selective about what cases they took to trial.

I’ll be waiting for TLR to take up the banner for criminal justice tort reform, until then we can keep convicting the innocent.

 

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I get it, hiring a defense lawyer is a difficult decision. Clients are about to make a choice that may affect the rest of their life, and they want some degree of certainty before picking one of us. Many clients ask what our firm can guarantee if hired. I explain our process and how our team defends cases. You know, the process and hard work that leads to a great result (sometimes). But what clients really mean is they want a guaranteed outcome, which we don’t offer, and would it be unethical if we did. The next question is usually what are the odds of a certain result, and until now, I’ve never had those numbers handy.

But for 2014 our firm went through our closed cases (cases that were pled, dismissed, no billed, diverted, rejected etc; basically any case that ended in 2014) and came up with the following stats. These totals don’t include traffic tickets because those are more about revenue generation for local governments than actual criminal law.

Closed cases for 2014 (non traffic)= 84.

DWI
Total cases closed – 24
Pled to Obstruction of a Highway- 5
Dismissed- 4
Probated as Charged- 12
Reduced DWI Probation- 3
Aggravated Sexual Assault-
Total cases closed- 3
No Billed- 1
Deferred Probation as Charged- 1
Reduced to Indecency Deferred Probation- 1
Aggravated Assault
Total cases closed- 2
Dismissed 1
Class A Deferred Assault 1
Assault Family Violence-
Total cases closed – 6
All 6 were dismissed, 5 were pre trial diversions. One was just dismissed.
1st Degree Drug Possession-
Total cases closed- 3
Deferred Probation- 2
Dismissed- 2
Possession of Marijuana-
Total Cases Closed- 8
Pre Trial Diversion- 4
Dismissed- 3
Deferred Probation- 1
Motion to Revoke (MTR)
Total Cases Closed- 10
Time Served Sentence- 4
Minimum Sentence (TDC/State Jail)- 3
Back on Probation (MTR Dismissed- 3
I’m proud of our firm’s results. We had no client go to prison who was not already on probation for a felony (that is, only MTR clients went to prison). We also had no one get convicted of marijuana possession, which is awesome (no victim = no crime).
Personally, nothing is worse than going to court on pot cases and trying to act like this isn’t the biggest bullshit time-waste cluster of a law. Most prosecutors, except for a few true believer/”OMG I GOT A BADGE LETZ GET THE CRIMINULZ!” types know these pot cases are fucking ridiculous, which is one reason the weed plea offers seem to get better every year. That’s a plus, but let’s just pass a decrim bill already so I can quit repping young adults with a joint in the console.
I should issue a disclaimer that past results don’t mean anything for your case. Really, we won’t guarantee a result, and if a lawyer does, that’s a sign they are shady and you shouldn’t hire them.

 

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They say an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Whether you measure you favorite chemical indulgences in grams or ounces you need to take some basic cell phone safety precautions. First, a disclaimer, a warrant and a dedicated forensic technologist can find pretty much anything on your IOS or Android device (Blackberries are the most secure phones available, but who wants to use a grandpa phone with real buttons?). But, with the right settings/apps/common sense you may be able to get through most traffic stops and common police encounters without getting yourself or your friends in more trouble than the initial detention.

How does a law enforcement officer (let’s call him LEO) use cell phone data? The most common way is when you are arrested and the officer just picks the phone up and starts reading your texts to see who your dealer/connect/reup is. The officer may also answer your phone or send texts to try and generate some more offenses/arrests. Now the Supreme Court has held that cell phone data is protected and the police must have a warrant to search your phone, but Constitutional protections tend to find exceptions (we have a drug war to fight, and most judges are on the side of the Government), also most snitch deals are never seen in court and LEO may look at your phone anyway just to see who is in your network of friends without intending to use the evidence in court. On to the tips.

On to the rules-

1. Encrypt your phone- Encryption turns your cell phone data into nonsensical unintelligible gibberish, similar to a Rick Perry speech. Without the password, it’s very difficult to make this data useful quickly. Which brings me to number 2. The good news is that the new IOS automatically encrypts the data with IOS 8, and it’s easy to do on Android devices (but it may make your phone buggy).

