What is Entrapment?

November 18, 2020

By Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal

www.texasdefensefirm.com

(972) 369-0577

Entrapment is a tricky concept. It occurs when law enforcement convinces someone to commit a crime.  It gets confusing because the entrapment must go beyond merely affording someone the opportunity to commit a crime.

The law further says the enticement must be enough to persuade a normal, law abiding citizen with an ordinary resistance to committing a crime.  A good rule of thumb when thinking of entrapment is to see where the original intent of the crime originated – with police or the accused?

Entrapment is a defense to prosecution and Texas Penal Code 8.06 says:

(a) It is a defense to prosecution that the actor engaged in the conduct charged because he was induced to do so by a law enforcement agent using persuasion or other means likely to cause persons to commit the offense. Conduct merely affording a person an opportunity to commit an offense does not constitute entrapment.

(b) In this section “law enforcement agent” includes personnel of the state and local law enforcement agencies as well as of the United States and any person acting in accordance with instructions from such agents.

Example of Situations Which are Entrapment:

  • A recovering addict is getting addiction treatment.  An undercover police officer meets the addict in the lobby of the counselor.  The undercover asks the addict to provide illegal drugs.  The addict refuses citing his attempt at recovery.  After repeated attempts to convince the addict, the addict gives in and attains and delivers drugs to the undercover officer.  See Sherman v. United States, 356 U.S. 369 (1958).
  • Undercover officer makes repeated attempts at having defendant provide access to drug dealers and drugs after defendant was reluctant after 12-year relationship. See Torres v. State, 980 S.W.2d 873 (Tex.App. — San Antonio, 1998).

Example of Common Situations Which Are Not Typically Entrapment

  • Person sells drugs to undercover police officer;
  • Persons who seek out and hire a hitman to kill someone;
  • Public servant who is offered a bribe and accept it.

Other Thoughts on Entrapment

Candidly – there is a strong bias against the entrapment defense by judges and juries.  Entrapment is more of an academic argument for that reason – and typically the most a court can do in a case of entrapment is give the jury an instruction they can acquit an accused on that basis.  So even if the person meets the legal pre-requisites of entrapment a jury still might not buy it.  Most people think the government conduct would have to be so outrageous as to strongly over-shadow the crime committed.

*Jeremy Rosenthal is board certified in criminal law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization.  He has been designated as a Texas Super Lawyer by Thomson Reuters.

 

 

 


Court-Run Mental Health Programs

November 17, 2020

By Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal

www.texasdefensefirm.com

(972) 369-0577

I’ve blogged extensively about mental health and how it intersects with criminal law.  The over-lap can’t be understated.  You can watch a podcast I’ve done on the topic here.

Some of the good news is many criminal law judges, probation departments and even prosecutors have gotten on-board with gearing to include mental heath treatment as well as their normal repertoire.  It never hurts to ask your lawyer or your loved one’s lawyer what the available options are.

I can’t tell you how many mothers, fathers, spouses and other loved-ones of my clients have told me their main goal in a case is to simply get them help.  But the criminal justice system – and the adversarial process wasn’t naturally built to accomplish tasks like mental health treatment.  There are pros and actually cons to Court-Run mental health programs folks should be aware of.

Advantages of Court-Run Mental Health Programs

On the plus side, these court-run programs are designed for the indigent or near indigent.  So cost which often dictates far more than it should is hopefully all but eliminated.

The county (or whatever governmental sub-division you’re dealing with) has access to more infrastructure and services than a private entity might be able to have.

The court also has a “captive” audience meaning the individual has no real choice but to participate.  Anyone who has a loved one who is either so disturbed or oblivious to their mental health disorder that they refuse treatment knows how valuable this can be.

Disadvantages

For me as a criminal defense lawyer – I’m always focused on what happens to the client in 10 or 20 years based on what we do today.  Here are some important questions I ask about any government program:

  • Will this program require my client to be convicted as a price of admission?
  • Can I get this off my client’s record in addition to getting the treatment (often known as mental health diversion)?
  • Do I actually trust the county’s ability to do what they say they can do to help?
  • Am I just signing someone up for the county to be “in their hair” for years to come?
  • Are there better private alternatives which are viable options?

