Recent Blog Posts


 Posted on December 25, 2022 in Uncategorized

We see a lot of Houston criminal-defense lawyers advertising about the number of cases they have gotten dismissed.

This is not a good thing.

Don't get me wrong: It's a great thing to get cases dismissed. That's always the objective. We love getting cases dismissed. Especially the hard cases!

But choosing a lawyer based on the number of dismissals he gets is not a good thing. Easy cases get dismissed. If a mediocre lawyer takes lots of easy cases, he will get lots of cases dismissed.

For example, a first-time shoplifting case, or a first DWI with a low BAC and no accident: these are cases on which the State will offer a pretrial diversion of some sort. Take an anti-shoplifting class, and they'll dismiss that shoplifting case. Complete the DWI DIVERT program, and they'll dismiss the DWI.

No legal talent required. Any lawyer could get these cases dismissed. And if you have one of these easy cases, it probably makes sense for you to take the class, do the pretrial diversion, get the dismissal. Because it is a compromise that requires no legal talent, it makes sense for you to spend as little as possible on a lawyer to do so.

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Do not talk with anyone but the lawyer.

 Posted on December 24, 2022 in Uncategorized

An unfortunate trend in lawyer advertising is the "live chat" box on the website.

This'd be great if it connected the potential client with a lawyer or paralegal or someone who could actually understand the problem and assist the client, but it seldom is. Instead, it's a glorified answering service.

Here, for example, is what you get when you click on the live chat on one Houston criminal-defense lawyer's site:

  • The information disclosed in this conversation does not constitute or create a lawyer-client relationship. That means that nothing you say in the chat is privileged. The government can, if it chooses get all of this information.If instead you were talking to the lawyer, or to a member of the lawyer's staff (a secretary, a paralegal, an investigator) everything you said would be privileged-they could not be forced to disclose anything that you had told them.

  • We respect your privacy. This means nothing. If you are communicating with a lawyer, everything you say is legally privileged, protected from disclosure. Here, you are not communicating with the lawyer, but with some marketing service. "We respect your privacy" just means "we're going to pretend to feel bad about selling your personal information."

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Get It in Writing!

 Posted on December 17, 2022 in Uncategorized

I heard a complaint recently from someone who had hired a lawyer for a criminal case in Harris County after the lawyer a) texted her out of the blue on the cellphone; and b) promised to get her case dismissed within six months.

The unsolicited text message was a violation of various rules and laws (see the TCDLA Voice for the Defense article here), and the promise was-as this client discovered-a lie.

Don't hire sleazy lawyers. If a lawyer is breaking the rules to get you to hire him, he is a crook. You may think you want a lawyer who cheats, but the cold hard truth is that you are the only one who is going to get cheated, because you are the only one who trusts him. The judges, prosecutors, and every other lawyer in the courthouse knows who the sleazy lawyers are, and doesn't trust them with anything. You can only get cheated by people you trust. You have to trust your criminal-defense lawyer. Therefore you have to have a lawyer that you can trust, which means a lawyer who is generally trustworthy.

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We've got your back.

 Posted on December 11, 2022 in Uncategorized

I won't pick on anyone in particular, but about two thirds of criminal-defense lawyers' websites are utter nonsense, if you know anything about criminal defense.

But these folks are marketing themselves to people who don't know anything about criminal defense. It benefits them to keep the clients ignorant.

I'd rather have clients who understand the system and what we, together, are up against.

So let's pick on one particular catchphrase:

"Aggressive" Lawyers

If you read lots of lawyers' websites (and I hate to say it, but if you are looking for a lawyer, you are going to have to do that) you would be justified in thinking that you need an aggressive lawyer to get you through your criminal case, because virtually everyone advertises their aggressiveness.

It's utter nonsense. The reason lawyers advertise their aggressiveness is that lawyers advertise their aggressiveness. (This is the yellow-legal-pad theory of why lawyers do things. Why do lawyers use yellow legal pads? Because when they started practicing law, all of the lawyers used yellow legal pads. Why do lawyers advertise their aggressiveness? Because when they started practicing law...)

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Hello, World

 Posted on December 11, 2022 in Uncategorized

Mark here.

I've been writing online about criminal-defense issues for nearly two decades, at my Defending People WordPress blog, and in my Substack newsletter of the same name (if you subscribe, fees go to my 501(c)(3) nonprofit, the First Amendment Funding Organization).

