Ellis County Criminal Defense Corner
WITHOUT PREPARATION YOU ARE IN JEAPORDY
Mark D. Griffith
Mark D. Griffith & Associates
Something I have found over the last 16 years of trying criminal jury trials is that there is no substitute for preparation. Whether the case is in Ellis County, Kaufman County, Johnson County, Dallas County, Hill County or any other county in Texas preparation is the foundation to a successful defense. If you don’t have a lawyer with the resources or experience to properly prepare your case for trial your freedom is in jeopardy.
In a Driving While Intoxicated case there are many, many issues that must be considered, investigated, researched and prepared for. If the attorney misses one of these critical issues it could make the difference between freedom and incarceration. How do you know if the attorney you have chosen knows what to do? Look at their track record. Ask around the local county in Texas where you are charged with the crime and see who the majority of people tell you about.
Griffith & Associates, Ellis County Criminal Defense Attorneys, have been known for meticulous preparation. That is where the “team” concept becomes so vital. Mark Griffith and Monica Bishop try every case together. Bill Vansyckle does in depth investigations challenging the State of Texas at every turn. Over the years it has become obvious that when you can match the resources of the State, or at least bring a team focused on the client’s best interest at all times, and then you get a level playing field, you get a truly fair trial.
Many times the preparation I am talking about in this article needs to begin immediately after the arrest. Over the years Griffith and Associates has been able to prevent a case from even being officially filed by getting a jump on the investigation and then providing the State of Texas multiple reasons why they will lose if this case goes to trial.
Along with preparation there is a second issue that MUST exist with the attorney you choose to hire to fight for your freedom; the attorney or attorneys must not be afraid to fight. If they are, all the preparation in the world will not help. The State of Texas must know that the team of attorneys you have hired are not afraid of trial and even better, as with Griffith & Associates, are successful in trial the majority of the time, regardless of the case.
I hope you find this information helpful and I can promise you, after 16 years of doing nothing but representing and trying cases for people accused of crimes, what is stated in this article is the absolute truth.
JURY SERVICE, THE HIGHEST CALLING
Mark D. Griffith
Mark D. Griffith & Associates
I have conducted well over 100 jury trials and one of the questions I always ask of those that have served on a criminal jury before is what they thought about the experience. I have been stunned at some of the answers I have received. The most stunning have been “it was really no big deal”. This statement is so contrary to the actual job a juror must do in a criminal trial. Six or twelve citizens sit in judgment of a fellow human being and them, and only they, will make a decision that will echo in the human’s life forever. It is a service, as citizens of this free nation that is of the highest calling.
You never see the newspapers, local or even national, unless it is some sensational trial, a headline that reads “Defendant Found Not Guilty”. But you can look at any local or national paper and in big bold letters you will see the attention grabbing headline “GUILTY”. That is what makes society feel secure and safe; another criminal gets his just result. That brings up the interesting things that have been happening out of Dallas and other cities with regards to the Innocence Project. Person after person is being set free from prison, sometimes after spending 30 years in prison, because some evidence was not produced by the government that proved innocence or DNA tests prove conclusively that the defendant was not guilty. How do you give 30 years back to an innocent man who was falsely accused? You can’t, those 30 years of freedom are gone forever, and nothing can bring them back or make it right.
It takes courage, great courage to be a juror, a juror who understands that what they are doing is a “big deal”, and maybe the biggest deal they will ever be involved with in their life. A fellow human is counting on that juror to feel the gravity of the juror’s responsibilities. Jurors owe nothing to the government; their duty is to the law and the constitution. Guilty verdicts are not somehow better for society when the verdict was reached because the jurors felt they owed it to the government or owed it to society because that is what society expects. Society should expect justice, and justice is served just as well with a “not guilty” verdict when any juror or all the jurors believe the government did not prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt.
Here is where the courage comes into play. A juror who has a reasonable doubt must have the courage to look at 11 other strangers who disagree and hold to his or her true belief. To do otherwise makes jury service “no big deal” and makes the verdict an injustice. This happens to often across small counties and large cities on a daily basis. Can there be any greater injustice than a juror who caves in to the pressure of others when they are violating their conscience to do so? I don’t think so.
