How will the Corona Virus (COVID-19) Pandemic Effect my Denton County Criminal Case?

The Covid-19 pandemic has certainly changed the way Courts are operating, and the length of time cases are taking to reach a close of any kind.

First, let’s talk about the “start” of a criminal case.  Before the Corona Virus pandemic, the average length of time for a misdemeanor in Denton County to be filed was about 3 to 5 months after arrest.  DWI’s took a bit longer, as there was usually breath and blood tests which had to be analyzed, and the average time for filing these cases was generally between 5 to 10 months.  Occasionally, a case would take over a year, but this was certainly the exception and not the rule.  So, for example, if a person was arrested in January for an Assault or Possession case, we would generally expect to see that case filed between April and June.  A DWI in January would generally be filed between June and October.  Again, these are rough estimates, and there were always exceptions, but this was a good general rule.

Beginning in March of this year, with the outbreak of Covid-19 and the closing of Courts, we are seeing MUCH longer waiting periods.  The 2-year Statute of Limitations (the time limit required to file a misdemeanor charge) is still applicable, but we’re seeing many cases come much closer to that limit.

The Courts have technically remained open throughout this pandemic, but their dockets, and the matters they are handling are extremely limited.  Because of this, there is a MAJOR backlog of cases in just about every courthouse and county throughout the country, including Denton.  In general, larger counties such as Dallas and Harris (Houston) are more affected than smaller ones, with less population.  But there is still a major “backup” in the system, affecting all counties, including Denton.

We’re often asked if this will result in better offers before trial.  Our answer is that it depends on the type of case and facts relating to the charge.  We’re definitely getting better offers is some circumstances, but the DA appears to be holding steady with charges such as DWI, and more serious felonies.  We’re not seeing much of a difference with these, but as with everything, each case is different, and issues which may not have mattered several months ago may result in your attorney being able to negotiate a better result on your behalf.  As far as our trial docket, most trial attorneys have a LOT of cases backed up and set for trial.  The question is when will they go forward.  The Supreme Court has issued an order stating that jury trials may not proceed before September, but it is our belief that we will not see a trial go forward before the end of the year.  One of the major reasons for this is the extreme difficulty that a county will have in summoning jurors for jury duty.  Many will simply refuse to come, and without enough to assemble a potential jury pool, conducting a trial is impossible.  Obviously, this will not be the case forever, but we highly doubt seeing trials go forward this year.  There is an option of filing a Motion for Speedy Trial, which can have both advantages and disadvantages.  People should discuss this option with their attorney, as the facts of the case will significantly affect any decisions which should be made.

As for now, if you have been arrested, understand that it will be some time before your case is actually “filed.”  We will stress that this does not mean people should wait to hire an attorney.  Because of these significant delays, hiring an attorney right after an arrest, before the case works it’s way into the system, can sometimes have advantages.  Your attorney may be able to work out better pre-filing plea-bargain deals should you not want to proceed to trial, and at the very least, the attorney will have more time to investigate your case and explore all defenses.  Some clients have expressed concern that if they hire us now and the case is not filed, they will have wasted their money.  This is not something that our clients need to be concerned with.  We include specific language in our contract that if the charge is not pursued by the state (filed), all or a majority of the fees paid will be refunded to the client.  Each case is different, and we’re available to discuss the details of this with anyone.  But people should not be hesitant to retain an attorney, as they will be protected if the case is not filed.  In addition, since cases are generally taking longer to dispose of (either through a plea-bargain deal or jury trial), we are usually able to offer longer payment plans than normal.  For many, this will allow them to hire an attorney that they otherwise would not have been able to afford.

Remember, every case is different. The information provided herein is only general information, and should not be construed as specific legal advice of any kind.  In addition, this information should not be construed as a substitution of legal counsel from a competent DWI attorney in your specific jurisdiction. 

Please feel free to contact us if you have specific questions or comments about a case in which you are involved.

