Some Options for Out of Towners Who Run into the Law While on Vacation
It’s probably not the best idea in the world to get in trouble when you are on vacation, or visiting another city. It makes it very hard on you both logistically and financially. I have run into this problem quite a bit as of late. On average I might get 1 or 2 cases a year from out of towner’s who either partied too hard, or made a dumb mistake while they were here. The problem ends of being that we lose a lot of potential options when you cannot commit yourself to living in Harris County.
Harris County Pre-Trial Diversion Program
Sometimes, especially for first offenders, there are programs available that can lead to dismissals. One of the programs, the pre-trial diversion program, requires individuals to complete all of their conditions in Harris County. A Pre-Trial diversion is a type of program that allows you to complete a probation-like program while your case is still open and pending, and allows you to earn a dismissal. Because the pre-trial diversion is a Harris County specific program, it cannot be transferred to another county (unlike some probations can be).
I had a client who lives 4 hours away, and while that isn’t too far, it’s just far enough to where it would make it tough to travel to Houston 2 or 3 times a month. Before, out of towner’s were not considered at all for the program, but I was told in this case that he is eligible for the program, but would have to commit to coming down for monthly meetings, random drug tests, community service, classes, etc in Harris County.
The Issues Around Living Far From Harris County
While this option is a no brainer for residents of Harris County and surrounding communities, it is a much tougher decision when you live out of town. To make it worse, you cannot transfer a probation that is 6 months (what he was being offered). So if he wanted to do a deferred adjudication to try to avoid a conviction, we actually would have had to ask to do MORE probation just to allow him to do his probation in his home town. My client has expressed interesting in just paying a fine because it is the easiest thing to do. That is the worst idea possible as it is a lifetime conviction, and something that will potentially keep an individual from getting jobs/apartments for the rest of their life.
It’s unfortunate that people feel stuck in these situations. It is never a good idea to get in trouble, but it’s a horrible idea to get into trouble far from home.
Positive Results on Hit and Run, DWI and Assault-Family Member Cases
Today was a fairly busy attorney day, and I was in a bunch of courts. My first stop was a hit and run case. This hit and run case was different than most cases since my client was accused of hitting a cement post in front of a business (not another vehicle as we typically see). A lot of people don’t realize that if you damage property you should either contact the owner, or leave a note. Luckily, we helped our client get an agreement to dismiss this hit and run case, since no one was injured. Everyone was only concerned that the business is made whole with regards to money.
Had a quick reset on an assault-family member case that is very defensible and is likely either going to get dismissed or end up in trial. We also did a reset on a DWI case where we are still waiting on evidence. We finally got the dash cam video, so I need to review that with my client so we can decide together how we are going to proceed.
Possession of Criminal Instruments Case
And the most interesting case I saw today is a charge that in my opinion is pretty silly. Its along the lines of possession of criminal instruments. You can be charged if an officer believes that you are using normal household items, and were planning on using them in a crime. For example: a person gets charged with breaking into a car in his past. If an officer pulls him over today and he has things in his car that look like they could be used to break into a car (crow bars, tire irons, bricks, pliers, etc), you can be charged with a crime. This is pretty silly in my opinion, unless there is darn good proof that something was imminent. If someone is just driving around with tools, I think it is ridiculous to charge them. It calls for way too many assumptions on the officer’s part.
Subjective Charges and its Impact
The problem in general with charges that are subjective, is even if the officers are wrong, the defendant is still affected even if his case is dismissed. They go to jail, they get their vehicle towed, they have to pay a bond to get out of jail, they have to spend big money on a lawyer, they have to miss work multiple times to go to court, etc. It’s not fair, but it’s one of the many problems with the legal system.
- DWI – Reset
- FSGI – Set for Dismissal
- Assault-FM – Reset
Statute of limitations is basically the time period that the state of Texas has to bring charges against someone. These time periods are different based on the type of case, the severity of the case, whether it was a violent crime, etc. If the time passes and the state has not brought charges, then they can never prosecute that case.
There are changes coming for the Pre-Trial Diversion Programs by the Harris County District Attorney’s Office. The most important change has to do with the ability of an individual to apply for an expunction on the case.
Every day in the courthouse I see young adults with no criminal record taking plea deals on misdemeanor theft cases. The problem is, they are not protecting their future. In my opinion, theft is the absolute worst type of misdemeanor you can have on your record. No one is ever going to want to hire someone who they think is a thief. For some reason, many people do not understand this, or are not given good advice.