Adoptions Attorney Leslie Barrows
Juvenile Law Podcast: Affluenza Teen Case with Fort Worth, Texas Attorney Leslie Barrows 
 

The Barrows Firm Law Review is a monthly Internet radio show podcast featuring information about Texas family, criminal, juvenile, probate and estate planning law and events. Attorney Leslie Barrows is our featured guest today as she shares insight and information about juvenile and adult courts and the Affluenza Teen case in Tarrant County, Texas.

Juvenile Law Podcast: Affluenza Teen case in with Fort Worth Attorney Leslie Barrows

  • The juvenile court system and how it differs from adult court
  • The rationale of the Affluenza defense, was it good in theory but may have failed in this case
  • How probation works and what happens how people run into problems
  • When is it most likely an individual is pulled from the juvenile system into adult court
  • Impressions about the Affluenza Teen case and what we can learn

Leslie Barrows is the principal founder of The Barrows Firm in Fort Worth, Texas. In her firm’s main practice areas of family law, criminal defense and juvenile law, Leslie is consistently challenged with dynamic cases and clients. When winning is what matters, many in the Fort Worth area go to The Barrows Firm based on their reputation an winning track record over the past decade. Leslie Barrows earned her undergraduate degree from Sam Houston State University and she earned her law degree from the Oklahoma City University School of Law. She is a member of numerous organizations primarily focused in Tarrant County.

If you would like more information about The Barrows Firm, P.C., please contact the firm by calling (817) 481-1583. The Barrows Firm is located downtown Fort Worth at 500 East Belknap Street, near the Tarrant County Courthouse and the Tarrant County Family Law Center. You can follow The Barrows Firm on social media and find important articles and resources about Texas law and how it may affect you or your family. The Barrows Firm is on Twitter and Facebook.

Texas open carry handgun law takes effect January 1, 2016 
 

January 1, 2016, is the effective date of the new open carry law in Texas. Campus carry is part of the law; however, the campus carry provisions are not effective until August 1, 2016. A Concealed Handgun License (CHL) or equivalent gun license issued from another state is required to carry a handgun, whether openly or concealed. Police, lawyers and the justice community anticipate future questions and answers as enforcement issues arise. There are specific locations where all firearms are prohibited and private storeowners may ban open and concealed handgun carry at their locations with proper signage. The open carry debates raised awareness among many Texans, busy sharing information about the new law, as is featured in the Open Carry Texas group publication, Frequently Asked Questions Open Carry. Attorneys well-versed in Texas gun and carry law advise individual and business clients about the new laws.

New law ends Texas’ open carry handgun prohibition of more than hundred years.

Well over 100 years ago, back in 1871, the Texas legislature restricted handgun carrying. In 1995, the concealed carry law first allowed Texans to carry handguns. Meanwhile, carrying long guns is historically unrestricted in Texas; many people grew up accustomed to gun racks in pickups. Some opponents of open carry laws suggest they mark a return to the Wild West, meanwhile many Texans consider what open carry means to them. A consensus among law enforcement supposes a few die-hard folks will carry shiny pistols in decorative belt and shoulder holsters, without their jackets, under which the piece has likely always been. Meanwhile, news outlets release public service announcement videos for the benefit of people who might not be familiar with open carry or the new law, watch “What to do?” – An Open Carry PSA.

A Texas CHL is required to open and conceal-carry holstered handguns.

Texas law requires any individual carrying a handgun, whether open or concealed, to have a current and valid CHL. Out-of-state residents must have their state’s equivalent gun license. Long guns, such as hunting rifles and shotguns may still be carried without a CHL. Texans who do not have a current and valid CHL can obtain one from the Department of Public Safety (DPS) if all the eligibility requirements are satisfied. Generally, to be eligible to apply for a CHL an applicant 21 years of age, legally residing in Texas for 6 months, and without any felony convictions or pending charges or recent history of mental disability, can take a qualified CHL instruction class and submit proof to DPS and pay a standard fee to obtain a CHL.[i]

There can be exceptions and blocks to CHL eligibility such as a final determination of child support delinquency, determination of family violence[ii], or is restricted by a protective court order affecting a spousal relationship. Convictions of certain crimes in addition to felonies can block an individual from CHL eligibility. An attorney can help review the law and advise clients if they are eligible to obtain a CHL and whether any exceptions to rules may apply to individual circumstances.

