ARE YOU ACCUSED OF A CRIME IN WILLIAMSON COUNTY OR ELSEWHERE?
There are many things you should know about the legal process if you are accused of a crime.....
The police officers and/or the police detectives who are investigating your criminal case are NOT your friends. The prosecutor (from the district attorney's office or the county attorney's office) is NOT your friend. Police officers are legally allowed to lie to you about the evidence in your case and about the availability of potential witnesses. Police officers are even legally allowed to lie to you about what potential witnesses have already said about the case in order to get you to confess and/or to help them solve the case. If you are the focus of the investigation (as a suspect or as a "person of interest"), they are most definitely NOT out to help you.
A prosecutor’s job is to prosecute, not to give legal advice to people charged with crimes.
IF YOU ARE A SUSPECT, NEVER TALK TO THE POLICE OR TO A PROSECUTOR BEFORE YOU DISCUSS YOUR SITUATION WITH YOUR OWN ATTORNEY. Even if you foolishly decide you want to speak to a police officer, a police detective, or a prosecutor, you can stop talking at any time.
Anything you say to a police officer or say in court or say to a prosecutor may be used against you. (And isn't it interesting that they will believe almost anything that you tell them that helps their case, but anything you tell them that HELPS you will be seen as "self serving.")
It is almost always a bad idea to speak to anyone who works for the police department or for the sheriff's office or for the prosecutor's office before speaking to your own attorney or without having your own attorney present for the entire conversation.
Think about it for a moment: If they already knew what they needed to know to conclusively prove that you committed a crime, then they would not waste their time speaking to you.
If they do not already have a conclusive case against you, then why in the world would you want to help them make a case against you???
You can always tell the police and prosecutors additional information later, BUT YOU CAN NEVER TAKE BACK INFORMATION THAT YOU TELL THEM BEFORE YOU CONSULT WITH YOUR OWN ATTORNEY.
If you can afford to do so, Texas law requires that you hire an attorney to represent you in court if you are charged with a felony offense in Texas. An attorney will be appointed to represent you in a felony case if you cannot afford to hire your own attorney. Many Texas counties (Travis County, for instance) will also require you to hire an attorney if you are charged with a misdemeanor that carries potential jail time.
In Williamson County, the local judges will not force you to hire an attorney if you are charged with a Class A or Class B misdemeanor. The potential punishment for a Class B misdemeanor is up to a $2000 fine and up to six months in jail. The potential punishment for a Class A misdemeanor is up to a $4000 fine and up to one year in jail.
Even though a local judge is not going to force you to hire an attorney to represent you in a misdemeanor case in Williamson County, you should hire an experienced attorney anyway because of the possibility of having to do some jail time and pay a substantial fine and the possible harm to your criminal record.
The truth is that you should hire your own attorney as soon as you find out that the police are looking at you for a possible felony or misdemeanor charge. Do not wait until you are arrested. Do not wait until you are indicted or otherwise formally charged.
If you hire an attorney as soon as you can, there is a chance that your attorney could help you avoid the filing of charges altogether or else arrange to have you charged with a lesser crime than you might otherwise be charged with. In Texas, you are required to have a lawyer to represent you in felony cases after the case gets to the courtroom. In Williamson County and some other Texas counties, the local judges will not make you hire an attorney to represent you in a Class A or Class B misdemeanor case even though you could be sentenced up to one year in the county jail for a Class A misdemeanor in Texas.
Just because a judge is not going to make you hire an attorney for a misdemeanor does not mean you will not benefit from hiring an experienced attorney to assist you. You should always hire an experienced lawyer to represent you in misdemeanor cases as well as in felony cases.
Sometimes in misdemeanor cases, a prosecutor or a bail bondsman or some other acquaintance who means well will tell you that hiring an attorney will just cost you unnecessary money and will not help your case. (You should not pay attention to legal advice from a bail bondsman. His/her advice is not nearly as valuable as legal advice from an experienced attorney. It is in the bail bondsman's financial interest for you to dispose of your case sooner rather than later because they are off the hook on your bond once you are sentenced for the crime.)
The truth is, if you don’t hire an attorney, it will make the prosecutor’s job easier. You will be more likely to pay a larger fine, be more likely to end up in jail, or possibly spend more time in jail or serve a longer term of probation than if you had hired an experienced attorney to help you with your criminal case.
Even if you are accused of "just" a misdemeanor, you need an attorney. Misdemeanor crimes in Texas can land you in jail for up to a full year. Sometimes there are collateral consequences to a misdemeanor conviction or misdemeanor probation such as an automatic driver's license suspension or a driver's license surcharge of up to $2,000 a year for three years that your lawyer can tell you about. Additionally, misdemeanor convictions can be used against you in the future if you ever get into trouble again. You should do what you can to avoid a felony or misdemeanor conviction, if possible.
If you do not hire an attorney, the judge or the prosecutor cannot give you legal advice. The judge will insist that you know the relevant law and the rules of courtroom procedure and the rules of evidence yourself or get an attorney. My strong advice is to get an experienced attorney to assist you with your case as soon as you can.
