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Houston, Texas 77079

979-826-8484
918 Austin Street
Hempstead, Texas 77445

Legal Blog

Is Anybody Listening?

By Roxanne Avery

December, 2019

Doctors alleging child abuse based on questionable injuries has become a pervasive problem across this country.  We are proud our attorney Wade B. Smith was able to expose one of these cases to the Harris County Grand Jury and get a “No Bill,” determining the criminal charges alleged were not sufficiently supported by the evidence presented to warrant criminal prosecution.  Here’s what happened:

As the frantic parents rushed their 7-month-old baby to the hospital with seizure-like symptoms in December 2016, they wondered what could be wrong.   After a medical assessment, Emergency Room doctors released him and sent the family to a neurologist who ordered an EEG and an MRI.  Little did they know their lives were about to change.

After the MRI was completed nearly a month later, doctors told the parents to bring their son back to the hospital where they explained there were some subdural hematomas (brain bleeds) and asked if they knew what could have caused them.  The parents gave a couple of “normal” baby events such as rolling off the couch (before they realized he could do that) onto the carpeted floor while the dad went to get a change of clothes before a bath and their two-year-old son bumping heads with him when (the older son) threw a tantrum.  The “child abuse” pediatrician decided neither of those instances would cause the bleeding and made the bold statement the brain bleeds were due to “non-accidental trauma,” meaning they were intentionally inflicted, and the doctor further concluded “shaken baby syndrome” and abuse.

Stunned, the parents soon learned what that meant.  The hospital wouldn’t release their baby to them and Child Protective Services (CPS) was called in.  The caseworkers asked if there was a family member the baby and their other son could stay with, otherwise they would be placed with foster care. CPS approved the mom’s brother who was living in an apartment with his girlfriend, which placed a very unexpected burden of caring for two children under the age of two on them. “When you think about it, this decision was screwed up in its own right,” Wade B. Smith, attorney for the father said.

The situation was very difficult on everyone and became worse when the mom’s daughter from another marriage, who had nothing to do with any of this, was also removed from the home and sent to stay with her father as a result of the CPS intrusion.  “If you don’t have someone in the family willing and able to take the kids in a situation like this, they go to foster care and God knows what happens in foster care,” Wade said.

Willing to do whatever it took to get their children back, the parents did everything CPS required including extensive classes and counseling.  For the next year and a half, they went to CPS court on a regular basis and CPS checked on the kids at the apartment because the parents were not allowed unsupervised visitation.  “They would help fix dinner, get the boys to bed and anything else to help her brother take care of their kids,” Wade said.

The situation kept getting worse as the mom lost her job due to missing a lot of work because of the months of parenting classes and counseling required by CPS.  With the financial burden on the dad, he worked two jobs even though he lost his truck from flooding during Hurricane Harvey.  “In addition to everything with CPS, Harvey happened in the middle of it, which directly affected them as it did many Houstonians. They ended up moving from a house into a two-bedroom apartment,” Wade said.  “And they had to hire two lawyers – one for the mom and a different one for the dad, just to fight CPS.”

“They had some good lawyers fighting hard for them against CPS,” Wade said.  “People who don’t have good lawyers fighting for them can really be at a huge disadvantage.”

After extensively reviewing the baby’s medical records, defense lawyers against CPS discovered the same things Wade did and found he had a benign medical condition where his head was larger than normal for his age.  The condition is caused by several factors and disappears as a child grows out of infancy. “But the crucial thing to know,” Wade said, “is that studies have found infants with this condition are more susceptible to these brain bleeds from very minor head trauma, such as a bump to the head or a short fall; they can even occur spontaneously due to the increased fluid pressures with this condition.”

Norman Guthkelch, the pediatric neurosurgeon credited with first observing that shaking an infant could inflict brain bleeds, began speaking out in 2011 about his concerns regarding how the diagnosis is used. He worried it is too often applied by medical examiners and doctors without considering other possible causes for a child's death or injury.

Decades ago, Guthkelch was trying to solve a medical mystery: Babies, toddlers and other children were showing up at his hospital with bleeding on the surface of the brain yet there were no signs of the cause. These children came without broken bones, bruises or other signs of physical abuse.

“It’s the ‘shaken baby syndrome,’” Wade explained.  “The theory is that a baby gets shaken back and forth with such force that it causes brain bleeds.”   Shaken baby syndrome is often diagnosed when doctors find unexplained bleeding on the brain and two other symptoms: bleeding behind the retinas and brain swelling. This constellation of symptoms is referred to as "the triad."

In his research, Guthkelch said too many medical experts see that triad of symptoms and conclude a child has been shaken without considering other possibilities and didn’t think the famous triad can be so well-defined that a doctor could say nothing else caused it.

“The enlarged head syndrome was specifically noted in the baby’s medical chart in our case, which is a valid medical explanation that was just ignored,” Wade said.  “With evidence piling up in favor of the parents, CPS’s case began falling apart as a trial was scheduled. The judge ordered mediation before the trial, and at that point CPS relented and came to an agreement that would ultimately allow the children to return home.”

“One problem is that these ‘child abuse’ pediatricians are being allowed to speculate about what caused the injury in court,” Wade observed.  “Even medical examiners are not allowed to do that. For example, they could say a person’s death was caused by a bullet wound to the heart, but they can’t say whether the gunshot was intentional or accidental.”

The designation ‘child abuse pediatrician’ just emerged about a decade ago, which isn’t very long in terms of medical research and science. “It hasn’t been subjected to much validation or peer review relative to other areas, which is why we are seeing this prevalent problem occurring across the United States,” Wade said. 

As part of the mediated agreement, the boys stayed with their uncle for another six months before going back to living with their parents. With a sigh of relief, the family thought their nightmare was over. But it was really just beginning.

“Almost two years after the initial emergency room visit and months after the kids all returned home, things are getting back to normal,” Wade said.  “But then a law enforcement investigator decided to present the case to the District Attorney. Its’ presentment was based in large part on the doctors the investigator interviewed who said this must have been intentional because the only thing that would have caused the brain bleeds was rapid acceleration/deceleration of the head consistent with shaken baby syndrome.”

The DA’s office filed a felony complaint, alleging the dad was the person who’d caused the injuries. A warrant was issued for his arrest who went to Wade for help. “I heard what they were saying and talked with their previous lawyer from the CPS case and she was just appalled at what was happening,” Wade said.  “The more I looked, the more I had the same sense of indignation that a criminal case was ever accepted at intake by the DA’s office.  We quickly self-surrendered to the court to take care of the warrant, and then ensued the pretrial process and the stress of dealing with a potential criminal trial that carried a 5 to 99 year prison sentence if convicted.” 

Wade immediately began work on a Grand Jury packet to tell the client’s side of the story but first needed the CPS records from the DA’s office, which took over six months to obtain.  With over 2,500 pages, Wade reviewed the records and researched similar cases in medical journals and found two to include in the Grand Jury packet which were case studies of infants who presented with nearly the exact injuries as his case: 

  1. “The Significance of Macrocephaly or Enlarging Head Circumference in Infants with the Triad – Further Evidence of Mimics of Shaken Baby Syndrome” by David Miller, BS, Patrick Barnes, MD and Marvin Miller, MD
  1. “Subdural Hematomas in Infants with Benign Enlargement of the Subarachnoid Spaces are not Pathognomonic for Child Abuse,” by P.D. McNeely, J.D. Atkinson, G. Saigal, A.M. O’Gorman and J.P. Farmer

Ironically, in September 2019, NBC in partnership with the Houston Chronicle, published a series of investigative articles on this very subject, including one that donned the front page of the Chronicle, just days before our client’s case was presented to the Grand Jury. Wade added the article to the packet he sent to the Grand Jury.

“This was a very difficult case because as I read through the records and through those medical journals and the news articles and all the statements, there were times I had to step away because it was so frustrating. I felt the frustration our client and all of these parents I was reading about must have felt;  ‘IS ANYBODY LISTENING?’  For all of these parents it must have been like those cliché nightmares where you open your mouth to scream but nothing comes out. My hope was that the Grand Jury would finally hear us.”

Last week Wade received the news from the Grand Jury he’d been waiting for…the case was No-Billed. “I was ecstatic and couldn’t wait to tell the client,” Wade said. “The phone call to him was definitely an emotional one.” 

“I am just so relieved.  I feel like the weight of the world has been lifted off my shoulders,” our client said.  “I was overwhelmed with happiness and started crying on the phone when Wade told me the outcome. I’m very appreciative and overwhelmed with joy and just so happy.“


What's the Real Cost of a DWI in Texas?

Every 20 minutes an alcohol-impaired driver kills someone in a DUI crash in Texas.  If you or a loved one need help with a DUI or DWI in Texas, call the #DUICarCrashAttorneys today!

