Varghese Summersett

Swiping packages off porches or doorsteps is a common crime of opportunity, especially during the holidays. An article published recently by USA Today reports that one in two Americans know someone who has had a package stolen after it was delivered and one in three Americans say they have had a package stolen. For some, the lure of unattended Christmas loot is just too great.These so-called “porch pirates” won’t just end up on Santa’s naughty list, however. This type of behavior could land them in jail facing serious consequences.

State and Federal Criminal Charges for Stealing Packages

In Texas, depending on the circumstances, it’s possible to face state or federal charges for package theft.

Package Thefts under Texas Law

package theftUnder state late law, specifically Texas Penal Code 31.03, if you take property that does not belong to you, without consent or permission of the owner and without other legal justification, and have no intention of giving it back, it constitutes theft. Taking a package off a stranger’s doorstep without permission would qualify as theft under this statute. Learn more about theft charges in Texas.

In Texas, punishment for theft can range from a ticket to up to life in prison. Theft is classified by the amount of property that is stolen. If the property is valued at under $100, the individual is facing a $500 fine. If the property is valued at more than $300,000, the individual is facing a first-degree felony punishable by up to life in prison.

Because individuals who commit package theft likely do not know what is inside the box, they are unwittingly exposing themselves to the full gamut of punishment. For example, stealing a smaller package that contained jewelry or expensive electronics could lead to felony theft charges. Likewise, stealing a large box containing an inexpensive item could lead to a misdemeanor charge.

Package Thefts under Federal Law

usps theftA person who commits package theft could also be guilty of a federal crime. Under Section 1708 of the United States Code, mail theft is defined as taking any piece of mail that is not your own for any reason. This could include a letter, a package delivered by a mail carrier, or a package that is left in a designated delivery area. Following a USPS truck and then taking packages off someone’s porch after delivery, for example, or taking a package out of a stranger’s mailbox without permission could be a violation of federal law. A conviction could lead to a fine and confinement for up to five years in federal prison.

Tips for Avoiding Package Thefts

Install a Surveillance Camera

security cameras

Because package theft is a growing issue, law enforcement and homeowners have become more vigilant, which has resulted in more people getting caught and arrested. Many people who commit package theft are captured by home surveillance cameras. Some police departments are now turning to technology for help and using bait packages with GPS trackers inside to find and arrest package thieves. Homeowners also are relying on package guard products that notify them when they receive a package and sets off an alarm if anyone unauthorized tries to take it.

Have Packages Delivered to another Location

Besides post office boxes or work addresses, you can also have packages delivered to an Amazon Locker.  You can also have packages delivered to a UPS store.

Require a Signature for Delivery

If you have a package that you don’t want left on your front porch, contact the seller or shipper and require a signature for delivery.

What should you do if your package is stolen?

Contact the Seller or Shipper

Contact the Carrier

  • Even if the shipper did not purchase insurance, most private carriers offer $100 of free coverage for ground and express services.

Contact the Police

  • If you have proof that a package was stolen, contact the police at their non-emergency number. Be sure to retain any footage you may have from a surveillance camera. If you don’t have a surveillance camera, ask your neighbors if they have any cameras that might have captured traffic on the street.

Charged with Package Theft? Contact Us

Have you been accused of stealing a package in state or federal court? Whether you were wrongly accused or you made mistake and are hoping you can live a better life in the future, we are here to help. Call us at (817) 203-2220. You can also contact us online:

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Varghese Summersett

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Varghese Summersett

Illegal Reentry Charges: When Coming Back is a Federal Crime

The debate regarding the scope of legal immigration to the United States has existed for decades. It is a political hotbed. Arguments for and against expanding or retracting immigration seem to permeate the political landscape of this country. While the public discourse ebbs and flows, federal courts have adjudicated a myriad of criminal cases where people have been shown to re-enter the U.S. after being deported and face illegal reentry charges.

While it is common knowledge that persons who enter the United States illegally can be deported, it is also important to recognize that persons who have been previously deported may, if found in the United States after their deportation, be federally prosecuted.

8 USC 1326 prohibits a person who has “been denied admission, excluded, deported, or removed” to then “enter, attempt to enter, or [at] any time be found in the United States.”

Challenges to Illegal Reentry Charges

Successful prosecution of illegal reentry charges depends on the government’s ability to prove the original deportation was valid. If the immigration judge did not inform you of your right to stay in the country, if such a provision applied, the prior deportation order may be invalid. Depending on the circumstances, we may order the transcript of your immigration file (also known as Alien File) and transcripts of court proceedings to determine if your prior deportation order was valid. Similarly, if the prior deportation did not follow proper procedures, we might be able to negotiate a lesser charge.

When we order an Alien File or A-File we look for:

  • Prior statements to authorities.
  • Removal orders and Notices to Appear (NTA’s) or Orders to Show Cause (OSC).
  • Documents relating to criminal history.
  • I-205 warrant of removal.
  • Any previous immigration applications the person may have filed,
  • Prior legal status the person may have had.

