10 Principles of Defending People: #9 Be Organized

May 31, 2018

By Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal

www.rosenthalwadas.com

(972) 369-0577

I’m writing a series of blogs describing what I think it takes to be an effective criminal defense lawyer.  Yesterday, I wrote about not being judgmental – a cornerstone of the mindset of a defense lawyer.

Today, I’m writing about another concept:

#9 Be Organized

I have two favorite quotes which go hand in hand about how I like to think I approach my work.

The first quote is, “the harder I work, the luckier I get” from Samual Goldwyn, a producer who founded MGM.  The second is from Jim Turner, a player on the Denver Broncos after they lost the Super Bowl in 1977 to the Dallas Cowboys… he said, “We were thinking about being the Super Bowl Champs and they were thinking about football.”

Many lawyers “think about being Super Bowl Champs” but they don’t mind the details or put in the sweat-equity it takes to win.  They confuse thinking about winning with the work it actually takes to win.

Every case is its own snowflake and some can be extremely complex.  It can be easy to get lost.  The more I practice, the more I appreciate the reality lawyers need a compass to navigate each case which makes sure every detail is addressed.

A good defense lawyer in my view needs a systematic way of approaching each case.  Do you think they make things up as the go along in an operating room?  Do you think a pilot with 323 souls on their commercial jetliner just treats their flight like a drive to the 7-11?  Do you think when NASA is about to launch humans into space with a $1.3 billion dollar project they just wing it?

No way!  They have checklist after checklist.  They have redundant failsafe measures designed to minimize their margin of error.  Why would we be any different when we are charged with protecting our clients lives?

Television and movies teach us bad lessons.  They teach us there are some lawyers can just walk into a courtroom and leave the jury in tears when they just got the case two commercial breaks ago.  I know some pretty darn talented lawyers.  But I don’t know anyone quite that amazing.

The rest of us need to be organized!

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


What is a Felony?

May 29, 2018

By Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal

www.rosenthalwadas.com

(972) 369-0577

A felony is any crime which carries with it over one year of possible punishment.

This is the law in every state including Texas.  This is because it is the federal law definition and the federal law is supreme.

Below is a list of common felonies.  Don’t hit the panic button just because a charge is categorized as a felony.  Many of these charges carry possible probation even in the event of conviction.

Examples of common felonies in Texas include:

Drug Charges:

  • Possession of Controlled Substances such as cocaine, heroine, or methamphetamine;
  • Possession of prescription pills by non-prescription holder such as Adderall, or over 28 grams of hydrocodone, oxycontin, or Ambien;
  • Possession of Marijuana over 4 oz.;

Driving While Intoxicated Charges:

  • DWI 3rd or greater;
  • DWI with a Child;
  • Intoxicated Assault;
  • Intoxicated Manslaughter;

Theft Related Charges:

  • Any Theft Over $2,500;
  • Money Laundering;
  • Robbery;
  • Aggravated Robbery;

Assault Charges:

  • Aggravated Assault with a Deadly Weapon;
  • Aggravated Assault;
  • Assault by Impeding Airway;
  • Injury to Child;
  • Injury to Elderly;
  • Kidnapping;
  • Manslaughter;
  • Murder;

Property Crimes

  • Burglary of a Building;
  • Burglary of a Habitation;

Sexual Charges:

  • Sexual Assault
  • Aggravated Sexual Assault
  • Indecency With a Child (by contact or exposure)
  • Sexual Assault of a Child (Statutory Rape)
  • Aggravated Sexual Assault of a Child under 14
  • Aggravated Sexual Assault of a Child under 6
  • Continuous Sexual Assault of Child or Young Children

Obviously this is not an exclusive list but it hopefully give you an idea.

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

 


Top 5 Most Common Police Attitudes — #2

May 14, 2018

By Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal

(972) 369-0577

www.rosenthalwadas.com

I am continuing my series on the top 5 attitudes I see from police officers in cases I defend.  The attitudes I see are in no particular order but they do reflect attitudes I see before, during and even after an investigation all the way to a courthouse when a police officer is testifying.

#2 — Victim Mode

When police believe someone is a victim before even beginning an investigation — they are their most dangerous.

Clearly a dead body with several stab wounds in the back is almost certainly a victim.  But what about a teenaged girl who claims a sexual encounter was non-consensual 6 weeks after the fact?

The biggest bi-product of a law enforcement officer (or prosecutor for that matter) heading straight into victim mode is it triggers circular logic for the remainder of the investigation.  I see this heavily in sexual assault cases and domestic abuse cases.

Let’s say a couple has a few too many drinks at home on a Saturday night in anywhere, USA.  The wife stumbles and falls, hits her head which causes bleeding and has to call an ambulance… why do we need every ambulance driver, police officer, and later police detectives calling the woman telling her “the abuse will only get worse” if she stays with the husband?

Circular logic.  The narrative starts and ends with guilt.

Let’s go back to the teenaged girl claiming a sexual encounter was non-consensual after the fact.  When all the school counselors, police officers, and prosecutors sprint to help the “victim” before actually determining whether she’s a “victim” disaster ensues.  Police and investigators become immediately antagonistic not only to the accused — but to anyone who sides with the accused.  The accused and/or advocates for the accused can proffer evidence of innocence and arguments for innocence until they are blue in the face.  A detective or investigator who has already determined the accused is guilty will use confirmation bias to parry off any facts which don’t fit.

