After Dallas Tragedy-Top 5 Things You Need To Know When Pulled Over By The Police

By Bo Kalabus;
24-hour Jail Release: 214-402-4364

In the wake of the recent tragedy in Dallas we must all examine how we interact with police officers if we are stopped for a traffic offense. On a normal day police have very difficult jobs. Usually they are alone and every time they approach a vehicle it is a dangerous situation. However, these are not normal times for the police or us. Tensions for both are at an all time high point. Therefore, we must examine what our actions signal to police when we are stopped. Here are a few helpful tips on how to handle yourself during a traffic stop.

1) Pull Over As Soon As You Can

The longer it takes you pull over the more suspicion this raises to the officer. They are thinking that you may have a reason for wanting to evade them such as having a warrant, or you are buying time to try to hide contraband in the car. This type of situation makes the officer think you might be dangerous and sets the tone for the questioning to come.

2) Pull Over in a Safe Place

It looks really bad if you pull over in a dangerous place, such as pulling to the left median on the Tollway or a major interstate for example. Usually in this scenario it makes the officer have to approach on the right side of the car with traffic flying right by them. This is a very dangerous situation for the officer and again it sets the tone for the questioning.

3) Keep Your Hands Where The Officer Can See Them

Keep your hands on the steering wheel up high where they can be seen or on the window frame while the officer approaches. Nothing puts an officer on point more than movement in the car as they approach. They have no idea if you are looking for your insurance or your trusty .357.

4) Let The Officer Talk First

The officer is going to want the first word. Let them have it and follow the lead. Being interrupted is frustrating for the officer. Don’t make a minor situation worse by being a know it all. The officer is in control.

5) Be Polite

Golden rule time–be polite and courteous. Remember you are being videotaped too. Remember your rights, but stay cool. You can politely refuse to take field sobriety tests and then keep your mouth closed. Don’t make a scene by yelling at the officer asking if you are detained.

If you are charged with a crime, you should contact a competent Collin County Criminal Lawyer to represent you and examine all the possible defenses you could have with your case.

Police Body Cameras Cut Both Ways

By Bo Kalabus;
24-hour Jail Release: 214-402-4364

More and more Collin and Dallas County police agencies are using body cameras these days. Being filmed during a police investigation is not an entirely new concept, as police in-car dash video recorders have been around for quite some time now. However, the police body camera can show much greater detail during a police encounter, which can be both helpful and harmful to defense of a criminal case.

In defending a criminal case, I find for the most part having events videotaped is very helpful. The video recording is the best objective evidence of an event and I would rather have a dash camera or body camera video in a case I’m working on than not. Take a DWI for example, an officer may put in his report that he just witnessed the worst driving ever and that’s why he stopped the vehicle.   But when we review the patrol car video the driving doesn’t look near as bad as the officer described. In fact, the driver may not have violated any traffic law and the officer may not have had an objective reason for pulling the driver over. This type of video evidence will keep the officer from exaggerating his testimony at trial. However, the dash camera can have limitations. Often the footage is grainy and the audio can be muffled.

Police body cameras take the recording to the next level in detail. Take the same DWI example, when the officer goes to the window of the car that body camera will be focused right on the driver’s face. If the driver is impaired due to alcohol and exhibiting slurred speech, bloodshot eyes, or is slow to respond to questions this will be very apparent on the recording. That type of scenario may not play to well for the client. However, if the driver is not obviously impaired and officer exaggerates these details in his police report the video recording will be our best evidence in defense of the case.

The body cameras are also recording all audio. As a result, I can hear the conversations between the police officers when they huddle up to discuss the status of an investigation and the radio calls. Back on the DWI example, if a back up officer arrives and is being briefed by the arresting officer there is no limit to what information I can find out about how they think the investigation is going. This is a great tool in identifying any bias the police officer may have or whether they think the evidence they have is strong or not. Sometimes the officers forget they are being recorded and you would be surprised as to what you hear.

The body cameras are also very helpful in identifying the exact timeline of events and the behavior of both the arrested person and police officer—especially if there is a dispute on any of these issues.

Overall, body cameras are going to be here to stay. My experience with them so far has been very positive in defense of my clients.  If you are charged with a crime, you should contact a competent Collin County Criminal Lawyer to represent you and examine all the possible defenses you could have with your case.

Synthetic Cannabinoids Are Not Only Illegal, But Dangerous

By Bo Kalabus;
24-hour Jail Release: 214-402-4364

What Are Synthetic Cannabinoids?

Synthetic cannabinoids refer to a growing number of man-made mind-altering chemicals that are either sprayed on dried, shredded plant material so they can be smoked, or sold as liquids to be vaporized and inhaled in e-cigarettes.

