3 Key Tools in Texas Criminal Discovery: Subpoenas, Subpoenas Duces Tecum and Writs of Attachment

Grant M. Scheiner

3 Key Tools in Texas Criminal Discovery: Subpoenas, Subpoenas Duces Tecum and Writs of Attachment

Texas criminal discovery rules are continually evolving and the best criminal defense lawyers in Houston and across the state will not overlook any of the tools that may help lawyers discover evidence favorable to their clients. Three key tools for discovery are the subpoena, subpoena duces tecum and writ of attachment.  A subpoena is simply an order to appear in court and give testimony. A subpoena duces tecum is an order for the witness to appear in court and bring something — such as documents or tangible evidence. When a defense attorney applies with the court for a subpoena duces tecum and seeks documents, it is usually a good practice to include a standard business records affidavit, along with the subpoena duces tecum, setting forth the documents the lawyer wishes to receive. (If the witness fills out the affidavit, swears before a notary, and attaches the affidavit to the documents, the documents will often be admissible in court — without the necessity of a live witness. This can save the witness from having to make two trips to court. In fact, a witness who produces the requested documents in advance of the court date and attaches a sworn, business records affidavit to the documents, may sometimes be released from having to appear in court at all.)

When the attorney goes to court on the date a subpoena is returnable, the attorney should arrive early and call out the person’s name and try to locate the witness. If the attorney cannot locate the person targeted in the subpoena and the attorney has written proof that the person has been personally served with the subpoena, the attorney should approach the judge and ask her to sign a “Writ of Attachment.” (The attorney should bring to court a written, writ of attachment, plus three extra copies. The attorney must file the original and get a file-stamped copy.) When the judge signs the writ of attachment, the attorney should get at least two certified copies — one for the bailiff and one for the attorney’s own file. The clerk will then issue a warrant for the person’s arrest and may even ask the judge to set a bond. The bailiff is then authorized to arrest the witness and bring the witness to court.

An excellent criminal defense attorney, who knows the rules of discovery and how to use them, can often achieve a superior result for any client accused of a crime in Harris County or elsewhere. The difference between victory and defeat is often knowing what to look for — and how to get it.

Houston Law Firm Specializing in Criminal Defense

Grant Scheiner is a criminal defense attorney in Houston, Texas, specializing in a variety of criminal law cases including sex crimes, sexual assault, Federal criminal defense, DWI, DUI, drug related offenses, and more. To learn more about Texas criminal discovery rules and criminal law contact Scheiner Law Group today.

Houston Crime Out-Smarts Officers

Grant M. Scheiner

Houston Crime Out-Smarts Officers

The Houston Chronicle reports that there is data showing that crime is “outpacing” Houston officers.  Well, that is not exactly the problem.

Gary Blankinship, president of the Houston Police Officers Union said, “We have to learn to work smarter and try to use technology a little bit more.”  That is not the problem either.

As a taxpayer, it is frustrating to see the Houston Police Department budget has increased from 480 million in 2004 to 680 million today, without increasing the number of police officers.  So where is all of that money going?  The article does not state it, but there is a large portion going to overtime for officers sitting in municipal traffic courts and misdemeanor county courts in Harris County.

Houston ranks as one of the highest in the nation for violent crime and is number one in Texas.  That is not good for anyone.  Yet, HPD whines about a lack of manpower and a skimpy budget as excuses for this spike in crime.  All the while, there is no oversight in non-violent divisions.  I assure you the officers in the HPD Vice Squad – which investigates prostitution and other petty crimes – have a full day ahead of themselves.

Supported by our taxpayer dollars, undercover HPD Vice Squad officers will be getting full-body massages at Houston-area “spas” and trying to get young Asian and Latina women to agree to have sex with  the officers. (Seriously! Houston cops actually spend their time doing this, and so do Harris County Sheriff’s deputies! Sometimes undercover officers will persistently nag a woman to agree to have sex for a fee, despite that the women often repeatedly tell them “no”. Some of these undercover cops will spend up to an hour getting their naked bodies massaged, claiming it is necessary, in order to make a “bust” for one of their “sting” operations.)

To top it off, the Harris County District Attorney’s Office enthusiastically accepts prostitution charges, even in cases when the police officers don’t even bother to video tape the “encounter” or even audio tape the alleged conversation between the  undercover cop and the woman giving the massage.

But not to worry. There will always be plenty of Houston police officers stationed around Houston to catch people for driving with expired inspection stickers.

Houston Criminal Defense Law Firm

Grant Scheiner is a Houston criminal lawyer, whose law firm specializes in cases including criminal defense, Federal criminal defense, sex crime defensesexual assault, DWI, DUI, drug related offenses, and more. To learn more about Texas criminal law contact Scheiner Law Group today.

Polygraph Exam – 3 Reasons to Not Take

Grant M. Scheiner

Polygraph Exam – 3 Reasons to Not Take

Often referred to as a “lie detector test,” police officers generally utilize polygraph examinations to assist in their investigations. Although the results from a polygraph are not admissible evidence in court, the police still employ these examinations as a way to get the accused talking.

  1. False Positives and False Negatives

The validity of polygraph exams has always been fairly contentious. When the polygraph is administered, it monitors three indicators: heart-rate/blood pressure, respiration, and skin conductivity. The underlying theory of these exams is that the physiological factors will vary depending if the individual is telling the truth or a lie. Although, there is not a uniform physiological standard if someone tells a lie. For example, someone who is lying during the exam can stay calm while answering the questions versus someone who is telling the truth may have anxiety while undergoing the test. Even the most honest individuals can feel nervous taking the exam due to social anxiety, police presence, and feeling desperation to prove their innocence.

Additionally, certain medications or substances can also thwart the results of a polygraph examination. The Federation of American Scientists reported that the tranquilizer, meprobamate (“Miltown”), causes deceptive individuals to increase their ability to avoid detection during the examination. Other medication such as antianxiety medication and antidepressants can also affect the exam as it reduces anxiety and alter physiological responses. 

  1. Polygraph Examiners are Not Required to be Licensed

A new law was passed in September 1, 2021, which removed the licensing requirement for polygraph examiners. Prior to September 1, 2021, a polygraph examiner was required to be licensed through the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation. The Texas Administration Code Section 88.20, previously required a prospective polygraph examiner to complete an application, complete a polygraph examiner course of study, complete a six (6) month polygraph examiner internship, pass a written and practical examination, and successfully pass a criminal background check. With the Texas Legislature’s decision to deregulate polygraph examiners, the legitimacy of the profession is called into question. 

  1. Any Statement or Confession Following a Polygraph is Admissible Evidence

If polygraph examination results are not admissible evidence, why do police officers still use them? Because polygraph exams are a powerful psychological tool law enforcement use to get a suspect talking. Following a polygraph, an individual can feel even more pressure to start talking. Even though the results of the exam are inadmissible in court, any legally obtained statement or confession that follows that exam is admissible evidence. To avoid making any incriminating statements that can be used against you in trial, you must consult with a criminal defense attorney to discuss your options.

Contact an Expert in Criminal Law

If you or someone you love is currently being investigated for a crime in the Greater Houston area and beyond, you need to speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney before consenting to a polygraph examination. If you consent to a polygraph examination and you ultimately fail it, there is little that you can do to convince the police or the prosecutor that you are innocent. Scheiner Law Group, P.C., is an excellent choice to defend you and advise you prior to speaking with law enforcement. Call us during normal business hours at (713) 783-8998. After hours and on weekends, text (713) 581-4540.

What is Regular Community Supervision?

Grant M. Scheiner

What is Regular Community Supervision?

In Texas, there are two basic types of supervision, following a plea of guilty or no contest: Deferred Adjudication Supervision and Regular Community Supervision. The differences between the two types of supervision can have a significant affect on the outcome of a case and whether a person is eligible to have his or her criminal record sealed from public view. Please refer to our blog post regarding Deferred Adjudication Supervision for further explanation.

