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Varghese Summersett

One of the highlights of this year’s big game was undoubtedly the Super Bowl streaker.

With 5:03 left in the fourth quarter, a man wearing a bright pink thong leotard and skintight shorts (which he later dropped) sprinted onto the field. The game came to a standstill as the streaker dashed past the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buckaneers as they lined up for a play. He used a spin move to evade a security guard before making a beeline for the goal line, where he was ultimately brought down in the end zone by a squad of officers.

Many joked on social media that he made more progress on the field than the Chiefs had all evening.

So what will happen to the man who bared his backside in SuperBowl LV in Tampa, Florida? And what charges would he face if he were to pull that prank in Texas?

Punishments for fans who streak during sporting events can vary from a slap on the wrist to jail time. The punishment depends on what laws were violated in the state in which the streaking occurred. At a minimum, streakers can probably count on an overnight stay in jail and a lifetime ban from the venue.

According to USA Today, the Super Bowl LV streaker — identified as 31-year-old Yuri Andrade — is facing a misdemeanor trespassing charge for running on the field at Raymond James Stadium. He was released from jail Monday morning after posting a $500 cash bond.

If he had pulled the prank in Texas, he likely would have been arrested for criminal trespass or disorderly conduct. Criminal trespass is a Class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to 180 days in jail and a maximum $2,000 fine. Disorderly conduct is generally a Class C misdemeanor, which is a ticket punishable by a maximum $500 fine.

And while streaking at a sporting event is definitely against the law, many pranksters believe the reward (notoriety, advertising, stories to tell your friends) outweighs the risks of any legal hurdle they may have to jump over after the fact.

Kevin Harlan’s call of the Super Bowl Streaker has gone viral.

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Varghese Summersett

More than 200 people have been charged by federal prosecutors in connection with the January 6, 2021, breach at the U.S. Capitol, which left five people dead and caused millions of dollars in damages. Some defendants have been accused of extremely serious charges such as assaulting a federal officer, while others are charged with the lesser offense of entering a protected building. Here’s a look at the charges and punishments stemming from the riot and insurrection in Washington, DC.

What happened at the Capitol?

On January 6, 2021, thousands of protesters surrounded the U.S. Capitol to contest Congress’ proceedings to certify the presidential election. Some members of the crowd went past police barriers and entered the Capitol. Some were armed, some vandalized government property, others were simply present. The Department of Justice is aggressively pursuing individuals who were present on Capitol grounds during the protest.

Who is conducting the investigation?

The FBI is working closely with the United States Attorney’s Office and the Department of Justice’s National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section. Federal law enforcement officials announced that they are treating the investigation into the riot “like an international counter-terrorism investigation.”

What charges do the Capitol rioters face?

Many capitol riot charges are ones you might expect — disorderly conduct, trespass, destruction of property, and assault. However, there are also a number of unique, albeit, serious charges, given that the riot took place at the U.S. Capitol, was meant to disrupt official government business, and is being treated as an international counter-terrorism investigation.

Charges that have been filed by the Department of Justice against Capitol rioters include:

  • 18 USC 1752(a)(1) – Knowing Entering or Remaining in any Restricted Building or Ground Without Lawful Authority
  • 18 USC 1752(c)(2) – Knowingly Engaging in Disorderly or Disruptive Conduct in any Restricted Building or Ground
  • 18 USC 111 – Assaulting a Federal Officer
  • 18 USC 231(a)(3) – Obstructing Law Enforcement Engaged in Official Duties Incident to Civil Disorder
  • 18 USC 131 – Destruction of Government Property over $1,000
  • 40 USC 5104(e)(2) – Violent Entry and Disorderly Conduct.

