Wednesday, August 31, 2011

New Texas Laws Take Effect Thursday

New Texas laws go into effect September 1, 2011. A package of bills proposed by the Innocence Project of Texas will go onto the books, overhauling eyewitness practices by law enforcers, ensuring that if DNA evidence exists and is available to prove a person's innocence then it will be tested and creating uniform standards regarding the collection, retention and storage of biological evidence. Cory Session - brother of Tim Cole, a Fort Worth man who died in prison for a crime he didn't commit - now serves as the policy director for the Innocence Project and supported these bills. HB 215, SB122, SB 1616.

The Romeo and Juliet law is geared to spare teens and young adults who have consensual sex from being labeled sex offenders. It prevents a young defendant from having to register as a sex offender if he or she had consensual sex with someone 15-years-old or older and there is less than a four-year age gap between the couple. SB 198

Texas minors who like sexting - or sending sexually explicit pictures or messages, generally from one cell phone to another - better watch out. Until now, prosecutors either dropped the case or had to prosecute minors under adult pornography laws. Starting Thursday, youth who sext and get caught can be charged with a misdemeanor - which can lead to jail time with repeated offenses. Not only that, but underage Texans convicted of sexting will take a state-sponsored educational class about the dangers of sexting - with one of his or her parents. However, the sexting conviction may be removed from the youth's record at the age of 18. "Here's the message to parents -- pay attention to this new technology," said state Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, who carried this bill. "Pay attention to your kids. Know what it is they're doing with regard to text messages, sending images and that sort of thing, and take the time to talk to them." Senate Bill 407

And my personal favorite. Victims of domestic violence will now be able to not only cover themselves, but also their pets, under protective orders. Victims have said this is important because they often have to leave pets behind when fleeing violence and their abusers may threaten to kill or injure the pet. SB 279

Contact your local Bryan|College Station DWI defense attorney for questions about these changes in the law. 

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Weakness of Police Lineups

A recent New Jersey Supreme Court case may change the rules for how juries (and judges) treat evidence from police lineups. The Court's decision applied many years of eye-witness identification research showing that eye-witness procedures are flawed and can result in mis-identifications. The decision went on to attached consequences for police, and other law enforcement, who fail to take necessary precautions to reduce the subtle pressures applied to eye-witnesses to make an identification. Such pressures often result in mistaken identifications, which send innocent people to prison. The most important aspect of the research mandated two practices: First, that lineups are blinded and administered by someone who is not familiar with the suspect and who is not one of the primary investigators on the case; and second, photo arrays should be presented sequentially rather than as a group. Both practices, studies find, decrease the pressure on witnesses to pick someone and guard against influence.