The Bottom Line on Court-Run Mental Illness Programs

Make no mistake – it’s fabulous to see courts simply move in this direction.  Judges and probation officers paying attention to these crucial aspects and triggers for criminal cases is a great thing – and you know people are really starting to get the importance of mental health when the prosecutors even get involved.

But going into a mental health program run by a judge or probation department is still – and probably always will be – a “look before you leap” situation.  There are always many factors to consider.

*Jeremy Rosenthal is board certified in criminal law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and has been designated as a Texas Super Lawyer by Thomson Reuters.


What is Mitigation?

November 8, 2020

By Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal

(972) 369-0577

www.texasdefensefirm.com

“Mitigation” means making something less severe, serious, or painful.  In criminal law it refers to learning, seeking and providing facts which reduce someone’s potential punishment.

Mitigation is Important in Every Single Case

A big misunderstanding is mitigation and trying to get an acquittal are mutually exclusive – they are not.  People think you somehow admit guilt if you try to take mitigation steps after an arrest such as seeing a mental health professional or entering drug and alcohol treatment.

You can still fight for innocence at the same time you try to explain or lessen the harshness of the possible punishment coming towards defendant.  In fact, we are legally bound to do so and it can constitute ineffective assistance of counsel to ignore mitigation.

A solid mitigation case actually strengthens our ability to fight for an acquittal.  This is because we are less concerned about severe punishment in the event a jury disagrees with us and finds the defendant guilty despite our best efforts.

Mitigation Which Looks Backwards

Mitigation can help explain why the Defendant is in the predicament they are in.  Examples of backward looking mitigation to explain or give context to someone’s actions often include:

  • Mental health or psychological disorders
    • anxiety
    • ADHD
    • Depression
    • Bi-Polar Disorder
    • Psychosis
    • Manic episodes
  • Past sexual abuse of the accused;
  • Past physical abuse of the accused;
  • Past or childhood emotional abuse of the accused;
  • Addiction and history of addiction of the accused.

When Someone Has a Great History

Another form of backwards mitigation is potentially where an accused has never been in trouble at all.  Certainly someone who has been straight as an arrow their entire lives do deserve some credit and lenience in many cases.  The same goes for people who really have their act together and are – for example – in school making straight A’s and helping build houses for homeless people on the weekends.

Mitigation which Looks Forward

Any mitigation must have a forward path to be effective.  Explaining to the judge or jury an accused has been able to explain or identify why they have a particular problem is great.  It lets the jury know the accused isn’t an evil person.  But without a path forward to correct things – a judge or jury might feel they need to incarcerate the person to protect society in the future.

Forward mitigation could include steps taken by the accused after the arrest.  Examples are endless of the types of steps which can be taken to hopefully re-assure folks criminal behavior won’t repeat itself with the accused.  Examples might be;

  • Drug and alcohol treatment
  • psychological treatment
  • Sex offender therapy or treatment
  • Rage or anger management treatment.

Examples of Mitigation in Criminal Cases

  • A classic and easy to understand example are Driving While Intoxicated cases.  I explain to clients everyone at the courthouse including prosecutors, judges and probation officers think (1) someone arrested for DWI is not only guilty – but they’ve probably gotten away with it 100 times we don’t know about; and (2) all people arrested for drunk driving are alcoholics.  Those assumptions may be completely fair or unfair – but those are the attitudes we will have to over-come in a case whether we like it or not.

If we can convince the courthouse types not only did the defendant get screwed by being arrested in the first place – but also he’s perfectly fine to drive – it only strengthen’s our overall hand.

Bottom Line on Both Forward and Backward Mitigation

A criminal defense lawyer cannot assume they are just going to win every case no matter how confident we are we will ultimately win.  The Courts have held repeatedly to ignore mitigation is ineffective assistance of counsel.  Mitigation also helps us strengthen our hand and ability to fight the case on multiple fronts – not just sympathy or correcting certain behavior.