Other charges being filed include:

  • Conspiracy
  • Conspiracy to impede or injure an officer
  • Theft of public money, property, or records
  • Obstructing, influencing, or impeding any official proceeding, or attempting to do so
  • Carrying a firearm without a license
  • Carrying or having readily accessible to any individual on the grounds or in any of the Capitol Buildings a firearm, a dangerous weapon, explosives, or an incendiary device
  • Possession of unregistered ammunition
  • Possession of large capacity ammunition feeding device (magazine)
  • Knowingly and willfully transmitting in interstate or foreign commerce communications containing threats to injure the person of another.

What are the possible punishments for Capitol rioters?

The punishment ranges vary widely depending on the charge. Not to mention, individuals also face penalties specific to their own circumstances.

One recent indictment charges a Burleson, Texas, man and another man from Hawaii with six separate violations, including conspiracy, theft of government property, destruction of government property, and obstruction of an official proceeding. If convicted, the men each face a maximum sentence of 20 years imprisonment and a fine of up to $250,000.

The charge for unlawfully entering a restricted building or grounds exemplifies how punishment ranges can vary dramatically. Those charged only with entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority may face up to one year imprisonment and $100,000 fine. However, if the person carried or used a deadly or dangerous weapon while committing the offense, or the offense resulted in significant bodily injury, then the person could face up to 10 years in prison and be fined up to $250,000.

Many of the capitol rioters are being charged with Violent Entry and Disorderly Conduct on Capitol Grounds which is defined as “uttering loud, threatening, or abusive language, or engaging in disorderly or disruptive conduct, at any place in the Grounds or in any of the Capitol Buildings with the intent to impede, disrupt, or disturb the orderly conduct of a session of Congress or either House of Congress, or the orderly conduct in that building of a hearing before, or any deliberations of, a committee of Congress or either House of Congress.”

The maximum punishment for such conduct is six months imprisonment and a $5,000 fine. However, any person charged with such conduct while also carrying or having readily available a firearm, dangerous weapon, or explosive will face a maximum punishment of five years imprisonment and $250,000 fine.

Were any Texans charged in connection with the Capitol riots?

At least a dozen Texans have been charged in connection with the Capitol riots, including residents of Burleson, Colleyville, Grapevine, Frisco, and Westlake. Among the group from the Metroplex is a real estate agent who is facing charges of entering or remaining in a restricted building or grounds without lawful authority and disorderly conduct on Capitol Grounds.  She may also face state licensing disciplinary actions.

Facing Capitol Riot Charges? Contact Us

If your loved one is facing any charges associated with the Capitol riot, it’s imperative that you contact an experienced defense attorney as soon as possible. The government is taking this investigation very seriously. Our team of attorneys has extensive experience defending federal criminal charges. Call today for a complimentary strategy session with a member of our team.

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Last week, two of our attorneys tried a case in federal court in front a jury.

Not only that, the trial had multiple defendants.

Yes, a jury trial with three defendants during a pandemic.

It happened.

“The trial marked the first time since the pandemic that jurors have been called to hear a federal case with multiple defendants in North Texas,” said Defense Attorney Benson Varghese, who tried the case with partner Christy Jack. “It was truly a trial without precedent – everything from jury selection to jury deliberation was different.”

Jack said it felt fantastic to be back in front of a jury again – mask and all.

“It was so surreal to be arguing in front of a masked jury,” she said. “But there’s nothing I love more than being in trial. There’s no substitute for being live and in person.”

The trial was held in U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor’s court, which is located in the Eldon B. Mahon Courthouse in downtown Fort Worth. Judge O’Connor put numerous safeguards in place to allow for social distancing in the courtroom, even with three defendants. The defendants on trial included a doctor and two pharmacists who were prosecuted in connection with an opioid pill mill.

Everyone was required to wear masks. The 12 jurors were socially distanced, with some seated in the jury box and others seated in chairs in front of the jury box. Each defendant was seated at a separate table with his or her attorneys, which were six feet apart from the other tables.

Jack joked that the prosecution table was perilously close to the lectern, however.

“The only hiccup came when, in the midst of some animated cross-examination, I put my hand on the government’s notebook on their table,” Jack said. “When I apologized, I instinctively touched the prosecutor’s shoulder. Unfortunately, I doubled down on my mistake. My family has dubbed me the worst social distancer ever.”

