A Look into SWEWP, Harris County’s New Program and a DWI Case that Touches on Plea Bargains
SWEWP is the new program in Harris County program, short for Sheriffs Weekend Work Program. In this program you are sentenced to jail time and a TDL suspension, but instead of actually going to jail you are allowed to do a weekend community service work program instead. In this program you get 3 for 1 credit. For example, if you get sentenced to 30 days in jail, you will need to work 10 days.
For this SWEWP program, the judge must first approve, you fill out a contract which has all of your work details. You are instructed that you have to work every Saturday and Sunday (from 7am – 3pm) until your sentence is complete. You go in front of the judge, plead guilty, the judge sentences you, and then you go to the SWEWP window at 49 San Jacinto for further instructions. This is a great option for individuals who do not want to do probation or go to jail. It is not automatic however; every judge is different as to what types of cases they will accept SWEWP plea bargains on.
DWI Case and Plea Bargains
Today I went to court with an individual who was being charged with Driving While Intoxicated (DWI). We have been working on this DWI case for many months, gathering all of the documents, evidence, etc. Many times it is in a person’s best interest to fight the case and go to trial. Many times, if you go to trial and lose you will get probation on a 1st time DWI. If you plead guilty to the DWI, the typical plea bargain is probation as well. So why would you plea guilty and guarantee yourself a conviction when you can at least have a chance at trial?
Why do People Take Plea Bargains
Most people decide to take plea bargains for a multitude of reasons –
- They don’t want to go to trial because they feel like they are going to lose
- They don’t want to risk getting a worse punishment
- They don’t want to pay for trial
- Their lawyer convinces them not to go to trial, etc, etc
In my client’s DWI case he was afraid of going to trial because he was not a citizen, and he was scared of possible consequences if he went to jail, and he also wanted to accept responsibility. In Harris County, a typical plea bargain is either 1 year probation (with no driver’s license suspension), or 30 days in jail (which is 2 for 1 credit, so 15 days, with a 1 year TDL suspension). That’s typical, but not always the case, a couple of judges allow fines only, its court specific.
- DWI – Client Entered SWEWP Program
- PCS – Reset
Hit and Run / Failure to Stop and Give Information Reset for our Client
Went to court today on a hit and run case. The facts of the hit and run case do not make much sense. My client is accused of not leaving her information at the time of the accident.
The case is confusing, I am going to have to spend some time investigating this one. First of all, the complainants are saying that the accident was not their fault (they hit my client from behind, their insurance already paid for my clients car, their insurance already settled with my clients personal injury lawyer). It was obviously their fault, so I don’t know where that comes from. Police reports were made days later, it’s a big “he said she said” on who left first. We will see what happens with that. We ended up getting a reset on the hit and run case, we need to get proof of certain items for the next setting.
DWI Case and Elevator Problems at the Criminal Courthouse
I also dropped of a DVD to make a copy of a very interesting DWI case. My client claims that there were camera crews recording his arrest, so that will be interesting to see.
The unfortunate part about dropping that video off was that it took me 30 minutes to get from the second floor back down to the first floor. There are like 10 elevators in the criminal courthouse and they never seem to work. We really either need to get a new building or we need to trade with the civil courthouse. It’s crazy that the civil courthouse is so much better suited to handle the load of people that the criminal courthouse takes in on a daily basis, but the civil courthouse is always empty. They have wonderful elevators, and even escalators that allow individuals to choose how they will get to where they need to go. The criminal courthouse is a huge fire hazard, and let’s hope there is never a situation where the building needs to be evacuated.
I am back in the Benavides & Serrano office now preparing to meet with a client on an interesting Aggravated Assault of a Family Member case. And then I have a couple of consultations this afternoon as well. I am definitely ready for the weekend. I’m excited to get to spend some time with my wife and daughter and enjoy my first father’s day with them. Not to mention its US Open Weekend, and we will have a game 7 in the NBA finals! It should be a good weekend.
