What Is a Person of Interest in a Texas Police Investigation?

Police pulling over a person of interest in Texas

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The term “person of interest” gets thrown around a lot on TV procedurals, but you may have questions about what it actually means. Many people get caught up in the distinction between “person of interest” and “suspect,” and while a person of interest can evolve into a suspect, this isn’t always the case.

If you are facing a criminal charge or believe you may be a person of interest or a suspect in the case, don’t wait to reach out for the skilled legal guidance of an experienced Killeen criminal defense attorney.

Person of Interest Meaning

A person of interest is distinct from a material witness or a suspect, and while the term has no legal definition, it’s generally reserved for individuals whom law enforcement is interested in speaking with or investigating further in relation to a specific case. However, the term can also guide the public’s attention away from the authorities’ actual focus – usually an actual suspect.

There are many who object to using the term because it offers the authorities an opportunity to shine their spotlight on specific individuals without formally accusing them of anything. In other words, an innocent person’s reputation can be irredeemably marred by the “person of interest” label.

The general person of interest definition typically refers to anyone the police believe may have information that is crucial to a case. This can include any of the following people:

  • A witness to a crime or someone who may have been a witness to a crime

  • Someone with a close relationship to a crime victim

  • Someone with a close relationship to a suspect in a crime

Too often, the term is used to label someone whom the police don’t yet have enough evidence to charge but who may crack under the pressure exerted by the label. In other words, it is often used more like a tool than as an actual legal classification.

If you’ve been identified as a person of interest, it’s important to take the matter seriously, and reaching out for professional legal counsel is always to your advantage.

What Is a Suspect?

While the term “person of interest” is used quite loosely, the term “suspect” is carefully defined. A suspect is someone whom the authorities suspect of having committed a specific crime or crimes and whom they have verifiable reasons for identifying as such.

To identify someone as a suspect, the police must have reasonable grounds for the accusation. This generally includes having actual evidence that backs up the suspicion.

Being Identified vs. Being Charged

Being identified as a suspect does not necessarily translate to being formally charged. Every criminal charge is unique, and the authorities proceed in accordance with strategies that are designed to effect the best outcomes, which may or may not include bringing immediate formal charges against a suspect.

The amount and kinds of evidence required to identify an individual as a suspect does not necessarily rise to the level of bringing formal charge. In other words, the police may not have the legal authority to press charges, or they may choose not to press charges until a more strategic opportunity arises.

Protecting Your Rights and Your Reputation

An important point to keep in mind here is that if you’ve been identified as a person of interest, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you aren’t a suspect. Consulting with a seasoned Killeen criminal defense attorney is in your best interest.

Once the person of interest label reaches the media, the public generally jumps directly to suspect. As such, the police can use the term “person of interest” as a stand-in for “suspect,” even when they have no corroborating evidence, which can cause the person labeled to suffer considerable personal damage.

Being connected with a criminal case – either as a person of interest or as a suspect – can take a serious toll on your reputation and social standing and can directly interfere with the course of your life. Working closely with a dedicated Killeen criminal defense attorney from the outset can help protect your legal rights while doing damage control in relation to your future.

Common Criminal Charges

Whether you’ve been identified as a person of interest or a suspect in relation to a crime or have been charged with a crime, it’s important to understand the specifics of the charge. While every criminal case is utterly unique, the basic elements of specific criminal charges don’t vary.

DWI

The charge of driving while intoxicated (DWI) is common in the State of Texas, and the related fines and penalties are steep. If your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) reaches the legal limit of .08 percent, you can face DWI charges, but a lower reading can also do the trick if your ability to drive safely is considered affected.

A first DWI offense is a Class B misdemeanor that carries a mandatory three days in jail. If convicted, you face 90 days of driver’s license suspension along with a potential jail sentence of up to 180 days. The judge may also levy fines of up to $2,000.

Theft, Shoplifting, and Burglary Charges

Theft refers to the illegal appropriation of property that belongs to someone else with the intent of depriving them of that property. The distinguishing factor here is the illegal or unlawful appropriation of property, which includes the following actions:

  • Taking property without the owner’s effective consent

  • Acquiring property that is known to be stolen

Shoplifting is simply a form of theft that is addressed in the same legal manner. Theft and shoplifting charges are based on the value of the property that was unlawfully appropriated. The charges are broken down into the following penalty categories:

  • Theft of property that is valued at under $100 is a Class C misdemeanor, which carries fines of up to $500.

  • Theft of property that is valued between $100 and $750 is a Class B misdemeanor, which carries up to 180 days in jail and fines of up to $2,000.

  • Theft of property that is valued between $750 and $2,500 is a Class A misdemeanor, which carries up to 1 year in jail and fines of up to $4,000.

  • Theft of property that is valued between $2,500 and $30,000 is a state jail felony, which carries from 180 days to 2 years in jail and fines of up to $10,000.

The charge and attendant penalties continue to increase from here.