Most people seemed to be satisfied with the protections in place. During jury selection, one prospective juror expressed concern about potentially exposing his infant to COVID – and the long daily commute to the courthouse. He was excused. (Unlike state court where jurors come from one county,  jurors for federal court come from the federal division – which in this case was made up of eight different counties.)

Spectators were also allowed in the courtroom during the four-day trial, as long as they wore masks. Most of the court watchers were other attorneys who are representing other defendants indicted in the case. The case involves 49 co-defendants.

“The rest of the attorneys came to see the real life logistics of trying a case before a jury in the midst of a pandemic,” Jack said.

Varghese and Jack said friends and family were surprised to learn that they were trying a case in federal court. Most people assumed that jury trials were not happening anywhere in Texas.

That’s true in state court, where in-person jury trials are prohibited by the Office of Court Administration until at least April 1 unless special permission has been granted. The federal system, however, has continued to operate, adjusting accordingly to the rise and fall of COVID-19 cases and the challenges that come with it.

For example, the attorneys said jury deliberations were delayed on the final day of trial because a juror got called to get vaccinated.

“That’s a first — a trial schedule revolving around COVID vaccinations,” Varghese said. “Definitely, it’s a sign of these times.”

The post Trying a Multi-Defendant Federal Jury Trial During the Pandemic appeared first on Varghese Summersett PLLC.

Varghese Summersett

FORT WORTH, TX – Police arrested a man they believe stabbed two other men at a bar in south Fort Worth at about midnight on Saturday, the Star-Telegram reports.

At approximately 12:40 a.m, police were alerted to a fight at the La Botica Bar in the 3700 block of Hemphill Street which had resulted in two stabbings. They apparently already had a suspect in custody at the time, a 27-year-old man they had arrested a short distance from the bar on South Adams Street. The suspect was booked into jail several hours later, and faces charges of aggravated assault causing serious bodily injury and evading arrest with a vehicle.

The man was one of 11 people booked on assault charges on Saturday, January 23, 2021.

What legal defenses can a Fort Worth assault lawyer raise?

Just because you have been arrested and charged, does not mean you are guilty of assault. There are numerous criminal defenses that could lead to your actual innocence of this offense: self-defense, defense of others, defense of property, duress, and necessity, to name a few.  Consult with our assault lawyers in Fort Worth to determine if the facts of your case meet the requirements for a legal defense.

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Varghese Summersett

FORT WORTH, TX – Police have arrested a man they believe robbed a bank in southwest Fort Worth earlier this month, according to a tweet from the Fort Worth Police Department’s official Twitter account.

CBS DFW reports that the robbery occurred at a First Convenience Bank inside the Kroger grocery store on Altamesa Boulevard on the afternoon of January 10. A man handed a bank teller a note that said he had a weapon and demanded cash. He ran away on foot after the teller complied.

The suspect was described as being six feet tall and aged 35-45 years old. Photos show him wearing a dark plaid shirt and what appears to be a hospital ID band.

Police took a suspect into custody on January 15. No additional information is available at this time.

A total of 28 people were booked into the Tarrant County Jail on charges of robbery the same week that the suspect was arrested.

Hire a Fort Worth Robbery Attorney to Handle Your Case

Not only could a robbery conviction result in prison time and fines, but you could also lose the right to carry a firearm, vote or work in certain industries. Our Fort Worth robbery lawyers will exhaust all avenues to fight your robbery charge and obtain the most favorable outcome. Call today at (817) 203-2220 to schedule a free consultation or reach out online.

The post News: Fort Worth police arrest Arlington man for bank robbery appeared first on Varghese Summersett PLLC.

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FORT WORTH – Benson Varghese, managing partner of Varghese Summersett, is the new president of the Tarrant County Criminal Defense Lawyers Association (TCCDLA). Varghese took helm on January 1, 2021.