We also analyze the case for a Lopez-Mendoza collateral attack which has three steps:

  1. The deportation proceeding must have been “fundamentally unfair.”
  2.  The alien was deprived of judicial review; and
  3. The defect must have prejudiced the alien, depriving him of what would otherwise have been a reasonable likelihood of avoiding removal.

Statutory Penalty Range for Illegal Reentry: The Outer Boundaries

The overall penalty is a federal felony that can carry anywhere up to 20 years prison depending upon certain circumstances. It is also important to recognize that this prison term does not eradicate a separate deportation consequence. That is, upon completion of the prison sentence, the prisoner is then deported.

A person who has been deported in the past is subject to a sentence of up to 2 years. However, if the deportation was due to a criminal conviction, that sentence can be as high as 20 years.

The length of sentence typically has to do with the criminal history of the defendant.

If a defendant has committed 3 or more misdemeanors involving drugs or a crime against a person, or a felony, that person is subject to an imprisonment range of 0-10 years. Further, if a defendant has reentered after committing an aggravated felony, that person is likely subject to an imprisonment range of 0-20 years.

If the defendant has committed a previous aggravated felony, then the range is 0-20 years.

The terms felony and aggravated felony mean many different things in different circumstances. Under federal law, a felony is an offense that is subject to more than one year imprisonment in the territory where the offense occurred. Under federal law, and specifically in the context of illegal reentry, the term aggravated felony is defined under 8 USC 1101.

Our attorneys defend federal illegal reentry charges throughout the country. If your loved one needs help, anywhere in the country, contact us.

Guideline Range: Suggested Actual Sentences for Illegal Reentry Charges

The United States Sentencing Guidelines are a set of standards used to present a federal judge with a suggested specified range for punishment. As opposed to the statutory range, the guideline range often takes specific aspects of the offense into account to create a tailored penalty range. Guideline ranges are not mandatory after Booker but followed by federal judges in the great majority of cases.

For Illegal Reentry cases the Guidelines are driven by the prior criminal history of the person. Specifically, all cases begin with a base offense level of 8.

However, several enhancements may come into play to increase the offense level, and as a consequence, the guideline range.

If a defendant commits illegal reentry after committing a prior felony illegal reentry, then the offense level is increased by 4 levels.

If a defendant commits illegal reentry but had committed a felony after being deported in the first place, then the offense level increases by 4-10 levels depending on the seriousness of the felony.

It is also important to recognize that if a defendant has 3 misdemeanor drug convictions, before or after the initial deportation, then the level is increased by 2 levels.

Contact Us

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Varghese Summersett

This week, President Trump declared the opioid crises a Public Health Emergency. Earlier this year, Attorney General Jeff Session vowed a federal crackdown on doctors and pharmacists who are doling out a disproportionate number of opioids. The declaration that the crisis is a public health emergency frees up federal money for the DOJ and federal investigators to focus on perceived “pill mills.”

What are Opioids?

An opiate is a chemical derived from opium. An opioid is “opiate-like” but is man-made. Opioids include common drugs , such as oxycodone (OxyContin), hydrocodone (Vicodin), morphine, and methadone. They are commonly used for pain relief. Many opioids, such as OxyCodone, Hydrocodone, Vicodin, and Percocet, are regularly prescribed by doctors. Other painkillers, such as morphine and fentanyl, are used during surgery or to ease the suffering caused by cancer. The illegal and highly addictive street drug heroin is also an opioid.

opioid use

What is the Opioid Crisis?

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 259 million prescriptions for opioids were written in the United States in 2012. To understand the sheer number of prescriptions being written, that would be 82 prescriptions for opioids written for every 100 Americans.

Every 19 minutes someone dies from an accidental drug overdose — most often from opioids. Opioids are highly addictive and as a person’s tolerance builds up, they need more and more of the drug to have the same effect.

Many people’s introduction to opioids begins innocently enough — with a prescription from their doctor. Unfortunately, these highly-addictive and powerful painkillers can take users down a dangerous path that can lead to charges for them and the doctors prescribing the medication.

opioid crisis

What are Opioid Pill Mills?

Recently, dozens of doctors across the country have been charged with running “opioid pill mills” out of their clinics. From Dallas to Detroit, doctors have been indicted on federal charges for illegally prescribing opioids, such as hydrocodone, oxycodone, and even the highly addictive fentanyl.

A pill mill refers to a clinic or doctor’s office that prescribes medication without a medical purpose or outside the normal course of medical practice – meaning they are prescribed for profit rather than medical necessity. Many “pill mills” only accept cash payments (no insurance or credit cards.) Some dispense medications directly from their office and may have lines of people waiting to get inside.

