Facing a Criminal Charge? The Answers to this FAQ May Help
If you are facing a criminal charge – regardless of the kind of charge – it has the potential to rock your world in ways you likely do not even realize and allowing the matter the legal attention it deserves is critical. Along with criminal charges come lots and lots of questions, and the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions can help make the path forward less arduous. However, turning to an experienced criminal attorney for professional legal guidance is one of the surest ways to help protect your rights now – and throughout the legal process.
Do I always have the right to an attorney?
If you are charged with a crime, the Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees you the right to counsel from the outset. The State of Texas concurs and mandates that every defendant who is facing a criminal matter has the right to representation by counsel (in an adversarial judicial proceeding, such as a trial). What all this means is that you do not have the absolute right to a criminal attorney prior to being officially charged with a crime – regardless of whether you are in police custody or not.
For example, if the police are questioning you about a crime that they believe you were involved in but that they have not charged you with, you do not have the right to demand an attorney, but you do – and this is a big one – have the right to remain silent, and you should make it your business to exercise this right. When it comes to being questioned by the police, it is in your best interest not to become chatty – there is no reason to do the officer’s job for him or her.
Do I need an attorney?
The short answer to this question is that yes, you do need an experienced criminal attorney if you are facing a criminal charge for all the following reasons:
Criminal law is exceptionally complicated, and attempting to defend yourself is not going to do you any favors.
The stress of facing a criminal charge can be exceptionally difficult to cope with, but having a dedicated criminal attorney in your corner can help you better understand how your case is likely to be resolved, the strengths and challenges of your case, and your best options moving forward.
Your experienced criminal attorney will skillfully advocate for your rights while building your strongest defense – in zealous pursuit of an advantageous outcome.
Your attorney will help ensure that you avoid common legal mistakes and will help protect your case’s best outcome from the start.
Your attorney will use his or her extensive knowledge of the law, of the court in question, and of the prosecution to your advantage in strategizing your case’s best possible resolution.
What if I cannot afford a criminal attorney?
The overall cost associated with a conviction can make the expense of an experienced criminal attorney seem like a real bargain. The truth is that the court will not assign you a public defender just because you ask for one – or because you are hoping to save some money. In order to have a public defender assigned to your case, you will need to prove that you are indigent, which you likely are not. Further, public defenders are loaded down with more cases than they can possibly address to the best of their ability on a case-by-case basis. In the end, the better question is can you afford not to have a dedicated criminal attorney in your corner?
How can I get out of jail?
If you have been charged with a crime and are sitting around in jail, getting out is naturally the goal. The surest way to get out of jail as quickly as possible is to work closely with a dedicated criminal attorney from the outset. Your attorney will speed the process along and can even coordinate with the bail bond service if you would prefer.
Why is there no bail in my case?
Texas has adopted a process that is referred to as a no-bond status, which means you cannot gain release until a bail amount is set by the judge assigned to your case (in these no-bond instances). While this is intended to help those who cannot afford bail get a chance before the judge to have a pretrial release bond authorized, it – in actuality – delays the process for those who are raring to make bail. Other reasons for being denied bail include:
A no bond can apply if you are on probation or are already out on bond for another criminal offense.
A no bond may be levied if the charge you are facing is particularly violent, such as for sexual assault or murder (and the judge considers you a flight risk as a result).
If you have been sentenced to prison two or more times, it can also lead to no bail.
Sometimes bail is not set due to plain old administrative errors and mistakes.
If you have been denied bail, it is time to reach out for the professional legal counsel of a dedicated criminal attorney.
How quickly can I expect to get out on bail?
You can expect to wait at least about 18 hours, but if you have been languishing in jail for more than 24 hours, it is time to make some noise. If you have been arrested for a misdemeanor, you should be taken before a magistrate for a determination of probable cause in your case within 24 hours – and the law requires that you be released on a bond of not more than $5,000. If you have been arrested for a felony, you should be released on bond not exceeding 10,000 after no more than 48 hours.
There are, of course, exceptions to these time limitations – depending upon the nature of the crime in question and the criminal record of the defendant in question. If bail has not come up in your case, your criminal attorney may be able to file a motion to set or reduce the bond (depending upon the situation at hand).
Is there a warrant out for my arrest?
The best way to assess if there is a warrant out for your arrest is by going through an experienced criminal attorney. Warrants are often issued for failing to appear in court for racking up mundane traffic tickets or for failing to pay fines that were ordered by the court. Whatever the situation, it is always a good idea to clear any warrants that you can – and to know about any warrants that are out there with your name on them.
Your criminal attorney will advise you on the best path forward for you in your exact situation. While you can also turn to the court for information regarding any warrants out for your arrest, this can backfire spectacularly – in the form of an arrest.
Should I answer the officer’s questions post-arrest?
As mentioned earlier, you have the right to remain silent, and it is almost always in your best interest to do so if you are under arrest. You know that you are innocent, but your responses to the police officer’s questions can come back to haunt your case – regardless of how convincing they sound to you. This is one time when you should keep your gift of gab on the back burner. The police are looking for the person who committed the crime in question, and at the moment that they are questioning you, you seem good enough for it.
Anything extra you give them can be misconstrued to support their working theory. This is what the right to remain silent is all about, and you should do yourself a favor by taking it to heart. Regardless of the ploy used by the officer – who is almost certainly not above lying to get you to say what he or she wants to hear (the officer has his or her own job to do) – wait to speak until you are advised to do so by counsel.
What does the grand jury do?
When a prosecutor needs to determine if there is enough evidence to bring a charge against someone, a grand jury is called. Every felony in the State of Texas requires a grand jury, and the grand jury itself typically consists of 12 jurors who are culled from a larger pool of jurors. Once the grand jury is selected, it will listen to the prosecutor, who runs the show. The prosecutor has the discretion to call witnesses – even to call in the defendant in question – and there is no judge present.
The defendant does not – in this situation – have the right to have his or her criminal attorney with him or her or to plead the Fifth (because this is not a trial and Fifth Amendment rights do not apply). If you do have a valid case for the right to remain silent in this situation, however, the judge may allow it – at this juncture. In order to indict, which is called a bill, 9 of the 12 jurors must be onboard – otherwise, it is called a no bill, and there is no indictment. While your attorney cannot go into the grand jury with you, he or she can help you prepare for this very stressful situation.
Is there any way to get a charge off my record?
While your situation is unique to the circumstances involved, and there is no way to say with any level of certainty whether or not your charge can be removed from your record, there may be a chance. The fact of the matter is that, even if the charge against you is dismissed, it will not completely erase your record from the data bank that houses such information. The only way to accomplish this is by suing for expunction. In certain instances, the law allows records to be expunged, and if this is a possibility for you, it is worth exploring. Generally, expunction is a possibility if any of the following apply:
Your case was dismissed as a result of inadequate probable cause.
Your case was dismissed as a result of a legal error or mistake.
You are found not guilty at your trial.
With a successful expungement, you will have the legal right to tell anyone who will listen – including employers, loan officers, landlords, friends, and family members – that you have no criminal convictions on your record.
What is the difference between an order for nondisclosure and an expunction?
While an order for nondisclosure can serve many of the same purposes as an expunction, they are usually reserved for instances of deferred adjudication, and they lack the power to completely erase a mark on your record. If you receive an order of nondisclosure, which comes via a petition for nondisclosure, it should stop potential and current employers, landlords, property managers, and others from discovering your deferred adjudication. Law enforcement, however, will still have access to the prior, and your police record and fingerprints will stay on file.
Do Not Put off Consulting with an Experienced Killeen Criminal Attorney
If you are facing a criminal charge of any kind, it is time to take the matter seriously. A conviction can leave you facing obstacles that you are unlikely to have bargained for. If you find yourself in this difficult situation, Brett Pritchard at The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard – proudly serving Killeen, Texas – is a focused criminal attorney who has forged his impressive career on the successful defense of cases like yours. Mr. Pritchard is committed to harnessing the full force of his experience and legal insight in pursuit of your case’s most advantageous resolution, so please do not wait to contact us online or call us at 254-501-4040 today to learn more about how we can also help you.