Time Requirements for Juvenile Certification Texas

On the Clock: Time Limits to Try a Juvenile as an Adult

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Time Requirements on the State’s Power to Certify a Juvenile as an Adult

Time Requirements for Juvenile Certification TexasTexas Family Code Section 54.02 gives the juvenile court the power to transfer its exclusive jurisdiction over a juvenile case to a district court. This transfer of jurisdiction allows the State to treat a juvenile as an adult for purposes of prosecution. Section 54.02 actually lays out two different processes for transferring juvenile cases to adult court. The first process is used in cases where the juvenile is under the age of 18 at the time of certification. The second, which is laid out in Section 54.02(j), is for those cases in which a person has turned 18 prior to the filing of the case in juvenile court. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals recently upheld the time requirements placed on the power of the State to pursue post-18 certifications in Moore v. State (Case Opinion – 2017).

Section 54.02(j)’s Time Limits

Section 54.02(j) allows a juvenile court to transfer its jurisdiction to an appropriate district court for criminal proceedings if the person accused is 18 years of age or older at the time the petition is filed but was a juvenile at the time the offense was committed. During the transfer hearing, the State must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that “for a reason beyond the control of the State, it was not practicable to proceed in juvenile court before the 18th birthday of the person or after due diligence of the State, it was not practicable to proceed in juvenile court before the 18th birthday of the person because the State did not have probable cause to proceed in juvenile court and new evidence has been found since the 18th birthday of the person or the person could not be found.”

This section of the Family Code imposes on the prosecutors a duty to pursue cases in juvenile court whenever possible. In order to retain the power to prosecute cases after a person has aged out of the juvenile system, the State must show that the delay in prosecution was beyond its control. If it is unable to prove this, then the only choice available for a juvenile court in these situations is to dismiss the case.

The Issue in Moore v. State

In Moore, the accused was charged with Aggravated Sexual Assault of a Child. He was alleged to have committed the offense when he was 16 years of age. Due to a heavy caseload and an error in one of the police reports, the detective did not send the case to the District Attorney’s Office until after Moore had turned 18. The prosecutor filed a certification petition in the case over a year later when Moore was 19 years old. The juvenile court transferred the case to district court.

Moore pled in adult court and received 5 years’ probation on a deferred adjudication. He then appealed the case claiming that the juvenile court lacked the jurisdiction to transfer the case because the State did not prove that the delay in filing the case was beyond its control. The State first claimed that law enforcement should not be considered “the State” under Section 54.02(j). The State then argued that the court should consider whether the reasons for the delay were unconstitutional. According to this argument, if the reasons for the delay were not in violation of Moore’s constitutional rights, then the State should be allowed to proceed with the certification regardless of who was to blame for the postponement in filing charges.

The Court’s Ruling

After considering the arguments of both sides, the ruling of the Court of Appeals, and the case law presented by the parties, the Court of Criminal Appeals ruled on the case. First, the Court held that the term “the State” includes law enforcement and prosecutors collectively. The Court pointed out that the law consistently includes law enforcement in its use of this term.

The Court then dismissed the State’s notion that the requirements of Section 54.02(j) be treated like a claim of speedy trial, due process, or statute of limitations. The Court explained that the reason for the requirements in Section 54.02(j) is to limit the power of the State to prosecute a person as an adult for something that happened when he was a juvenile. In order for an exception to be made to this general rule, the State must prove that it was not at fault for the delay in prosecution.

Conclusion

The Court of Criminal Appeals’ decision in Moore is consistent with the Texas Supreme Court’s rulings in other cases involving juvenile certifications. The courts are clear that juvenile cases should be handled in juvenile court when possible. This means that detectives and prosecutors working juvenile cases must be diligent in giving these cases the proper priority so that an accused juvenile does not age out of the system before his case can be heard by the juvenile court. In any case in which prosecution is delayed until after a person’s 18th birthday, the State will be required to prove that the reason for this lag time was beyond its control. And if the State is unable to meet this requirement, then the courts will prevent further prosecution in these cases.

Juvenile Statements Child Police Interrogations

The Admissibility of Juvenile Statements When Taken By Police

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Juvenile Statements Child Police InterrogationsThe juvenile justice system in Texas is a hybrid system which incorporates major elements of the adult criminal system, while maintaining separate rules and procedures to ensure that juveniles are not treated or labeled as criminals. In keeping with this philosophy, there are some special rules that apply when police officers take statements from juvenile suspects. This article will explain these rules and when they apply.

Two Types of Juvenile Statements

There are two types of statements: those taken as a result of custodial interrogation and those that are taken without custodial interrogation. There are different rules that apply, depending on which type of statement it is.

