Forensic Science & Texas Criminal Cases

Texas is known for its cowboy culture, barbecued delicacies, and, of course, Friday Night Lights. But today, let’s review the role of forensic science in Texas criminal cases.

Setting the Stage: Forensic Science

The Basics

In simple terms, forensic science is the bridge that connects the science lab to the courtroom. It’s the junction where the objective certainty of science meets the nuanced interpretive world of law.

So, what does this bridge look like?

Imagine a charming old covered bridge, like something from a rustic painting. Instead of wood and nails, though, this bridge is built from blood samples, ballistics, fingerprints, and DNA analysis. Under the arches of this bridge lie the answers to some of the most perplexing legal questions. These are the type of answers that can sway the scales of justice this way or that.

Forensic Science in Texas

Playing Detective

Texas is a huge state both geographically and in terms of population. This size translates to a sizable number of crimes. Hence, a dire need for cutting-edge forensic science to aid the judiciary.

Let’s consider an example to paint this picture a little clearer.

Texas Penal Code Section 19.02 covers the criminal charge of murder. Now imagine a crime scene where the main piece of evidence is a single hair.

Sounds like a scene from “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” right?

That’s where forensic science steps in.

Texas forensic labs use advanced techniques such as DNA profiling and microscopic hair analysis. That single hair can morph from an insignificant strand to a crucial piece of the puzzle, leading to the perpetrator’s identification.

Forensic Laboratories in Texas

Where the Magic Happens

The heroes behind the scenes in these investigations are Texas’ forensic laboratories. The Department of Public Safety operates crime labs all over the state. Their services include but are not limited to DNA analysis, drug identification, toxicology, and trace evidence analysis.

Then there’s the famed Texas Forensic Science Commission. This organization was established by the Texas legislature to investigate complaints about forensic analysis conducted in connection to criminal cases. This body ensures that forensic methodologies are sound and reliable. They’re charged with hold the labs accountable and enhancing their credibility.

Moreover, Texas law (Code of Criminal Procedure Art. 38.35) requires anyone performing forensic analyses for use in criminal proceedings to be licensed. This means that your neighbor’s whizz-kid son can’t just cook up a forensic lab in his garage.

Forensic Science and the Criminal Justice System

A Marriage of Sorts

Picture this.

A man is standing trial, accused of a crime that he swears he didn’t commit. The jury is about to make their decision, but then an expert witness from one of Texas’ forensic labs takes the stand. They present a fingerprint analysis that clears the accused of any involvement in the crime.

Boom! The scales of justice have just swayed.

The point here, folks, is that forensic science plays a crucial role not just in investigating crimes, but also in ensuring that justice is served in court. Texas Evidence Rule 702 allows experts (such as forensic scientists) to testify in court if their scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge will assist the trier of fact (that’s your jury or judge) to understand the evidence or determine a fact in issue.

The Future of Forensic Science in Texas

Onward and Upwards

Now, looking forward, forensic science in Texas has a promising future. Advances in DNA technology is occurring rapidly. Advancements such as next-generation sequencing and rapid DNA analysis, promise to make forensic investigations even more efficient. Furthermore, the state’s commitment to maintaining high standards in forensic science (remember our friend, the Texas Forensic Science Commission?) ensures that this field will continue to get better.

In Conclusion

Getting Justice Right with Forensic Science

So, there you have it, folks. Forensic science, with its blend of cutting-edge technology and good old-fashioned detective work, plays an indispensable role in the investigation of Texas criminal cases. From the crime scene to the courtrooms, these scientific heroes ensure that justice is served – righteously.

Remember, you can’t rely on the state of Texas to prove your innocence. If you’re facing criminal charges in Houston or elsewhere in Texas, talk with a criminal defense lawyer. There’s a few lawyers Texas with forensic credentials. The one that comes to mind is criminal defense lawyer Tad Nelson. If you’re facing criminal charges in which the outcome may hinge on forensic evidence, we recommend calling Tad Nelson & Associates.