Varghese was elected on December 11 during the bar association’s virtual monthly luncheon in Fort Worth. He was among 12 criminal defense attorneys named to the 2021 TCCDLA Executive Board.

“I am honored to have been selected by the defense bar to serve in this capacity,” Varghese said. “We have a lot planned for 2021 and I look forward to working with the Board to build on past initiatives and implement new ones. We are focused on equipping our members with the resources they need to be the most zealous advocates, particularly in light of how the pandemic has changed the legal landscape.”

The Tarrant County Criminal Defense Lawyer’s Association is a non-profit association of lawyers who practice criminal defense in Tarrant County. The organization’s focus is to protect citizen’s Constitutional rights, keep its members updated on the latest developments in criminal law, and educate the public about the need for strict adherence to ethical standards in the criminal justice system.

The organization’s membership is overseen by officers and directors who are elected annually. The outgoing president, Gary Smart, officially passed the torch on New Year’s Day to the new executive board:

  • President, Benson Varghese
  • President Elect, Harold Johnson
  • 1st Vice President, Emily LaChance
  • Vice President, Leigh Davis
  • Treasurer, William Biggs
  • Secretary, Miles Brissette
  • Membership, Monroe Solomon
  • Director, Gary Smart
  • Director, Rose Anna Salinas
  • Director, Dewayne Huston
  • Director, Elizabeth Cortright
  • Director, Brad Shaw

Benson Varghese is the founder and managing partner of Varghese Summersett PLLC,  one of the largest and fastest growing criminal defense firms in Tarrant County.  A former prosecutor, Varghese has handled thousands of state and federal criminal cases and taken more than 100 to jury trial. He is a Fellow of the Texas Bar Foundation and a Member of the College of the State Bar of Texas, honors reserved for few Texas attorneys. He also guided his firm to be included in Inc. 5000, an exclusive ranking of America’s fastest-growing private companies. Varghese has been named an Entrepreneur of Excellence, a Minority Leader in Business, a Top Attorney, and a Super Lawyer Rising Star, among numerous other accolades. In May 2019, he was named the Outstanding Young Lawyer of Tarrant County.

Learn more about Benson Varghese on the firm’s website, www.versustexas.com.

Varghese Summersett

FORT WORTH – Benson Varghese, managing partner of Varghese Summersett, is the new president of the Tarrant County Criminal Defense Lawyers Association (TCCDLA). Varghese took helm on January 1, 2021.

Varghese was elected on December 11 during the bar association’s virtual monthly luncheon in Fort Worth. He was among 12 criminal defense attorneys named to the 2021 TCCDLA Executive Board.

“I am honored to have been selected by the defense bar to serve in this capacity,” Varghese said. “We have a lot planned for 2021 and I look forward to working with the Board to build on past initiatives and implement new ones. We are focused on equipping our members with the resources they need to be the most zealous advocates, particularly in light of how the pandemic has changed the legal landscape.”

The Tarrant County Criminal Defense Lawyer’s Association is a non-profit association of lawyers who practice criminal defense in Tarrant County. The organization’s focus is to protect citizen’s Constitutional rights, keep its members updated on the latest developments in criminal law, and educate the public about the need for strict adherence to ethical standards in the criminal justice system.

The organization’s membership is overseen by officers and directors who are elected annually. The outgoing president, Gary Smart, officially passed the torch on New Year’s Day to the new executive board:

  • President, Benson Varghese
  • President Elect, Harold Johnson
  • 1st Vice President, Emily LaChance
  • Vice President, Leigh Davis
  • Treasurer, William Biggs
  • Secretary, Miles Brissette
  • Membership, Monroe Solomon
  • Director, Gary Smart
  • Director, Rose Anna Salinas
  • Director, Dewayne Huston
  • Director, Elizabeth Cortright
  • Director, Brad Shaw

