10 Principles of Defending People: #1 Put Yourself in Your Client’s Shoes (But Only for a Moment)

June 9, 2018

By Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal

www.rosenthalwadas.com

(972) 369-0577

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been writing about what I think the top principles are when defending a person in the criminal justice system.

Here are no’s 2 – 10 to recap:

#1 Put Yourself in Your Client’s Shoes

There is much overlap in the principles I’ve suggested in this series.  You can make the argument this principle is really a combination of many of the other principles.

I must always remind myself my client and/or the people who love them often feel:

  • Scared
  • Confused
  • Angry
  • Uncertain
  • Embarrassed
  • Ashamed
  • Singled-Out
  • Hopeless
  • Worried
  • Anxious
  • Alone
  • Different
  • Abused

And even then I’m sure I’m over-simplifying what they must often be going through.  Criminal litigation is bet-the-farm type stuff.  People can lose their freedom and/or livelihood.

Lawyers have to appreciate just how important they are to their client and how much power they have in their client’s matters.  Just having an anxious client see my phone number pop up on their caller ID will ruin some people’s day even if I’m just asking a quick question or giving a small update.

Sometimes the simplicity of the golden rule is directly on target.  How would I, Jeremy Rosenthal, want someone handing the most important matter I could have in my entire life or even decade to conduct themselves?  Prepared… yes.  Organized… yes.  Knowledgable… yes.  Experienced… yes.  And on, and on and on.

Why wouldn’t I do my best to try and be the same way for another human who is experiencing many, if not all, of the emotions discussed above?

But Wait a Second…

There is an extremely important distinction.  I am not my client.

I am often asked by clients or their loved ones, “what would I do if I were in their situation.”  My answer is canned — but true:  “I’m not in your situation.”

I tell them I don’t know what keeps them up at night.  I don’t know what they want to be doing with their life in 10 years.  I don’t know if their great aunt Lucielle would spin in her grave if she knew they didn’t fight charges like the ones they’re facing.

The hard balance for any lawyer is putting themselves in their clients shoes and feeling the gravity of the situation — but remaining the detached expert who can give objective advice.  If I suffered from all of the emotional landmines I outlined above there is no way I could do my job.  I just have to remember they are always there.

Some lawyers do too good of a job putting themselves in their client’s shoes.  They stay there.  It can be problematic because the lawyer gets so wrapped up in the client’s problem — it becomes the lawyer’s problem too.  The lawyer loses objectivity, is less objective in their evaluations, arguments, and representation.

Lawyers need to put themselves in their client’s shoes… at least for a little while.

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

 


10 Principles of Defending People: #2 Find Something to be Angry About

June 8, 2018

By Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal

www.rosenthalwadas.com

(972) 369-0577

I’m going over to me what are the top ten principles of defending people.  To recap the list so far:

#2 Find Something to Be Angry About

I went to law school because I hate injustice.  It is everywhere in the criminal system.  You only have to look.  In many ways I feel like I’m at my very best when I’m upset although I’m sure it just feels that way.

I don’t care how bad or hopeless a case may seem — there is virtually always something to be upset about.  It may be over-zealous punishment.  It may be battling prosecutors and police lost in an echo-chamber of righteous indignation.  It may be facing a complaining witness who tells half-truths to paint themselves in a better light at my client’s expense.  It could be getting upset because no one seems to understand the mental illness or addiction my client is suffering.  It could be because I feel authority figures are acting like bullies.  There are some cases where I even find myself at odds and in a power-struggle with a Judge.

The good news is most cases aren’t hopeless.  Show me a lawyer who gets fired-up about how his client has been mis-treated, and I’ll show you an effective advocate.

One thing I’ve learned through experience, though, is there are arguments which feel good to make; there are arguments my client enjoys hearing; and there are arguments that win the case.  Give me the latter every time, please.  Being upset has to be channelled and tempered with telling the most powerful and effective story for the jury.

I find apathy is the result of not finding something to be upset about while defending a case.  Again, the good news is I haven’t seen a case go to trial where I can’t find something to be angry about.

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


10 Principles of Defending People #3 Believe Your Client

June 7, 2018

By Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal

www.rosenthalwadas.com

(972) 369-0577

I’m going over to me what are the top ten principles of defending people.  To recap the list so far:

#3 Believe Your Client

Your client deserves to be believed.  Often no one else will do it beyond their family and loved ones.

