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Criminal Defense

What Should I Say to the Police?

By Peek & Toland on April 14, 2021

As a defense attorney with over 20 years of experience, we know that what to say to the police is one of the most important, pressing decisions you can make. For many reasons, it could be the difference between freedom and a mess of charges against you. So, what is it that you should say to a police officer who has stopped you or has invited you to the station to chat?

Let’s take a look at that.

Mouth closed = case closed?

If the police want to talk to you to get your side of the story, even if you are innocent beyond the shadow of a doubt, it’s important to know that speaking to the authorities can mean placing yourself in hot water. Police officers have increasingly difficult duties. We owe them gratitude and respect for protecting citizens, but that doesn’t mean you owe them information or even cordial conversation that can lead to unforeseen trouble for you.

The very best thing you can say to police interrogating you is absolutely nothing at all unless you are asking for your attorney. I’ve seen clients, time and again, paint themselves into a corner with police because they were trying to explain or justify their actions or give information that they didn’t realize affected them. There’s a reason we have that ever-prized Fifth Amendment right to remain silent, and we all need to understand the importance of utilizing that right.

Speaking to the police to defend or explain yourself or deciding to remain silent could easily be the difference between taking a mandatory ride in the back of a cop car and walking away freely. 

Friendly tactics are NOT your friend

We’ve covered in great detail the lengths to which officers are willing to go to gather incriminating evidence and information, so it’s imperative to remember that if you receive a friendly invitation to go into the police department “just to talk,” you should think twice. 

You see, until an officer actually places you under arrest, they don’t have to read you your right to remain silent. I’ve seen clients claim they weren’t read their rights and assume their arrest is invalid as a result. However, in actuality, that client gave up the information necessary for an officer to place them under arrest. At that point, they are aware that they have the right to an attorney and remain silent.

You always have the opportunity to remain silent when speaking with the police, so be sure to take it before it’s too late. It’s very common to see clients arrested for something that could’ve been completely avoided had they simply kept quiet.

 What if they need a response?

 Life can change in an instant, and you may find yourself in a predicament where there is evidence against you or you’ve perhaps been apprehended while making a mistake. You are correct to assume that there are questions to be answered, but that doesn’t mean those answers have to come from you.

An experienced and trusted defense attorney can speak to the police on your behalf and relay to them all the necessary information while not further incriminating you. Because of the extensive experience we have in this arena, we’re well-versed in what to say to law enforcement and exactly how to say it, so let your lawyer do the talking.

Posted in Criminal Defense, Immigration

Your Mental State and Your Criminal Defense

By Peek & Toland on March 9, 2021

There’s often a social stigma cloaked around discussion of mental health in the U.S., though there is a shift occurring when addressing this topic, one of which is how a person’s mental state can affect their criminal defense strategy. We’ve all seen the Law & Order episodes where a defendant attempts to get off by pleading insanity; and, while insanity is likely the most well-known defense when we look at mental health in criminal cases, it’s not so one-dimensional.

The spectrum of mental and emotional wellness is broad and encompasses an array of issues many people face every single day. The pressures and isolation from a global pandemic are enough to cause malaise in even the most enduring minds. Add to that the extreme winter storm Texas just faced and from which we are still trying to recover, and it’s a bit easier to understand that insanity isn’t the only way people can be affected mentally and emotionally in their everyday lives. But what does that have to do with a strategy for criminal defense? Let’s take a look at three ways your mental and emotional wellness can impact your criminal defense but in a positive way.

Is ignorance bliss?

There’s a common misconception that ignorance of the law is no excuse, and intending to commit a crime (whether you realize it or not) means you’re guilty; however, you have to take into account that every crime has an intentional element, or mens rea. Elle Woods said it best when she argued in Legally Blonde that “a complete lack of mens rea tells us that there can be no crime without vicious will.” Sometimes, especially in cases when an individual is not well emotionally or mentally, crimes are in fact committed with no ill intent, and that definitely plays a role in your defense.

Does this mean mental unwellness gets you off scot-free? No, but it means your mental state is very much relevant, and any good criminal defense attorney will know how to set the scene when presenting a case where a client’s mental state impacted their actions. So, maybe ignorance is not bliss, but it is a factor.

