Articles Posted in Texas Laws

Texas has a lot of terrible laws, but one thing we don’t allow is DWI checkpoints. The Supreme Court has decided that these can be constitutional but the state legislature must approve them. Hopefully ours never will. In case you ever think they are a good idea, here is what we are missing.

I used to live in Ellis County and I had a few criminal cases there. Not as many as I had in Kaufman and Dallas, but enough that I quickly learned the Ellis County District Attorney’s had little regard for justice or preventing wrongful convictions. Why? They had a closed file policy.

Here’s how it went. Client would hire me for a DWI or weed case. I’d go to court and ask for a copy of the police report. I’d be told that they could read it to me (no seriously, they would say this), or sometimes even let me read it. But if I wanted a copy then I would have to file a discovery motion and then they would withdraw all plea offers and force my client to trial. So basically they set up a closed file system to bully defendants into pleading guilty without looking at the evidence. It worked sometimes, clients may not want a jury trial and they may not even want a pre trial hearing, they may just want a plea bargain, but it’s hard to negotiate when you don’t know anything about the case. The ADA would usually say something like “well, you can ask your client what happened.” That’s cute, your officer has the ability to stop and take notes, review the video tape, speak to witnesses at the scene. My client is in handcuffs and can’t record anything, so yeah, thanks for the great advice.

I thought this closed file policy was ethically dubious. The prosecutor, by hiding all evidence, was asserting that nothing in their file was exculpatory (Brady material), which they had a duty to disclose. Of course, these ADA’s seemed to think nothing was exculpatory, in a Ken Anderson way. The closed file policy also showed a complete lack of confidence in local law enforcement’s ability to investigate and document suspected criminal activity.

A few months ago I took Lance Platt’s SFST certification course for attorneys. We had mostly defense lawyers and some prosecutors in the room. I didn’t come into this with clean hands. My experience with DWI cases and research of these “tests” tells me they are voodoo bullshit.

I came to this conclusion because as I understood the SFST studies they lacked the markers of real science and quality research; control groups, blind studies, placebos etc. Did you know the field sobriety tests have never been tested on a large groups of individuals who have not been drinking? Or on individuals with different medical conditions? There have been exactly zero studies on gender differences, or on the effect of performing the tests under the stress to mimic the pressure of a typical roadside DWI investigation. Why?

SFST’s are agenda driven science. The feds needed a way to arrest people who had been drinking, but without any bad or impaired driving behavior. So they invented the notion that by performing 10 minutes of balancing tests you can tell if someone is over .08.

I’m betting that most of you have parents. And most of your parents owned a camera. And with that camera some of your parents took a picture of you sans clothing while you were young. Well, what makes that legal? Isn’t in a crime to possess naked pictures of kids? Could those photos be… child pornography? Are your parents sex offenders? Probably not. But to be sure, you better read the rest of my post.

What’s the Texas law on Child Pornography?

To the penal code, section 43.26.

I often have a hard time quickly explaining to my non-lawyer friends exactly how the appeals system is stacked against criminal defendants. Fortunately today’s case, Barnes vs. State, crystallizes how the constitutional rights of defendants are effectively waived through nonsense technicalities. It’s a Kaufman County Drug case, appealed to the 5th District in Dallas.

What happened?

Barnes filed a motion to suppress claiming the police investigation was unconstitutional. Specifically, Barnes sought to exclude statements made during the investigation. This motion was denied (as are most motions to suppress).

I was attacked by a dog two days ago. Here’s the short version. I was doing my usual walk to the park and back when a giant lab mix (let’s call him Kujo) took two bites out me. I fell and twisted my knee, and went to the ER for treatment.

I got a tetanus shot and some hardcore antibiotics (dog’s mouths are not clean places). I’m awaiting word on whether Kujo had rabies or not (probably not since it was someone’s pet, not a stray). My friendly ER nurse informed me that the rabies vaccination isn’t done through the stomach anymore, but it still hurts like hell and requires multiple doses and follow up treatment.

Of course whenever a dog bites an attorney the first question is “Are you going to sue?” I’ll let my partner, Scott Gray, make that decision. I’m a criminal lawyer, so let’s explore Texas Dog Bite Law from that angle.

Everyone is presumed innocent even cops accused of smuggling weed. But ask yourself this, where do drug dealers get the money to bribe law enforcement? Why would a cop risk his career and freedom to help them? The answer- pot prohibition profit$.

I’m amazed at how many Texans believe the negative externalities of prohibition (corruption, inter alia) are somehow caused by the drugs, or the people selling them.

When we choose to make pot illegal, we choose the corruption of our police officers. Think about it. Drug cartels have a billion dollar monopoly on the Texas cannabis market. What’s easier than thinking up schemes to avoid getting caught and sending mules out who could get caught and lose their precious cargo?

Every defendant who is stuck in county jail wants the same thing- out. Inevitably the defendant, or a friend or family member asks- “Isn’t there some 90 day release law when a defendant is not indicted?”

Actually there is, and it’s 17.151 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. I also call it the “speedy indictment law” because filing a 17.151 motion will often get your client indicted at the next grand jury.

In Kaufman county it’s typical to see a defendant indicted right around the 90 day mark. ADAs are keenly aware of this deadline and loathe to have defendants use their get out of jail free card on serious charges.

Drug possession cases tend to be factually simple scenarios. The State must prove that you had care, custody and control of X, and that X is illegal. We’ll save possession for another day. Today let talk about proving X is marijuana.

In most cases drug DPS labs provide analyze the putative contraband and attempt to positively identify whatever it is the police sent them (you’d be shocked how often drugs aren’t actually drugs). Not so much with marijuana.

By far, the most untested alleged controlled substance in Texas is weed. In an effort to convict the maximum number of otherwise law abiding citizens for the least cost many marijuana cases are brought without the benefit of drug testing.

DMN has the story of a Wylie video store owner who has his customers arrested for late videos. This piece is sure to generate some outrage in the comments section. “You shouldn’t arrest someone for late DVDs!!!” etc. I’m not sure how arresting for late videos is any less repugnant that arresting college kids with joints, but I digress.

From DMN-

Bell went to a Collin County justice of the peace to file paperwork on dozens of his customers who were charged with theft of services.

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