Trials are a rare thing. Not guilty verdicts are an even rare thing. The statistics vary between state and federal court, misdemeanors and felonies, and the type of crimes charged. They obviously vary between counties and between lawyers. The numbers don’t scare me. This year alone, I have tried 5 cases which resulted in 3 not guilty verdicts, one hung jury, and one guilty verdict. I want to dedicate this blog post to my most recent not guilty victory in Brazoria County; a place where acquittals are few and far between. If you want to watch me talk about this case, visit this YouTube link.
I put the word facts in quotes above because there are different ways to interpret facts. The government has their facts and I have my facts as a criminal defense lawyers. There are some facts we agree on, and there are some facts we disagree on. That is why we have trials. So now, onto the “facts.”
Let’s call my client “Brian.” Brian is driving a truck at 11 pm in the City of Pearland. An officer is parked in the center median looking for traffic violations. We will call him Officer 1. Officer 1 sees a 2008 Chevy truck pass him by that appears to have defective license plate lights. He pulls behind the truck, being driven by Brian, turns his headlights off a few times and lights Brian up. Brian follows the officer’s orders and pulls into a gas station parking lot. Officer 1 asks Brian if he’s been drinking because his eyes are red, and Brian admits that he has. Officer 1 returns to his car, enters Brian’s information into the computer system and sees a “hit” for a Harris County traffic warrant for driving on the toll road while prohibited. Officer 1 calls for back up.
Officer 2 arrives and Officer 1, suspecting Brian was Driving While Intoxicated, begins the Standardized Field Sobriety Test. The first part of the SFST consists of a series of rapid fire questions designed to figure out whether the suspect has lost the normal use of his mental faculties. Cops are looking for slurred speech, slow responses, ability to answer the question asked, inconsistent answers to the same questions, signs of nervousness and things like that.
In this case, Brian admitted to drinking 2 Shiner Bocks about 2 hours ago at a friends house in Sugar Land (where I got my first Not Guilty verdict of 2017). Brian then admits that he smoked a little marijuana at his friends house. This raised Officer 1’s suspicions, who then asked about 4 times whether there was any weed in the car. Brian said each time, “Not that I know about.” This raised Officer 1’s suspicions even more. 1 said Brian broke eye contact with him, which he “knew to be a sign of deception.”
Brian passed the field sobriety test with flying colors. The officers had no reason to arrest him. At this point Officers 1 and 2 step back to discuss what to do next. Both are rookies. Officer 1 wants to arrest Brian for the Harris County warrant. Officer 2 says that’s bullshit and he should let Brian go. Just as Officer 1 radios in to verify warrant, Brian points out that his license plate lights are working. Officer 1 admits they are, but that they weren’t working a few minutes ago.
Officer 1, by the way, but the law all wrong. The license plate light has to be illuminated by the license plate lights and legible from 50 feet away based on those lights alone. Officer 1 changed his story about the law with the help of the prosecutor during our motion to suppress, which was the first one I ever lost and I am confident I would have won on appeal, and stuck to it at our trial.
The warrant is “verified” and Officer 1 arrests my client. This causes Officer 2 to conduct an inventory. An inventory occurs when a car is being towed. The purpose of an inventory is to account for all the valuables in a vehicle to protect the police from allegations of theft and the arrestee from theft. The purpose of an inventory is not to conduct a search, and where the arresting officer used the inventory as a ruse to find evidence of a crime — anything illegal found during the inventory must be suppressed. I thought that was the case here, but the judge disagreed. It doesn’t matter either way because we won an acquittal in the end.
So Officer 2 conducts the inventory. It took him 15 minutes to come across a backpack on the front passenger floorboard. Inside that backpack was a laptop and an ounce of weed double wrapped in a plastic baggie. Officer 2 radios in to his supervisor to figure out what to do when you find drugs during an inventory. Why? Because he knows that it isn’t really the purpose of an inventory to search for drugs. Eventually Officer 2 also finds a prescription pill bottle in the name of someone other than my client.
So what was this case about? What are all criminal trials about? The issue in every criminal trial is whether the Government prosecutor can meet her burden of proof by proving beyond a reasonable doubt the elements of the crime. In any drug case in Texas, the government has the burden of proving beyond all possible reasonable doubt that the defendant intentionally or knowingly possessed the drugs. Possession is described as the voluntary exercise of care, custody, control, or management over the weed, dope, cocaine, meth, crack, xanax, or other drug of choice. We get a not guilty verdict of there is a reasonable doubt about whether the defendant knew or possessed.
In this case, we argued that while Brian may have had care, custody, and control over the marijuana. There was no proof that he knew it was there. I am not going to get into the details of HOW I showed that, because prosecutors sometimes read my website. In fact, there are a lot of details and tactics that I have not included in this blog or any other blogs. You never want to give away your game plan, but I told the better story; I destroyed Officer 1 and made him my best witness; I was nice to Officer 2 and got him to admit my strongest points; I prevented the government prosecutor from getting almost all her evidence (including the weed for a long time) into evidence; and, I got all sorts of my own evidence admitted.
In this case, the government did not exclude every reasonable doubt, as there were other reasonable possibilities that could explain the presence of drugs very close Brian, yet he didn’t know they were there. In the end, the Brazoria County jury found Brian NOT GUILTY, and the government dismissed the Possession of Dangerous Drugs case. Victory is Great.
I now have trial wins in Harris County, Montgomery County, Brazoria County, and Houston County. If you want to learn more about my tactics, or how I can help you try to win your drug case, whether it is meth, crack, heroine, cocaine, marijauna, Xanax, mushrooms, or any controlled substance prescription medication, give me a call on my cell at (832) 819-5290 (since you made it this far you get my cell number).