Houston Criminal Lawyer | Harassing Texts

Social media and other technology like taxing has greatly impacted the way people interact. Sometimes it is much easier to email or text someone than to try and get them on the phone.

Unfortunately with good advances there also comes bad effects.

People can get themselves into serious trouble by texting, emailing or facebook messaging harassing content to others.  An example of this can be seen in a recent article about a former HISD school teacher who sent disturbing texts and facebook messages to a Texas State Representative.

These types of electronic communications on their face can provide proof into a Harris County Prosecutor’s case which might otherwise be lacking. Electronic communications are usually saved forever and law enforcement routinely check computers, cell phones, and social websites during investigations. It is very easy to identify, save and exploit the immense amount of information that is sent via electronic communications.

Jurors, in their own minds, expect to see digital evidence presented in court from legal shows they watch on TV(aka, referred “the CSI effect”).  In the instance where these things were said face-to-face, absent a recording device or witness, the matter turns into a “he said, she said” debate on which a skilled defense attorney can capitalize. However, there isn’t much left for reasonable doubt when the prosecution has hard evidence that these threatening or  harassing communications existed.

A defense can be mounted for you, but it does make a harder case for you so beware of what you send in electronic communications.

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Houston Criminal Lawyer | Holiday Theft

The end of the year is usually associated with holiday cheer, spending time with friends and family, and festive parties. Unfortunately, many people forget that crime generally increases during the holiday season. Retail crime rises as much as 30% during this time especially as related to the crime of shoplifting (or theft).  40 billion dollars was lost in 2010 to retail theft in the United States, a majority being during the Christmas season.  This means that police patrols and investigations equally increase to combat these problems.

In Harris County, major retailers have dedicated employees and sophisticated technology to prevent and catch those involved with theft. Entire departments of loss prevention personnel secretly roam the shopping aisles watching and waiting for someone to commit thefts.  Some stores, like Neiman Marcus, even have HD security surveillance and are watching you as closely as if you were standing right beside them and can zoom in from multiple angles on anyone they believe is acting suspicious.

Once an individual has been detained for shoplifting, store employees will attempt to force suspects to pay a fine and sign paperwork admitting that they committed theft, right in the store. Usually, the suspect is also confronted with paperwork requiring that they are barred from entering the retailers locations for a year or two period.  Immediately upon detention, an individual should ask for their attorney and refuse to speak or sign anything.  This is the sort of evidence that Prosecutor’s can later use to build their case against you.

Following arrest, anyone arrested for shoplifting will also probably receive letters from debt collection firms (usually located outside of Texas) threatening to file a civil lawsuit if you do not send in a few hundred dollar fee to avoid a lawsuit. Never sign any paperwork or agree to make any payments. You are throwing money away and could damage your possible defenses by signing the documents.  If you receive anything like this, simply give it to your Houston Criminal Attorney.

A perceived growing problem is organized retail crime where a group of people work together to steal  or to have a friend that works in the store in on the theft to help out such as allowing you to check out of the store without paying for every item.  This type of activity is a felony and causes shoplifting to be a much more serious crime and retailers are also on the lookout for anyone that appears to be working together.

 

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Houston Criminal Lawyer | DWIs and Confusion surrounding the DPS procedures

In Texas, following an arrest for Driving While Intoxicated (DWI), the person arrested or their criminal defense attorney has 15 days to request a hearing with DPS. If this is not done correctly or in a timely manner, then DPS will proceed to to suspend your license without the ability to get it reinstated until after the suspension expires. So what happens once you make the request within the 15 days? Eventually, DPS will issue a hearing date and  the process gets even more confusing.

Throughout the process, the arresting officer utilizes pre-printed forms in order to provide all relevant information to DPS for the suspension process. They have names such as DIC-23, DIC-24, DIC-52, and probable cause for the traffic stop. These forms are extremely important and the information contained in them should be examined carefully in order to identify missing or incorrect facts. The entire drivers license suspension process by DPS is based entirely on the content found in these forms. After obtaining your hearing date, your criminal attorney should also send a discovery request to DPS to get copies of every single document that DPS is going to use against you, including any prior suspensions related to DWI/DUI or any alcohol violations.

The officer must also have included in the forms whether sufficient reasonable suspicion to make a traffic stop was present and often this information is absent.

The next question that must be determined is whether to subpoena the arresting officer to appear at the suspension hearing. If the forms are completed correctly, the officer should absolutely be served with a subpoena because if the officer fails to show up, then DPS cannot suspend your license absent the granting of a continuance by the judge.