Voluntariness of the Statement

Historically in America, confessions have been looked at cautiously. This is because the police interrogation process has always been thought to be coercive by its very nature. The primary concern when viewing a statement given by a suspect is voluntariness. Therefore, no statement can be used in court unless it was voluntarily given. This voluntariness requirement applies to juvenile statements too. For noncustodial statements, voluntariness is the only requirement.

When looking at whether a juvenile statement was voluntary, the courts look at the totality of the circumstances. This means that the court will evaluate the situation including a child’s age, experience, background, education, intelligence, and their capacity to understand their rights and the consequences of waiving them. If, after considering all of the relevant factors in a particular case, the court determines that a noncustodial juvenile statement was voluntary, then it will be admissible in court against that juvenile.

Custodial Interrogation

A police officer that takes a juvenile’s statement as a result of custodial interrogation must not only ensure that the statement was voluntarily given, but also must comply with specific rules set out in the Texas Family Code. But first, you must ask two threshold questions: (1) Was the juvenile in custody? and (2) Was the juvenile being interrogated?

(1) Was the Juvenile in Custody?

Texas Family Code Section 51.095(d) considers a child to be in custody if he is in a juvenile detention facility, is in the custody of a police officer, or if he is in CPS custody and suspected of engaging in delinquent conduct. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals decided that “in custody” means when a reasonable person, under the circumstances, would believe that his freedom was restricted to the point of a formal arrest. See Dowthitt v. State, 931 S.W.2d 244 (Tex. Crim. App. 1996). The Texas courts use a “reasonable innocent child” standard when looking at juvenile cases. See In the Matter of L.M., 993 S.W.2d 276 (Tex. App.—Austin 1999). Juveniles are not in custody, in the eyes of the Texas courts, when they are told by police that they are not in custody and are free to leave and at the end of the interview they are actually allowed to leave. See In the Matter of V.M.D., 974 S.W.2d 332 (Tex. App.—San Antonio 1998).

(2) Was the Juvenile Being Interrogated?

If a child is in custody at the time a statement is taken, then you must look to see if the statement was the result of interrogation. The United States Supreme Court ruled that interrogation includes any questioning by a police officer and any speech or actions that are reasonably likely to get an incriminating response. See Rhode Island v. Innis, 446 U.S. 291 (1980).

Special Rules for Custodial Interrogation Written Statements

If a child is in custody and interrogated, then special rules must be followed before his written statement will be admissible in court. These rules are laid out in Texas Family Code Section 51.095(a)(1).

  • Before a juvenile in custody is interrogated, he must first be taken to a magistrate. The magistrate must advise the juvenile of his rights without the police officer being present.
  • After being warned of his rights and agreeing to waive them in front of a magistrate, the child can then be questioned by the police officer outside of the magistrate’s presence.
  • He can write a statement if he chooses. Before the juvenile signs his statement, however, he must be taken back in front of the magistrate.
  • Without the police officer being present, the magistrate will review the statement with the child and determine if he understands the statement, voluntarily gave it, and voluntarily and intelligently waived his rights.
  • Once the magistrate makes these determinations, the child can sign his statement in front of the magistrate.

Special Rules for Custodial Interrogation Oral Statements

The rules for making a juvenile’s custodial interrogation oral statement admissible in court are enumerated in Texas Family Code Section 51.095(a)(5).

  • The statement must be recorded by an electronic recording device by an operator who is competent to use the device.
  • All voices on the recording must be identified.
  • The recording device must be capable of making an accurate recording.
  • The recording of the child’s statement must be accurate and unaltered.
  • Before the child gives the statement, the recording must show the magistrate giving the juvenile his warnings and the juvenile must waive each right on the recording.
  • The magistrate may request that the police officer, after the interrogation is finished, bring the child and the recording back to the magistrate so the magistrate can review the recording with the child to ensure the statement was voluntarily given.

Exceptions for Oral Statements

Texas Family Code Section 51.095(a)(2)-(4) lays out the exceptions to the requirements for oral statements made while a juvenile is the subject of custodial interrogation. If any of these exceptions applies, then the special rules for oral statements listed above do not have to be complied with. These exceptions are: statements of fact made by the juvenile which are found to be true and tend to establish his guilt, res gestae statements, and statements made in open court or before a grand jury.

