The 5 Most Common Questions I get as a Criminal Defense Lawyer: #1 “Am I Going to Jail?”

March 12, 2020

By Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal

www.rosenthalwadas.com

(972) 369-0577

Most people vastly over-estimate their jail possibilities.  I spend a good deal of time explaining why things are nearly as bad they may seem.

Our minds tend to link together what I call “the chain of terribles.”  That is we take one terrible result, and infer another logical awful result, and then another and another and another.  But this is almost never realistic.

Let me give you an example — at the time I write this blog, the Coronavirus is exploding across the world.  The NBA just suspended their regular season.  Part of my mind wants to suggest the world economy will crash (the dow is down 20% from a month ago), my law practice will go down the tubes with the economy, there will be widespread disease and then famine, the NBA will never play again, and the survivors of the virus will have to barricade themselves from zombies in makeshift houses.

That is the chain of terribles.  But I’m guessing if you read this even 6 months from now, you’ll see how ridiculous my conclusions were.

The same thing happens when people consider jail.  They’ve typically already been arrested and have bonded out — and they want to know “will it happen again?”  A perfectly understandable and valid question.  Those fears are often fueled by lawyers and their webpages trying to scare you into hiring them.

Jail exposure is obviously on a case-by-case basis which includes tons of variables such as the nature of the charge, mitigating factors, what county is prosecuting the charge, criminal history, the specific prosecutor, judge, etcetera, etcetera, etc…

Understand a handful of factors which, in general, reduce inmate population.

  • Running a jail is money-losing proposition.  It is a hotel where no one pays.  Most counties don’t want to feed you and house you if they don’t have to.
  • Most judges and prosectors believe in rehabilitation.  Very few will stop someone from getting help they need to manage substance issues which frequently contribute.
  • There is a much better understanding of anxiety, depression, and other maladies which can contribute to someone’s predicament.
  • Finally — it’s your lawyers job to effectively tell your story — and everyone typically has a good one.

Bottom line: If you’re like everyone else – then you’ve probably exaggerated your own jail chances.

*Jeremy Rosenthal is an attorney licensed to practice in the State of Texas.  He is Board Certified by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization in Criminal law.  Nothing in this article is intended to be legal advice.

 

 


Do I Need a Lawyer for Domestic Assault?

November 16, 2019

By Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal

www.rosenthalwadas.com

(972) 369-0577

Absolutely.

Politicians in Austin frequently try to impress their constituents by getting tougher, and tougher, and tougher with these cases.  The result are laws which seem to get worse and worse and are filled with trap doors designed to punish people forever.

Machine-Type Prosecution

Prosecution in these types of cases tends to be delegated to a specific division of most larger DA’s offices. Their approach is often a one-size-fits-all and is dictated by policy and their theories about domestic violence rather than the facts of any specific case.  Some prosecutors will hear your side of the story out — and many others will pretend to hear you out.  What the prosecutor really needs to do is fear they will lose if you took the case to trial.  A person without a lawyer is definitely at a disadvantage.

The Law is Complex

Though the politicians in Austin and the prosecutors might feel as though everyone accused is guilty — the good news is the framers of the U.S. Constitution didn’t.  There are strong constitutional protections in Assault/ Family Violence “AFV” cases from your right to confront witnesses under the 6th Amendment.

Also, there are several common defense which often apply in the form of self-defense or consent.  Knowing how these defenses apply and work in a courtroom is not simple either.

Beware of Long-Term Trap Doors

AFV cases are laden with traps designed to ensnare those accused into pleading guilty.  The state normally tries to levy an “affirmative finding of family violence” even when someone gets the case reduced or takes deferred adjudication.  This finding can enhance future allegations to felonies, can prevent firearm ownership, and can even prevent future adoption… but not much of this is advertised on the front end.

Also – there are restrictions on hiding these cases from the public even where you’ve successfully completed a deferred adjudication which, again, can be very legally complex.

You Need A Lawyer

If you read the rest of my blog posts then you can see I’m not big on scare tactics.  There are probably cases here and there where you might not need a lawyer.  This isn’t one of them.  Domestic assault is one of several legislative flash-points in Austin.  Don’t do this alone!

*Jeremy Rosenthal is Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization.  He is a Licensed Attorney in the State of Texas.


Too Much Internet Research

September 10, 2019

By Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal

www.rbcriminallaw.com

(972) 369-0577

I see it all the time.  Potential client comes in with husband/ wife/ aunt/ uncle/ brother/ cousin — and everyone is shaking like a leaf and looking like they haven’t slept in 2 days.

My diagnosis: too much internet.

The information super-highway is an amazing tool.  I’ve obviously used it to help build my practice.  I find people come in now far more sophisticated about their own legal issues than they did, say, in 2005 when I first opened for business.  That is a wonderful thing.

What isn’t so wonderful is the internet can be very tone-deaf and isn’t as nuanced as any individual case.  People are searching, typically, for comforting information but every case is its own snowflake.  Its the same reason every time when my child coughs – the internet can’t get me a precise diagnosis either.  I can read about extreme cases which scare me out of a good-nights sleep, though.

And much of what you read is downright horrifying… particularly in a criminal case.  Punishment ranges without any context are scary.  What happened to some dude with the same charge in nowhere county in 2011 is scary.  When some lawyer is trying to scare you into his/ her office by listing the full chain of horrible possibilities — it is scary.