2. Have a password- Really folks, you need a password on your phone. I know it’s a pain in the ass to log in everytime you want to do something, but do you want your friends snooping on you photos/late night sexting anyway? LEO loves reading your text messages and setting up your friends for fake drug deals. A password is the bare minimum you need to keep prying eyes away from your data.

3. Don’t talk about illegal activities via text, especially with strangers- If you get a random text from someone who you don’t know that “met you at the club” and is looking to score, that’s LEO. Don’t be that easy to catch. If you are not 100% sure who is texting you, do not respond. If you are mostly sure and it’s about something potentially illegal, don’t respond. Remember kids, the police can use you friends cell phones to bust you, and they will.

4. Use texting apps that have privacy features. Cyberdust is a good example, it will deleted your texts off of the receivers phone. Texts are forever, and the statute of limitations for drug cases in Texas is at least two years. That’s a long time for LEO to flip one of your friends.

5. Consider getting a VPN. A VPN will hide your IP address and keep your comings and going online a secret. I like them for public wifi safety (I would suggest any lawyer handling client data online use a VPN in public) and to make creepy advertiser tracking more difficult.

6. Don’t consent to a search of your phone. If LEO asks “Can I look at your phone” your answer is always no. Make them get a warrant, don’t be so easy to prosecute.

7. Download Waze. Waze is a crowdsourced driving/traffic/map app that also alerts you to LEO’s presence on the roadway. Waze will not only alert you to upcoming controls, it’s crowd sources so you can let others know where the fuzz is hiding. LEO hates Waze because it cuts into their citation/traffic tax generation. LEO hates it = you need it.

Bonus – Don’t let your car smell like weed. Not really related to cell phones, but it’s my #1 piece of advice for marijuana enthusiasts in Texas. The “odor of marijuana” is an automatic search of your car. So febreze your ride yo.

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I received my first jury summons since moving to Kaufman County. It’s the first I have received in at least 10 years. I must be on some kind of “Do Not Call” list for potential jurors (let’s call them PJs). If you have jury duty in Kaufman County, you get a postcard with instructions to call the Friday before trial to see if the case is still going. I did, and it was. Monday was a holiday, so I showed up today ready to participate in a jury trial for the first time as a citizen and not a lawyer. It was a criminal case, and yes a defense lawyer can serve on a criminal jury. He/She/Me will likely be struck by the State (each side gets 10 strikes in a felony case, with some exceptions). You can be struck in this manner for any reason except race/religion etc. When the State tries to strike all the say, black members of a jury, the defense objects under a Batson challenge. 

As for being struck for cause, that can happen if you are insane, a felon, or have a bias or prejudice you can’t get over that relates to the case. For example, the State will ask who doesn’t like cops or the criminal justice system, or if anyone knows the witnesses/lawyers/defendants. Some judges will go a long way to rehabilitate a PJ. That is when a PJ says they have some bias, but the judge will ask the potential juror questions until the PJ  says “I can be fair and follow the law”. That’s the magic language that can allow biased jurors on a panel.

Unfortunately my panel was excused since the defendant a) got in a car accident this morning and b) a plea agreement was reached.

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One of the most frustrating aspects of criminal defense work is the double standards that abound between what we expect of government (cops and prosecutors) and what expect of citizens. Which leads us to the case of the day…..

Today’s SCOTUS disaster is Heien vs. North Carolina. The issue was- Can the police detain you for something that is not illegal, if the police “reasonably believe” you have broken the law?

The answer is a resounding 8-1/”Holy shit what happened to the liberal justices?!”/”Hell YES they can!” ruling.

I’m disappointed, but not really surprised by this ruling. Anyone who follows criminal appeals can see how we go here. A few years ago SCOTUS ruled if the police kept a database with erroneous information, and wrongfully arrested someone who didn’t have a warrant when the computer said the suspect did, that was ok. The police have a hard job, and making sure they don’t arrest innocent people is just not a reasonable expectation. Courts have also ruled that it is ok to discriminate against those who have IQs and want to work in law enforcement.