I have had the pleasure of handling trials where I have come face to face with jurors who understood the need for courage and that their work was of the highest calling. To those jurors I thank you and can only hope that you inspire others to bring the same courage to the jury box. Anything less puts us all at risk, every one of us.
THE PITFALLS AND BENEFITS THAT CAN BE GAINED AT A GRAND JURY PRESENTATION OF YOUR CASE
Mark D. Griffith
Mark D. Griffith & Associates
When charged with a felony offense for drugs, assault, robbery, possession of controlled substances, Murder and all the other felony charges the case, if not dismissed prior to the Grand Jury Presentation, the case against the accused will be presented to a Grand Jury. This is the same for every county in Texas, including criminal charges or cases in Ellis County, Johnson County, Dallas County, Navarro County, Henderson County, Kaufman County, Hill County and all other counties.
How does the Grand Jury System work? The most important thing to understand is that a Grand Jury does not find any person accused of a crime of anything. The job of the Grand Jury is to listen to what the District Attorney presents to them and decide if there is enough evidence that the case be indicted or not indicted. Indicted means that it becomes an official case and will proceed in the felony court in which it is pending. If the Grand Jury does not indict the accused then the case is over unless in limited circumstances, NEW EVIDENCE is uncovered and then it can be presented to the Grand Jury another time based on the new evidence.
THE PITFALLS: You should have an attorney/lawyer representing you in Ellis County, Johnson County, Dallas County, Navarro County, Henderson County, Kaufman County, Hill County and all other counties of Texas that know the pitfalls of what can happened at a Grand Jury Presentation. First, it is completely the prosecutors show. The criminal defense lawyer in Ellis, Johnson, Dallas, Navarro, Henderson, Kaufman, Hill and all other counties should know the pitfalls, and how to avoid them. The criminal defense attorney/lawyer must know that he is not allowed in the Grand Jury room during the presenting of the case. The attorney should also know that the rules of evidence do not apply in the Grand Jury presentation. It is completely the prosecutor’s show. The pitfalls surrounding this are that if the accused decides to testify without having first discussed all of this with a knowledgeable attorney bad things usually happen. Bad things like your testimony is sworn and you can get confused and nervous and say something that in your mind is not bad but later is twisted and distorted and can hurt you if a trial is later necessary.
THE BENEFITS: A knowledgeable attorney will have evaluated your case to the extent that he will be able to advise you on whether or not testifying at the Grand Jury is a good thing or a bad thing. On occasions, after a full and complete investigation Griffith & Associates have advised that the client testify at the Grand Jury. This is ultimately the client’s decision, but after a full investigation and explanation of the process clients of Griffith & Associates who have been charged with Murder have testified and the case was not indicted.
THE IMPORTANCE OF A COMPETENT ATTORNEY/LAWYER WHO HAS HANDLED MANY CASES AND FULLY INVESTIGATED YOUR CASE CAN MAKE THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A PITFALL AND A BENEFIT.
EXPERIENCE AND PREPARATION ARE IMPERATIVE!
HOW TO PROTECT YOURSELF AND UNDERSTAND THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM
By: Mark D. Griffith, Ellis County Criminal Defense Lawyer
Mark D. Griffith & Associates
For the normal citizen, a criminal accusation and arrest are filled with anxiety, fear and the unknown. This is a little information that might help alleviate some of that anxiety and fear.
After you have been placed under arrest you absolutely have the right to request an attorney prior to any questioning and I believe you should exercise that right. The police are not there to help you once they have you handcuffed, you are under arrest, they want to help their case. The United States Constitution and the Texas Constitution both support your right to remain silent until such time as your attorney is present. This will upset the police officer and he will tell you that you are only hurting your case by not being cooperative. After have done nothing but Criminal Defense for over 14 years I have never found that to be the case.