Conclusion

The juvenile system in Texas is intentionally separate and distinct from the adult criminal system in order to prevent treating children as if they are miniature criminals. Likewise, there are special rules that apply in some circumstances when a police officer takes a statement from a juvenile suspect. If a juvenile gives a statement without being the subject of custodial interrogation, then the courts will look at the totality of the circumstances to determine if that statement was given voluntarily. If so, then it will be admissible in court against the juvenile. If, however, the child was in custody and subject to interrogation, then these special rules must be followed in order for the statement to be admissible. These rules involve taking the child before a magistrate to be informed of his rights as opposed to being warned by the police officer. If these rules are violated, then the statement will be deemed to be inadmissible.

Texas Occupational Drivers License Rules

Texas Occupational License Restrictions and Requirements (and why they matter)

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What You Can, Should, and Must Do While You are Driving on an Occupational Drivers License in Texas

Texas Occupational Drivers License RulesIf you’ve received an occupational license related to a DWI ALR suspension (blood or breath test refusal or failure) in Texas, the judge who granted you that license likely included several restrictions and requirements you must follow. Those requirements can be found in the order granting your occupational license. You should have that order handy because Texas Transportation Code Section 521.250 requires you to possess a certified copy of the order when you drive. In fact, it’s a criminal offense not to possess a certified copy (we’ll revisit that below.)

Learn About Your Restrictions and Requirements

It all starts with the order that the judge signed. Review it. When reviewing the order granting your occupational license, you will find various restrictions and requirements. Restrictions typically limit your time, location and purpose of travel. In some scenarios, people are restricted to use an occupational license only when driving a vehicle equipped with an ignition interlock device. Other requirements can vary. They often include (but are not limited to) keeping a travel logbook, no traffic citations, no radar devices, etc. Specifically, however, Texas Transportation Code Section 521.245 requires the judge to require the person attend some form of an alcohol dependency program in the order granting occupational license. The order can also require you to submit proof of attendance to the court.

What Happens if Fail to Follow The Occupational Drivers License Restrictions or Requirements?

Texas Transportation code 521.253 says:
(a) A person who holds an occupational license commits an offense if the person:
…..(1) operates a motor vehicle in violation of a restriction imposed on the license; or
…..(2) fails to have in the person’s possession a certified copy of the court order as required under Section 521.250.
(b) An offense under this section is a Class B misdemeanor.
(c) On conviction of an offense under this section, the occupational license and the order granting that license are revoked.

What about not complying with the requirement for attending an alcohol dependency program? Per Texas Transportation Code Section 521.245, judges have the authority to revoke the occupational license and impose an additional 60-120 day suspension. That additional suspension is costly, too. Unlike the original DWI ALR suspension where you could apply for an occupational license, there is no option for another occupational license if you were granted one and failed to comply with this requirement.

Don’t Run Afoul of the Occupational DL Rules or Restrictions

So, the suggested practice here is simple:

  1. Have a certified copy of the order granting your occupational license.
  2. Read it carefully and educate yourself about the restrictions/requirements involved.
  3. Comply with said restrictions/requirements for the duration of your occupational license.

If you have questions about your occupational license, contact your attorney for assistance. If you don’t have an attorney, the attorneys at Barnett, Howard & Williams, PLLC are only a phone call away.

Community Caretaking Function Texas

Community Caretaking Function: Police May Stop without Reasonable Suspicion

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Community Caretaking Function TexasIn November of 2015, we wrote about State v. Byram, a DWI case out of Tarrant County. In Byram, the 2nd Court of Appeals held that a “hunched over” passenger in a vehicle was not enough to invoke the police “community caretaking” function to allow the police to initiate a traffic stop without reasonable suspicion of a violation.  The 2nd Court reversed the DWI conviction and remanded the case back to the trial court. The State appealed this decision to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, which issued its opinion today.

When May the Police Invoke the “Community Caretaking” Function to Make a Stop or Detention Without Reasonable Suspicion?

Byram v. State (Tex.Crim.App. 2017)

In this case, State argued that the police officer was engaged in his “community caretaking” function when he pulled the driver over. The State contends that this was a proper exercise of police authority and that the primary purpose of the stop need not be to investigate any alleged violation.

Reviewing the facts in the light most favorable to the trial court’s ruling (denying the suppression motion), the CCA agreed with the State and explained its view on the Community Caretaking function:

Local police officers frequently engage in “community caretaking functions,” totally divorced from the detection, investigation, and acquisition of evidence relating to the violation of a criminal statute. Cady v. Dombrowski, 413 U.S. 433, 441 (1973). “As part of his duty to ‘serve and protect,’ a police officer may stop and assist an individual whom a reasonable person—given the totality of the circumstances—would believe is in need of help.” Wright v. State, 7 S.W.3d 148, 151 (Tex. Crim. App. 1999). However, because the reasonableness of a community-caretaking seizure sprouts from its dissociation from the competitive enterprise of ferreting out crime, “a police officer may not properly invoke his community caretaking function if he is primarily motivated by a non–community caretaking purpose.” Corbin v. State, 85 S.W.3d 272, 276-277 (Tex. Crim. App. 2002).