Provision 16.22

The second way in which a person’s mental state can affect their defense and outcome in the initial phases of an arrest and arraignment comes in provisions that take into account mental state, intellectual disabilities, PTSD, anxiety, and more when it comes to setting your bond. A strong and capable criminal defense attorney will know about provisions like Article 16.22 in the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, and they’ll know the most effective means to present this, which has a definite influence on the way a prosecutor will look at a defendant as they request a bond and move forward throughout the case.

Diversion Programs = Dismissal?


The third way that your mental state can help or hurt your criminal defense comes in the admittance to and completion of a pretrial diversion program. Every county will have its own programs available, and it’s up to your attorney to know about those and determine which is the best for you. There are an array of diversion programs in each county, and there’s certainly allowance for persons with impaired mental states. Completion of these programs and abiding by their set conditions often result in a criminal case being dismissed and altogether expunged from a person’s record, which is a much happier and more hopeful place to be than is the beginning phases of arrest and fighting charges. Having an experienced attorney is the first step in getting to that hopeful place with a clean record.

If you or a loved one were charged with a crime, and you feel like your mental state could have been a factor, it’s important to contact a qualified and experienced criminal defense attorney immediately. The attorneys at Peek & Toland are well versed in this type of defense, and we’d be happy to hear the circumstances of your case and help.

Posted in Criminal Defense

Changes in ICE Policy and Practice

By Peek & Toland on March 3, 2021

Before the Biden administration even took office, we knew U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) would likely undergo sweeping reform in their policies and practices, and that has definitely come to fruition, as evidenced by the interim guidance memo recently released which covers enforcement and removal policies and priorities. These shifts in practice impact the immigrant community, especially those facing criminal charges.


Do you have a clean slate?

Amongst ICE changes in practices is the shift on whom they deem a priority enforcement. Prior to the current administration, we would saw an overreach in justice in the place of the leniency we are seeing now. A basic tenement of that is the increased likelihood for release and bonds. If you’re confronted by ICE in jail, whether the arrest is from something small or more serious, and have been in the U.S. before November 1, 2020 and have never been convicted of an aggravated felony, ICE may not place a detainer on you. They are now taking into account your criminal history, or lack thereof, and trying to get a better understanding of each case before placing a detainer, and there’s very much a possibility of them releasing you or giving an immigration bond.

Spots on Your Record?

All of what we’ve discussed here so far sounds great for immigrants without a troubled past, but what if you have some questionable offenses on your record? If you have previous offenses that you think may count you out on the opportunity for release or bond, it’s more important for you than ever before to have an experienced criminal AND immigration attorney to navigate those waters for you. Sweeping policy change happens fast, and you need attorneys who are well-practiced in keeping up with those changes on a daily basis and interpreting them for best practical use for their clients. Don’t rule yourself out for options because of your past. We are here to assess your individual case, which ICE will now more carefully review.

At Peek & Toland, we receive dozens of detention calls each day regarding getting out, posting bonds, moving, etc., and those questions are not easily answered unless you’ve personally seen and handled hundreds of these kinds of cases. It is only through the successful handling of these types of criminal/immigrant combination cases that we are poised to effectively communicate details of each case with ICE, possibly details of your case and life you didn’t know were relevant.

If you or someone you know is facing difficult decisions on the strategy of their criminal charges as an immigrant, we’d be happy to review your case, even if you’ve already consulted another attorney and are unsure if they’re knowledgeable of the latest changes in ICE practice, as well as criminal law reform.

We’re very hopeful about all the updates and changes from this new administration and what that means for the immigrant community. Continue to watch our social media channels and our Immigration Wednesdays segment as we continue to follow these changes in immigration policy and practice, and do not hesitate to contact us if you have even a hint of concern about your current immigrant criminal defense strategy.

Posted in Criminal Defense, Immigration

How to Exclude Evidence if Search Warrant is Unlawful?

By Peek & Toland on February 26, 2021

We’ve covered in great detail the many aspects that go into law enforcement obtaining and executing search warrants and what exactly unlawful searches are. While you may be able to remember and recite all of those important questions regarding lawfulness when being served with a search warrant, you should also remember that unlawful searches are often carried, and evidence against you could be found as a result.

So, what happens if you’re on the receiving end of an unlawful search? What comes of the evidence found through that search? How do you get that evidence thrown out? In addition to having sage legal counsel, there are a couple of aspects to consider when it comes to illegally obtained evidence against you.