Specifically with a DWI arrest and defense of those cases, you will be requested to perform field sobriety tests and asked to submit to a breath test. You have the right to refuse all tests. The most important exchange that you can have when speaking with the officer during this time is a conversation in a respectful and courteous manner. What’s occurring is being videotape and any heated conversations or belligerence from you will not look good later if this case goes to trial. Another important aspect of a DWI arrest is the 15 days you have after the arrest to contest the suspension of your driver’s license. This is a critical phase and it is best to hire an attorney to be sure that all procedures are properly filed in order to insure you get this hearing. This allows several things. 1st) it allows your attorney to get the full SWORN report of the police officer. That means the officer has already made a sworn statement. The officer then can be subpoenaed to the hearing on your driver’s license and cross-examined and that is a second sworn statement he has made. In cases handled by Mark D. Griffith and Associations we generally have an additional hearing regarding the proper procedures followed by the police or the lack of proper procedures followed by the police. If he did not follow proper procedure that certainly helps your case. You then have 3 sworn statements from the officer prior to even getting to trial should one be necessary. This is invaluable to your attorney in that if the statements are not consistent or if the statements do not show what is on the videotape of the arrest the State of Texas has big problems with your case. It is never my advice to my clients that they submit to a breath or blood test. I have never found that helpful later in a trial.
Felony criminal cases, including Felony DWI (same advice applies as above), Sexual Assault cases, and all other felony cases including murder cases, Aggravated Assault cases, Drug Cases, Burglary cases, White collar crime cases, and cases involving allegations of injury to children, it is important to understand that you are entitled to, and SHOULD request an attorney before any questioning occurs. This is imperative. The police, especially if you have already been arrested, are not seeking to help you, they want to build their case and any statement you make without the advise of counsel could seriously hurt your case. You have the right to have an attorney present and it is my advice that you exercise that right.
Many times Child Protective Services (CPS) gets involved at the early stage of cases involving allegations of child abuse. They will want to question you about this case prior to your arrest. You still have the right to have an attorney present to assist you in that the 5th Amendment of the United Constitution allows you to seek and have legal counsel if you feel that something you say may incriminate you. If you are already taking to personnel from CPS, they are seeking information to incriminate you.
It is important that you never, ever perform you own investigation. This should be done by professionals and professional teams that know the system. It is dangerous to do your own investigation because it could results in further charges of Tampering with Witnesses etc.
It is my opinion, after 14 years of doing this, that after you have been contacted by police and an arrest is forthcoming that you should always have the assistance of an attorney. A qualified attorney and his team can help you through the system.
Mark D. Griffith & Associates has been handling nothing but criminal cases for over 14 years. We have handled Murder cases and received Not Guilty verdicts all the way down to Driving While Intoxicated case with Not Guilty verdicts. This is easier to achieve when the client has followed the information contained in this article.
The system has all the power of the government against you and you need qualified, experienced, tenacious, fearless attorneys with their team standing between you and the government.
Cases where you have been charged with an Aggravated Assault, Aggravated Sexual Assault, Aggravated Sexual Assault of a Child, and Indecency with a Child are very serious matters and to follow the advice in this article is critical. You may have done nothing wrong and wonder why would I need an attorney if I did nothing wrong. The reason is simple, the police are investigating and they believe you have done something wrong. A professional team of lawyers and investigators can navigate these treacherous waters and help you avoid a misstatement or a statement that is taken out of context by the police in order to make their case.
What I hoped to accomplish by this article is to give you insight into how the system works and how to avoid the pitfalls that can be encountered if you don’t know where they are.
Mark D. Griffith & Associates has put together a professional and experienced team that can navigate this complex and scary process with passion and the client’s interests always the primary goal. A team of supremely qualified professionals that can make the whole experience something much easier than it would be without qualified legal assistance. Mark D. Griffith can be reached at (972) 938-8343.
"We fight for our clients and it has always been our philosophy that if a client entrusts his or her good name in our Firm then our best effort and passion should be available to that client!"
DRIVING WHILE INTOXICATED (DWI) ARREST:
When you are looking for a criminal defense lawyer to defend you after being arrested in Ellis County, Texas consider the following....
By: Mark D. Griffith, Ellis County Criminal Defense Attorney
Mark D. Griffith & Associates
Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) is a crime that affects many, especially those charged with a DWI in Ellis County, Texas and surrounding counties like Navarro County, Johnson County and Hill County.
When searching for a lawyer to help you when you have been arrested for a DWI, or any crime for that matter, it is important that the lawyer is familiar with DWI laws and the common mistakes police make in these arrests.
When meeting with a lawyer about your DWI arrest in Ellis County, or elsewhere, ask the following questions:
- Have you handled many DWI cases?
