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Grant M. Scheiner - Houston Criminal Defense Lawyer

Tag Archives: Harris County Defense Lawyer

Be Safe and Know Your Rights This Labor Day Weekend

Several media outlets have reported that DPS has stepped up its DWI enforcement in anticipation of Labor Day Weekend, traditionally one of the biggest for alcohol related arrests (read stories here, here and here). “What we’re doing is putting every available trooper out on the roadways,” a DPS official told a San Antonio Radio Station. “Even those individuals who are usually behind a desk in the office will be on patrol.” Additionally, many counties, like Galveston County, will be running “No Refusal” programs, joining counties like Harris County where this policy is in effect at all times (read the story here).

There is no doubt that keeping our roadways safe is a very high priority. But as we have noted in the past, “No Refusal” Weekends have the effect of eroding the rights of those accused of crimes, and appear to be a part of a deliberate misinformation campaign on behalf of state agencies. As must have been obvious to the program’s founders, the name “no refusal” is often being interpreted to literally mean that a person suspected of DWI cannot legally refuse a chemical test. But this is not the case: A DWI suspect has every right to refuse a chemical test at all times, but during “No Refusal” weekends law enforcement will usually apply for a search warrant, something they are legally entitled to do anyway on any weekend.

Additionally, “No Refusal” weekends encourage police officers to illegally warn suspects that they “better just blow” or else blood will be taken anyway.  Any DWI defense attorney knows that these types of warnings are illegal because they are coercive (in other words, someone is being told “blow into this machine or get poked by this sharp needle – your choice”) and not contained in the warnings police are supposed to read to DWI suspects.

Although keeping our roadways safe is a high priority, so is preserving the integrity of our justice system. But far too often, DWI suspects are treated differently. This Labor Day Weekend, stay safe, but know your rights!

Houston Man Arrested for Improper Photography

Abc 13 reportsthat Bryant Munoz was arrested for taking a cell phone picture up a woman’s skirt.  Allegedly, this occurred at the Harris County Criminal Courthouse, which we can all agree is not the best place to engage in debauchery.  He is charged with the State Jail Felony of Improper Photography.  The charge is found in Section 21.15 of the Texas Penal Code.

Improper Photography is rarely filed.  I am not sure if that is because not many people do it, not many people get caught doing it, or it goes unreported.  Although Munoz is a 29 year old man, I could see teenage boys doing something like this at school.  This case should be a warning to all parents and it would be worth it to sit down with teens and explain that their cell phone cameras could cause them to be charged with a felony.

Should this be a felony?  Munoz would have been charged with a misdemeanor if he had punched the woman in the nose, drove drunk through Houston or even broken into a car.  Munoz apparently lacks judgment and may have other issues, but I think the legislature may have over-criminalized this one.

I am interested to hear what his attorney argues, if anything.

DWI & Texas Driver’s Licenses: 6 Things You Should Know

1. If you are arrested for Driving while Intoxicated, your Texas driver’s license will probably be suspended.

2. You have only 15 days from the date your Texas driver’s license is suspended to request an Administrative License Revocation (“ALR”) hearing.

3. The ALR Hearing allows you or your attorney to contest  the suspension of your driver’s license.

4. A Houston Criminal Defense Attorney who specializes in DWI cases can request the ALR hearing for you and also handle your Driving while Intoxicated case at the Harris County Courthouse.

5.  Even if your license remains suspended after the ALR hearing, you may still be eligible to request and receive an Occupational Driver’s License, which would allow you to drive to places like work and church, but with certain restrictions.

If you have been arrested for Driving while Intoxicated and need a defense attorney who is experienced in these types of cases, call the Scheiner Law Group, P.C.

Standardized Field Sobriety Tests in Greater Houston DWI Cases

It’s late at night and you’re trying to get home.Maybe you were at a friend’s house or went to a bar here in Houston, but now you’re just trying to get home.On your route home, you realize that a police officer with the Harris County Sheriff’s Office is driving behind you and that his lights are on. You’re getting pulled over.

Now, maybe you’re sitting in your car, trying to figure out what you did wrong.Maybe you were going too fast… Maybe you failed to signal when you changed lanes… or Maybe your license plate light is not working and you had no idea. But you never think that you might spend that night in the Harris County Jail.

