Below you will find some of the most frequently asked questions the accused have about their case. Without an attorney guiding you through the criminal legal process, even a relatively minor charge can be daunting. How should I plead? Do I have the right to contest what the officer told me? Will the system really treat me as innocent until proven guilty? If you’d like to discuss any of these questions or your criminal case in greater detail, call us today at (214) 797-1861.
What are some common defense strategies?
The two main defense strategies are to arrange a plea deal, or proceed to trial in hopes of obtaining a not guilty verdict. In Texas, 98% of criminal charges settle before trial. The main reason is that prosecutors would rather not take the time to try a case if they don’t have to, so they offer a reduced punishment to keep the work moving along. When the evidence against you is strong, but a plea agreement would result in greatly lesser punishment (and often no conviction on the underlying charge), a deal can make a lot of sense.
However, good defense attorneys are ready to go to trial when necessary. Prosecutors who find out they’re against a strong trial attorney on the other side fear going to trial and losing completely, so they often give better deals to those who threaten the chance of a not guilty trial verdict. One of the strongest qualifications an attorney possesses is a track record of trial experience.
At the Law Office of Walker Fults, you will have an attorney on your side who has won at trial, but also has the skill to settle a case on favorable terms when the circumstances require. To discuss your specific case, call the Law Office of Walker Fults today at (214) 797-1861.
When should I take the step to hire a criminal defense lawyer?
If you have been charged with a crime, you put yourself in the best position by acting quickly to obtain a lawyer on your side who will fight for your rights at every stage of the process. Police and prosecutors seek convictions, and will employ many tactics to trick you into pleading guilty to a crime, convincing you to take a deal not in your best interest, or even use legal short-cuts that infringe on your rights. With an aggressive and experience attorney on your side, however, you have the assurance that at every stage, your best interests are being protected and your full rights upheld under the law. You have everything to gain by acting quickly. Make sure it’s done right the first time by hiring the right criminal defense attorney from the start of the process.
Why hire my own attorney if the State will provide me with one?
If you have been arrested or charged with a crime, you are entitled to representation by an attorney. Under certain circumstances, the court may appoint an attorney to defend you—either a public defender, or a private appointed attorney. Unfortunately, state appointed attorneys are often over-worked and treat each case like a file in a large stack. Their goal can become case management: just moving the system along. Public defenders have an even larger work burden. By hiring your own private attorney, you are able to have your choice of who you want fighting for your interests, and will have the ability to make sure your lawyer gives your case the attentiveness it deserves.
If your case is not very important to you and money is a major factor, a court appointed attorney or public defender might make sense. If your goal is to absolutely minimize the impact of your charge on your future, then hiring the right attorney with the resources to focus on your interests above all else is the right choice.
If I plan on pleading guilty, how can a lawyer help?
The prosecution’s goal is to vigorously press charges and penalties against you. Without a lawyer to defend your side of the story, the judge will hear a lopsided and biased version of events, many times leading to stricter punishment than you deserve. Many people decide to throw themselves on the mercy of the court thinking they cannot afford a lawyer. When they receive their sentence, they realize how costly that decision actually is. Even if you plan to plead guilty to your charges, a skilled and experienced lawyer can make sure the prosecution obeys the law, and can advise you on different possible courses of action that put your interests above everything else.
What if I get arrested?
Of course everyone wants to avoid being arrested. If you do get arrested, however, there are important action steps you can implement immediately to have the best shot at protecting your rights and improving your chances of minimizing the effect of criminal charges on your future:
- Don’t give incriminating information to police. You have the right to remain silent, and in 99% of cases, you improve your case by doing so. What helps you will be forgotten; what hurts you will be put front and center by the government.
- Call for your attorney. You have the right to an attorney under the law, and only an attorney who represents your interests only (not the State’s) is best equipped to advise you what to say and how to act. In a serious medical emergency, you should rely fully on a skilled doctor, not yourself. In a serious legal emergency, rely only on a skilled and experienced lawyer to counsel you through each step of the way.
Is there a difference between DWI and DUI?
In Texas, DUI, or driving under the influence, is a criminal charge given only to those under the legal drinking age of 21. Any amount of alcohol in their system can result in a DUI. A DWI, or driving while intoxicated, can be given to drivers who, though old enough to drink, are suspected of driving with impaired function due to alcohol or drugs.
What constitutes “probable cause”?
Probable cause is the standard by which police are legally allowed to stop and search you. One of the most important rights enshrined in the American constitution is the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition of unreasonable search and seizure. Unlike in many other countries, police in America are not permitted to detain you or search your person or belongings without a valid legal reason to do so. If police observe illegal substances in plain sight, act on specific information, or have some other valid legal basis for a detention or search, they may proceed to the extent that information contemplates. However, if they recover illegal evidence outside of what the law requires, it can be thrown out at trial, which usually hollows out the prosecution’s case against you and results in a finding of not guilty.