These chemicals are called cannabinoids because they are related to chemicals found in the marijuana plant. Because of the similarity, synthetic cannabinoids are sometimes misleadingly called “synthetic marijuana”, and they are often marketed as “safe,” and legal alternatives to marijuana. In fact, they may affect the brain much more powerfully than marijuana; their actual effects can be unpredictable and, in some cases, severe or even cause death.

Manufacturers sell these herbal products in colorful foil packages and sell similar liquid incense products, like e-cigarette fluids, in plastic bottles. They market these products under a wide variety of specific brand names; in past years, K2 and Spice were common. However; now hundreds of other brand names exist, such as Joker, Black Mamba, Kush, and Kronic.

For several years, synthetic cannabinoid mixtures have been easy to buy in drug paraphernalia shops, novelty stores, and gas stations. This easy access and the belief that synthetic cannabinoid products are “natural” and harmless have contributed to their use among young people. Another reason for their use is that standard drug tests cannot easily detect many of the chemicals used in these products.  However, in Texas these products are now illegal and carry the same penalties as marijuana possession cases.

What Do Synthetic Cannabinoids Do?

Synthetic cannabinoids act on the same brain cell receptors as delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the mind-altering ingredient in marijuana.

So far, there have been few scientific studies of the effects of synthetic cannabinoids on the human brain, but researchers do know that some of them bind more strongly than marijuana to the cell receptors affected by THC, and may produce much stronger effects. The resulting health effects can be unpredictable, which makes this drug dangerous.

Because the chemical composition of many synthetic cannabinoid products is unknown and may change from batch to batch, these products are likely to contain substances that cause dramatically different effects than the user might expect, that again makes these products dangerous.

Synthetic cannabinoid users report some effects similar to those produced by marijuana:

  • elevated mood
  • relaxation
  • altered perception—awareness of surrounding objects and conditions
  • symptoms of psychosis—delusional or disordered thinking detached from reality

Psychotic effects include:

  • extreme anxiety
  • confusion
  • paranoia—extreme and unreasonable distrust of others
  • hallucinations—sensations and images that seem real though they are not

Serious Health Effects

There can also be serious health effects associated with synthetic cannabinoids. People who have used synthetic cannabinoids and have been taken to emergency rooms have shown severe effects including:

  • rapid heart rate
  • vomiting
  • violent behavior
  • suicidal thoughts

Synthetic cannabinoids can also raise blood pressure and cause reduced blood supply to the heart, as well as kidney damage and seizures. Use of these drugs is associated with a rising number of deaths.

What You Need to Know About Vehicle Searches and Your Expectation of Privacy in Your Vehicle

By Bo Kalabus;
24-hour Jail Release: 214-402-4364

Usually a warrant is required to search to search a person’s residence. An automobile, however, is an entirely different animal than a house, for example. There is an exception to the warrant requirement for automobiles. The rationale is that cars are mobile, and they could depart the scene before an officer has time to get a warrant from a judge to search the vehicle. Another thought behind the exception is that since cars are regulated by state laws and are on public streets, drivers should have a reduced expectation of privacy in comparison to their residence.

The automobile exception to the warrant requirement has two parts:

  1. If the police have probable cause that the car contains something illegal like a prohibited weapon or drugs, then they may search the car. One circumstance I hear most often is an officer after approaching a vehicle smells marijuana from the inside of the car and that triggers the probable cause for the search.

Under this part of the exception, the officer can only search the part of the car where what he is looking for may be found.

For example, if a police officer pulls a driver over for speeding and smells marijuana, he may search the entire car for the drug, including any containers like the center counsel, glove box, or purses. But if he has probable cause to believe that you have an illegal knife in the car, he could only search where the knife could be hidden and not, say, in a pack of cigarettes.

  1. If an officer makes a lawful arrest of the driver of the car, he may make a warrantless search of the passenger compartment of the car. This is called a search incident to arrest.

Keep in mind an officer may always search your car without a warrant if you consent to the search. Sometimes police will pose the question with the implication that you do not have the legal right to refuse. However, you can always refuse to consent. Another approach is the officer may tell you that if you cooperate with him and consent, things will be easier on you, but in reality nothing could be further from the truth.

Also, if you are being arrested following a traffic stop, your car could be towed and searched pursuant to an inventory search. The police department has to have a policy regarding how to conduct an inventory search. The rationale behind an inventory search is to protect the police from claims property was stolen or lost down the road. The inventory search is not supposed to be a rouse to allow police to rummage through a car, however, police can go through your car to create an inventory.

Can Police Use a Traffic Stop as an Excuse to Search My Car?

