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Frequently Asked Questions About Criminal Defense

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After an arrest, an individual may have endless questions and feel like they have no one to answer them. It’s normal to have questions after being arrested for a crime in Texas. Remember, just because a person is arrested for a crime does not mean a guilty verdict will occur in the near future. Although we can’t answer every question related to a Texas criminal defense, here are a few to help you understand the state’s criminal justice system.

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1. I’ve Been Arrested for a Crime in Texas. Will I Automatically Go to Trial?

The answer depends on when the arrest occurred. Sometimes an arrest will occur after a grand jury has met. This means the person is further along in the criminal justice system. If a person is arrested on probable cause, then it is just an arrest until a grand jury meets. At this point, the person is only accused of a crime, not indicted.

The role of a grand jury is to decide whether there’s enough evidence to indict a suspect and continue the criminal process of going to trial. A grand jury reviews evidence and listens to testimony to determine if there’s significant evidence. The grand jury does not determine guilt or innocence. A defense attorney isn’t allowed to present a defense. That’s why a lot of people are indicted on a criminal charge when they are actually innocent.

2. Can My Parents and/or Friend Refuse to Talk to the Police about My Whereabouts During the Time I Allegedly Committed the Crime?

No. Parents/child and friend/friend communication privilege isn’t recognized in Texas. Spousal privilege is recognized in the state. Spousal privilege prevents a spouse from testifying against their spouse in court. Any time a person, whether a parent or friends, fails to cooperate, they can encounter serious legal problems. Remember, the parent or friend can also speak to the defendant’s lawyer and give them important information to aid in their case.

3. What is a Plea Deal and Should I Take One?

A plea deal, also called a plea bargain, is similar to an out-of-court settlement in a civil trial. Both happen outside of court. A prosecutor often offers a defendant a deal. The deal may be less time in jail or prison in exchange for a guilty plea. The deal has some advantages such as less time behind bars and no trial. It also has many disadvantages like a final conviction on the person’s criminal record. This conviction can interfere with future job and school prospects.

Whether or not a person should take a plea deal should not be made without a criminal attorney. A plea deal may seem like a win-win for the prosecution and defendant. However, it may be a win for the prosecutor and loss for the defendant. Speak to a criminal attorney if a plea deal is offered or one is desired.

4. What is a Defense Strategy?

A defense strategy is the way in which a defense attorney proves their client’s innocence or mitigates the charge. To mitigate means to give reasons why a defendant isn’t guilty for a harsher crime. For example, in Texas murder is defined as intentionally or knowingly causing an individual’s death. It is also the intent to cause serious bodily injury and committing an act so dangerous to human life that it causes another’s death.

Manslaughter occurs when a person recklessly causes the death of another individual. A defense attorney may use a strategy to prove their client committed manslaughter rather than murder because they had no intent to kill.

Majority of defense strategies don’t include trying to prove a lesser charge. Instead, they involve proving the client’s innocence by using a particular defense. These defenses include:

  • Affirmative criminal defense shows the prosecution evidence is false or misleading. The attorney may use an alibi strategy to show that the defendant wasn’t in the area at the time the crime was committed or use eyewitness testimony.
  • Insanity defense involves the defendant being insane at the time the crime was committed.
  • Duress and coercion involve going after the police. The defenses claim the defendant isn’t guilty because they were coerced into committing the crime or taking the blame for it.
  • Self-defense refers to the defendant protecting themselves from harm when injuring or killing the victim. For instance, a person is allowed to use the same amount of force used by an assailant to protect themselves from harm. Their attorney will show how their client wasn’t the assailant, but the victim. Self-defense of others is also a defense. This is a defense strategy where the defendant was protecting someone else from harm when the alleged victim was harmed or killed.
  • Consent involves the alleged victim consenting to what the defendant is accused of doing. For instance, an alleged victim may claim assault, which is placing a person in apprehension of an offensive touching or battery. However, if the alleged victim consented, for instance, while arguing with the defendant, no crime was committed.

The particular defense strategy used depends on the facts of the case and other circumstances.

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5. Will I Help Build My Defense Strategy?

Yes. Building a defense starts during the first meeting with a defense attorney. The attorney will listen to what happened and find a defense to counter the prosecutor’s argument. Once a criminal attorney is hired, they’ll give their client a list of things to do to help prepare their case. For instance, one thing to do is follow all conditions of bail. Bail is money given to the court to get out of jail during trial. If the defendant doesn’t follow conditions set, they can return to jail.

6. Should I have a Bench Trial or Jury Trial?

The answer depends on whether a defendant can get a better trial with the evidence being heard by a judge rather than a jury. A bench trial involves only a judge determining guilt or innocence. A jury trial involves a group of the defendant’s peers listening to the evidence and determining guilt or innocence. Regardless of whether a defendant chooses a bench or jury trial, the case is still heard in a courtroom.

7. Do I Need to Hire a Criminal Attorney if I’ve been Arrested in Texas?

Yes. Whether a person is suspected, accused or plans to plead guilty, it is best to hire a criminal attorney. It’s vital for the person to protect their Constitutional rights and prepare an adequate defense.

Understanding More about Facing Criminal Charges in Texas

Hopefully, we’ve answered some important questions to shed light on the criminal justice system. You have the right to defend yourself. If you take a plea deal, please remember to investigate whether it’s a fair bargain for a guilty plea. Always encourage relatives and friends to tell the truth even if you fear it will hurt your case. Remember, if you hire a lawyer, they will know how to handle possibly negative information. Another thing to remember is you’re innocent until proven guilty—if they can prove you’re guilty.

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