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.

Drug Trafficking Vs. Drug Possession

When dealing with drug trafficking and drug possession, you need to understand the difference between the two charges. Also, where to find a Conroe lawyer with the experience.

Definitions

Drug Trafficking: The sale and distribution of illegal drugs.

Drug Possession: Possession of a drug without a valid prescription in a quantity usable for consumption or sale.

The Difference Between Possession and Trafficking

Now that we understand they both can involve selling drugs, consider the difference between possession and trafficking. What is it?

Answer: the same as generic sales vs. widespread distribution. It is a question of size.

The major question that distinguishes between trafficking and possession deals with quantity. In order for a charge of trafficking to really apply, there has to be a sufficient amount of a given drug in order to make a business out of the sale. Distribution often implies there is a supplier in place, a number of people who will carry out the sale of the drugs, and a network of willing buyers and sellers.

While trafficking involves a network, possession usually only involves one or a few people.

The Penalties For Trafficking and Possession In Texas

Texas takes a strong stance against the possession and the trafficking of drugs. While penalties for trafficking are generally stronger, the bottom line is quantity of drugs present. Larger quantities can carry felony charges, and smaller quantities can carry misdemeanor charges. Mr. Choate is an experienced Conroe lawyer to direct you.

If you have been charged with possession or trafficking in Montgomery County, you should seek a competent and experienced Conroe lawyer to help you navigate the many obstacles. John E. Choate has over twenty years of successful legal experience in handling drug cases. Contact the staff online at contact@conroelawoffice.com to make an appointment.

Citizen’s Arrest! Citizen’s Arrest!

Making a Citizen’s Arrest: What You Should Know

Suppose you witness someone breaking the law in Texas officer is around.  Are you allowed to make a citizen’s arrest or not?  There are elements to understand when considering the legality of this situation.  First, what constitutes a citizen’s arrest?  Second, what must be met in order to arrest someone?

Definition and Reasoning

A citizen’s arrest is any arrest made by a public citizen without a warrant.  Per Lacy V. State, The Texas Court of Appeals reasoned necessity was the principle behind citizen’s arrests.  The Court highlighted the necessity to promptly restrain wrongdoing. When few authorities are present, and they are slow to respond to crime, the reality is that crime will increase.  When others are empowered to act, and are quicker, crime will likely decrease.

Prerequisites

In order to effect a legal citizen’s arrest in Texas, three conditions must be present.
  1. Compliance:  The arrest must comply with federal and state constitutional provisions pertaining to “unreasonable search and seizure”.  In making a citizen’s arrest, we must ensure to not abuse those we are detaining or arresting.
  2. Location: The crime must have been committed in the citizen’s presence or within his view.  In other words, one may initiate an arrest if the citizen and the criminal occupy the same temporal and spatial zone.
  3. Severity:  The crime must be either a felony or a breach of peace.  Put differently, we are looking at either a significant loss of life and property, or actions calculated to disturb the inhabitants of a place.

Probable Cause In Citizen’s Arrests

Those making the arrest must be able to prove “probable cause”.  Probable cause is: the existence of reasonably trustworthy information sufficient to warrant a reasonable person to believe that a particular person has committed an offense. A Texas citizen may make a citizen’s arrest if all are met :     a.  there is probable cause     b.  if they are present or an eyewitness to a crime     c.   if the crime is either a felony or a breach of the public peace     d.  if the arrestor is complying with constitutional provisions pertaining to search and seizure.

In Summation

I would not advise making a citizen arrest for a variety of reasons.  First, most citizens are not trained to understand what probable cause means and the proper use of force to make an arrest.  Failure to understand the proper procedures can result in liability.  The person the citizen intends to be arrested will probably over react because the “arresting citizen” is not seen as a officer and the situation will escalate.  All citizens have a right to defend themselves, others and their property.  Going beyond that, will only subject yourself to liability.

Call the Police!

 

 

Fraud Types

The Broad Category of Fraud

Have you experienced or been accused of fraud?  Many attorneys understand the concept of fraud, but which Conroe lawyer will work with you for success against fighting fraud?

Fraud is a large category of crimes and carries severe penalties in Montgomery County.  Not only does a fraud conviction garner steep legal penalties, but it also carries significant negative social stigmas.  Fraud can affect something as small as a friendship or as big as a group of businesses.  Furthermore, the consequences that follow fraud can last a lifetime.

Picture of the word fraud, in a red font

What is Fraud?

According to U.S. Legal’s online dictionary:

Fraud is…an intentional misrepresentation of material existing fact made by one person to another with knowledge of its falsity and for the purpose of inducing the other person to act, and upon which the other person relies with resulting injury or damage.  Fraud [also can occur in the context of] an omission or purposeful failure to state material facts, which nondisclosure makes other statements misleading.

In short, fraud happens when one person misleads or withholding information from another.  That misleading or withholding results in personal or financial enrichment of the one at the expense of the other.

Ultimately, the root of all fraud is some form of deception.

 

Some Common Types of Fraud In Texas

  • Adoption Fraud: Providing false or misleading information in an adoption processes.
  • Consumer Fraud: Deception that results in financial enrichment at the expense of consumers.
  • Money Laundering: hiding the origin of illegally-obtained money.   Transferring that money through legally-established businesses is one way of hiding the true source of that money.
  • Identity Theft: Using the identifying information of another to obtain the financial benefit for yourself.
  • Insurance Fraud:  Presenting false circumstances to an insurance company in order to obtain coverage they would not otherwise provide.
  • Tax Fraud: Falsifying records to tax authorities in order to avoid paying the full amount owed.

