Guilty Until Proven Innocent, The Red Flag Law of Texas

Guilty Until Proven Innocent

Red Flag Law

Let’s meet Sam and Sally Smith. Law abiding citizens of the great state of Texas. They run their own business, pay their taxes, go to church on Sunday and Wednesday, vote in every election. They are just good people. Sam and Sally enjoy hunting and target shooting on their ranch. Sometimes they will video the target shooting and post it on social media for their friends to enjoy.

Now meet Richard Right. He feels that anyone with a gun is a criminal. He also knows Sam and Sally have a different political affiliation than he does, and he knows anyone who doesn’t think like he does is mentally ill. What can he do? These mentally ill people have guns. But since the great Gov. Abbot passed the Red Flag Law, he can now just go online to the IWatchTexas website and report them. And the best thing...they will never know they are on the LIST. Richard doesn’t even have to give his name.

Sam and Sally are just living their lives never knowing that somewhere some government official is keeping track of them.

If you think this doesn’t happen, ask the people of the former Soviet Union or the Germans.


Red Flag Laws and the 5th Amendment

Fifth Amendment - U.S. Constitution

Fifth Amendment - Rights of Persons
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury , except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

Red Flag Laws
In the United States , a red flag law is a gun control law that permits police or family members to petition a state court to order the temporary removal of firearms from a person who may present a danger to others or themselves. A judge makes the determination to issue the order based on statements and actions made by the gun owner in question. Refusal to comply with the order is punishable as a criminal offense. After a set time, the guns are returned to the person from whom they were seized unless another court hearing extends the period of confiscation.

Such orders are known by various names, including "Extreme Risk Protection Orders" (ERPO) (in Oregon , Washington , Maryland , and Vermont ); "Risk Protection Orders" (in Florida ); "Gun Violence Restraining Orders" (in California ); "risk warrants" (in Connecticut ); and "Proceedings for the Seizure and Retention of a Firearm" (in Indiana ). As of August 2019, 17 states and the District of Columbia have passed some form of red-flag law. The specifics of the laws, and the degree to which they are utilized, vary from state to state. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_flag_law#cite_note-LevinsonDunn-7

I Watch Texas Community Reporting System
Welcome to the Texas Suspicious Activity Reporting Network iWatchTexas website, where you can report suspicious activities or behaviors that may indicate criminal, terroristic, or school safety-related threats.

This site is not designed to report emergencies. If this is an emergency, call 911.

Every report will be reviewed by analysts. Although not required, providing your contact information will allow follow up questions, and if you prefer to report by telephone, please contact 844-643-2251

https://iwatchtx.org/
In Gov. Abbot SAR release (report at bottom)

No.4. Educate physicians and behavioral health professionals about the law concerning disclosure of confidential information to law enforcement.

Sounds like to me they want to “educate” them to break the law. Have they never heard of HIPPA?

No. 5. DPS should coordinate with fusion centers across the state to promote continuous improvement and accountability.

The fusion centers are used to collect information on Texans. If you think I’m talking about criminals, no they collect information on innocent people who “anyone” can file a suspicious report on. So Texas is encouraging Texans to spy on other Texans and report them!

Proposal 10.The Legislature should spur cooperation to encourage social media companies to report suspicious activity to law enforcement.

So who exactly at Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc are going to be deciding what is suspicious activity?

Our elected officials are trampling over our Constitutional Rights. If we as citizens do not make our voices and votes heard NOW! We and our children will not recognise our State or Country. We will sit around and talk about the good ol’ days when we could think for ourselves.

Make your voice heard to the Governor and all your representatives.

 


Governor Abbott Releases Texas Safety Action Report

September 12, 2019 | Austin, Texas | PressRelease
https://gov.texas.gov/news/category/press-release

Following weeks of meetings with nearly 50 experts in the aftermath of tragedies across the state, Governor Greg Abbott today unveiled the Texas Safety Action Report. The Governor’s report elaborates on the Executive Orders issued last week that are intended to bolster the public safety coordination that can prevent mass shootings. The Texas Safety Action Report also provides additional ideas for the Texas Legislature and state agencies to consider that can make our communities safer while also respecting the Constitution.