It is important to note that the open carry law requires a handgun (loaded/unloaded) be kept securely in a shoulder or belt holster.  Open carry also applies to vehicles, and if you have a CHL your holstered handgun no longer needs to be concealed, but must be within arm’s reach within the vehicle.[iii]

The law prohibits carrying open and concealed handguns in certain locations, and private storeowners can prohibit you from carrying a handgun on their premises.

Texas law prohibits carrying any handgun, openly or concealed, in certain places. Generally, it is unlawful to carry a handgun in schools, school grounds, and school property where school activities and sporting events take place, government offices, polling places, racetracks, airports and perimeters, and in bar-type establishments making more than 51% revenue from the sale of alcohol. Moreover, campus carry law does not take effect until August 1, 2016.

A CHL and a lawfully carried gun do not give anyone a right to carry a handgun in a private business. Establishments wishing to ban handguns on their premises may lawfully create such a gun ban by conspicuously displaying the legally required sign. Sign 30.06 (preventing concealed carry) and a 30.07 sign (preventing open carry) must meet Texas state law requirements to be considered legally effective to provide patrons with notice of a gun ban on premises[iv]. Additionally, any private business owner may at their discretion, ask someone carrying a handgun to leave the premises, and a failure to comply may subject the individual to criminal trespass and unlawful carry charges.

Law enforcement is being trained in the new law, and how and when a CHL must be produced.

Lawyers and individuals in the criminal justice system may be called to interpret how the new open carry law applies to certain individuals and situations. While the law requires an individual to have a valid CHL to open or conceal carry a handgun, a law enforcement officer must have probable cause or reasonable suspicion an individual is committing or committed a crime, to demand them to produce and show their CHL.[v] A police officer may ask an open carrier to see their CHL, and that individual has the right to refuse to produce the CHL.

There are a significant number of law enforcement personnel in the state of Texas and training every individual on the new handgun laws is an extensive process. It is possible a law enforcement officer could make an arrest or improper demand to produce a CHL. It is reasonable to expect arrests and charges that can be challenged in court as legal issues arise.

The Barrows Firm can provide additional information and resources on carrying a handgun in Texas and how the new law intersects with the Family Code.

If you would like more information about The Barrows Firm, P.C., please contact the firm by calling (817) 481-1583. The Barrows Firm is located downtown Fort Worth at 500 East Belknap Street, near the Tarrant County Courthouse and the Tarrant County Family Law Center. You can follow The Barrows Firm on social media and find important articles and resources about Texas law and how it may affect you or your family. The Barrows Firm is on Twitter and Facebook.

[i] Texas Department of Public Safety, Handgun Licensing.

[ii] Texas Family Code, Protective Orders and Family Violence.

[iii] OpenCarryTexas.org, Frequently Asked Questions Open Carry.

[iv] Texas Department of Public Safety, New laws for Handgun Licensing Program.

[v] See HNiii above.

Surviving the holiday season with The Barrows Firm 
 

The Barrows Firm Law Review is a monthly Internet radio show podcast featuring information about Texas family, criminal, juvenile, probate and estate planning law and events. Attorney Leslie Barrows is our featured guest today as she shares insight and information about the pitfalls of the holiday season and how we can prepare for a smooth transition to the New Year.

Surviving the holiday season with The Barrows Firm

  • Preparing for the holidays when you are in a divorce or family law case
  • Tips for seasoned co-parents who want the create the best memories for their kids
  • Making it safely to and from holiday gatherings, DWI enforcement and no refusal weekends
  • Planning events and social gatherings to keep the conversation light and avoid talking divorce
  • Discussing estate planning and wills with family members and preparing for the future
  • Coping with the loss of a loved one during the holidays and moving to a new normal
  • Veterans issues and the stress they and their families face this time of year

Leslie Barrows is the principal founder of The Barrows Firm in Fort Worth, Texas. In her firm’s main practice areas of family law, criminal defense and juvenile law, Leslie is consistently challenged with dynamic cases and clients. When winning is what matters, many in the Fort Worth area go to The Barrows Firm based on their reputation an winning track record over the past decade. Leslie Barrows earned her undergraduate degree from Sam Houston State University and she earned her law degree from the Oklahoma City University School of Law. She is a member of numerous organizations primarily focused in Tarrant County.