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A Quick Guide To Criminal Justice Lawyers

Lawyer in Downtown Houston

Retaining A Lawyer Following Criminal Charges

There are many practical reasons to hire a criminal justice lawyer. You may be innocent and need someone who will fight for you in court, you may have been arrested and need to be released on bail, or you may have been charged with a crime, but not yet found guilty of the crime. Hiring a lawyer can help you navigate the complex legal system more successfully.

Generally, the first thing you need to do after being charged with a crime is to hire a Houston felony criminal defense lawyer because they are familiar with the law. The lawyer will help you understand the charges, their defenses, and how they can help you go about defending yourself in court.

In order for your case to be successful, it’s essential that you know what you’re up against and what kind of defenses are available to you. A good Houston criminal lawyer can guide you through this process and make sure that your rights are protected while representing your best interests in court.

Attributes of the best criminal defense lawyers

Experienced criminal defense lawyers are no strangers to the dynamic nature of their profession. The good ones have a natural talent for finding opportunities within written law and legal principles. But there are certain things that will make a lawyer stand out from the rest, and these attributes have been outlined below:

  • Skills: A great criminal defense lawyer has mastered the art of defending their clients in a court of law, ensuring they have a chance of being acquitted. They also possess skills such as cross-examination and presenting evidence to the jury.
  • Income: The best criminal defense lawyers charge more than their counterparts because they work on more complex cases that require more time and effort. It is not uncommon for them to charge as much as $400 an hour for their services. The fee could be higher if the lawyer has a reputation for winning in court.
  • Social skills: A good criminal defense lawyer must be able to build rapport and effectively communicate with all parties involved with the case. This includes jurors.

How much does it cost to hire a Houston Criminal Defense Attorney?

Depending on the accused party’s situation, a Defense Attorney can be affordable of very expensive. Hiring an attorney for any criminal defense related matter is not only a financial decision, but it also carries the risk of losing your freedom. To avoid this, it becomes imperative to hire a criminal defense attorney that’s experienced in the field. The key to hiring the best attorneys for your case is doing a little research before hiring one, or take recommendations from friends and family members who might be able to point you in the right direction.

Unfortunately, finding an experienced Criminal Defense Attorney is not always easy. You might need to contact multiple attorneys before finding one who will be both confident enough and qualified enough to represent you in court.

One of the things that often go unnoticed when looking for a criminal defense lawyer is their experience with cases similar to yours;

Important Factors To Consider When Retaining A Lawyer

A criminal defense lawyer is a person who is professionally trained to protect the rights of suspects and defendants in a criminal justice system. In the United States, these lawyers often work in public defender offices, which are government-funded. Given that they focus on criminal cases, it is important for you to know what type of charges they have previously worked on and the outcomes of those cases.

  • You should also find out how much experience they have in your specific area, such as Federal, DWI or Criminal Appellate law.
  • Criminal defense lawyers may be more effective if they specialize in one area instead of taking on every case that comes their way.

What is a Felony as defined by Texas law?

A felony is a crime which is punishable by imprisonment in the state’s correctional facilities for more than one year. Crimes that are punishable by imprisonment in the state’s correctional facilities for one year or less are misdemeanors.

Misdemeanors are crimes which are punishable by imprisonment in the county jail for not more than one year, or fine, or both.

Misdemeanor cases generally do not involve incarceration past six months. Common examples of misdemeanor offenses can include driving under the influence, possession of marijuana, possession of drug paraphernalia, driving without a license, shoplifting with intent to sell, and assault on a family member.

Client Lawyer Relationships

The relationship between a lawyer and their client is of the utmost importance, as it’s one that determines the success or failure of a case. The attorney is supposed to provide zealous representation, but also be the voice of reason when their client is making decisions that may not be in their best interest.

Is Getting a 2nd Opinion from Another Lawyer A Good Idea?