Benson Varghese is the founder and managing partner of Varghese Summersett PLLC,  one of the largest and fastest growing criminal defense firms in Tarrant County.  A former prosecutor, Varghese has handled thousands of state and federal criminal cases and taken more than 100 to jury trial. He is a Fellow of the Texas Bar Foundation and a Member of the College of the State Bar of Texas, honors reserved for few Texas attorneys. He also guided his firm to be included in Inc. 5000, an exclusive ranking of America’s fastest-growing private companies. Varghese has been named an Entrepreneur of Excellence, a Minority Leader in Business, a Top Attorney, and a Super Lawyer Rising Star, among numerous other accolades. In May 2019, he was named the Outstanding Young Lawyer of Tarrant County.

Learn more about Benson Varghese on the firm’s website, www.versustexas.com.

Varghese Summersett

The call for help came from an email at 8:35 a.m. Tuesday.

Melody McDonald Lanier, the media relations director at Varghese Summersett, had an urgent request for the law firm’s attorneys and staff. The subject line: Operation PlayStation 5.

“Hoping some of ya’ll can help me today. I’m trying to get Kane a PlayStation 5 today for Christmas. They launched overnight (online only) and are already sold out everywhere. HOWEVER, Walmart is selling them today online at specific times. Soooooo, if you are at your computer at 11 a.m. today, if you can hit the link and see if you can get in, I would greatly appreciate it. Thanks anyone who can help. I figure there is power in numbers.”

The entire staff – including Managing Partner Benson Varghese and his wife, Anna Summersett – were all in.

At 11 a.m. Texas time, Walmart’s first online PS5 launch of the day, everyone was at their computers or on their phones clicking and refreshing the Walmart PS5 link.

It was pretty much over before it started.

Operation PS5 Round 1

Operation PS5 Round 2

At 11:03, Walmart announced on their website that the PS5 was out of stock, but that they were restocking their shelves. The retail giant said the “item would be back at 3:00 PM ET” (2 p.m. Texas time).

Although Round 1 wasn’t successful, the team tried to learn from it. To make sure they were quicker on the draw, those who didn’t have one already created a Walmart account and entered payment and shipping information.

When Round 2 started at 2 p.m., the team felt confident.

Two minutes later, that confidence turned to disappointment.

Operation PS5 Round 3

By this time, the team was starting to grow disillusioned. They wondered if Bots were buying up all the consoles, leaving 12-year-old boys like Kane out of luck for Christmas.

Still, the team pressed on. Round 3 was at 5 p.m.

Unfortunately, the results were the same:

Spinning.

In Cart.

Error Occurred.

Out of Stock…

It was the same song, different verse.

On the drive home from work, Melody was disappointed that she hadn’t been able to land a PS5 for Kane, but filled with gratitude that she worked for a firm that puts family first and cares  – whether it’s working together on a big criminal case or helping a co-worker’s kid get a PS5.

Melody sent a quick text thanking the team for their efforts – not expecting them to try again from home on the final round at 8 p.m.

PS5

 

Operation PS5 Final Round

When 8 p.m. rolled around, it was clear the team hadn’t thrown in their towels. Text messages started flying around again as they made a last ditch effort to snag the elusive PS5. One by one, they got shut out. First Bresha, then Benson, then Melody… It was clear that Operation PlayStation 5 was about to be dead.

And then, a Christmas miracle happened.

Attorney Letty Martinez, a pianist with lightening-fast fingers, had gotten in and all the way through. She had an order number and a delivery date to prove it

Operation PS5 Success!

So how did she do it? Letty – a mother of teenage twins – said she is a regular user of the Walmart app on her phone. Walmart Pay was already set up and her shipping information was already intact. She also did a little research to see if there was a way to give herself an advantage.

“Being a huge nerd, I read that having something else in your shopping cart with your credit card info ready, could help,” Letty said.

So Letty put printer ink for $57.48 in her cart and, after a couple of tries, was able to throw a PS5 in there, as well.

The next thing she knew, she was hitting the “Continue” and “Confirm Payment” buttons.

