By: Mark Diaz
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Legal Questions Answered By Galveston Criminal Defense Lawyer
What should I do if I’m arrested?
The first thing that you should do is bond out of jail. Once you’ve bonded out, you need to contact an attorney and start getting your defense together. With most criminal cases, it’s important that you get started right away building your defense and working on what you need to address certain issues in the case. That is going to be different from case to case, but that’s why you need to get with your attorney as soon as possible and get those things started.
Without a more specific question, it would be hard for me to tell you what you would need to do. For instance, in a DWI case, you have a time frame that starts immediately once you get arrested for challenging the suspension of your driver’s license, you need to do that. You will need to get with your attorney to do that. So it’s important to get with an attorney and not speak to the police or do anything once you’ve been arrested. Hire an attorney and start on your defense.
What is the difference between a felony and a misdemeanor?
Generally speaking, the biggest difference is the range of punishment. A class C misdemeanor is a ticket with no jail time, a class B misdemeanor is up to 180 days in jail, and a $2,000 fine. Class A is up to a year in jail and a $4,000 fine. Then you have state jail felonies, which are six months to two years in a state jail facility and a fine not to exceed $10,000. A third-degree felony is two to 10 years with a $10,000 fine. A second-degree felony could result in two to 20 years and up to a $10,000 fine.
Then of course first-degree felony, which is five to 99 or life, and again with the possibility of a $10,000 fine. Above that, we have capital, which can be capital, non-death, or capital death penalty cases. Generally speaking, those are the differences between a felony and a misdemeanor. Collaterally there can be other differences.
There are many misdemeanors that, depending upon what you do for a living, may not affect you. There are also simple collateral consequences that people don’t think of, for example, some apartment complexes won’t take you if you have been convicted of a felony. So it is the range of punishment.
What is the average cost of a criminal defense attorney?
It is almost impossible to say for sure. There is not an average cost per se. I’ve been licensed and doing criminal defense since 1998. So there’s a difference between what I’m going to charge and somebody who’s only been out of law school two years. Simply based on experience, my services will typically cost more. Although it’s tough to say what the “average” cost would be.
If I’m convicted of a crime while in the United States legally, can I be deported?
The simplest way to answer that is to say, yes. However, it depends on what you mean when you say “while in the United States legally”. If you’re a lawful permanent resident, for example, you could be convicted of a crime serious enough to have the US government move to revoke your residency, and have you deported. If you become a naturalized citizen, then the answer is no, they can’t undo your citizenship. If you’re simply here on a visa, and you commit a crime, then obviously, they could revoke that visa. So it depends on what status you hold. If you are an LPR, not every conviction would lead to the government seeking to remove your status and have you deported.
Why do I need a lawyer’s help if I’m accused of a crime?
The reason is because it is someone’s job to prosecute you. We have spent years studying the law and learning how to practice law. Without an attorney there to defend you, how would you know what questions the prosecutor might ask you, that you can answer?
There’s not an instance I can think of where it would be a good idea to walk into a courtroom and try to defend yourself of a crime. Sure lots of people go to traffic court by themselves, but that’s a different situation. Being convicted of a crime can have lifelong consequences. That’s why you’re going to need the help of an attorney, should you find yourself in that position.
What types of questions should I ask a criminal attorney?
If I was accused of a crime, I’m probably going to go see two or three lawyers. I’m going to ask them about their qualifications, I’m going to ask if they’ve ever handled a case like mine, have they tried jury trials? How many have they tried? There are plenty of lawyers that don’t try cases. There are plenty of lawyers that just plead everything.
At the end of the day, you need to hire whomever you feel most comfortable with, and whomever you feel you can communicate with. Without the ability to communicate, how can you feel comfortable about the advice that you’re getting from this attorney and the decisions you’re going to have to make? So really, the questions that you’re going to ask will change depending on the circumstances.
