Answering All Your Criminal Defense Questions

Defense

If you are facing a criminal charge of any kind, you may feel as if you have nothing but questions – and serious concerns. The fact is that you are not alone in your predicament. Anyone who has ever been charged with a crime has stood in your shoes, and the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions can help you make the right choices for you moving forward – in your unique situation. One of the most important steps anyone who is facing a criminal charge can take to help protect his or her legal rights from the outset is reaching out to an experienced Killen criminal attorney for skilled legal guidance.

Do I need an attorney if the charge is just a misdemeanor?

The idea that a misdemeanor is somehow not a big deal is misleading. The fact is that a conviction for a misdemeanor charge can lead to jail time, serious fines, and significant social consequences. Even if there is no possibility of jail time for the charge in question, keeping a permanent mark off your criminal record is always in your best interests, and the surest way to help you accomplish this important task is with a dedicated criminal attorney in your corner. Your attorney will identify the weaknesses in the prosecution’s case against you and will work tirelessly to affect your case’s best possible resolution – whether that means having the charge dropped altogether, having the charge and potential penalties decreased or entering into a favorable plea deal. In other words, you do need a skilled criminal attorney on your side – even if the charge is just a misdemeanor.

I’m pleading guilty; do I really need an attorney?

Perhaps you have already been offered a plea deal by the prosecution, and you are wondering why you need an attorney if you are going to plead guilty anyway. The bottom line is that you should not plead guilty until you have discussed the matter with an experienced criminal attorney who is up to speed with the circumstances involved in your case. Even if a plea deal is the best option for you, you want to make sure that you understand the implications for your future and that you have negotiated the best deal available. Further, there may be a better option than taking a plea deal, and your criminal attorney will help ensure that you make the right choices for you at this critical juncture in your case.

What if I was caught red-handed?

Many people who are charged with crimes believe that the matter is black and white and that they have no hope of getting out of the charges in question. The law, however, is far more nuanced than that. There is another side to every charge, and when you dig a bit deeper, you may discover that you do have a viable defense. It is human nature to blame ourselves when things go wrong, but when it comes to criminal charges, it is time to protect your legal rights and bring your strongest defense. Your criminal attorney will make it his or her mission to build the facts and evidence involved into a cohesive case that supports your legal rights and your case’s best possible conclusion. Feeling guilty and being guilty in terms of the law are often two very different things, and your attorney will help you sort out your best path forward.

Do I really have a right to remain silent?

You absolutely do have the right to remain silent – and to not incriminate yourself – and you should exercise this right. If you are stopped and questioned, you are likely suspected of having committed a crime, and you are only required to provide the officer with basic identifying information, such as your name and address. If you are arrested, the officer is responsible for reading you – or telling you – your Miranda Rights, which advise you of your right to remain silent and which inform you that anything you tell the officers can be used against you in court. At this point, it is an excellent idea to invoke your right to remain silent and to ask for a criminal attorney. Remember that the officer interviewing you is adept at obtaining statements that ultimately harm the cases of interviewees.

While those who work in the criminal justice system may come off as being on your side and wanting to help, they are not there to help you – and they are very unlikely to be moved by your explanation. Anything you say prior to having professional legal guidance in your corner is far more likely to incriminate you than to help your case.

I think I am being investigated for a crime; what should I do?

If you have been questioned by the police or have reason to believe you may be under investigation for a crime, the first order of business is finding a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney with whom you are comfortable opening up and in whom you trust. If you are arrested, you will already have an attorney in your corner, and if a charge is not forthcoming, you will have a better idea of how best to proceed.

What happens after an arrest?

If you are arrested for a crime, the next step is likely your appearance before the judge. This is called your arraignment, and at it, the judge will inform you of the charge or charges being levied against you, will set your bail (as applicable), and will read you your rights.

What is bail for?

In the vast majority of criminal cases, bail is set as a means of ensuring that the person who is accused of the crime in question will appear in court at future scheduled proceedings. When the judge sets bail, he or she takes the nature of the offense, whether or not the defendant is deemed a danger to the community, and the likelihood that the defendant will return for future court dates into careful consideration.

What can I do if I have broken the terms of my probation?

If you received probation in lieu of a jail sentence, carefully adhering to all the terms – all the time – is imperative. If, however, you broke the terms of your probation as a result of a mistake or out of necessity, discussing the matter with an attorney may help you avoid serious consequences and get your probation back on track.