If you would like more information about The Barrows Firm, P.C., please contact the firm by calling (817) 481-1583. The Barrows Firm is located downtown Fort Worth at 500 East Belknap Street, near the Tarrant County Courthouse and the Tarrant County Family Law Center.

Texas DWI: No Refusal weekends in Tarrant County 
 

The Texas DWI “No Refusal” law allows law enforcement to take you to jail and draw blood if police pull you over under the suspicion of driving while intoxicated, and you refuse to cooperate with the officer’s investigation and request to submit to a breath test. In order for a law enforcement officer to arrest you for refusal and take you to jail to take your blood for evidence of intoxication, they traffic stop must be reasonable and the officer must have probable cause that the driver is intoxicated. The officer can apply for an expedited warrant from an on-duty night judge or magistrate to take a blood sample, at one of the central blood-draw locations, for evidence to arrest and charge the driver with DWI. “Search warrants for blood draws can be hand-delivered or transmitted electronically by fax or email.[i]

About No-Refusal Weekends in Tarrant County and around the DFW Metroplex

There are several “no-refusal weekends,” during the holiday season, and each county designates dates around holidays when no-refusal will apply. In Tarrant County, anyone arrested and charged with DWI have been included in a publications on the district attorney’s website. The Tarrant County Criminal District Attorney’s office publishes no refusal press releases (See November 25, 2015 Thanksgiving Weekend No-Refusal) as well as they mention no-refusal weekends on the Tarrant County Criminal District Attorney’s Office Facebook page. Christmas holiday no-refusal typically starts Christmas Eve and runs through New Year’s Day weekend.

The Texas Transportation Code sections controlling the law and procedure for blood draws, implied consent and a driver’s withdrawal of implied consent are complicated and every case can contain police errors of procedure and application of Texas law. The underlying cause for the traffic stop and the officer’s probable cause to seek a search warrant to take a blood or breath specimen may be challenged in criminal court. Even despite proper training, law enforcement officers can make mistakes. Drivers arrested and charged with DWI on no-refusal weekends have a right to challenge the arrest and charge.

About diversion programs for DWI offenders and options available to avoid jail time

DWI diversion programs such as Drug Impact Rehabilitation Enhanced Comprehensive Treatment (DIRECT) program, the  Felony Alcohol Intervention Program (FAIP) or the Deferred Prosecution Program for youth offenders age 17 – 24 might be available to individuals who qualify under diversion program criteria. These programs offer offenders opportunities to avoid incarceration if they comply with the strict program requirements.

With increased enforcement of Texas DWI laws and the use of no-refusal weekends by law enforcement and the county district attorney’s offices, many more people take note and make plans to attend social gatherings and events with an appointed designated sober driver. The rise in popularity of affordable ride services such as Uber and Lyft also make it easy to get around without drinking and driving.

The Barrows Firm wishes everyone to be safe on the roads. Attorneys are available to answer any questions about DWI, no-refusal weekends, and the laws contained in the Texas Transportation Code.

If you would like more information about The Barrows Firm, P.C., please contact the firm by calling (817) 481-1583. The Barrows Firm is located downtown Fort Worth at 500 East Belknap Street, near the Tarrant County Courthouse and the Tarrant County Family Law Center.

[i] Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Tarrant County’s DWI no-refusal plans intact after court ruling, by Mitch Mitchell, Nov. 26, 2014.

Holiday Divorce Tips: Making new traditions and keeping a sense of family 
 

Divorce and family law matters can add pressure and anxiety during the already stressful holiday season. One constant in our lives is change. We all think back to the best years and holidays we shared with our families and friends, and even when you reunite the same people and recreate holiday traditions from year to year, we all get one year older every year and every holiday season is unique. When we recognize every new holiday season allows us an opportunity to make new memories, we can open the door with a sense of optimism and anticipation of great things to come.

The following list of suggestions can make the holidays easier on everyone involved in divorce and family law matters who still need to wear a smile.

