Stephen Gustitis

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Stephen Gustitis is a criminal defense lawyer in Bryan-College Station. He is Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. He is also a husband, father, and retired amateur bicycle racer.

“Off the Back” is an expression in competitive road cycling describing a rider dropped by the lead group who has lost the energy saving benefit of riding in the group’s slipstream. Once off the back the rider struggles alone in the wind to catch up. The life of a criminal defense lawyer shares many of the characteristics of a bicycle rider struggling alone, in the wind, and “Off the Back.” This column is for them.

Stories from Stephen Gustitis

Saturday, October 10th, 2015

Batson v. Kentucky is again front and center in the United States Supreme Court. On May 26, 2015 the Court granted certiorari in Foster v. Chatman (No. 14-8349, 2015 Term). The case is currently set for argument on November 2, 2015. In Foster, Georgia prosecutors struck all four African-American prospective jurors from the death penalty venire and provided roughly a dozen “race-neutral” reasons for their peremptory strikes.

Thursday, August 13th, 2015

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) spent many thousands of dollars on studies to develop a battery of DWI investigation tools called field sobriety tests. The studies were funded by NHTSA to validate and standardize the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN), the Walk-and-Turn, and the One-Leg-Stand tests. Standardization meant developing a method of administering and interpreting each test. Validation meant determining whether a correlation existed between test performance and a designated breath/blood alcohol content (BAC).

Friday, July 10th, 2015

The United States Constitution guarantees our right to a jury trial in both the original document and the Bill of Rights.1 The same right is further guaranteed by our Texas Constitution, art. 1, sec. 15. But more precisely, each constitution guarantees the criminally accused a right to a jury that is fair and impartial. To this end, voir dire was designed as the mechanism to ensure impartiality. It’s the primary means by which bias is discovered in potential jurors. However, even the U.S.

Thursday, May 21st, 2015

Trial lawyers are masters of disguise. They learn to shroud fear, surprise, uncertainty, and a plethora of other emotions that might damage their credibility with jurors or a position of strength with an adversary. Similarly, those same skills enable them to conceal the repercussions of a dark side of practicing law. Stress, depression, mental illness, and substance abuse. These struggles are reality for many of our colleagues. There is help, thankfully. But the path toward healing begins with a frank discussion of this life-threatening problem. 

Sunday, April 12th, 2015

The perfect cross-examination is there. Somewhere to be discovered, perhaps? Better yet—waiting to be built. We recognize its appearance, though. It is crisp and it’s clean. Short questions compelling but one-word answers from the witness. Its logic is simple yet compelling. The perfect cross demands the jury’s attention. Through it we demonstrate our mastery of the facts and tell our story. It provides us meticulous witness control. It is smooth and powerful. Its timing is flawless. Moreover, the cross-examiner is the star.

Wednesday, March 4th, 2015

Joining forces. Teaming up. Going partners. Whatever you call it, choosing a law partner can be a pivotal decision in one’s career. Most criminal defense attorneys practice solo, enjoying the “lone-wolf” style of life. However, a well working partnership can enhance the lives of each partner in ways that one lawyer working alone cannot. Conversely, the wrong collaboration (as in marriage) could mean professional and financial disaster. So, what essential qualities should your partner have if you’re contemplating the plunge?

Thursday, February 12th, 2015

Here’s my take on another inauspicious decision by the United States Supreme Court. It’s Heien v. North Carolina, 574 U.S. __, 135 S.Ct. 530, 190 L.Ed.2d 475 (2014). If you’ve been under a rock recently and missed the action, the upshot of the case is police officers can now rely upon a reasonable mistake of law to justify a traffic stop. In April 2009, a Surry County–North Carolina sheriff’s deputy stopped a vehicle because one of its two brake lights was not functioning. The deputy believed this was a traffic offense. Mr.

Tuesday, January 20th, 2015

Criminal defense lawyers are reservoirs of credibility. We work to establish it with prosecutors, judges, and witnesses... not to mention the juries who adjudge our clients’ fate. With potential new clients, from the moment they decide to call for the first consultation, until our case file is closed, credibility makes the attorney-client relationship work. Consequently, marketing our credibility is an important strategy to distinguish ourselves from the fierce competition for legal services.

Saturday, December 6th, 2014

The DWI blood test case is becoming the stock-in-trade of many law enforcement agencies across the state. Whether it’s a sample provided voluntarily after arrest, or obtained via search warrant following a refusal, defending blood tests are now commonplace for the DWI defense attorney. Making preparation more demanding is the technical nature of these cases. In fact, DWI blood tests may be on the list of most dreaded cases to defend. Nevertheless, prosecutors are relying on the blood tests, which compels defense lawyers to effectively defend them.

Tuesday, November 4th, 2014

Providing clients the highest level of customer service is a top priority. Generally, high quality service results from the time we invest in a case, and legion are the justifications for managing our caseloads accordingly. More time invested generally means better service. One caseload management approach is expressly rejecting new clients. However, I was never fond of that technique since I feared developing a reputation for saying “no.” I believed the reputation might hinder the flow of potential new clients to my door.

Thursday, October 2nd, 2014

For young criminal defense attorneys learning the ropes, “Who should polygraph my client?” is a familiar question. There are limited exceptions to this rule but, generally, defense attorneys should not permit their client to submit to a polygraph examination administered by the police. The best reason is results of the police administered polygraph, including pre- and post-polygraph interviews with the client, are not protected by the attorney/client privilege.

Tuesday, August 19th, 2014

Off the Back” is a phrase used in competitive road cycling describing a rider dropped by the lead group who, consequently, has lost the energy-saving benefit of riding in the group’s slipstream. Once off the back the rider struggles alone in the wind to catch up. It’s difficult and lonely. Often you feel as if you’ll never catch up. Nevertheless, riding off the back does have one redeeming quality... it makes one a stronger and more determined rider.

University Discipline: The Illusion of Due Process
Wednesday, November 6th, 2013

Thousands of students face campus discipline courts each year at both public and private universities. Penalties range from letters of reprimand to suspension or expulsion from school. For students with related criminal charges, the campus disciplinary process carries added risk.