My view is the failure to presume the accused innocent is the common denominator in any horror story you read about or hear about in the criminal justice system.  This goes for the jury’s failure, the prosecutor’s failure, the police’s failure… and yes… their own lawyer’s failure to presume the accused innocent.

People have a lot of help in their cynicism.  We’re barraged by story after story of terrible criminals, child predators, and repeat offenders.  Many stories about criminals make fun of them.  There is even a web page dedicated to laughing at people arrested at dumbcriminals.com.

There is much water-cooler or “locker-room” talk in the courthouse where many enjoy a good chuckle at a criminal’s expense.

But the cynicism takes a negative toll.  I cringe when I hear criminals being made fun of in the media or in the docket room — even if they are laughably guilty.  First is because the person they’re ridiculing is almost always human probably suffering from mental illness, addiction or worse.  Second is it desensitizes everyone and feeds the narrative “everyone is guilty,” and finally I don’t like it when people pick on easy targets.  Anyone can laugh at a person arrested for telling the police the drugs in their pocket wasn’t thiers… but if you want a challenge — try defending that person!

Do yourself and your client a favor.  Just believe them for starters and go from there.  If the facts you later flesh-out prove he or she is lying then deal with it at that point.

Don’t be part of the problem.  Presume your client innocent and do your best to prove he or she is telling the truth.

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

 

 

 


10 Principles of Defending People (#8 Be Optimistic & #7 Inoculation)

June 1, 2018

By Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal

www.rosenthalwadas.com

(972) 369-0577

Today I’ve got two principles to share and they can be summed up the cliche, “Hope for the best but be prepared for the worst.”

I’m summing up what I feel are the 10 most important principles a criminal defense lawyer should follow in their practice in this series.  You can read about my previous posts so far on the topic here:

#8 Be Optimistic

You won’t find much doom and gloom on my blog.  I’m sure there’s plenty of anger, grand-standing and self-ritcheosness… but hopefully not much fear-mongering.

People often shake as they’re walking into my office.  A big part of it is because they’ve been on the internet or gotten legal advice from their best friend growing up.  They think I’m going to confirm their fears about having body and appendages severed by the prosecution.

I have yet to come across a case in the zillions I’ve evaluated where there isn’t some hope, some ray of sunshine, or something to be optimistic about.  Granted, these things are relative and  if there weren’t legitimate reasons for concern — no one would come and see me at all.

But people crave optimism from professionals they deal with.  There is nothing wrong with being optimistic and letting folks know where the sunlight is.

#7  Inoculate People For Bad News

Again, today’s topic is a ying and yang concept.  While there is nothing wrong with being optimistic — people also don’t come to a lawyer to be lied to.

Bad news is unfortunately part of the job.  It’s important to discuss unpleasant possibilities for many reasons.  What is also important is putting them into context and letting someone know how realistic certain outcomes may or may-not be.

I find it is important to discuss possible bad news before it happens.  This way the lawyer and client can come up with a plan for avoiding the possible bad result and time to come up with another plan should the bad result come to fruition.  This gives the client and/or their family a sense of some control and allows time for them to wrap their mind around things.

I call the concept inoculation.  It is like eating vegetables.  It’s no fun to eat veggies at the table but it’s very healthy in the long run.  Discussing possible bad outcomes in a constructive way yields long term dividends.

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


Is Sexual Harassment A Crime in Texas?

May 21, 2018

By Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal

www.rosenthalwadas.com

(972) 369-0577

No.

Sexual harassment whereby one or more employer or co-worker creates a hostile work environment for other workers is civil, not criminal.  This means a person’s remedy is in the courts is through a lawsuit they normally bring themselves.

But there could be over-lap between sexual harassment and actual sex crimes.

Sex crimes are typically committed where there is unwanted touching or exposure.  So crude talk, innuendo, or inappropriate language are not enough to rise to the level of a criminal offense.  However, possible criminal liability can ensue such as indecent exposure, simple assault if there is unwanted non-sexual touching, or even sexual assault.

Can I Be Charged With A Sex Crime Even If I’m Being Sued for Sexual Harassment?

In theory, yes.

I worked at an employment law boutique right out of law school.  I don’t know that I ever saw that happen.  People who sue generally don’t go to the police… and when they do AFTER going to a lawyer first, I suspect the police are a bit leery of a money-grab (not to mention the case has normally gotten much older).

