s

Tag Archives: Houston Criminal Lawyer

Telling Good and Bad Lawyers Apart

Older versus Younger Lawyers

Good Lawyers Come in all Shapes and Sizes, Bad Lawyers do too

When looking for a criminal attorney it is very important to do your research, ask the appropriate questions, and be comfortable with the attorney who is representing you.

I became a lawyer when I was 25 years old, and I have been blessed to have enough work to have been in the courtroom almost every work day since I started practicing.  Now, as a lawyer in my 30’s, I still sometimes get the “looks” and the questions asking if I am even old enough to be a lawyer.  I have heard multiple times that “older is better”, “older equals more experience”, etc…and while it pertains to some attorneys, that could not be further than the truth.

There are many outstanding attorneys who have over 20 years of experience.  Attorneys that I would be willing to place my life in their hands if I ever had any legal trouble.  But there are also attorneys that have been licensed many years that I would NOT pay $1 to if they were the only attorney available.

On the flip side, there are many young attorneys who are wonderful.  Who fight day in and day out, who surround themselves with good mentors, who I would trust if I was a client.  And then of course, there are young attorneys who are just starting and simply don’t have a clue what is going on.

It’s tough when you find yourself in a situation where you don’t know who to hire.  The best bet is to ask a bunch of question to perspective attorneys, and go with someone who you will feel comfortable with.

Even as a somewhat young attorney, I am always honest about what my strategy would be, my experience on a particular type of case, etc.  I have hired co-counsels in past to help me on difficult cases, even if it means some of the money isn’t coming my way.  Because at the end of the day, it’s not about me, it’s about the person whose life is on the line.

Recently I was fired on a case where my client was facing a range of punishment of 25 years to life in prison.  The facts were not great, I did my research, worked the case, and was finally given an offer well under the minimum of 25 years.  The client fired me on good terms, stating that he appreciated everything I have done, but that, “he needed an old lawyer on his case, someone with more experience.”

His family told me the same thing and later I saw the name of the attorney who took the case over.  I had never heard of him so I looked him up and I saw that he was an older gentleman in his late 50s, but I also noticed that he went to law school and graduated in 2011.  So he has only been an attorney for 2 years, with much less experience than I have.

Now this attorney might be one of the wonderful recent graduates who surrounds himself with the right mentors, and does an excellent job for his clients….or he might be horrible.  Of course I don’t know for sure, but I am assuming that this client hired him simply because of his age, because that is what he told me.  But the point is, you should not judge a book by its cover.  Do your research, ask your questions, and make sure you are properly represented.

Grand Jury & No Bills

If you are a defendant and you are charged with a felony you should almost never plead guilty before your case is indicted.  In Texas every felony case is passed in front of a grand jury who decides whether or not to indict the case.   If you have a Houston Criminal Defense Attorney they will probably talk to you about the indictment and explain the process to you.  Most of the time cases seem “hopeless” and it is a foregone conclusion that the case will be indicted, but every once in a while a case who everyone (including defense attorneys and prosecutors) think will be indicted gets no billed (or dismissed).

Many times defendants take plea bargains quickly and just sign a “waiver of indictment”.  The judge usually goes over this document and asks again whether or not the defendant wants to plead guilty before the grand jury looks at the case.  Again, if you are pleading guilty, then it is very likely that the grand jury will indict, but you never know!

Today is a perfect example.  I had a client who was charged with a felony and the case was not very good for the defense.  The prosecutors were offering prison time or many years of probation.  Even though it looked like trial was going to be the only option to “win” the case, and that was my recommendation, my client decided he did not want to go to trial and wanted to take probation.  I advised him not to do that because the case had not been indicted, and I wanted to talk to the DA one last time.   I received a surprise today when I found out that my client’s case had been no billed by the grand jury.

While I am shocked that the case was no billed, I am sure any Houston Criminal Defense Attorneywould be as thrilled as I am.  It makes you wonder how many people have pled guilty quickly when a grand jury would possibly no bill a case.  So if you are a defendant you should definitely talk to your Criminal Lawyer in Houston about the grand jury process.

Motion for Non-Disclosure

The biggest mistake a Houston Criminal Defense Attorney can make is telling their clients after a deferred adjudication probation, that their record is clean.  Deferred adjudication is a type of probation where your case is dismissed if you finish the probation successfully.  So it is true that you do not have a conviction…BUT THE ARREST RECORD REMAINS VISIBLE TO EVERYONE!

The problem with deferred adjudication is that everyone who works in HR departments understands that you pled guilty to be placed on deferred, and the only reason that your case was dismissed was because you did probation.  To employers, apartment complexes, and schools, that dismissal is the same thing as a conviction.  They don’t care that you have a piece of paper saying that your record is clean.  In order to seal your record after you finish deferred, you need to file a motion for non-disclosure.

A motion for non-disclosure does not completely wipe your record clean, it will still be visible to governmental agencies and law enforcement, but THE GENERAL PUBLIC WILL NOT HAVE ACCESS TO THE RECORD!