 Lack of Probable Cause and an Abundance of Lies

Remember those affidavits we covered? In addition to the alleged crime spelled out in the affidavit, there needs to be probable cause, or a reasonable basis for believing that a crime may have been committed. A search warrant without that and any evidence collected as a result completely violate your Fourth Amendment right, as does an all-out lie from a police officer. We’re not talking about a mistake, but an actual lie that law enforcement used to collect evidence from you in an alleged crime. It happens, and the onus is on you and a competent attorney to make that lie known.

Does protesting this lack of probable cause or law enforcement lies when the unlawful search is conducted mean the search will end and any evidence will be placed back where it was found? No.

These unlawful searches with no probable cause or misinformation are unfortunately carried out often. It’s best practice to reach out to your experienced criminal defense attorney who will begin the process of excluding that illegally obtained evidence against you.

Fruit of the Poisonous Tree

We’ve established that unlawful searches of people and property happen all of the time, which now begs the question of how to remedy the situation and keep that information or illegally obtained evidence out. Thanks to our Fourth Amendment right and Texas’ Exclusionary Rule, an experienced criminal defense attorney cannot only get the search warrant deemed unlawful, but the illegally obtained evidence will be inadmissible. As well, the evidence that the government obtained in violation of your constitutional rights.

There are, of course, exceptions to rules and much to cover with warrants and evidence collection that all play a factor in the success of any criminal case. 

If you have any questions about search warrants or any criminal matters, we encourage you to reach out to one of our experienced criminal defense attorneys at Peek & Toland.

Continue to follow us on social media, where we cover the aspects of criminal defense that are key to preserving your freedom and the criminal justice system’s integrity.

Posted in Criminal Defense

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Radical Changes in ICE Guidelines for Criminal Offenses

By Peek & Toland on February 24, 2021

Fighting a criminal charge in the U.S. is stressful enough, but adding the additional worry of deportation to that battle is even more daunting, especially throughout the Trump administration. Over the last four years, President Trump’s immigration crackdown has been vastly rolled back by the new Biden administration. The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) is now more flexible with those arrested or charged with a crime. This is wonderful news for undocumented persons here, especially for an undocumented person fighting a criminal charge.

So what does the change in practice and policy mean? What do you do with an undocumented person in jail for a criminal case? How do you get them out? Policy changes don’t change our questions about successfully fighting a criminal case. Still, those changes in policy do mean a change in your defense strategy and new considerations in criminal cases that make it imperative to have a criminal defense attorney who is also practiced in immigration law. Let’s take a look at that.

Reevaluate Your Strategy

A good defense attorney knows the key to overcoming a criminal charge is a well-planned strategy, strengthened by experience and knowledge in our ever-shifting immigration and criminal policies. You might be undocumented and facing criminal charges, or perhaps someone you know is in this situation. It’s imperative to revisit your defense plan in the wake of the new Biden policies. We are now seeing more leniency for criminal offenses committed by undocumented persons. You may have been denied bond previously, but the new reforms mean you could even be released without even having to see a judge. Having an updated strategy from a knowledgeable criminal defense and immigration attorney is key to knowing what changes you need to make to increase your likelihood of remaining in the U.S.

We’re seeing people who were denied bond release from a judge, to now some cases being considered for bond release. 

Down But Not Out

As mentioned, criminal offenses committed by undocumented persons and immigrants are treated quite differently by the Biden administration, and part of that is new consideration of facts in your case. Extenuating circumstances and painting the full picture surrounding a criminal charge were not considerations in the Trump-era ICE practices, but Biden has changed that. A knowledgeable criminal defense attorney who knows immigration will be able to review your case’s facts and present those circumstances that lessen a charge and could lead to release. If you’ve previously thought you had no option in your criminal defense as an immigrant or undocumented person, don’t count yourself out just yet.

 A Foot in Both Worlds

Some may believe ICE’s shift to prioritize threats to national security and public safety means that ICE is no longer aware of immigrant and undocumented criminal offenders, but that is not the case. ICE is still aware you are here, and you are still at risk for deportation. The key to avoiding deportation comes in having an attorney experienced in both criminal and immigration defense. This type of attorney will be better capable of evaluating your case and taking the necessary steps to reduce your charges. Thus, decreasing your chance of being deported and increasing the likelihood of being released from jail.