And then, she got that coveted confirmation number.

“Given the crazy demand, I won’t believe it until I see it,” Martinez said, laughing. “I’m a big skeptic…But as bonus, my printer ink will be here soon!”

Melody said she couldn’t believe it either when Letty texted the group that her order actually went through.

“I had resigned myself that it probably wasn’t going to happen,” Melody said. “I was touched by the efforts of my work family. They hung in there even though it was a long shot, long after our work day was done. That is much bigger than a PS5.

“But, I’m not going to lie —  my son is going to be stoked!”

PS5

 

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Varghese Summersett

During his presidential campaign, Joe Biden ran on a progressive criminal justice reform platform that stands in stark contrast to some of his previous positions on crime. In fact, his current plan aims to undo the damage caused by previous policies he championed for decades, starting in the 1990s.

The article will outline President-Elect Biden’s criminal justice plans now; will touch on Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris’ record on criminal justice issues; and will explain in layman’s terms what he can and can’t do as president without congressional support.

What criminal justice changes has Biden promised?

During this election cycle, Joe Biden stated that too many minorities are locked up and that we need to rethink who we send to jail, how we treat them in jail, and how to help them successfully rejoin society after they serve their time. On Biden’s Criminal Justice Policy website he promises, among other things, to:

  • End Mandatory Minimum Sentencing
    As President, Biden says he will work to pass legislation to repeal mandatory minimums at the federal level. He will give states incentives to repeal mandatory minimums.
  • End the Monetary Bond System
    Biden calls cash bail the “modern-day debtors prison” that disproportionately harms low-income people. He said he will lead a national effort to end cash bail and reform the pre-trial system by putting in place a system that is fair but does not inject further discrimination or bias into the process.
  • End Private Prisons
    Biden says he will end the federal government’s use of private prisons. He will make it clear that the federal government should not use private facilities for any type of detention, including detention of undocumented immigrants. Biden will make eliminating private prisons and all other methods of profiting off incarceration – including diversion programs, commercial bail and electronic monitoring – a requirement for his new state and local prevention grant program. Biden will also support legislation to crack down on private companies charging incarcerated individuals and their families high feed to make calls.
  • End the Death Penalty
    Biden promises to work to pass legislation to eliminate the death penalty at the federal level and to incentivize states to follow the federal government’s lead. He contends these defendants should instead serve life sentences without probation or parole.
  • Decriminalize Marijuana
    Biden believes no one should be in jail due to cannabis use. He vows to decriminalize cannabis use and automatically expunge prior convictions. He will support the legalization of cannabis for medical purposes, let the states decide to legalize recreational use, and reschedule cannabis at as schedule II drug so researchers can study its positive and negative impacts.
  • Create a $20 billion grant to help states reduce incarceration
    Biden vows to create a new $20 billion competitive grant allowing state, counties and cities to receive funding to invest in efforts to reduce crime and incarceration. In order to receive the funding, states must eliminate mandatory minimums for non-violent crimes, institute earned credit programs and make other efforts to reduce incarceration rates without impacting public safety.
  • Check prosecutorial power by asking the Justice Department to investigate prosecutorial misconduct
    Under the Biden administration, the Justice department will use its authority to identify unconstitutional or unlawful policing. Specifically, Biden promises to appoint Justice Department leadership who will prioritize the role of using pattern-or-practice investigations. He will push for legislation to clarify that this pattern-or-practice investigation authority can also be sued to address systemic misconduct by prosecutors’ offices.

How does Biden’s current promises contrast with his previous positions?

In 1994, Joe Biden, who was then chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, authored and shepherded through a controversial crime bill called the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994. The Crime Bill imposed mandatory minimum sentences, imposed the three-strikes mandatory life sentences for repeat violent offenders, and increased the number of federal crimes that are subject to the death penalty. It also provided funding for the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act and a ban on certain semi-automatic weapons for 10 years. Over the years, Biden supported many more “tough on crime” laws that critics say helped lay the groundwork for mass incarceration, particularly among black communities. He has since admitted that he hasn’t always “gotten things right.”

