10 Principles of Defending People: #9 Be Organized

May 31, 2018

By Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal

www.rosenthalwadas.com

(972) 369-0577

I’m writing a series of blogs describing what I think it takes to be an effective criminal defense lawyer.  Yesterday, I wrote about not being judgmental – a cornerstone of the mindset of a defense lawyer.

Today, I’m writing about another concept:

#9 Be Organized

I have two favorite quotes which go hand in hand about how I like to think I approach my work.

The first quote is, “the harder I work, the luckier I get” from Samual Goldwyn, a producer who founded MGM.  The second is from Jim Turner, a player on the Denver Broncos after they lost the Super Bowl in 1977 to the Dallas Cowboys… he said, “We were thinking about being the Super Bowl Champs and they were thinking about football.”

Many lawyers “think about being Super Bowl Champs” but they don’t mind the details or put in the sweat-equity it takes to win.  They confuse thinking about winning with the work it actually takes to win.

Every case is its own snowflake and some can be extremely complex.  It can be easy to get lost.  The more I practice, the more I appreciate the reality lawyers need a compass to navigate each case which makes sure every detail is addressed.

A good defense lawyer in my view needs a systematic way of approaching each case.  Do you think they make things up as the go along in an operating room?  Do you think a pilot with 323 souls on their commercial jetliner just treats their flight like a drive to the 7-11?  Do you think when NASA is about to launch humans into space with a $1.3 billion dollar project they just wing it?

No way!  They have checklist after checklist.  They have redundant failsafe measures designed to minimize their margin of error.  Why would we be any different when we are charged with protecting our clients lives?

Television and movies teach us bad lessons.  They teach us there are some lawyers can just walk into a courtroom and leave the jury in tears when they just got the case two commercial breaks ago.  I know some pretty darn talented lawyers.  But I don’t know anyone quite that amazing.

The rest of us need to be organized!

*Jeremy Rosenthal is Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and is licensed by the State Bar of Texas.


What is a Felony?

May 29, 2018

By Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal

www.rosenthalwadas.com

(972) 369-0577

A felony is any crime which carries with it over one year of possible punishment.

This is the law in every state including Texas.  This is because it is the federal law definition and the federal law is supreme.

Below is a list of common felonies.  Don’t hit the panic button just because a charge is categorized as a felony.  Many of these charges carry possible probation even in the event of conviction.

Examples of common felonies in Texas include:

Drug Charges:

  • Possession of Controlled Substances such as cocaine, heroine, or methamphetamine;
  • Possession of prescription pills by non-prescription holder such as Adderall, or over 28 grams of hydrocodone, oxycontin, or Ambien;
  • Possession of Marijuana over 4 oz.;

Driving While Intoxicated Charges:

  • DWI 3rd or greater;
  • DWI with a Child;
  • Intoxicated Assault;
  • Intoxicated Manslaughter;

Theft Related Charges:

  • Any Theft Over $2,500;
  • Money Laundering;
  • Robbery;
  • Aggravated Robbery;

Assault Charges:

  • Aggravated Assault with a Deadly Weapon;
  • Aggravated Assault;
  • Assault by Impeding Airway;
  • Injury to Child;
  • Injury to Elderly;
  • Kidnapping;
  • Manslaughter;
  • Murder;

Property Crimes

  • Burglary of a Building;
  • Burglary of a Habitation;

Sexual Charges:

  • Sexual Assault
  • Aggravated Sexual Assault
  • Indecency With a Child (by contact or exposure)
  • Sexual Assault of a Child (Statutory Rape)
  • Aggravated Sexual Assault of a Child under 14
  • Aggravated Sexual Assault of a Child under 6
  • Continuous Sexual Assault of Child or Young Children

Obviously this is not an exclusive list but it hopefully give you an idea.

*Jeremy Rosenthal is Board Certified by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization in Criminal Law and is licensed by the State Bar of Texas.

 


Will I Be Sentenced to Jail Now That I’m Accused of DWI, Theft, Domestic Abuse, Drug Possession…. or Any Crime for that Matter?