Arrests and charges related to the illegal prescription, possession, sale or distribution of opioids are being taken very seriously. Here’s a look at the drugs, possible charges and punishments stemming from opioid-related crimes, and examples of doctors and pharmacists who have found themselves in legal trouble for opioid pill mills.

How are Doctors Landing in Legal Trouble for Prescribing Opioids?

Federal agents are now using a new analytics program that tracks drug prescription and sales. The program is supposed to expose doctors writing prescriptions at a faster rate than their peers and identify pharmacies dispensing disproportional numbers of pills. Traditional investigations also include federal agencies, like the Drug Enforcement Administration, obtaining physicians’ prescription records. The government asks paid experts if the prescriptions were being written in a manner the expert agrees with. If not, the prosecution may initiate charges or seek a statement from the doctor, or even issue a target letter or grand jury subpoena to elicit incriminating statements from the physician. It is also not uncommon for law enforcement to reach out to current or former employees to try to get dirt on the doctor. In other instances, the Government may send in a person to see how easy it is to get a prescription without a legitimate medical purpose.

The government will target and arrest doctors and clinic owners, but employees can also be arrested and charged.

Doctors who are improperly prescribing or pushing opioids, including fentanyl, face serious repercussions. Not only could their medical license be in jeopardy, but they could face charges including drug conspiracy, money laundering, health care fraud and, even, murder. They are also subject to asset forfeiture. Here’s a look at recent examples of doctors who received lengthy federal sentences:

  • Hsiu-Ying “Lisa” Tseng was convicted of second-degree murder in February 2016 and sentenced to 30 years to life in connection with the overdose death of three patients. Authorities said she was selling pain pills from her office in a strip mall in Los Angeles County. The case marked the first time a doctor had been convicted of murder in the U.S. for overprescribing drugs.
  • In March 2016, Theodore Okechuku was sentenced to 25 years in federal prison for running a “pill mill” operation in Dallas. Specifically, he was convicted of conspiracy to unlawfully distribute a controlled substance. Officials said he conspired with drug dealers by handing out prescriptions for hydrocodone at his Medical Rehabilitation Clinic for case payments, often without examining patients. The dealers sold the drugs on the street.
  • In May 2017, Xiulu Ruan and Dr. John Patrick Couch were sentenced to 20 years and 21 years in federal prison, respectively, after being convicted of drug and fraud charges stemming from drug raid at two of their Mobile, Ala., pain clinics. Officials said they overprescribed potent narcotic pain medications, including fentanyl-based drugs.
  • An Arkansas pharmacist was sentenced to 10 years in prison in September 2017 for dispensing hydrocodone while falsely billing Medicare. Christopher Watson sold tens of thousands of pills outside of the drugstore’s regular hours and forged prescriptions to account for the missing pills, officials said.

The Opioid Black Market

While many people get opioids with a prescription from a doctor, others turn to the black market to find the powerful painkillers. Opioids, including fentanyl and its more powerful counterpart, carfentanil, are being manufactured and sold on the black market, including the dark web, at an alarming rate.

What is Fentanyl?

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that made headlines when music icon Prince overdosed on it in the spring of 2017. It is reportedly 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine. While it is available as a prescription, it is also being manufactured illicitly. Just touching the drug can be fatal. It’s often produced in Mexico and China and often mixed into heroin or other street drugs.

What is Carfentanil?

Carfentanil is related to Fentanyl, but is 100-times stronger, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration. It’s a tranquilizer for elephants and other large animals and was never intended for humans. It is the most potent commercial opioid in the world and is often added to heroin to give it a more powerful kick. It is regularly bought on dark web markets, sometimes using bitcoin, and shipped from China.

What are the Street Names for Fentanyl?

Street names for fentanyl or fentanyl-laced heroin include Apache, Dance Fever, China Girl, China White, TNT and Jackpot, Poison, and Goodfella.

What State or Federal Charges Can Stem from Fentanyl and Carfentanil?

State and federal charges can stem from possessing, manufacturing or selling synthetic opioids such as fentanyl and carfentanil. How an individual is charged depends on a variety of factors, including the amount involved, criminal history and whether someone was seriously injured or died as a result of ingesting or coming in contact with the drugs. Here’s an overview of the potential consequences in Texas, as well as at the federal level.

Texas: Possession of a Controlled Substance

Under Texas law, it is illegal for residents to possess a controlled substance without a prescription. Opiates and opium derivatives, which would include fentanyl and carfentanil, fall under penalty group 1 in Texas. Depending on the quantity of the drug, the punishment for possessing a penalty 1 drug can range from 180 days in jail to up to 99 years in prison.