Burglary is an even more serious offense that involves at least one of the following criteria:

  • Entering a home or habitation, a building, or a part of a building that’s not open to the public with the intention of committing a felony, a theft, or an assault

  • Remaining concealed in a home or habitation or a building with the intention of committing a felony, theft, or assault

  • Entering a home or habitation or a building and committing a felony, theft, or assault

The charge of burglary in relation to a building is generally a state jail felony, which carries up to 2 years in jail and fines of up to $10,000. However, if the burglary involves a home or habitation, the charge is elevated to a second-degree felony, which can lead to up to 20 years in prison.

If you are facing a charge of theft, shoplifting, or burglary, the consequences can be serious, but you don’t have to fight alone. Work closely with a skilled Killeen criminal defense attorney for help navigating your legal battle.

Criminal Mischief

Criminal mischief refers to intentionally damaging or destroying someone else’s property in a manner that leads to the property owner’s financial loss or substantial inconvenience. The charge can be levied as a misdemeanor or a felony – depending upon the degree of damage done. Common examples of criminal mischief include the following offenses:

  • Destroying property

  • Marking property

  • Damaging a vehicle

  • Defacing public or private property

  • Spray painting property, such as with graffiti

  • Tampering with property

  • Keying a vehicle

  • Damaging a business

Assault Charges

The charge of misdemeanor assault covers all the following offenses:

  • Intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causing someone else to suffer physical harm or injury

  • Deliberately threatening someone else with imminent physical harm

  • Engaging in deliberate physical contact with someone else that is intentionally offensive or provocative

The charge is elevated to a third-degree felony if cutting off the normal breathing patterns – or strangulation – of a family member is involved. A second assault charge against a significant other can also rise to this level. A third-degree felony charge also applies when the person assaulted is classified as one of the following:

  • A public servant

  • A government employee

  • A security officer in the line of duty

  • A member of emergency service personnel

If the assault charge is aggravated, which involves issuing a threat when armed with a deadly weapon, it is a second-degree felony.

If the aggravated assault is committed against a family member, romantic partner, or member of one’s household and serious bodily harm is caused, it’s a first-degree felony, and the stakes are that much higher. If the victim belongs in any of the following classifications, the charge of aggravated assault can also rise to the level of a first-degree felony:

  • A uniformed or on-duty public servant

  • A security officer in the line of duty

  • A potential or actual witness to a crime

  • A person who reported a crime – or an informant

Drug Offenses

Drug offenses in Texas are serious and wide-ranging. If you’re facing criminal drug charges, contact a Killeen criminal defense attorney to find answers to your questions about your case.

Drug Possession

Possession of illegal drugs or prescription drugs that don’t belong to you is a crime. The severity of the charge is based on the drug group classification involved. Consider this breakdown of the drug groups as defined in Texas:

  • Any amount of a Group 1 or Group 1-A drug is a felony. These drug groups include both heroin and cocaine. The felony level and attendant fines and penalties you’ll face are based on the amount in your possession.

  • Group 2 drugs are also charged as felonies. This group includes ecstasy and PCP, and the amount in your possession will guide the severity of the charge.

  • Possession of a small amount of a Group 3 drug is charged as a misdemeanor. This drug group includes Ritalin, ketamine, and anabolic steroids.

  • Group 4 drugs include those drugs that have a clear medical use and a low risk of addiction, such as Valium, Xanax, and Ativan. The charges for possessing these drugs begin at the misdemeanor level.

Possession of marijuana is still a crime in the State of Texas, and possession of even a small amount can have a significant legal impact.

Drug Manufacturing and Distributing

Simple possession charges are serious enough, but if you are in possession of large quantities of an illegal drug, it suggests drug manufacturing and distributing, which is an even more serious legal concern. You can also face elevated charges for drug delivery, which the State of Texas refers to as trafficking.

In Texas, all of the following drug-related actions are against the law:

  • Delivering or transferring an illegal drug, any other illegal narcotic material, or drug paraphernalia

  • Offering to sell illegal drugs –¬†even if the transaction is never completed

  • Engaging in any act that’s involved in the cultivation, production, growing, compounding, or processing of illegal drugs

  • Engaging in the labeling and packaging of illegal drugs

Charges related to drug manufacture or trafficking are generally felonies.

Juvenile Charges

If your child is facing a criminal charge, it’s important to recognize that their entire future can be affected, and bringing a strong defense is always advised. Even a misdemeanor conviction can make achieving their future goals more challenging and should be taken seriously. Contact a Killeen criminal defense attorney to protect your child’s rights and reputation.

Turn to an Experienced Killeen Criminal Defense Attorney for the Help You Need

Being identified as a person of interest – or as a suspect – in a criminal case can lead to serious consequences, and this is true even if a formal charge is never levied. Brett Pritchard at The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard – a well-respected Texas criminal defense group – is a formidable criminal defense attorney who is committed to helping clients like you successfully limit their exposure in relation to criminal cases.

Mr. Pritchard will fiercely protect your rights throughout the legal process. To learn more, don’t wait to contact us online or call us at (254) 781-4222 today.

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