Can police enter my home?
No! Unless . . . they have some valid legal basis to do so, such as a search warrant issued by a judge, based on specific articulable and actionable information, or “exigent circumstances” like an emergency or a crime in the middle of being carried out. If police ask to enter your home, it’s almost always best to respectfully decline. Tell them you cannot let them inside if they do not have a search warrant, and that you do not consent to any searches. However, if you enter by force, act compliantly and respectfully, and do not provoke them. If possible, capture what is happening on video. Later any evidence they seek to bring against you may be thrown out, leading to dismissal of the charges you could face.
Can police search my car just because I got pulled over for speeding?
No! Police are not allowed to search you or your vehicle simply because you’ve been pulled over for a routine traffic infraction, such as speeding or running a red light. In order to search you, police need articulable suspicion or probable cause of a different crime, such as possession of unlawful drugs or unlawful possession of a firearm. For example, if police see drugs sitting in plain sight, observe a drug deal being made, observe an illegal weapon, or act on a reliable tip, they may have the ability under the law to carry out a search.
Never consent to a search. If police ask to search you or your vehicle, respectfully decline by saying “I do not consent to any search.” If you are unsure whether you are detained by police or not, you may also respectfully ask them if you are being detained, or are free to go.
The police did not read me my rights. How does that influence my case?
American law recognizes criminal suspects’ constitutional right to an attorney, and right against self-incrimination. However, what do these rights matter if police interrogate a person, often using lies and threats, and the person isn’t even aware of what his rights are under the law? The United States Supreme Court answered this question in 1966 in Miranda v. Arizona, in which it found that before police interrogate a person, they must inform that person of certain rights they possess under the law, including the right to an attorney, the right to end police interrogation, and the right against self-incrimination. This script has now become memorialized in popular culture, often referred to simply as “Miranda rights.”
If police did not read you these rights, their interrogation may be shown to be unlawful, and anything you said might be thrown out as evidence. However, unless they question you, they are not required to read you your rights.
How long will my case take?
Usually longer than you expect . . . but that’s not always a bad thing. Rushing the process can put you in an unfavorable bargaining position. The exact timeline of how long a case will take from start to finish depends on many factors, including the nature of the charge, how long it takes to gather evidence, and trial scheduling, to name a few. However, the majority of cases resolve in less than a year, many times in just a few months.
If I go to trial, who will sit on my jury?
If you decide to go to trial to prove your innocence, you will have the opportunity (through your lawyer) to convince a jury of regular people that you should not be punished. These people represent larger society, chosen from the community where the crime occurred. Wise lawyers have said that a jury trial is often won or lost at voir dire, the stage of trial where the jury is first chosen by the attorneys. Each side is allowed to question the jury pool, striking undesirable choices or objecting to those who cannot apply the law fairly. When trying a case to a jury, it’s also important that the jury like the lawyer as well as his client, to seal the vote of each juror at the end of the trial.
What is the difference between Theft and Robbery?
Both theft and robbery indicate the act of stealing the property of another, but robbery carries the additional indication that violence was threatened or applied in the act. Robbery is a felony crime in Texas, whereas theft may be a small misdemeanor, or a grave felony depending on the value of the property stolen, among other factors. While both charges are very serious, a felony carries with it the loss of fundamental rights. If you have been charged with either theft or robbery, contact the Law Office of Walker Fults right away to find out what you’re facing, and how our legal team can help you.
How are juvenile cases handled differently?
The law recognizes that juveniles are still developing and may not always fully grasp the consequences of their actions. Juvenile offenses often carry reduced penalties with an emphasis on rehabilitation rather than simple punishment. These sentences can often include community service, probation, or time spent in a dedicated juvenile detention center. If you, or a family member, has been charged with a juvenile offense, it’s imperative to contact an attorney quickly to avoid the harshest penalties, which can set back a young person’s future.
Is it possible to have criminal charges cleared from my record?
Usually criminal charges and convictions become a permanent part of your legal record. Many people have difficulty finding desirable work or even renting housing if they have a criminal record. In some cases, however, it may be possible to wipe the slate clean, as if nothing ever happened. Texas has processes for expunction, record clearing, and non-disclosure that allow some charges to be legally adjudicated to never have happened. In those cases, you can truthfully and lawfully respond to questions asking if you’ve ever been in trouble with “no.”
Get in Touch with a Dallas Criminal Defense Attorney Today
At the Law Office of Walker Fults, our legal team has experience helping those charged with a crime minimize or eliminate the impact of that charge, through proceeding to trial, or reaching a favorable agreement with the State. If you’ve been charged, don’t go it alone and risk being taken advantage of by police and over-zealous prosecutors. Call the Law Office of Walker Fults today at (214) 797-1861 to find out how we can put our knowledge and expertise to work for you.