Too much internet research makes you feel like Tony Montana in Scarface having indulged far too much!

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Do enough research to get a general feeling for what you are looking at.  See a lawyer who lets you know they’ve got your situation under control… and then put the internet away.

*Jeremy Rosenthal is Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization.  He has been designated a Super-Lawyer by Martindale.  He is based in McKinney, Texas.


10 Principles of Defending People: (#5 All Eyes are Equal & #4 Know the Enemy)

June 6, 2018

By Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal

www.rosenthalwadas.com

(972) 369-0577

I’m going over to me what are the top ten principles of defending people.  To recap the list so far:

#5 All Eyes are Equal:

People don’t trust themselves or their own judgment for some reason.  Lawyers included.

Maverick trusted himself.  He hit the brakes and the MIG flew right by.  He had cunning, creativity, and self-assurance to know the maneuver would work.  The fact it hadn’t been done before didn’t bother him.

What I like about Maverick is he didn’t ask anyone’s permission.  He just trusted himself and to a lesser degree wasn’t afraid to fail.  I’m a pretty far cry from Maverick, but I hope I think like he might every now and again.

When I say all eyes are equal what I mean is if a trial theory makes sense to me then chances are it makes sense to the jurors too.  If I think the police and prosecutors are reaching then I ask myself why?  Maybe they’ve been suckered by a doe-eyed accuser in a sexual assault case…  Maybe they’re blinded by my client’s appearance or problems they’ve had in the past… or maybe they’re so trapped in their own narrative, they can’t see they’re in an echo chamber as in some domestic violence cases.

Too often, lawyers will settle into a conventional defense.  They are afraid to think outside of the box.  But by thinking inside the box, they turn themselves into fish in a barrel waiting to be speared.  Remember all eyes — including the lawyers own — are equal.  The big picture makes sense.

Don’t be afraid to tell the jury about the big picture.  Don’t be afraid of hitting the brakes so the MIG can fly right by.

#4 Know the Enemy: 

The key to knowing your opponent in my book is experience, experience, experience.

I remember how I thought as a prosecutor.  It helps me today.  I was advocating for the opposite position which is something lawyers do.  I remember my thought process in trying to prove-up a case.  I remember my areas of emphasis to the jury, the assumptions I’d make in each case, and the points of emphasis to the jurors.  I also remember how effective defense lawyers would attack my case.

Defending cases are wonderful learning experiences too.

Cross examining hundreds of police officers teaches you how to control a sophisticated witness who is often trying intentionally to personally subvert you in front of a jury.  Mountains of experience teaches you how to strike the precise blows you need to inflict with your questioning without picking losing battles, having your message bogged down, or looking like a jerk.

Experience also teaches you the prosecutor’s playbook.  Prosecutors across the state share practices and training (as do defense lawyers) so it’s not uncommon to see the same techniques and arguments in different counties.  An experienced defense lawyer needs to know what is coming and how to neutralize, spoil, or blow-up certain tactics they ought to expect are coming.  It’s no different than a football team watching tape on their upcoming opponent and figuring out how to defend against certain plays or formations.

Knowing the enemy is important — but it can’t be confused with a winning strategy.

*Jeremy Rosenthal is Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and licensed by the Supreme Court of Texas.

 

 

 


10 Principles of Defending People (#8 Be Optimistic & #7 Inoculation)

June 1, 2018

By Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal

www.rosenthalwadas.com

(972) 369-0577

Today I’ve got two principles to share and they can be summed up the cliche, “Hope for the best but be prepared for the worst.”

I’m summing up what I feel are the 10 most important principles a criminal defense lawyer should follow in their practice in this series.  You can read about my previous posts so far on the topic here:

#8 Be Optimistic

You won’t find much doom and gloom on my blog.  I’m sure there’s plenty of anger, grand-standing and self-ritcheosness… but hopefully not much fear-mongering.

People often shake as they’re walking into my office.  A big part of it is because they’ve been on the internet or gotten legal advice from their best friend growing up.  They think I’m going to confirm their fears about having body and appendages severed by the prosecution.

I have yet to come across a case in the zillions I’ve evaluated where there isn’t some hope, some ray of sunshine, or something to be optimistic about.  Granted, these things are relative and  if there weren’t legitimate reasons for concern — no one would come and see me at all.

But people crave optimism from professionals they deal with.  There is nothing wrong with being optimistic and letting folks know where the sunlight is.

#7  Inoculate People For Bad News

Again, today’s topic is a ying and yang concept.  While there is nothing wrong with being optimistic — people also don’t come to a lawyer to be lied to.

Bad news is unfortunately part of the job.  It’s important to discuss unpleasant possibilities for many reasons.  What is also important is putting them into context and letting someone know how realistic certain outcomes may or may-not be.

I find it is important to discuss possible bad news before it happens.  This way the lawyer and client can come up with a plan for avoiding the possible bad result and time to come up with another plan should the bad result come to fruition.  This gives the client and/or their family a sense of some control and allows time for them to wrap their mind around things.

I call the concept inoculation.  It is like eating vegetables.  It’s no fun to eat veggies at the table but it’s very healthy in the long run.  Discussing possible bad outcomes in a constructive way yields long term dividends.

*Jeremy Rosenthal is Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and licensed by the Supreme Court of Texas.