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JP calls me regarding an attorney that is attempting to file criminal theft of service charges on a (former?) client that has failed to pay the attorney fee, or a portion thereof, for their civil lawsuit. I expect that there was a contract for legal services. I've only been prosecuting 18 years but this is the first such complaint that has made it to my desk. Any words of wisdom or good response for what I am thinking about this request?
 
Posts: 39 | Location: Sinton, Texas, USA | Registered: February 26, 2004Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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I wouldn't touch it with a ten foot pole.
 
Posts: 244 | Registered: November 02, 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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What we have is a private attorney who well may draft a criminal complaint for felony theft of service and present it to the magistrate for an arrest warrant, then on to the prosecutor. Is there any statutory reason the prosecutor does not then become the collection agent for all unpaid attorney fees?, or accountant fees?, or orthodontist fees?
 
Posts: 39 | Location: Sinton, Texas, USA | Registered: February 26, 2004Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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First of all, sounds like the lawyer needs to collect his own fees. Secondly, I hope he isn't threatening a client with criminal action to gain an advantage in a civil suit he may have for collection of fees. And lastly, stay out of it.
 
Posts: 374 | Location: Houston, TX | Registered: July 25, 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Waco attorney arrested for kidnapping client

WACO, Texas � A Waco lawyer faces a felony charge of kidnapping for allegedly abducting a client from his wedding celebration in an attempt to collect legal fees.

Waco police say Paula Allen, 51, took Rolando Castelan from his Dec. 10 wedding and then drove him around Waco in handcuffs as Castelan called friends and family from a cell phone to scrounge up the money he owed his lawyer, the Waco Tribune-Herald reported for its Friday edition.

Allen, who was arrested this week, referred calls to her lawyer, Ron Moody, when contacted by The Associated Press. Moody could not immediately be reached Thursday night.

Castelan, 31, hired Allen in April when he was arrested for possession of a stolen firearm, tampering with a government document and possession of a controlled substance.

Allen vouched for Castelan's bond amount of $5,000, police said. Six months later, a grand jury indicted Castelan on the drug possession charge, but he failed to show up to court.

Allen tried to persuade Castelan to come to court, but when he didn't, the court found her responsible for the $5,000 bond.

Police say she took Castelan from his wedding reception with the help of three "associates," whom police have not identified.

When Castelan's ex-wife agreed to meet and pay the money, Castelan managed to escape the Suburban he had been held in for four hours.

Castellan turned himself into authorities nine days later and remains in the McLennan County Jail for his indictment. His post-indictment warrant does not allow for a bond.

Allen was released from the McLennan County Jail on Wednesday on a personal recognizance bond.
 
Posts: 640 | Location: Longview, Texas | Registered: October 10, 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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When I first began reading the story in the paper this morning that Stacey posted, I figured it was a defense lawyer in love with her client as the reason for the ALLEGED abduction.
 
Posts: 2577 | Location: The Great State of Texas | Registered: December 26, 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Even if the JP files the case, since it is a felony, as you well know, you would then have 2 choices. Dismiss it as a civil matter or present it to the grand jury and like you said, see if they would like to be subject to indictment for failing to pay doctors, lawyers, etc. The great fear in presenting to a grand jury is that you never know what they will do, and you might end up with an indicted case.

Even if not premised on a written contract, it can still be a civil matter. Sounds like another infamous example of a plaintiff not wanting to pay attorney's fees to sue in civil court. Even if the amount was under the JP cap of $5k and he could receive a rather speedy trial compared to most backlogged CCL's, all he gets at the end of the trial is a nice judgement suitable for framing. Whereas with a criminal prosecution, he gets restitution or the D gets pen time, usually a stronger motivator to pay.

Many DA's like to present cases to grand jury's in hopes that if a no bill occurs, it somewhat insulates the DA from criticism. That is a good policy in many cases with iffy facts.

But otherwise, if a case is not a criminal matter to begin with, then it shouldn't be in the system to begin with. Besides, how can you prove intent NOT to pay at the inception of the relationship? If the case does get filed, I'm sure you'll hear lots of reasons from the respondent as to why the legal services merited no payment.
 
Posts: 2577 | Location: The Great State of Texas | Registered: December 26, 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Maybe as theft of service, it's different, but I always thought, if the relationship was contractual & one party failed to perform - did not provide money/product/service - then such failure to perform, without evidence of other similar transactions, was not theft and could not be successfully prosecuted as theft.
 
Posts: 124 | Location: West Texas | Registered: June 25, 2003Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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oh, just maybe, (and by no means do I mean to open Pandora's box) the client felt he didn't get his money's worth, so failed to pay.
 
Posts: 319 | Location: Midland, TX | Registered: January 09, 2002Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Had an attorney talk to me about a potential client, told him he was crazy if he took the case... So of course he took it. When he got stiffed, he asked me to file theft charges against that client. I thanked him for brightening my day and wished him luck (but secretly didn't mean it).
 
Posts: 159 | Location: At the beach, Texas | Registered: June 12, 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Just got a case where an attorney went to pickup a saddle he was having reworked. He took the saddle out to his truck to "get his checkbook". The lawyer then got in his truck and drove off without paying for the saddle. When the saddle maker called the police and they contacted the attorney, the attorney claimed the saddle maker owed him some legal fees for "advice given at the saddle shop". The lawyer even prepared a bill that same date for his services and put it under the saddle makers door. the sad thing is this lawyer does this to people all of the time.
 
Posts: 233 | Location: Anderson, Texas | Registered: July 11, 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Theft of service may be possible. PC Sec. 31.01(6) includes professional services. Theft of service is more than not paying a bill. There must be fraud at the inception. If the client obtained the service with no intent to ever pay for it, you may have a case. A close examination of the facts is in order.
 
Posts: 1029 | Location: Fort Worth, TX | Registered: June 25, 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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