“When you get arrested for a DWI in Texas, the case is prosecuted in the county, not the city. For example, if you get arrested in North Richland Hills, it will be prosecuted in Tarrant County. If you get arrested in McKinney, it will be prosecuted in Collin County. There are several cities that cross multiple county lines. For example, if you get arrested in Carrolton, you may be prosecuted in Denton, Dallas or Collin County depending on where in the city the offense was committed. It is critical that the offense is prosecuted where it was committed. A police officer can see you driving in Dallas County and arrest you there, even though he may be a Ft. Worth cop. For DWIs, a police officer may arrest you outside of their jurisdiction. Practically speaking, they will normally call a police officer to take over the investigation from that jurisdiction. As for attorneys, I always recommend hiring a lawyer that is familiar with the courts in that county. This can be very beneficial in terms of the lawyer being familiar with how the Judge and county prosecutor operates. Defense lawyers are constantly being asked questions of their clients and asking for mercy from both prosecutors and judges. Credibility and an excellent reputation for integrity go a long way. I personally make it a practice to take cases in jurisdictions that are in North Texas. I live in both Tarrant and Dallas counties and also enjoy going to the adjacent counties. I think it is important for my clients that my reputation precedes me in North Texas. I will not accept cases outside of this geographical area because although I have the technical expertise, the lack of familiarity with both the local customs and people within unfamiliar jurisdictions is not something I want my clients to be disadvantaged by.”
The short answer is yes and no. You can legally go to the police station and request a police report of your case via open records. What you will receive will most likely be a few pages of basic information including the police officer, location and arrest made. All the county and district attorneys’ offices in north Texas disallow the sharing of the police report or discovery. This is a direct violation of discovery rules under “open file” policies. There are law enforcement concerns about keeping sensitive information confidential, for eg. a 911 witness’ home address or contact information. Tex. Code Crim. Proc. art. 39.14(a). Article 39.14(f) prohibits defense counsel from providing a copy of such documents to the defendant (other than the defendant’s own statement). Article 39.14(f) also prohibits defense counsel from disclosing to the defendant certain personal information regarding witnesses. The reality is that going over the police report and discovery in a case is best left to a joint meeting in my office. I always tell my clients, “Once you have read one DWI police report, you have read them all. They are full of ‘typical descriptors.'” Police officers receive training at both the academy and in specialized courses. For example, in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Standard Field Sobriety Course for both practitioner and instructor, participants learn typical descriptors for certain offenses. It has been my experience that much of a police report is not reflective of what actually occurred or was witnessed (eg. slurred speech when the video evidences normal speech). Truth is reality. A police report was written to refresh a police officer’s memory. Going over discovery also includes going over 911 tapes, witness statements, and videos. The most important aspect of going over discovery is to go over both sides, not just the State’s. The law allows a citizen accused a copy of their Texas DWI videotape specifically. This was not always the case. I worked with State Representative Charlie Geren of District 99 and we were able to successfully pass legislation through both the State House and Senate which changed this. That is correct, the Coffey Firm specifically wrote this law. I find that most of my clients do not ask for a copy of the video, but distributing it is very helpful when getting ready for trial which requires studying every aspect of the video for hours. In short, I have seen medical professionals go over hundreds of pages of medical records in minutes to find what is key and critical. I particularly do this when scanning blood records for an initial assessment. I have spent 24 years studying police reports and forensic evidence. I know what is important, or what will matter. My advice is to wait and go over all the evidence with me in my office.
The biggest and most common mistake a person can make when they hire a lawyer for their Texas DWI or criminal case is to assume that all lawyers are equally competent to handle their case.
1. Common sense, practical advice: Criminal law is largely hands-on. It is critical that the lawyer know the Judge’s policies, propensities, rules and preferences for trial and philosophies. In many counties, the criminal Judges handle nothing but criminal cases. It is a mistake to think that your civil lawyer will know much about the Judge in your case unless they have extensive experience practicing under that Judge. Judges also change over the years, along with their policies. It is important to know their hot button issues and requirements when handling both pleas and trials. The same goes with the prosecutors. It is critical to know the prosecutor’s experience level, trial tactics, and personal philosophies when it comes to both trials and plea negotiations. Like the Judges, there is a natural progression in the learning curve that comes with winning and losing trials. Prosecutors also change and develop with time. Prosecutors do not handle family law cases. Civil and criminal law are two different arenas. It is not advisable to hire a lawyer inexperienced with your case or type of case.
2. Training and Knowledge base. All lawyers must complete a certain amount of continuing legal education hours to maintain their professional license. (For years, due to my vast amount of hours every year, I maintain a “Fellow” membership to the State Bar College. The State Bar College recognizes those lawyers who do at least double the minimum amount of continued legal education hours every year.) It is possible to go to law school and never have taken more than a single three hour course in criminal law. This in no way prepares a lawyer to handle a criminal case. What matters is a lawyer’s dedication to learning their trade. Most lawyers choose to do their continuing legal education in the field they practice in. For example, most divorce lawyers will attend family law conferences to keep up to date on the
latest legal developments in matrimonial law. The same with criminal defense lawyers. It goes a step further with criminal defense lawyers who focus on DWI. (I not only focus my continued legal education hours in criminal and DWI law, I teach it at seminars both in Texas and out of state, some attended not only by criminal defense lawyers, but by prosecutors and Judges.) The law is constantly changing. It is critical to stay up to date with these changes. Texas DWI is far more complex than general criminal defense. It is impractical to expect that a general criminal defense lawyer can mathematically calculate the calibration curve of a defendant’s gas chromatograms to do a quality control check on their blood result without extreme practice and specialized training. It is far fetched to expect it of a practicing civil attorney. It is critical to know how a breath test result can vary and to what degree by the blood breath partition ratio and temperature (I understand all of this and more. This type of in depth specialization is often reflected by a lawyer’s board certification in DWI. The only DWI board certification recognized by the American Bar Association and the Texas Board of Legal Specialization is the DWI board certification through the National College of DUI Defense which I possess.)
Throughout my twenty-four years of being licensed, I have come across many clients who regretted their hasty decision to be done with their previous DWI case utilizing a lawyer not trained or equipped to handle their case. Unfortunately, they have to live with the consequences of that decision. Your life, liberty and reputation are worthy of the highest level of qualified legal training. At the Coffey Firm, we pride ourselves in delivering this under both my supervision and direct involvement. At the Coffey Firm, all cases are analyzed and directed by me, including the associate level of representation.
Bottom line, I certainly would not recommend a person go to a pediatrician for a brain tumor. The same applies to law.