Failure of a Lawyer to Give Immigration Advice in a Criminal Case

January 9, 2021

By Collin County Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal

(972) 369-0577

jeremy@texasdefensefirm.com

Immigration is such a major topic in criminal defense the topic has been given it’s own name:  Crimmigration.

Criminal defense lawyers have a non-delegable duty to advise their clients about immigration consequences.  The point was made clear in the landmark US Supreme Court case Padilla vs. Kentucky, 559 US 356 (2010).  Padilla holds it is ineffective assistance of counsel for a lawyer handling a criminal case not to advise a client about the immigration consequences and dangers which come with the criminal case.  This is because erroneous advice – or not giving advice at all – can lead to a client’s deportation, removal or ineligibility to renew immigration status.  It is not enough for a criminal defense lawyer to tell their client, “your immigration issue is not my problem – I’m just handling your criminal charges.”

I’ve blogged before on the complexity of immigration issues in the criminal context and you can read it here.

Being Aware of Immigration Tripwires in Criminal Cases

Immigration law is it’s own completely different practice of law from criminal law.  I explain to clients that me giving immigration advice in many ways is like a foot doctor giving advice about your shoulders.  Nonetheless, Padilla and the cases which have followed require criminal lawyers to educate themselves in immigration law enough to effectively advise clients about what can and can’t happen because of things like guilty pleas, conditional dismissals, or specific sentences.

Some immigration rules require detailed analysis about facts and issues which are easy for a criminal lawyer to over-look.

For instance, immigration courts have different classifications for drug possession than Texas criminal courts.  The Texas criminal courts have their own scales for charging drug possession cases which don’t necessarily correlate to the federal court’s or immigration court standards.  Many Texas criminal lawyers may just skim the amount ultimately weighed just to make sure it comports with Texas law – but the lawyer must also beware the tripwire of the immigration consequences if applicable too.

Being Extremely Cautious in Decisions Which Affect Immigration

I tend to be extremely cautious when dealing with immigration issues and complications.  It’s because immigration has been and will probably always will be a white-hot legislative topics in the federal government.  Just because the law says pleading guilty offense x in 2021 is fine doesn’t mean the laws can’t change in 2026 and take a completely different view of what we did 5 years before.

What Happens When My Lawyer Gives Me Bad Immigration Advice?

It’s common for our office to get phone calls when someone has taken a plea deal of some sort and then they get detained, removed, or are not allowed to renew their citizenship status.  It’s often the first time the client had any inkling there would be a collateral immigration problem connected with their criminal case.

When a lawyer doesn’t give immigration advice either because it scares them or they just didn’t spot the issue at all – or if a lawyer gives bad immigration advice it can be “ineffective assistance of counsel.”  Ineffective assistance of counsel in an immigration setting means the lawyer didn’t give proper advice and as a result – the client’s decision was rendered “involuntary.”  An involuntary decision – usually to plead guilty or no contest – is nullified in the event there was ineffective assistance.

Ineffective assistance of counsel can be addressed through different legal mechanisms such as a “Motion for New Trial” or a “Writ of Habeas Corpus.”

Ask Your Lawyer About Immigration Consequences

If you have any questions in a criminal case setting about immigration consequences – ask your lawyer.  It’s your criminal defense lawyer’s job to properly advise you about immigration consequences.  Often times it may take a joint session between criminal and immigration lawyers working together to make sure the client fully understands.

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

 


Illegal Searches are More Common Than You Might Think

December 11, 2020

By Collin County Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal

(972) 369-0577

www.texasdefensefirm.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.

Motion to Suppress

A motion to suppress the evidence is a request for the judge to trigger the exclusionary rule and render the illegally attained evidence unusable.  The most common legal grounds are the 4th Amendment to the US Constitution prohibiting illegal search and seizure and Texas Code of Criminal Procedure Article 38.23.

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 might also include teenagers or people who have an alternative appearance in addition to racial minorities – there isn’t much of a difference under the law.  Profiling is profiling.

