Articles Posted in Criminal Defense

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Montgomery County Lawyer
In the James Bond as 007 movie A View to a Kill, Christopher Walken plays the evil villain Max Zorin who poses as a wealthy race horse breeder. Playing the part of James Bond, Roger Moore drops into Zorin’s palatial estate under the guise of securing a horse for breeding. Bond’s disguise is that of a James St. John Smythe. Smythe sits down across the desk from Zorin and his face is analyzed by a secret camera which discovers Smythe is really 007, licensed to kill. In 1986 this technology was pure science fiction; today facial recognition is science fact.

The new Apple Face ID program initiates every time you glance at your new IPhone X. The top of the line new iPhone contains an infra-red camera, a flood illuminator, a proximity sensor, an ambient light sensor, a microphone, a front camera, and a dot projector which all collect and store your personal information in your phone. The process begins with what they call a flood illuminator that lights up your face. Even in the dark. Then, there is an infra-red camera that takes an infra-red picture of your face. The camera dot projector then pushes out over 30,000 invisible IR dots that track every topographical feature of your face. Apple then pushes this data through what they call a neural network to create a mathematical model of your face. Didn’t the Cyberdyne Systems Model 101 Series 800 Terminator also have a neural network? I digress, the mathematical model is then checked against your model that has been stored in your phone to see if it is your face looking at your phone. If it’s a match it will unlock your phone. The phone even learns. If you wear glasses or grow a beard, the phone is still supposed to be able to recognize your face. Apple says that all this personal facial data collected is safely stored and encrypted in your device, not on the Apple cloud.

What could possibly go wrong with this technology? Remember the Madrid bombing case back in 2004? 191 people were killed and another 2000 were injured. After the bombing, FBI fingerprint examiners in Quantico, Virginia found a fingerprint on a bag of detonators at the scene of the Spanish bombings. The FBI searched for possible matches to a digital image of the fingerprint. Wait, what else creates digital images of your fingerprint… oh yes, your iPhone. The FBI supercomputer came up with fifteen matches, one of them being a thirty-seven-year-old American lawyer named Brandon Mayfield living in Oregon. Mayfield was arrested and imprisoned for two weeks while being held as a material witness to the Madrid bombings. The FBI eventually released him and gave a rare public apology but the damage was done.

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Madison County DWI Lawyer
Madison County, Texas

A woman who was arrested for DWI in Madison County, Texas managed to elude police after the arrest.  The woman was involved in a wreck on Old San Antonio road which runs from Midway along the Leon County border toward Brazos County along the northern Madison County Line.  The woman was taken into custody and handcuffed.  However, according to the Texas Department of Public Safety, the woman was able to move her handcuffs from her back to her front and then jump into the DPS Trooper’s patrol car to flee the scene.  Luckily, a Madison County Sheriff’s Office deputy was on scene investigating the car crash.  The DPS Trooper jumped into the sheriff’s vehicle and chased the woman down Old San Antonio Road.  It appears the trooper fired at his own vehicle and was able to successfully disable the patrol vehicle.

Bridget Cast, 31 of Longview, Texas was arrested on charges of evading arrest, unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, and driving while intoxicated.  Evading arrest or detention in Texas is when a person intentionally flees from a person he or she knows is a peace officer while the officer is attempting to lawfully arrest or detain him or her.  Evading is a Class A misdemeanor unless the person has been previously convicted or the person uses a vehicle or watercraft to flee.  If the person evades in a vehicle or watercraft and has not been previously convicted, then the offense becomes a state jail felony.  If the person has been previously convicted and flees in a vehicle or watercraft the offense becomes a third-degree felony.  Class A misdemeanors in Texas are punishable by up to a year in jail or a $4,000 fine or both.  A state jail felony is punishable from 180 days to two years in state jail and or a $10,000 fine.  A third-degree felony can land you from 2-10 years in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice Institutional Division and an additional $10,000 fine.

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Montgomery County Burlgary Attorney
While in court this week I had a person ask me about possible representation on a burglary charge.  Upon speaking with this individual, I think he was confused by the definition of burglary in Texas.  In addition, I don’t think he really grasped the true severity of this crime.  While there are proposed changes to the definition of burglary in the Texas Penal Code going into effect this September, let’s look at the history of the offense of burglary up until now.

The truth of the matter is that aside from murder, burglary and robbery were once thought of as some of the most egregious of crimes in colonial America and England.  In my opinion, not much has changed.  Juries just don’t like burglars and robbers.  Worse than thieves, burglars and robbers threaten our lives and well-being.  Thieves are thought of as being sneaky trying to take your property without being detected.  Burglars evoke an uneasy feeling of being violated.  After all, what is more discomforting than the thought of someone rifling through your possessions in your own home uninvited?  While robbers generally grab and go, burglars try to find an unoccupied home and take their time.  The burglar can do much more damage and cost the victim more because they can take their time emptying the contents of your home.

The definition of burglary has changed over time and to get to the modern definition you need to look at the history of burglary.  The crime has always reflected the breaking into the home or building of another and what flows from the damages caused to people and their property.

