I have been in private practice in Austin, Texas since 1999, after graduating with honors from the Valparaiso University School of Law. My entire career has been devoted to defending people and businesses against criminal charges and related civil accusations of misconduct. I believe it takes a certain mindset to zealously and unashamedly defend those accused of wrongdoing, and I am proud to have never worked as a prosecutor for that reason.
Eight months after I was licensed to practice law, I earned front page headlines for my defense of a mother facing extradition for parental kidnapping charges, a case that resulted in Governor Rick Perry being sued in federal court before he would allow my client to be handed over to California authorities.
Since that time, my trial experience has covered a vast array of offenses, including capital murder, securities fraud, money laundering, theft, firearm smuggling, conspiracy, sexual assault, obstruction of justice, aggravated assault, felon in possession of a firearm, retaliation against a federal agent, and numerous DWI, assault family violence, and drug cases.
High-profile clients whose favorable plea agreements quietly avoided major headlines include a state-level leader of a nationwide criminal street gang—the primary defendant—in a Federal RICO (racketeering) prosecution; a top-level employee in the corporate office of a chain of regionally popular gas stations and convenience stores whose felony environmental crimes were negotiated down to misdemeanor deferred adjudication; and a local Chief of Police charged with official oppression, aggravated perjury, and misuse of official information.
More recently, I helped an Austin Police Officer avoid the Death Penalty for his role in a Capital Murder where a woman, pregnant with his child, was shot three times in the head and her body left near a dumpster.
I am Board Certified as a Criminal Law Specialist by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. For me, board certification reflects a deep and ongoing commitment to the study and practice of criminal law. Only about 1% of all lawyers licensed in Texas has earned this certification.
Why choose a lawyer Board Certified in Criminal Law?
The Texas Board of Legal Specialization (TBLS)—established in 1974 by the Supreme Court of Texas—certifies lawyers that have substantial, relevant experience in select areas of law, completed continuing legal education hours in the specialty area, and passed a rigorous exam. Consumers and organizations get the highest quality of legal services when working with Board Certified lawyers.
- Experience in a substantial number of Criminal Law matters involving State and Federal misdemeanors, felony trials and State and Federal appeals
- Qualified vetted references from judges and lawyers in the area
- Mandatory completion requirements for TBLS-approved continuing legal education specific to Criminal Law
- Pass a detailed, comprehensive 6-hour examination in Criminal Law (Only half of the criminal lawyers who took the exam with me in 2008 were able to pass it, and I was the only one from Travis County to do so.)
- Must be re-certified every 5 years (including references from qualified judges and criminal law practitioners)
Anyone doubting the importance of board certification should consider this: many of the 1% of lawyers board certified in criminal law are prosecutors. If the people trying to put you in prison are board certified, you owe it to yourself to come to court with a criminal defense attorney who is board certified, too.
Do you know the judge/prosecutor?
Another common question from prospective clients is whether I know the judge or the prosecutor assigned to the case.
After 20+ years of law practice, most of the people I know as judges today are either former prosecutors I have battled in the courtroom or fellow criminal defense lawyers who have been in the trenches with me. Similarly, lifelong prosecutors whose legal careers started when mine did are now at the top of the organizational charts in their offices.
If the case is pending in Travis, Williamson, Hays or Bastrop County or federal court in Austin or elsewhere in the Western District of Texas, it is nearly certain that I have a good professional relationship with all the courthouse personnel connected to your case.
Emphasize the word “professional.” Unlike some lawyers, especially those who used to work as prosecutors, I adamantly refuse to develop close personal friendships with the prosecutors I encounter in court. This does not mean I dislike them or disrespect the work they do. To the contrary, there are quite a few prosecutors I enjoy seeing and working with in the courthouse every day. But ours is an adversarial justice system, and it demands that I zealously pursue my clients’ best interests at all times. I find that much easier to do when I am not worried about whether doing my job as an attorney is going to hurt a friendship.
Texas Bar College
In addition to being a Board Certified Criminal Law Specialist, I am a member of the Texas Bar College which reflects my dedication to professionalism through education and my commitment to remaining at the forefront of developments in the criminal law and on the cutting edge of strategies for defending criminal cases.
The Texas Bar College is an honorary society of lawyers and paralegals who are leaders in the Texas legal community and champions of legal education. Members are committed to high ethical standards and improved training for all legal professionals.
While every lawyer in Texas must complete at least 15 hours of continuing education per year just to remain licensed to practice law, members of the Texas Bar College are required to attend at least 30 hours of continuing legal education per year to maintain membership in the College.
Outside of my law practice, I am frequently in class, sharing strategies with colleagues on how to approach different types of criminal cases. I hear from experts in science, technology, and mental health when developments in those fields impact the defense of criminal cases. And I get the latest updates when Congress or the Texas Legislature make changes in the criminal law and when appellate courts render opinions in cases similar to those of my clients.
National College of Capital Voir Dire
I have attended the National College of Capital Voir Dire, a unique hands-on training program put on over two and a half days in conjunction with the Office of the Colorado State Public Defender, and the University of Colorado School of Law that teaches the art and science of capital jury selection. This is the proven method which has nearly emptied Colorado’s death row and saved capital defendants in jurisdictions across the country.
The method uses core Supreme Court jurisprudence to make judges let criminal defense lawyers ask meaningful questions of prospective jurors. The method employs special techniques to get venire persons to share their honest views about the death penalty and life imprisonment by stripping away extraneous issues and circumstances. The method also provides a system for identifying and rating strong pro-death and potential life-saving jurors, building and making challenges for cause against death-biased jurors, and protecting life-saving jurors from cause challenges. The method ensures that potential life-saving jurors have the knowledge and skills to get out of the jury room with their vote intact and that strong pro-death jurors understand all jurors must be treated with respect and dignity (including life-saving jurors).
What use are these skills and techniques to a case that does not involve the death penalty? In federal court and in most other states, they cannot be used because the judge decides the punishment if a defendant is found guilty. However, the State of Texas is unique in that defendants have the option of having a jury decide punishment in any criminal case, even a traffic ticket.
The same techniques for maximizing the number of life-saving jurors in death penalty cases can be modified to reduce the number of jurors who will hand down harsher sentences in non-death penalty cases, while ensuring that jurors inclined to be merciful are empowered to have their voices heard in jury deliberations.
This is exactly how I beat the prosecution’s 25-year plea offer and obtained a jury punishment verdict of 5 years in prison (the minimum sentence) for a client charged with Aggravated Assault after stabbing his life partner 10 times in what the lead detective called one of the bloodiest crime scenes he had seen in his career. Click here to learn more.