- What is an ALR hearing and why is a ALR hearing it important when it comes to being arrested for a DWI?
- Are you familiar with the Standardized Field Sobriety Tests and the method they are supposed to be administered in determining if the officer correctly assumed you were intoxicated?
- Have you successfully litigated a Motion to Suppress the arrest or Field Sobriety Tests before the court, especially in Ellis County, Texas?
These questions are important because if the lawyer handling your DWI case cannot answer the above questions to your satisfaction you probably need to talk to a lawyer who can those questions.
A lawyer who defends DWI cases should be experienced! Why?....
These cases are complicated and the law surrounding criminal charges is complicated. If the lawyer is not intimately familiar with DWI cases and how the local courts and juries tend to view those charged with DWI you should probably find one that does.
Now, I would like to take a moment to discuss the suspension of your driver’s license that occurs when being arrested for a DWI in Texas.
An Administrative Law Review (ALR) hearing is an administrative court hearing that you are entitled to have as long as you file for it within 15 days of being arrested for DWI. A lawyer familiar with this process knows that many valuable things can come from this hearing, especially in a jurisdiction like Ellis County where the Ellis County District Attorney maintains a “closed filed” policy meaning that all the information on your case is NOT available to your criminal defense attorney.
You gain several advantages to having an ALR hearing:
First, you get the police officer full sworn report. It is notarized so you already have one sworn statement by the officer.
Second, these hearings can, and are won, often because the officer failed to follow proper procedure or lacked reasonable suspicion or probable cause for the criminal arrest.
Third, you also can subpoena the arresting officer to the hearing and cross-examine him, which means that you now get a second sworn statement from the officer.
Why is this important to your DWI case? If the DWI lawyer has two sworn statements from the arresting officer before the case has even made it into criminal court you are way ahead of the game.
The two statements my contradict each other, and this is a bad thing for the State of Texas who will ultimately try to convict you of this offense.
Another very important reason to get these two prior statements is that it may be appropriate for the DWI lawyer to file a Motion to Suppress when the case does make it to Court.
If the Motion is filed, and the Motion to Suppress hearing is held, the DWI attorney already has two sworn statements from the arresting officer that he can use when cross-examining the officer.
Plus, at the hearing on the Motion to Suppress the DWI lawyer will be getting the third sworn testimony from the officer. It is a rare occasion when all three sworn statements don’t contradict in some places, and many times they contradict in many places.
What does that mean to you as a person being charged with a DWI? It means that if the officer was telling the truth about your DWI arrest then why would there be contradictions in his statements.
The issue of intimate knowledge of the Standardized Field Sobriety Tests by the DWI attorney is critical to your criminal case. These tests must be done in a standardized manner each and every time, and if they are not (and they hardly ever are done so) then the results or interpretations of the Standardized Field Sobriety Tests by the arresting officer are invalid.
In closing, when choosing a DWI attorney for your case please ask these questions and select your lawyer carefully, because a DWI conviction can have long reaching consequences in your life. An experienced and capable DWI attorney can challenge the State at every turn, and a qualified and experienced DWI attorney certainly will make you rest easier as you go through the process of having your DWI criminal charge resolved.
CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY IS NOT A DIRTY WORD
An unpopular position (opinion) unless you find yourself accused.
By: Mark D. Griffith, Ellis County Criminal Defense Lawyer
Mark D. Griffith & Associates
You have to admit, for most people, that the words “criminal defense attorney” cause a gut reaction giving rise to images of “shyster”, “slick lawyer” and other unsavory things.
I would like to present an unpopular opinion regarding the commonly referred to “criminal defense attorney”. The word itself creates a perception that the United States Constitution demands is misleading….more than that, it is incorrect.
We all have heard the term “presumption of innocence”. Most of us have heard it in the “legal” shows now found at all hours on our televisions. It is a term often heard but seldom reflected on. The presumption of innocence, as it is applied to all Courts in this country in matters involving accusations of a crime, means that if you are accused of a crime you are entitled to have a jury that will presume you to be innocent unless and until the Government removes every single reasonable doubt regarding your guilt. If the Government does not reach that level of proof the presumption of innocence, alone, is enough to acquit the accused and find him not guilty.
