Monday, August 20, 2012

Technology Issues With Brazos County DWI Videos

Following is a letter sent to the Brazos County Attorney, Rod Anderson, explaining some trouble we've had in viewing DWI videos recorded on proprietary video programs used by local law enforcement. If any fellow members of the Bryan|College Station defense bar have similar issues, please contact Rod Anderson to make sure he's aware of the problem. 
There have been some technology issues around town regarding the Insight AV police videos which the College Station Police Department and Brazos County Sheriff's Office use to record DWI stops. I've heard several other defense lawyers articulate problems in viewing these videos on both PCs and Macs. I also have problems viewing these videos and, in fact, hired a computer expert to determine if it was something on my end. The computer expert explained it was the proprietary nature of the software and the "unavailability" of Internet downloadable code-ex to make the program run properly on someone's computer. 
All other videos can be played on programs like Windows Media Player, Quicktime, etc. These programs have available code-ex on the Internet which can be downloaded to make the players work. Code-ex is not readily available for the Insight AV player. Although the player is on Brazos County Secure Share and I've downloaded it, I still cannot get the Insight videos to play reliably. Again, the computer expert says it's a problem with the proprietary code-ex needed. 
Anyway, I wanted to make you aware of this problem. The Brazos County defense bar is, of course, thankful we can get the videos from your office. Also, Secure Share is a great vehicle through which to obtain them. But the "techno-frustrations" are problematic. 
I'm also aware the videos are available to view in the County Attorney's office, but this solution is impractical since most (if not all) of our detailed video review is done after hours and on weekends where regular office distractions can be eliminated, especially in preparation for trial. 
Thanks for your ear, Rod. Please let me know what we can do.

Steve Gustitis

Friday, August 17, 2012

Rule #9: "Never Go Anywhere Without a Knife"

Ok . . . I admit I borrowed this Rule from Leroy Jethro Gibbs. But what can I say . . . I just love knives. Kershaw assisted-opening knives are some of my favorites. This model, manufactured under the brand Zero Tolerance, is called their 0301 Tactical Folding Knife. This baby is strong, tough and opens like a bazooka. It feels like a tank in my hand. The Tiger stripe on the blade is really an eye catcher, too. This knife is so cool, I rarely use it to cut anything. It's like a new car you're afraid of scratching up. And I DON'T take it to court, for those who were wondering. Most of the time I'll carry it to the office on the weekends, flipping it open and closed as I ponder my next criminal defense strategy. So, for criminal defense lawyers with the need for a strong tactical folder, I highly recommend the Zero Tolerance brand of Kershaw assisted opening knives. 

Monday, August 13, 2012

A Role Model for Defending the Accused

In 1770 British soldiers killed five civilians in a street confrontation in what became known as the Boston Massacre. The soldiers were arrested on criminal charges and accused. Needless to say, the soldiers had difficulty finding legal counsel to represent them. Finally, they asked John Adams to defend. He agreed, though he feared it would hurt his reputation. During their criminal trial, Adams made his now famous quote regarding making decisions based on the evidence: "Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence." Six of the soldiers were found not guilty and acquitted. Two soldiers who had fired directly into the crowd were charged with murder but were convicted only of manslaughter. Adams was paid eighteen guineas by the British soldiers . . . about the cost of a pair of shoes.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Pre-Trial Diversion Could Work In Brazos County

I've spent a great deal of time in Brazos County court this week. Meeting with prosecutors, working to resolve cases, negotiating . . . and getting nowhere. Hurry-up and wait was the maxim. So what's the problem?  Well, prosecutors wanted too much. Not all prosecutors mind you . . . but many. And what would help move those backlog of cases . . . especially DWI misdemeanors? Pre-trial diversion would work to remove much of the backlog. Especially for first time offenders who, for the most part, are self-correcting folks who simply needed a wake-up call. But pre-trial diversion is not an option in Bryan|College Station criminal court proceedings. In fact, there are many Texas counties that offer pre-trial diversion. Just Google the Harris County DIVERT program.

Pre-trial diversion could be described as "informal probation." There's no adjudication of guilt. The offender simply agrees to participate in a community supervision program which would include monthly reporting to a probation officer, education classes, community service, and other common conditions you'd associate with probation. The offender would pay monthly fees and other associated expenses.

The upside for prosecutors is quick accountability and consequences for behavior. Even though the police had strong evidence to convict, rehabilitation and a second chance would be the focus of such a program. Cases would move more quickly since the offenders wouldn't be compelled to plead guilty and accept life-changing convictions. Again, since most of these low level offenders will avoid repeating this humiliating experience at all costs, they'll self-correct and stay out of future trouble.

The upside for the accused person is the opportunity to get their arrest and court records expunged. Upon successful completion of a pre-trial diversion program the criminal charge would be dismissed. Once the statute of limitations expired (two years for misdemeanors) the person could file a petition to expunge the arrest and all associated court and government records. If the person failed to successfully complete the pre-trial diversion program, they could be prosecuted as usual.

Pre-trial diversion could work in Brazos County. I've talked to prosecutors about it from time to time. Some agree, while others believe only a conviction would serve the interests of the community. I know this, however. If my clients have no incentive to resolve their case short of a jury trial, then a jury trial we will have . . . along with the clogged court dockets and delay.  

Monday, August 6, 2012

Defending Bryan|College Station Driver's License Suspension Hearings (ALR)

Last Wednesday I posted about the ALR (Administrative License Revocation) process while waiting to defend several clients in Bryan|College Station. It was a good day in ALR court.  Several College Station police officers were subpoenaed to testify and helpful information was obtained from each. 

Important benefits of the ALR process are the liberal discovery rules. In other words, prior to the ALR hearing the officer's written reports can be obtained and used to help plan the strategy for defending the ALR hearing (and any subsequent Bryan|College Station DWI trial). During the ALR hearing the officer can be tied down to their report. Questions about my client's driving can narrow the reasonable suspicion cited by the officer as legal authority to stop. Further, questions can be used to erode the officer's probable cause for arresting my client and later used to impeach their DWI trial testimony.

Additionally, the ALR process offers the aggressive criminal defense lawyer an opportunity to cross-examine and depose the most important witness in a DWI prosecution . . . the arresting police officer. ALR hearings are also important since rarely is the officer actually prepared to testify by the Department of Public Safety prosecuting attorney. Consequently, the officer is often caught "flat-footed" and unprepared. Following the hearing, a certified transcript of the hearing can be obtained and used to cross-examine the officer during the actual DWI trial. 

There are many reasons to conduct an aggressive ALR defense in Bryan|College Station. First, we want to do everything possible to protect our client's driver's license. Second, we want important written discovery that will help us plan our upcoming DWI defense. And third, getting the arresting officer tied-down to their report, while being unprepared to testify, can be the difference between a dismissal (or a charge reduction) and a trial. 

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Bryan|College Station Driver's License Suspensions

ALR court in Bryan|College Station is often a waiting game. ALR is short for Administrative License Revocation and clients get embroiled in this legal process when they are arrested for driving while intoxicated, or driving under the influence of alcohol as a minor. 

ALR court is where we fight to protect a client's driver's license from being suspended. We provide this important service as part of our DWI/DUI defense work in Bryan|College Station and surrounding areas. Please note that strict time limits apply to the ALR process. From the time a person is given notice of the State's intent to suspend their license, they have 15 calendar days to request a hearing. If the hearing is not requested timely, the person's  license will be suspended automatically on the 40th day after receiving notice. 

Call our Brazos County Criminal Defense Firm immediately if you've gotten in trouble for DWI or DUI. We have years of experience helping good people just like you.