If you are undocumented or on a pathway to citizenship and face criminal charges, do not risk your future by using a criminal attorney who doesn’t know anything about immigration and vice versa. Do not risk your freedom with an immigration attorney who doesn’t know anything about criminal defense. You really need an expert in both realms, and the experienced immigration and criminal defense attorneys at Peek & Toland are happy to put their 20+ years of experience into fighting for your defense. If you have questions about your case and want to reevaluate where you stand under these new ICE practices, please reach out to us. We’re glad to help. Also, continue to follow us on social media as we discuss these policy changes and strategies that could lead to your freedom and a potential path to citizenship.

Posted in Criminal Defense, Immigration

Knock and No-Knock Search Warrants: What’s Lawful?

By Peek & Toland on February 12, 2021

If you’ve been checking in on our blogs and tuning in to In Your Defense, you know that we are breaking down search warrants and their components. The ability law enforcement has to enter and search someone’s house, phone, and car seems contradictory to the personal freedoms and our right to privacy which is protected under the Fourth Amendment.

There is no question as to how closely and carefully we should monitor search warrants and restrict police access into our personal spaces, so let’s take a look at four factors to keep in mind if the police have obtained a search warrant to access and search your domain.


Knock-knock! Who’s there?

If you’ve paid any attention to the news cycle over the last year, you know that the action of knocking and announcing law enforcement presence with a search warrant for your property can quickly turn into a life-or-death situation, especially in Texas where we proudly own weapons and have the right to defend our castle. For this reason, amongst others, the rule in Texas is that police must knock, identify themselves, and provide the landowner with a copy of the search warrant. That is the general rule, and police are bound to follow it; however, that old saying—for every rule, there is an exception—is true when it comes to the requirements for entry we’ve just discussed here.

So, what’s the exception to the rule?


Typically, no-knock warrants, warrants for which police have no obligation to knock and announce and can just barge into your home, like what happened to Breonna Taylor, are generally deemed to be unreasonable outside of some specific reason. That’s doublespeak for “yes, they can just barge into your home unannounced,” but there must be specific reason for a no-knock warrant to be issued.

One way the police can obtain a no-knock warrant is to explain to the judge or magistrate why it’s so imperative for them to enter a suspect’s home in such a potentially dangerous manner—citing concern that evidence will be lost or destroyed without surprise entry is one way law enforcement gets around that requirement to knock and announce.

Are there instances where a standard search warrant that requires knock and announce could be overridden and carried out as a no-knock warrant? Absolutely, and it can be deemed lawful when the offending officer describes what changed or that their safety was perhaps in jeopardy. This is why it’s of the utmost importance to have sage legal counsel to fight for exclusionary rule or a motion to suppress the evidence obtained from the standard search warrant that suddenly became a no-knock entry on the whims of the police serving and searching your property.

Stay in your lane.

We’ve covered in some detail the parameters for search listed in a lawful search warrant, and the importance of searches remaining restricted by those areas listed in the warrant is something we can’t stress enough. Reviewing those search areas listed in the warrant and defending your Fourth Amendment right to privacy could save you a world of trouble.

Time is on your side.

You can blast that old Rolling Stones tune, “Time is On My Side” when it comes to lawfully executed search warrants. Remember that 72-hour window we discussed? It’s still a morsel of protection that can save you in the long-run. As soon as the judge signs on that dotted line, time starts ticking. Always, always, always review the date and time the search warrant was signed to be sure the police are within the legal period of time to search.

These are just a few of the unlimited requisites that make or break a search warrant. If you have any questions about search warrants, if you’ve been served with a search warrant, or if you’ve been arrested or charged and a search warrant is at issue in your case, reach out to us immediately so we can fight to exclude any evidence unlawfully obtained.

Keep following us on social media, and continue to check in on our blogs, especially in our next discussion that will encapsulate the ways to exclude evidence against you.

Posted in Criminal Defense

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Sworn Truths that Make a Lawful Search Warrant

By Peek & Toland on February 5, 2021

If you’ve been keeping up with the news cycle and our coverage of proposed police reform, you know the topic of conducting lawful arrests is quite prevalent right now. To expound upon our recent discussion of search warrants, let’s take a closer look at warrants and, specifically, the affidavit that must accompany a warrant and the three requisite elements in it that make a valid search warrant.

What is an affidavit?

We could spend all day breaking down what an affidavit is and what all goes into it and surrounds it to make it lawful; but to make a long story tolerable, an affidavit is what police provide to a judge or magistrate in order to obtain a warrant—in this case, a search warrant. The affidavit is sworn under oath to be truthful and has three main components of significant importance, so let’s get right to it.

Spell it out for me.

A properly executed affidavit must explicitly state a crime committed, and it must be a crime on the books, meaning in the Texas Penal Code. No officer or citizen can allege a made-up crime or accuse you of anything that is not an actual crime when it comes to a valid affidavit.

Why is this evidence?

A sworn affidavit that accompanies a search warrant must include the why. Why the officers need to search your property or a specific location must be relevant to the alleged crime committed. For instance, a suspect pulled over for alleged drunk driving should have no concern about their home being searched, as the alleged crime was committed in their car and on the road. Places of irrelevance to the suspected crime have no place in a lawful affidavit. Remember those Fourth Amendment rights we’ve discussed? This is where those rights are upheld.

Connect the dots.

We’ve established that a lawful affidavit must explain why you want to search a certain property as it relates to an alleged crime, and it also must include in some specificity that the evidence is likely to be found at another location. For instance, an alleged fraud committed in a place of business would require a detailed account of why the suspect’s home would need to be searched instead of or in addition to their office where the alleged crime was committed. Not every place a suspect has been is fair game for a blanketed search warrant to cover. A lawful affidavit will practically spell out, connect the dots, if you will, why other places or items need to be included in the search warrant.

While these lawful affidavits have been broken down here in three easy steps, they are not, in fact, easy as 1-2-3. Officers and magistrates are on hand 24 hours a day in order to execute search warrants, so it’s especially important to have practiced legal counsel to work just as hard and just as much to ensure your Fourth Amendment rights aren’t violated with a shoddy, poorly executed affidavit.

Continue to tune in to In Your Defense and follow along on our social media channels as we continue to break down search warrants and everything that goes around those. If you have any questions about these issues or fear your Fourth Amendment rights were placed in jeopardy by an unlawful search warrant, please reach out to us at Peek & Toland, so we may help protect your rights and guide you through the criminal defense process.

Posted in Criminal Defense

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Valid Search Warrants Dissected

By Peek & Toland on January 29, 2021

We’ve talked in detail about several of our Constitutional amendments, specifically our Fourth Amendment and its protection of our right to feel safe and secure in our own home. But, if you’ve paid any attention to the recent news cycles, you know that no-knock search warrants are a controversial tactic used by police in limited scope and circumstance that absolutely interrupt our sense of security in our home. Though perceived to be a method of search rarely used, statistics show that 60,000-70,000 no-knock warrants are issued each year, and the recent death of Breonna Taylor as the result of a no-knock warrant has really brought this issue into the public arena and proposed legal reform.

This staggering statistic and tragic situation lead us to a broad and continuing discussion about warrants, how to hire a lawyer to contest the validity of an unlawfully obtained or executed search warrant, and your fourth amendment rights under search warrants, which will eventually bring us to what the no-knock search warrant is, how it works, and why it’s so controversial.

Before we dive into no-knock warrants, let’s cover the criteria needed in order to lawfully obtain and execute a search warrant in Texas and review what that ever-important Fourth Amendment guarantees us. To break down the criteria in manner you can easily recall, we can ask: Who? What? When? Where? Why?

Who?

Texas, our Texas! All hail the mighty state! First and foremost, a valid search warrant in Texas must be issued by a state magistrate in the State of Texas. Not Oklahoma. Not New Mexico. Not Louisiana. Not any other state, no matter how much they wish they were Texas. Texas is who has to issue a valid search warrant in this state.

What?

A proper and valid search warrant in the State of Texas must include what it is the police are trying to find. Coming in and ransacking everything in sight didn’t work for King George and his broadly worded search warrants in the 1700s, and it certainly doesn’t fly here today.

When?

We always hear that time is of the essence, and that universal phrase for prompt action is never more important than it is in regard to properly executing a search warrant. Any valid search warrant in Texas should clearly state the date and hour at which the warrant was obtained. Why is that important? The time and date a warrant was obtained is crucial because time is ticking—there’s generally a 72-hour or three-day window to conduct the search defined in a warrant. There are exceptions, though. A 15-day span is given for DNA evidence collection, and technological forensic officers have 10 days to recover data from electronic devices listed in the warrant. As a general rule, the three-day rule applies to restrict stagnant search warrants, and knowing when that warrant was signed is crucial for your defense and to ensure your Fourth Amendment rights weren’t violated.

