Criminal Defense FAQs
If I don’t speak with the officer, won’t that make me look guilty?
Who cares if they think you are guilty. You need to protect yourself. Also, realize that the police handle these cases every day and they will not be surprised that you invoked your rights. They may even think that you are smart. Don’t fall for their stories about how they just want to help you.
What does it mean to have my charges expunged as compared to a non-disclosure?
Both are great options when looking at the overall scheme of a criminal case. However, you want a charge expunged if possible because this usually means a complete erasure of any records related to your charge. In the case of a non-disclosure, you can only shield the records relevant to your charges from most employers. However, police officers, security type jobs and jobs that require a license will probably be able to retrieve and view your criminal record.
What is the difference between a felony and a misdemeanor?
This question has too many variables to give a good answer. Let’s just say that a felony is much worse than a misdemeanor. To give you an idea of the progression of severity, a Class C Misdemeanor is a ticket with no jail time. A Class B misdemeanor is a maximum of 180 days in jail and a maximum fine of $2,000.00. A Class A misdemeanor is the highest misdemeanor and carries a maximum of one year in jail and up to a $4,000.00 fine.
From there, you have State Jail felonies, 3rd Degree Felonies, 2nd Degree Felonies and 1st Degree felonies. For these offenses, you are looking at potential prison time as opposed to county jail time in the case of a misdemeanor. In addition, a felony could lead to a loss of voting rights, the possibility of not being able to possess a firearm and the loss of other benefits, not to mention the fact that you may find it difficult to find a job.
If the “victim” no longer wants to prosecute (Affidavit of Non-Prosecution), will my charge be dismissed?
It depends on many factors. If the charge is for Family Violence – Assault, it is unlikely that the charges will just be dropped. This is because it is common for an abused family member to decide not to pursue charges even though they continue to be abused. However, sometimes other arrangements can be made that can avoid a conviction. But be careful, even if you get a Deferred Adjudication for a Family Violence Assault, you will never be able to avoid a criminal record. And if you are a Legal Permanent Resident, you could be deported because Family Violence is considered a Crime of Moral Turpitude.
If I am convicted of a crime while I am in the United States legally, can I be deported?
Possibly. If a person is not an American citizen and is convicted of certain crimes, he or she can be removed (“deported”). This includes those in the U.S. on work or student visas as well as lawful permanent residents. For example, if a non-citizen is convicted of an aggravated felony, a crime of moral turpitude or any one of several other specifically enumerated crimes (such as violations of laws relating to domestic violence or controlled substances), he or she is at risk of removal. In addition to possible removal, a conviction may adversely affect a lawful permanent resident’s ability to one day become a citizen.
What is the Real Cost of a Cheap attorney?
The other day, in one of the busy, Harris County, Texas Courts, a Defendant was trying to explain to the Judge why he still did not have an attorney after two court resets. The Defendant told the Judge that he was still trying to find a criminal defense attorney who would be willing to take on his felony case for $300.00. The Judge was shocked. However, there are lawyers lurking in and around every courthouse who are willing to take on any case for whatever sum of money is in the Defendant’s pockets.
While I certainly feel bad for those Defendants who hire one of these lawyers, they should know what kind of legal representation they are likely to receive. It is true that sometimes “you get what you pay for” and the legal field is no different. If you pay next to nothing, you will get what you paid for – next to nothing. On the other hand, a Defendant does not always need the most expensive lawyer to resolve his case. Paying extremely high fees does not always translate to better results.
When evaluating a criminal defense lawyer, a potential Defendant must not make this crucial decision based on fees alone. A potential Defendant needs to look at the background of a criminal defense attorney. Find out the attorney’s background and his experience with the type of charges you are facing. Also, be sure to find a good fit for your personality. Every criminal defense attorney is going to handle and solve a criminal charge in different ways. It is important to find a Harris County criminal defense attorney who fits your personality.
When Red Adair (a famous oil well fire-fighter) was questioned about his high fees, he stated “[I]f you think it’s expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur.”
That quote also holds true in the legal profession.
Do you really want to hire the attorney who charges the least amount of money when your very freedom is at stake? Find a criminal defense lawyer in your area who charges a fair rate. We handle criminal cases in Galveston and Harris County. If you want to gamble with your freedom, go to Las Vegas or hire the cheapest lawyer you can find. If you want to know the risks before you take a gamble with your freedom, talk to a criminal defense lawyer who handles cases in your area. We can help walk you through the process, advising you of the many potential legal landmines waiting ahead of you. Do not take this dangerous path without a qualified guide.
