A new rule in the Houston Police Department bars officers from speaking with defense lawyers without permission from the prosecution. According to the Houston Chronicle, the new rule came down via memo from Chief Charles McClelland on July 1. Defense attorneys are questioning the legality of the rule and certainly the impact it may have.
The District Attorney, Pat Lykos stated that she had no discussions with the chief of police about the memo but failed to comment directly on the rule itself. The Chief also declined comment for the Chronicle report.
Nicole Deborde, the president of the Harris County Criminal Lawyers Association call the rule “irresponsible” and “disappointing”. She makes a good point that it causes people to question what the police and prosecution may be hiding in any given case.
Legally, a witness can refuse to talk to defense attorneys. However, this rule forbids police from speaking with them, which may be considered illegal witness tampering, according to Deborde. This type of practice could potentially lead to complaints to the state bar about prosecutors for unethical practices.
In addition, the rule creates a larger divide in the we vs. them mentality by forcing the police to seemingly join the prosecution team rather than act as a fact-finding body, as they are supposed to. As one local defense lawyer says: “It is absolutely destroying any last vestiges that a police officer is a neutral witness who is just trying to figure out what happened.”
The long term impact of the rule remains to be seen, as does any fall out and bar complaints that may arise. It will, no doubt, make communication by defense attorneys a little more difficult, however.
An open exchange of information is ideal when handling criminal defense cases. Being able to get the facts from an officer on the scene can give one good insight into the case. Having to go through a prosecutor to get this type of insight is troubling to say the least.
When you are facing criminal charges, though, you need a defense lawyer willing to do what’s necessary to help you with your case, even if that involves several extra steps. Putting for the extra effort is what I do best.
Call our Texas defense attorneys for a free consultation on your case and some legal advice. Together we can discuss what your best course of action might be and how I can help.