These days, there are a lot of resources you can use to look up information about an attorney. You can look on the clerk’s website, run that attorney’s name, see what kind of active cases they have, how many active cases they have, and so on.
Do all Criminal Lawyers go to court?
I don’t know how you could be a criminal attorney and not go to court. Unlike civil law, really all of our work is done in the courtroom. Especially when you’re talking about jury trials, but even in the interim, that’s when we interact with the prosecutors and do most of our work.
Now, If the question was meant to say, Do all Criminal Lawyers go to trial? That answer is no. There are plenty of lawyers who do not go to trial, although they won’t come right out and tell you that. You can look that up in public records. If an attorney tells you they’ve tried a case, you should be able to look it up and verify.
Do I have to tell my attorney everything?
The answer there is very clearly yes. First of all, our conversation is privileged and the attorney can’t share that information. If they did, that would be a violation and subject to discipline by the bar association.
The worst thing you can do is not tell your attorney something and then they get blindsided by it. If we don’t know about it, we can’t prepare for it. If we know about the bad information and can figure out a way to prepare for it, we can do something. However, if you haven’t told us, there isn’t anything we can do.
What is the role of the grand jury?
In the state of Texas, every felony must go before the grand jury to determine whether or not that case will go forward. The Grand Jury hears the evidence from the prosecution only, and then issues either a true build or no build. In a true build, the case proceeds forward to the felony court system until it’s ultimately resolved. If it’s a no-build, the case dies right there.
Now, in the grand jury, only the prosecution is allowed. A defendant can choose to testify before the grand jury, however, his lawyer is not allowed in the room with him, so as you can imagine, that very rarely happens.
There are times when we as defense attorneys prepare what we call grand jury packets, which is a packet full of written information about our client, our take on the case, the charges, and whatever the deficiencies are. We will present that to the grand jury during the prosecution for the grand jury to consider. Oftentimes we have been successful with that.
Can you tell your attorney you’re guilty?
Yes, of course. When I look at a case, my analysis is “Can the state prove the elements beyond a reasonable doubt?”. It matters to me not whether you’re guilty or not guilty. It matters to me what the evidence is, and can the state sufficiently use that evidence to convict? If not, then we’re gonna win, regardless of what you think your guilt or innocence is.
What happens if I don’t show up for court?
So typically, if you don’t show up for a scheduled court setting, the state will move for bond forfeiture and a warrant will be issued for your arrest. Now, that having been said, if there are certain circumstances, such as, you were in the hospital, and you can give me documentation on that, I can fix that. Again, that just goes back to communication. If you had communicated that to me before, I probably could have gotten a court date change. Generally speaking, if you don’t show up for court, you’re going to get a warrant issued for your arrest.
Should I take a polygraph?
The answer generally, is no. Especially if you mean that the police are talking to you, without the benefit of your attorney being present. You shouldn’t be talking to the police without your attorney present. If they want you to take a polygraph, that means they don’t have anything and they’re looking for something to use against you. polygraph results are not admissible in court anyway.
There have been times that I’ve had clients take a polygraph at my direction with my expert, knowing that it won’t be used in court. Sometimes it sways toward prosecution. Sometimes we can get that before the grand jury and they’ll consider it.
Does my old criminal record matter?
Yes, a criminal record is your criminal record for life. An easy example is DWI. Let’s say you had a DWI, 20 years ago, you’ve already forgotten about it. And then five years after that, you got another one. It’s been so long, 20, then 15 years ago, you really don’t even think of them anymore. Now you find yourself with a DWI. Even though those older ones are 20 and 15 years old, you’re still going to be charged with DWI “Third”, which is a felony. This works the same way for the enhancement of penalties on other cases. So, yes, your old criminal history matters. It never goes away. That’s again, why you should never walk into court without a lawyer.
If you have questions about a case you may have call Galveston criminal defense lawyer, Mark Diaz at (409) 515-6170 or use the form on our contact page for a free initial consultation.