Theft Amount Classifications Changes Effective September 1, 2015

August 29, 2015

By Collin County Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal

(972) 369-0577

www.rosenthalwadas.com

For the first time in 22 years, the Texas Legislature has adjusted the threshold values for theft cases to adjust for inflation.  Theft is a result-oriented offense and the value of the property stolen typically dictates the punishment level.  As of September 1, 2015, the amounts correlating to specific charges are as follows:

  • Less than $100 is a Class C misdemeanor (formerly less than $50).
  • $100 but less than $750 is a Class B misdemeanor (formerly between $50 and $500).
  • $750 but less than $2,500 is a Class A misdemeanor (formerly between $500 and $1,500).
  • $2,500 but less than $30,000 is a State Jail Felony (formerly between $1,500 and $20,000).
  • $30,000 but less than $150,000 is a 3rd Degree Felony (formerly $20,000 to $100,000)
  • $150,000 but less than $300,000 is a 2nd Degree Felony (formerly $200,000 to $300,000).
  • $300,000 or greater is a 1st Degree Felony (formerly over $200,000).

You can read about the punishment levels here.

Though all the changes have some impact, the two areas I expect to see the most impact will be adjusting Class C thefts up to $100 because this will have the effect of making many more shoplifting incidents (those between $50 and $100) more easily expungable and taking them out of the County Courts at Law.  Also significant is new difference between felony and Misdemeanor thefts (formerly $1,500 and now $2,500).  This will keep many people under the felony threshold as well.

*Jeremy Rosenthal is an attorney licensed to practice in the State of Texas.  He is Board Certified in Criminal Law.  Nothing in this article is intended to be legal advice.  For legal advice for any situation you should contact an attorney directly.


Cops and Cameras

August 28, 2015

By Collin County Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal

www.rosenthalwadas.com

(972) 369-0577

Cell phone video cameras in the hands of people at all levels of society have triggered dramatic changes in law enforcement over the past few years.

Police have been utilizing video and audio equipment for decades, normally affixed to their squad car.  The video has always been a great aid to both law enforcement and the citizens accused of offenses because it renders a clear and accurate depiction of what went on at the scene of the arrest. It protects officers from unfounded claims of brutality and harassment but also protects people from exaggerated criminal charges or claims in court.

So why is what we see on video now so much more dramatic than we’ve ever seen before?  Simply do a google search for “police brutality caught on tape” and you’ll see video after video of questionable conduct (or sometimes flagrant) police mis-conduct.

The simple answer is police are no longer in control of who, what, when and how incidents are video taped.  The cameraman has changed.

A squad car video has a limited lateral range.  For instance, when an officer has to leave his or her car and go to chase a suspect on foot or enter a house during a domestic call, the camera can’t follow though audio is often still available.  An officer has a good idea when they’re on and off camera based where they’re standing in relation to the car.

Police do have limited discretion when it comes to what gets recorded.  Virtually all squad cars cameras turn on when the over-head lights are triggered (barring technical malfunctions or very small police agencies).  Sometimes an officer turns off the audio recording.  Though this may be a no-no, it is very difficult to prove and most jurors are indifferent to such happenings.

Cell phone video cameras from citizens can record a police officer at any time, at any place and from any angle.  Unfortunately for police, the videos where people record an officer being professional and doing outstanding work don’t go viral.  The fact an officer can wake up any morning knowing by the end of their shift they could be on the cover CNN.com must be undoubtedly unnerving.

Prudent officers must realize this new reality and should be on their best behavior at all times — not just when they know they’re actions are being recorded by their own equipment.  The vast majority already are.

*Jeremy Rosenthal is an attorney in McKinney, Texas.  He is Board Certified in Criminal Law.  Nothing in this blog should be considered legal advice.  For legal advice about any situation, you should contact an attorney directly.  Communications through this forum are not confidential.

 


Deadly Conduct

July 13, 2015

By Collin County Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal

(972) 369-0577

www.rosenthalwadas.com

What is “Deadly Conduct”?

Deadly conduct can be charged when either (1) a person ‘recklessly engages in conduct that places another in imminent danger of serious bodily injury’; or (2) discharges a firearm in the ‘direction of’ people, a habitation, or a car.

Placing another in imminent danger is a Class A Misdemeanor and discharging a firearm is a 3rd Degree Felony.

The controlling penal code section is Texas Penal Code Chapter 22.05.

Problems with this Statute

The legislature clearly wants this statute to cover situations such as drive-by shootings or any other type of improper gun-play which could have — but did not result in someone’s death.

Unfortunately the legal definition of the misdemeanor version of ‘Deadly Conduct’ is extremely subjective.  As with all vague criminal laws — it can be subject to being stretched and abused.

Consider a situation where a person is speeding excessively and well over the speed limit.  The law specifically does not allow an officer to make an arrest for speeding alone.  An angry officer could, however, try to justify an arrest by claiming it was ‘deadly conduct’ because he or she could argue the excessive speed places another in “imminent danger” of serious bodily injury.”  The same could be true of running a red light, helping someone bungee jump for the first time, or throwing a fastball to a batter high and inside… though some of the examples are a bit silly, I include them because as absurd as they are — we could actually have a debate as to whether or not those examples could actually fit the statute.