*Jeremy Rosenthal is board certified in criminal law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization.  He is recognized as a Texas Super Lawyer by Thomson Reuters.


Is it a Crime to Have a Positive Drug Test?

October 21, 2020

By Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal

www.texasdefensefirm.com

(972) 369-0577

It’s not a crime in Texas to fail a drug test or urine analysis (“UA”).  Possession of any illegal drug such as marijuana, cocaine, or any other controlled substance without a prescription is defined as “actual care, custody, control or management.”  Tex.Pen.C. 1.07(39).  Failing a UA does not demonstrate this as backward as it may sound.

Texas courts apply what is known as the Corpus Delecti rule.  Corpus Delecti is latin for “body of the crime.”  The prosecution in every case must prove a crime was committed.  An out of court confession, in and of itself, is never enough to sustain a conviction.

A classic and more clear example of corpus delicti is someone who confesses to arson – yet the building the person claims to have burned to the ground is completely unharmed.  Legally, this is indistinguishable from a person failing a drug test to prove a person had “actual care, custody, control or management” of a drug they shouldn’t have had.

You Can Still Be in Trouble for Failing Drug Tests

If you are on bond for a crime – a failed UA is legally sufficient to hold your bond insufficient and have you re-arrested.  It can also be grounds for a motion to revoke probation or a motion to adjudicate.  This is because the formal requirements of the corpus delicti rule are loosened for these proceedings and because typically terms of bond and/or probation are more broad as well to prohibit failing drug tests.

*Jeremy Rosenthal is certified in criminal law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization.  He is designated as a Texas Super Lawyer by Thomson Reuters.


Mental Illness & Criminal Law: Mitigation

October 19, 2020

By Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal

www.texasdefensefirm.com

(972) 369-0577

Mitigation is the single biggest way mental illness impacts court cases.  Mitigation is the act of reducing the severity, seriousness or painfulness of something.  Mental health and mental illness often tell the story of what is really going on in any given situation.  It can show the judge, jury, prosecutor and often the victim the reasons for defendant’s actions.

To recap, this week I’ve covered the major ways mental illness affects criminal cases and what the courts are doing about it:

Mitigation

Texas law and courts have made strides on dealing with people suffering from a difficult mental or emotional disorder.  But as discussed previously, it is very hard to establish the insanity defense in Texas.  To be Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity, a person can have zero appreciation between the difference between right and wrong.

So what about the scores of cases where someone’s mind and judgement are over-powered by anxiety, racing thoughts, or in some instances delusions to the point they act horribly out of character yet they had an inkling what they were doing was wrong?  These are the vast majority of cases and these are the cases where the mental health issues constitute mitigation.

How Do You Establish Someone’s Mental Health Was to Blame?

It often speaks for itself.  Forensic psychologists or psychiatrists can often do evaluations and put a formal diagnosis to help explain the symptoms the person was experiencing.  The mental health professionals can also discuss the appropriate future treatment and progress of the person and show the path forward.

Professionals and experts also helps because many prosecutors, judges, jurors and even victims of the crime can be cynics who accuse someone of malingering or faking mental illness.  The forensic psychologists and/or psychiatrists help debunk this. In reality people malinger less than 5% of the time and even those who do malinger do so because of of different disorders than the one they fake.

The Path Forward

Everyone needs to see the path forward for the accused when it is the mental disorder largely to blame for a criminal situation.  The path may include inpatient or outpatient treatment, medication, and continued supervision.

Often the path forward may require changes to an existing plan which hasn’t worked – or to adjust the aggressiveness of a plan.  Frequently it includes dealing with an addiction which has developed when someone has self-medicated because of their disorder.

Going forward and showing judges, juries, prosecutors and victims the accused can and will control things better in the future requires lots of hard work from not only the defendant – but often their loved ones too.  But anyone reading this post already knows this.

*Jeremy Rosenthal is Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization.  He has been designated as a Texas Super Lawyer by Thompson Reuters.