Governor Abbott’s Texas Safety Commission convened community leaders, law enforcement officials, federal officials, business representatives, faith leaders, tech experts, counselors, advocates, lawmakers, and survivors of mass shootings to study what has happened, identify any shortcomings in our current systems, and explore ways to prevent these horrific tragedies from taking place. The strategies laid out in the Texas Safety Action Report are a result of these meetings.

"We must act with resolve in response to the despicable acts of violence we have witnessed in Texas," said Governor Abbott. "Solving the problems that have led to these horrific events will take more than governmental action. The complete solution will require more than what is outlined in this paper. It will require parents, families, churches, law enforcement, community groups, schools, and others working together to fortify the social fabric of our society. Texans are at our best when we are tested. Together, we will transcend this test, and forge an even better future for our state."

A summaryof the Texas Safety Action Report can be found below.
Here are the Executive Order and Legislative Proposals from the Governor's report, released on 9/12/19.

Additional Executive Actions:
1. Strengthen Domestic Violence High Risk Teams across the state.
2. Expand law enforcement training offered through the Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training (ALERRT) Center at Texas State University, and develop a public awareness campaign for the “Avoid, Deny, Defend” program. http://www.avoiddenydefend.org/
3. Refresh training for all licensed peace officers on the procedures and criteria for “emergency detention.” https://statutes.capitol.texas.gov/Docs/HS/htm/HS.573.htm
4. Educate physicians and behavioral health professionals about the law concerning disclosure of confidential information to law enforcement.
5. DPS should coordinate with fusion centers across the state to promote continuous improvement and accountability.
https://www.brennancenter.org/sites/default/files/analysis/Hous.%20Fusion%20Center%20-%20Privacy%20Policy.pdf
6. Accelerate the development and implementation of the DPS safe firearm storage campaign, supported by the recent $1 million appropriation.

Legislative Proposals

1. The Legislature should consider expediting the reporting of criminal convictions to the Texas Department of Public Safety
2. The Legislature should consider prohibiting straw purchases of firearms under state law. A primary goal is to keep guns out of the hands of criminals while protecting the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens.
3. The Legislature should consider laws that crack down on criminals who try to illegally buy or possess guns.
4. The Legislature should consider laws that crack down on criminals who try to illegally buy or possess guns.
5. The Legislature should consider requiring courts to inform convicted criminals, both orally and inwriting, that they may no longer possess firearms.
6. The Legislature should consider stiffer consequences for criminals convicted of violent offenses.
7. The Legislature could consider requiring that any stolen firearms be reported to the county sheriff within 10 days of when the owner becomes aware of the theft.
8. The Legislature should consider ways to make it easy, affordable, and beneficial for a private seller of firearms to voluntarily use background checks when selling firearms to strangers.
9. The Legislature should consider prohibiting juvenile offenders convicted of certain violent crimes from legally purchasing firearms.
10. The Legislature should spur cooperation to encourage social media companies to report suspicious activity to law enforcement.
11. The Legislature should consider implementing and funding a Texas program, similar to federal initiatives, which uses a multi-pronged strategy of policing and prosecution, agency integration, and identification of violent crime hot spots. The focus would be on criminals with guns, not law-abiding Texans.
12. The Legislature should consider a law that works in conjunction with the proposed federal “Protecting Communities and Preserving the Second Amendment Act” of 2019.

Additional Strategies:
1. The Legislature should work with the Texas Education Agency (TEA) to develop strategies to improve parental engagement in schools.
2. When updating the Health TEKS, the State Board of Education (SBOE) should emphasize student mental health issues, including depression, social media immersion, and drug abuse.
3. The Legislature should consider amending state law to ensure schools are notified when former students are arrested.


If you or someone you love has legal needs in Montgomery County, you should seek a qualified attorney such as John E. Choate, Jr who can handle your case with skill.

We are a Conroe Law Office focused on winning your case. Established in Spring 1995, we serve Montgomery, Harris, and the surrounding counties. Founded on the pillars of respect, diligence, and loyalty, we are here to help you through the most difficult times in your life.

Make an appointment TODAY for your free initial consultation.

 

Preparing for Your Divorce

Getting divorced is never fun.

