Cheers to 2008.

I would to thank my clients, my staff, my peers, and all those that I associate with at the Houston Criminal Courthouse, on making 2008 a successful year for me.  I am even more grateful this year to see our business grow when many others have failed.  Wishing everyone a prosperous 2009!

 

The Harris County Distict Attorney's Office Welfare Fraud division needs to change its policy.

I have mentioned before that the Harris County District Attorney's Office is changing drastically next year.  Administratively, many changes have already been made.  Murray Newman has commented about the changes in his blog.  Moreover, fellow Houston Criminal Attorney, Mark Bennett, posted the new flow chart in the comments section.  Many more changes are rumored to be coming early next year.  I hope that one of the newest changes that need to be made are how the Welfare Fraud division handles their cases.  Carl Hobbs, one of the most tenured prosecutors at the DA's office, has been the head of  this division since I have been a lawyer.  While I enjoy Carl as a person I dislike how his policies have not shifted in years.  During these hard financial times the DA's office needs to re-evaluate if further crippling defendants is just.  Typically, the person charged with welfare fraud is as follows:  single mom, three to four children, limited education, and struggling financially for years.  The struggling mother is receiving welfare and finds a part time job for a while that assists her with paying the bills, but does not get her head above water.  Later, when she reports to the welfare office she fails to report that she has found a new job.  Finally, a random investigation by the welfare office discovers her omission and charges are filed.

While I do not condone what the single mother does, other options should be available to her.  For example, the welfare fraud division has a steadfast rule that they will only offer felony deferred adjudication or a misdemeanor time served offer if the poor mother pays back the funds she was over paid, within forty days.  The welfare fraud division never considers a dismissal of the charges or a misdemeanor deferred adjudication if the money is paid back sooner.  They need to see that justice would be better served if they offered some other options.  They should have a standard policy of contacting the potential defendant to inform them that they have thirty days to pay back the money before criminal charges are filed.  If charges are filed they should give them the opportunity to get a misdemeanor deferred adjudication.  The welfare fraud division needs to see that the children are the ones being hurt by having their mother receive a conviction for theft or being on deferred adjudication for a felony.  The theft conviction would eliminate a lot of job opportunities for her.  Moreover, a felony deferred adjudication is not a conviction, but that means that for a minimum of two years she would be on probation, and must wait longer before she is eligible for a motion for non disclosure.

Sheriff Dart is at it again.

You may remember Cook County, Illinois Sheriff Dart from early this year.  He was the one that was trying to protect innocent renters in the Chicago, Illinois area.  Sheriff Dart is grabbing headlines again by using a scheme to lure people that have outstanding criminal warrants.  Law enforcement notoriously have a difficult time capturing individuals that have outstanding warrants for low level crimes. Typically, an individual is not arrested for these type of warrants unless they are stopped by law enforcement for some reason.  What Sheriff Dart did and other government agencies do is lure gullible people by promising them a reward for their attendance.  In past years, individuals have been promised holiday gifts, television sets and cash rewards.  

Please take care of any warrant you may have because it will cost you much more in in the long run.  You would not believe how many felony cases are filed because the person being arrested for the traffic warrant has some type of illegal substance.  Think about the cost of that traffic warrant versus paying for an additional warrant for the new charge, hiring an attorney, and your time going to court for both charges.

Your DWI probation can not be cleared from your record

I am frequently contacted by someone wanting to clear their old DWI conviction from their record.  I dislike telling people that despite what their lawyer told them ten years ago their probation for DWI is not eligible to be cleared from their record.  I think that some people look at their criminal record like their credit report.  They are under the assumption that after a certain number of years the charges come off some way and if they contact the right attorney they can make this happen.

The only way to have your DWI cleared from your record is by previously having your case dismissed before going on probation, or going to trial and being found not guilty by a judge or a jury.  Lastly, if your DWI was so long ago that you received a deferred adjudication you may qualify for a motion for non disclosure.

When Do the Judges Require the Interlock?

Judges are required to order the installation of the interlock machine on subsequent DWI offenses in Texas.  Also, most Harris County, Texas judges order the machine to be installed when there is an accident involved in the criminal case.  The most annoying part of this is that they do this regardless of who caused the accident or if the person accused is guilty or not of the DWI.  What ever happened to being presumed innocent?

Luckily, not all Texas judges act this way.  This practice is not common in Fort Bend County, Texas.  It has been my experience that a person arrested in cities of Sugar Land, Missouri City, or Richmond  fair much better then someone arrested for DWI in Houston.

The Martinez Law Firm

Judges...what do we call them now?

Recently, I was at party with many current and former judges.  I was unsure what to call each of them.  Do I still call them judge if they are retired or left the bench?  Do I call them by their name now that they are not on the bench?  What about all the judges that recently lost their respective elections or the ones that are about to be start in January? Interestingly, I found out  that incoming Harris County District Attorney Pat Lykos, a former judge, requires that her staff call her judge despite her new title.  I find that curious.  For example, does congressman Ted Poe, a former Harris County judge, require his staff to call him judge?  Maybe I am missing something.

After speaking to a few people at the party I decided that if I knew the person before they became judge I will revert to calling them by their names unless I am asked to do otherwise.  Likewise, if I only know them as a sitting judge I will continue to call them judge .  I hope that works for everyone.

Your facebook account could be detrimental to your defense.

