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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:

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Leon County Attorney

In other news, we have an Amazon Echo update.  You may recall my recent article about the Amazon Echo device spying on you and your family.  A recent out of state case involved a young man’s roommate found dead in a hot tub.  The prosecutors on the case were trying to get any recorded evidence that that Echo device may have picked up on the evening in question.  Amazon fought requests from the prosecutors to hand over the audio evidence citing that the information was protected by customer privacy rights and the First Amendment.  The defendant in this matter maintains his innocence but has struck a deal with the state and has allowed Amazon to hand over the evidence.  I guess we must wait for someone else to fight this battle as the Echo device continues learn, develop, and be used for greater tasks every day.  Is your Echo spying on you?  I know that you can change the activation on your Echo from “Alexa” to “Computer.”  I wonder if it responds to Barack?

Ron Voyles is an attorney and a chiropractor with over twenty years of experience in the litigation of personal injury and the defense of drug and alcohol crimes.  Ron practices in Montgomery, Harris, Walker, Grimes, Madison, and Leon Counties.

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Montgomery County DWI Lawyer
Recently, a friend asked me about a newfangled anti-DWI device that he had heard about.  What is it?  What does it do?  The device is called an ignition interlock.  They’ve actually been around for a while now.  Of course, it’s been headline news due to the recent case that went viral.  The case involved a thirty-six-year-old woman that was charged with DWI.  What made the case unusual was her use of the device. She had the device in her car as a condition of probation.  The problem was that she was still driving around drunk.  But instead of her blowing in the device, she was having her eight-year-old daughter blow into the device.  The plan didn’t work out very well as she crashed her vehicle and was charged with another driving while intoxicated offense.  It was not a Texas case.  Here, if you are caught driving while intoxicated with a minor in the vehicle you are charged with a felony.  So, what is this anti-DWI device?

A Breath Alcohol Ignition Interlock Device (BAIID) or Ignition Interlock is a machine that keeps you from starting your vehicle if you have been drinking alcoholic beverages.  The contraption is usually set to a minimum level that blocks the vehicle’s ignition system upon a positive test.  Usually, the device is set to a minimum BAC (blood alcohol content) of .02.  It is essentially technology that integrates breath alcohol detection to the vehicle’s start mechanism.  When you enter your vehicle, you are to blow into the device before the vehicle can be started.  If you blow over the .02, the vehicle will not start.  Typically, there is also an on-board device that logs the event and other data.  Some integrate a camera as well to make sure the correct individual is blowing into the device.  The readings are then forwarded to the court and probation personnel in charge of your probation.

In theory, the device is designed to prevent and deter convicted DWI offenders from once again driving under the influence of alcohol.  Here in Texas, if you are convicted of DWI and have a BAC of over .15 then you may be required to have the device in your vehicle for at least half the term of your probation.  Many judges are now making offenders keep the device in their car throughout the entire term of their probation.  You are also required to have the device in your vehicle upon your second conviction for DWI in Texas.

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I had the good fortune of a good meal with friends over the holiday weekend. One young individual struggled with an episode of low back pain.  I was drawn into the conversation because I was aware that this young man had been involved in a very serious car accident the year before.  My cause for concern was his age.  I knew without the proper steps toward a treatment plan including a large amount of rehabilitation and exercise, this young individual would set himself up for a long life of pain.

Before becoming an attorney handling personal injury claims, I was a chiropractor and routinely treated these types of injuries.  After treating a large number of individuals injured in car and truck accidents you realize a wide variety of injuries which range from minor to very serious can result from this type of trauma.  The young man I spoke about above was the victim of a high-impact collision and suffered major injuries, but what about the victims of low-impact collisions?  The circulated myth is that victims of low-impact collisions aren’t really hurt.  The truth is that victims of low-impact collisions can suffer from a lifetime from debilitating injuries.

One researcher has opined, “It is wrong to assume that maximum neck injury occurs in a high-speed collision; it is the slow or moderate collision that causes maximum hyperextension of the cervical spine. High-speed collisions often break the back of the seat, thus minimizing the force of hyperextension.”

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“That was in the past; I’ve paid my debt to society.” Criminal defense attorneys hear that quite a bit.  The truth of the matter is that your past counts.  A lot.  When a potential employer looks over your job resume’, do you think he or she considers the fact that you have been fired from your previous three jobs?  Of course they do. 