Car Wreck FAQs
Should I talk to the other driver's insurance company? What if they call me?
Never give a statement about the auto accident to the insurance company representing the other driver. If you are contacted by the insurance company, you are within your rights to refuse to speak with them. Be polite, but do not provide any information about the accident. Insurance claims adjusters are professional negotiators, and will use any information you provide to hurt your claim against their agency.
They may also present a settlement offer before you have had a chance to speak with an attorney If you accept this settlement, you will not be able to pursue additional money for your injuries. Do not sign any paperwork, including a settlement or a release of medical records, before you are aware of your rights under the law.
What is the first action you should take when you have an accident?
The first step after any car accident is to make sure that you and your passengers are not hurt in any manner. If you suspect that someone is injured or may be injured, call 911 immediately, even in a minor wreck. Next, make sure that you and your car are in a safe location. Your safety is the number one consideration immediately following a wreck.
If it is safe to do so, talk to the other drivers of the vehicles involved in the collision. Get their names and contact information, as well as driver’s license and insurance information. Write down everything from their driver’s licenses, including the state of issue and TDL number. Their insurance information is also critical, so make sure you note both the name of the insurance company as well as the policy number. The easiest way to collect all this information is to simply take a picture with your phone of any information such as a drivers’ license and the insurance card. If the driver of the car is not the owner, be sure to get the owner’s contact information as well.
Do not make any statement to the other driver or their passengers about fault.
Once the police arrive, make sure that you have all the other person’s information as well as the officer’s name, the name of his police agency and the accident case number. Take your own notes about the car crash and the location. Take photographs of all cars and of the scene. Scene pictures, pictures of the damage to the cars and how the cars came to rest after the wreck can make or break a case. Note any rubber marks on the pavement or other indicators of where the impact may have occurred. Notes and photos of the scene will help you recall details later. Write down information about all vehicles involved, including license plate number, year, make, model, and color, as well as any visible damage related to the accident.
Be sure to find any possible witnesses. Often, a person stops to check on the occupants of a car, and then the person leaves. If someone stops or if someone saw the wreck, be sure to get the name and contact information of that person.
Who should I contact after a car accident?
Other than the police officer and medical personnel for any immediate injuries, you may want to seek injury care even if you did not seek care at the hospital. In most cases, people involved in an accident do not seek medical attention from the hospital or even the scene.
In fact, a lot of people will not feel pain until much later in the day or the first few days following the wreck. This is not unusual. Contact the appropriate medical provider for your injury. If your car was towed away, contact the storage yard where your car is located. Go to where the car is located and take more pictures as well as remove any personal items from the car.
Call your car insurance agent promptly to report the accident. This step is required even if the car accident was minor and did not cause any damage to your vehicle.
What makes a good car wreck case?
There are two main factors in determining whether or not you have a good case. The first factor is liability. Liability simply means who is at fault. If the wreck was your fault, then you would not have a good case if you wanted to make a claim against the other driver. This is pretty obvious. When you have what we call a “he said/she said” type of wreck, which means that liability is disputed, most lawyers will be very hesitant to pick up such a case. That is why photographs and witnesses are so critical in proving who was at fault. Even if you received a ticket, you may be able to overcome the ticket by your testimony, your evidence and your witnesses.
The second factor in determining whether or not you have a good case is damages. Damages are mainly about actual injuries, but the amount of damage to your car can be important. Most insurance companies will not believe that you are injured if you have low property damage. This is contrary to what science and my experience have shown. Unfortunately, juries seem to believe that injuries are not likely in low impact cases. For that reason, the amount of actual damage to your car does make a difference in the success of your case.
More important is your actual injury. Insurance companies want to see something visible like a cut, a broken bone or something easily identifiable as an injury. This is not the case in most car wreck cases. Most car wreck cases involve damage to tissue, ligaments and joints. What can be surprising to some is the fact that this type of injury can be more painful, can last longer, and is more difficult to overcome than a so called visual injury.
