Criminal law is a complex and often confusing area of law that deals with offenses and violations that are considered to be serious crimes. Examples of criminal offenses include theft, assault, drug offenses, and more. If you have been charged with a criminal offense in Texas, it is important to speak with a qualified criminal law attorney as soon as possible.
A criminal law attorney can provide valuable legal guidance and representation throughout the criminal justice process. This can include:
When choosing a criminal law attorney in Texas, it is important to look for an attorney who has experience in this area of law, is responsive and communicative, and has a track record of success in representing clients in criminal cases. At Rodney Jones Law Group P.C., we protect your legal rights and interests and increase your chances of achieving a favorable outcome in your case.
In most cases, a defendant should always hire an attorney to handle a criminal case. When so much is at stake, the knowledge and experience accumulated by a professional can make a huge difference. They may be able to recognize problems with the prosecution’s case or available defenses that an ordinary person could not identify. The prosecution can bring substantial resources to pursuing a case, so retaining an attorney is an important way to level the playing field. Even if you plead guilty, an attorney may be able to negotiate a better plea bargain because the prosecution will likely take your position more seriously if you have representation.
The police must read the Miranda warnings before they interrogate someone who is in custody. Being in custody means that a reasonable person would conclude that they were not free to leave. Statements that are volunteered by someone in custody, without an interrogation, can be used against them even if the police did not provide Miranda warnings. An interrogation can consist of not only direct questioning but also actions by the police that are likely to elicit an incriminating response by the suspect.
The police can give Miranda warnings midway through an interrogation, but statements provided prior to the warnings likely will not be admissible against the defendant. Sometimes a defendant will confess before they receive the warnings and then confess again after they receive the warnings, feeling that it would be pointless to recant the confession. However, the second confession also may be inadmissible in some cases if the police benefited from the suspect’s confusion to get the second confession.
Sometimes a statement that was obtained in violation of the Miranda rights will lead law enforcement to discover tangible evidence against the defendant. The rule is that this evidence can be admitted in most cases, despite the Miranda violation. If the police went beyond violating the Miranda rules and coerced the suspect into making a confession, the evidence probably will not be admitted.
Search and seizure rules apply whenever law enforcement conducts a search that invades a citizen’s legitimate expectation of privacy. The expectation of privacy must be objectively reasonable under the circumstances.
A search warrant is a document signed by a judge that allows the police to conduct a search in a certain place for certain items. The police will need to establish probable cause based on their observations or information from a reliable informant. If the police conduct a search without a warrant, it is presumed to be unreasonable unless the police can show that an exception to the requirement justified the search. The search generally cannot extend beyond the scope of the warrant, in terms of either the locations searched or the items for which the police are searching.
The police can search a car that has been towed and impounded, regardless of whether the car was illegally parked or stolen. They may be able to search closed containers inside the car. The police do not have a right to impound a car for the purpose of conducting a search, and they must follow appropriate procedures during the search.
A police officer sometimes will issue a citation rather than making a formal arrest. This can mitigate overcrowding in jails, although it may pose a danger to the community by allowing a suspect to remain at large. If you have received a citation instead of being arrested, you do not have an arrest record and do not need to disclose the citation in response to a question about your arrest record. However, by signing the citation, you agree to appear in court as specified in the citation. You may be subject to arrest if you fail to appear.
The probable cause standard does not require proof beyond a reasonable doubt. It is more than a reasonable suspicion, but it is often considered to be less than the preponderance of the evidence standard in civil court. The preponderance of the evidence standard means that a fact is more likely than not to be true. Thus, probable cause is not as “probable” as it sounds.
Usually, an officer cannot make an arrest for a misdemeanor unless the crime occurred in their presence. This may extend beyond their physical presence to the use of scientific instruments and reasonable inferences. An officer also can rely on the observations of other officers or admissions by a suspect. When a misdemeanor did not occur in the presence of the officer, they still can pursue an arrest warrant by submitting an affidavit to a judge. The affidavit will need to establish probable cause.
A bench warrant is a specific type of warrant that a judge issues when a defendant fails to show up in court when required or otherwise violates the rules of court. It can function as an arrest warrant does, since the police can use a bench warrant to seize the defendant and bring them back to court. However, a judge starts the process of issuing a bench warrant, rather than a police officer.
A bail hearing allows a defendant in state court to ask the judge for a lower amount of bail, or for release on their own recognizance without paying any bail. The prosecution also may ask the judge to increase the amount of bail, or argue that bail should not be reduced. These hearings are usually informal, although the judge can hear witness testimony. The judge generally will not hear evidence from one side without the other side being present. A bail hearing does not weigh the guilt or innocence of the defendant but simply the probability that they will appear in court when required. However, the strength of the evidence against the defendant may play a role in the decision.
There is no meaningful difference between an acquittal and a not guilty verdict. An acquittal happens at a trial when the judge or jury finds that the defendant is not guilty because the prosecution failed to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt. Sometimes a judge or jury may issue a partial acquittal if they find that the defendant is guilty of some charges but not others. However, there are ways other than a not guilty verdict to get an acquittal. If the prosecution has insufficient evidence, a judge can issue a judgment of acquittal. The prosecution may appeal this type of judgment, although they cannot appeal a not guilty verdict by a jury.
A criminal case usually takes priority over a civil case resulting from the same sequence of events. A defendant may try to delay the civil case until the criminal case is resolved so that the prosecution cannot use information from the civil case to support the charges. Deciding whether to pause or postpone the civil case remains within the authority of the judge in civil court. Often, a judge will grant this type of motion because resolving the criminal case can simplify the civil matter.
The complexity of a case will affect how long it takes. A simple misdemeanor might be resolved within a few weeks or a month, while a felony case might last for several months or a year. If the prosecution makes a reasonable plea offer early in the process, the case will end much sooner than if it goes to trial.
Very few criminal cases actually go to trial. The charges may be dismissed or dropped, or the defense may succeed in a pre-trial motion that essentially destroys the prosecution’s case. Most often, however, the two sides will reach a plea bargain in which the defendant pleads guilty or no contest in exchange for a lesser charge or lighter sentence. Over 90 percent of all cases result in plea bargains.
In some states, law enforcement will eliminate an arrest from an individual’s record automatically if they are not charged. Sometimes, however, the individual may need to file a formal petition to get a finding of factual innocence. If their petition succeeds, the record of the arrest likely can be sealed. This is important because having an arrest visible to employers and others can have negative consequences.