Regular Community Supervision

When a person is placed on regular supervision or “straight probation,” it is normally considered a conviction (albeit, a probated conviction). In this situation an individual typically pleads guilty or “no contest,” then the judge accepts the plea and sentences the person to jail in a misdemeanor case, state jail in a state jail felony case, or prison in a felony case. But the judge suspends imposition of the jail, state jail, or prison sentence and places the person on regular community supervision. If the person successfully completes supervision, the sentence of jail, state jail, or prison is never imposed. However, upon an alleged violation of supervision, the prosecutor in the case may file a “motion to revoke supervision” (a.k.a. motion to revoke probation), which could trigger a court hearing limited to the question of whether the accused violated supervision. As with a motion to adjudicate guilt, the accused does not have the right to a jury trial or proof beyond a reasonable doubt. The prosecution need only show a violation by a preponderance of the evidence. Unlike deferred adjudication supervision, a court normally does not have the entire range of sentencing at the court’s disposal. An accused may only be sentenced up to a predetermined amount of time. Whether the charge is a misdemeanor or felony, the punishment will be “capped” at the amount of time and fine of the original suspended sentence. So, for example, if a person is sentenced to 5 years imprisonment, suspended and “probated,” for a third degree felony (which has a sentencing range of 2-10 years imprisonment), the potential sentence in a motion to revoke community supervision is no more than 5 years imprisonment in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ). As mentioned previously, a violation of third degree felony deferred adjudication supervision may result in a sentence of 2-10 years.

Having a predetermined, capped sentence in the event of revocation is one of the primary advantages of regular supervision over deferred adjudication supervision. However, if keeping a conviction off of your record and possibly having your records sealed after successful completion of supervision are important, deferred adjudication, if available, may be the better outcome. Needless to say, dismissal or acquittal of charges are often the best outcomes of all.

Legal Pitfalls

Even upon successful completion of community supervision, a person may be subject to a host of collateral consequences, ranging from driver’s license suspension, to (in certain types of sex crimes) sex offender registration, to loss of right to possess a firearm, to immigration consequences. It is important for an accused to understand all of the potential challenges and pitfalls that go with each type of supervision.

Contact an Expert in Criminal Law

Although this summary of Regular Community Supervision may be useful, you should contact an experienced criminal defense attorney to discuss your options. If you or a loved one is charged with a crime in the Greater Houston area and beyond, the attorneys at Scheiner Law Group, P.C., are an excellent choice to navigate you through the criminal process. Our goal is a dismissal or acquittal whenever possible. Call us during normal business hours at 713-783-8998. After hours and on weekends text 713-581-4540.

How to Handle a False Accusation of Domestic Violence

Grant M. Scheiner

How to Handle a False Accusation of Domestic Violence

While domestic violence offenses are a serious concern in our communities, it is also important to discuss the existence of false accusations and how to deal with them if accused. First, it is important to know that only a verbal report of domestic violence can result in an arrest. If a family member or loved one is falsely accusing you of domestic violence, do not continue to argue with police or attempt to prove your innocence. If law enforcement has a good faith belief that the victim is making a truthful accusation—a very low standard—you will be arrested.

While your case is pending, you will likely be ordered by the court to not have contact with the victim. It is imperative to follow this order, as a violation can trigger another charge against you. Many individuals may wish to work things out between their partner, and many alleged victims wish to recant their stories to exonerate the accused. However, any attempt to do this outside a courtroom will be a violation of a court order. This is why having legal representation is an absolute necessity.

Defending Yourself Against a False Accusation

falsely accused domestic violence Because you, as the accused, are prohibited from speaking with the alleged victim, your lawyer will do this for you. No, your lawyer cannot pass messages to the victim in an attempt to solve the dispute.

It is also important to know that neither the alleged victim, your lawyer, or the judge can dismiss your case. This power lies solely with the district attorney’s office. The prosecutor, and the prosecutor alone, has the ability to drop your case for a lack of evidence or a belief that the alleged victim isn’t being truthful. However, this is no easy task.

If the alleged victim is willing to speak with your lawyer and has a desire to have the charges against your dropped, he or she may agree to prepare an affidavit to submit to prosecutors explaining what actually happened and expressing a desire to have the case dismissed. However, our battle does not end here, as many prosecutors will continue to pursue the case. They may think the initial report is the truth and the affidavit submitted is a lie.

