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Will Hall, Author at Dallas Criminal Lawyer - The Law Office of James Lee Bright
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Will Hall

dwi blood draw

A Crime Lab Sent Blood Vials for a Dallas County DWI Case to a Lawyer in Houston

By | Dallas County Law

Chain of custody. For those outside the legal profession, those words probably do not mean much, and there is no reason they should. There are many industry specific terms that those outside of that industry are most likely unfamiliar, and again, rightly so. The word for that is ‘jargon’. So, chain of custody is legal specific jargon. Defined, chain of custody refers to the chronological documentation or paper trail that records the sequence of custody, control, transfer, analysis, and disposition of physical or electronic evidence. That is, when a piece of evidence is found at a crime scene, there is supposed to be a meticulous paper trail that records every movement of that evidence from the moment that it is seized. It is a vital process whose purpose is to maintain the integrity of the evidence in question.

The O.J. Simpson trial in the early 1990’s is a perfect example of what happens when the integrity of chain of custody is shattered. The errors in chain of custody for that case were many. One of the main issues was that blood samples obtained from the scene where Nicole Simpson and Ron Goldman were murdered were not immediately entered into the chain of custody. In fact, there is sworn testimony that officers who received those blood samples carried them around for an extended period of time before they were entered into the chain of custody rather than the appropriate time, which would have been the very moment that those officers received the evidence. One officer was walking around with blood vials in his pocket. Another put blood samples in a carboard box in the trunk of his car and were not entered into the chain of custody until a day later. What this does is call into questions the integrity of the evidence. How do we know that those samples were not in some way tampered with or manipulated is some way. The officers involved swore that was not the case, but how do we know? And that is the point. That is why the chain of custody is so important in maintaining the integrity of evidence in any criminal investigation.

chain

Well, the Department of Public Safety’s crime lab in Houston, Texas is facing some serious questions about their chain of custody practices and the integrity of evidence that passes though that lab when blood samples from a case in Dallas County were mistakenly mailed to Tyler Flood, a criminaldefense attorney in Houston, Texas, who had no connection whatsoever to the case in which the blood samples were evidence. Bear in mind, these were not the results of tests on blood samples for a case in which this dwi lawyer was not the legal representative for the Defendant in questions. These were the actual samples of the defendent’s blood. “It was a huge blunder by the lab. Nobody outside the lab should ever be mailed evidence in any case, period. It was supposed to be sent back to the DPS Garland lab,” said Flood, who immediately requested an investigation by the Texas Forensic Science Commission. “The all important ‘chain of custody’ has been destroyed in this case,” he said. “Somewhere in the Dallas area, a jury would be asked to convict this person when the evidence has been completely mishandled and they might never have known about it.”

It is unsettled what will become of the case for this DWI Defendant after his blood samples were mistakenly mailed to lawyer and not the crime lab they should have been sent to. The odds on favorite are that the case will be dismissed. It would be a very hard sell at trial to convince a jury beyond a reasonable doubt that the Defendant in this case, who was charged with Driving While Intoxicated, should be convicted when the chain of custody has been so obviously broken. As for the Department of Public Safety crime lab who made the error, it will be up to an investigation to decide that matter.

Featured Photo by Pranidchakan Boonrom from Pexels

Chain Photo by Pixabay.com as provided by Pexels

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judge's gavel

Dallas County Bail Practices Suspended by Judge for Constitutional Violations

By | Dallas County Law

People accused of crimes in Dallas County may soon be paying less to get released from jail thanks to a Federal judge.

Many counties in Texas and across the country use bond schedules when the magistrate judge sets bail for a person who was been arrested for a criminal offense. A bond schedule is essentially a guide to which judges refer when setting a bond. For example, in Dallas County, the bond schedule advises that the standard bond for a DWI 1st, where the arrested person has no criminal history and there are no other factors, should be set at $500. Federal Judge David Godbey has ordered a temporary injunction prohibiting Dallas County magistrate judges from consulting the bond schedule moving forward.

Opponents of the bond schedule argue that magistrate judges who consult them are not considering other bond amounts or alternatives allowing for the arrested person’s release from jail pending the resolution of his or her case(s). Judge Godbey agreed, writing in his decision that that the groups who filed suit would likely win that suit on the merits of their arguments. The judge further stated that the use of bond schedules without considering the arrested person’s ability to pay was a constitutional violation of that person’s right of equal protection under the law. Under the judge’s order, Dallas County magistrate judges must now make individual assessments as to an arrested person’s ability to pay and whether there are alternative conditions that would guarantee that person’s appearance in court.

