Facing a Criminal Charge? Avoid These Mistakes
If you are facing a criminal charge, it is an important matter that requires your careful attention from the very beginning. The negative consequences of a conviction include not only hefty fines and penalties but also serious social consequences that can be even more difficult to overcome. If this is the situation you find yourself in, the first step in your long journey forward should be consulting with an experienced Killeen criminal defense lawyer as soon as it is possible for you to do so.
Do Not Get Chatty with the Police
If you have been stopped by the police, you are required to provide them with basic identifying information, which you should do, but you are not required to talk about the crime you are being questioned about, and you should avoid doing so. If you have been arrested, you have the right to remain silent, and you should invoke this right from the outset. This really is not a good time to bare your soul, to explain yourself, or to tell the police your side of the story. The fact is that the police are gifted at eliciting comments that end up being used against the people who utter them, and this is a situation that you are well-advised to avoid. You know that you are innocent, but you are not going to convince the police of this (and if they are questioning you, they have already come to certain conclusions). In this situation, it is in your best interest to keep your thoughts to yourself until after you have consulted with a criminal defense lawyer.
Do Not Forget that You Are Very Likely Being Filmed
If you are arrested, it is always in your best interest to remain calm and respectful, to do what is requested of you by the police without protest (barring answering questions without your attorney present), and to generally make the experience as low drama as you can manage. Flying off the handle is not going to do you a lot of good, and to make matters worse, it will very likely end up being recorded on the arresting officer’s body camera (and/or recorded by the system in the officer’s vehicle). Basically, you can be filmed and/or recorded at any point in the custody process. As such, you should conduct yourself at all times in a manner that will not harm your case if the jury happens to witness it. Regardless of how far off base the officers are, it is in your best interest to keep your cool, to hold your tongue, and to build your strongest defense in support of your legal rights from the outset.
Do Not Resist Arrest in Any Capacity
Resisting arrest is futile and is not a viable option. Resisting arrest increases the volatility of the situation and can even escalate the danger involved for you personally. If the arrest was not made in accordance with legal protocols, you should share this with your criminal defense lawyer, but addressing the matter during the arrest itself is not likely to do you any favors. The only thing that is likely to come from you fighting your arrest is that the officer may feel the need to increase the level of force used, and that is not an effect that is going to benefit you. The best path forward if you are arrested is to make a mental note of everything that happens (especially anything that strikes you as off) and to discuss your thoughts with your criminal defense lawyer as soon as you can be connected with him or her.
Do Not Miss Your Court Date
Once you are out on bond, you are free to begin building your case, and there may be a considerable stretch between your release date and your court date. Court dockets are exceptionally full, and in the interim, life can become exceptionally distracting. Missing your court date, however, is a terrible idea. Failing to show up can lead to an immediate warrant for your arrest, which can make building your strongest defense that much more challenging and can make it that much more difficult to ultimately prove your case when your next court date finally rolls around.
Do Not Arrive at Court Unprepared
Having your day in court means just that – it is your time to defend yourself and present your side of the story, and it is important to show up for it as if you mean it, including doing all the following prep work:
Building your strongest defense in response to all the relevant evidence in your case
Working closely with your criminal defense lawyer from the outset
Understanding the strengths and challenges of your case and your best path forward
Looking the part in court, which means wearing conservative clothing that fits well and is in good condition (there is no need to get fancy, but your outfit should reflect the respect you wish to show the court)
Being well-groomed, with your hair in place, your shoes in good repair, and your personal hygiene impeccable
Knowing what you are going to say and using a respectful tone when you do so (your criminal defense lawyer will put you through your paces on this one)
Knowing what to expect at court (your criminal defense lawyer will fill you in)
Pinning down your route and parking before your court date to ensure that you arrive not only on time but also unflustered
Acquainting yourself with the courthouse prior to your court date in an attempt to ensure that no surprises trip you up
Knowing what to expect and preparing for the unexpected to help you handle whatever comes your way
The better prepared you are for the court, the better you can expect the experience to be.