No one grows up dreaming of their divorce. If you are the one considering divorce, you need to plan for the divorce suit like you planned your wedding and marriage. Put your anger or hurt aside and think about the vision you have of your future. Having a qualified attorney help you plan things out will make your life easier. It’s a tough time emotionally, your attorney will be your voice and advocate during the legal process.


Residency requirements for filing a divorce suit:

Sec. 6.301. GENERAL RESIDENCY RULE FOR DIVORCE SUIT.

A suit for divorce may not be maintained in this state unless at the time the suit is filed either the petitioner or the respondent has been:

(1) a domiciliary of this state of Texas for the preceding six-month period; and
(2) a resident of the county in which the suit is filed for the preceding 90-day period.

Sec. 6.302 . SUIT FOR DIVORCE BY NONRESIDENT SPOUSE.

If one spouse has been a domiciliary of this state of Texas for at least the last six months, a spouse domiciled in another state or nation may file a suit for divorce in the county in which the domiciliary spouse resides at the time the petition is filed.

https://statutes.capitol.texas.gov/Docs/FA/htm/FA.6.htm


In Montgomery County, Texas, the judges have agreed that in divorce and child custody cases that affect children, the parties must follow the “Montgomery County Standing Orders. Listed below are some headings of the standing orders.

● No disruption of children
● Protection of family pets or companion animals
● Conduct of the parties during the case
● Preservation of property and use of funds during divorce case
● Personal and business records in divorce case
● Insurance in divorce case
● Specific authorizations in divorce case
● Parties encouraged to mediate

https://www.mctx.org/departments/departments_d_-_f/district_courts/418th_district_court/docs_and_forms.php


If you or someone you love is thinking of filing a divorce suit or have been served with a divorce suit, you should seek a qualified attorney such as John E. Choate, Jr. who can handle your case with skill. Contact Attorney John Choate at the Conroe Law Office.

Texas New Laws

We all have "friends" who work in the legal field whether police, constable, legal assistant or others who we ask advice or to clarify legal rumors.  Sometimes, the best thing to do is to READ the law yourself.  Rumors can really get you trouble.

The 86th Session of the Texas Legislature officially concluded and was gaveled Sine Die, on Monday, May 27th. 7,324 bills were filed during the 86th Texas Legislature and 1,429 of them were passed. If you would like to see them all, a great website to visit is
https://legiscan.com/TX/legislation/2019

We’re going to list a few of the new laws passed and some that have remained unchanged.


Texas Dept. of Transportation Cell phone law

In 2017, the Texas Legislature passed a statewide ban on using a wireless communications device for electronic messaging while operating a motor vehicle. Texting, as well as reading or writing email, is prohibited while driving in Texas.

Many local areas have passed stricter ordinances which completely limit any cell phone use while driving, so it is the responsibility of drivers to learn the laws in their local areas.

Cell Phone Prohibitions

  •  Drivers cannot send or receive electronic messages in Texas.
  •  Drivers with learner's permits are prohibited from using handheld cell phones in the first six months of driving.
  •  Drivers under the age of 18 are prohibited from using wireless communications devices.
  •  School bus operators are prohibited from using cell phones while driving if children are present.
  •  In school zones, all drivers are prohibited from texting and using handheld devices while driving.
  •  Local restrictions: Drivers should become familiar with any ordinances in effect in their local areas. Drivers should contact their local municipality to determine if there are additional laws governing the use of cell phones.

TEXAS — (SEC. 545.412 TEXAS TRANSPORTATION CODE) Child Safety

While the Texas Department of Public Safety often uses the language “booster seat” in their description of the law for “booster”- age children, the actual complete child seat law is as follows:

  •  Any child younger than 8 years of age must be secured in a child passenger safety seat system according to the instructions of the manufacturer of the safety seat system.
  •  In such a case as a child is under 8 years of age but at least four feet nine inches in height, the child may use the vehicle seat belt.

Property Tax Reform

Governor Greg Abbott signed into law Senate Bill 2, which delivers significant property tax reforms that will cap property tax increases without voter approval and provide tax reform to homeowners and businesses across Texas.

Senate Bill 2 lowers the property tax rollback rate to 3.5% for cities and counties. Any increase to this rollback rate in cities, counties, and some special districts will require voter approval and automatically trigger a tax ratification election. This rollback rate will be renamed the voter approval tax rate going forward.

