Why Hire a Board Certified Criminal Lawyer

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Why Hire a Board Certified Criminal Lawyer

In June 2012, there were only 91 attorneys in the Dallas area recognized by the State Bar of Texas as being Board Certified in Criminal Law, and among them were several judges serving on state trial or appellate courts.   Not many criminal defense attorneys have achieved Board Certification in Criminal Law in the Dallas area, and across the state there are less than 1000 attorneys (only 1.3% of Texas lawyers) who can claim this certification.

In becoming a part of this group, these lawyers have the distinction of being considered (in the words of the State Board of Legal Specialization) as “… Certified Criminal Law specialists hav[ing] experience in the preparation and trial of serious criminal matters. They have extensive knowledge of state and federal constitutional law, evidence, procedure and penal laws involved in these matters.”

Why isn’t every criminal lawyer Board Certified?  One reason may be the hurdles that an attorney has to cross in order to achieve this distinction.

The State Bar of Texas describes the road to Texas Bar Board Certification as “rigorous and thorough with stringent, ongoing requirements after initial certification.”

Every attorney must do the following:

  • Practice in criminal law for at least 5 years with 3 of those years being substantially involved in that specific area of law;
  • Take more courses (yes, after law school) – all lawyers must take continuing legal education but for those seeking Board Certification, they must insure that their course are approved by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization for Board purposes.  In June 2012, applicants had to provide confirmation that they had taken 60 hours in the specialty area of criminal law, all being in TBLS approved CLE courses;
  • Provide the TBLS with a minimum of ten (10) qualified references (each reference is vetted).  Among these references, there must be: four (4) Texas criminal law attorneys; one (1) Texas criminal law attorney who has tried a criminal case with or against the Board Certified attorney; and one (1) Texas court judge who has had this lawyer advocate before his or her bench.
  • Forward to the TBLS documentation to demonstrate the lawyer has had “extensive, relevant” experience in the area of criminal law; and
  • Take and Pass an exam in the area of criminal law that covers the gamut of current Texas criminal law and practice and takes an entire day for examination.

What does Board Certified Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization mean?

The Texas Supreme Court will recognize an attorney as Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization only after a rigorous evaluation process in which the attorney has demonstrated years of experience in the preparation and trial of serious criminal matters. Moreover, the lawyer must be able to demonstrate that he has an extensive knowledge of state and federal constitutional law, evidence, procedure and penal laws involved in the trial and appeal of all manner of criminal cases.

What is Criminal Law as defined by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization?

According to the TBLS, “Criminal law” is the practice of law dealing with, by way of definition not limitation, matters involving:

  • legal aspects of pretrial release;
  • examining trial, indictment, information and complaint;
  • change of venue; continuance;
  • severance;
  • discovery;
  • speedy trials;
  • jeopardy;
  • immunity;
  • confessions;
  • search and seizure;
  • identification;
  • competence to stand trial and culpable mental state;
  • jury voir dire;
  • rules of evidence- state and federal (e.g., impeachment, extraneous offenses, etc.);
  • procedure and rules of evidence at punishment hearings;
  • U. S. sentencing guidelines;
  • law of sentences;
  • legal aspects of plea bargaining and guilty pleas;
  • motions for new trial;
  • motions for arrest of judgment;
  • appeals;
  • post conviction remedies;
  • probation and parole granting;
  • probation and parole revocation;
  • executive clemency;
  • death penalty;
  • other substantive criminal offenses; and
  • juvenile crimes.

Why does Board Certification matter?

The State Bar of Texas has determined that only a Board Certified Attorney can claim to potential clients that they are an expert or a specialist in a particular area of law in which the attorney is Board Certified.  That is, any attorney that claims to be an expert or a specialist in Criminal Law in the State of Texas, MUST BE Board Certified by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization in Criminal Law.

How many attorneys in Texas are Board Certified in Criminal Law?

According to the latest State Bar information, there were over 70,000 lawyers licensed to practice law by the State Bar of Texas.  Statewide, there are 7237 lawyers who have achieved certification in one area of specialty and only 859 of those attorneys have become Board Certified in Criminal Law.

This means that approximately one percent (1.3%) of Texas lawyers statewide is Board Certified in Criminal Law.

In other words, 99% of the Attorneys in Texas cannot claim to be Board Certified in Criminal Law or claim to be a Criminal Law Specialist.

What is a Criminal Law Board Certified Attorney?

For more on what it means for an attorney to be Board Certified in Criminal Law, please review the links shown above or Download this State Board of Legal Specialization PDF Brochure.

 

 

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