Collin County Deferred Prosecution Program — Update (1/31/11)

January 31, 2011

By Dallas and Collin County Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal

(972) 562-7549

www.thecollincountylawyer.com

Many changes have and are taking effect under new Criminal District Attorney Greg Willis.

Amongst those changes are changes to Collin County’s Deferred Prosecution Program.  That program was originally instituted by former District Attorney John R. Roach, Sr. and allowed youthful “offenders” the opportunity to avoid having their cases be filed formally in exchange for a less-formal probation under the supervision of the Collin County Community Supervision department (probation).

There were many complaints about how Mr. Roach’s administration ran the program.  For example, there were formal guidelines set in place that were inflexible and could be somewhat arbitrary.  For example, people were refused entry into the program because they did not reply within the narrow time frame given to them regardless of the reason.

Also, the method in which people were contacted was suspect.  First, the person would receive direct notification of the program via an unsigned letter bearing the letter-head of the probation department.  The letter would invite the offender and his/her parents to come and confess to the crime — and that they would then be considered for admission into Deferred Prosecution Program (the letters did not come from the DA’s office).  Lawyers in Texas cannot directly contact persons they know to be represented by counsel in opposing matters.

The new Collin County DA’s policy towards the Deferred Prosecution Program takes a far more common-sense approach.  It appears as though they are evaluating the program on a case-by-case basis and they are willing to review cases submitted to them for review.  It’s guesswork at this point as to how exactly the old-guidelines will play into the new decision making, but the Defense lawyer community is hopeful that the program will be more fair and available to people deserving a second chance.

Obviously, the DA’s office has to draw the line somewhere with allowing people into the Deferred Prosecution Program — which means that not everyone will get what they want.  At least everyone will be heard.  And that’s a huge change.

Ask your lawyer about the Deferred Prosecution Program in Collin County if you think it’s an option for your case or your child’s case.

*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 for any specific situation, you should directly consult with an attorney.


Proposed DWI Deferred Will Only Feel Better for 1st Timers

January 18, 2011

By Dallas and Collin County Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal

(972) 562-7549

www.thecollincountylawyer.com

The 2011 Texas Legislature has a bill before it that would give 1st time DWI offenders the opportunity to get Deferred Adjudication according to this Dallas Morning News article. What can a first-time DWI arrestee expect in this bill crafted by Texas Prosecutors and MADD in exchange for pleading guilty?  Not much.

Remember, Deferred is where someone pleads guilty but the Court defers the finding of guilt while the person completes probation.  If the person completes probation successfully, then the charges are “dismissed” without a final conviction ever being attained.  I put the term dismissed in quotes because even though that’s the term used by the statute, the legislature gave it a special definition that most people speaking English would derive from it’s use — it’s really only a document confirming probation is over.

When someone completes deferred and their case is “dismissed,” then the person’s arrest record, court records, and probation records stay completely in tact and are routinely sold to private companies for public uses on job search applications, housing applications, or loan applications (etc.).  Only when someone applies for a petition for non-disclosure two years after the “dismissal” AND a Judge determines it is in the best interests of justice can the person’s file not be sold by the State.  But law enforcement, of course, gets to keep it and share it with practically any other entity that is affiliated with the State such as school boards and professional licensing agencies.

And according to the Dallas Morning News Article, the DWI Deferred proposal has even less benefit than a normal deferred.  For this program, if you plead guilty and get deferred it counts as a conviction for the purposes of enhancement.  Also there seems to be no other lessening of punishment in any way as far as interlock devices or sur-charges.

Prosecutors and MADD miss the point with this deferred proposal.  The reason deferred would help clear the dockets is that it would give an accused something to actually lose by contesting the charges.  About the only benefit with this proposed law is that someone can say they’ve never been convicted of DWI.  I guess that’s something, but it doesn’t do much more than make someone feel a little less guilty if they accept responsibility for a DWI that they’re guilty of.

*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.


Two More Dallas County DNA Exonerations

January 4, 2011

By Dallas and Collin County Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal

(972) 562-7549

www.thecollincountylawyer.com

Dallas County is expected to exonerate the longest-serving prisoner shown to be innocent through DNA evidence this week.  Cornelius Dupree Jr., and Anthony Massingill were wrongly identified by a rape victim in 1979.  You can read about it here.

Yet again we see themes common to many of these cases.  Bad eye-witness testimony, failure to presume people innocent, and and decades of indifference.  Dallas has had the single most exonerations in America.

*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 specific legal advice on any matter you should contact an attorney directly.


What You Can Expect from the New Collin County District Attorney’s Administration

January 3, 2011

By Dallas and Collin County Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal

(972) 562-7549

www.thecollincountylawyer.com

Greg Willis is the new Collin County District Attorney as of January 1, 2011 and he replaces the embattled John R. Roach, Sr. in that capacity.

I get asked a lot by clients what exactly that may mean for their particular case and in most circumstances the answer is probably nothing major.  That’s not to suggest that Mr. Willis’ administration will merely be a continuation of Mr. Roach’s regime… because it most certainly will not be.  But the truth remains that Mr. Willis inherits an office with probably 80% of the same prosecutors who take the same systematic approach to everyday cases such as DWI, drug possession, and theft.

The changes I predict we’ll see are broad policy changes impacting how the prosecutors manage their cases.  For instance, under Mr. Roach’s administration, the State would not allow the defense lawyer full access to the file unless the defense lawyer waived valuable rights.  Now, Collin County joins Dallas and Tarrant Counties that have an ‘open file policy’ and allow the defendant free access to the State’s file.  While the former administration believed in hiding part of it’s case to gain a strategic advantage over people accused of crime — the new administration believes that the truth is the truth and isn’t afraid to show it’s hand.

Other examples of changes we may see is doing away with some of the minimum plea offers on certain charges.  Under Mr. Roach’s administration, the prosecutor handling cases such as drug possession with intent to distribute were bound to offer a minimum of 15 years in prison.  While this makes for good politics in being tough on crime in Collin County, it resulted in many needless trials of bad cases where the accused was youthful, tangentially involved, or were “dealers” that lived at home with their parents and had little or no affiliations with real drug dealers.  While there’s been no announcement — it  is believed prosecutors will have more discretion in disposing of these types of cases.

There will likely be changes as well made to the intake procedures, grand jury procedures and deferred prosecution programs.  The impact of those changes will take time to gauge.

From the lawyers perspective, Mr. Willis changes are very welcome and long over-due.  Perhaps the biggest changes will be that the personnel changes made should eliminate the ‘circular firing squad’ which has embroiled the DA’s office which was responsible for many fruitless grand jury investigations of public officials, the indictment of Judge Suzanne Wooten and employees of the district clerk’s office.  Even the former first assistant Greg Davis was indicted in the after-math and wake of the legacy of outgoing DA’s Office.

Everyone in Collin County is ready for the dust to settle.  That should start now.

*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 specific legal advice on any matter you should contact an attorney directly.