SB 2 also requires taxing units to post their budgets, tax rates, and tax rate calculation worksheets online. The bill makes numerous improvements to the appraisal and protest process, such as prohibiting an Appraisal Review Board (ARB) from increasing the value of a taxpayer property above its initial value, increasing training requirements for ARB members and arbitrators, and entitling taxpayers to the evidence the appraisal district plans to present at their ARB hearing free of charge.

Marijuana, Hemp, and the 2018 Farm Bill

Congress’ 2018 Farm Bill differentiated hemp from marijuana by setting a tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) threshold concentration of 0.3%. Anything above 0.3% is still considered marijuana and therefore generally illegal in Texas.

H.B. 1325 Adopted the Federal Framework

The Farm Bill delegated primary authority over how to regulate the production and sale of hemp to the states. H.B. 1325 adopted the 0.3% THC standard (same as the Farm Bill) for distinguishing regulated hemp from prohibited marijuana. Furthermore, H.B. 1325 directs the Texas Department of Agriculture to pass rules requiring hemp producers to be state-licensed and test their products to ensure 0.3% or less THC concentration. Importantly, the law also requires a shipping certificate that confirms the product in transport is legally compliant hemp (no more than 0.3% THC). Failure to have the required certificate during transport is a misdemeanor and also subjects the person to a civil penalty of up to $500 per violation.

In short, H.B. 1325 gave prosecutors more tools to prosecute these crimes, not less, because they can now prosecute a misdemeanor for failure to have a proper hemp certificate.

Red-light cameras banned.

HB 1631 : Signed on June 3

The ban goes into effect immediately, the devices could still linger in some communities for a few more years, as the bill only prevents cities from renewing their current contracts with vendors.

https://gov.texas.gov/

https://capitol.texas.gov/

If you or someone you love has legal needs in Montgomery County, you should seek a qualified attorney such as John E. Choate, Jr who can handle your case with skill.

We are a Conroe Law Office focused on winning your case. Established in Spring 1995, we serve Montgomery, Harris, and the surrounding counties. Founded on the pillars of respect, diligence, and loyalty, we are here to help you through the most difficult times in your life.

Make an appointment TODAY for your free initial consultation.

 

Do I Need An Attorney to Talk to the Police?

The short answer is…it depends

If you are a victim or a witness to a crime you will want
to talk to the police.

If you are a suspect, the answer is always YES! You need an attorney.

Once they read your Miranda Rights, absolutely tell them you want an attorney and quit speaking. Do not ask them any questions, or ask them to explain anything. Be polite and respectful, but insist on your attorney being present for anymore questions.

Miranda Rights
You have the right to remain silent.
Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.
You have the right to an attorney.
If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you.
Do you understand the rights I have just read to you?
With these rights in mind, do you wish to speak to me?

Law Professor James Duane stresses that the best course of action if you want to avoid being prosecuted for a crime you didn’t commit is simply never to talk to the cops.  At all. Period.

As a result, if you’re approached by a police officer you’re legally obliged to tell them your name and what you’re up to at that exact moment, but beyond that Duane recommends sticking to the words: “I want a lawyer”. In 2008, Duane, a professor at Virginia’s Regent Law School, gave a lecture about the risks of talking to police that was filmed and posted to YouTube . His argument, which he’s since expanded into a new book called You Have the Right to Remain Innocent, is that even if you haven’t committed a crime, it’s dangerous to tell the police any information. You might make mistakes when explaining where you were at the time of a crime that the police interpret as lies; the officer talking to you could misremember what you say much later; you may be tricked into saying the wrong things by cops under no obligation to tell you the truth; and your statements to police could, in combination with faulty eyewitness accounts, shoddy “expert” testimony, and sheer bad luck, lead to you being convicted of a serious crime.

Prof. Duane thinks that you shouldn’t even tell the police that you are refusing to talk. Your safest course, he says, is to ask in no uncertain terms for a lawyer, and keep on asking until the police stop talking to you.

Besides, the police don’t think you’re innocent. Unfortunately as a suspect you cannot trust the police. You are the guilty one in their eyes. They just need to get a confession. The police are allowed to use deception during interrogations, such as saying a co-defendant has already admitted guilt, they have your DNA, fingerprints or video. If you’ve gotten this far without an attorney, Stop!!  Immediately ask for an attorney.