What is Kamala Harris’ record on criminal justice issues?

Vice-President Elect Kamala Harris also has a mixed record on criminal justice issues. Harris was a former prosecutor, San Francisco District Attorney, and California Attorney General before becoming a US Senator for California. She has been walking the line between top cop and criminal justice reformer. For example, when she was the DA of San Francisco, she declined to pursue the death penalty, but as AG of California, she defended the use of the death penalty.

What changes can Biden make without congressional support?

Changes at the federal government happen at a glacial pace. The president has the power to grant pardons  – or set aside punishment – in federal cases. He can also grant clemency, thereby reducing sentences for federal crimes. He can also direct the Department of Justice himself – or through the Attorney General – on what offenses to prioritize and how often to allow diversion instead of prosecution.

The president can set up task forces to make recommendations on how to make changes under the existing legal framework. Biden has promised to create an independent Task Force on Prosecutorial Discretion, which would make recommendations for tackling discriminations that stem from arrests and charging decisions. (For example, in 2019, 52 percent of marijuana cases filed by the Tarrant County District Attorney were against individuals who are black, even though they make up only 15 percent of Tarrant County population – this despite the Brookings Institution, an American think tank, finding little variation in marijuana use between races.)

The President can direct the DOJ to look for violations of any police department or prosecutor’s office that violates the “rights, privileges, or immunities secured or protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States.”

What changes require Congress to act?

Much of Biden’s plans for criminal justice reform are going to require legislative support. With the Senate majority still to be determined, it is difficult to predict how many of these campaign promises can be kept. It is also important to note that whatever changes are made at the federal level, the states still have the ability to make laws more stringent at the state level. For example, if marijuana is decriminalized at the federal level, it may remain illegal at the state level – subject to what each state legislature does. Some changes may also be mostly symbolic – for example, very few federal cases are for possession or even distribution of marijuana alone.

If Biden can build support in Congress, Congress can pass laws at the federal level that could eliminate mandatory minimum sentences in federal drug cases, provide greater avenues for early release, and put pressure on the states (by controlling federal funds) to enact state laws that conform with these stated criminal justice goals. The federal government cannot order state or local governments to fall in line with these goals.

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Administrative License Revocation (ALR) Hearing

When you are stopped for suspicion of a DWI, your initial thoughts go to the criminal case, but license consequences can be devastating. An ALR hearing (or the Administrative License Revocation Hearing) is the process by which a license can be saved from suspension after an arrest for driving while intoxicated.

In Texas, when a driver is stopped on suspicion of DWI and refuses to take or fails a blood or breath test, their license will subsequently be suspended by the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS). The individual will receive a “Notice of Suspension” –  also known as a DIC 25 – which will act as a temporary driving permit while the driver decides whether or not to challenge the license suspension through an ALR hearing.

An ALR hearing is held in the presence of an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) who listens to the evidence in the case. DPS has the burden of proof in an ALR hearing. The driver can attack the DPS case by presenting any legal issues that may exist. Unlike the criminal case, which must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, the burden of proof in an ALR hearing is only preponderance of evidence.

After the hearing, the ALJ will issue a final decision and order. If the judge finds that DPS has proven its case, the judge will authorize the suspension of the individual’s driver’s license. On the other hand, if the judge finds that DPS has not proven its case, the individual’s driver’s license will not be suspended.

What does DPS have to prove at an ALR hearing in Texas?

At an ALR hearing, the state will be required to show there was reasonable suspicion for a stop, probable cause for your arrest, and that you were given an opportunity to consent to a breath or blood test. In a case where you consented to give breath or blood, they have to prove the result was over .08.