- Failure to Stop and Give Information – Reset
Aggravated Assault Case with Some Immigration Complications
Today in court I had a couple of cases I was working on. The one which took up most of my morning was actually me trying to get off of an aggravated assault case. A family hired me to help their family member who was charged with a serious felony.
We went back and forth for days trying to get him to bond out. The problem was it involved an aggravated assault case that needed a protective order (restraining order). In these types of aggravated assault cases they don’t put a bond until the individual sees a judge. So finally he saw a judge and a bond was set, along with a court date.
The family was able to get the funds to bond him out, but unfortunately once he made it to the county jail from the processing center an Immigration ICE hold was placed on him. An ICE hold is basically a federal hold placed under someone’s name that makes it impossible to bond them out. They are held in the county jail until their case is over. Once their case is over they are sent over to the federal immigration detention center where deportation proceedings are commenced.
Many times if we can “win” the criminal case, and if the individual has a clean record otherwise, there are certain immigration defenses that can help the person once they are with immigration. Unfortunately, in this aggravated assault case the defendant has prior convictions that make him deportable from the country. So even if the criminal case were to be dismissed, he would still be looking at being deported.
In these situations my job is the same, do the best I can to assist him in the criminal case. At the end of the day, he is still facing a charge that carries a range of punishment from 2-20 years in prison. If he gets sentenced to jail, he will have to serve that before he ever gets to immigration. Based on what I learned about the case, this person has a very good defense. I was eager to help, but when the family found out that no matter what happens he would be deported, they decided it was best to just proceed with a court appointed lawyer. I understand, and I wish that client the best.
Possession of Synthetic Marijuana
My other case was a possession of synthetic marijuana case and it was a quick reset as we are still waiting on some important evidence. Tomorrow I have a very interesting new case with unique issues. Time to start preparing for that.
- Felony Aggravated Assault w/ Deadly Weapon – Withdrew from the case
- Felony Possession of Synthetic Marijuana – Reset
Case Results for June 16th, 2016
The two main cases I handled today were a prostitution case and an assault-family member case. I had an interesting, and I would say successful day in the criminal courthouse.
The prostitution case was a tough one to defend. It involved a sting in the community where undercover officers posed as prostitutes and lured individuals in. My client unfortunately made a bad decision and went down to the hotel where a bunch of officers were eagerly waiting to arrest him.
I was very fortunate to have a DA in this particular court that took a step back, looked at the entire situation, and made a judgement call that not only benefited the community in the short term, but also benefited my client in the long term. Today we were able to walk out of the court with a dismissal. My client took an aids awareness class, did community service, and the case was dismissed. He was very, very pleased with the outcome. The last step will to be to get this case expunged. Prostitution can be a very embarrassing charge to have on your background check when you are applying for jobs! So even though this prostitution case was dismissed, the arrest record will still show up. So our work is not done, but we will hopefully clear everything up for him in the near future with the expunction.
Assault / Family Member Case
My other case today was a bit different. The assault-family member case absolutely did not make any sense. There was zero evidence to arrest my client and there was actually even more evidence to show that he was the victim. I had a talk with the DA who agreed there were problems with the case and agreed on a dismissal with conditions. This should have been an immediate dismissal, however, the DA asked for him to take an anger management class before he dismissed it. Now in certain situations we would reject that offer, but in this situation it made more sense for my client to just suck it up and do the class, in order to get it dismissed faster (which reduced the amount of days my client has to miss work).
The District Attorney
Sometimes DA’s do the right thing and work with us like they did in the prostitution case where the defense might be more difficult, and sometimes defense attorneys agree to mitigation classes on cases that should be straight dismissals (also for the greater good). You have to take the good with the bad, it evens out. At the end of the day, the outcome (preferably a dismissal!) is the most important part.
2 cases, 2 dismissals, I got to say it was a good day.
- Misdemeanor Prostitution – Dismissed
- Misdemeanor Assault-Family Member – Set for Dismissal
Good couple of weeks for some of our criminal clients