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.

 

 


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.


Textbook Video From an Illegal Search

January 24, 2014

By Collin County Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal

www.rosenthalwadas.com

(972) 369-0577

Today I’m posting a video created by a guy driving home from a Star Trek convention with a buddy who was stopped by a police officer for an alleged minor traffic offense.  He and his friend spend the better part of an hour being harassed, manipulated and badgered by the officer.  It’s a textbook example of when an unsuspecting fly gets tangled in the web of a nasty spider and can’t get away.

You can watch the video here.

As a Criminal Defense Lawyer having dealt with many bad searches, here are a few things I think are important to point out about this stop/ video.

Situations Like This Rarely Come to Light in the First Place

The reason this type of harassment of citizens never really comes to light is because these guys are completely innocent.  They’ve got no reason to ever acquire, watch, or publish this video.  In fact, most people who go through something like this either just want to forget that it ever happened or were so intimidated by the experience that they simply walk away.

Another reason why this situation is seldom exposed is because when an officer does profile correctly and find marijuana, cocaine or methamphetamine — the citizens regard all the singing, dancing, and acting he did to get into the car as “great police work.”  Obviously what is ultimately found, if anything, doesn’t suddenly validate the illegality of the search.

This is an Extreme (but not unheard of) Scenario

This situation is extreme.  It’s very common to see stops for very thin reasons, and very common to see cops play delay games like “the computer is slow today”.  Getting a k-9 to give a false hit (if that’s really what happened) would be highly uncommon, and simply making up a reason altogether for the stop (if that is what really happened) would also be well out-of-bounds.  Police often reach or stretch for reasons to detain someone, but normally it’s based on at least a smidgen of good faith.

Why this Search Was Illegal

Courts have long struggled with these types of police games.  In United States v. Shabazz, 993 F.2d 431 (5th Cir. 1993) citing United States v. Guzman, 864 F.2d 1512, (10th Cir. 1988) the Fifth Circuit stated:

“An officer conducting a routine traffic stop may request a driver’s license and vehicle registration, run a computer check, and issue a citation. When the driver has produced a valid license and proof that he is entitled to operate the car, he must be allowed to proceed on his way, without being subject to further delay by police for additional questioning. In order to justify a temporary detention for questioning, the officer must also have reasonable suspicion of illegal transactions in drugs or of any other serious crime.”

Also, it’s a well known game to wait for the arrival of a K-9 unit in the event the detaining officer suspects drugs.

*Jeremy Rosenthal is Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and licensed by the Supreme Court of Texas. Nothing in this article is intended to be legal advice.  For legal advice about any situation you should contact an attorney directly.  Communications sent through this blog are not confidential, privileged, nor do they create an attorney-client relationship.


An “Illegal Search” is Really More Like an “Illegal Procedure” Penalty in Football

March 3, 2012

By Collin County Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal

(972) 369-0577

www.rosenthalwadas.com

One of the best weapons in defending many cases is the exclusionary rule.  That rule prevents illegally attained evidence from being used by the prosecution during trial.  The exclusionary rule is the citizens legal protection remedy from illegal police acts.

Isn’t it a Bit Much to Say the Police Acted Illegally?

Think of the word ‘illegal’ in terms of a penalty during a football game such as ‘illegal procedure.’  The word ‘illegal’ has a much lighter connotation when we know it’s just a 5 yard penalty for a player moving the wrong direction before the snap.

Calling a search or particular police action ‘illegal’ is really no different.  As the accused, you’re merely saying there was a foul committed without regard to wether it was intentional or severe.  But the rules are the rules and everyone has to play by them.

Illegal Searches Can’t be Very Common, Right?

They’re more common than you think.  You have to remember civil rights cases from the 1960’s and 1970’s still have a large imprint on search and seizure law.  The courts are uncomfortable with traffic stops and/or searches based on little more than hunches because those were rightly exposed as profiling.  Though today’s police may profile teenagers or people who have an alternative appearance – there isn’t much of a difference under the law.  Profiling is profiling.

You also have to remember police in targeting certain groups are often aggressive in their approach.  Police need articulable fact to justify traffic stops and continued roadside detentions.  It’s very common to see extremely thin and subjective reasoning for keeping someone detained at a routine traffic stop – nervousness, the time of day/ night, or even labeling the area of the stop as ‘high crime’ with little or no proof this is the case.  Courts have repeatedly said these types of justifications are akin to multiplying zeros when it comes to articulable facts.  Bad stops frequently get thrown out triggering the exclusionary rule.

Again, police know they are fighting crime and doing great things by keeping drugs, guns, and drunk drivers off the streets.  They will often push and test the rules for reasons they think are justified.

The end result may be that often they have mis-stepped and ‘fouled’ the person they arrested.

*Jeremy Rosenthal is Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and licensed by the Supreme Court of Texas. Nothing in this article is intended to be legal advice.  For legal advice about any situation you should contact an attorney directly.  Nothing in this article is intended to be legal advice.  Contacting the attorney through this blog is not privileged and communications are not confidential.