As you can see, proving that an accusation of domestic violence is false is difficult. The attorneys at Scheiner Law Group have handled many cases involving such false claims. We know how to communicate with the alleged victim, the court, and the prosecutors to have your side of the story be heard. Please contact us with all your domestic violence concerns, sexual assault, or any other criminal matters. We’re here to help.

A Quick Guide to Texas DWI Laws and Penalties

Grant M. Scheiner

A Quick Guide to Texas DWI Laws and Penalties

DWI laws across the United States are getting more complex and detailed every year, especially when it comes to dealing with first time offenses – and Texas is no exception.

While the nuances of Texas DWI laws are complex, we wanted to offer a general overview of the main laws and the major categories of DWI offenses and penalties you are likely to encounter in 2017.

“Intoxicated” as Defined by Texas Law

Driving “under the influence” or “while intoxicated” has different legal definitions in each state, but in Texas, the term “intoxicated” is defined as:

  • Not having the normal use of your mental and physical faculties due to the consumption of drugs or alcohol; and/or
  • Having a BAC (blood alcohol concentration) of .08 or more (for adult, non-commercial drivers)

If a police officer suspects a driver is intoxicated, they have to establish probable cause and provide evidence that the driver is indeed intoxicated. This usually involves observation of the driver, including their behavior, appearance, and speech, and may also incorporate field sobriety tests. These tests – including blood and breath tests – can be refused. However, because of the “implied consent” law, which states that by driving on the roads you automatically consent to sobriety tests, if you do refuse these tests, your license will be immediately suspended.

Another factor to consider is that when a driver is arrested for a DWI offense, two cases are filed against them: a civil case and a criminal case. The civil case, filed by the Department of Public Safety, involves the suspension of the driver’s license. The criminal case, however, is far more severe, and has escalating levels of punishment. It also carries heavy fines and the possibility of jail time.

3 Main Categories of DWI Offenses

  • DWI first offense: If you have never been convicted of a DWI offense, then this is the most common and basic type of DWI offense you are likely to face. First offenses are Class “B” misdemeanors and are subject to a fine of up to $2,000 with the possibility of 3 to 180 days of county jail time. Your license will also be suspended, and depending on whether you refuse or fail a blood or breath test, the period of suspension can be anywhere from 90 days to 1 year. If you have been charged with your first offense DWI in Texas then read our guide here.
  • DWI second offense: If you get hit with a second DWI offense, it instantly gets escalated to a Class “A” misdemeanor. Second-time offenses carry a fine of up to $4,000, 30 days to 1 year of county jail time, and your license can be suspended from anywhere from 180 days to two years. Also, depending on what county you live in, a judge may insist that an ignition interlock device (essentially a breathalyzer for your car, which prevents a vehicle from starting if the driver is intoxicated) be installed in your vehicle as a condition of probation or pretrial release.
  • DWI third offense: By the time you have racked up three offenses, you’ve also made the move from misdemeanor to third-degree felony, which means a possible 2 to 10 years in state prison, a $10,000 fine, and having your license suspended for a period of 180 days to 2 years. For third DWI offenses, by law, all judges will require an ignition interlock be fitted to your vehicle as a condition of probation or pretrial release.

Even though these 3 main categories seem pretty straightforward, it is important to note that they can become a lot more complicated, and the consequences far more severe depending on specific factors.

For instance, if you have an open alcohol container when you are stopped by police officers; if you have a minor in the car; if your BAC is extremely high; or if you were speeding excessively when you were pulled over, you may be subject to more fines. These cases are generally referred to as “aggravated DWIs.” These “aggravated” offenses can escalate your charge to a Class “A” misdemeanor or even a felony.