February 8, 2018

By Collin County Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal

www.rosenthalwadas.com

(972) 369-0577

This is probably the no. 1 question on the minds of many who come into my office.  It’s a completely normal question I’d and probably worry about you if you didn’t care.

Obviously I can’t say yes or no unless I hear whats going on first.

Even then I can’t make promises though I can tell someone they’ve got a better chance of winning the lottery or getting struck by lightning than going back to jail after an initial arrest.

By the time most people are pondering this question it is as if a grenade has exploded in their living room.  They or a loved one have gone through an ordeal they never imagined they’d face — going to jail then getting released on bond.

Then you or your loved ones read about sentence ranges for the particular charge and it’s hard not to fixate on the high number at the end of the punishment range to the exclusion of everything else.  It is completely normal to have high anxiety wondering about the end result of the case and not knowing anything about the criminal justice system doesn’t help.

Here’s What I Can Say

The vast majority of people I help worry far too much about something totally unrealistic.  They exaggerate their chances of going to back to jail in their own mind. Totally normal.

Law enforcement trends in most populated cities and suburbs in Texas are to lower inmate population.  People with little or no criminal history simply don’t jam the jails on misdemeanor or low-grade felony offenses these days.  Major emphasis is being placed on identifying other ways to address issues such as mental illness, addiction and even anger issues or conflict resolution other than jail.

And by the way… I’m going to work my hardest to acquit someone or get their case dismissed before we even get to jail questions!

The greatest chance for jail in someone’s future for someone coming into my office on most cases is violating terms and conditions of bond or probation.  In other words, they may go back to jail if they use illegal substances, miss court, or drink alcohol when ordered not to do so while waiting for their case to be resolved or after they’ve been put on probation.

The good news here is the person is still in control of whether or not they face future incarceration.  More good news is when people do go to jail on bond or probation violations — the time in jail is measured in days or weeks and not months or years.

I end up telling many people it is unrealistic to worry about future jail.  I don’t mind repeating it 35 times if that is what it takes to take away the feeling a house has landed on you!

Normally my greatest concern is not future jail — it’s keeping your job and keeping your criminal history as clean as possible.  This is a more realistic fear in many, many cases we handle.

When Jail is a Worry

There are times to worry about a jail sentence and not every place in Texas is the same.  Each case is its own snowflake so trends I’ve discussed above may or may not apply to your situation.

The more severe the charge — the more likely it is we can’t safely rule future incarceration out.  Even then we rarely realistically discuss worst-case scenarios.

*Jeremy Rosenthal is Board Certified in Criminal Law and is Licensed to Practice Law in the State of Texas.  Nothing in this article is intended to be legal advice.  For legal advice you should see an attorney directly.

 

 

 


The Probable Cause Fairy: AKA An Officer’s “Training & Experience”

October 27, 2017

By Collin County Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal

www.rosenthalwadas.com

(972) 369-0577

It was very early on in my experience with criminal law when I first learned the power of an officer’s “training and experience.”

Much of our legal system is built to prevent profiling of any kind.  Some of those safeguards include both statutes and case law which prevent officers from arresting or even just hassling people based on “hunches.”  Courts have long recognized where there is a hunch, there is a good chance there is profiling.

Courts insist probable cause must be based on what is called articulable fact and then making reasonable deductions from those facts which make it probable a crime is in progress or just occurred.

An example of articulable fact would be “Defendant swerved into the next lane of traffic without signaling.”  The statement is concrete and establishes an objective fact, i.e., the car moved from one lane to the next.  A reasonable deduction would be there is something wrong with the driver.  An officer can and should investigate more.

But the topic is still pretty mushy.

Here’s an example of something which probably isn’t articulable fact: “Defendant took several steps away from his car after I asked him to exit the vehicle.”  This doesn’t really tell us anything, does it?  Can we deduce this person has done something wrong or is trying to get away with something?  It’s hard, huh?