  1. Plan and prepare for the anxiety moments. Hiding from and ignoring upcoming holidays and spending time in solitude might sound easier than seeing people, but it can only lead to self-pity and when drugs and alcohol are available, some really negative outcomes are possible. Instead, make your plans well ahead of time to know exactly who will be going where, what may be discussed and how people may react to news about the divorce or related matter, which often involves children. Make a list of all the possible questions people could ask, and write down some simple answers to satisfy others, acknowledging them and their concern for the situation, and then moving on to another topic. By preparing for anxiety ahead of time, the actual holiday event might not be as scary.
  2. Remaining flexible in scheduling is important to ensuring people get to where they need to be without any unnecessary confrontation. Most of the time a temporary orders hearing in a divorce or child custody matter already states which parent will have what time with children. Prepare to tell yourself and children that the spirit of the holiday and what it means is the important part, and the exact date upon which everyone celebrates is flexible. Children are happy when their parents are happy, and nothing gets in the way of happiness more than a battle over holiday logistics.
  3. Creating new and special traditions can be a fun way to create something new, something special that can be enjoyed by parents and children when the traditions and conditions of past years are no longer possible. Focus more on creating a new tradition or activity as opposed to when it takes place, because schedules and availabilities can change. Even the choice of food at holiday celebrations can be part of a new tradition, a new family history.
  4. Celebrate holidays together as a co-parenting family, with your ex-spouse and children. If it is possible that mom, dad and kids can all be together in the same room without trauma, a civilized holiday event can give everyone involved a sense of unity and awareness of who stands where and how interfamily relationships work now and in the future. The “family” celebration does not need to be the focal point of the holiday, it can be a new tradition, like going out together for a move, bowling or a sporting event; neutral locations often keep us all on our best behavior.
  5. Spend more time with your friends and other family members when the kids are not there. Sitting home alone on holidays is healthy if that is what makes you really feel the best. It is normal to not want to be a burden on others, but reaching out to other people and friends and asking them what they are doing for the holidays might lead to an invitation to do something fun and take attention away from any holiday awkwardness.
  6. Take some great pictures of you and your family and share them with others to let people know things are okay, even if you have to fake it. You and your other family members can focus on a picture and say how good everyone looks and that may be easier than digging down to talk about sensitive topics and risk upsetting someone.
  7. Make a list of statements to read and consider in the face of anxiety over the holidays:
    1. The holidays are not about you. Everyone is trying to get through them;
    2. The holidays are not about winning or losing compared to your ex-spouse;
    3. This holiday will never be like the last nor exactly like future holidays;
    4. Before you know it, the dinners and celebrations are over and a new day comes.

The attorneys at The Barrows Firm wish everyone a happy and civil holiday season, filed with joy and hope. We all understand these times may be difficult and feeling like a real person is important. Hopefully these holiday tips are helpful, even if reading them makes you think, “I can do this!”

If you would like more information about The Barrows Firm, P.C., please contact the firm by calling (817) 481-1583. The Barrows Firm is located downtown Fort Worth at 500 East Belknap Street, near the Tarrant County Courthouse and the Tarrant County Family Law Center.

 

 

November is National Adoption Awareness Month 
 

National Adoption Day, while officially observed on November 21, 2015, is celebrated in Texas counties at adoption events all November long. Thursday November 20th is the Tarrant County National Adoption Day at the Tarrant County Family Center, where starting at 8:00 a.m., more than 40 families will adopt children into their families. Many of the adoptable children are step and foster children who are already living with happy, safe and nurturing families and the legal adoptions makes these children permanent family members. Texas has an increasing number of young children removed from birth mothers, into the foster system, because of drug addiction and other threats to children. These children need and deserve the stability of loving families and proper homes.

Child adoption in the State of Texas and the Gladney Center for Adoption in Fort Worth

Texas Department of Family and Protective Services oversees foster care and adoption programs, its Texas Adoption Resource Exchange website offers information and resources about adoption.  Texas adoption law allows a mature and financially stable and responsible adult, age 21 or older to adopt any child age 12 years and younger, without consent (children 12 and older must consent), so long as the adopting adult satisfies criminal background and social services checks and investigations. There is a six-month (may be waived) home residency requirement before finalizing adoptions, which is usually satisfied where the children are foster or step children living with the adopting parents. After the background check and home study there is often, a training and education conducted for the new family to assess the fit and whether adoption is best for the family.