“What if I’m guilty?”

Most importantly, you need to exercise your right to remain silent and have an attorney. Your attorney will work to ensure you have adequate legal representation in court, and are subject to a fair trial. Your attorney will also try and get an appropriate and reasonable charge for the crime you are accused of.

Therefore, if you or someone you love has been charged with a crime in Montgomery County or surrounding counties, you should seek a qualified lawyer such as John E. Choate, Jr., Attorney at Law, who can handle your case with experience. Call (936) 441-2999 Attorney John E. Choate, Jr. at Conroe Law Office.

Texas Constitutional Carry

The term “democracy” is often used erroneously to describe our system of government. It seems to be especially popular among politicians who happen to find their party out of power. “What he is doing is harmful to our democracy!” is almost a religious chant today.

But, if we don’t have a democracy, what do we have?

Our Union (not “nation” or “country”) was established with a representative republican form of government, but today we have lost the republic and our “representatives” seek office only to magnify and multiply their own opinions and votes, apparently.

Here’s what I mean: this year the Delegates to the Republican Party Convention in San Antonio set what they call “Constitutional carry” of firearms as the #1 priority for the majority Party in this session of the Texas Congress.

“Constitutional Carry” is bad terminology, but suffice it to say that it is meant to repeal the costs associated with legally carrying a firearm in Texas. Nothing about it would authorize anyone to carry if they couldn’t qualify under the present law and pay the associated fees and licenses.

A new Speaker of the Texas House was elected for this session after several sessions under Joe Straus, a man most conservative Republicans thought far too liberal. Dennis Bonnen proceeded to follow in Straus’ tracks almost step by step, appointing liberal Democrats to Chair key committees that would handle conservative legislation, including Constitutional Carry.

That should have cued anyone to know that Bonnen was opposed to this legislation that is overwhelmingly supported by his own Party, and has many supporters in the Democrat Party along with Libertarians.

The Bill had been stalled in the House Homeland Security and Public Safety Committee chaired by Pancho Nevarez (D) Eagle Pass for weeks before the well-publicized incident with Mr. Chris McNutt, Executive Director of Texas Gun Rights, so neither of these men intended to ever let this Bill get to the floor for a vote anyway.

Now it has been made abundantly clear that the Speaker just flat lied about what happened at his house in Lake Jackson as well as at a fundraising event at which he was scheduled to speak and stormed out after confronting Mr. McNutt.

The DPS Trooper’s testimony as well as bodycam footage shows that Mr. McNutt was unarmed and never stepped on the Bonnen’s property, regardless of what the Speaker says.

So, how can we have a representative republican government here in Texas if one man, in complete disdain for what the people want, stops proposed legislation from even getting a hearing?

If legislation with overwhelming support of the people cannot be heard or voted on we have an oligarchy, certainly not a republic!

 A Conroe lawyer, John Choate Jr., has seen the abuse of political power in our great State of Texas and has assisted many citizens.  Call the Conroe lawyer with your questions or concerns.

The State, Mental Health and Our Kids

With an increased emphasis on mental health coming to the public attention in the last few years it is inevitable that governments, including the Texas Congress, would become involved.

While most of this emphasis may be driven, at least among the average citizen, by school violence, there are many other reasons for this renewed focus as well.

Several Bills dealing with mental health of students in Texas public schools have been introduced in this session of the Texas Legislature. There are good points and bad in all of them to be sure, but let’s narrow our focus to one Bill, HB 10.

This Bill purports to “establish a State wide research framework focused on preventing, identifying, and treating mental health conditions”.

That may sound good, but I am always concerned when any State law seeks to take an issue of schools and education out of the hands of local school boards and parents, and places it in the “care” of the State.

This Bill does exactly that. And it is undoubtedly political under its skin, having one member of the institute appointed by the Governor, one by the Lt. Governor, and one by the Speaker of the Texas House.

How long do you think that will remain “independent” or purely focused on the mental health of Texas children?

Now let’s look at this in a little more depth; among the things this “Institute” will be identifying and treating are (2)(B) “external factors that MAY result in behavioral health issues”.

Most will look at that and think of substance abuse or violent home life, but this is all totally subjective. We already have doctors instructed to ask minor children if their parents have firearms in their homes, and how many. I will assure you that there are some mental health professionals who will see firearms ownership alone as reason enough to “flag” a child as “endangered”.