You have a right to seek medical care and to even have diagnostic work performed. MRIs are a normal tool to get a proper diagnosis of your pain. MRIs and other diagnostic tools are critical in determining the reason for your pain and the insurance adjusters should not be allowed to dictate what is or is not proper medical.
Should I take the settlement my insurance company is offering me?
After an auto wreck, victims are often surprised at how quickly the insurance company offers a settlement. Before accepting this offer, be aware that this is often a tactic to get you to settle for less than your claim is worth. If you accept the settlement, you will not be able to pursue additional compensation later. Be aware that you are under no obligation to accept a settlement offer, especially if you feel that it is not enough to compensate you for your injuries and damages.
Always consult with an experienced car crash lawyer before accepting any settlement offer. Your personal injury lawyer can help you determine a reasonable amount based on the facts of your case. Because each case is complex, it takes a skilled auto accident lawyer to determine whether a settlement offer is fair. Your attorney can also continue the negotiations for you, potentially reaching a higher settlement offer than you would be able to achieve alone.
What if I cannot afford to pay my medical bills?
Although the at-fault driver in a car crash is responsible for the medical bills relating to the accident, reaching a settlement can take some time. Meanwhile, your medical bills keep going up.
In the interim, your insurance company may provide some level of medical expenses following an accident, regardless of who is at fault. Texas law requires every car registered in the state to carry at least $30,000 in liability insurance for accidents injuring one person, and a minimum of $60,000 for accidents injuring multiple people. Such coverage will pay for your medical bills if you are involved in a car accident. Your health insurance may also cover these medical expenses.
How much can I expect from a settlement offer?
Those involved in a vehicle accident will often try to settle out of court. Because the facts of each case are unique, there is no way to determine the amount of the settlement offer before it is made. The dollar figure varies in each case depending on the injuries and other variables. Often, the settlement offer is based on what the other side thinks the outcome would be if the case went to trial.
A fair settlement offer includes the costs for medical treatment and to repair damaged property, and may include costs for pain and suffering, time out of work due to injuries, and other variables. In most cases, the settlement offer is roughly twice your medical bills, though this can vary greatly depending on the facts of your case. There is no set formula to determine what you can recover through a settlement offer. By working with an experienced automobile wreck lawyer, you can increase your chances of a fair settlement offer.
Who can be held legally responsible for injuries resulting from an automobile accident?
If you are injured as the result of an auto accident, the person most commonly held legally responsible is the driver who caused the accident. Other than the at-fault driver and their insurance company, there are other potential defendants who may be held responsible for your injuries. To ensure maximum legal recovery, it is important for you and your Houston automobile accident attorney to identify as many potential defendants as possible.
In a crash involving a commercial vehicle, the trucking company or employer, as well as their insurance companies, may be obligated to compensate you for your injuries. In cases involving a minor driving, their parents may be held responsible.
What types of compensation am I eligible for if I am injured in an automobile accident?
When a claim is made against the person responsible for your auto accident, their insurance company is responsible for paying for all the damages that resulting from the accident. When recovering damages for an automobile accident, knowing the insurance business, the complexities of the law and the rights of the victims is critical to getting the maximum compensation. Compensation for your injuries caused by someone who was negligent could include:
- All medical expenses, Cost for property damage and loss,
- Lost wages, and Pain and suffering.
I was hurt in a car crash and I think I was partially to blame for the accident? Can I still be compensated for my injuries?
In many cases, yes, you can still be awarded compensation for your injuries, even if the injuries stem from an accident for which you were partially at fault. Under the Texas legal rules of proportionate responsibility, your blame or fault in the car accident can be weighed against the responsibility of other involved parties. It is possible that your compensation will be less than if you shared no fault for the accident, but you should still get a fair payment. A car accident lawyer will work to help you get the compensation you deserve.
My insurance company says it will pay for my injuries. Do I still need an attorney?
If you are seriously injured, it is worth your time to consult with an auto accident lawyer following an accident even if you believe you may be partially to blame. Insurance companies want to close cases quickly, and the adjusters are looking out for the company’s bottom line – they may not offer you a fair compensation.
The car accident attorney at Don E. McClure, Jr., PLLC is well versed in the personal injury laws of Texas. We know the laws and we know your rights. We can evaluate your case and help you understand your legal rights. If you choose to pursue a legal claim, we will fight for you to receive as much compensation as possible for your injuries and resulting expenses.
