Here's something useful:  the new book "Beyond Bars:  Rejoining Society After Prison," by two criminology profs, Ian Ross and Stephen Richards.  The book is intended as a nuts-and-bolts survival guide for people getting released from prison. 

However, it's filled with useful stuff for almost anyone who has gone through the criminal justice system, whether coming out of lock-up or coming off of deferred adjudication probation.  Topics include how to seal (or deal with) criminal records, how to handle employers and job interviews, getting drug and alcohol treatment, how to approach relatives and friends, as well as lists of free resources. As you probably know if you've been through the system,  the real "punishment" often starts after the court-ordered punishment is finished -- getting rejected for jobs, places to live, educational opportunities, etc.  This is a valuable resource for anyone trying to cope with the aftermath of a criminal case.  It's available at  Check it out.


When I became a criminal defense lawyer, I never knew that part of the job would be acting as a used car broker.  But of instead of selling cars, what I do now it help my client's buy their cars back from the State of Texas. I've spilled much typeface in this blog speaking about how, nowadays, in criminal cases, it is the collateral consequences of a crime, rather than the actual punishment for a crime, that often affects a defendant's life the most.  Many defendants in drug cases now lose, not just some liberty, but also their cars, their homes and their cash in asset forfeiture proceedings.

Under Chapter 59 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, the State may, not only seize property that was used in the commission of a felony drug offense as evidence, but may also sue in a civil lawsuit to make that property the property of the State.  The kicker is that, unlike the criminal charge that is the basis of the original seizure, the State is not required to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt. 

Instead, the State is allowed to seize homes, office buildings, the contents of bank accounts, etc., by proving its case by a standard known as a preponderance of the evidence -- the same standard by which someone would have to prove negligence in a fender bender case. Needless to say, with the economy in the toilet and counties facing revenue shortfalls everywhere, asset forfeiture proceedings have become increasingly tempting to District Attorneys' offices.  Within the last month, for instance, the Comal County District Attorney's Office took possession of a commercial property where it was alleged that a tenant (not the owner) was selling drugs.  And in the past year, I have been approached concerning representation in more asset forfeiture cases than in my previous fourteen years of private practice combined.  And it's not just big, expensive items of property that are being seized.  I recently filed answers to lawsuits seeking forfeiture of  1975 and  1976 vehicles respectively. 

Eventually, my clients may wind up having to offer to buy their cars back from the State as a means of settlement in order to get their cars back. Ironically, a statute that was originally intended to put big-time drug dealers out of business is now being used in simple possession cases to take away a person's basic means of transportation, as well being used against third persons who did not act as  parties to a crime.  When economic times are tough, the criminal justice system, it seems becomes more about collecting revenue than protecting the public, and my job becomes about haggling for better than sticker price.