How Police and Prosecutors Convert Hunches into Articulable Facts

They do it through using the magical phrase referring to an officer’s “training and experience.”

So lets change the above example… “Defendant took several steps away from his car after he exited the vehicle.  In my training and experience, people in possession of drugs will often separate themselves from the contraband.”

Really?  Which class was that in the police academy?  How many times, officer, has a defendant taken several steps away from a car because they had drugs… and would you mind trying to remember those cases…. because this sounds like you just made it up?

See how it works?  By inserting “training and experience” into the sentence, SHAZAM — what was once just a hunch is now articulable fact.

In defense of police and prosecutors — I don’t think they really see what they are doing is trying to manipulate the standards.  They may honestly believe police get a ‘hound dog’ sense after being on the streets for their careers…. and maybe they do.  But the bottom line is blurs the line between “articulable fact” and a hunch.  Unfortunately, courts often go along with the fiction.

The Defense Lawyer’s Struggle

Our constant struggle is trying to root out exaggeration and, for lack of a better word, fudge from prosecutors and police which helps them attain probable cause or convince a jury to convict.

Any time I hear that phrase in the courtroom it sets off my spidey sense and it is time to fasten the seat-belts.  But that is just my training and experience!

*Jeremy Rosenthal is Board Certified in Criminal Law in Texas.  Nothing in this article should be considered as legal advice.  For legal advice about any situation contact an attorney directly.

 

 

 


Our Number is (972) 369-0577. Put it In Your Phone Right Now. Yes, YOU!

June 13, 2017

By Texas Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal

www.rosenthalwadas.com

(972) 369-0577

Put our phone number in your phone right now.  It is (972) 369-0577.

Why do you want a criminal defense lawyer’s number in your phone?  It should be self explanatory but many don’t think they’ll ever need it.  Fair enough.

There are two main reasons.

The First Reason

I recently spoke to several groups of non-lawyers about criminal justice.  They were interested in my topic but not particularly excited or passionate.  Why should they be?  To them criminal cases happen in newspapers or on television and — like advertising — it might affect a few people out there but it doesn’t affect them.

At the most recent lecture, I decided to bring the topic home for a more engaging discussion.  I wanted the audience to know why they all needed our phone numbers in their phone.  And the answer is simple —  You don’t lead a life of crime and you don’t plan on getting arrested…? GREAT!  Me too!

But Rosenthal & Wadas has built a big criminal defense law practice right here in the suburb of McKinney, Texas?  How did we do that…?  Because people’s sons, daughters, aunts, uncles, grandsons, granddaughters, sisters, brothers, friends and co-workers are getting arrested here.  They get arrested for DWI, domestic violence, drug charges, embezzlement, sexual assault and on and on and on.

Now, when a criminal case gets hot — it gets hot.  When the arrest or accusation happens — the case is hot.  We potentially create more value by getting into a case right at the beginning than at any other time.  This is because we can represent someone during an investigation or sometimes just help put the fire of an arrest out so we can begin getting to the bottom of what happened to get the best end result.

Sometimes key legal advice or representation at the inception of a case can make the whole thing go away.  You read that right.

So if you don’t plan on ever getting arrested — great — but put our number in your phone for when you get an unexpected call from a co-worker, friend, or just a non-conformist family member.  People’s friends and loved ones are being arrested every-day right here in Collin County and they’ll often turn to you looking for direction.  I hope it is never your loved one, but why not be prepared?

Our office has a lawyer on call 24/7.

The Second Reason

Putting our number in your phone is free.  (972) 369-0577.

Do it now while you’re thinking about it.

*Jeremy Rosenthal is Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization.  Nothing in this article is intended to be legal advice.  For legal advice about any specific situation you should contact a lawyer directly.

 

 


A Different View on Civil Liberties

August 28, 2016

By Collin County Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal

www.rosenthalwadas.com

(972) 369-0577

I’ve got a world view which many have a hard time understanding when it comes to rights and it is this:  I don’t need most of them.  At least, I don’t think I do.  Most people I know really don’t need them either.