The Court went on to lay out a two-step test for determining whether an officer may properly invoke his community-caretaking function:

  1. whether the officer was primarily motivated by a community-caretaking purpose; and
  2. whether the officer’s belief that the individual needed help was reasonable.”*

*The standard for reasonableness is no different when the officer stops a vehicle to check the welfare of a passenger rather than the driver. Wright, 7 S.W.3d at 151.

In this particular case, the CCA held, “[the officer] saw a woman in a precarious situation, and acted reasonably to help her by first asking whether she was okay, and then conducting a traffic stop when his
question went unheeded. This is the sort of ‘sound, commonsense police work that reason
commends, rather than condemns.'”

Fire as Deadly Weapon in Arson Case

Is Fire a Deadly Weapon in an Arson Case?

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Defendant’s Arson Charge was Enhanced when Fire was Alleged as a “Deadly Weapon.”


Pruett v. State (2nd Court of Appeals – Fort Worth, 2016)

***UPDATE – This case was REVERSED by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals in 2017. See opinion here.

Fire as Deadly Weapon in Arson CaseJeffery Pruett inherited a one-third shared interest in the family home with his two siblings after the death of their elderly parents. The adult siblings had a long history of quarreling over Pruett’s living arrangements, as he moved in and out of the residence prior to the deaths of their parents. Fed up, Pruett moved into a motor home, and was often seen by the neighbors driving around the neighborhood. Meanwhile, Pruett’s siblings listed the home for sale with the intention of dividing the proceeds equally between the three siblings.

On December 19, 2012, a neighbor spotted Pruett parking his motor home in front of the residence. Pruett exited the vehicle, went into the backyard of the residence, and then got back into the vehicle and drove away. Moments later, the neighbor saw smoke coming from the back of the house. The neighbor ran to the backyard, saw flames shooting out of the residence, and called the Fort Worth fire department. Neighbors were successful in using a garden hose to extinguish a large portion of the fire. When the fire department arrived, they confirmed that there was no one inside the home and put out the remaining flames. After an investigation, the arson investigator concluded that the fire had been intentionally started with a flammable ignition source.

Pruett’s Case Goes to Trial

At trial, the fire department’s battalion chief testified that had the flames not been put out, the fire would have consumed the home. Further, the arson investigator testified that the fire was “very dangerous,” putting neighbors, fire fighters, and anyone inside the home in immediate danger of death or serious injury. Considering his use of fire to be a deadly weapon, the trial court convicted Pruett of arson, sentencing him to twenty years imprisonment. Pruett appealed to the Second Court of Appeals, arguing that the court lacked sufficient evidence to support the finding of fire as a deadly weapon. Fire as a deadly weapon carries a heavier penalty in Texas.

What does Texas Law say about fire as deadly weapon?

Fire is not considered a deadly weapon in the Texas Penal Code, however, a Court can find that fire was used as a deadly weapon if the surrounding circumstances meet a three-pronged test. Mims v. State, 335 S.W. 3d 247, 249-50. In order for fire to be deemed a deadly weapon, the evidence must prove

  1. the object meets the definition of a deadly weapon;
  2. the deadly weapon was used…during the transaction on which the felony conviction was based; and
  3. other people were put in actual danger.”

Brister v. State, 449 S.W.3d 490,494 (Tex. Crim. App. 2014).

The Second Court of Appeals Weighs In – The Court must determine whether the fire set by Pruett was capable of causing death or serious bodily injury.

Did the fire meet the statutory definition of a deadly weapon?

Under Texas law, a deadly weapon can be “anything that in the manner of its use or intended use is capable of causing death or serious bodily injury.” Tex. Penal Code Ann. § 1.07(a)(17)(West Supp. 2015). To determine whether the object was “capable” of causing death or serious bodily injury, such “capability” must be evaluated based on what actually happened, not conjecture about what might have happened if the facts had been different than they were.” Williams v. State, 946 S.W.2d 432, 435-36 (Tex. App.—Fort Worth 1997).