Articulable Facts vs. Subjective Opinion

You also have to remember police in targeting certain groups are often aggressive in their approach.  Police need to be able to articulate the facts which justify traffic stops and continued roadside detentions.  As an example a police officer saying he stopped a car because “he just knew they were up to no good” isn’t going to fly.  It’s a hunch and courts don’t like that.

Closer examples might include 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.  Courts have repeatedly said these types of justifications are akin to multiplying zeros when it comes to articulable facts.

Articulable facts, on the other hand, might include “the driver was going 58 in a 45.”  Or the driver smelled like alcohol, said he was on his way to Dallas but was driving the opposite way.

So where an officer can plainly, quickly, and obviously explain the probable cause – the better chance they have of keeping a detention legal.  The more they rely on opinion and conjecture – the more problems they might have explaining it later.

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.

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


Podcast: Marijuana Legalization

October 29, 2020

By Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal

(972) 369-0577

www.texasdefensefirm.com

I’ve been doing a podcast this fall and I’m calling it simply, “The Lawyer Show.”  Every Thursday I interview another lawyer from a different area of law for an hour and mainly I do a lot of listening.  The episode on cannabis and legalization of marijuana was as fascinating as it gets.

A few weeks ago, I talked with California corporate lawyer Josh Schneiderman – and believe it or not — he advises and represents companies in the cannabis industry in California.  I learned a ton about how marijuana legalization might look and work in Texas.

It’s been nothing short of stunning for me to see the shift in attitudes in Texas since the time I was a prosecutor here.  It’s still a criminal offense – but for how long is anyone’s guess.  Enjoy the interview.

 

 

*Jeremy Rosenthal is board certified by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization.  He has been designated 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: Understanding the Problem

October 15, 2020

By Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal

texasdefensefirm.com

(972) 369-0577

It’s hard to over-state the importance the role mental illness plays in criminal law.  There’s little question in my mind it’s far more prevalent people give it credit for.

A recent survey to Texas criminal defense lawyers asked, “What percentage of your clients suffer from some degree of mental illness in your view?” — and the most common answer was between 50% and 75%.

 

What is Mental Illness?

I find many folks – including my clients and their families – struggle with understanding the very concept of having emotional or behavioral problems.

My view is just about everyone wakes up in the morning wanting to be a law abiding citizen.  But many people are driven so far out of their normal range they get in trouble because of things like anxiety, depression, manic states, and on and on.  This is how I define mental illness.

The term “mentally ill” has a much harsher and deeper connotation than what it really means to me.  Many think it only applies to people who hear voices in their heads, talk to themselves, or who must be confined to a straight jacket in a padded room.  In reality, someone going through a really rough patch in their lives can be driven so far by everything going on in their mind – they can often do or say something which hurts another person or gets themselves in a situation they otherwise know is wrong.

Jail

I ask juries what they think of our national mental health system.  They get puzzled – because they can’t really think of what that is.  Then I point out to them the tragic truth — our mental health system is called “jail.”

Jail and mental illness are frequently on a collision course.  We often don’t know someone has cancer until they exhibit physical symptoms.  We often don’t know someone has the flu until they have a fever.  And we often don’t know how much someone is struggling inside until they get into trouble.  It could be assault, theft, drugs, trespassing — the scenarios are endless — but there are very few criminal cases where mental illness doesn’t play a role.

The Enemy of Treatment – the “Tough on Crime” Mindset

Texas is tough on crime.  Many here unfortunately feed into the cops vs. robbers, good guys vs. bad guys dialogue.  Many believe if crime rates are high – we just need to be meaner to people and things will be fine.  Fortunately these voices are fewer and fewer.

Police deal with tons of mental illness on the streets.  Their aim is generally short-term safety for everyone and not necessarily long term treatment.  They also often don’t have the choice but to take someone to jail who has either committed a crime or who poses a danger to others.

I find prosecutors have a tougher time understanding mental illness because they’re somewhat insulated from it.  They talk with the shop-owner who is having a hard time making ends meet but it’s the defense lawyer who deals to the shoplifter describe the sheer degree of anxiety which drove them to do something they knew was wrong as a simple example.

Getting People Help

The million-dollar question is how do we get help to those who need it. That’s an equally difficult problem.  Understanding the problem is the start.

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