How to Win an ALR Hearing

TIP:

Hire a criminal defense attorney on your DWI case and ask them to handle the ALR hearing for you. They will know the ins-and-outs of the ALR process and can take the best swing at winning the ALR hearing. If you end up representing yourself, follow these steps to defend your license at an ALR hearing in Texas:

Step 1: Request the Hearing:

A request for a hearing must be received by the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) in Austin, Texas, no later than 15 days after you receive notice your license has been suspended or denied. The request for this hearing may be sent by written demand, fax, or any other way determined by Texas DPS.

The driver has 15 days from the date of the suspension notice to request a hearing. If a hearing is not requested within 15 days, the suspension goes into effect on the 40th day after the notice was served.

If a hearing is requested within 15 days, DPS will send a letter notifying the driver of the date, time, and location of the hearing. It can take up to 120 days for DPS to schedule a hearing. The temporary permit is valid up until an ALR hearing has been held and the judge has ruled.

Step 2: Decide if the Hearing Should be In-Person or Telephonic

You will have an option of requesting an in-person (virtual during the pandemic) or telephonic hearing. The hearing will be conducted through the State Office of Administrative Hearings (SOAH).

If you have an in-person hearing, you can subpoena the officer who arrested you. If the officer does not show, you’ll generally win outright.

If you have a telephonic hearing, DPS can get into evidence without a live witness. In that case, you need to find another attack on the evidence.

Step 3: Argue Lack of Reasonable Suspicion for the Stop

An officer needs reasonable suspicion to stop your vehicle. If you can show a lack of reasonable suspicion, you can win the hearing. Reasonable suspicion can’t be just a hunch. There has to be something that gave the officer reason to believe you were committing an offense. Things that go to reasonable suspicion:

  • Was your driving behavior consistent with signs of intoxication or something else?
  • Were there 911 callers?
  • Was the alleged traffic violation captured on video?
  • Officers will claim the time of day and location is consistent with when they encounter intoxicated drivers. Are there alternative reasons?
  • The odor of alcohol cannot tell an officer how much you had to drink. (Heavy, moderate, light odors are not consistent with heavy drinking, moderate drinking, or light drinking.)

Step 4: Argue Lack of Probable Cause

An officer is required to have probable cause to arrest you. This means specific articulable facts that show you committed an offense. This could be based on admissions, appearance, odors, field sobriety tests, etc. However, if there are other reasons that might explain your appearance other than intoxication, it is unlikely the officer investigated those matters – such as exhaustion, prior injuries, age, or weather conditions. If the officer did not have probable cause to arrest you, you will win the ALR hearing.

Step 5: Failure to Read Statutory Warning

If the officer did not read you the DIC-24 statutory warning asking you for a sample of your breath or blood, you should win the ALR hearing.

Step 6: Request the Breath Records

Breath tests are getting to be rare these days – most agencies get blood. However, if you have a breath case (which means you consented to the test), request the “inspection, maintenance and/or repair records” for the 30 days before and after the test. If DPS does not provide them after you’ve paid for them, the breath test won’t come in as evidence in the ALR hearing. See Texas Admin Code Rule 159.151

What are my odds of winning an ALR hearing in Texas?

DPS has the upper hand in these cases. They have a low burden of proof – far lower than proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Notice they don’t have to prove that you were intoxicated in most cases. In fact, here is breakdown of how many ALR hearings DPS won in Texas in 2015:

Texas ALR hearings

 

How long does it take to get an ALR Hearing?

Once your attorney requests the ALR hearing, it can take two weeks to 120 days for DPS to schedule a hearing date. Your attorney will be notified of this date, which is typically a few weeks to a month from the date of the notice.

How do I get my license back after the DWI license suspension period in Texas?

After the suspension period is over, you may contact your local DPS office to have your license reinstated. You will be responsible for paying a reinstatement fee, which is typically $125. Your attorney will be able to confirm your eligibility for reinstatement before you go in by logging into the DPS website.

Can an ALR decision be appealed?

Yes. You will be forced to pay a fee to appeal the underlying decision, but you may appeal the ALR decision. This also grants you more time to drive on your license without the suspension going into effect.

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