Defending Allegations of Child Sexual Abuse

October 15, 2015

By Collin County Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal

(972) 369-0577

www.rosenthalwadas.com

No one anywhere approves of sexual abuse of children and no one anywhere approves of destroying the lives of the innocent.  The clash of these two core values in the courtroom are not for weak or timid lawyers.

The Deck is Stacked Against You

I’ve got bad news.  If you are being questioned about child sexual abuse charges — the police, CPS, or Children’s Advocacy Center very likely think you are a child predator even though they may not tell you directly.

The legislature has given law enforcement more than enough ammunition to destroy the lives of those accused of child sexual abuse.  If you think you are being accused of such charges you must contact an attorney immediately.

What Makes Being Charged with these Crimes So Severe?

Here are some of the obvious:

(1) The Harshness of the Penalties.  Aggravated Sexual Assault of a Child carries a penalty of 5-99 years in prison.  If the victim is under 6, then it is 25-years to life with no parole.  Indecency with a Child can be either 2-10 years of prison or 2-20 years of prison based on the elements. Continual Sexual Abuse of a Child carries a 25-life sentence with no parole.

(2) The Destruction of a Family.  Many sexual abuse cases involve family members or close family friends.  Allegations often cause family members to take sides against one another.  These cases can be contentious as you can guess so it stands to reason many wounds never heal regardless of the outcome.

(3) The Stigma.  The label, stigma and shame of being a sex offender is obvious — if the first two consequences weren’t enough.  Whereas a theft charge, drug charge or even a robbery charge might allow someone to still fit into society as a productive member after their debt is paid — someone labeled as a sex offender has a much bigger (if not impossible) challenge to rebuild their life.

What Your Lawyer Must Be Able to Do

They must show the jury destroying the life of an innocent person is intolerable even if it is being done with the best of intentions.  To accomplish this, your attorney must know the facts of the case better than the prosecutor, understand the law better than the prosecutor, and have a skilled plan of attack.

*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 your case or any situation you should contact an attorney directly.  Contacting the attorney through this blog does not create an attorney-client relationship.  Additionally comments, posts, or communications through this blog are not confidential.


Important Lessons from the Zimmerman Verdict and Interactive Poll

July 15, 2013

By Collin County Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal

www.thecollincountylawyer.com

(972) 369-0577

I’ll be honest.  I didn’t watch much of the trial — or the hoards of legal analysts who told us what to think.  So you won’t be getting red-hot opinions about how smart/stupid the jury was here.

I see merit in virtually every argument I’ve read online from friends and family in social media or even from editorials on TV or in the newspaper.  George Zimmerman may have gotten away with cold-blooded murder.  Then again maybe he was defending himself from an attacker.  I don’t know.  I wasn’t there.  I just know we did our best to figure it all out.

The strong reaction I see everywhere — going both directions — reminds me of simple truisms about why the framer’s of the constitution gave us the rights we have.

Humans are biased.  Others need protection from our biases because when we put our heads together in big numbers we can be very dangerous to people we aren’t interested in hearing from.

Don’t think so?  I guess advertising doesn’t work on you… it just works on me?

Our rights guaranteed by the framers of the Constitution are designed to combat our biases, prejudices, and knee-jerk reactions we would naturally have in protecting our families and communities in favor of protecting individuals.

The presumption of innocence holds jurors must presume an accused person as innocent as they would a neighbor or even the judge.

The accused has the right to remain silent because strapping someone in a chair and launching loaded questions at them is a tactic of 3rd world justice.

The burden of proof never shifts to the accused.  It’s impossible to prove you’re innocent of a traffic ticket when you think about it.  Especially if you’re dealing with a jury or judge whose default is to trust the policeman who wrote you the citation.

But here’s where the rubber meets the road — these rights are hollow unless we understand why we have them and they’re hollow if we only give them lip service.

The aftermath of this verdict has been ugly arguments and protest.  Anytime we debate our system of justice, though, it’s a healthy exercise as long as it leads to greater understanding instead of disillusionment.

*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 situation or any other, you should contact an attorney directly

 

 


How Can I Defend Someone If I Know They’re Guilty?