Though I fight hard for my clients against the powers that be — I’m a conformist at heart. I don’t live on the fringe and by that I mean I don’t say things which get authority figures so angry they’d want to jail me.  My neighbors don’t hate me because of what I drive, how I dress or what goes on at my house (at least I don’t think).  No one hates me because of who my family is or isn’t.

You could give me more rights than everyone else and I still wouldn’t need them.  The right not to stand in line at the hottest night club (I’m not cool enough), the right to the best tickets to NASCAR events (I’m not a fan), or the right to own the first house on the moon (I’m too scared to go and I couldn’t afford it).  These rights are useless to me because I  don’t need them.

On the flip side — you could probably take away many of my rights and though I wouldn’t be happy about it, my life would probably continue uninterrupted.  I’d probably find a way to get along without my right to be free from illegal searches or my right to remain silent.  I’ve never needed to exercise these rights and I do my best to lead my life in a way where I hopefully never will.

The question isn’t whether you, me, or anyone we know values these rights because unfortunately experience teaches me we don’t.  When you tell people their rights will be taken next they normally don’t care.

When someone unpopular or someone who says, does, or is accused of doing something heinous needs their rights — do we deal with them in an honest way as the framers of the constitution intended?  Do we make up the rules as we go along and give them lip service about their civil liberties?

All too often I deal with an establishment that in some small ways rationalizes minimizing someone’s rights.  Simple rights like the presumption of innocence, the right to be free from an inappropriate search, or someone’s right to an affordable bond can be infringed because “look at what you did!”  I wonder if this is what third-world countries might do to someone they don’t like.

Our rights guaranteed by the Constitution aren’t for the popular people, the conformists or the good every-day citizen.  They don’t need them.  They are for the people on the fringes, the unpopular people, and the misunderstood.  People who need meaningful rights most of all are the people we’ve determined in our heart of committed some terrible wrong.  This is what separates America from a third-world-country.

So when I argue about protecting rights to a jury — I don’t tell them to protect someone’s rights because those rights could be taken from them or their family one day… Unfortunately, I’ve come to learn people don’t care about their own rights for the same reason I question whether I need them myself.  Instead, I ask them what a third world country would do with a person like my client… and would we tolerate Americans acting the same way as them?

Can we be like a third-world country?  I suppose if the shoe fits.

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


Why Acquittals Normally Don’t Make the News

May 12, 2014

By Collin County Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal

www.rosenthalwadas.com

(972) 369-0577

The reason is simple.  The vast majority of people charged with crimes generally aren’t in the news to begin with and they want to keep it that way even if they win.

Publishing a win actually defeats the purpose of wiping a record clean with an expunction. Erasing every trace of the arrest everywhere was the goal in the first-place.

Law enforcement, on the other hand, has every reason to make announcements and otherwise publish cases which put them in a positive light.

The result is that in the paper, we tend only to read about the wrong-way drunk driver or meth addicts who say they’re wearing someone else’ pants.

But that’s not reality.

I won two trials last week (Sorry, you knew I had to do some bragging).  Neither case will make the news nor should they.  The fact is people are acquitted every day for countless reasons…

  • The police made up their mind at the beginning of an investigation & wouldn’t let the facts get in the way;
  • Prosecutors chose to believe an accusation from someone which wasn’t substantiated with anything other than emotion;
  • Police played doctor during a DWI arrest rather than let medical professionals determine if a person’s behavior was due to some other factor than pills or alcohol;
  • An officer profiled teenagers out late and in doing so stretched the law a bit too far in making a stop…

…And the reasons for acquittals go on, and on, and on….

The point I’m trying to make is this — what we read in the newspaper and what we see on TV are true stories that leave a skewed impression.  And whats the harm in that?  It causes jurors to be more skeptical of defense theories (and then everyone acts shocked when someone’s been behind bars for 25 years for a crime they didn’t commit).

But the truth, as with most things in life, is somewhere in the middle.

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