Defending Against Texas DWI Charges: Strategies to Protect Your Rights
Facing driving while intoxicated (DWI) charges in Texas can be a distressing and overwhelming experience. A DWI conviction cRead More
“A nation’s greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members.” ~ Mahatma Ghandi
Well Mahatma, I regret to inform you that Harris County, Texas ain’t too great.Many Harris County Judges rate themselves and their brethren and sistren by the size of their dockets. These Judges view having a small docket as most important. To keep their dockets small these judges are motivated to move cases as quickly as possible. The quickest way to move a criminal case is for the accused to plead guilty on the first setting.
Those familiar with the aptly named “criminal” justice system know that many judges push very hard to get quick pleas of guilty. The judiciary’s primary goal should be to provide a just forum . Too often, the judiciary’s primary goal is to move cases quickly in order to maintain small dockets.
In Harris County the judiciary is quite skilled in expediting guilty pleas. Over the years, The judiciary’s desire to move cases has lead to some very ugly policies and practices.
The Harris County “Plea Mill” is a direct result of these ugly policies and practices.The criminal justice system is skewed against the poor. We all know that. The “Plea Mill” is a part of Harris County’s “criminal” justice system. The Plea Mill constitutes the criminal courts’ institutionalized systematic abuse of the poor.
How does the plea mill work? Let’s say A citizen is arrested on Friday and charged with a non-violent misdemeanor. The citizen is too poor to make a misdemeanor bond. While in jail the accused citizen is evaluated for a Personal Recognizance (PR) bond. A PR BOND is essentially a low cost or free bond that allows the poor to get out of jail while they fight their case. Many poor people are good candidates for a PR bond. That doesn’t matter. These poor people are denied PR Bonds. It’s essential to the “Plea Mill” that the poor not be granted PR bonds, even if they are eligible. Consequently, the citizen who is too poor to make a bond, who qualifies for a PR bond, will likely be denied that PR bond. The citizen will remain in jail even though he qualifies for a PR bond.
Compliments of the judiciary’s policies to deny PR bonds, the citizen will sit in jail until his first court date. After sitting in jail a few days, the citizen chained to others in jail will be brought to court. The citizen will be placed in a dank dungeon-like holding tank. There the citizen waits.
In court, the judge appoints lawyers to represent the citizens stuck in jail. On any given day one lawyer may be appointed to represent 5-6 accused citizens.
The lawyer meets with the assistant DA. The assistant Da extends plea bargain offers to each of the citizens stuck now in the holding tanks.
The offers are designed to encourage pleas of guilty. A typical offer would be, ” ok if he pleads guilty today we’ll give him a week in jail with credit for time served.”
The lawyer conveys the offer to the citizen in the holding tank. The offer basically is this- you can plead guilty now and get out soon or plead not guilty and sit in jail a long time waiting to fight your case.
The choice presented is really no choice at all. It’s a Hobson’s choice. The only real choice is to plead guilty and that’s what happens every day. Every day accused citizens plead guilty, not necessarily because they are guilty. Every day accused citizens plead guilty to get out of jail and to obtain their liberty.
This is our system. It’s called the “Plea Mill”. Like a factory or mill, the courts produce endless pleas of guilty. The courts move cases and they keep their dockets small. The poor pay for those small dockets with their coerced pleas of guilty.The poor provide the grist for the “plea mill”.
The poor are saddled with criminal records they may not deserve. Their lives are made that much tougher. The conviction that they took to obtain their liberty may have gotten them out of jail; but that same conviction will Hamper their liberty all the days of their lives. It will rob them of the ability to obtain decent employment. They will suffer and so will their families.
The poor will stay poor.
What of the judiciary? They will drink coffee and smoke cigars and take great pride in their small dockets that the poor paid for.
There is a simple solution to the “plea mill”.
The solution is for the Courts to grant more PR bonds. The misdemeanor court’s own analysis shows that the courts could grant three times the PR bonds they currently grant. Restated, many accused citizens who qualify for PR bonds are denied PR Bonds. If the courts granted more poor people PR Bonds, the poor could get out of jail and fight their cases like the accused who can afford a bondsman.
If the judges granted the PR bonds that they should grant, far fewer poor would have to plead guilty to obtain their liberty.
Everyone knows the solution, but those in power refuse to grant significantly more PR bonds. To these judges, Maintaining a small docket, continues to trump being fair to the poor and providing a just forum.
Robb Fickman, Houston
The client believed to be facing potential Wire Fraud Charges related to SBA PPP loan applications. Investigation of applications for PPP loans and PPP forgiveness demonstrated that the Client had at all times acted in a lawful manner. Investigation demonstrated no fraud was committed by the client. Case closed.
Client was charged by Federal Indictment with making a social media post that threatened Malicious Damage and Destruction of a Building by Means of Fire and Explosives in violation of Federal law. The Defense showed that Client was a law-abiding citizen. The Defense further showed that the alleged threat was not made with any criminal intent.
The client, a public official with a long history of public service, was accused by a former girlfriend of engaging in non-consensual sexual relations. The Defense investigation and analysis showed through a detailed timeline that the allegation made absolutely no sense. Phone records, including calls and texts, were relied on to help establish an accurate timeline. The Defense met with law enforcement and reviewed a detailed package that exonerated the accused.
Client, a Houston area professional who frequently travels for work, was accused by his wife of assaulting her in his family home. Defense showed that wife’s story lacked credibility and there was no physical evidence in support of the wife’s allegation.
The client, a young Black male, was driving his car when police pulled him over for no apparent reason. It looked to be a profile stop. The client was accused of possessing a controlled substance in his vehicle. The Defense showed that there was no lawful basis for the police to stop the Client’s car. The Defense also showed that there was no lawful basis for the search of the Client’s car. It was a bad search, so the seized evidence was not admissible.
Client charged in Federal Indictment In “Operation Wrecking Ball” with 55 named co-defendants. Client faced seven charges. Client was charged with Conspiracy to Distribute Cocaine and Conspiracy to Engage in Money Laundering. Client was also charged with four counts of Distribution of Cocaine and one count of Money laundering.
Allegations involved client’s alleged use of his home to distribute cocaine. Government’s lengthy investigation involved numerous wiretaps, surveillance, video, pole cams, search warrants, vehicle stops and use of cooperating co-defendants.
Client went to trial with four remaining defendants. After a two-week trial, Judge granted Motion for Acquittal on four of the seven charges. Jury found Client Not Guilty of remaining three charges.
Client charged in Federal Court with two counts of Wire Fraud related to Five SBA EIDL loan applications. The Government alleged the client, a Houston professional, defrauded the Small Business Administration out of over $150,000. The Government also found the intended loss was over half a million dollars. The Client faced up to 20 years in prison on each count. The Defense investigated the case and negotiated a deal that included the Government not opposing a probation. The Federal Guideline calculation was for a prison sentence and the Probation Department recommended a prison sentence. Attorney Fickman submitted a 90 page Defense Sentencing Memorandum asking for Probation.
Client was retired professional. Client was accused of being involved in a road rage incident in 1960 Area. Defense put together a 100 page memorandum that demonstrated complainant was actual aggressor.
Client was accused of touching child. Case involved thousands of pages of psychiatric and Child Protective Services records as well as investigations by multiple police departments. After three- year fight, case dismissed.
Client accused of shoving and knocking down family member causing injury. After investigation, charges were dismissed.
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