Aggravated DWI Offenses

  • DWI with an open container of alcohol in your vehicle: Assuming it is your first offense, if you get stopped and you have an open alcohol container in your vehicle, you will be fined $2,000 (like a DWI first offense). This escalation is also a Class “B” misdemeanor.
  • DWI .15 and above – If you submit to a blood or breath test and the results come back with a blood alcohol concentration of .15 or over, your charge could be escalated to a Class “A” misdemeanor. As mentioned above, the fine for this charge is $4,000, and carries with it the possibility of up to 1 year in county jail. Under Texas law, if you are convicted of this category of DWI, you may even have to submit to having an ignition interlock device installed in your vehicle.
  • DWI with a passenger under the age of 15 – If you happen to be stopped and found to be intoxicated with a minor in your car (even if it is your own child), your first offense DWI immediately escalates to a felony. This charge carries a hefty $10,000 fine with a possible 180 days to 2 years in a state prison.
  • Intoxication assault – If you seriously injure another person while intoxicated, the charge is classed as a third-degree felony, which carries a penalty of between 2 and 10 years in state jail and a fine of up to $10,000. Most Texas judges will insist on an an ignition interlock device installed in your vehicle for this offense.
  • Intoxication manslaughter – Taking someone’s life while driving drunk is a second-degree felony, punishable by 2 to 20 years in a state prison and/or a fine of $10,000. Most Texas judges will also insist on an an ignition interlock device installed in your vehicle for this type of offense.

Again, while these escalations seem relatively simple, there is no way to know how they will apply to your particular case. Your best defense strategy will always develop out of the unique circumstances surrounding your case, and will likely involve a complex combination of factors, including the conduct of the arresting officer.

When it comes to tackling DWI cases, your best chance of a fair hearing is to hire an attorney well-versed in the subtitles of DWI law to advise you on the best course of action for you. To discuss your case with one of our DWI specialist attorneys, contact Scheiner Law Group, P.C. today.

If you would like more information on how to choose your DWI attorney then read our guide here.

Charged with a First Offense DWI in Texas? What You Need to Know

Grant M. Scheiner

Charged with a First Offense DWI in Texas? What You Need to Know

The state of Texas takes DWI offenses extremely seriously, and the financial penalties are severe, even for first time offenders. DWIs are the most commonly committed crimes in the United States, but most of the time they are committed by average ‘non-criminal’ citizens. But make no mistake, if you are charged with a DWI, even if it is your first offense, you will be treated and prosecuted like a criminal.

This is why you need to arm yourself with the facts and be absolutely clear about what you’re up against.

Charges and Penalties for 1st Offense DWI in Texas

First offense DWIs are deemed to be Class “B” misdemeanors by the state of Texas. This means that if you are convicted, you will most likely be looking at a fine of up to $2,000, as well as up to 180 days in county jail.

However, it is crucial to understand that this is the minimum charge that can be leveled against you. DWI law is incredibly nuanced and can get complicated quickly, so it is essential you understand the details of your particular case.

For instance, what can complicate your situation with a first offense DWI – and escalate the penalties, fees and jail time – is if you happen to be involved in any of the following:

  • DWI .15 and above – If you submit to a blood or breath test and the results come back with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .15 or over, your charge could be escalated to a Class “A” misdemeanor. The fine for this charge is up to $4,000, and carries with it the possibility of up to 1 year in county jail. Under Texas law, if you are convicted of this category of DWI, you may even have to submit to having an Ignition Interlock Device (essentially a breathalyzer for your car, which prevents a vehicle from starting if the driver is intoxicated) installed in your vehicle.
  • DWI with a passenger under the age of 15 – If you happen to be stopped and found to be intoxicated with a minor in your car (even if it is your own child), your first offense DWI immediately escalates to a felony. This charge carries a fine of up to $10,000, with a possible 180 days to 2 years in a state jail.
  • Intoxication assault – If you seriously injure another person while intoxicated, the charge is classed as a third-degree felony, which carries a penalty of between 2 and 10 years in state jails and a fine of up to $10,000.
  • Intoxication manslaughter – If someone dies as a result of an intoxicated driver, it is a second-degree felony, punishable by 2 to 20 years in a state prison and/or a fine of not more than $10,000.

