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We see a lot of Houston criminal-defense lawyers advertising about the number of cases they have gotten dismissed.

This is not a good thing.

Don't get me wrong: It's a great thing to get cases dismissed. That's always the objective. We love getting cases dismissed. Especially the hard cases!


An unfortunate trend in lawyer advertising is the "live chat" box on the website.

This'd be great if it connected the potential client with a lawyer or paralegal or someone who could actually understand the problem and assist the client, but it seldom is. Instead, it's a glorified answering service.

Here, for example, is what you get when you click on the live chat on one Houston criminal-defense lawyer's site:


Get It in Writing!

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I heard a complaint recently from someone who had hired a lawyer for a criminal case in Harris County after the lawyer a) texted her out of the blue on the cellphone; and b) promised to get her case dismissed within six months.

The unsolicited text message was a violation of various rules and laws (see the TCDLA Voice for the Defense article here), and the promise was-as this client discovered-a lie.

Don't hire sleazy lawyers. If a lawyer is breaking the rules to get you to hire him, he is a crook. You may think you want a lawyer who cheats, but the cold hard truth is that you are the only one who is going to get cheated, because you are the only one who trusts him. The judges, prosecutors, and every other lawyer in the courthouse knows who the sleazy lawyers are, and doesn't trust them with anything. You can only get cheated by people you trust. You have to trust your criminal-defense lawyer. Therefore you have to have a lawyer that you can trust, which means a lawyer who is generally trustworthy.


We've got your back.

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I won't pick on anyone in particular, but about two thirds of criminal-defense lawyers' websites are utter nonsense, if you know anything about criminal defense.

But these folks are marketing themselves to people who don't know anything about criminal defense. It benefits them to keep the clients ignorant.

I'd rather have clients who understand the system and what we, together, are up against.


Hello, World

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Mark here.

I've been writing online about criminal-defense issues for nearly two decades, at my Defending People WordPress blog, and in my Substack newsletter of the same name (if you subscribe, fees go to my 501(c)(3) nonprofit, the First Amendment Funding Organization).

I wrote well over a million words on those two sites. If you wanted to understand how I think, you could go back and read everything I'd written. I think most of it holds up pretty well, but my mind has been changed on some things in that time.


Top 100 Lawyers in the Galaxy

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How about this badge, which you may see this on other lawyers' websites?:

It may even be accompanied by the claim that the lawyer is a "Top 100 lawyer in Houston" or a "Top 100 lawyer in Texas" or even "one of the top 100 lawyers in the U.S.A."

The badge is nonsense, and the claim that it signifies "one of the top 100 lawyers in" some geographic area is false, and means one of three things:


Moving On

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After almost 16 years of intermittent blogging, I'm moving along to a different platform, which I think will better suit both my talents and the times.

Please visit and subscribe to my newsletter.

Thanks to you all.

The Trump Impeachment in Voir Dire

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Interesting voir dire question on Twitter, from a Gideon's Promise (it's a terrific program; if you have some charity dollars to direct, please consider sending them yeaward) alumna:

Just want your thoughts: During a Voir Dire in a very conservative area, would you use the Trump impeachment process in any way? Just was a thought myself and instead of fleshing it out for myself, I'm calling on you to weigh in.

My initial response was maybe a little snarky:


I think I have discovered a bug in how DPS administers the sex-offender registry in dealing with people who have ten-year sex-offender registration offenses and prison sentences.

If you went to prison for a ten-year-registration offense, and have been out of prison (regardless of parole status) for more than nine years, I'd like to hear from you. We may be able to do something on your behalf.

Please spread the word.


Some dolt ((Not an argumentum ad hominem: I'm not saying his argument is wrong, because he's a dolt. I'm saying he's a dolt, because his argument is wrong. Read on, and tell me if I'm wrong.)) in Illinois thinks my handling of the "speech of purely private concern" argument here is too "dismissive":

You're right that the Supreme Court has not applied its lesser-protected speech language to cases like this. But that language is there and the test is being developed on the state level. Your dismissive approach therefore does not seem to be particularly effective.- Michael Smith (@msmith750) October 23, 2019

He bases this statement on his reading of the blog post I wrote on People v. Austin, linked to above.


In an opinion rife with logical and legal error, the Illinois Supreme Court has upheld that state's revenge-porn statute in the face of First Amendment challenges. The opinion is here:

[pdf-embedder url="/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/123910.pdf"]

What's wrong with that? Just about everything.