June 18, 2013

By Collin County Criminal Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal

www.thecollincountylawyer.com

(972) 369-0577

If you practice criminal defense you are invariably asked questions by people who simply don’t understand what it is you do.  The questions don’t bother me.  We are all naturally programmed to think in terms of good and evil.  We all view ourselves on the side of good and can’t understand how anyone can cross the imaginary boundary we’ve established in our mind.

1.  How Can You Possibly Defend Someone You Know is Guilty?

When I defend a guilty person, I defend everyone.  If I can make it difficult for a guilty person to be treated unfairly then I’m making it extremely difficult for an innocent person to be treated unfairly.

Besides, not everyone is guilty.

2.  What This Person Did Was Awful.  How Can You Defend Him?

I don’t defend crime or criminal acts.  I defend human beings and their rights.

I defend people whose imperfection is making bad choices and/or hurting people from people whose imperfection is being judgmental.

Another fun way I respond to either of these questions is, “Well let’s just lop their hand off like they do in other parts of the world.”

That usually drives the point home.

*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 other situation you should contact an attorney directly.


Will I Make the Police Mad if I Don’t Talk With Them?

February 11, 2012

By Collin County Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal

(972) 369-0577

www.rosenthalwadas.com

Probably.  But you shouldn’t worry about their feelings.

Jails and prisons are full of people who gave statements to police when they were under investigation.

Exercising your 5th Amendment right to remain silent is perfectly legal and if your case ever came down to a trial, the jury would never be informed of the fact that you declined an interview based on an attorney’s advice.

Won’t the Police Drop the Case if they Think I’m Innocent? 

Of course that’s possible and I’m sure that happens.  But just as often the officer has already made up his mind and is only building his case against a suspect by bringing them in for an interview.

Police are not judges.  They do not get involved in disputes to hand the party they think should win a ribbon or prize when the investigation is over.  They investigate crime.  They do that by building a case element by element as defined by the Texas Penal Code.  Often the only way they can make their case is through a statement of the accused.

By declining an interview, a suspect may be denying the police the very ability to even go forward with an arrest warrant or possible criminal charges.  So if the police are upset that a suspect didn’t come in — that is obviously outweighed by the benefits of exercising 5th Amendment rights.

Can’t I Convince them I’m Innocent?

Good luck with that.  Most experienced criminal attorneys will tell you police often make-up their mind very early in an investigation.  People don’t change their mind once they’re made — and police are no different.

Here’s a common scenario I joke about:

Detective:  What happened?

Suspect:  We went into the party for a few minutes.  We didn’t really know anyone there so we left.  It was a bit awkward actually.  I’m not sure we even had a drink while we were there.

Police report conclusion — “Suspect admitted entering the house.”

See what you’re dealing with?

Won’t Things Be Better if I Take Responsibility if I did Make a Mistake?

Maybe yes and maybe no.  At the very least you should consult a lawyer to hear their thoughts about your case.  Your version of taking responsibility may be a heartfelt apology, restitution, and a promise to change your behavior.  The State of Texas’ version could be to send you to prison depending on the situation.  Having a lawyer in the mix could at least help you have some degree of control in the situation or even broker favorable terms if you made a mistake and feel strongly about cooperating with law enforcement.

In Federal cases, cooperation through your attorney can help substantially lower your exposure to criminal penalties.

*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.  Contacting the attorney through this forum does not create an attorney-client relationship.  Information given to attorney through this forum is not confidential or subject to the attorney-client privilege.


What is a Motion to Suppress?

December 28, 2011

By Collin County Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal

(972) 369-0577

www.rosenthalwadas.com

A motion to suppress is a challenge to the legality of how evidence was attained.

In Texas and the United States we have what is known as the “exclusionary rule.”  This rule means where a court finds evidence was attained illegally – it cannot be used for any reason against the accused.  The exclusion (or suppression) of evidence often makes it impossible for the prosecution to prove one or more elements of the crime — which means they often lose the entire case based on a successful motion to suppress because they will fail to meet their burden of proof at trial.  Other times, a successful motion to suppress will exclude a damaging admission, confession or other piece of evidence which does not win a case for the defendant but makes the case much more difficult on the prosecution.

What Makes an Arrest or Search Illegal?

It depends on the situation.  In an automobile stop, the stop is normally bad where the driver didn’t commit any offense which allowed the officer to pull them over in the first place.  Searches in automobiles can also be bad where the officer searches a car or individual without consent or probable cause that some crime has been committed within his presence.