While the above list shows common types in Texas, these are not the limits of fraud.  Fraud can also affect marriages, child support, child custody, and business negotiations.

If you are a victim of fraud, you should seek an experienced Conroe lawyer to help you through the process.  Contact the Conroe Law Office for your free initial consultation.

Marijuana concentrates and its shocking penalty group.

Marijuana Activism in Texas

Texas activist march on the State capital espousing “It’s mans right to consume the plants that come from the earth,” known as “natural rights” movement.  The Endocannabinoid system, exist in the human body for a reason,  but what happens when, that natural plant is concentrated with chemical process to make it concentrated in ways nature never intended? is it still a natural right?

Protesters in from of the Texas state capital

 

How concentrated is it?

The concentration of THC (the active ingredient  in a normal marijuana cigarette) is between 13 and 20% normally and normally a person only feels the need to smoke less than 10-30mg to feel a strong high and the desire to consume more THC is sated. The contracted butane resins (at a purity of 70-90%) bypass the desire to stop but supersaturating the body with the compound before the user realizes how much they have consumed, having consumed as much as 600 mg.

rigging for smoking THC oil
Dabbing rig, for smoking THC oil and resins

 

The real controversy is the penalty group this class of drug falls into. Normally marijuana, which as you may know takes four ounces to become a felony, instantly becomes a fellony when in the form of concentrated oil become a felony regardless of weight, as is treated in the same penalty group as  meth.

 

 

 

 

When are warrantless searches actually legal

Can I be searched without a warrant? It depends and it’s more complex than you ever would have imagined, especially at the border.

truck being stopped at checkpoint

Other reasons you can be searched without a warrant exist too.

If the time it takes to obtain the warrant, would result in the evidence being destroyed or altered in some way, police are allowed to make a warrantless search.

For example, the police are called about the smell of cat urine coming from a house in the country (the strong smell of urine in the air often times linked to meth labs) and the police see a man entering the house with a bottle of bleach (bleach makes meth oxidize into an unstable form of salt that is no longer chemically meth and cannot be tested or the accused tried as such, the police are within their rights to engage an exception known as “exigent circumstances exception.”

The border officers seem to be gaining power, as more creative criminal activities require more and more right given to law enforcement.

Woman submitting to field sobriety

Is this a violation of my 4th amendment? Are we living in a police state?

The reason exceptions are normally written into law is that higher laws exist, for example, the government has the mandate to control the border, in cases that the border could be in danger in some way, the government argues that the higher law succeeds the lower and it’s really that easy sometimes.

In a general sense, the police must demonstrate probable cause. However, this isn’t the case for checkpoints, the U.S. supreme court rules several situations that can result in the setting up of such checkpoints. All the stops the police want-no 4th amendment violation.

What they can’t do

However, the supreme court has ruled that “general crime control” does not qualify as a reason to initiate a checkpoint. The checkpoint must have a clear aim. To asses the sobriety of individuals, the citizenship status of vehicle occupants, etc.

It all comes together by the border, several legal reasons that authorize checkpoints to converge

picture of man under car attempting to cross border

Since local police cannot use traffic checkpoints for drug interdiction, but federal officials can use permanent checkpoints for immigration enforcement, various law enforcement agencies use permanent immigration checkpoints to also look for illegal drugs. The border search exception assists them in this effort. This has led to a wide range of drug seizures, showing evolving tactics among both the people charged with interdicting illegal drugs and those accused of transporting them. These include allegations of transporting marijuana in a van disguised an oil field service vehicle, in a casket in the back of a hearse, and within shipments of local produce.

Complex laws? you have no idea how complex it can be

Laws, in general, are kinda complex, exceptions exist and even experienced attorneys many times have to research when I interview people, we spend a lot of time just talking about details because many times the details or some strange exception are just what a person needs to make a strong case as to why the charges need to be dropped.

Montgomery county sexual assault lawyer 

Montgomery county sexual assault lawyer

The issue of consent is tricky, very tricky, sometimes the only difference is sexual assault and consensual sex might be the rise of an eyebrow expressing interest, the tone of voice expressing inclination of interest, expressing those events to a jury is a job best performed by a serious, experienced and well-trained lawyer.

We can all agree that a line exists that actions match the definition of sexual assault, but as with all human relationships, gray areas exist. For example, consent can, in theory, be taken away? It’s commonly understood from case law that the act of having sex after a fight equals reconciliation? What if the woman is saying that the what the man understood as reconciliation sex was perceived as an assault on her?

man and woman committing sexual assault.

Legal Defenses

Each specific situation has legal defenses tailored to the situation, and the good news is that many times tailored legal defenses have the most positive outcomes. The #metoomovement has created a situation in which it becomes a tad trendy to be included in the victim-hood of having been a helpless woman. We don’t want to deter from the illegitimacy of real rape and sexual assault, the pain and consequences it causes is unimaginable, but we are saying that a lot of gray area situations are being sold to the public as legitimate rape, when in actuality a strong argument could be made that the women in such cases were, in fact, profiting from the situations more than they were taken from.

Forcible, violent and non-nonsexual sex are crimes

We are not proponents of lawlessness in any form, we take on our clients problems and demonstrate the surrounding evidence that contributed to the situations, many many times troubled women have been known to create and imagine situations in which they need a villain, and sometimes, healthy strong normal boys are (excuse the Don Quixote reference) but the imaginary dragon, the scourge of society and at this office we feel we have more realistic understandings of the working dynamics of such relationships.

Victims of sexual assault in Montgomery County can also contact  The Montgomery County women’s center for assistance at-http://mcwctx.org/.