Here, the Court says the neighbor had put out most of the fire with the garden hose by the time the fire department arrived on the scene. Further, the neighbor who called the fire department was not placed in danger. Even though the arson investigator testified that the firefighters were placed in danger, such danger is part of the job. Since there was no one else in the home at the time of the fire, there is no evidence that the firefighters were put in actual danger of death or seriously bodily injury. The Court concludes, “the facts—viewed…in light of what did happen [not what could have happened]—do not support [fire as a deadly weapon] in this case.” The Second Court of Appeals orders the deadly weapons finding to be deleted from Pruett’s judgment.

CASE UPDATE (1/25/17) – CCA Reverses the COA Decision

In reversing the Court of Appeals, the CCA held:

“An arsonist is not the same as an intoxicated driver, and the degree of danger and harm that each offender is capable of causing is materially different. In the case at bar, the deadly nature of the fire is not difficult to appreciate. Fire is inherently dangerous in a way that cars are not and it is capable of inflicting serious bodily harm, especially when it is intentionally started in a residential neighborhood. This fire was dangerous because it was left unattended and because appellant used an accelerant. As a result, the fire endangered not only the lives of the firefighters who responded to the call but also the lives of neighbors who could have been killed or seriously injured if the fire continued to spread. The fire also posed a danger from both the heat effects and the emissions of toxic chemicals. In this case, the State adequately demonstrated that the fire that appellant started was capable of causing death or serious bodily injury…When evidence at trial demonstrates that someone ignites combustible material to intentionally burn down a house in a residential neighborhood, a deadly-weapon finding may appropriately attach to the arson conviction when the fire is capable of causing death or serious bodily injury. That is what happened in this case. “

Juvenile Probation Tarrant County

An Introduction to Juvenile Probation in Tarrant County

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Juvenile Probation Tarrant CountyMany people have the perception that the juvenile system is simply a slap on the wrist for kids, regardless of the offense. The reason for this belief is the fact that most kids in the juvenile system get probation. But, probation is not always that simple or easy. This is an introduction to juvenile probation in Tarrant County. This article will cover the reasons behind the tendency towards probation, the length and parameters of probation and what it can include.

The Reasons Behind a Probation Heavy System

According to Section 51.01 of the Texas Family Code, the purposes of the juvenile justice system are to protect the public, promote the concept of punishment for criminal acts, to remove the taint of criminality from children, and to provide treatment, training, and rehabilitation that emphasizes accountability for the parent and child for the child’s conduct. This section goes on to state that a child should be removed from his parents only when it is necessary for the welfare of the child or the interest of the public safety. Section 51.01 forms the foundation for which the entire juvenile justice system is based on.
Because of this mandate in Section 51.01 that children should only be removed when necessary, probation with the child remaining in the home is the primary mode of punishment and rehabilitation used by the Tarrant County Juvenile Services Department. The system is not geared towards ripping a kid away from his family, but is built to address and correct the behavior by working with the child and the family together.

The Length and Parameters of Juvenile Probation

In the adult system, a person is only eligible for probation on their first felony offense. In the juvenile system, however, probation is the preferred outcome on cases due to the Family Code’s preference for keeping children in the care of their parents. Under the provisions of the Family Code, a juvenile is eligible for probation on any offense, up to and including murder. For misdemeanor offenses, probation is the only option available.

The maximum length of probation, regardless of offense, is generally up to a child’s 18th birthday. In circumstances involving the most serious offenses or habitual offenders, the prosecutor may seek a determinate sentence which extends the possible punishment. On determinate sentence cases, probation can last for a maximum of ten years. In Tarrant County, prosecutors generally only seek determinate sentences in the most serious of cases.

What Juvenile Probation Can Include

Juvenile probation in Tarrant County can include a wide variety of conditions and requirements, depending on the case and the unique needs of the child and family. Some of the more common conditions of probation are discussed here.

Texas Improper Photography Unconstitutional

Probation Revoked for Violating an Unconstitutional Law…CCA Overturns

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Punishment for a Man Convicted of Child Pornography Held Facially Unconstitutional

Ex Parte Lea (Tex. Crim.App. 2016)

Texas Improper Photography UnconstitutionalWhat happens when an old criminal law is rendered null and void? Do people convicted of such crimes get to walk free, or, are the convictions upheld in the interests of justice? The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (“CCA”) filed an ex parte case (the court filed the case on its own volition) to determine whether David Lea’s punishment for his 2008 child pornography conviction should be set aside on constitutional grounds. The case was met with a dissent by Judge Yeary and the CCA reached a very interesting conclusion.

In 2008, David Lea pled guilty to three counts of possession of child pornography. As a result, he was sentenced to twelve years’ imprisonment, ten of which were probated by way of community supervision. In 2012, Lea pled guilty to one count of improper visual photography and received a state-jail felony sentence of two years confinement. During sentencing, the State filed a motion to revoke Lea’s community supervision from the 2008 conviction because, the State argued, Lea violated the terms of his supervision by committing a new criminal offense. Accordingly, the court revoked Lea’ s probation and Lea was sentenced to six years imprisonment.