Home searches have extremely great protection.  Remember the constitutional basis for the 4th amendment in the first place was to prevent American soldiers from rummaging through people’s houses the same way the British had done prior to the revolution.

Search warrants can be held to be illegal if the application for the warrant was not done properly and fails to establish probable cause.

Also, if the State broke some other law in attaining evidence then the evidence can be suppressed as well.  A common example is where the State doesn’t follow protocol on a breath test or blood draw and can’t use the result at trial.

The situations where searches, arrests, or other types of evidence can be thrown out are countless.  Each is truly it’s own unique snowflake and this discussion barely scratches the surface of suppression.

Does This Mean the Police have Committed a Crime Against Me?

Not really.  It’s more like an ‘illegal procedure’ penalty in football.  It sounds worse than it actually is for the cop.  Most suppression cases arise because the officer was being (1) overly-aggressive; or (2) was just not thinking.

You have to remember a handful of things about police.  First is they profile and target certain people.  The good news is that it is rarely based on race — but it doesn’t make it a whole lot better.  Police tend to target, for example, teenagers/ younger adults, people driving beat-up cars, and frankly — people who look like thugs.

Second, society has glorified police acting on ‘hunches’ even though the law requires the opposite — that if the police are going to act they have to have specific articulable facts which justify their actions.  Not only does the law require there to be ‘articulable fact,’ but study after study shows that an officer’s ‘hunch’ is generally no more reliable than flipping a coin.

When you combine profiling of someone in a high-target group with an officer acting on ‘hunches’ instead of fact — you tend to get a situation ripe for a motion to suppress.

Examples of How a Motion to Suppress Works

The best way to demonstrate how a motion to suppress works is through practical examples.

Bad Stop Eliminates Entire Case:  

DWI arrest where blood draw ultimately shows defendant had o.15 blood alcohol concentration.  Officer stopped defendant for driving slowly, weaving within lane, and crossing solid white line.  Court held defendant committed no traffic violations because (1) weaving within one’s own lane is not a crime where no lane was crossed; (2) driving slowly does not constitute a crime in and of itself; and (3) Defendant’s car crossed solid white line exiting freeway in response to being pulled over.  The officer’s decision to stop had already been improperly made.

Result:  All facts attained from stop were suppressed.  Therefore State could not prove identity of driver or that driver was intoxicated.  Case dismissed by prosecution.

Bad Search Eliminates a Key Element

Marijuana case where police get a report of a ‘disturbance’ in the middle of the day at an intersection in a high crime neighborhood.  Nature of the ‘disturbance’ unknown but description of participants were given – and description was somewhat common.  Officer stops defendant several blocks away walking on a street (towards the area of the disturbance).  After a brief conversation, the officer begins a pat-down search of the defendant who admits he’s got marijuana in his pocket which is ultimately found.

Court held: (1) the report of a ‘disturbance’ too broad to allow a general search of all people matching the description in the vicinity for all purposes; (2) the encounter between the officer and the accused was originally voluntary but turned into a detention when the officer began to frisk Defendant without permission; (3) by the time Defendant admitted to the drugs, the illegal detention without probable cause had already commenced — therefore the admission and the marijuana themselves were not admissible.

Result:  Not Guilty verdict because no evidence defendant was in possession of marijuana (the corpus dilecti of the crime).

Bad Search Warrant Eliminates Blood Result

Defendant arrested for DWI after car accident.  Officer’s conduct field sobriety tests and determine defendant was intoxicated.  Officers apply for search warrant from a judge on call.  Judge grants the search warrant and the defendant is shown to have a blood alcohol concentration of 0.17 at the time of testing.  Court held that search warrant failed to contain the time of driving and as such, the warrant was insufficient to demonstrate that evidence of a crime would be present in defendant’s blood specimen.

Result:  Defendant stood trial, however, state barred from showing or referring to blood draw or blood result.

In Summary

Motions to suppress are hard to understand.  They can be an over-looked and efficient way to defend cases of all types.  Hopefully after this discussion today you have a bit more understanding.

*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.  Legal advice about any topic should be discussed directly with an attorney.  Contacting the attorney through this forum does not create an attorney-client relationship.  Communications sent through this forum are not confidential.