Where?


A valid search warrant will define exactly where the police are allowed to search—that means it must state, with some specificity, the address or a reasonable description of the property permissible to search if the exact address isn’t known. A proper warrant should say with specificity exactly where it is police officers are allowed to go, and it must narrowly define that area.

Why?


We already covered that the search warrant must include the signature and name of the magistrate who issued the warrant. In addition to that information showing proof the warrant was issued by Texas, the magistrate’s name gives you the information you’ll need to request why you’re being searched. You can specifically request to know what it is the officers swore to on an affidavit that lead to a search warrant being issued.

In a neatly wrapped and memorable nutshell, you know what questions to ask and for what you should look in the event that you ever receive a supposedly valid search warrant in Texas

Of course, there is a lot more to digest in ensuring your Fourth Amendment rights are upheld, and we’ll have a deeper discussion that you don’t want to miss when we break down no-knock warrants. Continue to follow us on social media to keep up with this broadening and important conversation on warrants and why it’s imperative to have trusted counsel in the event of any issues with arrests or questionable search warrants. If you’re in that position now or fear your Fourth Amendment rights might have been violated, please reach out to us here at Peek & Toland.

Posted in Criminal Defense

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Sweeping Reform in Texas | The George Floyd Act

By Peek & Toland on January 27, 2021

Police reform is a hot-button topic, and it’s one that’s recently caused stalemates in our federal legislative process; however, Texas lawmakers have returned to session and are working on the business of state, including enacting new laws. One such law whose progress we are following closely is the George Floyd Act, an incredible sweeping attempt to encapsulate several issues surrounding criminal justice reform that have been recurring for more than 20 years.

Though we all might differ in our personal beliefs, we can appreciate standards of humanity and care, and we can understand the outrage resulting from the events we saw unfold in May 2020 when George Floyd passed away from deadly use of the chokehold, a miscarriage of justice which begs for resolve. The proposed reform measure at hand, aptly named after George Floyd and backed by his family, has four main components to it, so let’s take a look at the meat of it:

We all have the right to breathe

In the wake of George Floyd’s death, a turning point in the discussion surrounding police tactics was the use of chokeholds and whether or not they have a place in our society. We’ve all seen the use of chokeholds in jiu-jitsu, a martial arts practice with a grappling referee who calls an end to a match, and also within combat maneuver tactics designed to kill. During an arrest where there’s no referee to say when and the goal is to detain a suspect for due process, the lethal use of the chokehold is considered controversial and is why so many cities, states, and even countries have already banned the use of this practice. The bans we’ve already seen are purely aspirational, and we can’t count on chokeholds being banned with certainty until an actual law is passed to prohibit the use, and the George Floyd Act would do just that.

 Reciprocal rights are a must

The second component of the George Floyd Act that is gaining traction is the use of reciprocal force. If you’ve tuned into our show or seen some of our previous social media posts, you know that we take seriously self-defense and the notion that you’re only legally and defensibly allowed to use physical force on someone else that is proportionate to the force they excise on you first. These laws are often argued in assault cases, but they currently do not extend to police officers. The George Floyd Act would restrict police officers from using unnecessary, disproportionate force while making arrests. Opponents of this portion of the act argue that it will leave officers in jeopardy and without means to arrest persons suspected of criminal activity; however, it does not create a void in police response, but more so requires that officers continually monitor and assess their situation as they subdue a suspect and to constantly try and exercise de-escalation techniques to restore the peace and humanely perform their duty.

Walk it off

The third component of note here has less to do with physical force and more to do with acknowledging that some crimes require no force at all, as not every misstep calls for an arrest. The proposed George Floyd Act would recognize that fine-only offenses, your Class C crimes that don’t include a statutory element of jail time, are better suited for ticketing instead of an arrest. Allowing citizens to walk instead of placing them under arrest unnecessarily would exponentially decrease the risk of excessive force by police.

