By: Mark Diaz
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Galveston Criminal Defense Attorney Discusses Recent Criminal Events On The Island
What are some of the issues you see in cases of minors in possession of marijuana?
In cases of minors in possession of marijuana, it would be no different than any other possession case that we defend, it would have the same issues. The fact that the person was a minor, doesn’t necessarily change the analysis unless it was a search at school in which children have a lesser right to privacy at school. That would change some search issues.
I need to give you a disclaimer that I do not handle juvenile cases. It is very rare. We’ll handle a couple a year, maybe some years zero. We just don’t have time to go to the Juvenile Justice Center since it’s not attached to our courthouse. Our docket is healthy enough that we can’t split ourselves too thin going to the JJC regularly.
How does being caught with less than an ounce of marijuana affect a teenager now and for the rest of their life?
I can tell you that the juvenile system is set up to protect the juvenile. They have more programs than we typically do in adult court, that would ensure that the juvenile’s record does not follow them into adulthood and beyond. To answer the second part of your question, a teenager getting caught with less than an ounce of marijuana, if there are no legal defenses, should be worked out in a way where it definitely will not affect the juvenile for the rest of their life.
What are some recent controversial events that resulted crime in Galveston?
One of them was slab weekend. Slabs are the cars with the rims that stick out. They have car clubs in Houston and other places where there are people that are enthusiasts of that type of vehicle. They have typically spent a lot of money on their vehicle. They have high-dollar paint jobs. The rims are very expensive. They’re just very custom cars. They have, for the past couple of years, had events where they come to Galveston and ride the seawall, just kind of ride around town, they’re just showing off.
Galveston takes the position that since they don’t seek a permit for their event, it’s a problem because it causes traffic congestion and other problems that the police aren’t prepared for because there was no permit application. So on this last one Galveston ended up, according to reports in the paper, towing over 100 cars that weekend. I think the total was 103. And I think the biggest day was Saturday, and I think they towed 70 or so cars Saturday alone.
Of course, there were pictures on social media of the police measuring the width of the rims, let’s say, to determine whether or not they’ve violated state law. If so, apparently they were having their vehicles towed. What authorities were relying on was a rule that says a typical vehicle cannot be more than eight feet in width. So if the rims are sticking out to the point that it made the vehicle more than eight feet wide, apparently they were towing their vehicles.
Now, as far as arrests, that weekend did not seem to yield a very high number of arrests. I think there were about 33. I’ve not been contacted by anyone who was arrested on slab weekend for anything related to a slab vehicle. So it’d be hard for me to speculate what those people went through because I haven’t talked to anyone specifically about it.
If those 30 plus arrests are from towed vehicles, my suspicion is going to be it’s because of something they found in the vehicle. I do know from another media account that one person was arrested for driving on a suspended license. In other words, it was an event that caused a lot of social media attention. Then later, activists claimed that they felt it was based on race because many of these car aficionados are people of color. So they wanted to say that it was about race, and not about fair policing. Of course, the chief denounced that.
So that was slab weekend. It didn’t seem to result in a lot of arrests for substantial criminal offenses. It was just that apparently, the police don’t want them here without notice, causing traffic jams and whatnot with no way to deal with it. I guess the takeaway is, the city wants them to, if they’re going to come back, seek a permit to have an event on the island, and then they can beef up policing and traffic control.
Bolivar Peninsula Jeep Weekend Leads To Crime In Galveston County
We had another big one, which is not so much on the island, but across the ferry on Crystal Beach. The Bolivar Peninsula was having Jeep weekend. Jeep weekend, in contrast, was not about towing vehicles or a permit-less event. It was that it got too rowdy. I know that on Jeep weekend this year, which I believe is always the weekend after Mother’s Day, They arrested over 200 people. Now from that, we have been hired on several cases stemming from an arrest on Jeep weekend, also called go topless weekend.