Amount Penalty Fine
Over 400 grams 15 to 99 years or life in prison Up to $250,000
200-400 grams 10 to 99 years or life in prison Up to $100,000
4-200 grams 5 to 99 years or life in prison Up to $10,000
1 to 4 grams 2 to 20 years in prison Up to 10,000
Under 1 gram 180 days to 2 years state jail Up to 10,000

Texas: Manufacturing, Delivery or Intent to Deliver

Drug manufacturing usually involves creating illegal synthetic drugs in labs for the purpose of distributing or selling drugs. In fact under Texas law, the state assumes that a person who manufactures drugs is intending to distribute them. The punishment for manufacturing or delivering a controlled substance can range from a state jail felony up to a first-degree felony.


Amount Penalty Fine
Over 400 grams 15 to 99 years or life in prison Up to $250,000
200-400 grams 10 to 99 years or life in prison Up to $100,000
4-200 grams 5 to 99 years or life in prison Up to $10,000
1 to 4 grams 2 to 20 years in prison Up to 10,000
Under 1 gram 180 days to 2 years state jail Up to 10,000


Federal: Trafficking Fentanyl or the Fentanyl Analogue Carfentanil

Under federal law, how individuals are charged and sentenced depends on a variety of factors, including the amount of drugs, prior criminal history and whether serious bodily injury or death occurred. Below are the federal penalties that apply to drug trafficking fentanyl or a fentanyl analogue. Carfentanil is an analogue of fentanyl. As you can see, the consequences are severe:


Substance/Quantity Penalty Substance/Quantity Penalty
Fentanyl, 40-399 grams mixture

(Schedule II drug)





Fentanyl Analogue

10-99 grams mixture

(Schedule I drug)

First Offense: Not less than five years and not more than 40 years. If death or serious bodily injury, not less than 20 years or more than life. Fine of not more $5 million if an individual, $25 million if not an individual

Second Offense: Not less than 10 years and not more than life. If death or serious bodily injury, life imprisonment. Find of not more than $8 million, $50 million if not an individual.


Fentanyl, 400 grams or more mixture

(Schedule II drug)



Fentanyl Analogue, 100 grams or more
(Schedule 1 drug)

First Offense: Not less than 10 years and not more than life. If death or serious bodily injury, not less than 2 years or more than life. Fine of not more than $10 million if an individual, $50 million if not an individual.

Second Offense: Not less than 20 years, and not more than life. If death or serious bodily injury, life imprisonment. Fine of not more than $20 million if an individual, $75 million if not an individual.


2 or More Prior Offenses:

Life imprisonment. Find of not more than $20 million if an individual, $75 million if not an individual.


These cases can also be charged as:

Federal Drug Conspiracy Charges

Healthcare Fraud

Investigated or Arrested for an Opioid-Related Offense or Opioid Pill Mill?

Individuals who are the target of a criminal investigation stemming from opioids, should contact a skilled criminal defense attorney who specializes in drug and white collar crimes as soon as possible. These are extremely serious charges that could impact your life and livelihood. Our defense team is made up of former prosecutors who have more than 100 years of collective experience handling drug charges at state and federal levels. We can help.

Contact Us

If you have become the target of a federal investigation or are facing federal criminal charges for operating a pill mill, contact us immediately. We will get to work analyzing the Government’s case, and the opinion of their “expert” to build a defense focused on the legitimacy of the prescriptions. Give us a call at (817) 203-2220 or contact us online:


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Varghese Summersett

Attorney Brian Cuban doesn’t sugarcoat it. He begins his new book recounting how he traded his brother’s Dallas Mavericks NBA Championship game tickets to his drug dealer for $1000 worth of cocaine – twice.

And it only gets more real from there.

Recently, Cuban, author of The Addicted Lawyer, sat down with attorney Benson Varghese, Managing Partner of the Fort Worth law firm of Varghese Summersett, to discuss his book, his journey to recovery, and the issues facing so many attorneys today. He encourages lawyers and law students who are struggling with alcohol or drug addiction, eating disorders, or mental health issues not to wait to hit “rock bottom” before seeking help.

“Today is as good as it’s ever going to get,” Cuban says.

Cuban’s book, The Addicted Lawyer: Tales of the Bar, Booze, Blow and Redemption, can be purchased at or

Videography: RH Media.

For more information on the resources available to lawyers visit:


For information on the Tarrant County First Offender Drug Program, visit FODP.

For information on the Tarrant County DIRECT Court Program, visit DIRECT.

Alcoholics Anonymous

Celebrate Recovery

Transcript: Interview with Brian Cuban


Benson Varghese: Brian, thank you for being here this morning.


Brian Cuban: Thanks for having me.


Benson Varghese: Absolutely. I’m excited you’re here, and just got done reading your book The Addicted Lawyer.


Brian Cuban: Yeah.


Benson Varghese: You start the book off with a story about tickets that you got to a particular game, and what ended up happening with those tickets?