The Offense of “Improper Photography” Held Unconstitutional

In 2014, the CCA held that the offense of improper photography was “facially unconstitutional” because it infringed upon individuals’ First Amendment rights, as propounded by the Constitution of the United States. The main issue? The improper photography statute, once found in Section 21.15(b)(1) of the Texas Penal Code was overbroad. Ex Parte Thompson, 442 S.W.3d 325 (Tex. Crim. App. 2014).

Lea Files Writ to Overturn His Conviction for the Stricken Law

Lea filed a Writ of Habeas Corpus, arguing that because the offense of improper photography was found unconstitutional, (1) his sentence for improper visual photography should be vacated and (2) his original probation via community supervision should be reinstated.

When an old law is found to be unconstitutional on its face, it is considered to be “void from its inception and should be treated as if it never existed.” Smith v. State, 463 S.W. 3d 890, 895. The due process right to not be convicted under a statute that has been declared void cannot be forfeited. Ex Parte Fournier, 473 S.W.3d 789, 796 (Tex. Crim. App. 2015).

CCA Overturns Lea’s Prior Conviction and Revocation

When Lea was originally sentenced in 2008, the CCA had not yet determined the fate of the improper photography statute. And while it’s true that courts may revoke community supervision based upon a violation of community supervision conditions—committing any future crimes in this case—the Court finds that Lea’s conviction must be set aside. “The harm here flows from his void conviction, namely, the revocation of his community supervision based solely on an offense that [in theory] never existed.”

Accordingly, the CCA set aside the revocation of Lea’s community supervision, and remanded the case to the trial court to determine reinstatement of his probation. It is important to note that Justice Yeary dissented in this case, referring to Fournier, “I do not believe the applicant should be able to obtain retroactive post-conviction collateral relief based upon an overbroad statute unless he can show that the statute was unconstitutional as to his own conduct. 473 S.W. 3d 789, 805 (Tex. Crim. App. 2015). Yeary believes that post-conviction relief should only be granted to those defendant-applicants who can show that the conduct in question did not fall within the “plainly legitimate sweep of the overbroad statute.”

Downtown Fort Worth Atelier Building

BHW Completes Full Renovation of Fort Worth’s Historic Atelier Building

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Downtown Fort Worth Atelier BuildingBarnett Howard & Williams PLLC recently completed a full renovation of the historic Atelier Building (1905) in downtown Fort Worth. The Atelier Building is one of the oldest buildings in downtown Fort Worth, Texas that stills stands today. Built in 1905, the Atelier Building housed several different businesses over its 112-year history, including architects, banks, and a restaurant at one time. Located on 8th street between Houston and Throckmorton, the Atelier Building is marked by its dual terra-cotta fireplaces and marble facade.

The Atelier Building was last renovated in 1980 when architect Cameron Alread purchased the building. The building housed Mr. Alread’s architect firm for 36 years, until he sold the building to the law firm of Barnett Howard & Williams PLLC. Over the last six months, the law firm completely renovated the building from floor to ceiling. “One of our goals in this renovation was to bring out the history of the building,” said owner Luke Williams. If you take a look inside the building you will see exactly what he means. Plaster walls were removed to expose the original brick on the walls – bricks that have been around longer than most building in downtown. The foyer is graced by an enlarged photograph that was taken outside the building sometime during the 1930’s, back when 8th street was a brick road.

Office manager, Sue Holdridge has noticed a warm reception from the people of downtown. “Folks on the sidewalk continue to stop by and tell us how much they have enjoyed watching the transformation of the building and how much character it brings to this block of downtown.”

Barnett Howard & Williams PLLC moved its practice to Fort Worth in 2013, and maintained an office in Sundance Square until December 2016, when the Atelier Building renovation was complete. The firm gives all the credit for the renovation to Eric Hill at Hill Design & Build in Keller. He was the primary designer and architect for the project.

Keys to Juvenile Success in Texas

For Parents: Keys to Success in the Juvenile Justice System

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The following article is from Christy Dunn, former juvenile prosecutor in the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office – Juvenile Division:

_______________________________

Keys to Juvenile Success in TexasAs parents, we want the best for our children. We also want to protect our kids as much as we can. So, naturally, the first reaction for most parents when they find out that their child is being charged with a crime in the juvenile system is to do whatever they can to make the whole thing go away. However, in many cases, this is the worst thing you can do for your child. A lot of times, having a child placed on juvenile probation can be a blessing in disguise, especially if you understand the keys to success in the juvenile system.

