How Smart Phones Have Revolutionized Criminal Law

November 15, 2019

By Collin County Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal

(972) 369-0577

www.rosenthalwadas.com

Smart phones have revolutionized trial practice in the 21st Century.

How?  Because everyone old enough to be charged with a crime carries around a box of evidence with them.  The smart phone can tell who you talk to,  what messages you send to others, where you’ve been, what you’ve bought, and scariest of all — when you combine all these things — they tell others what you’re thinking.

And that’s not just you carrying around this box of evidence — it’s everyone.  I saw a commercial the other day which suggested we have more information about us in our phone than in our entire house!

So how do we make smart phones work for the defense?  It helps us get to the truth — which is virtually never as one-sided as the prosecution believes.  We can establish alibis, witness bias and witness motive — and that’s just the beginning.

Compulsory Process under the 6th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution allows us to subpoena records and smart phone data either directly from an adverse witness or from third-party providers such as Facebook, Instagram, or SnapChat.

In complicated trials and cases — it always makes sense to make smart phone technology one of the core foundations of an investigation.  We might know we know certain facts in a particular case — and smart or cell phone technology help us turn those facts into concrete instead of risking a swearing match.

*Jeremy Rosenthal is Board Certified by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and is a licensed attorney in the State of Texas.

 

 

 

 


Why Does My Lawyer Keep Continuing My Case?

November 12, 2019

By Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal

(972) 369-0577

www.rosenthalwadas.com

It could be taking extra time to prepare.  It could be strategy.  It could be a red flag.

Taking Extra Time to Prepare

Your Lawyer should always obey “the carpenter’s rule.”  Measure twice, cut once.

Some cases are just harder and more complex than others.

A sexual assault at a party with 8 witnesses (each with different accounts) takes some time to prepare.  The prosecutor may be extremely dug in and there could be some complex legal issues as well.

A white-collar securities scheme with 3,400 documents to pour through can be tough too.  Federal drug conspiracies where the lawyer gets a few hundred hours of wire-tap phone calls obviously take a while too.

These are all really valid reasons for delay.

Delay for Strategy

I’ve delayed cases for strategical reasons.  It could be because my client has other pending legal matters which I’d like to get resolved first.  It might be because I’m trying to expunge records in one county and I have to do so before my client’s case goes to trial in another county.  A lawyer could even have a case delayed so their client can stay in the local jail with air conditioning during the summer knowing when the case was over they still had to go back to their prison unit without AC (I’m not saying I’ve done this and I’m not saying I haven’t, either!)

Sometimes it’s the Prosecution’s Fault

Sometimes the State isn’t ready.  They need to do more investigation and/or preparation for their case to go to trial as well and the Judge allows them leeway the same way they allow us leeway.  Lab testing blood in DWI cases and drugs can take months and months.  It’s the speed of government.

When are Repeated Continuances a Red Flag?

Every case is it’s own snowflake.  That said, if you have a relatively common  case such as a DWI, assault, or drug charge and your lawyer is delaying, delaying, and delaying and the reasons don’t make sense — it could be something to become concerned about.

DWI, assault, drug and theft charges are extremely common and we handle lots of them.  We know what we’re looking for to defend the cases and we’re quick to find and ferret-out the important issues.  There are very few legal issues in Driving While Intoxicated cases, for instance, we haven’t seen before or know exactly where to look for the answer.

Many lawyers are simply over-worked.  They use time poorly and “borrow from peter to pay paul” with their time.  They are used to putting out the hottest fire every day — and when that case isn’t your case — you get to wait.  Also many lawyers can get “paralysis by analysis.”  That is they just can’t make a decision and they use delay because they can’t figure things out.

Bottom Line

I should add many clients are okay with a slow pace in which case we accommodate this.  It makes me think of when I was waiting for my bar results.  I had a great time not knowing one way or another for 3 months.  I just don’t like going to court and not accomplishing anything.  I do see lawyers who just pass, and pass, and pass their cases over and over and I don’t get it.  The courts do push lawyers to get cases through… but rarely should it get to that point.