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Criminal defense lawyer
What do you do when your dorm room is searched?  I get this question quite a bit from students at Sam Houston State University.  First, hire an experienced criminal defense attorney before you speak with anyone.  The Sam Houston State faculty members and staff are very aggressive with what they consider to be drug and alcohol violations.  Your academic career may be on the line.  Don’t take chances.  A new decision by the Court of Criminal Appeals of Texas has given us some guidance as to what the current state of the law is on dorm room searches and seizures.

In State of Texas v. Mikenzie Renee Rodriguez, resident assistants (RAs) conducted a dorm room search of Ms. Rodriguez’s personal space.  The RAs found drugs and then called their director at the University who in turn called the police.  The police responded, entered the dorm room, and seized the drugs.  Ms. Rodriguez was then formally charged or indicted for possession of a controlled substance.  Ms. Rodriguez was smart and hired an experienced criminal defense attorney who then filed a motion to suppress.  The State of Texas appealed and the court of appeals affirmed.  In their holding, the court of appeals held that there is no dorm room exception to the Fourth Amendment.  The Court of Criminal Appeals of Texas subsequently granted review.

As is typical in most college dorm rooms, Ms. Rodriguez shared the room with another student.  You may know that there is typically an agreement between you, the student, and the university which permits routine inspections by authorized university personnel.  The agreement at this Texas university provided that, “duly authorized personnel of (said university) reserve the right to enter student rooms at any time for emergency purposes or for the purpose of maintenance, repair, and inspection for health, safety, or violation of university regulations.  Here, the resident assistants were doing routine room checks for prohibited items such as microwave ovens, candles, and of course drugs and alcohol.  While performing a room check on Ms. Rodriguez’s dorm room, no one was present.   According to the RAs the first trunk that was checked had marijuana located inside.  The RAs then contacted the resident director who instructed them to do a more thorough search of the dorm room.  On the second search, the RAs found a matchbox with several tablets located inside that appeared to be ecstasy.  The RAs also found a pipe located in a sock.  The pill box and the pipe were laid on the floor and the RAs took pictures of the items.  The university police were then contacted.

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Texas DWI Lawyer
A new Texas bill that gives low level criminal offenders in Texas a second chance needs only to return to the house and then be signed by the governor.  The Texas House of Representatives passed the “Second Chance” bill 140-0.  Now, the bill has moved through the Texas Senate 28-3.  The bill would allow criminal offenders without previous convictions to protect their criminal history from disclosure to the public.

In Texas, we have only two crimes in which you cannot receive a deferred sentence.  Capital murder and driving while intoxicated.  Therefore, you can be charged with an offense like sexual assault and still get a deferred sentence and keep it off your record.  Not so with DWI.  The law used to allow for a DWI to fall off your record after ten years.  Not so anymore.  So, say you pick up a DWI in college, what can you do to get it off your record?  I get this question all the time.  Until now, the answer was “nothing.” The client will say, but that happened twenty years ago, why is it still haunting me?  Simple, up until recently a DWI conviction stayed on your record for life.

The new proposed section is 411.0736 which currently reads: “procedure for conviction; certain driving while intoxicated convictions.  What the bill states is that if you complete your sentence, including any term of confinement imposed and the payment of all fines, costs, and restitution imposed, may petition the court that imposed the sentence for an order of non-disclosure of criminal history records information under this section if the person:

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Criminal Defense Attorney
The federal government knows what is best for you.  Your government tries to control you by legislating penalties for not doing what Big Brother wants you to do.  To limit your behavior, your government has levied steep taxes on items such as cigarettes, other tobacco products, even soft drinks.  Currently, in Austin, your Texas legislators are trying to pass a law banning all text messaging while driving.  And on the national level, the federal government is trying to take away your right to split a bottle of wine at dinner or to have a few beers at the ball game.

For years, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has pushed to lower the legal limit in drunk driving cases to .05.  The current level in Texas is .08.  If you have seen the movie “Sully,” you know the NTSB as the villains in the film calling for Captain Sullenberger’s head.  Okay, that’s Hollywood, but the truth of the matter is that there just aren’t enough plane and train accidents to justify the budget of the NTSB.  What does your government do when it tries to justify its existence?  Your government uses fear tactics to make itself relevant.  Bad things are happening, we must act.  Wake up citizen, I’m your government, you need me, listen to me.  These tactics are getting tiresome. 

In Utah, state legislators are already pushing for the .05 limit.  How does that affect us in Montgomery, Walker, Madison, and Leon County, Texas?  Because Utah was the first state to lower the legal limit in drunk driving to .08.  The old standard was .10.  Truth be told, the field sobriety tests that law enforcement uses to arrest you in a DWI stop were based on the old .15 standard.  Yep, the standard started at .15 for impairment.  But why drop the limit?  Simple, taxes.  Your government wants more money.  The penalties on a first DWI in Texas start at $1000 a year for three years and climb from there.  But what say you, groups against drunk driving?