The Keys to Success

The keys to success for a child in the juvenile system, at least in Tarrant County, are the attitudes and beliefs of the parents. It is crucial that you remove the blinders of parental love and take an honest and unbiased look at your child’s case. You need to take this objective stance on the case as early in the process as possible. There are several reasons why this is important.

Reason #1: Belief in Your Child’s Innocence and Willingness to Fight

If your child has been accused of committing a crime and is truly innocent, then they need to know that you believe in their innocence. Your child also needs to know that you are going to be there to support them and be willing to fight for them. You can show this support by hiring an attorney to investigate and fight the case. You also need to communicate your support to your child during this difficult time.

Reason #2: Open to Accept Your Child’s Mistakes

Another reason to be honest with yourself about your child’s juvenile case is because it will allow you to have an open mind to the fact that your kid might be guilty of doing what they are accused of. No child is perfect, and sometimes they do stupid things that get them into trouble with the law.

As a general rule of thumb, Tarrant County juvenile prosecutors don’t tend to file frivolous cases. This means that if they file a petition on your child, they usually have some evidence to show that the juvenile was, at a minimum, present during or involved in the commission of the crime. As a parent, you need to be able to consider this evidence with an open mind.

In some cases, it is difficult for a juvenile to admit wrongdoings if their parents are unwilling to accept their guilt. If you are adamant that your child is innocent, they may feel obligated to go along with your beliefs in order to avoid disappointing you. The hardest person in the world to confess to is your parent. By having an open mind, you give your child the opportunity to admit their guilt to you without the worry of disappointing you.

Reason #3: Realistic Assessment of Your Child’s Needs and Problems

In Tarrant County, we see that many times, a juvenile will be involved in a crime due to a need or problem that they have. Sometimes, this is a drug addiction or anger problem. Sometimes, it is a mental health condition or a conflict with someone within the household. Taking an honest look at your child’s juvenile case can help you to realistically assess what their needs and problems are. Acknowledging these problems is the first step to solving them. It is important that both the child and parents accept the problems and make a commitment to fix them.

Reason #4: Realization of Your Contribution

It can be a hard pill to swallow, but sometimes we, as parents, must realize that we have contributed to our children’s problems. This doesn’t mean that we are bad parents. It doesn’t mean that we intentionally set out to harm our children. But, in some cases, the parents have contributed to the problems that caused the child to land in juvenile court. By honestly accepting your part in the problem, you will be able to help solve it for your child in a much quicker manner.

Reason #5: Participation in a Plan to Address the Problems

Taking an objective view of your child’s juvenile case, and your part in creating the problems that led to it, will allow you to be an active participant in coming up with a plan to address the problems. Once a juvenile is involved with the juvenile court system, they gain access to many services that you may not have been aware were available. You will also gain access to one or more probation officers, attorneys, and possibly counselors that can help you and your child meet your child’s underlying needs.

Reason #6: Communicate a Team Approach to Your Child

Your thoughts and attitudes about your child, their case, and the resolution of it are conveyed to your child, whether you realize it or not. You can have a huge impact on how your child feels about the case and what they learn from it. By not judging your child and having an open mind to the outcome, you communicate to your child that you are on their side. You let them know that you are in this together and are there to help them be successful. This is vital to their belief in themselves and their willingness to engage in the process.

Reason #7: Parental Engagement in Probation

Unlike adults, juveniles cannot successfully complete probation without help from their parents. Many times, they do not have a driver’s license or transportation to get to and from their counseling, community service, and probation checks by themselves. So, parental engagement in the probation is a must. If you as the parent buy into the positive aspects of probation and the benefits it can give to your child, you will start to see the buy-in by your child. Additionally, you will ensure that your child gets to each appointment while on probation. By being a part of the process, you will become a valuable part of the team that is there to help your child grow and learn from his mistakes.

Conclusion

Kids tend to feed off of their parents’ beliefs and attitudes when it comes to their viewpoints on the juvenile justice system. Therefore, the secret to your child’s success as they navigate their way through the system is your own honest and open mindset about the process. By having the right attitude, you can affect how and what your child gets out of the system and whether your child returns to the system later. While it may not be easy, this can be a great opportunity to teach your child many life lessons while helping them take a huge leap in the growing up process. Your opinion matters, especially to your child.