The list of things that may trigger a “flag” is as long as the list of men and women doing the flagging.

I believe we should be focused on returning control of local schools to local school boards and parents, and getting Austin and DC completely out of them!

The very idea that a politically appointed board would have the authority to flag your child as a mental health risk should scare the bejeebers out of Texans!

A Conroe lawyer, John Choate Jr., has seen the abuse of political power in our schools and has assisted parents.  Call the Conroe lawyer with your questions or concerns.

Texas Looks at Legalizing Medical Marijuana

Recent polls show that 84 percent of voting Texans believe the state should legalize marijuana for some uses, but an outright repeal of the prohibition against the drug is unlikely to happen anytime soon in the state.

Policymakers are focused on expanding medical marijuana use and reducing penalties for possession of small amounts of the drug, according to panelists discussing the politics of marijuana at the South by Southwest festival on Saturday.

State Sen. José Menéndez, D-San Antonio, and Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy director Heather Fazio explained why the medical marijuana and possession laws in Texas need to change at a “Politics of Marijuana: What’s in Store for Texas” panel, one of several Cannabusiness discussions at the festival this year.

Moderated by Texas Tribune reporter Alex Samuels, the panel also featured Jackson County Sheriff A.J. Louderback, legislative chairman of the Sheriffs’ Association of Texas, which is fighting the marijuana reform bills that Fazio and Menéndez hope the Legislature will pass this year.

Menéndez doesn’t want to talk about legalizing marijuana for recreational use, and said he’s “laser-focused” on legalizing medical marijuana.

Thirty-three states and the District of Columbia have legalized use of marijuana for medicinal purposes, but in Texas doctors may prescribe only low-THC cannabis to patients with intractable epilepsy, under the Texas Compassionate Use Act of 2015.

“I think that the current Compassionate Use Act in Texas is worthless,” Menéndez said. “We say to cancer patients, ‘I’m sorry, you’re not worthy of it. HIV patients, sorry. Glaucoma, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, cystic fibrosis, cerebral palsy, Alzheimer’s, hepatitis C, you name it, you’re just not worthy.’

“I think it’s the doctors and the patients who should make the decisions about what they put in their body to make them better, not legislators,” Menéndez added.

The issue is personal for Menéndez, whose wife has multiple sclerosis. He said that if the state allows doctors to prescribe narcotics and opioids to help patients cope with pain, he doesn’t understand why the state won’t let doctors prescribe marijuana, which is safer.  

“Yesterday, as we’re talking to the pain specialist in my wife’s hospital room, and he’s like, ‘OK, I need to get you off the opioid painkillers, the narcotics, so that you can go home,’ and I asked him, ‘Hey, if there were medical cannabis products available, would it help?’ And he said, ‘Yes,’” Menéndez said.

Menéndez’s Senate Bill 90 would expand the Texas Compassionate Use Act to give doctors the discretion to prescribe marijuana to any patient whom they believe could benefit from it.

It remains to be seen whether the bill will make it to a vote during this year’s legislative session, which ends May 29. Menéndez filed a similar bill during the 2017 legislative session, but it never received a committee hearing. Its companion bill in the House had nearly 80 co-sponsors, and did make it through committee in that chamber, but it was never scheduled for a vote. The Texas Legislature meets every other year.

Three other bills that would expand the Act in some way, including two by Republican lawmakers, have been filed this session. If none make it through this year, reformers will have to wait until the Legislature meets again in 2021 to try again to expand the Act.

Fazio said there is also bipartisan support for reducing penalties for low-level marijuana possession, noting that the Texas Republican delegates at their state convention last year adopted marijuana decriminalization as a party platform.

“It is officially in their platform for the Texas GOP that there should be no jail time associated with small amounts of marijuana,” Fazio said. “Instead, there should be a small fine and people should be able to go on with their lives. They know that this is going to keep people in school and keep them in the workforce and that’s what’s going to keep Texas strong.”

Fazio said that 60,000 to 70,000 people are arrested for simple possession of marijuana every year in Texas, and that about two-thirds of them are convicted, which can affect access to education, employment, housing and driver’s licenses.

