About Tillet J Mills II

As a recent graduate from the University of Missouri-Columbia law school, Attorney Tillet J. Mills II has dedicated his legal practice to the defense of men and women facing a wide range of criminal matters. Since moving to Harris County recently, he has remained committed to helping his clients secure the best outcomes possible. With a public speaking background, a long-documented history of charity work, and a relatable personality, Tillet J Mills II has the skillset of a successful criminal defense lawyer.

Contact Tillet at 832-942-8389
tillet.mills@gmail.com

What’s The Problem With Pre-Trial Interventions?

As I keep progressing in my legal career, certain things that District Attorneys do continue to confound and bewilder me. This week, it was the seeming reluctance of ADA’s to allow me to put together pre-trial intervention packets for clients, because of very minor past charges that clients had on their record. For example, I was denied the opportunity to put together a PTI packet for a client who was suspected of DWI, because she had a marijuana possession charge. While the rules on PTI state that they’re for people with “clean” records, why is this the case? Maybe it’s the fact that I’m a defense attorney, but I believe in keeping people’s criminal records as clean as possible. ADA’s don’t seem to understand how hard it is for some people to find employment in general, much less with a criminal record of any kind. I know clients that have deferred adjudications on their record for relatively minor offenses that have trouble finding jobs for that exact reason. I realize that ADA’s in Harris County have a great deal of cases to deal with, but it’s appalling to me how much they seem to disregard the lives of each individual defendant.

Briefly, just in case there are other young attorneys that might be reading this, I want to outline how to properly put together a pre-trial intervention packet. First, your client has to put together a detailed statement explaining his offense, and his conduct that led to his offense. This will not be used against him in the future, except to impeach him if he testifies inconsistently at trial. Our good friends JoAnne Musick, Danny Easterling, and Wade Smith were able to convince the District Attorney’s office to remove language that stated that law enforcement could keep its records if the intervention was granted and you wanted to expunge your client’s record later. Huge boon for defense attorneys. Secondly, you will need to write a statement for your client stating why pretrial intervention would be more beneficial than deferred adjudication. Lastly, collect as many letters from family members, or friends of the client as possible that show support for him and his situation, as well as assuring the court that he will never again participate in criminal activity.

Why?

Why?

Why wake up every day as a criminal defense attorney?

Why give your life’s passion, effort, and due diligence to a field that has such a high rate of burnout, substance abuse, and turnover?

Why continue to work for clients that might disrespect you, underappreciate you, and try to pay you less than what you’re worth?

Why deal with prosecutors or judges that are unreasonable, and sometimes unwilling to work with you, when you’re trying to reach an amicable result on cases?

Why come out of law school as a solo practitioner, and not go work at the District Attorney’s office?

Because you learn to love it.

You learn to appreciate the little things about each day, as cliché as it may sound. You learn to appreciate waiting on the elevators at the Harris County Courthouse, and the small relationships you make each day with court staff, and other attorneys. You learn to appreciate the frustrations that inevitably arise in each case, and learn how to work around some of the unworkable people in the courthouse. You learn to cherish the gift of being self-employed, even though you might have to put in extra hours other people might normally not have to do.

Lawyering: Now What?: 4 Things to Remember After You’ve Gotten Started

  1. Never Stop Working

The first time you make a bit of money, it may be tempting to shift your focus to other cases, or, actually enjoying what you’ve made up to this point. DON’T. As a young lawyer starting out on your own, you’re at a severe disadvantage when you take on cases. First, you have a lack of experience with not only actually handling the legal issues in the cases, but experience being in front of the particular judges, and dealing with the prosecutors in each particular court you’re in.

From my experience up to this point, never underestimate the importance of relationships in criminal law. It sounds cliché, but your first impression that you give to people you work with is the one that sticks with people, and one that will be extremely difficult to change. If you’re a solo practitioner in criminal law, prosecutors are technically your coworkers for each case. That all goes to say, as a young attorney, you’re going to have to outwork more experienced attorneys, as they’ve got the benefit of time on their side.

 

  1. Take Every Opportunity Given

Just being frank, when you’re a young attorney, you’re going to have to take cases where clients don’t have your full amount of money upfront, or get paid in other ways. While by no means am I saying take cases that you feel uncomfortable about, or are morally opposed to, sometimes you’re going to have to accept alternate forms of payment, or things of the sort. For example, one of my first cases as an attorney involved being paid in the form of a lien on a client’s personal injury settlement. While I needed the money at the the time, I also needed clients, so I accepted the lien, and ended up getting his case dismissed. I thought that I would never end up getting paid on the case, but lo and behold, I received a check in the mail last month for the full amount of my fee, all at once. It made the month a little bit more special.

 

  1. Never stop learning

I think that I briefly covered this in one of my previous articles, but I cannot state it enough. NEVER STOP READING THE LAW. NEVER. STOP. READING. THE. LAW. Law is a fluid practice. Court decisions happen every day that create new precedents, which in turn affects your cases, as well as everyone else’s. Don’t be the one that’s a bit behind.

 

  1. Be Yourself

Above all else, never let an occupation, or passion change who you are at heart. Clients relate to someone that can relate to them. Putting on a fake version of yourself, or thinking you need to act a certain way because you’re an attorney, isn’t what makes you a better attorney, or what makes clients relate to you. My mentor told me to always be myself, and that was probably the single best piece of advice I’ve been given up to this point.