What to Expect from Sentencing for at 1st Offense DWI

If you do end up being convicted for a 1st offense DWI in Texas, unless you are granted probation, you are probably looking at the mandatory three days in county jail. The other possibility is community supervision, which usually means you will be sentenced to some form of community service.

Depending on the judge’s ruling, you may be required to submit to further conditions, such as attending a state-approved rehab facility (if you are deemed to have a problem with alcohol, you may have to go through a full rehab program). You may also have to attend DWI “school,” a 12-hour course you must take within 180 days of receiving probation. If you fail to attend the course, it will result in your license being revoked until you complete the course.

Probably the worst thing about being convicted of a first offense DWI in Texas is the civil consequences. If you are convicted, your driver’s license could be suspended. Your license can also be suspended without you being convicted – up to 180 days if you refuse to take either a blood or breath test or for up to 90 days if the results of your test are above .08. This is because of the “implied consent” laws in Texas, which state that by driving on the roads you automatically consent to sobriety tests. If you refuse the tests, your license is automatically suspended.

Administrative License Revocation (ALR) will begin 40 days after you have received a “Notice of Suspension,” and once you do, you have 15 days to request a hearing. You will also have to pay a reinstatement fee of $125 to get your license renewed or reissued.

Finally, there is the DWI surcharge from the Texas Department of Transportation. If you are convicted of a DWI-1st offense you will have to pay an annual fee of $1,000 for a period of three years.

Getting Help with Your DWI 1st Offense Case

From the above, it should be clear that being convicted with a DWI 1st offense is not a fun time. The effects on your personal and professional life can be devastating: it can impact your reputation in your community and can put you under serious financial pressure.

However, despite the harsh consequences of being charged with a DWI 1st offense, don’t assume all hope is lost. Police officers have to establish probable cause and provide evidence of an actual DWI offense in order to make an arrest. They are also bound by law to follow proper procedures when administering field sobriety tests. 

If you retain competent legal counsel – and when facing DWI charges we recommend you should – you give yourself a fighting chance to have your charges reduced, at the very least, if not dismissed completely. DWI law is extremely nuanced, and your case is unique, which means there is no reason to think that you can’t win simply because the evidence seems to be stacked against you. If you do decide to hire legal counsel, you should try and retain the services of an attorney who specializes in DWI law.

At Scheiner Law Group, P.C., we have a wealth of experience handling DWI cases successfully and have even had instances where our clients won cases when their blood or breath tests were over the legal limit. Every citizen has the right to defend themselves by all legal means to keep their record clean and their reputation intact, so believe us when we say your case is worth fighting.

To discuss the details of your case with a professional Houston DWI lawyer, contact Scheiner Law Group, P.C. today via this form or phone at (713) 783-8998. If you are unsure of how to choose your DWI attorney in Houston, be sure to read our comprehensive guide.

How to Choose a DWI Attorney in Houston, Texas: 3 Steps to Getting the Defense You Deserve

Grant M. Scheiner

How to Choose a DWI Attorney in Houston, Texas: 3 Steps to Getting the Defense You Deserve

Being charged with a DWI offense in Texas can be a severely traumatic experience. The financial penalties are harsh, the prospect of jail time is very real, and your reputation can be compromised with potential employers, insurance companies, and within the wider community.

Choosing the right attorney to represent you is a critical decision and one which could affect you for the rest of your life. To help you make the right choice, here are three tips on how to choose a DWI/DUI attorney in Texas who has the skills, knowledge, and experience to protect you.

1. Assess Your Options

Even though being charged with a DWI offense can be extremely stressful, you shouldn’t allow the pressure to force you into making hasty decisions when choosing an attorney. Once you have received your  “Notice of Suspension” from the Administrative License Revocation (ALR) Program, you have 15 days to request your driver’s license. This gives you at least a couple of weeks to talk to a number of attorneys and compare their advice to make sure you get the best legal strategy for your particular case. So take your time, ask for referrals, and make a list of attorneys you can talk to.

2. Don’t Believe the Hype

There are plenty of attorneys around (especially online) who claim to be DWI/DUI law specialists, but aren’t. Just because an attorney or law firm makes bold promises in their advertising doesn’t mean they actually have the skills to defend you effectively. In fact, many attorneys who bill themselves as DWI lawyers make their living off of getting lots of cases processed through the system, often at the expense of your best interests.

