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Archive for the ‘Criminal Law’ Category

Stay of Execution Granted to look at DNA

Monday, November 7th, 2011

The law regarding retesting of DNA evidence changed while a Texas man was on Death Row. The new set of rules had never been applied to his case. Stay of execution granted. It will be interesting to see how long the stay is in place. The Houston Chronicle reports on the case here.

Job Hunting with a Criminal Background

Wednesday, May 4th, 2011

Remember when it took true detective skills to track down your best friend from the third grade? Those days are definitely gone, as the Internet has made privacy almost obsolete. While companies were once required to physically search court records, they may now easily uncover job applicants’ criminal backgrounds using the Internet and a surplus of screening companies. In an already tight job market, at least 21 percent of those job seekers have a criminal record, making job placement even less likely. Read how this is trend has affected millions of Americans.

One in four Americans, almost 65 million people, have some type of criminal record, according to a report by the National Employment Law Project. This number has grown due to stricter sentencing and enforcement for non-violent crimes, such as drug offenses and speeding tickets.

There is no federal law that prohibits discrimination against people with criminal records, but the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (E.E.O.C.) has established rules about how employers may use their found information. (Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.) In an economy where jobs are scarce and applicants are abundant, employers often opt for those not carrying legal baggage.

New studies called redemption research find that the risk that an ex-offender will be re-arrested decreases substantially over time, (first time offenders: 7-10 years after conviction) making the chances the same as that of someone of the same age with no record.

If have questions about clearing your record contact an experienced Texas Expunction Attorney.

Does Society Benefit From Blocked Careers?

Wednesday, May 4th, 2011

Which is safer: denying ex-cons a job in their chosen profession or having them gainfully employed? The Austin American Statesman explores this issue here.

Each year the debate continues as ex-offenders with criminal pasts are denied state licenses to work as doctors, nurses, barbers, roofers, foundation repairmen, parts recyclers, court interpreters, locksmiths, security guards, plumbers, elevator inspectors, boxing match timekeepers, commercial dog or cat breeders and more than 100 other occupations (nearly a third of the Texas workforce) by the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation.

According to The Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation, each applicant is reviewed on a case-by-case basis, and denial for one license for one occupation doesn’t necessarily automatically guarantee denial for another one.

As access to these career fields continue to be blocked, the economy isn’t making things any easier as state legislators such as Republican Florence Shapiro, chairwoman of the Senate Education Committee, claims the money the state spends each year on the Windham School District, the public school system for prisoners, should be eliminated. Shapiro thinks it’s the biggest waste of money she’s seen.

The question remains: If rehabilitating people is part of reintegrating them into society, how is this possible when they cannot land a job?

Stop! You’re on Candid Camera.

Tuesday, March 8th, 2011

Speed cameras have popped up sporadically throughout Texas, giving the ‘Big Brother is Watching You’ saying a whole new meaning. But Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott is not interested in seeing these automatic devices in Texas, and recently denied the City of Plano’s request for their police officers to use handheld laser speed guns equipped with cameras and GPS devices because of a Texas law which bans such devices. Abbott sited the Transportation Code, which prohibits the use of automated devices to gather evidence before initiating a traffic stop. (Plano was not as interested in mailing citations as gathering additional evidence during a conventional traffic stop for later use in court.)

Abbott says no.

State Representative Vicki Truitt (R-Southlake) argued that these automatic devices can’t discern extenuating circumstances, or request proof of registration from the driver. If the car’s owner is not the driver, the unaware owner could easily find himself in court for a violation that someone else caused.

Additionally, laser guns have shown ‘wild errors,’ (also used in the United Kingdom) clocking a parked car at 22 MPH and a slow-moving bicycle at 66 MPH. Reading problems seem to occur when the laser beam slips from one portion of a vehicle to another, such as from the windshield to the grill.

Read the whole story here.

Do Ankle Monitors Work?

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011

Is it time to think outside of the ankle monitor, inventing better tracking technologies or maybe considering more realistic options?

Issuing electronic monitoring devices instead of imprisonment became mainstream in the early 80s, when the devices became inexpensive and manageable. Today there are two types of monitors.  One determines if the offender breaks curfew or remains on house arrest, and the other version continuously tracks the person with GPS signals, providing minute-by-minute location information. The question is: How reliable and adequate are today’s ankle monitors?

The effectiveness of both types of monitors is questionable, as offenders continue to tamper with them, remove them and even commit crimes while wearing them. Martha Stewart wore an ankle monitor for five months while under house arrest, and openly says YouTube is a great educational resource for learning how to remove the device. Any offender with computer access could be monitor-free after viewing a few online demonstrations.

And what about responses from parole officers? These devices send alerts for various violations, but in many cases, the officers don’t respond. How are hundreds of unanswered alerts solving the problem?

Even if the ankle monitor is worn faithfully, many violent offenders haven’t been deterred from continuing to commit crimes. Should the judicial system make tougher decisions about these offenders instead of offering them ankle bracelets?