Utah v. Strieff and Riley v. California

Two Important New Precedents for Criminal Lawyers

While drafting a couple of motions to suppress this week, I ran across two cases recently decided by the Supreme Court, that both deal with important issues for searches by law enforcement.

The first, Utah v. Strieff deals with Narcotics detectives who recovered narcotics and drug paraphernalia from an apparently unlawful investigatory stop. In this case, the specific reason for the stop was because they witnessed the suspect leave a house that was suspected of selling drugs.   Usually, police officers cannot simply stop people, or suspects because of this reason, though this reason, or others like it are typically used by law enforcement for racial profiling. However, in this particular case, the court held that the evidence seized from the suspect was admissible, because of a pre-existing arrest warrant. All in all, the court held that if there is no flagrant police misconduct, and a police officer finds a valid arrest warrant on a suspect, then evidence seized because of that arrest is admissible, even if its unconstitutional. This is troubling for a number of reasons. First, in light of the racially charged circumstances taking place throughout the United States, the requirement of “flagrant police misconduct” is left open to interpretation by the courts. This creates a whole host of problems, especially which the lack of liability assigned to law enforcement by the courts recently. Secondly, from a defense lawyer’s perspective, all that prosecutors will have to prove in court is that the discovery of the warrant attenuated the connection between the unlawful stop and the evidence. Pretty low bar to clear in my opinion. [Ed. note: take care of those warrants before driving: help your lawyer help you!]

The second case, Riley v. California, is a case that deals with cellphone evidence. As people prove to be increasingly dependent on smartphones, as well as other cellular devices, this case sets a precedent that could prove to be very helpful for criminal defense attorneys. In Riley v. California, the Supreme Court ruled that the search of electronic data on a cellphone seized pursuant to an arrest is unconstitutional. For possible clients reading this, or people in general, do NOT give away consent for law enforcement to search your cellphone. The right to hand it over to them is yours, but in most cases, it will not help you. For attorneys, simply keep this in mind. For an in-depth analysis of Riley, take a look at Drew Willey’s Defender article.

I hope that the understanding of these two cases will prove to not only be helpful for attorneys, but for people of all ages, race, and creed in general.

5 Quick Ways to Get Your Practice Off the Ground

hints_btnAs stated in my first article for Reasonable Doubt, I plan to continue to write articles to aid young lawyers such as myself. In this piece, I outline 5 quick ways to make your transition from struggling law student to struggling criminal defense lawyer a little bit easier.

  1. Run Lean

This might be the most important piece of advice I have ever been given. My mother and father ran their own medical practice, and they always used to preach the importance of keeping your expenses low. As someone that started my own law practice shortly after passing the bar, I cannot emphasize this enough. Unless you know something I don’t, money is VERY short when you’re starting your own practice, so unnecessary expenses can sink you before you start. Don’t fall prey to online advertisers that constantly call you promising a certain amount of clients for a price, it’s not the best way to allocate money. Try to find an experienced lawyer that has extra space in his/her office and needs help with resets, or other things they don’t feel like doing. It’s a much better way to approach starting a practice, and it helps provide invaluable experience.

  1. Find Experienced Mentors

Again, unless you know something that I don’t, when you start off practicing criminal law, you do NOT know what you’re doing. Having as many mentors as possible is invaluable, as they are valuable resources to bounce ideas off of, as well as people that can help you with any number of things, whether it’s sitting with you at trial, or helping with motions. Oftentimes, a problem that you have no idea how to solve is something that an experienced lawyer has done many times over, especially when you’re starting off. (HCCLA has an excellent mentoring program comprised of “second chair” and “brainstorming” opportunities.)

  1. Stay Organized

As a horribly disorganized person working to right my wrongs, STAY ORGANIZED! Use law practice management software, and make sure to collect money from clients in a way that works for you. Personally, I use Square Invoicing, Clio, and Docusign. Square Invoicing allows me to automatically import payments into my Quickbooks, which makes accounting easier. Clio simply allows me to keep track of what’s going on in my practice. Docusign allows me to electronically store all of my representation contracts online, which is easier than having to keep up with a bunch of paper contracts. And no, I’m not getting paid to promote any of those apps.

  1. Stay Updated on the Law

One of the best pieces of advice that I was given since I’ve became an attorney was given to me by the esteemed Robert Alton Jones, my mentor. He told me that once you become a lawyer, you cannot stop reading the law. While this may seem like a very basic piece of advice, keeping up with the law can prove to be invaluable. Read law journals, and subscribe to Justia updates online. Oftentimes, having a figurative “bag of tricks” can save one of your clients in a pinch.

  1. Be Respectful

Finally, DO NOT let being an attorney go to your head. At the end of the day, it’s a job just like anything else. Be respectful to not only clients, but court staff and prosecutors. Prosecutors are people just like anybody else, and they see tons of defense attorneys. Be the one that stands out because of how respectful and agreeable you are, not the one that stands out because they hate dealing with you. Also, help from court staff is invaluable, because every court has different rules. Having them on your side can bail you out when you make your inevitable rookie mistake. You can get more flies with honey than vinegar…or something like that.