By Bo Kalabus;
24-hour Jail Release: 214-402-4364

If the police see you speeding, swerving, or committing any other traffic offense, the officer has reasonable suspicion to pull you over, write you a ticket and send you on you way. The officer can also, check your driver’s license, check to see if you have auto insurance, and run your license to see if you have any outstanding warrants.

An investigative detention (like a traffic stop) must be temporary and last no longer than is necessary to effectuate the purpose of the stop. Similarly, the investigative methods employed should be the least intrusive means reasonably available to verify or dispel the officer’s suspicion in a short period of time. It’s the state’s burden to demonstrate that the seizure it seeks to justify on the basis of a reasonable suspicion was sufficiently limited in scope and duration to satisfy the conditions of an investigative seizure. See Florida v. Royer, U.S. 491 (1983).

Where this gets interesting is if the officer for example, sees your vehicle swerving at night and pulls you over. The officer gets to the car window and starts talking to you and he smells alcohol, sees you have bloodshot eyes, which he considers clues of intoxication. Now at this point the officer may have developed additional reasonable suspicion to get you out of the vehicle to perform field sobriety tests in addition to the stop for swerving. Another scenario might be if you are pulled over for speeding. As the officer approaches the vehicle, he sees a bag of marijuana on the seat next to you and now the officer has probable cause to arrest you for possession of marijuana and can search your vehicle.

Reasonable suspicion exists when, based on the totality of the circumstances, the officer has specific, articulable facts that, when combined with rational inferences from those facts, would lead him to reasonably conclude that a particular person is, has been, or soon will be engaged in criminal activity.  This is an objective standard that disregards any subjective intent of the officer making the stop and looks solely to whether there exists an objective basis for the stop.  The facts relied upon to support a conclusion of reasonable suspicion must amount to something more than a general suspicion or hunch.

Since there is no bright line rule on the when the officer develops reasonable suspicion, it’s an area where a defense to a criminal case can be mounted especially if the officer can not back up his reasonable suspicion with articulable facts or inferences to support his continued detention of you on the roadside. You should consult a Dallas or Collin county criminal lawyer to discuss your case if you are facing charges.

The State is Trying To Revoke My Probation–What Can I Do About It?

By Bo Kalabus;
24-hour Jail Release: 214-402-4364

Probation is technical and expensive. To be successful on probation you have to be organized, disciplined, and have a little bit of luck. People complete their probation obligations every day, but for many the road through probation is hard.

For example, if you plead guilty to a possession of marijuana charge in Collin County Texas and were put on probation in the fall of 2015. The deal you took was 90 days jail probated for 12 months and a $600 fine plus court costs. The terms and conditions of your probation were to take a substance abuse evaluation, complete a drug class, submit to random drug checks, and complete 45 hours of community service.

How the Revocation Process Begins

Fast forward to the summer of 2016 with 3 months to go on probation. You forgot to report to your probation officer in May, and you are also behind on your community service hours and payment of your fine. You meet with your Collin County probation officer in June and the first thing he hits you with is a drug test—which you fail because it was your best friend’s birthday the week before. At this point, the probation officer believes you are no longer a good candidate for probation and files a motion to revoke your probation based on the mistakes you made in May.

Once the motion to revoke is filed, a warrant will be issued for your arrest. You will have to turn yourself in, or you will be arrested for the outstanding warrant, which usually happens at an inconvenient time. If it is a motion to revoke misdemeanor probation, you will be entitled to a bond, so you will have the ability to be bailed out.

What Happens Next?

The next step will be going to court. This process will mirror the court appearances you had with the original case—you will have a first appearance that will allow your lawyer to take a look at the motion to revoke and the State’s punishment recommendation. Yes, get a Collin County criminal lawyer if this is happening in Collin County. A motion to revoke is a tricky process and I highly recommend you get a lawyer on board to represent you considering the State will most certainly take the position that you have already been given a chance and don’t deserve a second one. It will be very difficult for you by yourself to argue otherwise to the prosecutor.

What Happens to Me?

On a typical motion to revoke, you will either be extended on probation, or you will receive a jail sentence and be done with probation. If there are defenses to the allegations of the motion to revoke, the lawyer may be able to get the motion withdrawn. If you do not like the State’s recommendation you can set the motion to revoke for hearing and make the State prove-up the allegations in their motion. Here’s the problem—take the example above—the State need not prove up every allegation in the motion to revoke to win, the State only needs to prove up one allegation to win the motion. If the State can prove you failed to report in May, the State has won the motion to revoke. As you can see, there is very little room to maneuver if your probation is being revoked for legitimate allegations.

After reviewing the facts and negotiating with the State, a lawyer can advise you of your chances of winning the motion to revoke at a hearing. Or perhaps buy you some time to get caught up on the items the State wants to revoke you on to get your probation extended or the get the motion dismissed outright.