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Montgomery County Attorney
It was a rough week for law enforcement officials in Texas.  In San Antonio, three local law enforcement officers were arrested on Thursday night within hours of each other.  Police officers Gena Rodriguez and Harold Thomaston were both arrested for driving while intoxicated.  San Antonio Police Chief William McManus was quoted with saying, “Anytime an officer gets arrested for anything it’s disappointing, but DWI is just so preventable and there is no excuse for it.”

Rodriguez was an eleven-year veteran who was driving with her three children in the vehicle when she crashed into another car.  Police officers on the scene stated that Rodriguez was slurring her speech, was unsteady on her feet, and smelled like alcohol.  Later that night police veteran Harold Thomaston was also pulled over for driving while intoxicated.  Police say that Thomaston swerved into the lane of another police officer and then ran a red light.  Chief McManus stated, “SAPD officers were arrested by SAPD officers, so absolutely not, they are not held to a different standard, they are held to a higher standard.”

Bexar County Deputy Sabrina Moreno was also arrested Thursday night for DWI.  Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar said, “I am furious, there is no other way to put it, I am just furious.”

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Montgomery County Controlled Substance Lawyer
In a monumental decision last week, the Supreme Court ruled that a citizen can sue for malicious prosecution for being jailed due to the police falsifying drug test results.

In Joliet, Illinois, police stopped Elijah Manuel for a traffic violation.  Manuel was subsequently searched. Law enforcement officers located a vitamin bottle containing several pills.  The police suspected that the vitamins were illegal drugs and decided to perform a field test on the substance.  The field test came back negative for any illegal or controlled substance.  Nevertheless, the police decided to go ahead and arrest Mr. Manuel and charge him with possession of a controlled substance with the intent to distribute.  Manuel was taken to the police station.  At the station an evidence technician tested the pills again and received the same negative result.  However, in his report he stated that one of the pills tested, “positive for the probable presence of ecstasy.”  One of the arresting officers stated in his report that, based on his “training and experience,” he “knew the pills to be ecstasy.”

Ecstasy or “Molly,” or MDMA is a synthetic drug that can alter your mood and your perception.  The chemical formula is similar to both stimulant and hallucinogenic drugs.  MDMA and its derivatives can produce distorted time and sensory perception, excessive emotional warmth, and feelings increased energy and pleasure.  The drug achieves these effects by altering the levels or dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin.  The effect of the drug can last anywhere from three to six hours.

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Montgomery County Criminal Defense Attorney
So, what is the Intoxilyzer 9000?  This is a new breath test device that is being transitioned into use in Texas.  This new unit will eventually replace the decades old Intoxilyzer 5000.  The new device will be used in the prosecution of drunk driving cases.  However, as the machine is new and being transitioned in, it is still plagued with problems including software issues and bugs.  Clearly, this is cause for concern as it may lead to wrongful convictions for DWI.

It works like this.  Say you are arrested for suspicion of drunk driving in Walker, Harris, or Montgomery Counties.  Typically, the arresting officer will ask you if you wish to provide a breath or blood sample.  On a first offense, the penalty for refusal of one of the two tests will result in a 180 day Texas driver’s license suspension versus a ninety-day suspension for those that comply.  Lately, most officers have opted for blood over breath due to the problems with the old Intoxilyzer machines.  By the way, it’s the officer’s choice not yours as to the breath or blood election.  Many people are confused by this distinction.  People say, I offered to give breath in lieu of blood because I am afraid of needles.  Too bad, that’s considered a refusal.

In Georgia, the new Intoxilzer 9000 recorded seventy-four tests in the first two month in one area.  Of the seventy-four tests, fifty-one of the tests generated error messages.  In other words, a brand-new machine was wrong almost seventy percent of the time.  When you are prosecuting someone for DWI or any other crime for that matter, any error is unacceptable.

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Tampering with Evidence
An interesting opinion was just released from the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.  For those of you that don’t know, this is the highest court in the State of Texas that rules on criminal matters. The case is State v. Zuniga.  Zuniga was allegedly pulled over right in front of her own house for running a stop sign.  We assume the officer saw a bottle of prescription medication in plain view and Zuniga was not able to show a valid prescription.  In Texas, if the officer sees something in plain view that he believes is illegal, then he is going to be able to search the vehicle.  While handcuffed in the back of the police car, Zuniga moved her hands to her side, reached into her crotch area, and pulled something out with her hands cupped.  All this because supposedly, she knows the officer is watching her.  Seems more than a little odd, doesn’t it?    Next, she moves her hands toward her mouth, moves her head down, and apparently, the officer thinks she swallowed something.  What is this Ms. Houdini?

The officer then took Zuniga to the hospital where x-rays were performed and her stomach was pumped.  The hospital officials did not find any illegal substance nor a baggie that may have contained something.  Of note, the State of Texas didn’t test the defendant’s blood for any illegal substance or had the lab perform an analyses the contents of Ms. Zuniga’s stomach.

Ms. Zuniga was indicted for the Texas felony charge of tampering with physical evidence.  This offense is defined in the Texas Penal Code as: