The Victim Doesn’t Want to Press Charges — So Now What?

April 4, 2017

By Collin County Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal

www.rosenthalwadas.com

(972) 369-0577

A criminal prosecution is between the State of Texas and the accused.  The victim or accuser is little more than a glorified witness.  Just because a victim doesn’t want to press charges doesn’t mean the case goes away.

If The State Doesn’t Have to Drop the Charges — Then What Good Does it Do?

District and County attorneys are elected.  This means they reply to citizen and voter demands (in theory).  Most pride themselves in standing up for victims and making sure a victim in any case is satisfied.  A prosector or police officer may very well drop a case in response to a request by an accuser to dismiss a case.  Even if they don’t dismiss the case the prosecutor must factor how the accuser will look before the jury.  A prosecutor would think twice before calling a reluctant witness who tells the truth yet assists the defense at every turn.

Why Wouldn’t a Prosecutor Drop the Charges Upon Request?

Prosecutors see many cases come across their desk.  In state court, they see the same cases over and over whether they be assaults, theft, DWI or drugs.  Some get in the routine of comparing one case to another as instead of evaluating each case in a vacuum.  In their defense, there is nothing wrong with their world view.

What this means is they might tend to compare victims against one another as unfair as that may should.  Also, some prosecutors simply believe every accuser who comes forth to drop charges is being forced to do so — or is otherwise doing so because they are weak, intimidated or can’t stand up for themselves.

I Told them I want the Charges Dropped and they Won’t.  What Should I Do Now?

Again, most prosecutors really do want to make a victim or accuser happy.  Getting complaints from victims is worse for them then losing a case.  It doesn’t hurt to have an open and honest dialogue with a prosecutor if your goal is to have either charges dropped, a person to be dealt with leniently, or for a person to get a specific type of help for that matter.

Do I Need a Lawyer if I’m Trying to Drop Charges?

Normally, no.  If you are going to be discussing the facts of a case with police or prosecutors, however, you can be prosecuted for a false police report if you make statements which are materially different.  If you have concerns about statements you’ve made to the police then its not a bad idea to visit with a lawyer before re-visiting with them.  Obviously you should always be honest with both police and prosecutors at all times.

*Jeremy Rosenthal is an attorney licensed in Texas.  He is board certified in Criminal Law.  Nothing in this article should be considered as legal advice.  For legal advice about any situation you should talk with an attorney directly.

 


Can I Get Sued Because of A Criminal Case… Or Vice Versa… Can I Be Charged With a Crime because of a Civil Case?

November 30, 2016

By Collin County Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal

www.rosenthalwadas.com

(972) 369-0577

Today I’ll discuss a question I get from time to time in various forms:

  • “Can I also get sued even though I’m being criminally prosecuted?”

… and the same question in reverse,

  • “I’m getting sued right now (or being threatened with a lawsuit)… could they also criminally prosecute me?”

…another common one is,

  • “Can someone threaten me with criminal charges to get me to settle a civil dispute?”

Could Someone Being Criminally Prosecuted also be Sued?

Yes, but it’s very rare and comparing a criminal prosecution to a civil lawsuit is like comparing a knife fight to a pillow fight.  I might be more biased because I handle criminal cases but I tend to think they’re far more serious than civil cases — though civil cases can be thoroughly unpleasant too.

Most crimes where there is an accuser or victim involved can almost certainly trigger civil liability.  Civil causes of action are far easier to bring and are generally easier to prove-up (because they’re just trying to take your money and not your liberty — or so the theory goes).

Probably the most common scenario I see is a car accident case where DWI might be alleged.  Even that is mostly insurance companies duking out who will pay for what.

A criminal prosecution is often a ‘poor-man’s’ lawsuit.  Going to the police and making the prosecutor’s telephone ring off the hook is free.  Paying for your own lawyer to make someone else’s life miserable is a luxury.  Hence the rarity of seeing both a civil and a criminal prosecution.

Ultimately my instinct is defend the criminal case first and worry about civil liability second.  This is because of the severity of criminal prosecution and the punishments are simply not equivalent.

I’m Being Sued (or Threatened with a Lawsuit).  Could this Turn Criminal?

Again, very rarely.

While most crimes involving victims or accusers trigger criminal liability as well — the reverse is not nearly as true.  Civil causes of action are far more problematic to convert to criminal charges.  This is for all sorts of reasons… civil cases are often based in negligence, or misunderstandings, or questions about who pays for an unexpected loss.

Most parties in a civil proceeding have little, if any, interest in pursuing criminal actions.  Generally they just want whatever relief they think they might be entitled to.  That could be things such as money or an injunction of some sort.

Also, police are very reluctant to get involved in what they perceive to be a civil dispute.  They have enough to worry about and a complicated civil matter is often an easy “we can’t help you” situation.

Certain cases criminal value are extremely diminished when civil liability is sought first.  Think of a sexual assault case where the accuser first tries to get a settlement or sues the perpetrator before going to the police.  What might have been a solid case is now stained by questions about what could be the accuser’s real motive.

A normal exception would probably be certain white-collar cases where both victims have abundant resources and state or federal investigating agencies are interested due to the sheer amount or volume of a crime in question.  Again, though, keep in mind these are not your garden variety or every-day case.

Can Someone Threaten Criminal Prosecution To Get a Civil Settlement?

No.  That’s blackmail.  Think about it… “Pay me money or a I’ll go to the police.”  Generally lawyers or companies that make these types of threats word them extremely carefully.  They make it clear you are settling civil liability only.  Don’t get me wrong — they’re normally happy to let you think that by settling the civil case — you’re keeping a criminal matter “hush hush.”

While it’s okay to settle civil liability through a private settlement — no private party or entity can threaten criminal action nor waive the State or Government’s right to prosecute.

*Jeremy Rosenthal is licensed to practice law 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 on any situation you should contact an attorney directly.

 

 

 


My Main Enemy: Cynicism

November 7, 2016

By Texas Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal

(972) 369-0577

www.rosenthalwadas.com

Cynicism is defined by Miriam-Webster’s Dictionary as, “believing that people are generally selfish and dishonest,” or people are”selfish and dishonest in a way that shows no concern about treating other people fairly.”

I’m writing about cynicism today because it is the cancer from which our criminal justice system suffers most.  The cynicism I’m writing about today is all too often from law enforcement, probation officers, prosecutors, Judges, and even my own which I battle like everyone else.

When I talk to clients, I describe cynicism as a “headwind” which makes our fight tougher than it might appear.  On a DWI, for example, I tell people everyone in the Courthouse will treat you like an alcoholic even if you had your first drink of alcohol the night you were arrested.

World Views

Everyone has their own world view – especially related to their job.  I understand everything I see and experience through my practice shapes my view of how people are and the world around me.  When dealing with people, it is important to know how their every-day job and life experiences shape their views.

As an example, I remember being a waiter during college and falling into the mental trap of occasionally judging people based on how they tipped.  I knew in the back of my mind then — as I am sure today — the judgments I was making were of only an ever-so-thin slice of my experience with a person.  A big tipper might otherwise be a total jerk.  A bad tipper may be a great mother, father or neighbor who just wasn’t carrying as much cash as they thought they were going to need that day.

I feel lucky to meet with people who need help when they come see me.  So I tend to see people and their families when they are reticent, respectful and often in desperate search of hope and guidance.  My view of “the system” then, is someone charged with a crime is vulnerable and in great need of counsel and support.

But I know not everyone sees it that way.

World Views of Those in the Criminal Justice System

I have to remind myself the people dealing with my clients only get a thin slice of them.  To some police my client might be just the crime they were accused of instead of a person.  To some prosecutors my client might just be another file.  To some judges my client might just be another schmo needing mercy.  Many of these professionals can allow cynicism to get the better of them.  Everything they hear and see can be a lame excuse.

Fighting Cynicism

Fighting the pre-existing views of someone can not only be daunting but sometimes downright impossible.  Think of how impossible it can be to change someone’s political, religious or even sports opinions.  Instead of attacking the cynicism head on (and losing), it’s often the better play to incorporate the strengths of our arguments into what the prosecutor or judge already believes.

An example might be showing a prosecutor who is convinced everyone charged with certain crimes are drug addicts my client is clean and has a plan to stay clean.  This out-flanks the opponent and takes away all the oxygen from their fire.  If they’re still going to be mad at the accused then they could be exposed as being unreasonable to a Judge or Jury.

Sometimes the cynicism we are dealing with is too great.  No matter what I say or do I can’t convince someone “who knows it all” otherwise.  Sometimes we have to fight in court and see what a jury thinks.   Even if the prosecutor and judge don’t get it — a Jury still can.

My Cynicism

Did you catch it?  I have to remind myself that even though others I deal with might disagree with me… or seem to know it all… I have to carefully listen and be mindful of their point of view before I get cynical about their views.

*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 advice on any situation contact an attorney directly.

 

 


People Giving Legal Advice — That Shouldn’t Be Giving Legal Advice

July 10, 2010

By Dallas and Collin County Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal

www.rosenthalwadas.com

(972) 369-0577

As even keel as I try to be — nothing gets under my skin more than people giving legal advice that have no business giving legal advice in criminal cases.  Everyone has opinions, their own experiences, and what they believe to be common sense — but I’m not really even talking about that type of stuff.

The “legal advice” I’m talking about is when the very same police officer that arrests you for DWI — also tells you that you need to just talk with the prosecutor to see if you can get a good deal… or when court staff or personnel tell you it might be easier to just talk with the prosecutor rather than get a lawyer… or when a bail bondsman tells you that your case is hopeless and hiring a lawyer is a waste of money.

It unnerves me because these are people that carry a marginal amount of credibility — and because of that people tend to listen to their generally uninformed, narrow, and incomplete analysis of a particular situation — whether it’s drugs, theft, assault or DUI.  Now, in defense of these people — they are probably well meaning in their intentions.  It’s just extremely reckless.  You wouldn’t operate on yourself because they guy at the front desk in the hospital thinks it’s a good idea… and you shouldn’t take legal advice from anyone in the justice system except YOUR lawyer.

Maybe I also get upset because unlike the police officer, court staffer, or any other various know-it-all, I spent many nights in law school up until 1 or 2 a.m. studying about the layer after layer of the law and our legal system.  Unlike them, I’ve spent my entire career since law school dealing with people and learning that their personal situations also have layer after layer.  And unlike them, I get to hand a 42 year-old single mother kleenex across my conference room table when she can’t get a job from a conviction 17 years before when some know-it-all in a position of semi-trust told her she didn’t need a lawyer.

Being a lawyer is a hard job.  Doctors manage imperfect variables which involve the human body.  Lawyers manage imperfect variables which is how the humans which comprise our system of justice will treat any given scenario.  Lawyers are bound by very rigid rules of ethics which make clear that no lawyer can ever guarantee you any result — due in large part to how imperfect and how complicated legal matters can be.

Most police officers, court personnel, and various other people that tend to come into close contact with those accused of a crime are very respectful of the complexity of legal issues and of the Attorney/ Client Privilege and thus are properly deferential.  Other know-it-all’s, though are loaded with bad advice that is only based on their past experiences and training — and none of it is from YOUR perspective or from the perspective of someone that’s dealt with these situations from start to finish.

I’m sure there’s a possibility that some of the things they say might be right 40, 50, or even 60% of the time… And I don’t know about you — but my personal experience is that having 40, 50, or 60% of the right information is a great way to make a very bad and uninformed choice.

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


Should I just talk to the Prosecutor when I go to Court?

February 6, 2010

By Dallas and Collin County Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal

(972) 369-0577

www.rosenthalwadas.com

There’s not much in it for you.

The prosecutor may be a nice person.  Most are.  Your criminal record, though, is not as important to them as getting to lunch on time.

Prosecutors are your legal opponent and frankly most have never defended anyone so they don’t understand nuances to keep your record clean.  They don’t understand how to minimize collateral consequences such as professional licensing, immigration, or future enhancement.  Most have never had to crack a book on these issues.  Many will make uninformed representations about your rights and about the effects of your plea.

In fairness to prosecutors, It’s not their job to point out legal and factual weaknesses in their own case which can result in acquittal.  They don’t review a police report critically like a defense attorney would for legal issues, defenses, and inconsistencies.  They see the police report as a checklist and not much more.

Many times people think because they made a mistake or because no one will believe their side of the story – they need to just visit with the prosecutor, take their medicine and get it over with because it’s hopeless and there is no need to spend money on a lawyer.  You may not think it’s a big deal now, but studies have shown criminal records cost people money over the course of their lives.

I have not met a prosecutor that would retaliate against someone for getting a lawyer though I am sure there are some out there.  Most actually appreciate the opportunity to streamline your case.

Talk to a lawyer!

*Jeremy F. Rosenthal is an attorney licensed to practice in the State of Texas and is Board Certified in Criminal Law.  Nothing in this article is intended to be legal advice.  For legal advice you should consult an attorney.