Ross Law Offices, PC


What is Pre-Trial Diversion in Denton County

Denton County has a program wherein a person may be eligible to have their charge Dismissed through a program called Pre-Trial Diversion. Pre-Trial Diversion (or “PTD” as it commonly referred) is the specific name of a probation-like diversionary program offered by the Denton County District Attorneys Office for certain individuals, and certain cases.

To be eligible, a person must not have criminal history of any kind (most Class C offenses and Juvenile matters will not affect the person’s eligibility), and must never have participated in a diversion-type program in any county before. Additionally, the alleged offense must be a “lower-level offense.” Generally, felonies and more serious misdemeanor charges will not be considered for the Pre-Trial Diversion program.

Advantages of the PTD program

The most important advantage of being submitted for, accepted, and completing the Denton County Pre-Trial Diversion program is that upon completion of the program, the charge will be officially Dismissed by the District Attorney. This will allow the person to then file for an Expunction and have all records relating to the arrest and charge permanently destroyed.

Who can and cannot Apply for the PTD program

Common charges wherein a person’s attorney may petition the Court for consideration into this program include:

– Possession of Marijuana

– Theft

– Criminal Mischief

– Criminal Trespass

– Prostitution

– Evading Arrest (on foot)

– Reckless Driving

Common examples of charges which will not be considered for PTD include:


– Assault

– Weapons charges

– Delivery of Substance charges

– Most Felonies

** Please note that neither of these lists are in any way exhaustive, and there are always exceptions to the eligibility guidelines for this program. It is important to note that an attorney is required for consideration into this program, as the DA will not begin the application without counsel filing the proper paperwork and beginning the process. In addition, during the application and consideration process for PTD, there will be several steps where an attorney is necessary. An experienced defense attorney will walk a person through this process, and assist them at every step. They will assist the

person with the paperwork he or she must complete, and prepare and assist them for the interview which will be conducted by the probation department. It is important to have a local attorney who has dealt with the processes specific to Denton County in order to ensure everything runs as it should. Tony Ross and Ross Law Offices have extensive experience with the Pre-Trial Diversion program, and will ensure that every case which may be eligible for the program is handled appropriately. Our office is located across from the Courthouse in Denton, and we thoroughly know every step necessary to provide every advantage to the people we represent.

Remember, every case is different. The information provided herein is only general information, and should not be construed as specific legal advice of any kind. In addition, this information should not be construed as a substitution of legal counsel from a competent DWI attorney in your specific jurisdiction.

Please feel free to contact us if you have specific questions or comments about a case in which you are involved.

Ross Law Offices, PC


Texas Ends Driver Responsibility Program

A recent article from the Dallas Observer highlighted the news that Texas Governor Greg Abott signed a bill putting the program to the sword Sept. 1, clearing the path for about 1.5 million Texans to regain their driver’s licenses by ending the Texas Driver Responsibility Program.

John Ross of Ross Law Offices said in a recent Facebook post

A horrible state surcharge program is finally over. This will stop the endless cycle of surcharges and suspensions for tens of thousands of Texas drivers every year. Everything from minor ticket surcharges to extremely excessive, DWI surcharges totaling several thousand dollars is being cut. Good job by Texas in ending this ridiculous money-grabbing scheme.

The program imposed surcharges on Texas drivers who did things like driving without a license or driving under the influence. The surcharges were imposed on top of standard fines and ranged from $250 per year for three years for driving with an invalid license to $2,000 per year for three years for a DWI in which the driver is caught with a blood alcohol level of 0.16 — twice the legal limit — or higher. Drivers who accumulated too many points on their licenses for moving violations or moving violations resulting in a crash were also subject to surcharges.

While the surcharges were nuisances to everyone who had to pay them, they amounted to financial quicksand for Texas’ most vulnerable residents. People would get a ticket and then keep accumulating fines, keeping their license suspended and making them vulnerable to additional tickets and fines.

The Driver Responsibility Program has forced thousands of Texans to pay for their liberty, which is no justice at all. Suspending someone’s license only further removes them from the workforce, leaving them without money to pay additional fees,” said Terri Burke, the executive director for the ACLU of Texas. “With partners across the state, the ACLU of Texas has worked for years to end this program. This is a major step in our quest to create a criminal justice system for Texas that is not only smarter but more just, particularly for those most affected by systemic hardship.”