Under the order, pretrial staff at the Crowley Courts Building must verify an arrested person’s ability to pay bail and explain the process to them. Dallas County must provide the arrested person booked at the Lew Sterrett jail with an individual hearing within 48 hours if a magistrate judge doesn’t not release him or her after they have indicated that he or she cannot afford bail. In addition, pretrial staff must deliver a completed affidavit to the Dallas County Sheriff’s Office in advance of the arrested person’s probable cause hearing attesting that he or she is unable to afford the costs of his or her bail. The ruling will not, however, apply to persons subjected to a hold by another agency, those waiting for a mental health evaluation or those who are deemed to be too dangerous for release back into the general public.

Opponents of the ruling state that the attempt to move judges away from the bond schedule is simply a way to release more people charged with crimes back onto the street and that the move is nothing more than a cost-cutting measure for the city that puts the general public in danger of being inundated with people who belong behind bars due to the crimes they’ve committed. As evidence, they point to statements made by County Judge Clay Jenkins who has stated that if the jail population falls to a certain level, the county could close a tower and save taxpayers $20 million a year. The opponents argue that there are better ways to save the taxpayers money than by releasing people charged with criminal offenses back into the public.

The suit was originally brought by six Dallas County inmates whose bond amounts ranged from $500 to $50,000.

Featured photo from Pexels.com

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young adult girl smoking marijuana

Texas May Soon Legalize Marijuana

By | Texas Drug Laws

Texas is known for a few things: Longhorn steers, cowboy hats, J.R. Ewing, the Alamo. You get the picture. Texas is also known as a predominantly conservative state. Texans love God, Country, and guns, as the old saying goes. Shockingly, marijuana may soon be added to this list.

In a move that can only be described as unexpected by most, the Republican Party of Texas has voted to approve party platform planks that endorse the decriminalization of marijuana. The Texas GOP is also recommending the Federal Government change cannabis’ drug classification. It probably should be restated, so that everyone is sure that they are reading what they think they are reading: the OFFICIAL position of the Texas Republican party now includes the decriminalization of marijuana and a reclassification under Federal drug scheduling guidelines. It is awfully cold in hell today.

In 2015, Texas lawmakers legalized the medical use of low-THC medical cannabis extracts, and during least year’s legislative session, bills to provide more comprehensive medical cannabis access and decriminalize marijuana were offered. Receiving record support from legislators, the bills were not ultimately voted upon before the session ended. However, even such incremental steps could not have predicted this huge new policy shift by the Texas GOP.

So, what are the specific planks that the Texas GOP has adopted? It won’t be a free-for-all with no regulations or restrictions whatsoever, which will be sure to disappoint some, but clearly the message being sent by Texas Republicans is that there has been a demonstrable culture shift since the days of “Reefer Madness”. Here is the list:

1) Civil rather than Criminal penalty: Possession of marijuana for personal use below two ounces would be a civil offense rather than a criminal offense, with a fine up to $100 and no possibility of jail time. This measure passed 81%-19%.

2) Compassionate Use Act: This would expand the aforementioned 2015 law to allow doctors to determine the appropriate use of cannabis to certified patients. This measure passed 90%-10%.

3) Cannabis Classification: Calls for Congress to change cannabis’ current Federal drug schedule classification from Schedule 1 to Schedule 2. This measure passed 82%-18%.

4) Hemp: Calls for legislation allowing for the cultivation, manufacture and sale of industrial hemp and hemp products. This measure passed 83%-17%.

marijuana leaf

What has led such a conservative party is such a conservative state to make such a drastic shift in policy? One factor has been the willingness of Texas Republicans to acknowledge the therapeutic effects cannabis can have for those suffering from a variety of ailments. Heather Fazio, a coordinator for Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy, stated, “Texas conservatives are seeing the value of medical cannabis and want to see more inclusive access.” Currently, cannabis is primarily used to combat those suffering from illnesses or ailments that cause severe pain. However, there are current studies being conducted in an attempt to find other therapeutic uses.

Another factor is the continually diminishing social stigma attached to marijuana. Several weeks ago, President Trump stated that he supports pending bipartisan legislation to let states implement their own marijuana legalization laws without Federal interference. While an argument can certainly be made that the President’s proclamation has more to do with States’ rights than with marijuana legalization, the fact that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is actively attempting to pass hemp legalization legislation with full support of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s (D-NY) support, is indicative of the waning stigma attached to it. In a town where the two major political parties agree on nothing, they have come together on marijuana. See the “hell” comment above.

The remaining major factor in the Texas GOP’s policy shift is one that is familiar to politicians and government, in general: money. As Heather Fazio stated, “Our state wastes valuable criminal resources arresting between 60,000 to 70,000 Texans annually [for marijuana possession].” Eliminating this type of arrest frees local and state authorities to focus on other crimes, more serious crimes.

So, what is the takeaway? Is the Texas GOP becoming more “liberal?” Doubtful. Will it lead to the legalization of other drugs? Again, doubtful. But, what it does show is one of the things that makes American Democracy great: if enough of the people unite on a single issue, loudly enough and for long enough, politicians will eventually be forced to follow suit. That the Republican Party of Texas, a red party in one of the reddest states, is voicing support for such comprehensive marijuana reforms, it is just the latest indication of how mainstream marijuana has become, not only in American life, but in American politics as well.