A true specialist is more concerned with the quality of your defense than the number of clients they can push through the system. DWI/DUI law specialists will have their own processes for dealing with cases, often conducting their own investigation into your case. Your attorney should be able to explain the steps they need to go through to build the best defense for your particular case. And if a DWI/DUI attorney suggests a strategy without first conducting a thorough investigation of your case, you can be pretty certain you are dealing with someone who is more interested in their own bottom line rather than building the best defense for you.

The ideal experience for a lawyer dealing with DWI/DUI defense cases is someone who handles them on a regular basis. DWI/DUI law is complex and the laws are changing and evolving all the time. Even seemingly straightforward cases can overwhelm an attorney who doesn’t keep up to date with the details. To make sure have the best opportunity to protect yourself properly, you need to engage a specialist to handle your case. Ask the attorney for specifics related to how many cases they have handled in the past year, and what their success rate is for defending their clients. Another important question is to ask whether or not they are Board Certified by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization.

3. Ask the Right Questions

It’s your life, liberty, and your livelihood at stake, so don’t be shy about asking tough questions to get the details you need to make an informed decision. Here are six questions you should ask before you hire any DWI attorney:

  1. What is your experience in handling DWI/DUI law in Texas?

When it comes to handling DWI/DUI cases, experience is key. While there are many talented attorneys in Texas, not all of them deal with DWI/DUI cases regularly. You really want an attorney who is dealing with cases on at least a monthly basis.

  1. Will you conduct your own investigations into my case?

As we mentioned, this is a critical question for determining whether or not the attorney you are talking to is a DWI/DUI specialist. If they don’t mention their investigative procedures and processes, or they give you a general answer, you can be pretty sure they don’t have what it takes to build the best defense for you.

  1. What do you see as potential difficulties in my particular case?

Try to be as transparent as possible with the attorney you are interviewing, and make sure to bring all DWI/DUI related documents with you to the first meeting. As we mentioned above, DWI/DUI laws in Texas are complex, and very often it is the minor details that can make the difference between winning and losing your case.

  1. Who will handle my case?

Modern law practices are typically busy, and very often the attorney you speak to about your case may not be the one who ultimately handles it. If is it clear that the attorney you speak to initially will not be handling your case, find out if the attorney who will be in court with you has the necessary expertise and experience to defend you successfully. You also want to make sure you are treated as an individual instead of just another case number.

  1. Have you ever had disciplinary measures take against you or members of your firm?

This question might seem forward, but the last thing you want is to find out in the middle of your case that your attorney has a tarnished reputation in the Texas legal community. Your own reputation, and possibly even your livelihood, is on the line, so it’s in your best interest to ask the right questions so you know your case is in safe hands and will be dealt with by competent professionals.

6. What are the legal costs for handling a case like mine?

The nature and severity of your case will dictate how much of your attorney’s time and skill is required to develop an effective defense, which will, in turn, determine your legal fees. This is why it is crucial you get a good understanding of your particular case from a legal perspective. Make sure you also ask about how the law firm charges – whether per hour or flat fee – and if they offer a payment plan or not. Have clear expectations about fees before you enter into a relationship with an attorney.

Choosing a good DWI attorney can be confusing, and hopefully, these three tips have helped understand the kind of information you need to get before making a final decision.

For more information or to discuss your case with an experienced professional with a proven track record, feel free to contact us to arrange a meeting with a specialist Houston DWI lawyer. We will meet with you personally and offer an honest assessment of your case.