The Gladney Center for Adoption in Fort Worth, Texas recently celebrated 125 years in leading as a pioneering voice for improving the lives of children, adoptive families and birth parents. Founded in 1887 as Texas Children’s Home and Aid Society, the organization has placed at least 30,000 orphaned children with new families. The Gladney Center’s namesake is the late Ms. Edna Gladney, who served as the Superintendant of the Texas Children’s Home and Aid Society and was instrumental in her efforts to help Texas pass a 1936 bill legally removing “illegitimacy” from birth records, and in 1951, helping Texas give adopted children the same inheritance rights as biological children.[i]

Texas adoption procedures and the role of the adoption attorney in representing adopting parents

An adult may petition the local court in their county of residence to adopt a child who may legally be adopted. A child may be adopted if the parent-child relationship as to each living parent has been terminated in a separate legal action or an action for termination is joined with the action for adoption.[ii] The attorney representing the adult petitioning to adopt will file the appropriate petition and arrange for service of legal process of the adoption action upon any legal parent of the child with legal parental rights, subject to termination in the adoption action. In cases where a spouse of a parent seeks to adopt a stepchild, the court is first asked to appoint a nonparent as a managing conservator with authority to consent to adoption of a child.

Once an adoption case is allowed to proceed by the court, a social study is ordered. The social study evaluator conducts interviews, observes, and investigates home environments and the world of people with whom the adoptive child will have contact. The petitioners seeking adoption usually pay for the social study, which also includes a review of the financial and general stability of the petitioners to ensure the best interests of an adoptive child will be met. The adoption is ready to be scheduled for a prove-up before the court, after the social study is concluded along with any remaining court requirements, if any, such as the included report of an Amicus Attorney, appointed by the court to determine the best interests of the child.

For more on Texas adoptions and procedures, listen to the podcast interview, Adoption laws and procedures in Texas with Attorney Leslie Barrows.

The Barrows Firm attorneys are active in supporting the cause to increase awareness about adoptions and juvenile matters generally. If you would like more information about The Barrows Firm, P.C., please contact the firm by calling (817) 481-1583. The Barrows Firm is located downtown Fort Worth at 500 East Belknap Street, near the Tarrant County Courthouse and the Tarrant County Family Law Center.

 

[i] Gladney Center for Adoption, website – Our Heritage

[ii] Texas Family Code Sec. 162, Adoption

Adoption laws and procedures in Texas with Attorney Leslie Barrows 
 

The Barrows Firm Law Review is a monthly Internet radio show podcast featuring information about Texas family, criminal, juvenile, probate and estate planning law and events. Attorney Leslie Barrows is our featured guest today as she shares insight and information about adoption law and procedures in Texas.

Adoption laws and procedures in Texas with Attorney Leslie Barrows

  • Who is eligible to adopt children in the State of Texas and what are the requirements?
  • What are the different types of adoption circumstances through which we can adopt?
  • Choosing an adoption agency is a new experience for many, what do you recommend?
  • What training is required by the State of Texas before an individual or couple is clear to adopt?
  • How do you work with adoption clients as their attorney and what is your role in the process?
  • What can people seeking adoption expect with respect to local county courts and procedures?
  • How can we take advantage of National Adoption Day on November 20th to support adoptions?

Leslie Barrows is the principal founder of The Barrows Firm in Fort Worth, Texas. In her firm’s main practice areas of family law, criminal defense and juvenile law, Leslie is consistently challenged with dynamic cases and clients. When winning is what matters, many in the Fort Worth area go to The Barrows Firm based on their reputation an winning track record over the past decade. Leslie Barrows earned her undergraduate degree from Sam Houston State University and she earned her law degree from the Oklahoma City University School of Law. She is a member of numerous organizations primarily focused in Tarrant County. To speak to Leslie Barrows please call (817) 481-1583.

Pitfalls of social media in divorce and family law 
 

A significant amount of divorce and family law cases involve the use of social media evidence to prove allegations and win in court. There is an irony in the design of social media, to help us meet and attract people, while the counter balance involves people becoming angry, jealous, upset which can lead to losing relationships and being isolated from others. The ability to cyber stalk one another opens the door to misunderstandings, assumptions and real evidence of good or bad conduct. When social media evidence is introduced in divorce and family law cases, the credibility of the people involved can be inferred from social media activity.

Social media activity may lead to divorce. “A recent study has found a correlation between relationship health and Facebook use that may cause more people to want to switch off the computer and smartphone in favor of spending more time paying attention to their spouses.[i]” Being addicted to social media and our devices can lead to consequences. Jealous spouses or family members might start investigating one another and could create unnecessary problems or make a discovery that changes the nature of a relationship.