This is a common question among those who are facing criminal charges in Texas. When you have been charged with a crime, it’s natural to want to hire the very best lawyer that you can find. The thought of getting a second opinion from someone else might seem like a good idea at first glance: after all, lawyers that practice criminal defense law know what they’re doing and they know the system inside and out.

But this is not always the best option; it can lead to confusion and frustration. The truth of the matter is that every lawyer is different and has their own strengths and weaknesses. You might be better off if you had more than one person handling your case instead of just one person giving you advice on how to proceed with your case on your own.

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ALR Hearings: An Important Step for Texas DWI Defendants

Houston, TX ALR Hearings

Understanding Administrative License Revocation Hearings

While getting a DWI is something you’ll generally want to avoid at all costs, if you do find yourself in a situation where you are being charged with driving while intoxicated, an ALR hearing is a crucial step that may help you fight the charges if you were falsely accused, or if proper protocols during the investigation were not followed. ALR hearings, or Administrative License Revocation hearings, is a process that includes suspended license hearings in which the accused can contest the suspension of a drivers license due to a DWI charge or arrest. This process is separate from the criminal hearing and proceedings for the DWI charge. ALR hearings are for the most part exclusive to Texas.

Benefits of Requesting a Houston ALR Hearing

There are a few benefits of requesting an ALR hearing, though you must request one within 15 days after your arrest, or else your right to an ALR hearing will be waived and your license will be suspended for 40 days from the date of arrest. It is important to note that while you can try to file the request yourself, to ensure the request is submitted within those first 15 days it is highly recommended that you hire an aggressive DWI attorney for ALR hearings to handle the request for you.

The ALR hearing has two main benefits.

First, your license will not be suspended until the Administrative Law Judge hears your case. Once the ALJ makes a ruling on the ALR hearing, either they will determine the DWI was legitimate and proceedings will continue as normal, or due to improper procedure or other circumstances, the license will not be suspended.

The second benefit is that your attorney will be able to ask the involved officers about the arrest on the record, and due to the more informal nature of ALR hearings, the officers likely will offer more information than they would normally in the criminal trial. It is important to note what while some criminal cases for DWI have been dismissed on the basis of the result of the ALR hearings, these are two separate hearings and a favorable ALR hearing does not guarantee the criminal charges will also be dropped.

The DWI (Criminal Case) Can Be Affected

The questioning of the officer under oath at the hearing can provide very useful information for the upcoming criminal proceeding as well. First, the officer’s statement in the ALR hearing can be used in the criminal hearing. If the officer changes his story, or can not remember specific details of the arrest, his statement from the ALR hearing can be used in order to either discount his testimony or refresh his recollection. Second, the testimony allows some insight as to what evidence the prosecution might have against you in the criminal proceedings, and can help your attorney strategize for the criminal hearing. The state is required to provide the evidence they have against you that will benefit them in the criminal prosecution when in the ALR hearing. This also allows your attorney time to perform further investigation regarding the evidence.

Caselaw Review

State of Texas V. Montgomery

For example, in State v. Montgomery (1998), Montgomery was charged with a DWI after being stopped while exiting a nightclub. After further investigation of testimony during the ALR hearing, it was found that the stop was made without any probably cause or suspicion, and a motion was made to suppress all evidence and testimony gained as a result of the stop, as the evidence was gained due to an illegal stop, arrest and detention. The DPS attempted to continue suit for the criminal charges, but as the evidence proving as such was suppressed and no longer valid, the case was made that continued pursuit of the criminal charges in light of this would be denial of due process and subject to double jeopardy, or being brought to trial for a crime in which one was already proven innocent of. The judge agreed with this motion and dismissed the case.

In order for your license to be suspended in an ALR hearing, it must be proven that the DWI stop and arrest was valid according to the preponderance of evidence. The standards for this are generally much lower than for the criminal portion of the DWI proceedings as well. If DPS, the prosecuting agent in ALR hearings, is unable to validate that the DWI stop was done with just cause, or was performed properly, it is possible for your license to not be suspended. If the facts show that the stop was in fact valid, your license can be suspended anywhere between 90 days and 2 years.