So it just follows that if we are going to have a police state, we can’t expect law enforcement to know the law that well, or law enforcement to only stop detain/arrest who break the law or actually have a warrant right? That would slow down the conviction machine folks. And if we are going to stay number one in the world for highest incarceration rate per capita, we’ve got be focused on savings convictions! USA! USA!

Let’s compare the treatment of shitty police work to how defense lawyers are treated in trial in Texas. On appeal, courts love to say that a defense attorney “waived any objection” when they cite the wrong subsection of a statute, or object to inadmissible evidence at pre trial, but forget to object again, over and over and over, at trial.

This is what we call result-oriented jurisprudence. Justices know how they want to win in these cases (in Texas that would be the State in criminal cases, and corporations in civil cases), and fit/make up law to fit. When liberal justices do this, the right screams activism, when it benefits the police state, well libertarians complain but who listens to us? But seriously people, the Supreme Court just invented a new doctrine that the government can detain you if the government can’t remember exactly the laws that the government passed and that the government wants to enforce.

Now if a defendant makes a mistake in life, holy shit, stop the presses, there is no defense for not knowing the precise meaning, definition, and application of every section of the Texas penal code. Again, we have a complete asymmetry of responsibility and expectations between the conduct of the government, and the citizen. Citizens must be perfect, the government can just do their best.

Rulings like this Heien have created a race to the bottom for police and prosecutors to see exactly what sort of misconduct and nonsense the appellate courts will forgive, and by implication, condone and endorse. If you ever wonder why we convict so many innocent people, one reason is the complete lack of accountability on the side of law enforcement and prosecutors at the appellate level.

Everyone suffers from shitty policing, and in this case, the 4th Amendment is the victim. What kind of case was Heien? What offense was so important we had to green light detaining innocent people without cause? As you should have come to expect if you read this blog, it’s another pointless bullshit drug possession case.

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A little over a month ago I detailed my journey into the Android realm after leaving the safe and familiar grounds of Appleland. To recap, I had used every Iphone since they had Iphone, and rather impulsively switched to a Galaxy S5 Active. For those of you who are still thinking about making the switch, here are some updates and some more app recommendations.

I got a Moto X 2014

I dumped the S5 Active and swapped it out for the Moto X. I was intrigued by the efficient software design and the built in Moto Assist features. The Moto X runs a near stock version of KitKat and has some add ons that are useful, but I don’t use them as much as I thought I would. If you spend much time reading Android forums you’ll notice that the Samsung TouchWiz software is not well thought of UI. Well, let’s back up for a second and make something clear.

Unlike the Iphone, Android phones all have a slightly different UI (user interface) along with apps you don’t want (bloatware). Your phone will have the software Google designed, Android, with a bunch of extra shit the manufacturer and phone carrier throws on top of it.  Some of these features are useful, some are not, all take up memory and RAM though. So unlike an IPhone, where the software is uniform on every device, each Android phone has a slightly different feel. Now you can switch the UI out with different launchers (Google Now and Nova are my favorite) but it’s important to understand your native UI and bloatware as well.

Back to the story, so I decided to take the S5 back and spent a good amount of time considering my options. One thing that can lead to near mental paralysis of choosing an Android phone is that their are some many great phones that are pretty similar. R/PickAnAndroidForMe is a monument to the challenge of choosing between excellent and slightly different options. The best phone from each manufacturer is referred to as the flagship; right now that’s the S5, Nexus 6, Moto X 2014, LG G3, HTC One M8, OnePlus One and  Sony X3. 

Why did I choose the Moto X 2014? First, I wanted something with a screen over 5 inches. I wanted an efficient UI. I wanted an AMOLED screen. I wanted forward facing speakers. I was intrigued by the design and as mentioned the Moto Assist features. The Moto X is an Iphone-esque version of an Android phone. It doesn’t have as many feature as the S5, but the ones it has are more useful. It’s an efficient design, both the software and hardware, and aesthetically pleasing.