Featured Photo by Seth Doyle on Unsplash
Marijuana Leaf Photo by Rick Proctor on Unsplash

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Do Not be Tempted to Cheat the State in a Slow Economy

By | Uncategorized

The economy is in dire straits, as everyone knows.  Unemployment is up.  Gas prices are again on the rise.  Times are difficult for almost every American, no matter who they are.  When times are difficult, there are times when we start to consider options that we might not consider otherwise.  Any time the economy is poor, when unemployment is up, there are increases in the numbers of people making use of some of the social programs set up to help those who need help, i.e. unemployment, food stamps, TANF, etc.  During these times, there is also a rise in people who take advantage of that system.

The State has little patience for those who fraudulently syphon benefits that could go to those who truly need it.  In times of economic downturn, the State has even less patience with those people.  There has been a very dramatic increase in the number of these benefit fraud cases over the last year or so.  The State does not hesitate to prosecute these cases to the full extent of the law.  Times are tough, but do not make them tougher by subjecting yourself to this kind of prosecution.

Supreme Court Makes Major Change to Juvenile Criminal Law

By | Uncategorized

The United States Supreme Court has recently ruled that persons under the age of 18 may no longer be sentenced to a prison term of life without the possibility of parole.  The Court has stated that those who commit crimes as juveniles, citing a number of reasons, should not be punished for the entirety of their lives based on decisions that they make when they are legally considered children.  Click on the link below to read the Court’s decision.

http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/11pdf/10-9646.pdf

Know What to Do if You are Stopped for DWI.

By | Uncategorized

Many people know the discomfort of seeing a police car while driving after having had a drink or two before getting behind the wheel.  Fewer, however, know the terror of actually being stopped under those circumstances.  The decisions a person makes in those minutes enormously influence what evidence the State will have against you when they prosecute.

Police have routines.  One of those routines is to say that they “detect the odor of alcohol” when pulling over a person driving during peak “drinking hours”, usually evenings and weekends.  This is the statement they use to say that they have probable cause to get you out of the vehicle and to begin a DWI investigation.

After you are out of the car, be very aware that you are being video and audio recorded. Stand as straight as possible. Do not be chatty.  Answer questions as succinctly as possible.  You have the right to refuse any roadside breath tests or field sobriety tests that are offered to you.

You will also be taped once you have entered a special room in the Police station once you have been brought in.  Again, stand as straight as possible and answer any questions succinctly.  You have the right to refuse a breath test when they ask you to take it.  In Texas, it is legal, however, for Police agencies to secure blood-draw warrants, which allows for blood to be taken from you.  Do no resist or tell the Police that your Constitutional rights are being violated.

The videotape and audio recordings are a large part of the evidence used against you.  The better you look and sound, the harder it is to prove that you were impaired.  If you, a friend or loved one is arrested for DWI, contact our offices immediately.

 

YOU DO NOT HAVE TO HAVE ILLEGAL DRUGS ON YOUR PERSON TO RECEIVE A POSSESSION CHARGE!

By | dallas lawyers, Uncategorized

Unfortunately, what a person thinks should be illegal has no bearing on what is actually illegal.  And sometimes, what people see as common sense is too simplistic for the vast and confusing web of laws that exist on both the State and Federal levels.  For example, one would logically assume that to receive a charge for the possession of illegal drugs, one would actually need to be in possession of those drugs.  However, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (The Texas Supreme Court for Criminal Law) has recently ruled that this is not the case.

In Blackman v. State, 2011 WL 1376732 (Tx. Crim. App. 2011), a person was arrested, tried and convicted of the offense of possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver.  The defendant in question was riding in the passenger seat of a car in which the drugs in question were discovered on the floorboard behind the driver’s seat.  The Court of Criminal Appeals stated ANY rational trier of fact could have found the defendant guilty of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt.  In other words, the Court was stating that any jury of reasonable people would assume that by riding in the car, the defendant knew and most likely handled the drugs at some point.  As a result of this ruling, ANY person who places themselves in the vicinity of illegal drugs places themselves in a position to be charged with possession of those drugs.

Is this common sense?  How often when you get into someone else’s car do you check under the seat to see if they hide their drugs there?  When was the last time when you looked under the seats of your car to see what was under there?  What one may think is common sense DOES NOT MATTER with regards to the laws on the books and courts’ interpetations of those laws.

The Bottom Line:  If you put yourself into a situation where there are drugs around, know that you too can be charged with possession of those drugs, even if they aren’t yours, they aren’t in your control and even if you had no idea there were drugs in the immediate area.  Be careful where you go and who you associate with.

If you, a friend or loved one has been arrested for drug possession, or any other criminal offense, call our offices immediately.