Am I required to talk to the responsible party’s insurance company?
The better question may be: Should you talk to the responsible party’s insurance company?
If you have been injured in a car wreck, you need to be aware of the great lengths that insurance companies and their insurance agents will go through just to get you to give up your rights and not make a claim or not sue a responsible party. They will also low-ball you and talk you into accepting much less than you deserve for your injuries. You do not know the true value of your case because you do not handle these types of cases daily. The insurance companies and their agent do. And they will act like your friend, like they are doing you a favor, while getting you to accept less than what you deserve.
You do not have to talk to them. They will record your statement and then try to use it against you later. Even if you are telling the truth, little things that you may say could be twisted and could be used against you. Remember, the goal of the insurance company is to get you to accept a quick settlement for less money. Sometimes, even before you have had a chance to consult with a doctor. Again, they do this every single day. Who do you think has the advantage?
Juries have already been tainted by the insurance companies to believe that a large portion of injured people are either not hurt or are exaggerating their injuries. They tell the jury that people claiming injuries are just looking for the “jackpot lottery”. For this reason, and because of lower verdicts, the insurance adjusters in Texas will often offer minimum money for your injuries, even with significant injuries. This practice is unfair to those who suffered very real injuries.
It is our belief that you must call them on their unfair offers of settlement. You must be willing to call their bluff and file suit when necessary. One of the benefits of having a Texas car wreck attorney is to make sure that the insurance companies play fair. And when they don’t, to have an advocate who is willing to stand up and make them play fair. You need someone who is invested, both mentally and financially, in the success of your case.
You want a lawyer who will pursue a fair settlement, but also someone who is willing to take on the risks of a trial. You also want an attorney who is willing to guide you through the process. We believe that one of our main jobs is to educate you about this complex process so that you can make the best decisions possible. We do not hide anything when it comes to providing you knowledge through educational materials and through our well-trained staff. We are different than most law firms in that we actually encourage you to be knowledgeable about your case and we hold back no “secrets”.
Are there any deadlines that I need to be concerned about?
There is something called the “statute of limitations” that you need to know about. In Texas, you must file your lawsuit within two years of the date of your wreck or you may be denied from making any claim at all. For example, if you were involved in a car wreck on November 15, 2014, you would need to file your lawsuit by November 15, 2016. Both property damage and personal injuries follow the two-year deadline. Personally, I would never want to come even close to that deadline. That sounds like a lot of time, but when you add in the investigation that is required, the medical treatment that can take months, and the negotiations that can go on for even more months, you can be facing the two-year cutoff before you know it. Also, please note that you are only required to file the lawsuit by that date. You do not have to have the case tried or resolved by that date.
There are some limited occasions where there may be more time to file a lawsuit. For example, some injuries take a while to develop or to be discovered. In those type of cases, you may be entitled to two years from the date that you should have reasonably discovered such injury. Another example would be in the situation where the responsible party does not have insurance or does not have enough insurance. In that case, you may be able to make a claim against your own insurance company if you carry uninsured motorist coverage or underinsured motorist coverage. If you cannot settle with your own insurance company, you can sue them for breach of contract, which is a four-year (from date of wreck) statute of limitations. There may be other time requirements, so be sure to check with an experienced Texas attorney.
Another exception in the statute of limitations time requirement would be where minor children are involved in a wreck. As to minor children, the clock starts ticking when the child becomes 18 years of age. Two years from age 18 is 20, so a minor child would have a statute of limitations of 20 years of age.
Therefore, we try to evaluate every case as to filing suit at the one year mark, if not earlier. We want to make sure that we have the correct Defendants and that we have time to serve the responsible parties. Occasionally, we will wait another six months, but we ideally like to file suit no later than the one year mark.
The whole idea of ‘statute of limitations” is to make sure a potential party does not have to look over its shoulder for years and years to come. The purpose of this rule is to encourage people to go ahead and make a claim or file a lawsuit as soon as needed and not to wait. This may be important not only to keeping all the evidence, but is also equally important for any witnesses to correctly remember the facts.
Make sure to contact an experienced Texas car wreck lawyer before taking any action (or omission) that could result in the loss of your rights.
I did not feel pain at the scene of the car crash and refused medical treatment. Now, a few days later I am in pain. What should I do?
