While a local Texas celebrity known for dramatizing criminal law has recently taken the internet by storm with viral YouTube videos advertising his Ft. Worth law practice, it is important to know what you should actually do if you are charged with a crime under Texas law.
In the criminal justice system, the first several days after being charged with a crime are the most critical period. What happens in those first hours of police interrogation and at arraignment will often mean the difference between a winning case and a plea. As attorneys, we often see clients make errors that can negatively impact their changes in court. These are some of the most important five tips to know if you are charged with a crime and are uncertain what to do.
1. Hire an Attorney Immediately
Under the United States Constitution, every person has a right to consult with an attorney at any point during the criminal process. Once you have been charged with a crime, your right to an attorney immediately attaches and you should call as soon as possible. If you are unsure whether or not you can afford an attorney, you should also know that the government is required to provide a public defender for your case if you are unable to pay.
Regardless, the presence of an attorney at the earliest possible time can create a world of difference in a criminal case. Attorneys know how police think and what types of tricks they use to elicit confessions from defendants. Having an attorney present to advise you can ensure that the police follow the rules.
2. Do Not Talk About the Charges with Anyone Except for Your Attorney
The Fifth Amendment provides a right to remain silent, which means that no one can be forced to incriminate themselves. Use it. While the police cannot interrogate anyone represented by an attorney without that attorney present (you read tip number one, right?), anyone you speak to becomes a potential witness for the prosecution.
3. Assume that the Police Are Lying to You
One of the most common police tactics is to feed a criminal defendant false information. The purpose of this tactic is to try to elicit information or a response from a crime suspect. You should always assume that police are not as far along in their investigation as they are leading you to believe.
4. Do Not Give Permission to the Government or Police for Anything
Under the Fourth Amendment, the police usually require a warrant to perform a search. But, if the subject of the search consents to the search, that consent is just as good as a warrant. Consent searches comprise more than 90% of all warrant-less searches and are one of the most common mechanisms used by the police to find contraband and evidence. Even if you believe that the area they plan to search contains nothing incriminating, err on the side of caution and force them to get a warrant before the search.
5. Ask Your Lawyer to Explain Things You Hear but Don’t Understand
The legal system is full of jargon, and one of your lawyer’s jobs is to guide you through the process. If you hear terms thrown around loosely like a “1244”, or “plea bargain”, or “arraignment”, do not worry if you do not know what those terms mean. Ask your attorney, and they will explain the issue to you.
Following this basic advice can mean the difference between serving jail time and either a dismissal of your case or a favorable plea. As a defendant, you should know your rights and take advantage of them where possible.