Are marijuana charges serious?

While some states have adopted a very tolerant stance in relation to possessing small amounts of marijuana, Texas is not one of them. In Texas, marijuana is grouped in a drug class of its own, and charges range from Class B misdemeanors to first-degree felonies. The attendant penalties can vary from 180 days in jail and fines of up to $2,000 to life imprisonment and fines of up to $50,000. In other words, in the State of Texas, it is important to take any marijuana charge seriously.

What are the penalties for theft charges in Texas?

Theft charges are based on the value of the item or items that were stolen. Consider the following:

  • If the stolen goods in question are worth less than $50, the charge levied will likely be a Class C misdemeanor, which carries fines of up to $500.

  • If the stolen goods in question are worth between $50 and $500, the charge levied will likely be a Class B misdemeanor, which carries fines of up to $2,000 and jail time of up to 180 days.

  • If the stolen goods in question are worth between $500 and $1,500, the charge levied will likely be a Class A misdemeanor, which carries fines of up to $4,000 and up to a year in jail.

  • If the stolen goods in question are worth between $1,500 and $20,000, the charge levied will likely be a state jail felony, which carries fines of up to $10,000 and up to two years in jail.

  • If the stolen goods in question are worth between $20,000 and $100,000, the charge levied will likely be a third-degree felony, which carries fines of up to $10,000 and from 2 to 10 years in state prison.

  • If the stolen goods in question are worth between $100,000 and $200,000, the charge levied will likely be a second-degree felony, which carries fines of up to $10,000 and from 2 to 20 years in state prison.

  • If the stolen goods in question are worth more than $200,000, the charge levied will likely be a first-degree felony, which carries fines of up to $10,000 and from 5 years to life in state prison.

What if my assault charge relates to self-defense?

You have the legal right to defend yourself – or someone else – from harm. If you believed that force was required to protect yourself from an immediate danger presented by another person, self-defense could be a valid legal defense. Such a defense, however, is not without limitations, and working closely with a dedicated criminal attorney is always well advised.

What is the castle doctrine in Texas?

The castle doctrine is a legal doctrine that presumes the use of force to protect oneself is reasonable in the following circumstances:

  • Someone else uses force to illegally enter or attempt to enter your home, car, or place of work.

  • Someone else uses force in an attempt to remove you from your home, car, or place of work.

  • Someone else was committing or attempting to commit aggravated kidnapping, murder, sexual assault, aggravated sexual assault, robbery, or aggravated robbery against you.

One exception to the castle doctrine is when the person claiming self-defense provoked, started or caused the event in question. The other is when the person claiming self-defense was engaged in a criminal act at the time of the event in question (in such an event, however, a claim of self-defense may be used to decrease the overall charge or penalties – depending upon the circumstances involved).

What are the three primary legal defenses?

The most common legal defenses employed by those facing criminal charges fall into three basic categories. It is important to note, however, that within each category, there is a good deal of legal nuance and finesse that must be applied (there is no one-size-fits-all defense).

Innocence

The best defense of all is innocence – you did not commit the crime in question. Unfortunately, being innocent of a charge and proving your innocence are two different things. Your criminal attorney will mine all the evidence available, will compile your strongest case, and will skillfully defend your innocence in the matter. Often, having an alibi – and alibi witnesses – play a critical role in this process. Whatever the circumstances of your case, however, your criminal attorney has the skill and legal insight to help prove your innocence.

Self-Defense

You are guilty of what you are accused of doing, but you did what you did in an effort to protect yourself (or another) from being harmed by someone else. The major task here is generally proving the risk you faced.

Constitutional Violation

The law affords you specific constitutional protections, including the right to remain silent and the right to due process. If your legal rights are violated, it can form a solid basis for your criminal defense.

Do Not Delay Consulting with an Experienced Killeen Criminal Attorney

Criminal charges are a serious matter, and the sooner you obtain the professional legal counsel you need, the better protected your rights will be – and the better your chances of effecting a beneficial conclusion for your case. Brett Pritchard at The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard in Killeen, Texas, is a distinguished criminal attorney who channels the full force of his considerable experience into crafting his clients’ strongest defenses and fighting for their rights throughout the legal process. Your case is important, and we are here to help – so please do not wait to contact us online or call us at 254-501-4040 for more information today.

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