If you are in the military, can you deploy overseas while on probation for a misdemeanor case?  The answer:  yes, but it’s not automatic. Over the past year, we have represented several clients in the reserves who have been called up to deploy to Afghanistan.  The biggest concern for each one was whether or not they would be allowed to deploy with their unit overseas if they were on probation.  In a few cases we just concluded, we were able to accomplish just this.

Contrary to popular belief, deployment while on probation is possible.  If you are on probation, one of the common conditions of the probation is that you remain in your county of residence.  However, most jurisdictions will allow you to travel for work, etc., if the probation department issues you a travel permit in order to do so.  In some recent cases that we have handled in Comal, Guadalupe and Hays Counties (all Driving While Intoxicated cases), our clients (two in the Army, one in the Marines) were able to get plea bargain agreements that would allow them to have travel permits to deploy to Afghanistan while on probation.

The first caveat, though, is that all of the counties involved, before offering such a plea bargain, wanted the client’s commanding officer to verify that the CO would also permit the client to deploy while on probation.  All of the counties involved also wanted the clients to get their probation stuff completed (fines, community service, classes) before they left.   If you are in the military and facing a misdemeanor probation, it’s a good idea to get your CO involved in the process as early as possible so that you know what you can and cannot agree to, as well as how any deal you strike will affect your ability to deploy in the future.


I've spent most of today getting ready for jury selection in a trial in Comal County Court-at-Law. We're picking a jury in a Deadly Conduct case. This one's interesting. Keep you posted on the twists and turns and the results. It seems like the number of jury trial settings that we have had over the past 3-4 years has exploded. Our clients have been much more willing to set cases for jury trials in the past few years than when I started in private practice, particularly in misdemeanor cases.

I'd like to think that it's because we engender awe-inspiring confidence in our representation, but I think there's some more practical reasons. First, clients have grown more sophisticated. When I first started in this business, clients had very little exposure to jury trials. Most of what they knew about trials is what they saw on the evening news or read in the newspaper. Now you can watch condensed versions of criminal jury trials practically every day either on cable television or the internet.

There's also just a great deal more info available about trial procedure out there, mainly online; so much so that courts have started having problems with jurors in trials trying to do outside research on their own while hearing a case. Trials are just less mysterious now, and, as a result, less scary to clients. Also, clients now have more at stake in misdemeanor cases than in the past. We now live in the age of the full-blown criminal background check for everything (getting a job, finding a place to live, keeping a professional license, etc.), and there are more other types of collateral consequences to a misdemeanor conviction than before (such as driver's license suspensions or surcharges). Clients simply have more to lose by having a misdemeanor conviction than before, so they are more likely to take a case all the way to trial. This is having a big impact on the way that criminal law is practiced at the state court misdemeanor level.

Years ago, the lion's share of continuing education for criminal lawyers, for example, focused on pretrial procedure and appellate law. Now, there's much more of an emphasis on mastering jury selection and trial technique, not to mention the rise of burgeoning cottage industries in the area of trial consulting and expert witnesses. Although the stakes for clients have risen in misdemeanor cases, I think the trend towards more trials is to their benefit. It forces the state to look at their cases more critically, and makes the State jump through more hoops to attempt to obtain convictions. This ultimately leads to more weak cases getting poured out before they even reach the trial stage.