Brian Cuban: Well, it was back in 2006 when the Dallas Mavericks went to the NBA Championship for the very first time, and as you might imagine I was gonna have some pretty good seats for those games. I also had the opportunity to get some free tickets for friends, because of my privilege as Mark’s brother, and so I got those tickets. I didn’t give them to my friends. And, maybe you think I sold them on eBay for some astronomical amount. I didn’t do that either, because that would be disrespectful to my brother, the team, and the city. I took those two tickets and traded them to my cocaine dealer for $1,000 in cocaine. To show you how the mind of addiction works, selling them on eBay was disrespectful in my mind, but trading them to my drug dealer for scalper’s prices in cocaine was perfectly acceptable.


Benson Varghese: Did you end up using the coke?


Brian Cuban: I ended up doing a little bit of the coke. And, it had long stopped giving me the feeling that I had obtained when I first did it in the bathroom of the Crescent Hotel in Dallas, Texas, where for like 20 seconds I looked in the mirror and I felt wonderful, that’s a great looking guy in the mirror, he’s the most popular guy in town. And I had so many underlying mental health issues, and so many issues of self-loathing and not feeling good about myself, and self-image, that I immediately became psychologically addicted to cocaine, to that feeling in that bathroom. Not physically dependent, those are two different things. That would come later. So I had to have that feeling again and again and again.


And what happened was, I didn’t get that feeling, the shame came in, the paranoia, I started thinking I heard police outside. I mean, I had a lot of cocaine on my desk. I’m a lawyer, I know these things, I could go to jail for a while. And so, I flushed it down the toilet. Probably about $900 in cocaine at that point. But the interesting thing about that, is the next morning I wake up, and it so often happens when we have negative experiences and addiction, and those experiences get into our rear view mirror. I was like, “What kind of idiot am I? I just flushed all this cocaine down the toilet. There’s another game tonight.”


Benson Varghese: What’d you do?


Brian Cuban: Another call to my drug dealer, another $1,000 in cocaine, two more tickets, once again did some, same feeling, and I’m thinking, “Well, maybe I need to change dealers.” Not that maybe I have a problem, maybe I need to change dealers, maybe I need to change the liquor I’m drinking with it, get a better grade of coke, change from this to Jack Daniels. That’s how the mind works in addiction. It wasn’t about self-awareness. And I flushed it down the toilet again. And that’s what we call the “insanity of addiction”, doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. But addiction isn’t “insane”, addiction is what many people go through. We may have many different stories, I doubt anyone else has traded Mav tickets for cocaine, but we all do things that if we thought about it in a sober, mentally healthy state, we’d be like, “Man, that just isn’t the way to go.”


And I look back on it all these years later and I laugh about it. But it was a story I actually didn’t tell until two years ago, because I did understand that it could be an embarrassment to my family, and I wanted to wait until enough time has passed to be able to use that story as a learning tool. Obviously, since Mark’s on the cover of my book he knows about that story. And it’s kind of funny, when I finally told that story two years ago, the Dallas [inaudible 00:04:00] News put it on the front page of their sports section like it was some big news. I’m like, “This happened eight years ago.” It’s like, okay, not really front page news.


Benson Varghese: That story that you open with, really captures the essence of this book. It is a soul bearing, tell all. You don’t hold back.


Brian Cuban: You can’t hold back, because for me the power of recovery is in story telling. I’m not a counselor, I have a JD after my name, not a PhD. I believe that sharing and connections are one of the most powerful parts of allowing people to know that recovery is possible. And in order to share, in order for people to connect, you have to be authentic. I can’t be authentic and hold back.


Benson Varghese: Right. What made you write the book?


Brian Cuban: As I was going through addiction, before recovery, I certainly partied, and I certainly did drugs with a lot of lawyers. I drank with a lot of lawyers, I knew a lot of lawyers who were alcoholics, I knew a lot of law students who had drinking issues. Not so much the drugs at Pit Law, because I really didn’t understand those things even existed then, but a lot of law students had drinking issues. And I know lawyers who have died, I know lawyers who were in jail. And as I went through these things, I began to wonder in recovery whether this was an anecdotal issue, where okay I’m just hanging out with these people and it seems like everyone in the legal profession is doing it, or if there was really a problem.


So I wanted to explore it a little more, and I then began to really start digging into my stories. In law school, my memories, trying to remember things that I had pushed aside years ago, so that I could try to connect with present day in the legal profession and in law school. And I thought that that might be a help to other law students and other lawyers. Ironically, as I was getting ready to finish up this book, the ABA Betty Hazelden Ford study came out, showing that up to one in three lawyers is a problem drinker. I didn’t plan that, I didn’t even know the study was there. So it just happened to be good timing.


Benson Varghese: Talking about not wanting to be a lawyer, one of my favorite examples that you use in the book is from one of my favorite movies, where you talk about the character of Patrick Bateman from American Psycho.


Brian Cuban: That’s right.


Benson Varghese: And what really touched me is the masks that we wear. And, to some extent, being a lawyer was a mask for you.