Apartments, schools, and public jobs will no longer see that you were arrested, thus making your life less stressful.  In order to be eligible you must have finished your deferred adjudication probation.  With some misdemeanors you must wait two years after you finish probation to file for the non-disclosure.  Other types of misdemeanors allow you to file immediately upon completion of the probation (some judges has rules that you must wait a certain amount of time depending on the type of crime.  Call a local Criminal Lawyer in Houston to get a more personal evaluation).  HOWEVER, IF YOU WERE ON DEFERRED FOR A FELONY YOU MUST WAIT FIVE YEARS AFTER YOU COMPLETE YOUR DEFERRED ADJUDICATION PROBATION BEFORE YOU CAN FILE.

There is always one big catch.  You are NOT ELIGIBLE TO A NON-DISCLOSURE if you have been previously convicted of or placed on probation for any of the following:

  • Sexual performance by a child
  • Possession of production of child pornography
  • Unlawful restraint, kidnapping, or aggravated kidnapping of anyone under the age of 17
  • Attempt, conspiracy, or solicitation to commit any of these listed offenses
  • Capital murder
  • Murder
  • Indecency with a child
  • Sexual assault
  • Aggravated sexual assault
  • Prohibited sexual conduct (incest)
  • Aggravated kidnapping
  • Compelling prostitution
  • Injury to a child, elderly individual, or disabled individual
  • Abandoning or endangering a child
  • Violation of protective order or magistrate’s order
  • Stalking
  • Burglary of a habitation with the intent to commit any of the above offenses
  • Any other offense involving family violence

You also will not be eligible to get a non-disclosure if you were convicted of another crime after you finished your deferred adjudication!  I know it is confusing, so if you have any questions, find a Houston Criminal Defense Attorney that is willing to assist you.

Pre-Trial Intervention (Diversion) Program

As a Houston Criminal Defense Attorney I get the opportunity to defend many young individuals during stressful times in their life.  I see many young adults (17-21) who have gone their entire lives without being in trouble.  Usually they are charged with some misdemeanor such as theft that stemmed from a brief lack of judgment.   They typically enter my office scared that they ruined their future and are looking for guidance.  Luckily in Harris County there is a pre-trial intervention program that is set up to give a second chance to young people who deserve it.

The process starts by submitting a pre-trial intervention application through the chief prosecutor in the court the case is in.  A basic application includes a letter of apology to the victim/complainant, a letter from the defendant explaining why they need this extraordinary opportunity, letters of recommendation, indication of future goals/plans, and indication of a stable lifestyle/mitigating facts.  The court evaluates the application and decided whether or not to offer admission into the program.

If accepted, the pre-trail intervention (or pre-trial diversion) program is typically one year long (can be more for more serious offenses).  During this year the case in question is reset and pending.  Using a recent theft case I handled as an example, what is usually included in the program is an anti-theft class, a certain amount of hours of community service (typically 80), regular reporting to the probation department (even though you are technically not on probation), random drug tests, and a drug/alcohol evaluation.   The fees associated with the program are typically not more than $60 per month as per the agreement.

The bulk of the program can be completed in the first couple of months.  After that, the goal for the rest of the year is to not get in trouble.  When the defendant returns to court in one year, the assistant district attorney runs a criminal background check on the defendant, and if everything comes back clear the case is dismissed.

This is a true dismissal that can expunged off a record (which destroys the record for everyone). Any good Houston Criminal Defense Attorney would tell you that a pre-trial intervention dismissal is much better than a deferred adjudication (which is a type of probation) dismissal.  The big difference is the fact that pre-trial intervention dismissal is eventually expunction eligible while the deferred dismissal is only eligible for a motion for non-disclosure (which will keep the record visible to law enforcement and government agencies).  If you have a case you think might be eligible make sure to contact a Criminal Lawyer in Houston who can help you.

Using Classes to Make Individuals Better People

Sometimes a Houston Criminal Defense Attorney recommends that a client take remedial action to help their court case.  Some examples include Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) for clients with drinking problems, Narcotics Anonymous (NA) for clients with drug problems and Battering Intervention Prevention Program (BIPP) for domestic violence issues.  While it is true that these types of classes can be used to help in the “damage control” portion of a criminal case, what is truly important is using these programs to make an individual a better person.

It is easy to lose grasp of the fact that all of the individuals with criminal cases are real people with real lives.  Some attorneys have seen thousands of cases and forget this.  My goal is to always know who my clients are, and what their situation is.  At the end of the day, and at the end of the court proceedings, I might never see my client again, but they will go on dealing with their issues forever.  It is not uncommon that I sit down with my clients and recommend different treatment programs that will help them in the future.  Sometimes we never even mention, nor use, the treatment records in court.  It is truly about the big picture and trying to make sure that every one of my clients at least knows what resources are out there to help them.

At the end of the day if my clients choose to take my advice and get help for themselves, then wonderful.  If not, well at least I know that I did everything in my power to try to help them.  Being a Criminal Lawyer in Houston is a job that individuals can use to make a difference, or a job that can be taken for granted.  I take pride in being the best Houston Criminal Defense Attorney I can be.  And sometimes that means being more than an attorney, it means being a mentor, a guide, and a neutral observer who can help someone change their life for the better.