If you have questions contact San Antonio Criminal Defense Attorney Sam Lock.

Read more about the topic here.

DO THE BLACKBERRY AND ‘CSI’ EFFECTS EXIST?

Sunday, February 13th, 2011

According to two recent studies, using sophisticated technology might raise juror expectations (The BlackBerry effect) more than watching the popular television show: Crime Show Investigation (CSI), also nicknamed the CSI effect.

Judge Donald Shelton, the chief judge of Washnew County in Ann Arbor, Michigan, wanted to determine whether jurors believed crimes could be solved with extravagant technologies (by well-groomed investigators with an accompanying hip soundtrack) in a magical 60-minute timeframe. The study proved that frequent CSI watchers expected more evidence to be presented, but those expectations didn’t translate into a prerequisite for conviction.

The second study found that the more sophisticated the jurors were in their technology use, the more they expected prosecutors to present scientific evidence, such as DNA, fingerprint and ballistic evidence. Is it that these jurors are more educated or have their BlackBerrys have made them more critical thinkers?

The studies asked these questions:

  1. Do jurors expect prosecutors to present scientific evidence?
  2. Do jurors demand scientific evidence as a condition for a guilty verdict?
  3. Are juror expectations and demands for scientific evidence related to watching law-related television shows?

So, CSI is simply entertaining, and doesn’t affect a juror’s overall expectations of the criminal justice system. Maybe these studies will convince prosecutors to curtail meaningless tests and fancy animation, just to show technology in use?

Learn more about Shelton’s studies on the ABA’s website.

Domestic Violence Dominates the News

Monday, June 21st, 2010

A quick survey of newspapers around the State of Texas reveals a number of domestic violence related stories from over the weekend.

In San Antonio, a domestic violence suspect was shot and killed.  A domestic disturbance near Dallas left two officers dead.

Law enforcement, prosecutors and judges are justifiably on edge when dealing with domestic violence in courts.  Potential punishments for offenders range from the most minor misdemeanors to the most serious felonies.

Many times, I have to explain to my clients that most of them will be viewed as potential future murderers, in the eyes of the system.  No officer, prosecutor or judge wants to be the one that let the murderer go on some previous charge.  Knowing the perspective of the judges and prosecutors helps a person’s lawyer better defend them in court.  The lawyer should also keep updated on what’s playing out in the news, to know when sensitivities are particularly high.

If you have been charged with domestic violence contact an experienced San Antonio Criminal Attorney.

The Most Difficult Case

Sunday, December 13th, 2009

When I speak to law students or young lawyers, I am often asked, “Which cases are the hardest?”  The answer is an easy one.  THE most difficult cases to defend are those where you KNOW your client is innocent.  The cases will keep you up nights.  The cases will tie you stomach in knots.  Sometimes, no amount of lawyering will overcome a witness who is determined to lie, conceal the facts and undermine the fairness of a judicial proceeding.

Sometimes witnesses start out with a small lie and allow the lie to fester and grow because they are afraid to stop what they’ve put in motion.  Talkleft.com recently blogged about a recent case from New York where a man was released from prison after serving four years of a twenty year sentence.  The AP story appears here. Luckily for the defendant, DNA evidence was available and reviewed.  The lying complainant stated that she initially told her lie because she wanted people to feel sorry for her and thought the man would be acquitted because of a lack of evidence.

Texas Forensic Science Commission

Sunday, November 8th, 2009

On the heels of a recent uproar over secrecy, suppressed findings and untimely dismissals, Governor Rick Perry’s newly appointed Chair of the Texas Forensic Science Commission outlines his ideas for the Texas Forensic Science Commission here.  The Blog Grits for Breakfast, reports on a story from Texas Lawyer that the newly appointed chair, Williamson County District Attorney John Bradley, has the following ideas for the commission going forward:

  • Making investigations secret and meetings about them closed.
  • Re-education of commissioners: “Bradley says that when people act as investigators and judges, they typically should have some background in that work. Most members of the commission don’t do investigative work and need training, he says.”
  • Lengthening terms for commissioners. (No word why the governor couldn’t just reappoint if continuity is so important.)
  • Creating new rules and procedures for the commission (no detail).
  • “Clarifying” whether the commission has authority to investigate the Willingham case. (He seems unwilling to take his former boss Sen. John Whitmire’s word for it.)

Driving Under the Influence – of Snap, Crackle and Pop

Monday, May 18th, 2009

Add this story to the list of crazy things drivers do, instead of driving:  Eating Cereal.

“Police said a man who was stopped for erratic driving on Central Avenue last week was eating a bowl of cereal and milk while he drove. He told officers he was hungry,” says the Boston Globe story posted on the ABC News website.

I’ve previously written about texting and other cell phone usage while driving here. If you have been arrested or accused of DWI contact and experienced San Antonio DWI attorney at 210-226-0965.