Brian Cuban: Absolutely. Addiction is about masks. Hiding your addiction is about wearing masks. And you become very good at wearing these masks, for a period we need to, to let the other world see this respectable lawyer, this respectable Brian. Whether it’s dating a girl who doesn’t know about the issues, whether it’s applying for a job, you don’t want them to know the issues, we wear masks. And I wore those masks, and I also wore the mask of trying to not allow myself to see who Brian really was. It’s kind of funny, when I first thought about Patrick Bateman I’m like, “Oh, people are gonna think this is the weirdest example ever.” But it is. You know? Even though it was in the context of a psychopath and I don’t compare that to addiction, substance use, problem drinking, is about wearing masks in order to survive day to day.


Benson Varghese: You talk about more than just addiction. You talk about depression, you talk about body image issues, things that are common among attorneys and that we all try to mask. How do we as friends, as peers, realize that someone may be in need of help? And you talk about looking for subtleties, can you kind of build on that?


Brian Cuban: Sure. There’s no magic bullet, magic pill, to say you observe behavior, and say someone has a problem, unless of course they show up drunk or show up high, which I certainly did on occasion to court, to hearings, to work, but there are signs. I mean, an associate or a partner is not showing up for work without reason, not opening mail, voicemail filled, coming to work disheveled, complaints from clients, what I call binge working, which in itself isn’t necessarily an issue, a lot of people like to work hard all at once.


But binge working and addiction, what I’ve seen from other lawyers, and what I’ve experienced myself, is when all week you’re drinking, you’re hungover, you’re not putting in the work for your client, “Okay, I’ve gotta pull it together for one day, get all these hearings done in one day, work all these files in one day, and all the sudden you’re working all these clients in one day.” Because you haven’t done it for the rest of the week because of your drinking, or drug issues, or other mental health issues, depression issues, you can’t get out of bed or whatever. How can you possibly give the effort and the competence you need to in each file when you are already working at a lower level, and all the sudden you have to do it all at once. And so, if you take all of those in the context of, maybe a gut, maybe the overall picture, then maybe you can say, “Okay, maybe there’s an issue here.”


Then the issue becomes how do you address that? The million dollar question within the legal profession. How do you address that? What if I’m wrong? I have to work with this person. Will it get to the state bar? You address is as a human being. You address it with empathy, not an accusation. It’s okay in any situation to say, “Are you doing okay? I’ve noticed these things. Are you doing okay? Tell me how I can support you.” That’s just empathy, and we all have the ability to be empathetic. Now if they say no, and you notice there really is a problem, then obviously we have ethical obligations as lawyers, within the firm. Obligations to the firm, fiduciary duties to the firm. And it gets to the point where you may have to say something to the firm, where you may have to take it to another step, but the first step is always just empathy. As a person, as a colleague, as a boss. “I’ve noticed you’re struggling, and here’s why I think you’re struggling. Do you want to talk about it?”


Benson Varghese: Before we get to how the bar may respond to issues that attorneys face, I want to talk a little bit about … There were many times throughout the book where you paint these pictures of the things going on in your life that a reader might think, “That was rock bottom.” But it never got there. So, how do we as friends, as peers, get through to someone who has this mask on? That their livelihood, perhaps in their mind, depends on this denial.


Brian Cuban: That’s a great question, and here’s something that I always try to get through to lawyers and law students, and it’s one of the hardest conversations to have. Because when someone’s struggling, especially in the legal profession, and in law school because you don’t want to have to leave school, you don’t want the perceived consequences, a lawyer doesn’t want to have the name partner find out, doesn’t want to lose clients, doesn’t want to lose his job. So, all of that is a wall to allowing ourselves to be vulnerable, right? And being vulnerable is one of the first steps to getting help.


When you tie that into a statement to lawyers, it is … What I try to tell them, and I say it in different ways, is today is as good as it’s ever gonna get. Whatever you’re going through … And I don’t accuse, I don’t say, “Okay, you have a drinking problem, you have a drug problem, this problem or that problem.” Whatever you are going through, today is as good as it’s ever gonna get. Because mental health issues tend to be progressive, they tend to be cumulative, and the impulse within the profession is to push it aside until the consequences catch up, and it is no longer as good as it’s ever gonna get. So why not start now? Even as scary as that is. Maybe it’s a call to The Lawyer’s Assistance Program, and begin recovery now before it gets to the “rock bottom.”


In 2005, a lot of people might have thought my rock bottom was when my brothers took me on my first of two trips to Green Oaks Hospital, back then known as Green Oaks Psychiatric Facility. After they came into my room and I had a 45 automatic on my nightstand, intending to end my life. I was right back out on the scene. And my, what I call recovery tipping point … And I don’t like the term rock bottom if we can, when we can talk about that. My recovery tipping point was about in 2007, after a drug and alcohol induced two-day blackout. Which may not seem as bad, but that was the moment where I decided, “Okay, it was time.”