Do you know or remember what content is out there, and what stories could be told about you?

Being proactive is important. It is always a good practice to review your social media sites every now and then, to scrub for any posts or content that might be taken the wrong way or lead to unfortunate innuendo. Memes and quotes from others can be inferred to mean just about anything when another person is looking for a fight. Remember, however, when scrubbing or eliminating content on your social media, there may all be a permanent record of it somewhere. We have no idea who may screen shot and save our pictures and posts, especially if one person anticipates a divorce or family law action in the near future.

Social media is used in evidence introduced to prove allegations in divorce cases.

A petition for divorce could be based on no-fault allegations but it could also be based on the fault allegations of adultery, cruelty or abandonment, for example. There is a financial incentive to allege fault because the wronged party may be entitled to more money in the division of the marital property and assets. Social media posts are used with increased frequency to prove the allegations in the petition. In allegations of adultery and dissipation of marital assets on a paramour, the pictures on Facebook or check-ins at an out of the way happy hour stop can and are often accepted as evidence of an affair. A judge or jury reviewing social media evidence is going to have impressions of the credibility of the parties involved in divorce. Being ready to be defend your social media use is imperative to success in a contested divorce case. Being transparent and honest is always recommended. Lying to a judge or your lawyer is a bad idea because the truth most often comes out and your credibility is at stake.

The best interests of children in contested custody can involve social media evidence.

In contested child custody cases, social media can be useful for the judge or jury considering the best interests of children and how children in particular cases appear, in joy or sorrow. The customs and standards of living and lifestyle in a family can also be proven through a history of consistent social media content. While social media can be helpful, it can also be threatening in custody cases. When one parent alleges the other engages in wrong behavior, social media posts may be collected and used to tell a persuasive story about the other parent or their family or friends who may also have an influence on children. Imagine a custody hearing or trial where several witnesses testify about what was really happening in the pictures at little Billy’s birthday party; things can get rather heated.

Adopting best social media practice is always good for credibility, even if you are not in litigation.

Many social media experts and personal coaches agree that the people engaged in social media presume a level of truth in what people see and post online. Because so many people have smart phones and technology to capture everything around them, it is a best practice to assume that every time you leave the house, everyone around you could be recording audio, video or capturing pictures that may need to be explained later. When it comes to divorce and family law matters, the use of social media in litigation is here to stay and will likely continue to increase. As the rules and laws adopt to address social media and the use of our technology and devices, divorce and family law attorneys will need to counsel clients on their use and history on social media. Every day is a good day to practice good social media etiquette, and not have to worry as you may meet someone special and start a family or terminate your relationships with others.

The Barrows Firm attorneys frequently counsel and defend clients whose social media is introduced in their family law or divorce case. If you would like more information about The Barrows Firm, P.C., please contact the firm by calling (817) 481-1583. The Barrows Firm is located downtown Fort Worth at 500 East Belknap Street, near the Tarrant County Courthouse and the Tarrant County Family Law Center.

[i] HG.org Legal Resources, Facebook has Become a Leading Cause in Divorce Cases.

Family Violence and Protective Orders in Texas 
 

The Barrows Firm Law Review is a monthly Internet radio show podcast featuring information about Texas family, criminal, juvenile, probate and estate planning law and events. Attorney Leslie Barrows is our featured guest today as she shares insight and information about popular areas of the law affecting many families in Texas.

What to expect when someone seeks a protective order alleging family violence, an overview with Attorney Leslie Barrows

  • What is a protective order and how is one designed to protect against family violence?
  • The Texas Family Code now allows presumptions of family violence in certain circumstances.
  • What is the legal process and procedure involved in obtaining protective orders?
  • What are the concerns of men or women against whom a protective order is sought or obtained?
  • When is it appropriate in a divorce or custody case to seek a protective order?
  • How can people protect themselves from further harm or liability if protective orders issue?
  • Any examples of what not to do or examples of how things go wrong with protective orders?

Leslie Barrows is the principal founder of The Barrows Firm in Fort Worth, Texas. In her firm’s main practice areas of family law, criminal defense and juvenile law, Leslie is consistently challenged with dynamic cases and clients. When winning is what matters, many in the Fort Worth area go to The Barrows Firm based on their reputation an winning track record over the past decade. Leslie Barrows earned her undergraduate degree from Sam Houston State University and she earned her law degree from the Oklahoma City University School of Law. She is a member of numerous organizations primarily focused in Tarrant County. To speak to Leslie Barrows please call (817) 481-1583.