A motion to revoke your probation will create a difficult time for you. You should have competent legal counsel review your case to put the most options on your table based on the specific facts of your case.

What is K2 and is it Legal in Texas?

By Bo Kalabus;
24-hour Jail Release: 214-402-4364

The generic definition of K2 is that it is a psychoactive designer drug made up of natural herbs that are sprayed with synthetic chemicals. When the mix is done correctly, the drug mimics the effects of cannabis (marijuana). The mixture is best known on the street as K2 or Spice. The goal of both of these products is to mimic, not copy the effects of cannabis. However, K2/Spice may include synthetic cannabinoids, which has a similar effect on the body as cannabinoids naturally found in cannabis, such as THC. These products first became available in the early 2000s so they have been out about 12 years.

Research is now showing that these products might be trouble for the consumer. In short, the studies that are coming available are focusing on the role of synthetic cannabis and psychosis. In some of the case studies, the psychosis and be quite long term. The synthetic cannabis may also trigger a chronic psychotic disorder among certain individuals such as those with a family history of mental illness.

As I have mentioned in the past K2 is not legal in Dallas or Collin County or anywhere else in Texas. In 2011, the Texas Legislature made K2/Spice illegal in Texas. The same punishments apply to K2/Spice that apply to possession of marijuana charges.

If you find yourself facing possession of K2/Spice charges, you should contact a Collin County criminal lawyer to help you defend your case.

Can I Be Arrested If I Have Prescription Medication Without the Prescription?

By Bo Kalabus;
24-hour Jail Release: 214-402-4364

YES! However, if you can provide a copy of the prescription (and show it was valid at the time of the arrest), the case against you will most likely be dismissed. A valid prescription is a defense to the prosecution of the case, but it will not stop the arrest if the prescription is not on your person.

If a person is carrying prescription medication without the prescription, they can be arrested if they come in contact with the police. Usually, I see these charges in connection with being stopped for another reason and the medication is either in plain view or in the person’s pocket. Be careful when you are driving around with your prescription medication.

Another scenario I commonly see is where a friend or family member gives an individual leftover prescription medication for an ailment. If this is the case and the person gets arrested in possession of someone else’s prescription medication, then they do not have prescription defense to the prosecution of the offense.

What Is a Drug Free Zone?

By Bo Kalabus;
24-hour Jail Release: 214-402-4364

Common drug free zones you come across in Texas are schools. Generally possession of a controlled substance or marijuana in a drug free zone (DFZ) is defined as being within 1000 feet of public or private elementary, or secondary school, or daycare center. As you can imagine, these types of schools are scattered throughout Dallas and Collin counties.

There are two major consequences of possessing a controlled substance in a DFZ. First, possession in the DFZ increases the punishment range one degree. For example, possession of marijuana of two ounces or less is a class B misdemeanor, however; if a person is caught possessing the same amount in a DFZ, it becomes a class A misdemeanor. Second, if the person is sentenced to the penitentiary for possession in a DFZ, that person will not receive any good conduct time for the first 5 years of incarceration. For example, if the person is sentenced to 5 years in the Texas Department of Corrections for possession of cocaine in a DFZ, the person will have to do the whole 5 years.

As you can see, if you are caught possessing a controlled substance in a DFZ, the penalties can be severe. If you are facing such charges, you should consult a Dallas or Collin County Criminal Lawyer that is familiar with the law and knows how to attack the facts regarding the DFZ.

Texas Has Tougher Penalties on First Offense DWIs Where A Person’s BAC Is Above 0.15

By Bo Kalabus;
24-hour Jail Release: 214-402-4364

Prior to September 1, 2011, a first offense DWI in Texas, regardless of the person’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC), was punishable by a fine that would range from $0 to $2,000 and from 72 hours to 180 days in jail (which could be probated).

The punishment listed above is still good law on a DWI first offense, but only if the person’s BAC is below a 0.15. For reference, a 0.08 BAC is considered legally intoxicated in Texas. Following the Legislative changes that took effect on September 1, 2011, if a person’s blood alcohol concentration is above a 0.15, the punishment range is enhanced to a fine from $0 to $4,000 and from 0 days to 1 year in jail (again, which may be probated) regardless of whether it is a first offense or not.

The 0.15 BAC and above enhancement also has significant impact on the surcharges that DPS will levy on a person following a DWI conviction. Specifically, if a person’s BAC is below a 0.15, the standard DPS surcharge for having a driver’s license following a DWI conviction will be $1,000 a year for a period of three years. If a person’s BAC is above 0.15, then the surcharge jumps up to $2,000 a year for the three-year period.

If you are facing a DWI charge, you should contact an experienced Collin county criminal lawyer to help you defend your case.

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