Do Not Rely on Anecdotal Information
If you are facing a criminal charge, you can expect plenty of people to come forward and offer advice, and while it is well-meaning, it is unlikely to be helpful. In fact, the patent attorney down the street may weigh-in, your roommate’s brother who is a bankruptcy paralegal may have ideas; and your uncle who fought a traffic ticket once may want to help, but in the end, you need your own criminal defense lawyer who is up to speed with your case, who knows the legal ins and outs of your charge, who has experience successfully defending similar cases, and who is committed to zealously advocating for your legal rights and your case’s best possible resolution. Now is not the time to seek a consensus; you need the kind of focused legal guidance that only a dedicated criminal lawyer who is focused on your unique case can provide. In fact, your attorney will take on all the following critical tasks:
Compiling all the relevant data in your case, including exculpatory evidence that supports your version of events
Linking the evidence into a compelling narrative that supports your innocence in the matter
Handling the matter of your bail and using his or her legal skill and knowledge to either eliminate the need for it or to reduce the amount (if either is possible)
Analyzing the prosecution’s case against you and formulating your most effective response
Reviewing the legality of your arrest, the admissibility of the evidence against you, and the veracity of the charge overall
Skillfully negotiating with the prosecution in an effort to have your charges dropped or to strike a plea deal that either reduces the charges against you, lessens your fines and penalties, or otherwise supports your legal rights and best interests
Helping you understand the charges levied against you and your best options moving forward
Locating witnesses in support of your case and preparing a solid cross-examination plan for those witnesses who support the prosecution’s side
In the end, your criminal defense lawyer has big shoes to fill, and settling for well-intended legal advice that fails to reach these rigorous standards does you and your case a disservice.
Do Not Focus on Billable Hours over Results
Yes, hiring a seasoned criminal defense lawyer is expensive, but in the end, it can amount to a real bargain. Your best chance of achieving a favorable case resolution is with a focused criminal defense lawyer guiding it forward, which can ultimately reduce or eliminate the fines, the sentence, and the social consequences you face, and that is nothing short of financial wizardry (in relation to the billable hours you pay). Focusing on overall results over the billable hours you are charged can help to ensure that your case achieves its most advantageous outcome, which can prove to be the ultimate bargain.
Do Not Lose Sight of the Social Consequences of a Conviction
A criminal conviction can be life-altering, and one of the most significant aspects can be the negative social consequences. The fact is that a criminal conviction is a matter of public record, which means that anyone who cares to look can be privy to the information. This can lead to all of the following:
You can have difficulty finding a job and advancing your career.
You can be denied a student loan, acceptance into the college of your choice, and/or the right to live on campus – thus limiting your ability to further your education.
It can be challenging for you to rent an apartment or house or to obtain a home loan.
You could lose your professional licensure or be prevented from obtaining professional licensure.
You will likely face a loss in your social standing overall.
The answers to the most frequently asked questions in relation to criminal charges in Texas can help you move your own case forward.
When is the right time to open up to the police?
If you are being questioned about a crime, it is a good idea to make it your policy not to speak with the police if you do not have a lawyer present. The fact that you are being questioned likely means that you are a suspect but that the police need more information to arrest you – do not do their work for them and provide them with the information they seek. The bottom line is that you do not have to be guilty for the police to twist your words and deem you worthy of arrest. If your criminal defense lawyer advises you to do so, you can open up to the police at that time.
Do I need a lawyer if I am innocent?
Hiring an experienced criminal defense lawyer may feel like an admission of guilt to you, but it is far from it. In fact, the clearest path toward proving your innocence and helping to ensure that you are not convicted of a crime you did not commit is with a dedicated criminal defense lawyer in your corner.
Will I be required to pay bail?
Bail is an amount of money that is set by the court, which allows for the accused’s conditional release from jail. By making bail, you ensure that you are free to build your strongest defense in the buildup to your case. While the court may set bail in your case, your criminal defense lawyer will advocate on your behalf to have the bail waived altogether or to have the amount of your bail reduced. Your lawyer can also negotiate with the bond service company in an effort to lower your bond’s premium rate (the amount you ultimately pay). The bond set by the court is its way of ensuring that you return for your court date.
How long will my case take to be resolved?
Your case is specific to the situation at hand and the circumstances involved, but you can expect it to take a considerable amount of time. The court’s dockets are clogged, which means your court dates are likely to be pushed out, and you might have several before your case is actually heard and resolved. Your divorce attorney will help you manage your expectations and make the most of the time you have prior to trial.
Seek the Professional Legal Counsel of an Experienced Killeen Criminal Defense Lawyer
Brett Pritchard at The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard in Killeen, Texas, is a seasoned criminal defense lawyer who understands the serious nature of your case and is committed to skillfully advocating for its best possible conclusion. To learn more, please contact us online or call us at 254-501-4040 today.