Friday, September 02, 2005

New Laws & Getting Some Attention

The main reason for this post is to offer some of my opinions on some of the new Texas laws that went into effect yesterday. But, before we get into all of that, I want to thank Scott over at Grits For Breakfast for giving Legal Assistance this wonderful shout-out. And, though Legal Assistance never looks a gift horse in the mouth, I've got to say that I'm not blogging from Houston. Won't say from where, but will say it's a long way from Houston. That's OK, just adds to the mistique.

That said, I will give you this link to a fairly good--or at least, one of the better--articles on new laws that became effective the other day, which is from Houston...the Chron, to be exact.

According to the article, about 700 new laws are now in effect. The Chron summarized some of them and, of course, as a member of the legal profession (yes, legal assistants are a member of the legal profession as we can be Board Certified by the state bar, but it's a pain in the ass for brilliant people like me), I want to give my take on some of them, to wit:

All children younger than 5 and less than 36 inches tall will be required to ride in child safety seats in autos. The previous law applied to children younger than 4.

Can't really say I have an opinion on this one. It's probably a good idea but consider this: have ou ever tried to get a five-year-old in a car seat? Perhaps the penalties for beating your kids should be lessened somewhat, as I can tell you from experience: getting anyone above 3 and a half in a car seat is pure hell and makes you want to drink, beat people and take overdoses of presctiption drugs. (Thanks to my younger sister for giving me this experience many years ago).

An ignition interlock device will have to be installed on the car of a person convicted of driving with a blood-alcohol level of .15 or more, if the defendant is to receive probation.

Ok. Ignition interlock devices are a joke. Anyone can blow in the damned things. Plus, do you have any idea just how many people this will effect? By my estimation, it will effect about 1/4 or more of our firm's DWI clients. That's a lot. Second, I'm probably at .15 right now, since I've been drinking Jack and Coke since 7p.m. Just thought I'd throw that in.

A school district will be required to transfer a student who is the victim of bullying to another classroom or school if the victim's parent requests the move. Districts also will be expected to crack down on bullying and other forms of harassment.

This is ok, though it sounds kind of bull-shitty. Seriously, though, it's better than what some schools are doing now, which is calling in their "school resource officers," and charging 12-year-olds with Class C assault for throwing rocks on the playground. When I was in school, you'd get a detention or your ass beat for that, not a ticket. So, maybe this will discourage school administrators from becoming judge, prosecutor, and jury in conjunction with out-of-control school resource officers.

The prerogative of a parent, grandparent or guardian to use corporal punishment, or spanking, for the "reasonable discipline of a child" is reaffirmed.

Yeah, Ok. Whatever. So, now, does this become an affirmative defense to beating your kids? What if your idea of "corporal punihment" is a lit cigarette and a metal rod?

The murder of a state judge is added to the list of offenses for which the death penalty or life without parole can be sought.

Actually, I thought this was already the law. Works for me, except it doesn't really, because I oppose the death penalty. What's next: justices of the peace, tax assessors and football coaches? I'm surprised shooting a football coach hasn't been a capital offense, anyway, especially in the Panhandle...

It will be illegal (a misdemeanor for first offenders) to try to record a movie in a motion picture theater. The new law also authorizes the theater manager or other movie patrons to make "citizens' arrests" of suspected offenders, detaining them until police arrive.

This reminds me of a lawsuit filed in our district court some years back where a Wal-Mart security guard stripped searched a mother and son because they kept going out the doors and the theft alarm kept sounding. And, surprise surprise, they weren't actually trying to steal anything! Seriously, so you're answering your cell phone which happens to have a camera, someone thinks you're recording the next crappy Star Wars installment and you are under "citizens arrest?" I can smell the civil rights lawsuits coming around the bend like day-old movie popcorn.

A nine-member independent commission, appointed by the governor, the lieutenant governor and the attorney general, will have the power to investigate complaints against DNA crime labs in Texas. The new law also will require DNA sampling from 60,000 current state prison inmates who don't have DNA profiles in a central database.

First part, good. Second part...uh, did the Lege fail to read the Constitution? Just because you've been found guilty of one crime, doesn't mean you're guilty of another. And, what about the right against self-incrimination?

In a crackdown on minors purchasing alcohol and tobacco with fake IDs, retailers will be allowed to use electronic scanners to read driver's licenses presented as proof of age.

Ok. Whatever. This is done at a couple of clubs I've been to before, and half the time, the licenses won't even scan right. I'm so sure this will cut down on this. Has anyone ever heard of bootleggers? Last time I checked, they don't ID patrons, and sure as hell don't have license scanners in the trunks of their '82 Cadillac El Dorados.

A longtime law that allows Texans to carry handguns while traveling, even without a concealed handgun license, is clarified. The new law says a person is "presumed to be traveling" if he or she is in a private vehicle, is not engaged in criminal activity, is not prohibited by any other law from possessing a firearm and is not a member of a criminal street gang.

OK. Given the way the DPS and local police are today, I can see this going horribly wrong. Aren't you technically engaged in criminal activity if you're speeding, changing lanes without signaling, or violating any number of the tasty little provisions of the Texas Transportation Code the cops use to stop black people, Hispanics, and young people--all of whom are no doubt guilty of committing horrible crimes just because they're either young, Black, or Hispanic? Or, god forbid, a young half-hispanic, half-black individual? God, DPS will have their back seats pulled out and a drug dog pissing in their floorboard before they can even say 'I'm not in a gang or prohibited from possessing a firearm, and I'm traveling!"

Like Two Shoes In A Hurricane

My appologies to Martina McBride or whatever country singer sang "Two Sparrows In A Hurricane," but I just read this wonderful story by Jaye at Winding Road in an Urban Area about Madame Secretary of State Rice shopping for shoes, and I could not resist.

I have the day off today, and slept very late before getting up to work with some video files and still pics for a case set for trial Tuesday. Although it's 34th on the trial docket, I have a bad feeling it's going to go.

In addition to being a brilliant legal assistant, I also investigate and perform "expert imaging services," which means basically enhancing video and still photos for use at trial, and all of the analysis and reports that accompany things like that.

In this particular case, I am court appointed, or, rather, the office I work for is court appointed wih the caviat that I'm doing the work. This is an agg. assault case (w/a deadly weapon), and, of course, it involves a gas station, which means a four-quad video, which means I've had to separate pertinent panels into individual videos. And, there is so much video, I really need an external hard drive to handle some of it, but I'll make do without for this case.

And, though the office has all of our own equipment, the Court recently got an ELMO system, which can be use for documents and evidence. The flier I got from the court says you can also run video through it, but I think I'll be using the projector I've always used since (1) it was so damned expensive an (2) I'm very familiar with it.

At any rate, it should be a fun Labor Day Weekend.