If an officer is has pre-programed themselves to believe the high-school boy is a rapist, then every eye-twitch is scrutinized and flipped into evidence of guilt.  Circular logic.

Officers and others in the criminal justice system in “victim” mode truly believe they are helping others.  I joke that officers in “victim” mode are standing shoulder-to-shoulder with their arms folded along with Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman.  But it’s not funny because they don’t understand how dangerous they are when they’re wrong.

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

 

 

 


Are Police Going through an Investigation or Just the Arrest Process?

March 12, 2018

By Collin County Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal

www.rosenthalwadas.com

(972) 369-0577

The dictionary defines “investigate” as, “To carry out a systematic or formal inquiry to discover and examine the facts of (an incident, allegation, etc.) so as to establish the truth.”

Truth, then, is the focus of an investigation.

But virtually always we see the focus of an investigation is a person — not necessarily the truth.  The assumption made by law enforcement is the person who is the focus of the investigation and the truth are one and the same thing.  In other words, many, many “investigations” are flawed from the start.  The result of the investigation is only correct where the assumption is also correct.

And it is further true when you ASSUME you make an ASS of U and ME.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen an “investigation” start with a detective or police officer reaching their conclusion first.  They call a tow truck to haul off someone’s car for DWI before they even ask the driver out of the car.  They offer a complaining witness victim assistance information, sympathy, and promises of action after just moments of hearing one side.  They promise action to someone who lost their savings when they come in blaming someone else for their loss.

Wouldn’t it be more appropriate to call those police actions “the arrest process?” instead of an investigation?  It is often clear the police aren’t interested in the truth — instead they are interested in arresting the person they think is guilty from the outset.  They just know in their heart the truth without researching any of the facts.  What could go wrong doing it that way?

The arrest process looks more like a geometric proof than a search for the truth.  The police are checking to see if there is enough evidence for each and every element and if there is — then bang — case closed and the bad guy is handcuffed.  The problems is many of the facts are rose-colored to the investigator and the standard for probable cause is low.  Instead of putting pieces of a puzzle neatly together, the oddly-shaped pieces are jammed together to make the image already in the officer’s head.

The arrest process might be just fine in certain instances.  I’m sure it often yields fair results. But let’s just not call them what they’re not — investigations focused on the truth.

*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 this or any topic you should consult an attorney directly.

 


Will I Be Sentenced to Jail Now That I’m Accused of DWI, Theft, Domestic Abuse, Drug Possession…. or Any Crime for that Matter?

February 8, 2018

By Collin County Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal

www.rosenthalwadas.com

(972) 369-0577

This is probably the no. 1 question on the minds of many who come into my office.  It’s a completely normal question I’d and probably worry about you if you didn’t care.

Obviously I can’t say yes or no unless I hear whats going on first.

Even then I can’t make promises though I can tell someone they’ve got a better chance of winning the lottery or getting struck by lightning than going back to jail after an initial arrest.

By the time most people are pondering this question it is as if a grenade has exploded in their living room.  They or a loved one have gone through an ordeal they never imagined they’d face — going to jail then getting released on bond.

Then you or your loved ones read about sentence ranges for the particular charge and it’s hard not to fixate on the high number at the end of the punishment range to the exclusion of everything else.  It is completely normal to have high anxiety wondering about the end result of the case and not knowing anything about the criminal justice system doesn’t help.

Here’s What I Can Say

The vast majority of people I help worry far too much about something totally unrealistic.  They exaggerate their chances of going to back to jail in their own mind. Totally normal.

Law enforcement trends in most populated cities and suburbs in Texas are to lower inmate population.  People with little or no criminal history simply don’t jam the jails on misdemeanor or low-grade felony offenses these days.  Major emphasis is being placed on identifying other ways to address issues such as mental illness, addiction and even anger issues or conflict resolution other than jail.

And by the way… I’m going to work my hardest to acquit someone or get their case dismissed before we even get to jail questions!

The greatest chance for jail in someone’s future for someone coming into my office on most cases is violating terms and conditions of bond or probation.  In other words, they may go back to jail if they use illegal substances, miss court, or drink alcohol when ordered not to do so while waiting for their case to be resolved or after they’ve been put on probation.

The good news here is the person is still in control of whether or not they face future incarceration.  More good news is when people do go to jail on bond or probation violations — the time in jail is measured in days or weeks and not months or years.

I end up telling many people it is unrealistic to worry about future jail.  I don’t mind repeating it 35 times if that is what it takes to take away the feeling a house has landed on you!

Normally my greatest concern is not future jail — it’s keeping your job and keeping your criminal history as clean as possible.  This is a more realistic fear in many, many cases we handle.

When Jail is a Worry

There are times to worry about a jail sentence and not every place in Texas is the same.  Each case is its own snowflake so trends I’ve discussed above may or may not apply to your situation.

The more severe the charge — the more likely it is we can’t safely rule future incarceration out.  Even then we rarely realistically discuss worst-case scenarios.

*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 you should see an attorney directly.