It is not incumbent upon us as lawyers, as friends, to determine what someone’s recovery tipping point is, what their “rock bottom” is. There’s no way to know that, and we don’t think about those terms, except in the rear view mirror, right? We’re not thinking, “This is my rock bottom.” Generally. What we can do, is try to empower someone to not think in terms of bottom, think in terms of stepping forward.


Benson Varghese: Brian, I truly appreciate you being here and sharing, both with us and through your book, so much about your experience and how we can help each other and be on the lookout for opportunities to really help, to get folks to the path of recovery.


Brian Cuban: Thank you, and I appreciate you having me here. And it’s always an honor to be able to share my story, so thank you, and share the various thoughts I have on the matter. Thoughts that other people may have other viewpoints on, and that’s okay. But the most important thing to remember, and I will go right back to it, whether you are a law student struggling, whether you are a lawyer struggling, whether you are a name partner, an associate, even a support member, don’t wait for the consequences to catch up to you. As tempting as that sounds, “Push it off, push it off, push it off.” Today’s as good as it’s ever gonna get if you’re not in recovery, if you do not begin the journey.


And let me tell you something else. We are a profession that has taught ourselves that vulnerability is weakness. Vulnerability isn’t good. Vulnerability is what we take advantage of, right? It’s part of our job, it’s part of the adversarial system. That is drilled into us starting in law school. Vulnerability is not allowing other students to have our study … It’s all about competition. Competition is good. So is vulnerability. It is okay to allow yourself to be helped. One of the biggest aspects of recovery is allowing ourselves to be vulnerable.


And allowing ourselves to be vulnerable isn’t just about walking in a 12 step. It isn’t just about going into residential treatment. It isn’t just about stringing together sobriety, or staving off a consequence. As lawyers, it’s okay to recognize that we bring a lot of baggage, whether it’s childhood or whatever to the game. Part of recovery is figuring out how we got there in addition to just dealing with where we are. So being vulnerable means figuring out how we got to that position.


Benson Varghese: Powerful stuff. Thank you.


Brian Cuban: Thank you. If people are interested in my book The Addicted Lawyer: Tales of the Bars, Booze, Blow, and Redemption, you can get it on It’s available in some bookstores in Dallas, some Barnes & Noble. But the easiest place is either or



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While there is no statewide prohibition on panhandling, publicly asking for money or assistance can be illegal under certain circumstances. Many cities have enacted ordinances that prohibit panhandling in certain forms.

The First Amendment prohibits an outright ban of all panhandling, so cities have crafted ordinances they hope will withstand scrutiny. For instance, the City of Fort Worth prohibits solicitation, begging, and panhandling where:

  •  the solicitor is using violent or threatening gestures;
  • the solicitor continues after having been told no;
  • the solicitor blocks the passages of vehicles or pedestrians;
  • people are standing in line for ticket, entry into a building, or waiting in line for any other purpose;
  • soliciting from anyone less than 16 years old
  • soliciting within 20 feet of:
    • an ATM
    • a Bank Entrance
    • a Parking Meter
    • a public parking garage
    • a marked crosswalk
    • an entrance of a commercial or government building etc.

Many cities across Texas have similar ordinances.

Dallas: Sec. 31-35. Solicitation by Coercion

Fort Worth: Sec. 30-16 Aggressive Panhandling or Solicitation

San Antonio: Sec. 21-29 Aggressive Solicitation

Houston: Sec. 28-46 Aggressive Panhandling

Criminal consequences aside, giving money to panhandlers raises other concerns: Are the panhandlers who you see downtown or on Magnolia truly in need – or are they just taking advantage of visitors and couples out on dates? As someone who has participated in the annual homeless count, I can tell you that the truly needy are often far from the public eye. What can you do to help?

I had the opportunity to visit with Betsy Beaman, the Director of Communications for the Presbyterian Night Shelter and she was kind enough to share a wealth of information about what you can do to help the homeless, which I’ve included below. Thank you to Donna Eldridge with the Fort Worth Police Department and Betsy Beaman for these helpful tips.

The post Is Panhandling Illegal in Texas? A Look at Panhandling Laws in Texas appeared first on Varghese Summersett PLLC | Fort Worth Criminal Defense Attorneys.

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It is illegal to interfere with the activities of a peace officer, emergency personnel, police dogs, and animal control officers while they are performing public duties in Texas. This offense is commonly used to charge individuals who insert themselves into police activities.

Locally, “cop watchers” have gotten in trouble – and have even been convicted – when their acts of recording the police rose to the level of interfering. Here’s a look at the law on interference with public duties and possible defenses.

What is Interference with Public Duties?

