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Year in Review: Things for Dallas to Consider From a Criminal Defense Perspective

How Dangerous is It to Live or Work in Dallas County?

Here we are at the end of another year. Let’s take a minute and consider where things stand as we enter 2016, from a North Texas Criminal Defense perspective:

1. Dallas County Is Really, Really Dangerous

As reported by Grits for Breakfast this week, Dallas County (at .5 deaths per 100,000 residents) is reported to be one of the 14 deadliest counties in America. These numbers come from research done by The Guardian.

Also from Grits, reference to the FBI’s 2013 Uniform Crime Reports that have Odessa as the most dangerous city in Texas and the metroplex of Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington way down at number 17 on its list of most dangerous cities in Texas.

So, either the county is lots more dangerous outside the Dallas city limits, or lots more violence happened here after 2013, or British journalists see things differently than FBI researchers. Go figure.

2. The Dallas Police Chief Wants to Hire More Police Officers: Murders Up 16%, Sexual Assaults Up 19%

Yesterday, Dallas’ Chief of Police went before the Dallas City Council’s Public Safety Committee to have a chat. He told them that there’s more violence here in Dallas and he needs to hire more police officers.

As part of his presentation, Chief David Brown offered statistics that showed murders jumped up 16% in Dallas during 2015 (121 deaths) and sexual assaults were up 19%.

Those are pretty big numbers.

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3. Dallas County District Attorney Susan Hawk Is Running for Re-Election

This week, the county’s top prosecutor, DA Susan Hawk, announced she’s going to run for re-election. Some would say this is big news because she’s a Republican and she broke records when she got elected here.

Others might argue it’s big news because she’s a female holding the office of district attorney in such a big urban area. That’s a big deal, granted.

However, this is Dallas, folks. The really big news here is that Susan Hawk is announcing she’s running for re-election while she’s facing a lawsuit trying to get her booted from her job right now.

That lawsuit — filed by a former employee who served as a female top prosecutor of another county — wants her removed from office on several bases, not the least of which is her recent battle with mental health issues.

For more on the lawsuit, go here (this site includes a full text pdf of the original petition).

4. Dallas Police Department Must Report Officer-Involved Shootings Online

According to a new state law, Article 2.139 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, the Dallas Police Department is required to report any shooting involving one of its police officers to the State of Texas.

This started on September 1, 2015, the effective date of the statute. How accurate is it? Only as much as the police choose to send in the information, right? And there’s already chatter around the state about how police departments are dragging their feet about sending in this information.

Of course, we’re only 90 days into the new process. Maybe things just take awhile.

The reports get published online. You can go read them here.

5. Dallas Police Shootings: Almost a Tradition to Have High Numbers?

Meanwhile, add the number of police shootings in Dallas County with those in Harris County and Tarrant County, and you get more people dead than in any place else in 2015.  In the NATION. 

Dallas County Police Officers killed 12 people according to the report. (Harris had 40 deaths; Tarrant County had 10).

Which may give one pause when we think back to our city’s history of police shootings. Consider our past posts:

We’ve got a history of Dallas police officers shooting and killing people here. Doesn’t give much comfort that things haven’t changed that much (yet).

Other Issues For 2016

These are five things that are brewing right now, in December 2015. There are other issues to ponder, from a criminal defense viewpoint, as we enter a new year, of course. Things like:

A. Those troublesome crime labs.

The DOJ has just issued a news release that it’s going to require its federal prosecutors to use accredited crime labs in the future (unless they don’t need to bother). Read about that here on Frontline, “Crime Lab Scandals the Focus of New DOJ Plan.”

Of course, that is the federal system. Prosecutors in state courts? Doesn’t apply to them.

Meanwhile, crime lab evidence remains a source of deep concern, if not worry or even frustration or worse for criminal defense lawyers here. Evidence coming out of forensic labs here in Texas cannot be trusted like the evidence that comes out of those fictional crime labs in TV shows.

For more, read:

 

B. That police and your privacy problem.

With the advent of the Internet, it makes sense that those in a position of authority would be tempted to use technological advances to gather information that their subject might assume was private. Nevermind the constitutional protections of the Bill of Rights, right?

Well, it’s bad right now and getting worse. We’ve reported on things like stingrays before, but this week there’s a report in the Washington Post that explains that the FBI not only uses stingrays but it hacks into computers and software, too.

Read RT’s coverage, “FBI admits using Stingrays, hacking computers and software.”

That’s the federal government. Just think about what your state and local law enforcement may be doing right now.

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For more information on Dallas criminal defense matters, read our web resources pages or check out Michael Lowe’s Case Results.


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