Posts Tagged ‘Texas Criminal Defense Lawyer’

Understanding Your Right to Have a Translator Present at Your Criminal Trial

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014

Last month Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Judge Elsa Alcala issued a dissenting opinion which accused the majority of failing to protect the constitutional right of a Hispanic defendant to have a translator present at his criminal trial. In her dissent, Judge Alcala, who was joined by Judge Cathy Cochran and Judge Cheryl Johnson says that the majority opinion does not even address the sole question that had been presented to the Appeals Court for its consideration, namely, the issue of whether the defendant made a knowing, voluntary, and intelligent waiver of his right to have a translator or interpreter present at his criminal trial.

Under the United States Constitution, criminal defendants are guaranteed the rights of equal protection, due process, and confrontation. When a criminal defendant does not speak English, those rights are protected by having a translator present during the defendant’s criminal trial. The presence of a translator ensures that the defendant can hear the information which is being presented at trial in his or her native language and understand the nature of the proceedings which they are involved in. If a defendant does not wish to be provided with the services of a translator, they must knowingly, voluntarily, and intelligently waive their right to have a translator or interpreter present.

In the case before the Appeals Court, the defendant, Irving Magana Garcia, had been convicted of murder by the Hidalgo County Court. Garcia appealed that decision to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, but he lost the case on appeal. Garcia asked the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals to reconsider its decision, but again, he was denied.

When the case was originally tried, Garcia’s lawyer declined the services of an interpreter. However, the attorney’s statement declining the services of an interpreter was not a part of the trial court record; because the court reporter was not taking notes at the time that the attorney informed the judge that his client was waiving the right to a translator.

In their motion for rehearing, Garcia’s lawyers argued that no one, not even Garcia’s attorney during his criminal case, had informed Garcia that he had state and federal constitutional rights which would have to be knowingly, voluntarily, and intelligently waived in order for an interpreter to be absent from the trial proceedings. They also argued that if there had been any waiver by Garcia, it had not been voluntary, knowing, and intelligent, but that it had more likely than not been coerced by his attorney, who felt that a translator would distract him while he was presenting Garcia’s defense. Interestingly enough, although they ruled against Garcia, the majority opinion did recognize that Garcia had not waived his rights on the record, and also that judges have an independent duty to ensure that criminal cases are interpreted for defendants absent their knowing, intelligent, and voluntary waiver.

If you have been accused of a crime and you do not speak English, you have a right to have a translator present during your criminal trial. Your translator can help you to understand the criminal proceedings, as you will be able to hear them in your native language. While a translator can help you to understand the court proceedings, they cannot present your defense to the court for you. At Texas Criminal Defense Lawyer can help you to present your very best defense against the crime or crimes which you have been accused of committing. To learn more, call attorney Alex Tyra today, to schedule a free consultation. We can be reached at (903) 753-7499, or submit a convenient online contact form.



Texas Criminal Justice Reforms Save Money While Keeping Crime Rates Down

Sunday, February 2nd, 2014

The crime rate is down, and fortunately, so is the number of people in Texas prisons. Texas is one of seventeen states that are in the early stages of a criminal justice reform program which takes the money that is being saved by reducing prison populations and invests it into programs designed to reduce first-time incarceration and recidivism.

State leaders have chosen to opt out of building more prisons to house non-violent offenders, and are focusing instead in improving drug treatment and parole programs. Some of the notable reforms include giving more power to courts designed specifically to deal with drug offenses, rethinking the parole program, and making it easier for former prisoners to integrate into society after their release.

Drug courts are specialized courts for non-violent persons who are charged with drug-related offenses. The focus of drug courts is rehabilitation, rather than punishment, and they serve to help offenders move forward in their lives as productive members of society. Prior to 2001, there were only seven drug courts in Texas. There are now seventy four. Participants in drug court programs attend regular status hearings, where they inform the court of their progress through their individualized program of assessment, monitoring, and comprehensive mental health and substance abuse treatment.

Probation and parole reforms have reduced the amount of people who are sent back to jail after violating the conditions of their release by providing intermediate steps in between an initial violation and a return to prison. Intermediate sanction facilities are intended for short-term confinement, where offenders can receive additional treatment and another chance at avoiding a return to prison.

When prisoners are released, it is often difficult for them to get a fresh start because they encounter difficulties in finding housing, jobs, and other resources that can help them begin building a better life. Recent reforms have increased the amount of preparation that prisoners undergo before they are released, in hopes that this will help them to make better choices once they gain their freedom. Community organizations like “Bridges to Life” in Amarillo and similar programs throughout the state provide training and support to released prisoners, which increase their chance of success.

The reforms have been effective so far, and are expected to continue to be just as effective if not even more so. Between 2004 and 2007, the percentage of released offenders who went back to prison within three years of their release dropped from thirty percent to twenty four percent. Three adult prisons and six juvenile detention facilities have been closed, thanks to programs that focus on treatment and rehabilitation within the community setting rather than confinement. There also have been reductions in overall criminal justice spending, even as the amounts spent on treatment, probation, and other community-based services have increased. Perhaps most importantly, the people who are most affected by the reforms, the offenders and their families, are being handled in a way that acknowledges their potential for change and personal growth while keeping the public safe by ensuring that the most dangerous offenders are securely confined.

If you are facing criminal charges, it is essential that you contact an experienced criminal defense attorney. A knowledgeable East Texas criminal defense attorney can help you to present your best possible case and evaluate any possible alternatives to conviction which may be available to you. To learn how a criminal defense attorney can help you, call Texas Criminal Defense Lawyer Alex Tyra now, of the Law Office of Alex Tyra, P.C., to schedule a free initial consultation. We can be reached at (903) 753-7499, or you may visit our website and submit a convenient online contact form.