How big of a screen do you need? I thought a 5.2 inch screen would be a challenge but you get used to a new phone size very quickly. Now Iphone 5 and belows seem ridiculously small. The screen is so tiny! I thought the Nexus 6 would be too large and didn’t consider it, now I think it would not have been an issue. So unless you have tiny hands, go for the biggest screen you can stand. Lawyers need a lot of screen real estate to read documents etc, and a big screen makes taking a tablet to court unnecessary. I used to take an Ipad to court for my typical non-contested hearing/announcement docket. Now I usually just take my phone and some pens. I also rarely bring the physical file since we scan everything.

More Apps to Consider

IFTTT- Stands for “If This Then That”, and it’s a much more user friendly version of tasker and Llama. If you want to automate your phone and don’t want to spend a lot of time doing it, this is they way to go. Two “recipes” I use are 1- my phone automatically switches to silent when I enter the courthouse. 2- My phone stops looking for wifi signals when I leave my house (that way it’s not using battery life searching for networks while I drive).

Pushbullet- This syncs information between your phone and computer. It can send texts to your computer, you can send files to your phone etc.

Google Keep- This is a great notes/reminder product and has become my goto to do list and idea storing area. If I think of an idea for a case, or for a blog post I jot it down in Keep and set it to remind me again in a day or so.

 

 

 

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I have a lot of 17-19 year old clients who feel targeted by small town police departments. These young adults are usually in my office for a pot case, or maybe even a DWI or DUI (DUI is only for those under 21 in Texas) and they tell a similar story; that the police pull them and/or their friends over consistently and they don’t know how to stop the harassment. First, advice for parents.

For Parents

If your child is being pulled over frequently, or if he has friends who are targets or have been arrested recently then it’s important that you have him (it’s almost alway a male) meet with a lawyer and get him either on retainer, or establish a relationship so your he can lawyer up when he is pulled over.

Why does this happen? Teenage boys are targeted because a) they are politically powerless, no one cares if teeangers complain about the cops b) they do dumb shit often and c) drug arrests are the low hanging fruit for cops, it looks like real police work, except it’s much easier. So if you pull over enough teenagers you can write some easy tickets ($$ for the city) and maybe find some pot; then you feel like you solved a real crime and make your stats.

Let’s talk about point b) so more. Teenage boys commit crimes and parents want their children to be held responsible. I get that, but what parent should not want is the criminal justice system to hold your child responsible. This system is too stupid, corrupt, violent and arrogant to know what is best for your child.

Parents come to my office thinking that the criminal justice system is fair, and targets bad guys, not people like their child who made a mistake. Certainly the system won’t want their child’s future with a drug conviction, or with a deferred probation that will never be expunged? Such optimism is the telltale sign of a lack of experience with courts and cops in Texas. Texas prosecutors still run on being the toughest, and guess who they are going to be tough on? Your child. Why is that a problem? Because in Texas the criminal justice system is rigged from arrest to trial to benefit the State, the police and the prosecutor. Google Michael Morton, Ken Anderson and John Bradley for more info.

Don’t get me wrong, you could get lucky and have fair and decent people in your local police and DA’s office, but you’d be shocked at how many could care less about your child’s future. To be fair, most prosecutors give better recs to those under 21 as a general “kids are dumb and make mistakes” policy. But not all, and it’s not uncommon for children whose parents cannot afford quality representation to see their child locked up for weeks just trying to make bail. Forget drug free zones and prior convictions, the real sentence enhancement in Texas is for the crime of being poor. But that’s beyond the scope of this post.

Pro Tip- Hire the best lawyer you can afford for your child. A great defense team can be expensive, but think of this like college, it’s going to affect the rest of their life, so it’s worth it to pay for a better outcome.

If a prosecutor is trying to destroy your 17 year old son’s future with a terrible plea rec the system works against your child, and as defense lawyers our options are much more limited in adult court than in juvenile court. Juvenile court focuses on rehabilitation and the future of defendants. Adult court focuses on punishment and the past. You are what you did in adult criminal court, nothing more. Where in juvenile court you are who you could become.