Recent year TX stats according to MADD:

  • 1,337 drunk driving fatalities [representing 39.5% of all traffic deaths]. This is a 3.6% increase from last year.
  • 15,687 alcohol related crash injuries
  • 25,479 alcohol related crashes
  • 99,195 DUI arrests
  • 71,030 DUI convictions

Texas DWI fines according to the Texas Department of Public Safety (TxDOT):

1st Offense

  • A fine of up to $2,000
  • 3 days to 180 days in jail
  • Loss of driver license up to 1 year
  • Annual fee of $1,000 or $2,000 for 3 years to keep driver license

2nd Offense

  • A fine of up to $4,000
  • 1 month to a year in jail
  • Loss of driver license up to 2 years
  • Annual fee of $1,000, $1,500 or $2,000 for 3 years to keep driver license

3rd Offense

  • A $10,000 fine
  • Two to 10 years in prison
  • Loss of driver license up to two years
  • Annual fee of $1,000, $1,500, or $2,000 for three years to retain driver license

More on Repeat DWI Offenses

After two or more DWI convictions in five years, a special device must be installed on the vehicle. This ignition switch acts as a mini breath test device that won’t allow the vehicle to start if the driver has been drinking. Ignition switches cost $70.00 to $100.00 per month.

Cost of a DWI in Texas: DWI Education Program

This 12 hour course is designed for first-time offenders on probation. The program teaches how alcohol and drugs affect the body, mind and driving abilities. It also addresses Texas DWI laws, substance abuse and dependency.

This course must be completed within 180 days from the first day of probation.

Cost of a DWI in Texas: Fees to Reinstate Driver's License & Surcharges

Fees and surcharges related to reinstating a driver's license varies, depending on age and case but everyone must pay a $125 fee for license reinstatement after an Administrative License Revocation (ALR), which can happen whenever a chemical test is refused or failed. Also, depending on the DWI education program, surcharges can range from $1,000 to $2,000 every year for three years. 

Cost of a DWI in Texas: Auto Insurance

The auto insurance rate will increase after the conviction even after a lot of time has passed.  Renewal rates usualy increase when a provider reviews the driving report and sees the conviction.

Cost of a DWI in Texas: The Job

A DWI leaves a mark on a persons' record forever which can result in unfavorable background checks.  People can also lose their current job because of time needed to take off work to meet with the parole officer (if this is a part of punishment) and fulfilling community service and other requirements. 

Other potential costs:

  • Bail: ranges from several hundred to several thousand dollars
  • Towing & impound fees:  $100—$200
  • Required classes
  • House arrest can be given (including an ankle bracelet and associated costs and requirements)
  • Community service
  • A DWI education program
  • Fees to reinstate driver's license and surcharges

The real cost of a DWI in Texas depends on several factors including nuances of the case, number of offenses and other factors.  The attorney hired makes a difference in the outcome.  Call us today for a FREE Consultation!  Don't wait...several actions can be taken before this goes to court.  The earlier an attorney is hired, the better.

#BestDUIAttorneysHouston

#BestDUIAttorneysNearMe

#BestDWILawyers77079

#BestDWIAttorneysHarrisCounty

#BestDWILawyersHouston

#BestCriminalDefenseLawyersNearMe


What's the Real Cost of a DWI in Texas?

Every 20 minutes an alcohol-impaired driver kills someone in a DUI crash in Texas.  If you or a loved one need help with a DUI or DWI in Texas, call the #DUICarCrashAttorneys today!

Recent year TX stats according to MADD:

  • 1,337 drunk driving fatalities [representing 39.5% of all traffic deaths]. This is a 3.6% increase from last year.
  • 15,687 alcohol related crash injuries
  • 25,479 alcohol related crashes
  • 99,195 DUI arrests
  • 71,030 DUI convictions

Texas DWI fines according to the Texas Department of Public Safety (TxDOT):

1st Offense

  • A fine of up to $2,000
  • 3 days to 180 days in jail
  • Loss of driver license up to 1 year
  • Annual fee of $1,000 or $2,000 for 3 years to keep driver license

2nd Offense

  • A fine of up to $4,000
  • 1 month to a year in jail
  • Loss of driver license up to 2 years
  • Annual fee of $1,000, $1,500 or $2,000 for 3 years to keep driver license

3rd Offense

  • A $10,000 fine
  • Two to 10 years in prison
  • Loss of driver license up to two years
  • Annual fee of $1,000, $1,500, or $2,000 for three years to retain driver license

More on Repeat DWI Offenses

After two or more DWI convictions in five years, a special device must be installed on the vehicle. This ignition switch acts as a mini breath test device that won’t allow the vehicle to start if the driver has been drinking. Ignition switches cost $70.00 to $100.00 per month.

Cost of a DWI in Texas: DWI Education Program

This 12 hour course is designed for first-time offenders on probation. The program teaches how alcohol and drugs affect the body, mind and driving abilities. It also addresses Texas DWI laws, substance abuse and dependency.

This course must be completed within 180 days from the first day of probation.

Cost of a DWI in Texas: Fees to Reinstate Driver's License & Surcharges

Fees and surcharges related to reinstating a driver's license varies, depending on age and case but everyone must pay a $125 fee for license reinstatement after an Administrative License Revocation (ALR), which can happen whenever a chemical test is refused or failed. Also, depending on the DWI education program, surcharges can range from $1,000 to $2,000 every year for three years. 

