Can I Travel on While On Probation?

September 22, 2015

By Collin County Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal

(972) 369-0577

Collin County Community Supervision’s policy is that you can travel as long as you’re in “good standing.”  What exactly that means and who gets to make that decision is the big question.  Unfortunately travel requests often trigger power struggles between probation officers and probationers.

Routine travel which is work related normally isn’t an issue.  I’ve seen many probation officers balk, though, when presented with leisure travel or pre-planned vacations on the other side of the world.  It’s not uncommon for a probation officer to give vacillating answers or say they “need to check with their supervisor” which drags out the problem perilously close to date of travel.

To me – the policy is the policy.  If someone is in good standing, then the who, what, when, where and how of a probationer’s travel is none of the officer’s business as long as all requirements are otherwise being met.

Probation officers are hard working but they’re human like everyone else.  Perhaps they feel their control over the probationers is jeopardized with such a request, perhaps they think probation should be a moratorium on relaxation, or perhaps there may even be a twinge of jealousy involved.

Let the Judge Decide

The Judge has the final say about whether or not someone can travel while on probation.   They can and often do over-rule your probation officer.  They aren’t interested in the daily power-struggles between a probation officer and a probationer and they frequently see probation’s opposition to travel as petty or arbitrary.

If you are being denied the ability to travel while on probation — call your lawyer!


*Jeremy Rosenthal is an attorney licensed to practice in Texas.  He is Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization.  For any question you may have you should contact an attorney directly.

Texas Grand Jury FAQ’s

September 20, 2015

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

By Collin County Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal

(972) 369-0577

What is a Grand Jury:

A Grand Jury is a panel that decides whether a felony should be indicted or not.  The DA’s office can file misdemeanors on their own, however, to file felony charges a grand jury must agree there is probable cause.

Grand jury meetings are secretive and confidential.  The public has no access to their deliberations.  Typically they deliberate matters brought before them by the District Attorneys office.  Here is a link to some technical and historical information about Texas grand juries.

Grand Jury Findings

Grand juries can do several things with cases they hear.  They can issue a true bill which equals a felony indictment or they can issue a no-bill turning the case down.  Occasionally they will charge a person with a misdemeanor instead of a felony through indictment.  After a true bill…

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The Top 5 Reasons I Defend Guilty People

September 20, 2015

By Collin County Criminal Defense Attorney Jeremy Rosenthal

(972) 369-0577

I get this question a lot from people I meet and acquaintances who don’t know me very well.  It’s a common and fair question but the truth is I can’t settle on just one reason.  Obviously, not every one is guilty, but this blog is only about the cases I handle where the guilt is somewhat clear-cut…  So here it goes:

5.  Being a Criminal Defense Lawyer is Extremely Hard Work


Ever try changing someone’s mind?  It’s pretty hard.  This is to say being a defense lawyer — taking unpopular positions and defending people whose actions are impossible to understand or justify is extremely difficult work.

It’s rewarding, though, when you can convince people that an unpopular stand is still the right stand to take.  Sometimes that might be  letting someone free even though they think the defendant may be guilty in their hearts — or giving someone a minimal punishment despite a mistake they made.

It takes a lot of courage to go to the 50 yard-line of Cowboy’s Stadium and to yell, “Go Cowboys!”  One must conquer fear of public appearance and the daunting task of being in front of 90,000 people.  But it’s much harder to do all the same things and yell “Go Giants!” when you get there.  THAT is what it means to be a criminal defense lawyer.

4.  It’s a Critical Safeguard on Liberty

Many lawyers might say they defend people because “everyone has rights.”  This is obviously true but a bit of a weak answer in my view.  It’s kind of like saying I’ll hold my client’s hand while we lose.  I prefer winning.

I think a better way of putting it is that if I can make it extremely hard to jail or convict people who are ridiculously guilty — then I make it impossible to convict someone who is innocent.

When I acquit someone by showing law enforcement errors… or if I acquit someone by exposing a prosecutor who is bending or exaggerating the truth then they tend to learn from their mistakes and get it right later.  Though neither would admit to this — when they do a bang-up job on a criminal case, they do it (at least in part) because they’re afraid of losing at trial.  It equals more justice and we all want the same thing.

3.  I Like My Clients and Their Families

Today we all get sucked into this dialogue of good versus evil.  Children’s cartoons and the news media portray the bad guys as evil and demonic but this isn’t reality.  Otherwise good people often do thoughtless or rotten things which hurt others and land them in appropriate trouble — but this doesn’t mean they’re still not a human being worthy of respect.  Also some people make bad mistakes because they’re not being themselves.  That is they are addicted to a substance or they are mentally ill — or both.

I can’t help but connect with a human being that is scared and in need of help… or their families for that matter.  A criminal prosecution, at it’s core, is the government trying to damage a person’s life.  Whether the person deserves the prosecution is not for me to say… but I can’t think that helping a person in need is ever wrong.

2.  I Hate to See People Get Screwed

Third world countries make up the rules as they go along.  Think about how someone hated by the general public would get treated in a small country we only see in the newspaper headlines.  They might be denied counsel or be given a trial in the jail two days after the arrest in front of some minister of justice.  They may be denied the chance to have witnesses speak in their own behalf or they may be convicted  because their innocent explanation doesn’t make sense.

What separates America from those countries is that we don’t make up the rules as we go along just because we know we are dealing with someone who is guilty.

Americans are still humans who value their own security and safety — even at the expense of others.  Law enforcement, prosecutors, and even the judiciary can be guilty of result-oriented thinking which leads to bending the rules – or making them up as they go along.  Someone needs to be there to call a foul when they see it.

1. “Well Why Don’t We Just Chop Off His Arm, Then?!”

When someone asks how I can defend someone charged with (fill in the blank) whom I know is guilty, my first response is typically, “well why don’t we just chop his arm off, then?”  Simply put, the punishment doesn’t always fit the crime.

When someone takes responsibility or confesses guilt, there is an implied social contract.  The implication is the authorities will be fair and reasonable.

Just because someone is guilty doesn’t mean the punishment is being handled fairly.  The legislature sets punishments for criminal offenses in Texas.  I tell my clients that the laws are unfair and slanted against them because politicians — especially in Texas — get more votes by each pledging to be tougher on crime then their predecessor.  There is no lobby in Austin for DWI offenders, drug addicts, or sex offenders that I am aware of.  Hence, no one cares what they think when laws are being written.

It is my job to make sure the prosecutor and the Judge fully understand my client is not evil and is a human being.  Once they know my client’s story — they can help understand and it will be far more fair.

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

Theft Amount Classifications Changes Effective September 1, 2015

August 29, 2015

By Collin County Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal

(972) 369-0577

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

(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 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

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

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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