*Jeremy Rosenthal is Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization.  He was designated as a Super Lawyer in 2019 by Thomson Reuters.

 

 

 


They Got the “Owner” Wrong on the Indictment

October 29, 2019

By Collin County Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal

(972) 369-0577

www.rosenthalwadas.com

A question I get from time to time in theft cases is the “owner” of the property as alleged by the prosecution is not really the owner at all.  Sometimes it is someone whose name the accused doesn’t recognize at all

So Who Is the Person They’re Saying is the Owner?

It is often a loss prevention officer of the store or often an office holder if the ‘victim’ of the theft is a company or organization of some type.

Tex.Code.Crim.P. 1.07(35) defines an owner as a person who has title to the property, possession of the property, whether lawful or not, or a greater right to possession of the property than the actor.

When the perpetrator is attaining property in an unauthorized manner — they have no interest in the property therefore any other person even with minimal control of the property can be considered an “owner.”

Does it Really Matter Who the State Lists as the Owner?

Not usually.  Take most shoplifting cases — the “owner” of the property is typically listed as a loss prevention person or in some instances even the store itself.  It often isn’t contested.

But Here’s Where This Issue Can Get Weird:

Let’s say the person listed as the owner of the property in the indictment (or information in a misdemeanor) normally has less interest in the property than the accused.  For instance, the treasurer of an organization is accused of theft and a regular member is listed as the owner (but was perhaps the informant).

In that instance, the prosecution would argue the treasurer was stealing – so therefore they have no interest in the money stolen whereas the regular member has minimal interest — but still more than the stealing treasurer.  But the counter-argument is Treasurer is presumed innocent as a matter of law, so what you get are “chicken & egg” arguments on either side.

Just a legal pit I’ve fallen into several times over the years!

*Jeremy Rosenthal is an Attorney Licensed in Texas.  He is Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and is a 2019 Super Lawyer as designated by Thomson Reuters.


Returning Calls

October 16, 2019

By Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal

www.rosenthalwadas.com

(972) 369-0577

A lawyer has an ethical duty to communicate with their client under Texas Rules o Disciplinary Conduct:

Rule 1.03 says:

(a) A lawyer shall keep a client reasonably informed about the status of a matter and promptly comply with reasonable requests for information. 

(b) A lawyer shall explain a matter to the extent reasonably necessary to permit the client to make informed decisions regarding the representation.

Lack of Communication is the Chief Complaint About Lawyers

I wish I had the answer why.  I hate more than anything when someone comes into my office and says another lawyer they’ve worked with seems sharp, competent — but they just don’t return phone calls and the client is left in the dark.  Anyone in a criminal defense lawyer’s office is going through a stressful episode in their life either for themselves or along with a loved one.  The last thing they need is to be left in the dark about crucial aspects of a case.

Communication with Clients

Communication is a two way street and its complications go back, no doubt, to the dawn of mankind.  Every client of mine is different just the same as I’m different than any other lawyer.  Every attorney-client relationship is therefore unique.

Here are some observations:

  • My phone number ringing and flashing on a screen can be the most traumatic 8 -seconds of that client’s month;
  • It can be dicey to call a client while they’re at their place work for obvious reasons;
  • Giving mundane details either bores clients or causes them unnecessary stress;
  • There is certain news or updates which are better done in person due to the time it will take or possible follow-up questions;
  • You want the lawyer explaining to you the intricacies of preserving jury charge error under the standard promulgated by the Almanza case from the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals in 1986 — but the lawyer doesn’t need to be the one who tells you the best exit to take to get to the courthouse.

Many of the points listed above say the same thing — communication for the sake of saying you were communicating isn’t always a great idea.  Rule 1.03(a) & (b) have built in words like the attorney shall keep the client “reasonably informed,” promptly reply to “reasonable requests for information,” and the lawyer shall explain matters to the extent they are “reasonably necessary” for the client to make informed decisions.

