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Dismissals

Updated: Jan 14

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.


It's a good thing to get cases dismissed. That's always the objective. We love getting cases dismissed. Especially the hard cases!


But judging lawyers based on the number of dismissals they get is not a good thing.


Easy cases get dismissed. If a mediocre lawyer takes an easy case, he will get that case 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.


When I started practicing law in 1995, there were no pretrial diversions. In the first five months of 2009, before the DWI DIVERT program started, over 90% of the people charged with DWI who chose not to plead guilty beat their cases. Still, a dismissal was a win—the result of a refusal to plead guilty—and not a compromise. Since then, the Harris County District Attorney's Office has found a love for pretrial diversion in the last decade or so, and it has spread from DWI to other types of cases. This has been good for a lot of defendants who might otherwise have pleaded guilty and been put on probation, but less good for a lot of defendants who might otherwise have pleaded not guilty and had their cases dismissed outright.


I'll never have a hundred dismissals in a year, because to get a hundred dismissals, I'd have to take a hundred easy cases (or many more challenging cases). I hope and plan never to take a hundred cases in a year, because the challenging cases that I prefer take more attention than I have to divide up into hundredths.


I am not interested in these easy cases. I like to accomplish things that other lawyers couldn't. That means taking cases that look difficult or impossible. When I get a case dismissed, I like it to be because of something I did (even if that is just "being lucky"—never underestimate the power of luck) and not just as a matter of course.


But how do you know if you have a case that a cheap high-volume lawyer will get dismissed, or a more difficult case that requires real legal ability?


Ask me. If I think I'm the wrong lawyer for your case, because the case is too easy or for any other reason, I'll tell you.

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