Obviously we could toy with other factual scenarios as well and police can argue many fit the very soft definition of “Deadly Conduct” especially where the police are mad and can find no other penal code infraction to make an arrest.

What Your Lawyer Should be Able to Do

Your attorney should be able to ‘read in between the lines’ in cases like these and see that perhaps an arrest under this law is pre-text for something else.  I often meet with clients and their families who feel singled out and mis-treated with arrests such as these.  These cases require aggressive work-up and aggressive representation.

*Jeremy Rosenthal is an attorney licensed in Texas.  He is Board Certified in Criminal law.  Nothing in this article is intended to be legal advice.  For legal advice on this, or any other situation you should visit with a lawyer independently.  This forum is public.


Protecting a Professional License When Facing Criminal Charges

July 13, 2015

Originally posted on Criminal Defense Lawyer | DWI, Drug, Theft & Assault Charges:

By Collin County Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal

(972) 369-0577

www.rosenthalwadas.com

A professional license is like your personal Alamo.  It’s your livelihood and must be defended at all costs.

Any criminal charge must be evaluated to gauge it’s impact on your ability to either attain or maintain a professional license.  In some instances losing a license because of a criminal record is automatic and in other instances it may simply open the door to a licensing board to taking action.

This intersection of law is between traditional criminal law and administrative law as criminal courts don’t directly weigh-in on licenses such as medical licenses, CPA licenses, or engineering licenses.  Those decisions are made by different bodies.

Texas Occupations Code Chapter 53 governs the consequences of criminal records on certain professional licenses.  It’s structure demonstrates the complex and layered approach the legislature intended in situations when dealing with certain crimes as…

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Why Prosecutors Withhold Evidence

July 9, 2015

Originally posted on Criminal Defense Lawyer | DWI, Drug, Theft & Assault Charges:

By Collin County Criminal Defense Attorney Jeremy Rosenthal

www.rosenthalwadas.com

(972) 369-0577

As a criminal defense lawyer my job is to try to understand people without judging.  Trying to understand why a prosecutor might withhold or actually conceal evidence in that way is no different than trying to understand why a person who committed a crime was the situation they found themselves clinically without finding fault.

There have been two clear-cut and higher profile violations (called Brady violations) by Texas prosecutors in the past year which serves as cannon fodder for the debate.  One is from the Morton case in Williamson County which you can read about here, and the other is a more recent debacle in Denton County where two assistants district attorney have been banned by a district judge from practicing in his courtroom.

Put succinctly — prosecutors withhold evidence because (1) some don’t believe people get wrongly…

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Board Certification in Criminal Law

June 30, 2015

By Collin County Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal

www.rosenthalwadas.com

(972) 369-0577

I recently became Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization.  Those who know me know I’m not big into telling everyone how many pushups I can do, what a “tough-guy” I am, or how many dragons I’ve slain in the past as a defense lawyer.

I’ve certainly taken my lumps in this profession which any lawyer (who is being honest) will admit to taking as well.  Fortunately as time goes on my lumps have become less and less and my happy results have become more and more.

I think Board Certification is important not only for professional development but also from the standpoint of my clients.

Board certification has always been a goal for me.  This is because (1) it is my profession which I take very seriously (I don’t know why someone wouldn’t want to excel in their given endeavor); and (2) I knew the process in and of itself would make me a better lawyer.

There is a strenuous application process, a large amount to study, and finally a very nasty test the likes of which I would place alongside the bar exam in difficulty.  This was a very time consuming process which took time away from my practice and my family.

I do feel the sacrifices I made in this process were worth it to help my clients.  I hope they think so too!

*Jeremy Rosenthal is an attorney licensed to practice in the State of Texas.  Nothing in this article is intended to be legal advice.  For legal advice about any situation you should contact a lawyer directly.

 

 


What is the Difference Between a Misdemeanor and a Felony?

June 30, 2015

By Collin County Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal

www.rosenthalwadas.com

(972) 369-0577

Felonies are punishable by possible jail over 1 year and misdemeanors are punishable for 1 year or less under Texas law.

Beyond that, Felonies obviously carry a somewhat more negative stigma meaning it is more difficult to be hired for a job, get a loan, or even be allowed to coach your child’s athletic team.

Collateral Consequences

Felonies also carry more collateral consequences — or consequences which aren’t directly related to criminal punishment itself than misdemeanors.  For example, being a felon can make firearm possession illegal, can prohibit you from holding public office or even from voting.

Felonies typically have more adverse immigration consequences than misdemeanors though immigration courts tend to use their own guidelines when determining the severity of a crime.

Crimes of Moral Terptitude

Some misdemeanors can have consequences every bit as severe as felonies.  Examples can be theft charges which can make professional licensing more difficult.  A theft charge on someone’s record can cause someone to lose job opportunities where trust is required such as an being a bookkeeper or sales clerk.

Affirmative findings of family violence can also carry felony-like consequences for the purposes of future enhancement or the denial of 2nd Amendment firearm rights.

*Jeremy Rosenthal is an attorney licensed in the State of Texas.  He is Board Certified in Criminal Law.  Nothing in this article is intended to be legal advice.  For legal advice about any situation you should consult an attorney directly.

 

 


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