While the case of State v. Montgomery ended up dismissing both the DWI suspension as well as the criminal charges, the results of these hearings are separate, and very heavily depend on the facts of the case. You should never assume the ALR case dismissal will result in the dismissal of the criminal proceedings, and always hire a DWI attorney.

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DUI: Driving While High & Texas Law

Just like when a person operates a vehicle intoxicated by alcohol, driving a car while under the influence of drugs is illegal in all states in the U.S. You can get arrested for a DUI for driving on any drug including marijuana and legal prescription drugs. “According to the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, in 2016 11.8 million people drove under the influence of illicit drugs.”

A study done by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration showed that “more than 18 percent of fatally injured drivers tested positive for at least one illegal or prescription drug in 2009.” Driving while under the influence of drugs is just as dangerous as driving drunk and is taken just as seriously by the law.

For this reason, law enforcement has ramped up DUI enforcement efforts in Texas, leading to many wrongful arrests.

Driving Under The Influence of Drugs In Texas

In the state of Texas driving under the influence of drugs is treated similarly to charges faced when arrested for driving a vehicle while intoxicated by alcohol. The Texas Penal Code defines intoxicated as “not having the normal use of mental or physical faculties by reason of the introduction of alcohol, a controlled substance, a drug, a dangerous drug, a combination of two or more of those substances, or any other substance into the body.”

In the state of Texas, there is an implied consent for drug and alcohol tests if a police officer suspects you are driving while intoxicated. If you refuse to take a test, your refusal can be used against you and you can still face criminal charges. If an officer believes you are driving while under the influence and the blood or urine test comes up positive, then you will face Driving Under the Influence (DUI) charges.

According to Texas DPS, the white male population is the demographic that is arrested the most for DUI. Of the nearly 90,000 DUI arrests a year that take place in Texas, most of them are alcohol-related. Even with a decreasing drug abuse arrest rate, there are still thousands of people a year charged with driving under the influence of drugs in the state of Texas.

Criminal Penalties For DUI In Texas

The penalties you can face if convicted of driving under the influence of drugs are the exact same as DWI for alcohol charges in the state of Texas. Since there are no intoxication levels with drugs any proof of influence will get you the same penalties as driving with a blood alcohol content of 0.08 or higher will. In Texas, the penalties get worse if you get charged with more than one DUI offense.

For a first DUI offense, you can face 3 to 180 days in jail, up to a $2,000 fine and get your driver’s license suspended for 90 to 365 days. For a second DUI offense, a person can face 30 days to 1 year in jail, up to a $4,000 fine and get their license taken away for 180 days to 2 years. If someone is charged with a third DUI offense they can face a minimum of two years in prison, up to a $10,000 fine and 180 days to 2 years of their driver’s license being suspended.

In addition to fines and jail time, a person convicted of driving under the influence of drugs can be ordered drug/alcohol treatment and/or probation. During probation, the defendant will have to regularly report to a probation officer who will make sure they are completing everything they need to do as ordered by law. In DUI cases, people convicted are often ordered drug tests, treatment and community service.

Potential DUI Defenses And Your Rights

DUI for drugs cases can be hard to win because according to the law if drugs are found in your system while driving you can be considered intoxicated. However, some drugs such as marijuana stay in your system longer than they can intoxicate someone. In some cases, a person will be found not to be intoxicated while driving even though a drug test showed narcotics in their system. In other cases, the drug test may have shown a false positive, meaning that the test said there were drugs in your system when there wasn’t. If you hire a lawyer to represent you, then they will be able to tell you what your best defense can be.

Need A Lawyer In Texas?

Getting a DUI charge can be a difficult and life-changing process. Having a lawyer to represent you can save you time, money and lots of headaches. During the DUI conviction process there are many hoops to jump through with the court system and the department of motor vehicles. A lawyer will stand by your side and help you through all of the legal hurdles your DUI charge will throw at you.

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