If the officer does appear as requested, then a well prepared criminal defense lawyer will be able to gain invaluable information for your pending criminal case through questioning the officer. The officer should be extensively questioned about the facts surrounding why he made the traffic stop. Another area that should be explored is the officers’ knowledge of field sobriety tests and their experience administering these tests.

As you can see, the DPS case is an entirely separate matter where you will need a knowledgeable Houston criminal lawyer to represent your interests, in not only the DPS case but in planning accordingly for your criminal case to exploit weaknesses to achieve the best possible outcome.

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Houston Criminal Lawyer | Agreeing to Search

A common misconception is that if you agree to allow officers to search your car, house, office, etc. that this will either show your innocence or somehow the police officer will just say okay, never mind you must not be hiding anything if you agreed to this.  And then not actually conduct a search at all.

I can promise you that agreeing to a search will not work.  I would advise my clients against consenting to any search, regardless of whether you believe you don’t have anything illegal or have done anything wrong.

Law enforcement or their agents must have probable cause prior to searching without you agreeing to a search.  Probable cause could include various facts such as seeing drug paraphernalia or smelling marijuana. Experienced officers can usually figure out a way to develop probable cause through questioning or from the facts and do not need your assistance to make their job easier.

However, often law enforcement officers do not have probable cause and simply ask for your consent to search.  Officers are trained and highly skilled at making it seem like the search isn’t a big deal. But if you do give consent, it makes it increasingly more difficult (if not impossible, short of coercion) to contest the search after the fact.

Often in a home search, law enforcement will ask another person living at the residence for consent.  Usually this is to gain consent from a party that doesn’t have knowledge of any drugs located in the residence.  Also, be aware that in residence searches a written form is often used to gain permission.  So don’t sign anything.

If you agree to allow the search and something is found, then this is evidence that will be used against you.  By allowing this search you have essentially built a case for the prosecutors.

Hopefully you never find yourself in a situation like this, but if you do you should contact an experienced Houston criminal lawyer.

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Houston Criminal Lawyer | Welcome

My name is Gary S. Miller, and I enjoy being a Houston Criminal Attorney. I recently realized that my clients are continually interested in my background and are actually interested to find out more about me, which I guess is understandable since their lives are basically in my hands, at least for a little while.

I really have seen the criminal justice system from all angles–as a prosecutor, defense attorney, and from the parolee house and public defender’s office.

I was fortunate to clerk at the Harris County D.A.’s office while awaiting my bar results and worked with two experienced prosecutors on a capital murder case.  After passing the bar, I went to work for a well-known criminal defense firm in the Houston area and then eventually was employed as an Assistant District Attorney at the Harris County District Attorney’s Office.   So I feel quite at home at the Criminal Justice Center and know all the important players in and around the courthouse.

I have always been interested in criminal law and the entire system.  Prior to law school, I worked at a parolee house and was able to witness first-hand how people struggle to get their lives back on track after a criminal conviction.  Additionally, I also worked out-of-state at a Public Defender’s office and in Houston at the District Attorney’s and experienced the vast resources the goverment will expend to prosecute individuals that are charged with alleged crimes.

I visit the jail regularly to meet with my clients so I also understand the awful conditions that are present there, as well.

I can understand what my clients are going through from having been in those different situations.  Whether you are not guilty or just haven’t been able to catch a break, I can empathize with your situation and will work diligently with you on your criminal case.  Please contact a Houston criminal lawyer who has seen the criminal justice system from a variety of vantage points.

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Houston Criminal Lawyer | Someone is Watching

Technology has become such a big part of our everyday lives that people do not stop to  think about how their every movement and action is recorded and ultimately saved.  High definition surveillance video cameras are in every store and mall in America to catch employees and shoppers stealing.

I have seen videos of fights recorded on surveillance cameras.  In one particular instance, the video was used to show who started a fight.  As a criminal defense attorney, I use all resources to prove my client’s case, so you need to make certain your Houston criminal lawyer is looking at the technological aspect of your case.

For example, what if you were charged with a liquor violation of selling a minor alcohol?  The video could be used either for or against you.  Hopefully, you checked the ID and your case can easily be dismissed just by watching the video.

But you have to remember that everything you do is being watched on some level and it just isn’t in public places.  Simply using your cell phone at your home gives information such as GPS location, cell tower usage, social media such as Facebook and Twitter, email storage, call logs and text messages along with apps that are full of information that can come back to be used against you. Of course, usually this information is not examined or utilized for any purpose other than fun as one man recently.

