Defending Yourself Against Criminal Charges in Texas

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If you are facing a criminal charge in the State of Texas, the path forward is stressful, and you have got a lot riding on the results. With a conviction, your life as you know it could change in the blink of an eye. On top of everything else, you are facing pressure from the authorities and may have no idea how to protect yourself from everything that is coming at you.

Fortunately, it is not a battle that pits you alone against the state – an experienced Round Rock criminal defense attorney has the legal skills, resources, and insight to help.

Considering Your Future

It is important to know that your criminal record is a matter of public information, and it’s important to put your future into perspective in response. With a criminal conviction on your record, you can face all the following negative consequences:

  • You could lose your current job.

  • You could lose your professional licensure.

  • Finding a new job can be far more difficult.

  • You could be kicked out of your college or university or may not be allowed to continue living on campus.

  • You could have trouble gaining acceptance at your school of choice and won’t have access to federal student loans.

  • Landlords may choose not to rent to you, and eviction is also a possibility.

  • Your ability to obtain a home loan could be affected.

  • Depending upon the kind of charge, it can affect your parental rights and child custody.

  • You could also lose your right to possess a gun or even to vote.

The consequences of a criminal charge are serious and overarching, and leaving your future to chance is not advised. Reach out for the skilled legal guidance of a dedicated criminal defense attorney today.

It’s a lot, and the Authorities Know It

If you have been charged, the state may begin pressuring you to make a plea deal from the start, and in that moment, the deal may sound a whole lot better than the sentence that corresponds with a conviction does.

The state says it has enough evidence to convict you, but do they really? While the prosecution says the court will be easier on you if you cooperate by accepting a plea bargain, is that actually true? You, in other words, are likely in way over your head.

The police have considerable latitude when it comes to manipulation tactics, and they recognize exactly how vulnerable you are – unsure of what to do and how to protect your rights in the process. In fact, many people who are charged with crimes simply give in to the authorities because they don’t see a better path forward.

Regardless of how complex your case is and how much evidence there is against you – or that the state wants you to believe they have against you – keeping all the following in mind can significantly improve the outcome of your case:

  • Remain calm to the degree possible, which will help you keep your wits about you.

  • Other than answering basic questions about your identity and address, invoke your right to remain silent. This involves letting the police know you won’t be answering questions and then actually remaining silent.

  • Invoke your right to legal counsel. Let the police know that you want an attorney, and then contact a seasoned criminal defense attorney as quickly as possible.

The Charge Against You

In Texas, criminal charges are grouped into classifications that break down into misdemeanors and felonies.

Class C Misdemeanors

Class C misdemeanors are the least serious criminal charge, but this does not mean a conviction can’t reverberate into your future. Common Class C misdemeanor charges include disorderly conduct and public intoxication. While Class C misdemeanor convictions do not carry jail time, fines of up to $500 are attached.

Further, a third charge for either disorderly conduct or public intoxication – or any combination of the two – in the two years prior can lead to a charge enhancement that bumps it up to a Class B misdemeanor.

Class B Misdemeanors

Class B misdemeanors carry from 30 to 180 days of jail time and fines of up to $2,000. Common Class B misdemeanor charges include all the following:

  • A first DWI charge

  • Criminal trespassing

  • Criminal mischief

  • Theft of property that is valued from $100 to $750

If the defendant has a prior Class B misdemeanor – or a more serious – conviction on their record, the charge can be enhanced to a Class A misdemeanor.

Class A Misdemeanors

Class A misdemeanors carry up to a year in jail and fines of up to $4,000. Common class A misdemeanor charges include:

  • Assault

  • Violating a protective order

  • Theft of property that is valued from $750 to $2,500

A prior conviction can enhance the charge to a state jail felony.

State Jail Felonies

State jail felonies act as a bridge from misdemeanor to felony charges, and a conviction carries from 180 days to 2 years in a state jail facility and fines of up to $10,000. Common state jail felony charges include:

  • Possession of from 4 ounces to 5 pounds of marijuana

  • Theft of property with a value of from $2,500 to $30,000

  • Criminally negligent homicide

Two prior convictions can enhance the charge to a third-degree felony.

Third-Degree Felonies

A conviction for a third-degree felony carries from 2 to 10 years in prison and fines of up to $10,000. Common third-degree felony charges include all the following:

  • kidnapping

  • Unlawful restraint

  • Smuggling of persons

  • Indecency with a child

  • Injury to a vulnerable person, such as a child, someone who is elderly, or someone with a disability

  • Sexual coercion

  • Abandoning or endangering a child

  • Tampering with a consumer product

If the charge isn’t the person’s first felony – other than a state jail felony – it can be enhanced to a second-degree felony.

