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McKinney Texas Criminal Law Blog

Wrongful convictions continue to pose barrier to justice

For many people in Texas, a wrongful conviction is one of their worst nightmares. With the advent of computer surveillance technology and DNA testing, many might hope that wrongful convictions are less likely than they were in the past. However, many cases, especially for more minor crimes like shoplifting, theft or drug possession, continue to rely on standard types of evidence that are particularly prone to mistake or error. According to one criminologist who studied the prison population, up to 6% of prisoners could be wrongfully jailed for crimes they did not commit.

Famous DNA exonerations have drawn widespread attention to the problem of wrongful convictions. In some of these cases, police or prosecutors were corrupt or hid evidence that could exonerate the defendant. In other cases, early forensic scientists were prone to mistakes, while other false convictions simply rested upon the fallibility of eyewitness testimony. Statistics have shown that DNA has led to exonerations in 3 to 5% of convictions in capital cases like those involving murder and rape. Because of the severity of the sentences involved, most attention has focused on these cases. However, wrongful conviction is at least as likely in more routine cases.

Data can be accessed with only a subpoena

Texas residents who use apps such as Ring or Lyft may not have full control of their data. Only three states require that police get a warrant before accessing information about an individual from those or other popular apps. Companies such as Ring readily hand over information to police officers who ask to use it as part of an investigation if individuals won't do so willingly themselves.

It is also possible that tech companies will provide personal information to authorities after being served with a subpoena. This is the general policy of Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Unlike a warrant, there is no need to establish probable cause to obtain a subpoena. Therefore, an individual's name, address and other data could be given to outside parties even if that person hasn't been charged with a crime.

Considering that second drink? Think again

Drinking and driving is a serious matter. In the state of Texas, someone is injured or killed in an alcohol-related crash every 20 minutes. Texas state law prohibits anyone from operating a motor vehicle with a blood or breath alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08% or higher.

A motor vehicle is exactly what it sounds like—any motor-powered vehicle. That means you can get arrested for operating a boat while intoxicated, or even a lawnmower.

"Love After Lockup" star busted for drug possession in Texas

On Aug. 6, "Love After Lockup: Life After Lockup" star Tracie Wagaman was arrested for alleged drug possession in Texas. The incident took place in Tarrant County.

According to media reports, Wagaman, age 39, was taken into custody by officers from the Bedford Police Department and charged with felony possession of a controlled substance. Her bond was set at $5,000. In her mug shot, she looked unkempt and upset. She also had one side of her head shaved. If convicted, she would normally face between two and 20 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine. However, because she has a previous criminal record, she could face between five and 99 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine under the Texas three strikes law.

Texas attorney facing drug charges after traffic stop

A Texas attorney faces spending up to 99 years in prison on felony drug charges after quantities of methamphetamine and other illegal drugs were allegedly found in his vehicle during a routine traffic stop on the night of July 20. The 50-year-old man was released from the Williamson County Jail on July 21 after posting a $50,000 bond. He has been charged with a first-degree felony count of manufacturing a controlled substance with the intent to deliver. Court documents and police reports suggest that he could face additional drug possession charges.

The man's evening took a turn for the worse at approximately 9:26 p.m. when a Williamson County Sheriff's Office deputy pulled his BMW M6 sedan over on Anderson Mill Road near Round Rock. The deputy says that he initiated the traffic stop because the man failed to signal before changing lanes. A search of the vehicle was ordered after a K-9 unit alerted to the possible presence of drugs during an air sniff.

What are the consequences if your teen gets a DWI?

Being a parent isn't an easy job-especially during the teen years. You know your teenager is bound to make mistakes and get into trouble, but what do you do if get a call one night that your teen has been cited for DWI (driving while intoxicated) and is waiting for you to pick them up at Collin County Jail? It's every parent's nightmare, but it does happen.

Zero tolerance underage DWI laws

State laws can cause problems for poor people

Jurisdictions in Texas and throughout the country have tried to raise money through fines and fees. This allows them to generate revenue without having to increase taxes. However, if a person cannot pay a fine, he or she may spend time in jail or on probation until the issue is resolved. That could make it harder for a person to get a drivers license, find work or obtain adequate housing.

In some cases, those who are put in jail are required to pay a fee to cover costs related to their stay. The Vera Institute of Justice in New Orleans is trying to convince the city to do away with cash bail. It found that New Orleans pays nearly $3 million more to lock people up than they collect in fees and bail. Authorities in Memphis have also decided to stop prosecuting people for driving on a license that was suspended because of an outstanding debt.

Prosecutors dismiss cases because of inadequate testing

A new Texas law will make it legal to farm hemp, which is defined as cannabis with less than 0.3% THC. However, there is currently no way to determine how much THC is in a given product. A lack of sufficient testing has resulted in 235 cases being dropped in Tarrant County since June 10. The Dallas County Crime Lab has said that it won't take new cases until the issue is fixed.

A representative from the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws said that he wouldn't want to proceed with cases that are difficult to prove. The current lack of adequate testing procedures may cause other problems that lawmakers are unable to anticipate. For instance, dogs trained to sniff for marijuana may alert to substances that are legal under state law. The cases that have been dropped could be pursued after testing protocols have been established.

Domestic violence and legal complexities

In Texas and across the United States, domestic violence is unfortunately a common occurrence. An act of domestic violence takes place when a family member commits a violent act against another person in the household. Harming a child and abusing a spouse are two examples of domestic violence. The legal term applies to any person residing in the same household, including a spouse or an unmarried partner. The sexual orientations of the involved individuals do not matter.

"Spousal abuse" is a commonly used term for domestic violence. An act of domestic violence typically occurs when the victim is physically or psychologically abused in a repetitive way. Sexual assault is a serious crime, but minor offenses are also acts of domestic violence. There are various levels of domestic violence, ranging from minor to severe injuries inflicted on the victim. Another crime pertaining to domestic violence occurs when an abuser disregards a restraining order.

Texas deputy facing drug and bribery charges

A Bexar County Sheriff's Office corporal who worked in the county jail's detention unit has been taken into custody and charged with drug possession, drug possession with the intent to distribute and bribery. He was transferred to a detention facility in another county to avoid a conflict of interest according to the BCSO.

The 30-year-old man, who joined the BCSO five years ago, was apprehended at a gas station at the intersection of Broadway and Interstate 410 on the morning of May 25 after BCSO deputies, Federal Bureau of Investigation agents and San Antonio Police Department officers allegedly saw him purchase Suboxone and heroin from a known drug dealer. The 33-year-old man accused of selling the narcotics was also taken into custody. The multi-agency force had been investigating the smuggling of drugs into the Bexar County Adult detention Facility and had been told that the two men planned to meet at the gas station to conduct business.

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