If you’re being prosecuted for a sex crime and are now worried about a sexual harassment claim — that’s normally hard to do too.  Sexual harassment claims have very tight time-lines which could be lost by this point.  If you’re being prosecuted for a sex crime of any time then sexual harassment is a much lesser matter in my book.

*Jeremy Rosenthal is Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and licensed by the State Bar of Texas.  Nothing in this Article Should be considered legal advice.  For legal advice, please contact an attorney directly.

 

 

 


Our Victory at the Texas Supreme Court Changes Expunction Law

May 16, 2018

By Collin County Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal

www.rosenthalwadas.com

(972) 369-0577

Time to crow a bit.

I won a trial roughly two or three years ago where my client was charged with the felony offense of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

After we won, we filed (what we thought) would be a routine petition for expunction clearing my client’s record of the arrest for which my client had been acquitted.  The DA’s Office and The Texas Department of Public Safety opposed our petition because my client had also been arrested for outstanding warrants on an unrelated case which occurred prior to her arrest for the aggravated assault.

The prosecution’s theory was the arrest could not be expunged because the arrest for the underlying warrants made the arrest good under the expunction statute… so she’d have to live with the arrest for the aggravated assault with a deadly weapon on her record forever even though she won her trial.  (This is highly nerdy lawyer stuff — so I’m paraphrasing a touch.)

The prosecution’s idea of the expunction statute before our case had governed their policies and practice statewide — that if you don’t qualify for any small part of this long statute then you’re out of luck.  They argued the record keeping of criminal records for DPS would be too difficult and too sloppy.

After I convinced the trial judge in the case to order the records expunged over the State’s objection (no small task), the State appealed to the 5th Court of Appeals in Dallas and then to the Texas Supreme Court.  Special thanks to Thad Spalding and Morgan McPheeters from the firm of Kelly, Durham & Pittard in Dallas who handled the case after it left the trial court and briefed and argued it from the 5th Court in Dallas to the Texas Supreme Court.

Last week the Texas Supreme Court affirmed our case yet again, making it the law of the land.  Now when someone applies for expunction the test is whether they qualify under the specific provision of the expunction statute and not the statute as a whole.

It punches a hole in the decades-old practice of prosecutors and DPS that the expunction statute was “arrest based.”

You can read the opinion here.

Yeah, it’s nerd stuff.  I know.  But it can be fun to be a nerd sometimes!

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

 


Top 5 Most Common Police Attitudes – #1

May 15, 2018

By Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal

www.rosenthalwadas.com

(972) 369-0577

This week I’m counting down some of the top police attitudes I see as a criminal defense lawyer in cases I handle.  Again, these are in no particular order of frequency or importance.

One theme I’ve discussed several times in this series of blogs is how the pressures of law enforcement can pull, push, stretch and bend officers in every different direction.  Police see the ugly underbelly of humanity and it shapes how they view the world.

Today’s attitude is no different.

#1 — Scumbag Mode

Police are at their most disappointing when they are in what I call “scumbag mode.”  It is self explanatory.  They think they’re dealing with a scumbag and they treat the person as such.

What I don’t always see with an officer in scumbag mode is an officer who is downright aggressive.  Instead, many are passive aggressive allowing the suspect to think they are in control.  What the suspect doesn’t know is they are already trapped in a spider’s web.

But we can tell they are in scumbag mode because of how they act or what they say.  Evidence of innocence gets crumpled up and pitched right into the trash can.  They call tow trucks once they go back to their squad cars.  They game plan with other officers about the arrest… then they go right back out to the defendant and pretend he or she can talk their way out of trouble.

Not happening.

The hardest things to get juries to understand about when an officer goes into this mode are three things — first is the degree of often passive-aggressive manipulation; second is their bias causes them to distort evidence against the accused; and finally — jurors don’t want to believe police are manipulative or that they’re not objective.

Now, in fairness… police think this way probably as a survival mechanism.  They see the underbelly of humanity and much of the time — their instinct and hunches are right about dealing with a scumbag more often than they are wrong.

What happens when the police go into “scumbag” mode and they’re not dealing with a scumbag?  They arrest people doing nothing wrong in Starbucks.  What is more likely than a national scandal is police hassling a young person, a non-conformist, or as all too often is the case, a minority for much longer than they’d deal with a soccer-mom from the suburbs.

Next time you see a story about police hassling someone for far too long remember they’re doing it because of their job pressures and because they’ve been triggered to go into their “scumbag” mode.

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