What do I say when police officers want to ask me questions?
Even if you did not do anything illegal and authorities have said you are not a suspect in a criminal case, you need to understand that there are several risks to speaking openly with law enforcement. You always have the right to remain silent and it is generally recommended that you not try to explain yourself until you have legal representation. Police officers have a tendency to mislead people about their rights in these cases and many people unknowingly make damaging statements, so you should always avoid speaking to the police until you have an attorney.
When must the police advise me of my rights?
Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 86 S. Ct. 1602 (1966) was the United States Supreme Court case which led to the creation of Miranda rights that require police officers to inform alleged offenders of their rights to remain silent and have a lawyer present for any questioning as well as a court appointing a lawyer if a person cannot afford one and any statements a person making being used against them in a court of law. The Miranda warning provision, however, only applies to situations in which alleged offenders are in custody and are being interrogated, as the Miranda warning does not apply in all other cases.
What happens if I am accused of a crime I did not commit?
If a law enforcement agency is questioning a person it believes is connected to a crime, there is usually some basis for this line of questioning. A person who did not commit a crime could be able to prove their innocence in court and get their criminal charges reduced or dismissed. It is important for people to remember that proving guilt in a criminal case in Texas requires a prosecutor to prove an alleged offender’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, one of the highest standards to satisfy. When a jury has reason to doubt whether a person committed an alleged offense, they must find the alleged offender not guilty.
What happens if I am convicted of a crime I did not commit?
It is not impossible for a judge or jury in Texas to make a mistake, but fortunately the state does allow people to appeal decisions they disagree with. When you file an appeal, you can ask a higher court to review your criminal cases and possible make changes when there are errors in the handling of a criminal case.
Do I need to hire a criminal defense lawyer for a misdemeanor?
It will usually be recommended that you retain legal counsel even when you are only facing misdemeanor charges. While a misdemeanor does not involve the same penalties as felony offenses, a conviction can still be incredibly damaging. You will want to be certain that you understand all of the consequences of a guilty plea and you may also want to try and fight the charges.
What is the difference between a misdemeanor and a felony?
The state of Texas has three different classifications of misdemeanor offenses, Class C misdemeanors, Class B misdemeanors, and Class A misdemeanors. A Class C misdemeanor can result in a fine of up to $500 but no jail time, a Class B misdemeanor is punishable by up to 180 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $2,000, and a Class A misdemeanor could lead to up to one year in jail and/or a fine of up to $4,000.
There are five different kinds of felonies in Texas, including the state jail felony, the third-degree felony, the second-degree felony, the first-degree felony, and the capital felony. A state jail felony conviction is punishable by up to two years in state jail and/or a fine of up to $10,000, a third-degree felony conviction is punishable by up to 10 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000, a second-degree felony conviction is punishable by up to 20 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000, a first-degree felony conviction is punishable by up to 99 years or life in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000, and a capital felony conviction could be punishable by death.
What are the steps of criminal procedure in Texas?
The criminal process in Texas will usually involve booking, arraignment, bail, a preliminary hearing, trial, sentencing, penalties, and appeal. Booking involves an alleged offender having their photograph taken and personal details recorded. At an arraignment, an alleged offender is informed of the charges against them and enters a plea. Bail may be awarded to certain alleged offenders and allows people to get out of jail and return for court appearances. The preliminary hearing is usually used to determine whether a trial will be necessary, and the trial will determine whether an alleged offender is guilty or innocent. If an alleged offender is convicted, then sentencing will be used to determine the fines an alleged offender must pay and how long they must be imprisoned. An alleged offender could be able to appeal their case when they disagree with the decision.
What is the difference between probation and deferred adjudication?
The difference between these two terms generally relates to whether a conviction will be visible following court proceedings. When a person is placed on probation, it will usually be for a specific term and there will be complete records of a person’s criminal case. If a person receives deferred adjudication, then it may be possible for the alleged offender to have the record of the conviction hidden from the public. Deferred adjudication is not automatic, however, so a person still needs to file a motion for an order of non-disclosure, which is the Texas way of sealing criminal records. It is important to keep in mind that even when a person obtains an order of non-disclosure, federal law will still consider these to be convictions.
What is pretrial diversion?
Pretrial diversion is an alternative to prosecution that allows alleged offenders to avoid being charged or, when charged, have charges dismissed. The federal government offers pretrial diversion to alleged offenders who are accused of an offense that should be diverted to the State for prosecution, do not have more than two prior felony convictions, were not a public official or former public official accused of an offense arising out of an alleged violation of public trust, or the offense related to national security or foreign affairs.
Call Our Galveston County Defense Lawyer With Your Criminal Law Questions
When you have been charged with a crime in Galveston County and the Greater Houston area, you need an experienced criminal defense lawyer who focuses exclusively on defending criminal cases and who will aggressively protect your rights.
Throughout my career, I have successfully handled every type of criminal defense case. More importantly, criminal defense is the only thing I do. I have witnessed firsthand how a criminal charge can negatively impact every area of a person’s life. As a criminal defense lawyer, I consider it a privilege to help people during this stressful time in their lives. Call me today at (409) 515-6170 for a free consultation to discuss.