When the officer makes his way to your door, you roll down the window, and begin answering all his questions.“Where are you going?Do you know you were speeding? Where are you coming from? Were you drinking alcohol at that party?”

With this last question, you know it’s not going to be a good night.You might be asked to step out of your car and perform “standardized field sobriety tests.”You might have only had a couple of beers or maybe a margarita, and so you decide that taking a jab at these tests will be a snap.However, these tests are not really meant to be passed, even by those who are less than the 0.08 limit.

Some of the tests you may be asked to do may include walking a line; holding your leg up in front of you while you count out loud, or following a pen with your eyes.

Although these tests are supposed to be fair, they are not.For instance, an overweight person might find it difficult to hold their leg up in the air for an extended period of time.Someone who suffers from balancing issues may stumble while they walk the imaginary line.

Most people can be negatively affected by these random tests, because normally, these tests are being done outside, by the road.Cars may be wheezing by distracting you.The wind may be blowing too hard.You might be tired because it’s 2am. You’re probably nervous, scared or both, and even if you try really hard you just don’t know if you’re doing the tests right.You’re not allowed to practice or call someone for help.

But you are allowed to decide not to take those tests. If you don’t feel that you will do well on those tests, then you have the right not to do them. Unfortunately, despite what you decide, the likelihood that you will be arrested is very high.

Your best bet is after all is said and done, you find yourself a competent criminal defense attorney in Houston.

Federal Judge Sentenced to Prison

In Houston, a Federal Judge was sentenced to 33 months in prison, followed by 3 years of supervised release.  The Houston Chronicle reports that former Judge Samuel Kent will report to the Federal Bureau of Prisonsnext month.  Kent lied to a judicial committee who was investigating an alleged sexual misconduct allegation against Kent.

Judge Kent’s reputation was well known in the Houston criminal defense community and in the Southern District of Texas. At least in terms of his temperament, Judge Kent’s reputation was not a good one.  Federal criminal defense in Houston takes a an experienced lawyer and a tremendous amount of effort.  It is complicated as it is, without having to be more difficult.  Judge Kent’s demeanor and courtroom antics were the exception and not the rule.  I have found that Houston criminal defense work is typically much more civilized than state criminal work.

This incident should be a reminder to all of us, be it Houston criminal defense attorneys, prosecutors and judges.  We are all human and we all make mistakes.  It is amazing the “holier than thou attitudes” I see every day at the Houston courts.  I have seen judges, prosecutors, probation officers, and criminal defense lawyers in Houston, all be on the wrong side of the Bar.  Yet, it never seems to change the way we see the citizen accused or even worse, the guilty.

The Chronicle goes on to discuss whether Judge Kent will receive his $174,000 salary.  Unless he is impeached, then he is entitled to keep it.  You better believe the members of Congress will be salivating to impeach the Judge for nothing more than to get their names in the paper.  I am not saying that I think he should receive his retirement, seeing as how he abused his position in more ways than one.  Yet, it is just another example of the people judging another without taking into account of their own humanness.

Harris County Judicial Elections

November 4, 2008 was not only a big night for the national stage, but locally as well.

Nine felony district courts were up for election. Democratic challengers won 8 out of the 9 criminal judicial races.

The results are as follows:

174th District Court was vacant because Judge George Godwin is set to retire. The Judge-Elect is Ruben Guerrero.

176th District Court- Judge Elect Shawna L. Reagin

177th District Court – Judge Elect Kevin Fine

178th District Court- Judge Elect David Mendoza

179th District Court- Judge Elect Randy Roll

337th District Court- Judge Elect Herb Ritchie

338th District Court- Judge Elect Hazel Jones

339th District Court- Judge Elect Maria Jackson

35st District Court- Judge Mark Kent Ellis

Judge Ellis of the 351st District Court was the only Republican incumbent to hold onto his bench. Several of the newly elected candidates are fixtures down at the criminal courthouse and others are fresh faces.

It goes without saying that Harris County voted out top-notch, qualified judges like Judge Roger Bridgewater and Judge Caprice Cosper. On the other hand, I think it is fair to say that other courts were due for a change. At this point, we can only hope our new judges are ready to maintain in some courts and create in others, a forum where a citizen can receive a fair trial.

We’ll see what happens.