Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Clear Your Record

Tuesday, February 25th, 2014

One of the best things you can do for yourself is clear your criminal history off of your record. There are three ways that can be done, depending on what you qualify for. The paperwork can be complicated and you generally only get one chance to file it. To clear your record quickly and painlessly, call our offices today.

1. Expunction

An expunction erases a charge on your criminal record. If you receive one you can claim the incident never happened. Expunctions are granted under Chapter 55 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure. You are entitled to an expunction if:

–       you were acquitted,
–       you were convicted and received a pardon, or
–       the case was never prosecuted or has been dismissed (a waiting period may apply).

If your case is expunged it can never be used against you again.

2. Non-Disclosure

An order for non-disclosure can be granted, in most cases, after completion of deferred adjudication probation (waiting periods apply in some cases). This is governed by Section 411.081 of the Texas Government Code. This order prevents your record from being found by most civilian inquiries, i.e. apartment and job searches. The government can still find and use these records.

3. Sealing of Juvenile Records

There are many cases where a juvenile record can be sealed under Section 58 of the Texas Family Code. When a juvenile record is sealed all of the agencies holding records pertaining to the crime must turn them over to the District Clerk. These records cannot be opened again unless a Judges orders it in rare circumstance. Once sealed, you do not have to disclose the case in any circumstance.

Typical day

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013

So I couldn’t find my client this morning. I searched around the courthouse and found him being escorted inside by three deputies. Apparently he had decided to relieve himself in the parking lot. This was frowned upon. Since he was taking a jail plea they decided new charges weren’t necessary.

Couldn’t make it up if I tried.

Don’t make thing worse -NFL edition

Saturday, June 22nd, 2013

Once an investigation or official proceeding begins it is too late to start tidying things up. As you can see from the article below, MA State Police are expected to execute an arrest warrant for New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez for obstruction of justice in connection with a homicide investigation according to ABC News, 6-21-2013, Hernandez allegedly:

1. attempted to destroy his cellphone and video home security system,

2. engaged a cleaning service in his house, and

3. spoke with others who were with him at the time of the incident, telling them what to say (this may also involve another crime, subornation of perjury).

All states have an Obstruction of Justice statute. The Texsas Penal Code Sec. 37.09, TAMPERING WITH OR FABRICATING PHYSICAL EVIDENCE, states in part:

(a) A person commits an offense if, knowing that an investigation or official proceeding is pending or in progress, he:

(1) alters, destroys, or conceals any record, document, or thing with intent to impair its verity, legibility, or availability as evidence in the investigation or official proceeding; or

(2) makes, presents, or uses any record, document, or thing with knowledge of its falsity and with intent to affect the course or outcome of the investigation or official proceeding.

ESPN article

You’re not funny. You’re accused of a crime.

Tuesday, June 11th, 2013

I often talk to my clients about how to dress for and behave in court. People look at me funny. I don’t usually deal with juveniles, so why am I talking to clients like they are kids. Well, it’s just another part of my job. I help people get through the criminal process with as little damage as possible. There is no need to add to your problems by insulting the court. I started adding these little speeches after I met a client for court and he was wearing a shirt that read “Tap That” followed by a picture of a donkey. Needless to say, he spoke to the Judge with his shirt on inside out.

Court is a serious thing and must be treated with respect. You may not agree with the charges but it is your life on the line. In the end the person in the robe can put you in jail and jail sucks.

Recently there have been some news stories about courtroom antics. They make us laugh but it should be taken as cautionary tales.

There is Chad Johnson’s butt pat.
Now we lawyers really like when clients appreciate us. It does not happen a lot. You need to wait until you are out of court. You can show your love by paying your bill on time.

And this Charming Girl.
I joke that my clients may have the right to remain silent they just lack the ability. Court is not the place to be cute or funny. Answer the questions asked as briefly as possible.

So in short, be on your best behavior. As a lawyer you may feel foolish telling this to a client but better safe than sorry. I will have to address lawyer antics in another post. It’s not just clients that run afoul of Judges.

Update —
I guess 7 days were enough time for Mr. Johnson to reconsider his attitude. Sometimes we all need a little time out but this is extreme.

Johnson released

 

Grand Jury Presentations

Saturday, June 1st, 2013

Note: This was written a few months ago. Dallas County has now changed it’s policy and will no longer allow in person attorney presentations to the Grand Jury. Paper presentations are allowed in Dallas and Collin Counties (I’m not sure of the rules in other counties). I think this is crap. The Grand Jury works for the state not the DA. It the accuser gets their say, the defense ought to be afforded the same privilege. Some of us are better in person than on paper.

Keeping a client from getting indicted is sometimes the best defense possible. An indictment is when a grand jury formally charges a person with a crime. To do this they must make a finding a probable cause. Probable Cause is a reasonable ground to suspect that a person has committed a crime. If they find there is probable cause the case is indicted or “true billed”. If there is not probable cause the case is not indicted or “no billed”.

