Wow, so this decision has quietly just slipped by under the radar (or maybe I'm just foolish enough to believe it isn't already smeared across the blogosphere). The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, not known for being defense friendly, has taken a close look at dog-sniff evidence. Turns out they didn't like it so much. In a September 22, 2010 opinion, the CCA reversed the Court of Appeals and overturned a murder conviction and Richard Lynn Winfrey's 75 year prison sentence. The CCA ruled that while dog-scent evidence may be admissible, it alone will not support a conviction. Winfrey's conviction was based almost solely on a dog-sniff lineup, and the CCA took the opportunity to research current studies and publications on the subject. The opinion is in many respects a breath of fresh air.
Automatic traffic cameras are a relatively recent addition to the Austin landscape. I think they came in about the same time as the high rise condos downtown, but that's probably just coincidence. I started noticing them a few years ago at busy intersections. You can consider it a call from reality, that Austin is slowly becoming a big city. Or you can reason that the poor economic times have forced the city to reach for funds in new ways, like the new solar parking meters. (I love the fact that they're solar, and that they take credit cards, but I resent the fact that they installed them in many spots that didn't have meters before.)
I'll admit that the referring article here is a bit old (January)- but since it's a list for 2009 and the 2010 list is not out yet, I feel safe that it's relevant.Â Of course, some of the bars at the top have likely shifted, as the hierarchy of the hippest newest club develops.Â Not to say that there aren't plenty of old Austin stalwarts on the list, even places I (ahem) may have frequented back in the day...
Ok, sorry for the dramatic headline, but it's in reference to an article that I thought was worth sharing. One of my pet issues/concerns is the inability of folks who have been convicted to keep others from finding out about it. Not so much other people they may know, but people like apartment managers, licensing boards, the company that has that job you want, etc.Â DrugÂ charges are a particularly hot topic for screening, and simply having a drug arrest can prevent you from getting a job, even if the drug case was dismissed!Â Â
This leads up to my larger concern- the inability of those who have only been arrested, but NOT convicted, to keep that record private. Specifically, anyone who entered into a Deferred Adjudication agreement to resolve a case, which is a probation where the offense is dismissed (without a conviction) at the end of probation. Convictions can ALL be found in background checks, but entities have become more and more able to gain access to complete records which show not only convictions but, (surprise!) arrests. And sadly, not many screeners care about the distinction between a conviction and deferred adjudication- where there's smoke there's fire... so if you took deferred adjudication to avoid having a conviction, you may still be looked upon differently simply because they know you were arrested.
In any event, the article is something good to chew on. Also, sorry for the plug, but it's a good reason to hire a good drug lawyer or Austin jail release. Aside from a dismissal, or maybe a not-guilty verdict, there are other ways to resolve cases that will allow for full expunction later (which is where a court orders all records of the arrest, bond, booking, etc. to be destroyed). A good criminal lawyer can advise you of your options, and help you make decisions that may well affect your future for decades. Enough jabber, here's the article: http://articles.moneycentral.msn.com/CollegeAndFamily/Advice/WhatIllegalDrugUseCanCostYou.aspx
If you were caught carrying weed in Austin within the last year or two, you may have noticed that you got to walk away with a citation instead of going directly to jail.Â The recent trend of not booking everyone who commits a minor crime in Travis County seems to have caught on, with groups of folks showing up as directed to JP5, and then later to the booking desk, personal bonds in hand.Â These folks are going home after a minor, pre-planned appointment with the laws.Â I am republishing a post made back during the time this was still a fresh issue, because there seems to be a lot of curiosity about the process.Â Incidentally, in Vermont, where I used to practice, almost every suspect was cited to come to court at a later time, even on many felonies.Â They would then be arraigned and given their conditions of release, or occasionally incarcerated.Â In any case, very efficient use of limited police personnel who can stay on the street protecting the public.Â I'd be interested to know anyone's feelings about this- do we really need to take everyone to jail, for every ol' thing??Â Apologies in advance for rehashing an old topic.Â
Many people never expect to have any dealings with the police.Â In reality, there are a host of charges that can result in someone being taken to jail by surprise.Â It is actually quite easy to get arrested, and not always because you meant to break the law.Â Sometimes it's a check you wrote five years ago that bounced, but you moved and never received the notice to pay, and now it's an arrest warrant.Â Sometimes it's driving after your license has expired and you don't realize it.Â Either way, it's good to understand the process so you can try to get a jail release as quickly as possible.
This is a phone call we get all the time, from people all over the state.Â It usually begins with "I moved away and just stopped going to court" or "I assumed it was all taken care of."Â As time goes by, folks often get new jobs and want to clean up their past messes.Â
I was scrolling through Craigslist Austin this morning and came across an ad for $20 portable breathalyzers. The ad stated ""Get yours and avoid a DUI." Is this the magic bullet that will finally allow you to party within the legal limits and drive safely home without getting arrested?The short answer is NO, and so is the long answer. Let's take a closer look.
This is one of the most frequent questions we receive, andÂ the subject of much confusion.Â If you have been convicted of an offense (i.e., a judge or jury has found you guilty) thenÂ that conviction sticks and never goes away.Â If that's not good incentive to hire a lawyer, then I don't know what is.Â Aside from winning at trial, an attorney may negotiate otherÂ potential ways to resolve a criminal case thatÂ avoid conviction, such as deferred adjudication probation, deferred prosecution, orÂ obviously, dismissal.Â Each of the above has its own ins and outs,Â but the important factor is that in every case, no conviction isÂ ever entered and the casesÂ are ultimately dismissed.Â Â Even without being convicted, some background checks by potential employers, landlords, etc., will show the arrest, which is often enough to prevent you from getting that job or apartment you wanted.
As of June 1st, you may no longer assert your right to be silent by merely doing just that, remaining silent. Sound confusing? Not to the Supreme Court of the United States. According to a recent decision, a suspect in a criminal case must unambiguously communicate to their questioner that they intend to invoke their right not to cooperate. Berghuis v. Thompkins (#08-1470) . The decision means that once a suspect is in custody, officers must still issue Miranda warnings and be convinced that the subject understands them. However, once officers begin asking questions a person must explicitly tell the officers that he wants to remain silent. Otherwise, any response the person makes is deemed potentially admissible.