However, law enforcement is also utilizing this technological information to charge people with crimes, pinpoint location at a particular time, destroy alibis, build motive, and all sorts of other things.  Coded language in text messages and phone records allow police to gather intelligence about drug deals and move up the supply chain.   Routinely threats and photographs through text messages have been used to bolster allegations of telephone harassment.

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Houston Criminal Lawyer | DWI’s Aren’t Only About Drinking

Not many people outside Houston criminal lawyers, prosecutors and law enforcement agencies keep up with changing laws in Texas; however, a new law took effect on September 1, 2011 that deals with with a drug known as K2 or Spice and comes in the form of incense and bath salts.

So what this means is now having it in your possession, selling it or manufacturing it is now illegal.  It actually has been illegal since March 1, 2011 under federal law because the DEA placed an emergency ban on several of the chemicals used to create the drug.

The Texas state law covers a lot more types and combinations of chemicals than the federal law; however, there are areas that overlap which means you could get charged by the state or the feds and it is now a controlled substance.  Under the new law this law is violated by manufacturing, delivery or simply possesing the substance and is considered a felony.  The circumstances of the activity determine the fines and range of imprisonment such as the amount involved and if you are charged with intent to deliver.

This law doesn’t just apply to individuals, it also applies to the smoke shops too, and I’ve heard that some have been raided by the police looking for synthetic marijuana.  Law enforcement is viewing this as another weapon in their arsenal in which to charge people, and they will exploit the opportunity if given the chance.

Although this law in Texas is relatively new,  there is another law that also goes hand-in-hand with drug use and that’s the law pertaining to driving while intoxicated, which most people just associate with drinking and driving.

People are often confused when they are charged with a DWI when they are on prescription medication.  The same is true for synthetic drugs, inhalents, and other types of mind impairing substances.  If you do not have your mental or physical faculties and are driving o vehicle then you can be charged with a DWI.

A good reference regarding what to do when you are stopped by law enforcement can be found in an earlier blog post “Reasons to Refuse Field Sobriety Tests.”  So just remember that although the new law might pertain to possession there are other laws that you could violate by simply using synthetic marijuana.

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Houston Criminal Lawyer | Reasons to Refuse Field Sobriety Tests

If you find yourself pulled over by the police such as the HPD DWI Task Force; you already have a serious problem and more than likely you are going to be arrested for Driving While Intoxicated (DWI).

Most officers are trained during police academy on how to have suspects perform field sobriety tests in order to judge their level of intoxication. Others have received many hours of advanced training but still make mistake in this complex situation. Officers vary tremendously on the actual instructions that they give to suspects which obviously can greatly alter the ability of completely them correctly despite that all officers are trained to strictly follow the same procedures and instructions each time.

The key point is that at that moment the only thing that matters is: the officers’ opinion.

It does not matter if you have had zero drinks, no prescribed medication and no illegal drugs in your system; if you cannot perform well according to the officer then you are going to be in handcuffs.

Do not be fooled into believing that if you do well on these tests that the officer will then let you go home. The entire goal of DWI officers is to arrest people for that particular offense so why give them any more ammunition at trial? Everything is usually recorded. So also keep that in mind when interacting with the officer. Politely refuse any tests, any questions or statements and request a lawyer. Find a Houston criminal lawyer and fight the charge.

After that you will asked to either provide a breath or blood sample so that your blood alcohol level can be determine but again refuse that as well. Force the officer to somehow articulate the reason why he believes you are intoxicated based on no field sobriety tests and you have successfully made your case much more defensible.

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Houston Criminal Lawyer | Just Shut your Mouth

I tell people all the time to keep their mouth shut if cops want to interview you. The right to remain silent extends to all criminal investigations so exercise your Constitutional Rights and simply provide law enforcement with your name, date of birth, and address if requested. Do not volunteer details about your life. Do not even ask them what it is about; they are under no obligation to tell you the truth. Prisons and jails are filled with people who put themselves there with their own words. Do not be fooled by the officers who are friendly and are acting like they are seeking to help you. If you have been identified as a suspect, your words cannot save you from being charged yet they can sink any chance you have of successfully defending yourself.

If an officer calls you, politely refuse to meet with them. If you are going to be charged, let them and tell them you are represented by a Houston criminal attorney.  Then call me to avoid jeapordizing your case by speaking to law enforcement without representation.

I’ve seen it called many different names such as a “meet and greet”, we have a few questions, explain your side, a come to Jesus talk, but do not fall into this trap.

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