The rules of Grand Jury proceedings are covered by Chapters 19 and 20 of the Texas Code of Criminal procedure.  The rules are fairly strict. The only people allowed in the room are the jurors, a bailiff, a district attorney, a witness, a court reporter and interpreters (if necessary). When voting, only the jurors are allowed in the room.

The DA will present the police version of events to the Grand Jury and answer any question they may have. This will generally not be favorable to your client. At this point you have a few options. You can let it ride and let your guy get indicted or you can make a presentation to the Grand Jurors.

Sometimes there is no way out at this stage. The reality is there is probable cause that your guy did it. THIS DOES NOT MAKE HIM GUILTY. It just means your battle is better fought on other fields.

Presentations
1. On Paper – In a cover sheet you explain why there is not probable cause that your client committed the crime. Does he have an alibi? Is the accusation a lie? Do other witnesses that contradict the complainant? Is it medically impossible? You can attach any documentation to support your version.

The grand Jury then reads these and makes their decision. The drawback is that if they have any questions, you can’t answer. So if they misunderstand you are sunk.

Any documents and affidavits can be used by the DA later. Make sure you don’t end up shooting your trial theory in the foot.

2. In Person – This can range from simple to elaborate.
You can simply sit, tell the story, and answer their questions. This is what I have done. The Grand Jurors can ask you whatever questions they want.  Moot Court in law school  is good prep for this. You are interrupted in the middle of sentences and sometimes the questions come out of left field. The success of this depends on how defensible your case is and how good you are at talking to a group of people. You need to read your audience and know which points are going somewhere and which ones are DOA. Abandon the stinkers and run with the ones they seem to like.

When I did this I thought I had two things in my favor, the law and the facts. I started with our version of the facts and followed with the law. Unfortunately, I had misread the law. The DA jumped on me and was supported by the lawyers on the panel. This was only mildly horrifying. So as my face turned a lovely shade of crimson I had to pivot. I abandoned the law and ran back into my facts. Luckily for my client the facts were good. He was not indicted.

Some lawyers add power point and other elements to their presentations. Lots of people are better with visuals so it can be a huge help. You can also add relevant video or audio recordings. If you use any media be sure to go check out the facilities well in advance to see what you need to do/ bring to make it work. The last thing you want is to stumble around in front of the Grand Jury not being able to make your computer work. Also have a backup, sometimes the wonders of technology fail and it’s just you talking.

Witnesses –  It’s best to hear it from the horses’ mouth. Maybe. Not Always.
Witnesses are great. If they are on your side, have good memories, speak well, and have no criminal records. In trial what a witness lacks can sometimes be made up for with good questioning by a lawyer. In a Grand Jury that is not an option. You (the Defense Attorney) are not allowed in the room, even if your client is testifying. The witness goes in alone and tells their story. Then they are asked whatever questions the Grand Jury wants, for as long as they want. The DA can ask questions too. Lovely. Further, all testimony is recorded to be used against the witness later. So you wait in the hall and hope your guy is not devoured.

The DA has the same right to call witnesses in their favor.

I haven’t had the stomach for this yet. Maybe if it’s the right witness at the right time. I don’t know. I at least like to know when my carefully prepped witness falls apart.

You May Have To Do It Again If Your Guy Is Not Indicted
I was horrified when I learned that the DA can present the case again to the same or another Grand Jury so long as the statute of limitations hasn’t run. Further, they don’t have to notify you. So my musings about unfairness aside, I look my guy up every so often to make sure a new date has not been set.

Which Way Is Best
Defense lawyers all have opinions on whether and how to do these. Procedures vary by county. My thought is if there is a slight chance to get the case no billed, go ahead and do a paper or lawyer presentation. There is very little to lose. The worst that can happen is the case is indicted. This will certainly happen if you don’t present. Just be very cautious with testimony and affidavits from witnesses. The DA sees it all and will use it against you later if possible.

What this is

Saturday, June 1st, 2013

Hello.

I am a criminal defense attorney working in the Dallas area. This blog is a place for me to post observations from my work and explain some of what I do. This would be too lengthy and inappropriate for my business website. I have a serious job but I try to find the humor in life where I can.  No offense is meant and names will be changed to protect privacy.

In law school they taught me principles  and concepts. It was about 3 years of esoteric philosophic discussions. So, when I was fresh out of law school I went through through a sort of culture shock.  Thinking like a lawyer and actually practicing law are vastly different.  Those bastards never taught  how to file a motion or fill out plea paperwork!  I lucked out and spent my first 9 months as a licensed attorney assisting an established criminal defense attorney. It was a lot of asking questions and relying on the pity of kind clerks. This is how I learned how to navigate the Dallas County Criminal Courts.

My practice is now, and will forever be, a work in progress. The law is vast and ever-changing. I learn new things everyday. I take classes, I study, I talk to other attorneys.  It keeps the job interesting. Sometimes I may get something wrong. Please comment and correct me if I do.

In no way should this ever be taken as legal advice. I only represent someone if there is a signed agreement  or court order that I am doing so.