Dear Mr. Bennett,I'm writing to follow up on a voice mail I left late yesterday.I'm a writer with the ABA Journal, the American Bar Association's member magazine, and I'm writing an article on First Amendment challenges to revenge porn laws. This of course includes your current case for Jordan Jones before the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. I understand from media reports that you may have other clients with similar situations, which suggests to me that you might have strong opinions on the topic. I've also read your opening brief and some of your response briefs, which reinforced that.Would you be interested in discussing this sometime in the next week? I'd want to ask:

First, can you tell me about your other revenge porn clients? If you feel names are a violation of your confidentiality obligation to your clients, I'm really interested in how many there are and if there are interesting fact patterns in any case.

There are seven or eight others.


SECTION 1. Chapter 21, Penal Code, is amended by adding Section 21.19 to read as follows:

Sec. 21.19. UNLAWFUL ELECTRONIC TRANSMISSION OF SEXUALLY EXPLICIT VISUAL MATERIAL.(a) In this section, "intimate parts," "sexual conduct," and "visual material" have the meanings assigned by Section 21.16.(b) A person commits an offense if the person knowingly transmits by electronic means visual material that:(1) depicts:(A) any person engaging in sexual conduct or with the person's intimate parts exposed; or(B) covered genitals of a male person that are in a discernibly turgid state; and(2) is not sent at the request of or with the express consent of the recipient.(c) An offense under this section is a Class C misdemeanor.(d) If conduct that constitutes an offense under this section also constitutes an offense under any other law, the actor may be prosecuted under this section or the other law.SECTION 2. This Act takes effect September 1, 2019.

In other words, starting Saturday Sunday it will be a Class C misdemeanor in Texas to send certain images to people without their consent.


You're Using Microsoft Word Wrong

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My friends, you have some habits in using Microsoft Word that are making your life more difficult.

More importantly, they are making it difficult for me to collaborate with you, and are therefore making my life more difficult.

First, stop using tabs. Stop hitting the spacebar more than twice (more than once, really) at a time. Stop hitting enter more than once at a time.


The Kim Ogg Credibility Shitshow

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I was a fan of Kim Ogg's candidacy for the Harris County DA. It was time to break the Republican party's chokehold on that office, and Ogg was a good person to do it.

Unfortunately, the promise was greater than the product.

The Harris County District Attorney's Office has been my principle adversary for almost a quarter century, but I don't want it poorly run. Demoralized prosecutors are easier to beat, but prosecutors who are easier to beat are more likely to cheat.


This week the Fort Worth Court of Appeals decided Ex parte Barton, No. 02-17-00188-CR, holding unconstitutional section 42.07(a)(7) of the Texas Penal Code.

This is an issue that I have pending in Houston's First and Fourteenth Courts of Appeals, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (Ex parte Sanders), and, with the University of Texas's Supreme Court Clinic, in the United States Supreme Court (Ogle v. Texas).

After revenge porn, harassment is the next hotness in free-speech law. It's the next hotness because most lawyers, who don't have free-speech practices and so aren't intimately familiar with that body of law, assume that harassment is unprotected speech.


Jeffrey Epstein's Forlorn Hope

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Here's the Southern District of Florida's Nonprosecution Agreement with Jeffrey Epstein:

[pdf-embedder url="/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/Epstein-NPA-OCR.pdf" title="Epstein NPA OCR"]

Being off Twitter for the moment, I might not have known of Epstein's arrest on charges out of the Southern District of New York but for Scott Greenfield's blog post. Scott's take was that the fact that the NPA violated the CVRA should not be sufficient to undo the agreement, as a judge in the Southern District of Florida had suggested.


2018 Word of the Year

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A reader was kind enough to remind me, six months ago, that I hadn't written about 2018's Word of the Year yet.

To remind you: every year (since 2017) I've chosen a Word of the Year instead of making a resolution. I got the idea from my hypnosis teacher, Mike Mandel.

2017's WOTY was attention. And 2019's WOTY, which I haven't announced here yet (though I'd broadcast it on Twitter) is lead-as in "to lead," though the noun would probably work too.


What's Wrong with Moral Clarity

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I did not run for Congress to be silent. I did not run for Congress to sit on the sidelines. I ran because I believed it was time to restore moral clarity and courage to Congress. To fight and to defend our democracy.- Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) April 13, 2019

I'm sure the Representative is a very nice lady who loves dogs and wants the best for America.

But "restoring moral clarity to Congress" is, frankly, frightening.


The Keystone of American Freedom

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The keystone of American freedom is something that is hinted at in our Constitution:

Congress shall make no law......shall not be infringed.No Soldier shall...

It's more directly referred to in the Declaration of Independence:

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