Let’s talk about being an adult in Texas for a second.

In Texas once your child turns 17 he or she can’t vote, can’t drink,  can’t buy smokes or even lottery tickets, but he or she will be charged as an adult if arrested.

What kind of state hates their young adults so much that it puts high school kids in adult jail, and in the adult criminal justice system? Why do we want to ruin their future with lifetime convictions? FYI- All convictions in Texas last a lifetime and even petty crimes like possessing a joint means up to 180 days in the county jail. What idiots thought of that?

We seem to understand that the brain of a 17 year old may not be ready to drink or vote; but that same brain is perfectly capable of perfectly following the thousands of laws Texas has and should be punished accordingly?

What to tell your child if he or she is confronted by the police

1. In Texas all you have to do when confronted by cops is ID yourself, and present insurance if you are driving.

2. Never answer any questions about illegal activity. Ask for a lawyer, and keep a lawyer’s business card on you. If asked about anything illegal, ask for your attorney. I don’t care if the cops find weed in your pocket, don’t say or admit anything. In fact, don’t answer any questions, cops are better at interrogating you than you are at answering their questions.

2a. Cops are allowed to lie to you to get you to confess. They can tell you your friends snitched, or they found your DNA on the waterbong and you are going down like OJ. But it’s usually a show to get you to talk. Again, shut up and ask for a lawyer.

3. Ask if you are free to go. If the answer is yes, go.

4. Never consent to a search. Don’t stop the cops from searching you, but never agree to it. Ask for a lawyer instead.

5. Be nice and calm. Cops often bully young adults to get them to confess and consent. Stick to the script and be polite. The less you say the better.

Should we move? Or switch schools?

Yes. The system isn’t going anywhere, the local police aren’t going anywhere. Moving is expensive, but so is constantly being arrested for petty nonsense.

What about filing a complaint against the police?

You know who investigates complaints against the police? The police. Guess how that works. I mean, do it if you have a concern, it’s good to make a record, but don’t expect the local PD to do anything beyond finding clearing their colleague.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I’ve been using IPhones as long as there has been IPhones. I recently became upgrade eligible (Christmas for tech geeks) and instead of getting the IPhone 6/6 Plus I decided to switch to Android and purchased a Samsung Galaxy S5 Active. I’m a week into this and I wanted to share the experience for those of you thinking about making the switch. I chose the Active version of the S5 with the hope of going without a phone case. It feels much less delicate than my Iphone and I like not having an extra layer of plastic around my phone.

Should you switch? TLDR

I know this is what most of you want to know, so I’ll cut to the chase. If you are somewhat tech savvy, use google apps and enjoy technology with less limitations then yes, switch to Android. You won’t miss IOS/Iphone and you can still use your old Ipad if you do. If you just want a phone that works and is simple to use, stick with Iphone. Android isn’t especially difficult to use, but you have to know/care enough to go through the settings for different apps to get the most out of Android.

Why not IPhone 6?

I have a 5S and I have dutifully purchased nearly every IPhone upgrade over the years. I have enjoyed them all with the exception of the Sprint 3GS we had. The Sprint network has unlimited data, at dial up speeds. I have never been satisfied with the size of the screen on the Iphone. It’s just hard to read, I jacked up the font size but couldn’t make much use of PDF files in court or on the road. My goal was to have a phone that I could use as a standalone in court for announcements and quick resets etc. So a bigger screen was a must. So why not the IPhone 6? Bigger screen = no more problems right? Maybe. But for the past 6 years our office has run on Google Apps for email/calendars/drive etc, and as the CTO of Guest and Gray Law Firm I have required that all work computers use Chrome. I have been more than satisfied with Google’s products and I was looking for more….

Personalization

Before making the switch I had never used an Android phone for more than a few minutes. But being a tech junkie I was intrigued by the idea that Android was more flexible than IOS. That IOS was a safe and easy phone for the masses, while Androids could be bent to the user’s will with more options, features and customization. That seemed to fit my profile, so why not switch and see what happens? The biggest innovation on the new Iphone is the screen, and I already had a Ipad, so I went to the Forney ATT store made the switch to Android.