I wrote well over a million words on those two sites. If you wanted to understand how I think, you could go back and read everything I'd written. I think most of it holds up pretty well, but my mind has been changed on some things in that time.

The WordPress blog was written for other criminal-defense lawyers. The Substack newsletter is written for a general audience.

This blog that you are reading now is written for you, the potential client who is trying to figure out how to get herself or a loved one through one of the most dangerous situations of her life. Here I will try to answer the question, "what makes Bennett & Bennett different?", not so that you will choose us, but so that you will have the information you need to choose the best lawyers for your case, whether they are Bennett & Bennett or someone else.

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Top 100 Lawyers in the Galaxy

 Posted on December 10, 2022 in Uncategorized

How about this badge, which you may see this on other lawyers' websites?:

It may even be accompanied by the claim that the lawyer is a "Top 100 lawyer in Houston" or a "Top 100 lawyer in Texas" or even "one of the top 100 lawyers in the U.S.A."

The badge is nonsense, and the claim that it signifies "one of the top 100 lawyers in" some geographic area is false, and means one of three things:

  1. The lawyer is a fool with a fragile ego, and doesn't know what the badge means;

  2. The lawyer is a liar, and thinks you won't know what the badge really means; or

  3. The lawyer has handed his web content off to a marketer, and doesn't care whether it's true or not.

Don't just take my word for this. Walter Reaves of Waco has written about the scam. The "National Trial Lawyers" of Dothan Alabama is a business formed for the purpose of making money while reinforcing lawyers' fragile egos by selling them the opportunity to claim that they are "Top 100." The business sends an invitation to every lawyer in town, and those who become "top 100" are those who pay the $300 annual fee. The company doesn't select for legal ability, but only for foolishness.

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Moving On

 Posted on June 22, 2020 in Uncategorized

After almost 16 years of intermittent blogging, I'm moving along to a different platform, which I think will better suit both my talents and the times.

Please visit and subscribe to my newsletter.

Thanks to you all.

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The Trump Impeachment in Voir Dire

 Posted on January 11, 2020 in Uncategorized

Interesting voir dire question on Twitter, from a Gideon's Promise (it's a terrific program; if you have some charity dollars to direct, please consider sending them yeaward) alumna:

Just want your thoughts: During a Voir Dire in a very conservative area, would you use the Trump impeachment process in any way? Just was a thought myself and instead of fleshing it out for myself, I'm calling on you to weigh in.

My initial response was maybe a little snarky:

Unhelpful, I know.

So let's dig a little deeper into it.

What's are the purposes of voir dire? In no particular order:

  1. To find the people we don't want on our jury.

  2. To establish challenges for cause allowing us to remove those people without using our peremptory challenges.

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PSA: Ten-Year Sex-Offender Registration Offenses in Texas

 Posted on November 04, 2019 in Uncategorized

I think I have discovered a bug in how DPS administers the sex-offender registry in dealing with people who have ten-year sex-offender registration offenses and prison sentences.

If you went to prison for a ten-year-registration offense, and have been out of prison (regardless of parole status) for more than nine years, I'd like to hear from you. We may be able to do something on your behalf.

Please spread the word.


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Revenge Porn: Peanut Gallery Weighs In

 Posted on October 23, 2019 in Uncategorized

Some dolt ((Not an argumentum ad hominem: I'm not saying his argument is wrong, because he's a dolt. I'm saying he's a dolt, because his argument is wrong. Read on, and tell me if I'm wrong.)) in Illinois thinks my handling of the "speech of purely private concern" argument here is too "dismissive":

You're right that the Supreme Court has not applied its lesser-protected speech language to cases like this. But that language is there and the test is being developed on the state level. Your dismissive approach therefore does not seem to be particularly effective.- Michael Smith (@msmith750) October 23, 2019

He bases this statement on his reading of the blog post I wrote on People v. Austin, linked to above.

That blog post was a cut-and-paste job from the brief I filed to tell the Court of Criminal Appeals about the Illinois Supreme Court's decision in Austin. The dolt doesn't have any reason to know this, because his curiosity about the arguments in this case starts and stops at "what the Cyber Civil Rights Institute can do to outlaw this icky speech."

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