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Thursday, February 27, 2014

CCA Finds Fourth Amendment Protection for Cell Phones; Kerrville man already arrested 18 times gets probation again; A Leader Not a Lawyer: Karen Harris Candidate for State Rep. Dist. 53

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals yesterday held in Texas v. Granville that the Fourth Amendment protects against searches of cell phones incident to arrest. Texans now cannot have the contents of their cell phones and other electronic devices searched indiscriminately after they’re booked in jail. This was a major privacy and Fourth Amendment victory, once again putting the state at the forefront of electronic privacy issues nationally.
The term "papers and effects" obviously carried a different connotation in the late eighteenth century than it does today. No longer are they stored only in desks, cabinets, satchels, and folders. Our most private information is now frequently stored in electronic devices such as computers, laptops, iPads, and cell phones, or in "the cloud" and accessible by those electronic devices. But the "central concern underlying the Fourth Amendment" has remained the same throughout the centuries; it is "the concern about giving police officers unbridled discretion to rummage at will among a person's private effects." This is a case about rummaging through a citizen's electronic private effects - a cell phone - without a warrant.

Why do Repeat Offenders Keep Getting Probation in Kerrville?
The KDT reports that one Earl Gwynn, Jr. pled guilty to assaulting a woman, and got a probated sentence. Mr. Gwynn is no stranger to the criminal justice system. He was convicted in 2007 of threatening a woman with a gun. He was convicted the same year of kicking and slapping another woman. Add to that at least three DWI convictions, and a few more convictions, and he's close to 20.

Now, as a lawyer who represents criminal defendants, I always try to get the best result for my client that I can. It's my duty to do it. However, I have to say, if I were the prosecutor I would not offer probation to a thug like this who has proven that he has not learned his lesson, and if I were the judge, I would reject the plea.

Big Texas Inn Hiring and Employment Practices
Two recent cases that I have handled have been in the news. Today's Kerrville Daily Times reports on lawsuits that I filed on behalf of former employees against a local businessman, Jerry Lee Reed, and some of his companies, including the one that owns Big Texas Inn. The article is behind a paywall. In January a federal court jury in San Antonio found that Reed violated the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) by not paying employees of the motel minimum wage and overtime. Employees are required to live on premises, and instead of wages their compensation consists of lodging and meal allowances.

The KDT article quotes Reed's lawyer in the second case (against Reed and Star Dreamz) as accusing my client of fraud because he didn't disclose his criminal history on his job application. That is false. Probably libel. The conviction was disclosed on the application. At the time, Reed had no policy or procedure for conducting criminal background checks on employees at his motel. A subscription to Publicdata.com costs about $35 a year. The Texas Dept. of Public Safety has a free website for checking criminal backgrounds. Apparently, Big Texas Inn doesn't use either of them, unless they've updated their procedures.

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