Customer Service

We want happy clients who refer us business long after their case is over and they have a friend in need.  That means good customer service and we don’t need some rule to tell us that.

One of our advantages at Rosenthal & Wadas is we have a great office staff who are trained to handle any and every question they are capable of answering.  This accomplishes a number of things:

  • You get the answer to routine questions without having to wait for a lawyer;
  • You never feel like you are bothering us with something you worry might be trivial or simple to us but is important to you;
  • It makes our office staff happier to help, get to know, and be involved with our client care;
  • It allows our lawyers to focus on the intricate and crucial parts of your case.

One of the down-sides is it is common for some people to have built-up such a good rapport with me or one of our other lawyers that they feel less comfortable talking with our office staff — even about basic issues.  That’s fine too and we are happy to accomodate this as well.

How I do It

I do my best to get back to everyone every day.  Email is normally the best though if the answer is too complex I may give you a call back when I can spend the time to do the issue justice.  If I’m in a spot where I can’t get to that question or issue quickly then I’ll ask one of our staff members to help if the question is appropriate.

At our office — we never want to hear a client feel like they aren’t being communicated with.

*Jeremy Rosenthal is a Licensed Attorney in the State of Texas and is Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization.  He was designated as a SuperLawyer by Thomson Reuters in 2019.


Complete Texas Law Guide to THC, Marijuana & CBD

October 10, 2019

By Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal

www.rosenthalwadas.com

(972) 369-0577

Let’s start with the easy stuff:

CBD Products : (Cannabidiol) are now legal in Texas as long as it contains no more than 0.3% THC (dry weight).  The Governor signed a bill into law effective September 1, 2019 legalizing CBD.

Medical Marijuana:  Legal if you have been diagnosed with parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis (MS), ALS, terminal cancer, and several seizure disorders AND you have a prescription for it.  Also, it cannot be smoked but must be consumed in an oil or inhaler form.

Marijuana:  Still illegal — but here’s all the hubbub:

For Legal Novices: In court the state must prove what is called the “Corpus Delicti” of every crime (Corpus Delicti is latin for ‘body of the crime’).  That means they have to prove a crime was actually committed.  In a murder case – it means they need to prove someone actually died — in a drug case it means someone actually possessed something illegal.  Remember the Dallas fake drug scandal?  It was a big stink because it’s just not a crime to possess sheet rock or gypsum even if you think it’s cocaine, anthrax or weapons grade plutonium.

The new CBD law makes it extremely difficult for law enforcement to know or prove whether the marijuana they arrest someone for has a concentration of 0.3% THC or not.

But Remember:  (1) possession of marijuana is still a crime.  Just because enforcement is difficult and/or problematic for the State doesn’t make it legal; and more importantly (2) This problem is temporary for two reasons —  First, the State may hone-in on an efficient testing system; and second — it’s a good bet the legislature will try to fix this loophole in 2021 which may be in time to meet the statute of limitations for an arrest made in 2019.

For the Legally Advanced:  This has created a nightmare in determining probable cause and reasonable suspicion to search a vehicle, seize evidence, and make an arrest.

For a police officer to search a vehicle they must have probable cause they will find evidence of an offense committed in their presence.  The odor of burned marijuana has very commonly been a staple of instant probable cause.  But here’s the question now: since the odor of burned marijuana isn’t necessarily indicative of a criminal offense (because someone could smoke cannabis without the active THC ingredient — or an ingredient of less than 0.3%) then does that vitiate the probable cause as well?

Assuming the odor of burned marijuana no longer supports probable cause (and that is a big assumption) then a search based on the odor of burned marijuana would be illegal and subject to the exclusionary rule.  The exclusionary rule prevents evidence from an illegal search from being used against you in court — aka “fruit of the poisonous tree.”  In other words, you win.

Stay tuned!

*Jeremy Rosenthal is Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization.  Nothing contained in this article should be considered legal advice.  For legal advice about any situation you should contact an attorney directly.