Under Texas Penal Code 38.15, a person commits the offense of Interference with Public Duties if the person, with criminal negligence, interrupts, disrupts, impedes or otherwise interferes with:

  • A peace officer while the officer is performing a duty or exercising authority imposed or granted by law;
  • A person who is employed to provide emergency medical services including the transportation of ill or injured people while the person is performing that duty;
  • A firefighter while he or she is fighting a fire or investigating the cause of a fire;
  • An animal under the supervision of a peace officer, corrections officer, or jailer, if the person knows the animal is being used for law enforcement, corrections, prison or jail security, or investigative purposes;
  • The transmission of a communication over a citizen’s band radio channel if the purpose is to inform or inquire about an emergency;
  • An officer with the responsibility for animal control in a county or municipality, while he or she is performing a duty or exercising authority imposed or granted under Chapter 821 or 822 of the Health and Safety Code; or
  • A person who has responsibility for assessing, enacting, or enforcing public health, environmental, radiation or safety measures for the state, a county or municipality; is investigating a particular site as part of their responsibilities; is acting in accordance with policies and procedures related to the safety and security of the site; and is performing a duty or exercising authority imposed or granted under the Agriculture Code, Health and Safety Code, Occupations Code or Water Code.

Are There any Defenses to Interference with Public Duties?

Yes. There are two defenses to interference with public duties, which are outlined in the Texas Penal Code. Specifically, it is not against the law to:

  • warn a motorist about the presence of a police officer that is enforcing Title 7 of the Transportation Code. Simply put, it’s not illegal to warn a motorist about a speed trap ahead by flashing your lights or other means.
  • interrupt, disrupt, impede or interfere using speech only. For example, arguing with an officer over the validity of a search warrant is not unlawful. Speech is generally protected.

interfering by recording the policeWhy do People Get Arrested for Recording the Police?

Citizens have a Constitutional right to publicly record police activity, as long as it does not interfere with officers’ duties. Problem is, many officers frown on so-called “cop watching” and sometimes citizens get too close to the action. This can make for a volatile situation and can often result in an arrest. The charge may not stick, but it is an inconvenience nonetheless and may cost time and money to fight. If you record the police, do so from a distance and be respectful.

What is the Punishment for Interfering with Public Duties?

Interfering with Public Duties is a Class B Misdemeanor punishable by a maximum of six months in jail and up to a $2,000 fine.  Probation or deferred adjudication may be options for individuals charged with interfering with public duties.

Facing Charges of Interference with Public Duties? Contact Us.

If you or a loved one is facing charges stemming from allegations of interfering with public duties, you will need an experienced attorney to thoroughly evaluate your case, guide you through the process, and aggressively fight on your behalf. At the law firm of Varghese Summersett, our criminal defense attorneys have extensive experience handling all types of criminal cases, ranging from DWI to murder. Recently, one of our clients was acquitted of the charge of interference with public duties during a jury trial in Tarrant County.

Call us today for a complimentary strategy session. During this call we will:

  • Discuss the facts of your case;
  • Discuss the legal issues involved, including the direct and collateral consequences of the allegation; and
  • Discuss the defenses that apply to your plan and in general terms discuss our approach to your case.

Call: (817) 203-2220

You can also contact us online:

(a) A person commits an offense if the person with criminal negligence interrupts, disrupts, impedes, or otherwise interferes with:

(1) a peace officer while the peace officer is performing a duty or exercising authority imposed or granted by law;

(2) a person who is employed to provide emergency medical services including the transportation of ill or injured persons while the person is performing that duty;

(3) a fire fighter, while the fire fighter is fighting a fire or investigating the cause of a fire;

(4) an animal under the supervision of a peace officer, corrections officer, or jailer, if the person knows the animal is being used for law enforcement, corrections, prison or jail security, or investigative purposes;

(5) the transmission of a communication over a citizen’s band radio channel, the purpose of which communication is to inform or inquire about an emergency;

(6) an officer with responsibility for animal control in a county or municipality, while the officer is performing a duty or exercising authority imposed or granted under Chapter 821 or 822, Health and Safety Code; or

(7) a person who:

(A) has responsibility for assessing, enacting, or enforcing public health, environmental, radiation, or safety measures for the state or a county or municipality;

(B) is investigating a particular site as part of the person’s responsibilities under Paragraph (A);

(C) is acting in accordance with policies and procedures related to the safety and security of the site described by Paragraph (B); and

(D) is performing a duty or exercising authority imposed or granted under the Agriculture Code, Health and Safety Code, Occupations Code, or Water Code.

(b) An offense under this section is a Class B misdemeanor.

(c) It is a defense to prosecution under Subsection (a)(1) that the conduct engaged in by the defendant was intended to warn a person operating a motor vehicle of the presence of a peace officer who was enforcing Subtitle C, Title 7, Transportation Code.

(d) It is a defense to prosecution under this section that the interruption, disruption, impediment, or interference alleged consisted of speech only.

(e) In this section, “emergency” means a condition or circumstance in which an individual is or is reasonably believed by the person transmitting the communication to be in imminent danger of serious bodily injury or in which property is or is reasonably believed by the person transmitting the communication to be in imminent danger of damage or destruction.

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