Second-Degree Felonies

If you are convicted of a second-degree felony, you’ll face a sentence of from 2 to 20 years in prison and fines of up to $10,000. Common second-degree felony charges include:

  • Arson

  • Robbery

  • A second stalking offense

  • Manslaughter

  • Online solicitation of a minor who is under the age of 14

A prior felony conviction – other than a state jail felony – can enhance the charge to a first-degree felony.

First-Degree Felonies

A conviction for first-degree felony carries the possibility of imprisonment for life or a sentence of from 5 to 99 years – plus fines of up to $10,000.

There is an exception for aggravated sexual assault of a child who is under the age of 6, or who is under the age of 14 if the offense includes threats of serious bodily injury, death, or use of a deadly weapon, and a conviction carries a minimum sentence of 25 years in prison.

If the defendant has a prior felony conviction on their record – other than a state jail felony – there is a mandatory sentence of at least 15 years.

Capital Felony

If the defendant is convicted of a capital felony and the state seeks the death penalty, it can lead to life without the possibility of parole or death, but if the defendant is found guilty and the state doesn’t seek the death penalty, the sentence is life without the possibility of parole.

Anyone who is under the age of 18 at the time the crime is committed, however, is no longer eligible for a life sentence without the possibility of parole.

Factors Taken into Consideration During Sentencing

No two criminal charges are ever exactly alike – the unique circumstances that make up the case guide how it is resolved. The facts surrounding your case will play a critical role in its outcome, and having focused legal counsel building your strongest defense in relation to these facts can make all the difference when it comes to effecting a favorable resolution.

The kinds of factors that are taken into careful consideration include all the following:

  • Whether or not the charge is your first

  • Whether or not you’re classified as a repeat offender, which can carry considerably harsher penalties

  • Whether someone was harmed in the commission of the crime

  • How likely someone was to be harmed in the commission of the crime

  • Whether you are considered the main suspect or an accomplice

  • Whether the crime is determined to be especially destructive or cruel

  • Whether you were under immense stress or suffering from a mental illness at the time of the crime’s commission

  • Whether you are determined to be remorseful for the crime in question

Working closely with a trusted criminal defense attorney from the outset is always in your best interest.

FAQ

Consider the answers to the following frequently asked questions regarding criminal charges in relation to your own case.

Should I go to the police station for questioning?

If the police give you a call and tell you they’d like you to come in for questioning, it can throw you into a panic. And while you don’t want to look guilty, you also don’t want to sacrifice your rights. Instead of refusing to be questioned, let the officer know you’ll be contacting your legal counsel – and then seek legal counsel.

At this point, you – or your attorney – can inform the authorities that you’ve been advised by counsel not to comply. Basing your decision on the advice of counsel is generally a better approach than an outright refusal, and it lets the authorities know that – from now on – everyone will be playing by the rules.

Should I allow the police to search my home?

If the police come to your home asking to search it, they are fishing for evidence. If they had enough evidence to obtain a warrant, they would have one. First, ask if they have a warrant, and if they don’t, refuse the search – then consult with a savvy criminal defense attorney.

Compliance is critical if they do have a warrant, but you shouldn’t wait to seek the legal guidance you need.

Should I let the police search my car?

In certain situations, the police have the right to search your car. If you’re stopped and arrested, for example, the police can do an inventory search of your vehicle. If you’ve been pulled over and ticketed for a moving violation, the officer needs either a warrant or your consent to search your car, and you shouldn’t provide consent.

Even if your car is pristine, it’s important to remember that other people ride in and have access to it, which means there really is no telling what the authorities might find.

Can I talk to the police if I’m pretty sure I can clear up the misunderstanding?

You can talk to the police anytime you want, but if you’re facing a criminal charge – or a charge may be forthcoming –┬áspeaking to the police without legal counsel guiding you is not going to do you any favors.

You may believe you can quickly clear up the issue, and that’s what the police are banking on. They’d like to get you talking and are good at getting the responses they’re looking for. Because even a very innocent statement on your part can work against you, it’s best to invoke your right to silence from the start.

An Experienced Round Rock Criminal Defense Attorney Is Standing By to Help

Brett Pritchard at The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard in Round Rock, Texas, is an accomplished criminal defense lawyer who has decades of experience successfully navigating the state’s criminal justice system. He welcomes the opportunity to fiercely advocate for your case’s best possible resolution.

For more information about what we can do to help you, please don’t hesitate to contact us at 254-781-4222 or schedule your free consultation today.

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