Apps, Widgets and Rooting, Oh My!

When you first make the switch from IOS to Android one thing you will notice is that the layout is customizable to a degree not available on the Iphone. You can download launcher apps to customize the look even more, but I’ve stuck with the stock TouchWiz for now. I did audition the Google Now launcher, but went back to TouchWiz.

Let’s talk about widgets. Widgets are apps that are up and running on phone at all times. Just you like keep an email tab open on your browser, you can do the same on Android with the gmail widget. You can also combine widgets and apps on the same screen. For example, I have my calendar widget on a page with other work apps. That way I can quickly view my schedule and access my other work tools all on one page. I also like to compartmentalize my pages into work/not work. It makes me feel like I have some work-life balance.

Apps- 

Email- The Gmail app. Samsung has it’s own bloatware email app that I disabled. I can’t say I tested any other email apps, gmail works well and I am satisfied, for now. One thing that I miss from IOS is that you can’t automatically dial numbers that are in an email. So if my assistant emails that I need to call Prosecutor Bob, I can’t click on the number in the email to call him. First world problems.

Calendar- The native Samsung Calendar isn’t bad. I use that, and  I’m trying out Google’s Calendar in Agenda view. I’ve never liked monthly view on a phone, agenda is much easier to navigate.

Browser- Chrome and Firefox Beta. Firefox has two features that Chrome lacks, extensions/apps and customizable search. Firefox for Android allows you to use browser extensions just like you would on your computer. The price for using extensions is generally a slower browsing experience, but you can decide which apps are worth it. Firefox also has wide open search options. In Chrome, you can only choose from a few search engines, basically google and some other really shitty search engines like AOL (really) and Yahoo. Firefox allows you use any search box you can find and add it. For example, I set up my firefox to search google, reddit, wikipedia and duck duck go, all from the search box. I can choose which I want as I type what I’m searching for. Chrome is by far the fastest browsers I’ve used on Android, but the search function is woefully limited. I also tried out CM’s browser and Dolphin. I liked CM more than Dolphin but it was a little slower than Chrome. I will keep auditioning CM/Chrome/Firefox Beta until I choose a winner.

Why Firefox Beta? I found it to be faster, and it hasn’t crashed yet so for a Beta it’s pretty solid and bug free.

Music- Spotify. Same as IPhone.

VPN- Freedome It’s easy to install/setup, and only $30 a year. I tried out Hotspot and Private Internet Access as well and Freedome is the most consistent and simplest so far. As a lawyer if you don’t use a VPN you shouldn’t use public wifi. This will keep you from being tracked, and keep you safe on public wifi’s while protecting your ISP anonymity as well.

Keyboard- Google. Once you start swipe typing you’ll never go back to pecking at those tiny keys. These keyboards both offer the ability to swipe from letter to letter and the words auto generate. Much faster, google keyboard has a bug in it that makes it switch from letters to numbers, and it appears to be more pronounced for us lefties.

Google Drive- I have never been a big fan of google drive. It’s clunky and not especially great at document editing or storage. It seems like something Microsoft would make. However, Drive and it’s associated apps (Docs/Slides) have undergone some major updates and are way less shitty now. To the point I actually use Drive now more than DropBox now on my phone. Android and Drive/Docs work very well together and it made me take another look at their computer browser version as well. If you haven’t used Drive/Docs on your computer or phone in a while it’s worth giving them a look again.

What I don’t like/miss from my Iphone

As I already mentioned I cut touch a number in my Iphone email and it would call instantly. I’m still working on that for Android. Itunes U, I haven’t found a comparable product for Android. I miss the instant flip up screen on the Iphone that had the brightness phone etc. The Android version is on the bottom, which for a big phone is less than ideal. It’s also very small and not as easy to use. Swiping left/right in a browser doesn’t do anything on Android. Encryption was automatic on the Iphone, where on the Active S5 you have set it up and install a 6 digit passcode, no PIN or other way to unlock the phone.

If you are a lawyer considering the switch let me know and I’ll be happy to share my experience with you.