My Lawyer is Not Fighting For Me….

January 7, 2021

By Collin County Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal

(972) 369-0577

Your lawyer is fighting for you.  At least I hope they are.

What Your Lawyers Job Is – and Isn’t

A lawyer has a duty to zealously advocate for their client.  A lawyer cannot, though, just go bananas for the sake of going bananas.  Lawyers have other duties which often compete with their duty to zealously advocate for their client.

Here is a relevant passage in the Preamble Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct:

2. As a representative of clients, a lawyer performs various functions. As advisor, a lawyer provides a client with an informed understanding of the client’s legal rights and obligations and explains their practical implications. As advocate, a lawyer zealously asserts the client’s position under the rules of the adversary system. As negotiator, a lawyer seeks a result advantageous to the client but consistent with requirements of honest dealing with others. As intermediary between clients, a lawyer seeks to reconcile their divergent interests as an advisor and, to a limited extent, as a spokesperson for each client. A lawyer acts as evaluator by examining a client’s affairs and reporting about them to the client or to others.

Note zealous advocacy is sandwiched between other roles of the attorney.  The lawyer also has to give the client an informed understanding of their rights and obligations.  The lawyer must seek advantageous results consistent with the honest dealing with others.

Fighting for and advocating for a client is only a fraction of the lawyer’s job.  Much of the lawyers role is informing, educating, and advising clients.  Also, much of a lawyers job hinges on ethical obligations to judges and other lawyers… our system wouldn’t work if everyone got to go berserk.

A lawyer’s job isn’t to tell you everything you want to hear, either.  Many times folks will understandably want to shoot the messenger.

Giving Your Lawyer the Benefit of the Doubt

I’ve had many clients over the years who like seeing or thinking I’m being aggressive.  But not every situation calls for aggressiveness…. and just because the client thinks I’m not being assertive, zealous, or aggressive doesn’t mean I’m not either.

Often folks looking to switch lawyers will visit with me – and I always make an effort to try and see the situation their lawyer’s way.  That lawyer usually knows much more about the case than I do to that point and it’s arrogant of me to think otherwise.

When You Should Worry About Your Lawyer’s Efforts

First – you should be comfortable with direction of your representation.  If you can’t sleep at night worried sick about your lawyer and nothing they do or say helps then by all means find another lawyer whose representation you’re more at ease with.  Again, though, it’s not your lawyers job to tell you only news you like or that you want to hear.  It’s probably a worse mistake to shop, and shop, and shop for a lawyer until you find someone who magically agrees with everything you say.

Some lawyers can be intimidated by certain cases.  Is your lawyer constantly looking for reasons to back down?  When your lawyer does shy away from a difficult hearing, trial or other proceeding – do they have a detailed reason which makes sense?  In criminal cases – how often does your lawyer go to trial?  If it’s not on a regular basis then maybe that is a red flag.

*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.


Can I Recant a Police Statement?

June 20, 2012

By Collin County Criminal Defense Attorney Jeremy Rosenthal

(972) 369-0577

Generally speaking a statement made to police in the course of an investigation can be considered by the police, a judge, or a jury for it’s full meaning.  Recanting the statement might call the original statement into question… then again it might not.

Who Made the Statement?

Statements of the Accused

Important in the analysis is who made the statement, what role that person plays in the proceedings, and the timing of the statement or statements.

A statement by an accused is referred to as an admission by a party opponent under Tex.R.Evid. 801(e)(2).  If the statement is relevant to a jury then it’s fully admissible.  The person or person(s) the statement was made to can testify to what was said by the accused or can have a written statement admitted.

Practically speaking, an accused and his or her lawyer would have to explain their reason for recanting such a statement although the burden of proof never shifts to the defendant under any circumstance.  Many judges and jurors would be naturally skeptical — and police tend to believe statements which fit their theory of the case.

Witness Statements

A statement by a witness or an alleged victim is a different and far more complicated matter.  The defendant in a case has the right to confront accusers in open court.  A witness who gives inconsistent statements to police — or attempts to recant a previous statement to police could be impeached or cross examined on the inconsistent statements before a judge or jury.

Suppressions of Statements

An accused’s remedy to have a prior statement nullified is usually a motion to suppress.  This would be in a situation where the original statement was taken illegally in violation of Miranda rights (or in Texas known as Tex.Code.Crim.P. Art. 38.22).  Those provisions do not apply to statements made prior to custodial interrogation (arrest).

Warnings about Inconsistent, Changed, or Recanted Statements to Law Enforcement

Depending on the situation — a person might not have a duty to cooperate with law enforcement.  An accused person, for example, always has the right to remain silent.  If you are cooperating with law enforcement, however, you have the legal duty to do so honestly.  Making inconsistent statements or admitting that previous statements were false could result in a person being prosecuted for criminal offenses of making false statements to law enforcement, obstruction of justice, or even perjury in some circumstances.