In many cases, victims of a car accident do not feel pain until several days after the collision. As soon as you feel pain, consult your medical provider, no matter how minor you believe the injuries to be. Whenever you have symptoms that may be related to this injury, see your doctor, even if it is months after the accident. Continue treatment until your doctor releases you. Records of these visits verify the nature and duration of your injuries, which can be important for proving a car accident injury claim.
Even if you did not complain of injuries or receive medical treatment at the scene of the accident, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries. Consult with a Houston car accident attorney to begin putting together your claim.
What about my damaged car? What do I need to do to protect myself?
It depends. The first thing that you need to do is make sure that the insurance company of the person responsible for the wreck knows where to find your vehicle. They may want to remove the car from the storage lot to their own storage lot to save the fees. This is normal, but you should have a lawyer check the paperwork to make sure that you are not accidentally releasing any property damage claim.
If the car is fixable, and if you gave the insurance company notice of the location of your car right away, then you are entitled to a rental car from the date of the wreck through the time that the repairs should have been completed. If your body shop or mechanic does not finish the car repairs on a timely basis as determined by the insurance company, you could end up paying for those additional days. Also, please note that you should try to get the lowest costing rental car as the insurance companies have very strict guidelines as to what they will pay. Keep in mind that you have the right to get a car like what you were driving at the time of the wreck. However, in reality, the insurance company will still only pay for a low-cost rental car. If you were driving a truck and you used the truck for work at the time of the wreck, you may be able to get a similar vehicle as the insurance company wants to avoid a lost wage claim if possible.
You have the right to pick your repair shop. This could be a dealership or it may be a small shop. Even though the insurance adjuster will sometimes try to get you to one of their “approved” shops, you can go anywhere that you want to get the repairs completed. Also note that you should have your own independent evaluation of the car damages and not just rely on the estimate provided by the opposing car insurance company. Most body shops and mechanics will do this free of charge. Just keep in mind that most insurance companies do not have your best interests at heart.
Further, you are entitled to be paid the costs to fix your vehicle if repairable. As mentioned above, the insurance company will perform their own estimate. If your body shop/mechanic feels like the estimate is to low, they will contact the insurance company to explain their position. Further, if additional damage is found, the insurance company will do a supplemental estimate of such damage and should pay for such repairs. Supplemental damage is very normal.
Do NOT give the body shop/mechanic the check for the repairs until the work has been completed to your satisfaction. This is critical as this may be the only way you can ensure that your car is fixed properly. Make sure to thoroughly inspect the vehicle before you pay for such repairs.
If the car is not fixable, then your car is a “total loss”. This is the definition for “total loss” if you are pursuing damages against the responsible party’s insurance. In this case, you will only be paid for the actual value of the car prior to the wreck. If you decide to keep the vehicle, they will subtract out the salvage value of the car. The most important issue that you need to realize is that “technically”, the insurance company is not responsible for your car rental when there has been a total loss. Many times, we still get them to pay for the rental car up to the date that they make the decision that the vehicle is, in fact, a total loss.
Can I get a divorce even if my spouse does not want a divorce?
Yes. There are several ways that a divorce can be handled in order to eventually get you divorced.
What is the fee for a divorce?
The fee for a divorce varies depending on the issues of each case. We handle simple, incontested cases on a flat fee basis, but more complex family matters are charged by the hour.
Can I request back child support from the date of separation until now?
Back child support can be requested, but receiving it will depend on the Judge of the Court that your case lands in. It is not guaranteed. Usually, such back child support is limited to 4 years.
What is a temporary restraining order?
A temporary restraining order is an order that is in effect temporarily while the case is pending. This order includes mutual injunctions that the parties must follow pending a case. In divorce cases, this type of order normally establishes certain things such as child support, conservatorship and visitation as well as temporary exclusive rights regarding community property. The most basic reasons for a Temporary Order are to keep the parties from hiding a child from the other person, to establish temporary child support and visitation and to make sure no one hides or sells assets of the marriage.
Does my spouse have an interest in my 401k or pension plans?
Yes. As long as you were married during the time your spouse accumulated such retirement benefits, you will be entitled to a portion of such benefits. Even if your spouse started the job prior to your marriage, you will still have a claim to the portion of retirement benefits accumulated during the marriage.
Do I have to change my name with the divorce?
No, you do not have to.
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