Throwing out the “bad apples”

The fourth component of great importance that is part of the George Floyd Act would place on officers an affirmative duty to step in and either stop excessive force, minimize it, call for help, and report it. Just as the bystander law in Texas which requires action from citizens when they view emergency situations, this concept would make law officers beholden to the same duty that we demand from citizens.

There is so much to unpack with this proposed legislation that we will continue to closely monitor in the hopes that many of our state’s and nation’s concerns will be resolved. I will conclude this heated but important discussion with a reminder to reach out to a trusted criminal defense attorney if you ever have any questions about or are involved in a criminal issue, and continue to check in with us on social media, as we are dedicated to sharing the crucial information that affects our clients and society.

Posted in Criminal Defense

The Differences Between Peaceable Assembly and Riot, and How You’re Protected

By Peek & Toland on January 21, 2021

“Congress shall make no law…” Most Americans can quote that line from the First Amendment, as that amendment to the constitution encompasses the most basic liberties we hold near and dear in the United States, but what is really guaranteed and protected by this amendment, and where is the line when it comes to our right to peaceable assembly?

Blurred lines

While there are some blurred lines and varied interpretations of our First Amendment right to assemble peaceably to express our beliefs, there are some pretty firm rules concerning this amendment in the State of Texas.

No matter your political leanings, we all need to be aware of our rights and the laws concerning those rights if we decide to exercise our right to free speech and peaceable assembly. To that end, it’s also incredibly important to understand how to avoid a riot and avoid being criminally liable should you end up being involved with a riot. To better understand what is allowed in protesting, we need to know what is not permissible; so, let’s dive in to four laws concerning peaceable assembly in the State of Texas.

  1. So, what exactly is disorderly?

The laundry list of actions or activities covered under disorderly conduct is quite broad, to say the least, but there are a few big standouts for violations deemed as disorderly conduct:

  • Watch your language – Engaging in any type of language, obscene gestures, or physical and furtive movements designed to incite a breach of the peace is considered to be a violation.
  • Nix the tactical tools – In Texas, especially, we’re proud of our right to carry firearms. You’re well within your rights to carry; however, presenting a gun in a way that instills fear of safety if you use it in a manner that interferes with others’ civil liberties, you’re looking at criminal charges. While responsibly carrying your firearm for protection is acceptable, you’ll need to leave any smoke bombs at home.
  • Location! Location! Location! – Time restrictions and permits to peacefully assemble are common sense when planning to protest, but did you know there are definite restrictions on where you can peacefully protest? Gathering at a funeral with intention to protest is strictly prohibited, as is peaceable assembly near critical infrastructure, which includes pipelines, natural gas, and oil. In order to obstruct a road or highway with your assembly, you’ll need one of those permits I mentioned.

2. What’s on the books about riots?

In the State of Texas, riots are specifically defined in our penal code as seven+ people gathered and engaged in an activity that is absolutely designed to or results in prohibiting others from engaging in their civil liberties. “Your rights end where mine begin” is an adage on which we rely in the U.S., and respecting the rights of others is just as important as asserting your own rights. Always remember that when your passions and emotions run high enough to take a stance.

3. You have an out!

So, you’re aware of others’ rights, and you know what not to do when you protest, but what happens if other protestors aren’t aware of the restrictions on riots and you inadvertently end up in a riot instead of a peaceful protest? It can happen in what seems like an instant, but the good news is that you have a way out of being held criminally liable should you end up in a riot without intending to be. Your “get out of jail free” card comes in knowing that the police need to first give you the opportunity to remedy the situation and remove yourself from destructive or intrusive action before they can arrest you.

4. Watch your step!

In the State of Texas, it’s very clear under the code that you are not allowed to disrupt in any way, shape, form, or fashion a lawful meeting. What does that mean? It means you’re completely covered by the First Amendment to peacefully protest outside of a city council meeting or beyond the perimeter of the U.S. Capitol during an active session, but you are not permitted to protest with the sole purpose and design of stopping the governmental function. So, feel free to stand your ground, but make sure the ground on which you stand is outside of and in no way interrupts a lawful event.

These are just a few takeaways to consider before stepping out and standing up for what you believe, especially in the current heated political climate. If you have any questions about your rights or need to consult an experienced advocate to guide you through your defense, we’d love to help. Please tune in to our updates every Wednesday, and follow us on social media for up-to-date information concerning your rights and how we can fight on your behalf.

Posted in Criminal Defense

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