As a criminal defense attorney in Houston, I am amazed how much information I can gather on a potential witness via the Internet.  Their facebook account reveals a lot about them.  They make comments regarding all sorts of subjects.  Sometimes they even post stupid comments regarding the case that they are the alleged victim and/or witness.  Nevertheless, facebook is a double-edged sword.  My clients have been burned with what they have written in their facebook and the pictures that they have posted.  That is why I tell all my clients now to "clean up" or delete their facebook accounts before a prosecutor uses it against them at a punishment hearing or at trial.  For example, a probation officer may see that you posted that picture of you and your buddies drinking at a party that you tagged and pass it along to the judge.  This could be grounds for your probation to be revoked.

The Martinez Law Firm

Smile...The guardian interlock is taking a picture of you!

Houston, Harris County, Texas criminal courts are using another device against repeat DWI offenders.  A second time DWI offender is required to install a guardian interlock device while on bond awaiting the resolution of their case even if they are innocent of the new charges.  The guardian interlock device is a mechanism similar to a breathlyzer which is installed in a vehicle's dashboard. Before the vehicle starts, the driver must breathe into the device.

A more advanced interlock device is now on the scene that takes a picture of the person blowing into the device. Thus, a record is made of whoever is blowing into the machine.  The maker claims to be fool proof, but I doubt that since we have seen so many false positives with the regular interlock device over the years.  More importantly, are other drivers allowed to use the vehicle without a picture being on file?

Contact The Martinez Law Firm to discuss your case or visit our website for more information. 

What happened to being presumed innocent in a DWI case?

Many thanks to DUI attorney Lawrence Taylor for sharing that the state of Ohio still bans a defendant from challenging the accuracy of the breathalyzer machine in a criminal case.  I can not imagine something like this happening in Texas.  I think our judges are more aware of the individual's right of confrontation despite not allowing the defense bar access to the inner workings of the machine. This Ohio law has been in place for twenty five years.  Luckily, no other state has followed their lead.  I say it is time that Ohio revisits this issue.

The Martinez Law Firm: http://www.martinezlawhouston.com.

The Unknown DWI Cost in Houston,Texas

As a DWI attorney in Houston I dislike having to tell my clients abut all the hidden costs of a DWI. Everyone knows about the fines and court cost that are associated with a DWI conviction.  What most people do not know about are the surcharges imposed by DPS if someone is convicted of DWI.  Also, a person's automobile insurance rates are likely to go up and their credit rating will be negatively impacted.  Even life insurance rates are harder to obtain after a DWI conviction.

 Thus, it is important to hire a lawyer that is experienced with DWI defense.  It does not matter if you are charged in Houston, Conroe, Friendswood, Sugarland, Missouri City or Richmond the consequences and cost are all the same.  If you like to talk to me about your DWI case call The Martinez Law Firm at(800) 724-1876 for a free consultation.

Houston Criminal Defense Lawyer enjoy running

Everyone enjoys some type of diversion in life.  Some people like to read or play music to "get away."  The Houston Marathon is next month and I have come across various criminal lawyers at the Harris Criminal Justice Center  that  are in training for or have done a marathon. There are all types of runners at the courthouse.  Some are new at running, others are slow and some are fast, but they all like to run for that special feeling that running a long distance does for them.

While I have done several marathons in the past this year my wife and I have opted for a half marathon.  Fellow criminal lawyer, Tom Radosevich, recently had the best time for his age group in a local long distance race. .  John Boone, chief of the Check Fraud division, has the best Houston Marathon time that I know of at the Harris County Criminal Justice Center.  Judge Marc Carter and his family are all avid runners. Rick Trevathan can recount how he ran one of the first Houston Marathons.

The Martinez Law Firm:http://www.martinezlawhouston.com.

Meeting Judge Ruben Guerrero

I had the pleasure of meeting Ruben Guerrero who was recently elected judge of the 174th District Court of Harris County.  Judge Guerrero previously presided over the 263rd District Court of Harris County.  I was not a lawyer when he was a judge, but every attorney that I have spoken to about him holds him in high regards and are eager to see him back on the bench.

I found out that reason Judge Guerrero has not been much at the Harris County Criminal Center is because he sits as a visitng judge often.  I have been impressed how accessible he has been since he won the election.  I have seen in various courts observing the attorneys and speaking with them to get their input.  I envision a smooth transition from Judge George Godwin, who is retiring from the bench, to Judge Guerrero.

Plaxico Burress' would be facing less severe punishment in Texas.

Plaxico Burress, New York Giant wide receiver, is unlucky that his crime did not occur in Texas. While possessing a handgun at a place that sells alcohol is a felony in Texas his range of punishment would be from two to ten years in prison as opposed to the three and one half to fifteen years he is facing in the state of New York.   Moreover, the bond is outrageously high at $100,000. In Harris County, Texas his bond would have been set at $10,000.  Granted money is not an issue right now for him, but that is a difference of paying a bonding company $1,000 in Texas and paying one in New York $10,000.

The emotions of removing of a protective order

There are many ways a client gets emotional about their criminal case.  Of course, getting a dismissal of their case brings them the most joy, but lately getting a protective order has proven to be similar joyous experience. 

Removing a protective order is an emotional time.

Recently, Judge Karahan, presiding judge of the Harris County Criminal Court at Law #8, removed the no contact portion of my client's protective order.  By a stroke of his pen Judge Karahan brought some normalcy to the life of my client and his family.  I would find it particularly difficult to be apart from my wife during  this time of year and the reaction from my client and his family showed that he felt the same way.  The emotions that flowed from them displayed how a criminal charge changes the family dynamics. 

If you need any help with your criminal case in Texas please contact our law firm at (713) 242-1779 or visit our website at http://www.martinezlawhouston.com.