The Sandra Bland Traffic Stop and What You Should Know About Your Rights During A Traffic Stop

Grant M. Scheiner

The Sandra Bland Traffic Stop and What You Should Know About Your Rights During A Traffic Stop

In Texas Public Radio’s story, “10 Things About The Sandra Bland Traffic Stop that Every Texan Should Know,” Rhonda Fanning provides some useful information for Texas motorists. But some of the statements in the article are inaccurate and some are just plain confusing. For example, it is inaccurate to say that an officer has “no right” to instruct someone to get out of his/her car during a traffic stop, or that an officer has to express some valid reason. The officer here apparently didn’t have lawful justification for removing the motorist from her vehicle and prolonging the stop. The motorist was correct to point that out, but she didn’t have a right to physically resist. The article is confusing in that it doesn’t clearly differentiate between things a police officer is legally obligated to do — like have probable cause to initiate an arrest – versus things that an officer should do, in accordance with his training.

Here’s an even shorter list of rights and practical advice in a traffic stop or police encounter:

  1. You don’t have to answer any questions, except to state your correct name and address & produce necessary documents (like DL and insurance);
  1. You do have the right to ask questions (like, “am I free to leave?” and, “why are you arresting me?”), but … the cop doesn’t have to answer;
  1. You have the right (and you should exercise it!) to tell the officer whenever you disagree with a request (such as asking for permission to search your vehicle or to have you step outside your vehicle). But … you should never argue or fight with a police officer. After you’ve politely let the cop know you disagree, go ahead and comply with his request.

It’s important to remember that you are probably being video recorded, so always be polite and do not use foul or abusive language when dealing with a police officer. If your traffic stop or police encounter results in a ticket or arrest and you believe your rights were violated, get a good lawyer and go kick the cop’s butt in court.

All of this may be little comfort to a person who gets illegally stopped or detained, mistreated and falsely arrested. Many people go to jail and spend days, weeks or longer in lock-up, because they are too poor to post bond. Some lose their jobs because of unlawful arrests. And about that good lawyer who will kick the cop’s butt in court? Not everyone gets one of those.

Guide to Contesting a DWI Charge

Grant M. Scheiner

Guide to Contesting a DWI Charge

A DWI (Driving While Intoxicated) charge is typically considered a misdemeanor on the first offense in Texas; however, the consequences of a conviction can be far more serious than other misdemeanor charges. A DWI conviction could mean jail time, fines, administrative fees, and a possible suspended license.

To help you avoid these harsh penalties, this guide to contesting a DWI charge aims to help you prepare yourself should you be charged. It may not come as a surprise, but we strongly recommend seeking the consultation of an attorney who specializes in DWI defense cases to help improve your chances to successfully fight a DWI charge. However if you choose to proceed, here are some important guidelines to keep in mind:

  1. Record as many details of the incident as possible – Write down anything you remember about getting pulled over for an alleged DWI, including what you and the officers said, what tests they asked you to perform and how they were conducted both on their part and yours, and any other specifics you recall.
  2. Learn about the validity of field sobriety tests ­– Many of the procedures that police offers use during a field sobriety test to make a DWI charge are not always accurate and can sometimes be successfully challenged in court. If you were asked to perform any, research about the validity of each of them.
  3. Consider any extenuating circumstances that may influence sobriety tests  People with injuries, certain medical conditions, are past a certain age, or more than 50 lbs. overweight can fail certain tests, such as the walk-and-turn, even if they haven’t consumed any alcohol.
  4. Field Sobriety tests improperly administered ­­ According to the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration, improperly administered field tests are not valid as evidence of intoxication.
  5. Consider the validity of nonstandardized field sobriety tests – Some of the most common tests–including saying the alphabet, counting backwards and touching your nose with your finger­–can be considered invalid as evidence and can lead to a dismissal of charges.
  6. Breath tests are not always accurate  Many alcohol breath tests can have widely inaccurate results and a margin of error large enough to help contest a DWI charge. The breath test may not have been properly administered as well, in which case the evidence would be deemed inadmissible.
  7. Lack of probable cause to arrest  A police officer must have specific facts to support any arrest for DWI, or the suspension will be reversed and the evidence suppressed at trial.

This guide to contesting a DWI should serve as an initial overview for you to consider if you are charged. As mentioned before, having a criminal defense lawyer who specializes in DWI cases review the specifics of your arrest can help you sort through all of the possible reasons for contesting a charge.

To learn more about contesting a DWI charge, contact Scheiner Law Group today.