Juvenile Sex Offender Registration Texas

Juvenile Sex Offender Registration in Texas

By | Juvenile, Sex Crimes | No Comments

Juvenile Sex Offender Registration TexasIn Texas, the law governing sex offender registration contains several provisions that apply specifically to juveniles. This means that sex offender registration works differently in juvenile cases than it does in adult cases. This article will highlight how sex offender registration works in the Texas juvenile justice system and why this is an appropriate approach to take in these cases. This article will not discuss exemptions to the sex offender registration law for certain young adult offenders.

Sex Offender Registration in Juvenile Cases

The two biggest differences between sex offender registration in adult and juvenile cases involves how long the duty to register lasts and exemptions or deferrals for certain juvenile cases.

Expiration of the Duty to Register

Sex offender registration in Texas is contained in Chapter 62 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure. Under Section 62.101, the duty to register in adult cases is for life. However, in juvenile cases, the duty to register ends ten years after the end of the sentence. This ten-year provision also applies to juvenile cases that are certified and transferred to adult court.

Exemptions for Certain Juvenile Cases

According to Section 62.351 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, either during or after the dispositional hearing in a case in which a juvenile has been adjudicated for a registrable offense, the court can hold a hearing to determine whether the interests of the public require this particular juvenile to register under Chapter 62. This hearing will only be held if, prior to the hearing, the attorney for the juvenile has filed a motion asking the court to consider exempting him from the registration requirements.

During this hearing, which does not involve a jury, the juvenile must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the protection of the public would not be increased by the registration or that any increase in the protection of the public is clearly outweighed by the anticipated substantial harm to the juvenile and his family caused by registration. After the hearing, the court, under Section 62.352, can make one of several rulings. If the court determines that the juvenile has met his burden of proof, the court must exempt the child from the duty to register. If the juvenile has not met his burden, the judge can either make the child register, make the registration nonpublic, or defer the decision on registration until after the juvenile has completed treatment.

Deferral of the Registration Requirement Certain Juvenile Cases

If the court decides to defer the registration, the juvenile is not required to register during the deferral period. This deferral will automatically turn into an exemption if the juvenile successfully completes treatment, unless the prosecuting attorney files a motion requesting a hearing to reconsider the issue of registration.

Other Scenarios

Under Sections 62.353 and 62.354, juveniles who are already registering under Chapter 62, or those who are required to register due to an out-of-state adjudication, may also petition the court to have their registration either deferred or waived. These provisions require a hearing similar to that discussed above with exemptions.

Tarrant County’s Approach to Juvenile Sex Offender Registration

No one can guarantee a particular outcome in a specific case. Every case, and every set of facts, is different and unique. However, many times, in Tarrant County, if a motion is filed by the juvenile’s attorney, the court will consider deferring the registration requirement until the end of probation to see if the juvenile can successfully complete treatment.

Other States’ Approaches to Juvenile Sex Offender Registration

It is important to note that not all states have a provision for exempting or deferring a juvenile’s sex offender registration requirements. This means that if a child is adjudicated of a sex offense requiring registration in Texas and then moves out of state, he may be required to register under the new state’s laws.

Why is This an Appropriate Approach to Juvenile Sex Offender Registration?

At first blush, exempting juveniles from registering after they have been adjudicated of a sex offense seems wrong. However, it is important to remember that sex offender registration is a far-reaching consequence that can have profound effects on the life of the person subject to registration. These effects can be even more profound when the person who must register is an 11 or 12-year-old child. It is also important to note that research has shown repeatedly that juveniles who successfully complete treatment are less likely to reoffend than adults. Many juveniles who commit sexual offenses are not pedophiles, but instead, are curious, experimenting, or have not yet developed an acceptable level of impulse control.

While these behaviors are wrong, serious, and need to be addressed, sex offender registration is not the appropriate vehicle to do that. By allowing the exemption or deferral of registration in juvenile cases, Chapter 62 allows judges to evaluate each of these very different cases on their merits and apply the law in the most appropriate way for that case. It also allows juveniles to have a chance at rehabilitation before imposing drastic and long-lasting consequences on them that may devastate their lives before they ever really begin.

Conclusion

Sex offender registration is applied differently in adult cases than it is in juvenile cases. This is due to a few provisions in the law that apply specifically to juveniles. The biggest difference in the two systems is that, in juvenile cases, the judge has discretion over the issue of registration. The court can, if it chooses, defer that registration to see how the juvenile does in treatment. This allows courts to tailor a disposition and consequences to better suit a particular juvenile’s situation while still providing for the protection of the public.

This article is not intended to provide legal advice about any particular case. It is only intended to be a general overview of the sex offender registration law in juvenile cases. For legal advice, please consult an attorney about your case.