Thanks to the program ending, more than 630,000 people will immediately be eligible to have their driver’s licenses reinstated, because they have no fees or suspensions that stem from something other than the DRP, according to the Texas ACLU. About 350,000 people will be able to get their licenses back after paying a reinstatement fee and a further 400,000 will be able to drive legally if they can resolve their non-DRP-related suspensions. Any remaining surcharges owed by drivers forced to enroll in the program will be wiped out on Sept. 1, the bill’s effective date.

Dumping the plan, which went into effect in 2003, also gets the state off a legal hook. Equal Justice Under Law, a civil rights advocacy group, sued the state to stop the program in December, alleging that it violated the U.S. Constitution’s Equal Protection clause by denying vulnerable Texans a vital credential.

“This unfair license suspension scheme particularly targets Texas’ most impoverished residents, who are often unaware additional charges are owed under the DRP,” Phil Telfeyan, the lead attorney in a lawsuit seeking to end the program and executive director of Equal Justice Under Law, said at the time. “Individuals who cannot pay will often lose their job and their home — becoming homeless — for a minor ticket that wealthier drivers simply pay and forget.”


A tip from an out-of-state law enforcement agency alerted authorities in Fannin County to a man suspected of selling large amounts of marijuana. Undercover police officers approached the suspect and arranged to meet him for a drug buy in Grand Prairie. The man targeted by investigators allegedly arrived with 25 pounds of marijuana.

His arrest led to the approval of a search warrant for his home in Fannin County on County Road 2900. Sheriff’s deputies reported finding over 15 pounds of marijuana, 84 grams of concentrated THC oil, LSD, drug paraphernalia and Xanax pills. Authorities also claimed to have seized over $15,000 in cash along with silver coins. Deputies reportedly collected multiple AK-47s and AR-15s along with bump stocks and over 1,000 rounds of ammunition.

According to the sheriff’s department, the 44-year-old suspect had four buildings set up to grow marijuana. The sheriff described it as the most complex drug operation that he had personally seen.

Charges are pending against the man who was detained in Grand Prairie. Once he pays his bond to secure his release from jail, the Fannin County sheriff intends to arrest him for multiple drug charges.

Even when evidence appears abundant, a person arrested for drug crimes may benefit from legal representation. A criminal defense attorney may check to see if the evidence actually supports the criminal charges. Any excessive actions by a prosecutor could be vulnerable to challenge. Advice from an attorney might also prevent a person from accepting an unreasonable plea bargain. An attorney may strive to negotiate for reduced charges and potentially limit penalties.

Source: KXII, “Several drugs, guns and cash seized in Fannin County home“, Meredith McCown, April 26, 2019


Two counties in Texas are among those with the highest rates in the country for detaining people on marijuana charges according to an analysis of information from the National Archive of Criminal Justice Data. In both Sterling and Hartley counties, around 42 percent of all detentions are for marijuana, but these are not the highest in the country. In Dooley County, Georgia, they make up 54.5 percent of all detentions while in Hamilton County, New York, marijuana accounted for 43.5 percent of people taken into custody.

According to an article in the Washington Post, in 2017, almost 6 percent of all detentions were on marijuana-related charges. The article also pointed out that there is incentive on a federal level to pursue these types of charges despite the fact that marijuana is legal in several states. Law enforcement is given funding to put together drug task forces, and authorities are also allowed to keep any valuables seized under forfeiture law. Furthermore, it is relatively easy to identify marijuana because of its bulk and strong smell.

There did not appear to be correlation between the political climate in a particular area and whether or not law enforcement tended to crack down on marijuana. For example, some New England states had high rates while Alabama and Kentucky did not.

When people are facing drug-related charges, they may want to consult an attorney. Conviction on these types of charges can have serious legal and other repercussions. Even if the legal penalties are not severe, people could be denied financial aid for college or some types of housing with a drug conviction. It could also affect some people’s careers. An attorney may be able to get charges reduced. If the drugs were discovered in an illegal search, the case could be dismissed.

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