So what’s the big deal?  Well, anyone that keeps up with what is happening in criminal law in Conroe, Texas, or even the Nation sees myriad headlines such as, “Man Gets Life Sentence for Fifth DWI Conviction.”  The past is a good indicator of the future.  People tend to forget that little inconvenient fact.

So, how does your past affect you?  It could in many profound ways.  First off, if you are arrested for a crime in the counties that I practice in, which include Harris, Montgomery, Walker, Madison, Grimes, and Leon for example, then it can and will affect your bail.  First time criminal offenders usually have a trivial amount of bail.  Repeat offenders have a bail that rises steeply with each consecutive offense.  This is especially true of felonies.  Montgomery County tends to be more secretive with their bail amounts.  Walker, Madison, Grimes, and Leon Counties post their prospective bail amounts online.  For instance, if you are arrested on a first-degree offense in Walker County and it’s your first offense, the bail would typically be set at $20, 000.  A prior first offense gets you a $30,000 bond and more than one prior offense will land you at the $50,000 mark.  In addition, the underlying Texas Penal Code Statutes that you will be charged with are generally getting tougher.

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Montgomery County Attorney
Okay, no it hasn’t gone that far.  But where do we draw the line at how far police can go to collect evidence in a driving while intoxicated arrest?  This issue is being pushed to the limit.  Texas law enforcement agencies argue that alcohol testing is legitimate requirement for being allowed the privilege of driving on our publicly owned Texas roads.  Some have argued that the burden for obtaining a search warrant in DWI cases is too big of a burden for law enforcement.  But even in the rural counties that I work in, including Walker, Madison, and Leon Counties, there is almost always at least one judge on call.

How extreme has the matter of DWI blood draws become?  In Georgia, police have been strapping down citizens to a gurney as they forcibly draw blood from the victim.  One such video shows the victim screaming, “What country is this?”  One victim stated, “We are all American citizens and you guys have me strapped to a table like I’m in f***ing Guantanamo Bay.”

As Texans, it was hard to ignore the case in Southlake last year where the victim was tasered.  Hannah Fossier, a twenty-one-year-old Keller, Texas woman states that she refused repeatedly to have her blood drawn on the night of her DWI arrest.  Thus, officers hit her twice with the Taser.   Once incapacitated, the nurse performed a blood draw.  “I must have told them at least 10 times no,” Fossier told reporters after her arrest. “One officer said if you don’t cooperate, I’m going to Tase you, and he did.”

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Conroe Attorney
Amazon is facing off with law enforcement over their hot new holiday product, the Amazon Echo.  If you aren’t familiar with the new device, it has a series of microphones that respond to your voice commands.  You can order products from Amazon, listen to your favorite songs, and dictate your shopping list which all goes to the cloud, Amazon, and to your cell phone.  The list of uses continues to grow every week.

Now the Echo is being used as a witness to a crime.  Authorities in Little Rock, Arkansas are trying to get Amazon to turn over the information on the device from the night of a murder.  The defendant’s friend was found dead in a hot tub and the police think the Echo may contain audio evidence.  The man’s death was ruled a homicide due to evidence of a struggle that was found at the scene.  The man had been drinking and was found face down in a hot tub.

Amazon has blocked prosecutors from securing the evidence stating it won’t comply with, “overbroad or otherwise inappropriate demands.”  This story reminds one of the FBI demand of Apple to crack the iPhone of the 2015 terrorist attack in California. 

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Criminal Defense Attorney
Citizens of Montgomery and Harris counties can sleep easier tonight now that a large shipment of high grade Feline Bam Bam has been taken off the street.  The Kingpin was quoted as saying, “they thought they had the biggest bust in Harris County.  This was the bust of the year for them.”  Except that it wasn’t.

Twenty-four-year-old Ross Lebeau was charged with possession of almost half a pound of methamphetamine.  On the evening of December 5, 2016, Lebeau was stopped for an unknown traffic offense.  Harris County Sheriff’s Officers used the old standby technique of “smelling a strong odor of marijuana emitting from Lebeau’s vehicle,” in order to initiate a search. Lebeau was cooperative and admitted he had a small amount of marijuana in the console of his vehicle.

In the process of doing an inventory of the vehicle (a search), the officers recovered a crystal-like substance wrapped in a sock.  Mr. Lebeau was questioned about the substance located in the sock and indicated that he had no clue as to what it could be.