In the same 2018 University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll that found 84 percent of Texans support legalizing marijuana for some uses, 69 percent of respondents said they support reducing punishments for marijuana possession, including 62 percent of Republican respondents and 79 percent of Democratic respondents.

Lawmakers have proposed several bills this session that would reduce criminal penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana or eliminate those penalties altogether, and there is some movement on this legislation.

House Bill 63, filed by El Paso Democrat Rep. Joe Moody, would make it so that anyone who possesses one ounce of marijuana or less would not face a criminal offense, but merely a civil fine of $250 or less.

That bill received a public hearing in the House criminal jurisprudence committee this month, but the committee has not voted on it yet.  

Fazio said that there will have to be a conversation about legalizing marijuana outright in Texas “very soon,” but her coalition is focused on reducing penalties, because that’s where it has found “common ground.”

“We are living in such incredibly polarized political times,” Fazio said. “Where we can find agreement with our neighbors, we have to move forward with that, and marijuana is bringing people together. It’s a beautiful thing.”

The Sheriffs Association of Texas, however, does not support any bill that would decriminalize simple possession or expand marijuana access to patients, and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who plays a major role in deciding which bills the Senate will pick up, generally sides with the Sheriffs Association on major law enforcement issues.

Louderback said that law enforcement is wary of such measures, because of the “formula” for the progression of marijuana legalization in the U.S.

“It’s widely thought by many that the pathway to the ultimate goal of legalization for recreational marijuana … starts with the medical platform,” Louderback said.

The sheriff said that drug cartels are “growing stronger” in states such as Colorado that have legalized marijuana.

In 2017, Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman announced the indictments of a “massive” illegal marijuana trafficking ring, which she said was a “prime example that the black market for marijuana has not gone away since recreational marijuana was legalized in our state, and in fact continues to flourish.”

“These trafficking rings are not just operating in the shadows, they are invading and are often conducting their illegal activity in plain sight under the guise of being a legitimate business,” Coffman said in a statement.

Louderback said he’s also concerned about the strength of commercial strains of weed and the fact that it is “easily ingested in many different ways,” which he says is a big problem for schools in states that have legalized pot.

Louderback said that state prosecutors are already taking marijuana matters into their own hands, changing the way they handle simple possession arrests, and that there’s “clearly going to be some changes” to marijuana laws in Texas during the next several legislative sessions, depending on “state leadership in the House and Senate.”

“So, obviously, the public plays a huge roll in this and the election process,” Louderback said.

For now, Texans who are looking to legally smoke will have to head across the border — not to Mexico, but to another U.S. state — all of Texas’s neighbors: New Mexico, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana, have already legalized medical marijuana.

Murder Vs. Manslaughter

The Difference Between Murder and Manslaughter

Have you ever wondered what the difference between murder and manslaughter is?  Why do we not have a simpler legal system that calls all ending of life murder?  Well, following up on a previous post, one of the major reasons for that difference boils down to intent.

Definitions

Law.com defines murder as

the killing of a human being by a sane person, with intent, malice aforethought (prior intention to kill the particular victim or anyone who gets in the way) and with no legal excuse or authority.

Manslaughter, on the other hand is

the unlawful killing of another person without premeditation or so-called “malice aforethought” (an evil intent prior to the killing).

That is, the difference between murder and manslaughter has to do with whether the death that happened was planned or unplanned.  On one hand, murder, by definition, implies a malicious motive that embodies the choice to end someone’s life.  On the other hand, manslaughter deals more with circumstantial death that had no malicious thought or planning beforehand.

John Choate, Jr – Attorney at Law

How Prosecution Teams Determine Intent

How Prosecution Teams Determine Intent

Prosecuting attorneys must weigh several elements in any court case.  Of these elements, intent can be one of the most difficult to prove.  Indeed, it can pose a challenge because the lion's share of intent occurs in the mind of the accused.

Yet, even with the level of internal dialogue, there are a number of markers that prosecutors can use to infer or prove intent.

Defining Intent

For our purposes, U.S. Legal describes intent as:

...a determination to perform a particular act or to act in a particular manner. Intent is usually based on a specific reason. It is an aim, design or a resolution to use a certain means to reach an end.

Put differently, intent is the choice to perform a given task or to behave a certain way.  Intent is the reasoning behind a certain action.

The law recognizes three types of criminal intent:

  • General/Basic Intent: Intent that is proven from the act itself (such as speeding).
  • Specific Intent: Intent that is rooted in replanning (such as in burglary).
  • Constructed Intent: Intent that is built upon the unforeseen effects of an action, as with a pedestrian death that arises from negligent driving.

While general intent is sufficient for such crimes as speeding, one must ferret out specific intent in the case of burglary and attempted murder.

Proving Intent

What goes into proving intent?  Well, in a court of law, two types of evidence are admissible.

  • Direct Evidence: Evidence that arises from witnessing a crime or hearing from those who have direct knowledge of a particular crime.
  • Circumstantial Evidence: Evidence that arises through reasoning from the facts of a crime to truths that can be inferred.

Put another way, Direct Evidence means someone saw it happen and tells what they saw.  Circumstantial Evidence, on the other hand, comes from piecing the events of the crime back together and drawing clues through logic and deduction.

Intent can be proven based on any number of dynamics. Some dynamics considered include:

  • Behavior of those involved.
  • The placing of objects, such as clothing, weapons, prints, bodily discharges, etc.
  • The time the incident occurred.
  • Who was present or absent at the scene of the crime.

If you or someone you love has been charged with a crime in Montgomery County, you should seek a qualified attorney such as John Choate, who can handle your case with skill.  Contact Attorney John Choate at Conroe Law Office.

The Ethics of Lawsuits Filed By Christians

Should Christians File Lawsuits?

Should a Christian file a lawsuit or not? Are lawsuits ethical or not? John Choate, Jr, a Conroe lawyer opens up the discussion biblically.

For many in the Conroe area, asking a lawyer if lawsuits are ethical might seem absurd.

However, followers of Jesus should always weigh the ethics of any situation; we walk in accordance with a different, higher standard. Every decision made should not only be weighed against whether one can do it, but also whether one should do it. Furthermore, every decision a Christian makes ought to take into consideration whether the Bible has anything to say about that decision.

The Old Testament: Our Behavior During a Lawsuit

Concerning lawsuits, there are several places in the Biblical text that assume lawsuits and other matters of jurisprudence are a normal part of society. Therefore, guidelines are provided for handling legal disputes.

First, in Exodus, Moses engaged in arbitration between Israelites. His father-in-law counseled him before departing, and provided a more efficient method of handling disputes. Further, he instructed Moses to select and teach others how to handle their disputes (see Exodus 18:13-27). Those whom Moses selected were God-fearing, trustworthy, and above reproach.

Later, the Law stipulates what our attitude should be in a lawsuit. That is, suits should be free from bribes and partiality (see Exodus 23:1-8), given these dynamics twist the execution of justice.

Besides this, subversion (intimidating either those who bring suit or those with the authority to judge a suit) as a tactic was specifically reproved in Jeremiah’s writings (Lamentations 3:36).

The New Testament: Should We Bring Suit?

Moving to the New Testament, Jesus, speaking to the crowds of poor, specifically touches on the inner motive when it comes to responding to lawsuits (Matthew 5:40). Namely, kindness should characterize our response instead of vengeance. Further, we should hunt for a solution that creates a win/win for all parties involved, rather than strife.

Indeed, the purpose of legal suits should at least be twofold :

  1. To correct patterns of abuse or mistreatment.
  2. To arrive at a place of equilibrium between parties instead of constant friction, and, where possible, reconciliation.

Paul’s exhortation to believers in Corinth focused on the squabbles, factions, and divisions that brought disrepute on all Christians. Within the scope of issues that caused division, Paul covered lawsuits between Christians. It appears that believers were suing one another through courts led by unbelievers. Paul told the Corinthians stop using secular courts to settle disputes, and instead see arbitration from other believers.

As believers, we should aim for resolution, and if possible, reconciliation, rather than division. Per the counsel of Scripture, if a lawsuit is going to become an option, then let it be the option of last resort, after arbitration and every other attempt at resolution has failed.

For further insight, see Focus on the Family’s article on the topic. Contact our office to schedule a free consultation with John Choate, Jr, a Conroe lawyer, who has years of experience of handling cases whether by negotiations or mediation to resolve family, business or property disputes.