Rodriguez v. United States: Police need reasonable suspicion to extend traffic stops to conduct a drug dog sniff 
 

Motorists in Texas have added constitutional protections during traffic stops after the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) tightened the law on April 25, 2015, in the 6-3 opinion in Rodriguez v. United States,[i] stating that police need reasonable suspicion to extend traffic stops to conduct a drug dog sniff. The holding in the case is: “(1) Absent reasonable suspicion, police extension of a traffic stop in order to conduct a dog sniff violates the Constitution’s shield against unreasonable seizures; and (2) The determination adopted by the District Court that detention for the dog sniff was not independently supported by individualized suspicion was not reviewed by the Eighth Circuit. That question therefore remains open for consideration on remand.”

“The Rodriguez case started when a Nebraska police officer saw a Mercury Mountaineer driven by Dennys Rodriguez veer onto the shoulder of a state highway just after midnight. The officer, Morgan Struble, performed a routine traffic stop, questioning Mr. Rodriguez and his passenger and running a records check. He then issued Mr. Rodriguez a written warning. That completed the stop, Justice Ginsburg wrote. But Officer Struble then had his drug-sniffing dog, Floyd, circle the vehicle. Floyd smelled drugs and led his officer to a large bag of methamphetamine. About eight minutes elapsed between the written warning and Floyd’s alert.”[ii]

The SCOTUS opinion in Rodriguez limits officers to the initial stop unless they have reasonable suspicion a crime is being committed.

In accordance with the law pursuant to Rodriguez, a police officer is not allowed to detain an individual in a traffic stop beyond the amount of time it takes to investigate and elect whether to issue a citation to a driver or make an arrest. Extensions of traffic stops often involve further investigation as to whether a vehicle might contain illegal contraband and drugs. In Rodriguez, like in many traffic stops, the police detained the motorist longer than the time it took to write a ticket or make an initial arrest, had a crime been committed, so that the drug dogs could come to the scene to sniff the vehicle and surrounding area. If the trained dog indicates a positive presence of drugs it smells, the police then search the vehicle claiming probable cause that there are drugs based on the drug-sniffing dog’s response.

The law following the Rodriguez requires a law enforcement officer to have reasonable and articulable suspicion that the motorist was engaging in criminal activity, before they may extend the traffic stop to bring in a nearby drug dog if they otherwise do not have one with them. Even if the officer effectuating the stop has a drug dog, its use to sniff a vehicle must not take more time than it takes to complete the underlying traffic stop. If the law enforcement officer decides to make a motorist wait for other officers to bring a drug dog to the scene of the traffic stop, the officer must be able to specifically articulate their exact reasonable suspicion that the motorist was engaging in criminal activity.

Reasonable suspicion is determined based on case law and the facts of each individual traffic stop.

What gives rise to being reasonable suspicion depends on the facts and circumstances of each traffic stop. An appearance, odor, or indication that a motorist has or is under the influence of illegal drugs may be sufficient reasonable suspicion to detain someone and ask for the drug dog. However, every traffic stop is unique and it is the job of a criminal defense lawyer to review the evidence and charges to make sure the state proves its case within the requirements of the law. In some cases, individuals represent themselves before the court, without an attorney, which can be challenging if the individual is not well educated on criminal law and procedure.

Many legal scholars and writers are saying they believe this restraint on police stops, and enhancement of an individual’s constitutional shield might be in response to frequent protests and riots in certain U.S. cities like Ferguson, Missouri and Baltimore, Maryland. The Barrows Firm follows legal decisions that affect Texans who often consult with the Barrows Firm attorneys on traffic stops and cases involving criminal charges.

If you would like more information about The Barrows Firm, P.C., please contact the firm by calling (817) 481-1583. The Barrows Firm is located downtown Fort Worth at 500 East Belknap Street, near the Tarrant County Courthouse and the Tarrant County Family Law Center.

[i] Rodriguez v. United States, No. 13–9972, 575 U.S. ___ (2015), slip op. at 2–4.

[ii] New York Times, Justices Rule That Police Can’t Extend Traffic Stops, by Adam Liptak, Apr. 21, 2015.