A theft conviction (even if it is a misdemeanor) may very well keep you from getting a good job in the future. Many employers will never hire anyone with a theft conviction, even if it is a misdemeanor theft conviction, to handle money for their business or to do any job that requires trustworthiness. Even if you think you are guilty, an attorney can tell you if the State’s evidence is sufficient to convict you in court. If you are charged with Theft by Check, for instance, you may think you are guilty just because you wrote the check. That kind of thinking is absolutely wrong!!!!
If you did some sloppy bookkeeping with your checking account, that does not make you a thief. I have handled many theft by check cases where there was never any intent to steal money. Often the first time a person is aware they are charged with the crime of "theft by check" is when they get arrested for the hot check case after a traffic stop or when they go to renew their driver's license at a DPS driver's license office. Many people never receive anything in the mail from their bank or from the local prosecutor's hot check office telling them there is a problem with one (or more than one) of the checks they wrote months or even years before they get arrested for the hot check case.
Because so many people fail to notify DPS of a change of address every time they move, they fail to get actual notice in the U.S. mail from the authorities that a check has bounced. They first learn of a hot check problem when they get arrested after a traffic stop months or years after the bookkeeping problem that led to the check bouncing at their bank.
If you change your residence and close out a checking account at approximately the same time, then the bank may never tell you that you bounced a check due to a math error or due to a problem with one of your deposits. Many times someone at the old address (an ex-wife or ex-girl friend, for instance) will simply tear up or throw away a letter from a merchant about a bad check without ever telling you about the letter. Ask a lawyer to help you with your case. A lawyer may be able to get your theft by check case dismissed.
(You can avoid most unintentional hot check problems by reconciling your bank statements every month within 48 hours of getting your monthly statement in the mail from the bank. If you do this, you will quickly learn if you have committed some simple math error or if you forgot to write down a check that you wrote to someone. You should also use some computer software like Quicken to keep your check register to cut down on careless math errors.)
If you get convicted of Assault involving Family Violence, under federal law you will never be legally allowed to possess a firearm for the rest of your life.
If you are not a U.S. citizen, being convicted of certain crimes may cause you to be deported or make it harder for you to ever become a U.S. Citizen.
A felony conviction will cost you your right to vote, your right to hold public office, and your right to possess a firearm.
A conviction for DWI or for Possession of Marijuana or other illegal drugs will automatically suspend your driver’s license for a length of time that varies with the offense.
How an Attorney will help your case:
Your attorney will tell you if the State’s evidence in your case is enough to convict you of a crime.
Your attorney will tell you if the State's witnesses are no longer available because of the age of the case. I have had cases dismissed simply because the statute of limitations had expired for the case before formal charges were ever filed. In other words, the State waited too long to file the case and the case gets thrown out, but only if you hire an attorney who knows enough to raise this issue with the prosecutor or the Court.
Your attorney will tell you if the State’s evidence against you must be thrown out of Court for some reason.
Your lawyer will tell you if the witnesses against you are believable and available to testify against you in Court. (I have had cases dismissed because the arresting officer got into trouble for an unrelated reason after he/she arrested my client. The prosecutor dismissed the case because the arresting officer was not credible due to the unrelated misconduct. If you do not raise that issue with the prosecutor, you lose.)
Your lawyer will explain many Court procedures such as arraignment, plea bargaining, and appeals. Your lawyer will also explain how the rules of evidence apply to your case.
Your lawyer will tell you what a reasonable punishment deal is for your case, considering your criminal history (or lack of criminal history), the facts of your case, and the policies of the local prosecutor and judge. This will ensure that you do not receive more punishment than you deserve for the crime.
Remember: Everything you tell your own lawyer is a secret (privileged information) that cannot be used against you. Everything you tell the police and the prosecutor is fair game to be used by them against you.
SHOULD YOU HIRE A LAWYER? CAN YOU AFFORD ONE?
1. If you want to have the best outcome for your case, you should talk to a lawyer.
2. You should hire an attorney as soon as you can. If you have not hired an attorney by the time of your first court appearance, the judge may agree to reset your case and give you one or two more weeks to hire an attorney of your own choosing. The best thing to do is to hire an attorney well in advance of your first court appearance.
3. Most local lawyers charge very reasonable fees.
4. Most local lawyers will give you a consultation for a reasonable cost.
5. Almost every local lawyer offers some type of payment plan to make their fees more affordable.
6. If you are indigent and you cannot afford to hire an attorney for a felony or for a Class A or B misdemeanor and you want to be represented by an attorney, the judge must appoint a lawyer to represent you. If you claim you are indigent, the judge will let you know what financial information he will want from you to corroborate your claim of indigency. If you are able bodied and unemployed, the judge may require you to prove you are genuinely searching for a job before appointing a lawyer to represent you. (If the economy is currently bad, then it will be easier to convince the judge that you cannot find a job despite making a sincere effort to find a job.)
7. If you ultimately get probation in the case (after being found guilty in a trial or after entering a guilty plea or a "no contest" plea pursuant to a plea bargain), the judge may require you to make regular payments (as a condition of probation) to repay the county for whatever the taxpayers spent on your court appointed attorney.
If you still do not think you need an attorney to represent you, when was the last time you saw a police officer who was charged with a serious crime go to court without hiring an attorney to help them? What does a police officer know about the legal system that you do not know? Think about it....
IF YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS, CALL KEN CRAIN AT 512-869-0131. I AM HERE TO HELP YOU.