We’ve been contacted by several people that were charged with DWI. I look at the arrests when there are big events, and I saw that a lot of the arrests were for what we would call petty offenses, minors in possession of alcohol, stuff like that. Not a whole lot of serious arrests. It was mainly involving alcohol and disorderly conduct. Not a lot of big felony offenses.
In years past, there have been issues with too many intoxicated people being on the beach driving, causing accidents, people getting hurt. There have been instances of people getting killed in automobile accidents on Jeep weekend, so Galveston county tries to step up law enforcement presence during Jeep weekend to avoid those issues.
Again, there were over 200 arrests that weekend. We have been contacted by several of those people that were arrested. I believe the latest one might have been someone charged with a third DWI. They’re not from here. They were just here for that weekend. We’ll just have to see how the evidence shakes out with all of those.
Anytime there’s a big event and there are a lot of arrests, as defense attorneys, we have questioned whether or not there was sufficient evidence for an arrest and charges, or was the officer just trying to get this person off the beach or the street at that time because they thought that was the safest decision. It doesn’t necessarily mean that charges would stick.
Incidentally, we still have a case that is set for trial that was from last year’s Jeep weekend. Whenever these big events happen, it brings up a spike in certain types of local charges. Which of course affects us here at the office, getting hired for those and having to deal with them and go through all the evidence, which sometimes can be a little more challenging, because the officers that work the extra job, may or may not be certified in certain areas that we think are qualified to handle these things. It just takes a little bit more work on our part.
About The Proposed “Constitutional Carry” Law
We also have this issue of whether or not people will be allowed to carry handguns without any special permits, training, or background checks. This has been a hot topic lately. It’s a difficult situation, I do have a license to carry. I have been through the training, and I know the value of it.
At the same time, I’ve been a hunter, and I’ve known gun safety my whole life. So it’s a different type of issue for me. What some people get wrong in the analysis though, is when they say that people are going to be carrying a gun without any type of background check. That’s not necessarily true, because they still have to purchase the handgun. So they’re still going to have to fill out the paperwork and go through the check if they’re purchasing it legally.
Now, of course, the counter to that is well, what if they’re purchasing them illegally? Well, someone who’s purchasing guns illegally is likely to carry the gun anyway, whether or not there are requirements to get training. That’s the whole point. So the one thing that’s being missed is, we’re addressing what law-abiding citizens can do, and not addressing what people who are not law-abiding citizens do. So that’s what makes this a hotter topic. At the same time, I don’t want to start seeing everyone carrying a gun everywhere I go, it’s just not safe.
In public, as you see with road rage incidents and everything else, that now we’re going to give everyone a gun, it just seems like a powder keg, and probably not a good idea. I don’t know what the purpose of this legislation was. Other than for Texas to say, you know, we’re so far to the right, we want everyone to just walk around with their gun on their side, like the old days. However, it appears that we’re about to enter that situation. I guess we’ll just see how it plays out.
Contractor Charged With Defrauding Customers
A contractor was recently charged with defrauding people for taking money for construction projects and not doing the work or not completing the work. He had initially been set to plead and get probation. There was some public pushback from some of the victims. Apparently, at the last minute, that gentleman decided that he did not want to plead guilty and take the probation, but he wanted to go to a jury trial. So that’ll be interesting to see how that case plays out. I’m not sure who his attorney is, or will be, because, if I remember correctly, he said that he told the court he wanted to withdraw his guilty plea and hire a new lawyer. So we’ll see where that goes.
There was a recent murder trial, trials are interesting, since we’re getting back to trials from COVID it’s just interesting to see how it plays out. I’ve talked about that before. We recently saw someone get eighty years for a 2017 League City murder. That just shows you that the juries we’ve been encountering post-COVID seem to have been giving stiff sentences.
If you or someone you know has been charged with a crime in Galveston or elsewhere in Southeast Texas call Mark Diaz at (409) 572-8095 or contact us here.