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A conviction doesn’t have to be the end of the road for your loved one. My job is to help clients navigate the post-conviction process. From direct appeals, to ineffective assistance of counsel claims, to formulating the most effective parole release plan, I’ve got you covered. Please follow the links below to learn more about the post conviction process. Search and read my blog posts to find answers to more specific questions. Or give my office a call to talk to me directly.

The Texas Code of Criminal Procedure allows for a defendant to plead “open” and get sentenced by the trial court. You can also have a jury sentencing hearing, but I’ll discuss that process in a separate post.

Defense attorneys often use the open sentencing procedure as a pressure release valve to resolve the tension between stubborn clients and/or stubborn prosecutors. Let me explain the process.

First, let’s define the phrase. An open plea means that the defendant pleads guilty, signs admonishments and stipulations that inform him of type of crime he is pleading guilty to, explain that he is waiving all rights related to trying the merits of the case to a jury, and specify the punishment range of the offense. But the defendant’s actual sentence is not yet fixed. It is up to the trial court to determine what the defendant’s sentence will be after holding an evidentiary hearing. At this hearing, both the prosecutor and the defense attorney have the opportunity to put on evidence for the court to consider before deciding what sentence the defendant should get.

At this point everyone knows that TDCJ has cancelled all visitations, including attorney visits. On the plus side, attorney phone calls are easier to schedule. Although technically lawyers still need to provide on their I-62 request forms a legal basis for their phone call and specify a court proceeding or deadline that will occur within 30 days of the call, TDCJ appears willing to approve calls generally in lieu of a physical visit, even if no deadline is approaching.

I’ve been able to schedule multiple client calls with “In lieu of client visit” as the legal basis for the call.

ANECDOTAL UPDATES FROM CLIENTS AND THEIR FAMILIES:

One of the most common grounds raised in Texas 11.07 writ of habeas corpus applications is the involuntary plea. Here’s the basics of how such grounds work and what you or your loved one will have to prove.

First, you must overcome the presumption that the plea was voluntary.

In my prior post I walked through the formalities of the plea process. These formalities include your written and oral statement (if the plea was recorded) that you understand the charges, that you’ve been fully and adequately advised by your attorney, and that your plea is knowing and voluntary. This paperwork creates a presumption of voluntariness that you must overcome in your writ application with affirmative evidence. A sworn statement by the applicant that his attorney misled him or misadvised him will never be enough evidence to overturn a guilty plea.

This is the second post in a three-part series about the guilty plea process in Texas criminal Courts.

In the first post I covered how the State of Texas locks in your guilty plea through a series of signed admonishments and waivers.

Today’s post covers the plea bargain and judgment. Please remember, the primary point of describing this (mostly boring) process is to inform clients and their families of the procedural protections created by the Texas Legal System to Protect Judgments and Guilty Pleas. You should at least have a basic familiarity with how the process works before deciding whether it is worth it to later challenge your plea.

Defendants usually don’t realize their guilty plea was involuntary at the time they enter it. This is because involuntary pleas are almost always based on a misunderstanding, misrepresentation, or ineffective assistance on the part of plea counsel. It takes awhile for the defendant to realize what has happened.

Trying to undo a guilty plea is never easy. Defendants often fail to understand the legal significance of what they’ve signed. If you’re regretting entering a guilty plea and want to fight it, ring up a good criminal appeal attorney, because, as you’ll see below, the strategy you need to fight it depends on the procedural details of the case and at what point in the process you realized you’d been crossed, mislead, or misadvised.

In a three-part series, I’m going to describe how the guilty plea is protected by the Criminal Justice System, how a plea bargain is immortalized into a judgment, how a plea open to the court works (and how defendants sometimes get screwed with this procedural arrangement), and how to challenge guilty pleas as involuntary.

I’m writing a series of blog posts on what constitutional rights you have, or don’t have, during the parole review process.

In my first article, I explained why inmates have no constitutional protection during normal parole review.

In this post, I focus on another type of statute-based parole review called discretionary mandatory release, which is controlled by Texas Government Code Section 508.149. Part (a) of the statute explains which inmates are eligible for mandatory release. See my post here for more information on eligibility. Part (b) provides a framework for parole boards to use when deciding if an inmate should be released to mandatory supervision.

This is the first of a series of blogs I intend to right about what rights, if any, you get during various phases of the parole process.

This particular article focus on an inmate’s first contact with the Texas Board of Pardons and Parole – the initial parole review.

  1. The Rights You Lose Along the Way

I get calls on a regular basis from families asking questions about their loved one’s “short way” release date. The family doesn’t really know what the guy is talking about, and so they ring me up. Here’s a breakdown of what the inmate means, and the legal realities all inmates face as they work to get out of prison as quickly as possible.

“Short way” used to be slang for “mandatory supervision.” Prior to 1996, the Government Code authorized the Texas Board of Pardons and Parole to release certain categories of inmates automatically when their calendar time and good conduct time equalled the full term of the prison sentence. Inmates and their families could rely on the “short way” release date and plan accordingly.

But the law changed after 1996 as the Texas Legislature became uncomfortable with automatic release. For inmates incarcerated after the new law went into effect, release was no longer “mandatory” when their good time and calendar time equalled their sentence. Instead, the parole board could deny release if:

One of the first questions clients ask me about appealing their criminal conviction is what issues can be raised.

My usual answer: it depends on what your trial attorney objected to. The points of error I raise are almost always limited by what the defense attorney did or didn’t do during trial. Below is a description of why objections matter, how they are made, and how a good appellate attorney can act strategically when dealing with poorly-made objections.

Why Objections Matter

Like many States, Texas relies on a risk assessment analysis when deciding to release a particular inmate to parole. Although the State has broadly described the concepts and factors it relies on in creating its Risk Assessment Number, it keeps the actual methodologies used in a “Black Box” that leaves inmates, their families, and parole lawyers in the dark about how a potential parolee actually gets assessed and categorized.

Here’s a basic overview of the process:

The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles (BPP) creates its particular risk assessment by relying on two primary groups of personal data: