If you are facing a criminal charge in the State of Texas, you are well advised to take the matter seriously from the outset. Better understanding the ins and outs of the process can help considerably, but the most important step you can take to help protect your rights is working closely with an experienced Killeen criminal defense attorney from the moment you are charged.
The Importance of Having a Dedicated Criminal Defense Attorney on Your Side
If you are facing a criminal charge, the consequences of a conviction are too severe to leave up to chance. Having a savvy criminal defense attorney on your side can help in all of the following ways:
Criminal defense attorneys know their way around the Texas criminal justice system, affording them a nuanced understanding of the best path forward for their clients.
Criminal defense attorneys will familiarize their clients with the legal process that lies ahead and ensure that their clients make the right choices along the way.
Criminal defense attorneys have vast criminal knowledge that allows them to help their clients build strong defense strategies.
Criminal defense attorneys have working relationships with the prosecution that allows them to engage in beneficial negotiations on their clients’ behalf.
Your criminal defense attorney will act as your knowledgeable guide, sounding board, and fiercest advocate as you navigate the difficult path forward toward a beneficial case resolution that minimizes the negative consequences you face.
The Information Gathering Process
From the start, your criminal defense attorney will gather relevant information that allows them to better understand the charge against you and begin formulating your defense. For example, your attorney will likely discuss all the following information with you:
Your educational background
Your family background
Any prior criminal charges you faced
Any mental health concerns you may have faced in the past, which will be kept private but may factor into your defense
Special Circumstances for Your Case
Every criminal case is unique to the specific circumstances involved, and, sometimes, special circumstances play a significant role in the outcome of a case. In DWI cases, for example, factors such as the following often need to be considered:
How much the defendant drank prior to arrest
How much the defendant ate prior to arrest
The defendant’s BAC (blood alcohol concentration) and reasons that the number may not be an accurate reflection of his or her condition at the time
Any factors that call the efficacy of the BAC test into question
Notifying the Court
Your attorney will ensure that the actions, notices, and information generated by the court in relation to your case will flow through them to you by notifying the court that they are representing you.
Having an attorney on record sets a tone, which makes it more difficult for you to be taken advantage of by the criminal justice system in general and the prosecution specifically – both of which are legitimate concerns.
In addition to notifying the court, your criminal defense attorney will notify the prosecution about representing you, which not only lets them know that you are not flying solo but also signals that it is time to share all discovery in your case.
Discovery refers to any information or evidence that bolsters the charges against you or supports your innocence in the matter. Prime examples of the kind of discovery that is commonly obtained from the prosecution include the following documentation:
Related videos, pictures, and reports
Statements signed by the defendant
All evidentiary information relevant to the case at hand
Helping Your Attorney Help You
The fact is that you have been charged with a crime and you personally face serious potential consequences of a conviction. This makes taking a proactive stance and assisting your attorney in their focused efforts to defend you paramount.
There are many things you can do to help your attorney:
Being well prepared for your appointments with your attorney
Promptly providing your attorney with the information and documentation they need
Ensuring that you remain on the right side of the law while your case is pending
Doing everything required by your bail bondsman to remain out on bond while your case is pending
Crafting Your Strongest Defense
After determining what the prosecution has against you, it is time to build a defense that refutes their claims. Sometimes, this involves your attorney doing some investigating of their own by engaging in these actions:
Determining whether a professional investigator needs to be brought on board
The truth of the matter is there is no guarantee that the police will share all the information and evidence available to them with the prosecution, and, for its part, the state is unlikely to put much effort into obtaining whatever is left out.
In other words, there is no guarantee that you have all the available evidence, some of which could prove beneficial to your defense. As such, your attorney will leave no stone unturned in their quest to obtain all the evidence available to both the police and the prosecution.
The Filing of Pretrial Motions
As your case proceeds, your attorney, the prosecution, or both may file one or more pretrial motions, which are generally implemented to challenge the other side’s evidence or to expand access to discovery. Consider the following common examples:
Motions to keep specific evidence out
Motions of discovery, such as for medical records or telephone records
The Filing of Notices
The prosecution is required to provide you with notice regarding certain aspects of your case, but this obligation only applies if your attorney officially requests the information. As such, you can expect your legal counsel to file notices in pursuit of specific information from the prosecution like the following:
Any statements from eyewitnesses that the prosecution will be using in your case
Any expert witnesses the prosecution will be calling in your case
Any information related to any other criminal offense that the prosecution alleges you committed and that it will be referencing in your case
It is important to recognize that the vast majority of criminal cases are resolved with plea bargains, which in some cases are clearly advantageous but, in others, are not.
The most important consideration when it comes to accepting a plea deal is that you are admitting to guilt in the matter – often in exchange for a lesser charge or for a lesser penalty. This means that you will have a criminal record, which comes with harsh consequences that can include a step down in your social standing.
Consider the following consequences of having a criminal conviction:
Difficulty obtaining a job
Difficulty renting a home or obtaining a home loan
The inability to obtain a federal student loan to further your education
Difficulty gaining acceptance to your college of choice or living on campus if you do gain acceptance
Negative consequences in terms of professional licensure
The Advisability of Accepting a Plea Bargain
Whether or not accepting a plea bargain is beneficial in your case must be determined in accordance with the applicable circumstances. Your trusted criminal defense attorney will help you determine the best path forward for you – in relation to the specifics of your case.
Many proponents of criminal justice reform believe that the proliferation of plea deals in the system is nothing more than a mechanism for state prosecutors to rack up wins. The Pew Research Center shares the following related statistics from a recent year:
Only 2 percent of all federal criminal charges made their way to court.
83 percent of the cases that went to trial lead to convictions.
A full 90 percent of those facing federal charges pled guilty, and most of these guilty pleas were elicited through a range of plea bargains.
Of all the federal criminal charges, only 8 percent were dismissed.
To put a finer point on the matter, The Atlantic reports that, when it comes to criminal charges brought by state prosecutors, a full 94 percent end in plea bargains, and when the charges are misdemeanors, the percentage is even higher.
Breaking Down Plea Bargains
If you have been charged with a crime in Texas and accept a plea bargain, it means that you and the State of Texas have reached an agreement in which the following exchange takes place:
The state agrees to alter the charge against you or the disposition of your case in a manner that is more advantageous to you in some way.
In response, you plead guilty to the current iteration of the charge – giving up your legal right to a trial in the process.
The primary benefit of a plea bargain is the peace of mind that comes from knowing exactly how your case will be resolved. In fact, the stress of potentially being found guilty at trial has prompted many people who are innocent of the charges brought against them to accept plea deals.
Negotiations for Plea Bargains Differ between Felony and Misdemeanor Charges
If you are facing a misdemeanor charge, the prosecution will likely make a set offer that it typically implements in cases like yours. This generally amounts to probation and a fine with little if any jail time.
If the charge you face, however, is a felony, the state will likely be more flexible in terms of negotiations, and no standard offers will be implemented. For lesser felony charges, however, the prosecution may employ a general sentence range in the plea bargain process.
How Plea Bargains Are Struck
While a wide range of factors can affect the plea bargain process, the primary issues generally include the following factors:
The specific circumstances of your case, such as if there is an aggravating factor, which generally affords the prosecution more leverage
Whether or not you have a criminal history, which will likely guide how lenient the prosecution chooses to be
The Prosecution’s Offer
Unless the charge against you is quite serious, the prosecution will very likely gather the information that is available regarding your case and offer a plea bargain in response that it considers reasonable. Because they are facing a long list of cases like yours, they rarely do specific research – beyond a basic assessment – into the case at hand.
You and your attorney will likely take the position that the specifics of your case are unique and, as a result, require more careful consideration. This is generally achieved by using one of the following strategies:
Demonstrating that there is too little evidence to convict you of the crime you have been charged with
Demonstrating that the law was not adequately adhered to in your case – the stop that led to your arrest, for example, may not have been conducted legally
The fact is that your case is unique to its unique circumstances, and bringing your strongest defense is always in your best interest.
Turn to an Experienced Killeen Criminal Defense Attorney for the Help You Are Looking For
If you are facing a criminal charge, your rights and your future are on the line, which makes having professional legal counsel in your corner very well advised.
Brett Pritchard at The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard in Killeen, Texas, is a formidable criminal defense attorney who recognizes the gravity of your situation and is well prepared to implement the full force of his imposing experience and legal skill in pursuit of an advantageous case outcome for you.To learn more about what we can do to help you, please do not wait to reach out and contact us online or call us at (254) 781-4222 today.