What does that have to do with “Criminal Defense Attorney” being the incorrect term for these lawyers?
If the Constitution is to mean something, and it does, then when an attorney and an accused walk into court to begin a trial the attorney is not representing a criminal. That attorney is representing a person that must be presumed to be innocent. If that is not achieved the justice system fails and we are all in jeopardy. The 6th Amendment to the United States Constitution and rulings interpreting that portion of the Constitution endow all accused citizens with the right to the effective assistance of an attorney.
How can we all be in jeopardy? Only criminals are arrested, right?
We are all in jeopardy because if there is no presumption of innocence we will then live in a society where an accusation, alone, would be enough to label someone a criminal, take away their freedom, and forever tarnish their character. That is a scary scenario and would render useless the very document that makes us a free people, the United States Constitution. Who among us believes that every arrest and every accusation is true? We all know better than that. Who among us believes that there is always only one side to a story? We all know better than that too. Life has taught us these lessons.
How can pieces of paper, the Constitution, make us a free people? It is just words on very old paper?
Truthfully, neither the words nor the paper do make us a free people. It is each of us, as citizens of this great and free country that give the Constitution life. Jury service is the perfect example. Without us, each of us, it truly would be just a piece of paper. With us, and with the protection of rights that it, the Constitution, endows on each of us, we are a free people.
Yeah, but this “Criminal Defense Attorney” stuff…. Aren’t they just causing the system to bog down when they go into Court and argue all these “rights” given by the Constitution?
“I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than those attending too small a degree of it.”
A quote from a letter written by Thomas Jefferson in 1791
This article does not take the position that guilty people should not be arrested, should not be punished. Certainly they should and certainly they are. This article was meant only to take some of the grime off of the often maligned “criminal defense attorney” and maybe give him/her a new name. When a lawyer, on behalf of an accused, stands up in Court and makes his or her client’s argument he or she is only doing their part in making the words on that very old paper mean something. I would argue that protects us all just as a jury does when making the rights endowed to us all in the Constitution come alive.
The voice for those presumed to be innocent until and unless proven not so beyond all reasonable doubt.
“Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it. He that would make his own liberty secure must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he violates this duty he establishes a precedent that will reach himself”
Thomas Paine, US Patriot & Political Philosopher (1737-1809)
Charged with a Criminal Drug Case?
What to expect if you are arrested for a drug charge in Ellis County, or any other Texas County for that matter….
By: Mark Griffith, Attorney at Law
Mark D. Griffith & Associates; Attorney
When you have been arrested and charged with a drug crime; for example, in Ellis County, Texas (or any other county in Texas) there a few things you should know:
- A conviction for a drug offense can and probably will result in your license being suspended for a lengthy period of time.
- A conviction for a drug crime for marihuana, cocaine, methamphetamine, or other types of illegal substances can affect your ability to gain employment in the future.
However, being arrested for a Texas drug offense does not mean you have been convicted of anything.
It is then time to find a knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer who has experience with defending drug cases.
Some of the things the lawyer you choose should be familiar with:
First, sometimes the reason the police officer came into contact with the arrested person is insufficient reasonable suspicion for the criminal offense, and every piece of evidence after the detention can be suppressed. Needless to say this does not leave the State of Texas with much evidence to use and can, and generally does, result in a dismissal.
Second, sometimes the police use a confidential informant to complete the alleged transaction with the arrested person (this is a common in Ellis County, Texas). If this police informant participated in any meaningful way in the offense then his identity must be made known to the accused person. Many times the prosecutor for the State of Texas does not want to reveal the identity of the informant and will either work out some sort of acceptable plea bargain or dismiss the criminal drug case.
Third, even if the police officer had reasonable suspicion to pull you over, he or she may not have had sufficient probable cause to search you, your vehicle, or your house for evidence of criminal activity. If there is not sufficient probable cause for an arrest then all of the evidence used to establish the criminal offense the officer found is suppressed and cannot be used in trial.
Why is any of this important?
If you have been arrested for a criminal drug offense whether it be a drug charge for marihuana, cocaine, meth, or any other criminalized drug, serious consequences will come from a conviction.
An experienced criminal defense attorney that has experience in the area of criminal drug cases needs to be in your corner with his team making sure that your rights and freedom are protected.