Cost of a DWI in Texas: Auto Insurance

The auto insurance rate will increase after the conviction even after a lot of time has passed.  Renewal rates usualy increase when a provider reviews the driving report and sees the conviction.

Cost of a DWI in Texas: The Job

A DWI leaves a mark on a persons' record forever which can result in unfavorable background checks.  People can also lose their current job because of time needed to take off work to meet with the parole officer (if this is a part of punishment) and fulfilling community service and other requirements. 

Other potential costs:

  • Bail: ranges from several hundred to several thousand dollars
  • Towing & impound fees:  $100—$200
  • Required classes
  • House arrest can be given (including an ankle bracelet and associated costs and requirements)
  • Community service
  • A DWI education program
  • Fees to reinstate driver's license and surcharges

The real cost of a DWI in Texas depends on several factors including nuances of the case, number of offenses and other factors.  The attorney hired makes a difference in the outcome.  Call us today for a FREE Consultation!  Don't wait...several actions can be taken before this goes to court.  The earlier an attorney is hired, the better.

#BestDUIAttorneysHouston

#BestDUIAttorneysNearMe

#BestDWILawyers77079

#BestDWIAttorneysHarrisCounty

#BestDWILawyersHouston

#BestCriminalDefenseLawyersNearMe


Guidelines to Finding a Good Family Law Attorney

A #FamilyLawAttorney is an attorney who handles the legal matters of families including marriage, divorce, child custody, property, ownership, etc.  When a person has a legal issue in family matters a family law attorney needs to be hired.

 

Here are guidelines to finding the #BestFamilyLawAttorneyNearMe:  

 

Research the Law Firm

Research family lawyers in your area and gather information about his or her background by going to the website for the law firm.  You also want to go to social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Google+, YouTube and LinkedIn to learn more.  Be sure to go to review sites such as AVVO and Yelp and Google My Business to learn what others are saying about your potential family lawyer.  

Schedule a Consultation

Call the family law attorney you decided to research to get a consultation.  This gives you the opportunity to find out who the attorney is and how he or she can best assist with your case.  Some attorneys charge a consultation fee; at Looney & Conrad, our consultations are free.

Bring Your Documents to the Consultation

When you call the family law attorney, ask what documents you need to bring with you for the consultation and then take copies of the documents with you. Leave the original documents at home in a safe place.  

Think About Your Case

Gather details about your case and make notes to ensure you give the family law attorney every piece of information you have. The family law attorney will ask a lot of questions and you need to answer them properly and in detail.  Even what may appear to be a minor detail can make a difference in winning a case in court.

Make the List of Questions to Ask

Bring a list of questions with you that you want to ask the family law attorney about your case, about the lawyer and about the fee.

The sooner you make the decision about which family law attorney to hire, the sooner he or she can begin work on your case and the sooner you will get the issues resolved.  


Guidelines to Finding a Good Family Law Attorney

A #FamilyLawAttorney is an attorney who handles the legal matters of families including marriage, divorce, child custody, property, ownership, etc.  When a person has a legal issue in family matters a family law attorney needs to be hired.

 

Here are guidelines to finding the #BestFamilyLawAttorneyNearMe:  

 

Research the Law Firm

Research family lawyers in your area and gather information about his or her background by going to the website for the law firm.  You also want to go to social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Google+, YouTube and LinkedIn to learn more.  Be sure to go to review sites such as AVVO and Yelp and Google My Business to learn what others are saying about your potential family lawyer.  

Schedule a Consultation

Call the family law attorney you decided to research to get a consultation.  This gives you the opportunity to find out who the attorney is and how he or she can best assist with your case.  Some attorneys charge a consultation fee; at Looney & Conrad, our consultations are free.

Bring Your Documents to the Consultation

When you call the family law attorney, ask what documents you need to bring with you for the consultation and then take copies of the documents with you. Leave the original documents at home in a safe place.  

Think About Your Case

Gather details about your case and make notes to ensure you give the family law attorney every piece of information you have. The family law attorney will ask a lot of questions and you need to answer them properly and in detail.  Even what may appear to be a minor detail can make a difference in winning a case in court.

Make the List of Questions to Ask

Bring a list of questions with you that you want to ask the family law attorney about your case, about the lawyer and about the fee.

The sooner you make the decision about which family law attorney to hire, the sooner he or she can begin work on your case and the sooner you will get the issues resolved.  


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Call Us Today at 281-597-8818
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11767 Katy Freeway, Suite 740 Houston, Texas 77079

or 979-826-8484
918 Austin Street Hempstead, Texas 77445