If you’re in the situation where you are considering in good faith recanting or amending a statement to law enforcement — you should have an attorney involved to counsel you.

*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 circumstance you should contact an attorney directly.  Contacting the attorney through this forum does not create an attorney-client relationship nor are communications or postings in this forum privileged.

Are There Depositions in a Criminal Case in Texas?

August 5, 2010

By Dallas and Collin County Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy F. Rosenthal

(972) 562-7549

Knowledge is power.  A good criminal defense lawyer will want to know as much of the State’s case as conceivably possible.  Most of the time that will probably only be through the police reports, an independent investigation, or what witnesses will tell you voluntarily.  Depositions in civil cases are common but depositions in criminal cases in Texas courts are extremely rare.

Depositions serve two main functions; (1) discovery — or learning the facts of the case; and (2) to nail down a witness’ version of events for later impeachment.  Insurance companies and civil lawyers know all to well that not many people give identical versions of events on multiple occasions.  They get as many witness statements from the same witness as possible to exploit inconsistencies or weaknesses.

Texas Code of Criminal Procedure 39.02 allows a defendant to petition the Court for a deposition if the defendant can show “good reason” for needing the deposition.  It is such a rarity that most trial judges probably won’t see the utility in allowing a deposition of a police officer though.  In all likelihood, depositions in criminal cases are reserved for instances where a witness may not be available later for trial.  If anything, the law allows the prosecution just as much or more leeway with deposing a witness or an alleged victim.  Section 39.025 requires that if the alleged victim is over 60 years old or disabled then the deposition must be taken by the prosecution no later than 60 days after the deposition is requested.

All is not lost for the accused though.  There are a few different mechanisms that allow deposition-like examinations of a police officer prior to trial. An example is an Administrative Law Review (“ALR”) in a DWI case to determine whether a driver’s license should be suspended or denied.  Another example is what is known as an “examining trial” in felony cases to determine if the State has probable cause to hold someone in jail accused of a Felony prior to presentment to the Grand Jury.  These are both instances where an officer can be sworn-in under oath with a record that can be used later.  A good criminal defense lawyer knows how to seize these opportunities for discovery.

*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 consult an attorney directly.

People Giving Legal Advice — That Shouldn’t Be Giving Legal Advice

July 10, 2010

By Dallas and Collin County Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal

(972) 369-0577

As even keel as I try to be — nothing gets under my skin more than people giving legal advice that have no business giving legal advice in criminal cases.  Everyone has opinions, their own experiences, and what they believe to be common sense — but I’m not really even talking about that type of stuff.

The “legal advice” I’m talking about is when the very same police officer that arrests you for DWI — also tells you that you need to just talk with the prosecutor to see if you can get a good deal… or when court staff or personnel tell you it might be easier to just talk with the prosecutor rather than get a lawyer… or when a bail bondsman tells you that your case is hopeless and hiring a lawyer is a waste of money.

It unnerves me because these are people that carry a marginal amount of credibility — and because of that people tend to listen to their generally uninformed, narrow, and incomplete analysis of a particular situation — whether it’s drugs, theft, assault or DUI.  Now, in defense of these people — they are probably well meaning in their intentions.  It’s just extremely reckless.  You wouldn’t operate on yourself because they guy at the front desk in the hospital thinks it’s a good idea… and you shouldn’t take legal advice from anyone in the justice system except YOUR lawyer.

Maybe I also get upset because unlike the police officer, court staffer, or any other various know-it-all, I spent many nights in law school up until 1 or 2 a.m. studying about the layer after layer of the law and our legal system.  Unlike them, I’ve spent my entire career since law school dealing with people and learning that their personal situations also have layer after layer.  And unlike them, I get to hand a 42 year-old single mother kleenex across my conference room table when she can’t get a job from a conviction 17 years before when some know-it-all in a position of semi-trust told her she didn’t need a lawyer.

Being a lawyer is a hard job.  Doctors manage imperfect variables which involve the human body.  Lawyers manage imperfect variables which is how the humans which comprise our system of justice will treat any given scenario.  Lawyers are bound by very rigid rules of ethics which make clear that no lawyer can ever guarantee you any result — due in large part to how imperfect and how complicated legal matters can be.

Most police officers, court personnel, and various other people that tend to come into close contact with those accused of a crime are very respectful of the complexity of legal issues and of the Attorney/ Client Privilege and thus are properly deferential.  Other know-it-all’s, though are loaded with bad advice that is only based on their past experiences and training — and none of it is from YOUR perspective or from the perspective of someone that’s dealt with these situations from start to finish.

I’m sure there’s a possibility that some of the things they say might be right 40, 50, or even 60% of the time… And I don’t know about you — but my personal experience is that having 40, 50, or 60% of the right information is a great way to make a very bad and uninformed choice.

*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 specific situation you should directly consult an attorney.