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Dallas County Law Archives | Dallas Criminal Lawyer - The Law Office of James Lee Bright
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Dallas County Law

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.

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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.

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