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Criminal Defense FAQ

Answers from a Houston Criminal Defense Attorney

Are you facing criminal charges in Houston? If so, your entire future may be at risk and you probably have countless questions. Now is the time to make informed decisions and I would be happy to meet and address any questions or concerns that you may have about your case and the possible penalties. My firm offers a free case evaluation so that we may discuss the most effective defense strategy for you. Here are some answers to the most common criminal defense questions that I hear from my clients.

Q: How will I know if a warrant has been issued for my arrest?
Q: A friend or family member has a warrant or has been arrested, how do I bail them out?
Q: What will happen at my first court date?
Q: Are the police allowed to lie to me during questioning?
Q: Should I represent myself in my criminal case?
Q: Do I need an attorney if I am innocent?
Q: What if I just want to plead guilty and get it over with?
Q: How long can a DWI/DUI conviction stay on my driving record?
Q: What are the conditions of DWI probation?
Q: The officers did not read me my rights; does that mean they have to drop my case?

How will I know if a warrant has been issued for my arrest?

Suspects who were not arrested shortly after the alleged commission of a crime will often first learn of a warrant when they begin receiving advertisements from bail bond companies or lawyers. Most misdemeanor and felony warrants will not appear in the public record for at least three days after filing to give the police an opportunity to arrest the defendant. However, the police usually do not take this opportunity to arrest the accused at their home or work unless it is a violent, or major felony offense.


A friend or family member has a warrant or has been arrested, how do I bail them out?

Bail in Texas adult state prosecutions (federal and juvenile work differently) is typically set by the judge reviewing probable cause prior to the issuance of a warrant or shortly after arrest. Cash may be posted on the accused's behalf. In Harris County, the typical bail amount for a first offender charged with a Class B Misdemeanor (DWI-1st, Possession of Marihuana 0 - 2 oz.) is $500.00. This money may be posted at 49 San Jacinto in downtown Houston, Texas. Often, however, the friends and family of the accused do not have ready access to bail money and may require the services of a bail bondsman.

A bail bondsman posts the bail for the Defendant. They may have either a property or surety license. In return for using their collateral, they charge a fee - typically 10% though, on smaller bonds it may be lower. The larger the bail amount, the more likely they are to request collateral or co-signers. Each bonding company has its own underwriting rules. I do not recommend any particular bonding company. I do recommend that you understand the terms of the bond agreement and reporting requirements the bondsman requires.


What will happen at my first court date?

A detailed description of the typical first appearance is here.


Are the police allowed to lie to me during questioning?

Yes, with few exceptions. Law enforcement officials will often tell the defendant that their accomplice has already confessed, they have witnesses, or that they have substantial evidence against them, when all of those may be outright lies. They do this in order to get a confession out of you, in hopes that you will incriminate yourself. You have an absolute 5th Amendment privilege against self-incrimination. Take Defense Secretary Gates' sage advice.


Should I represent myself in my criminal case?

Abraham Lincoln said, “A person who represents himself has a fool for a client.”

For many of the same reasons one wouldn't consider removing your own appendix, it may not be a good idea to represent oneself in a criminal case. Unless one has the education, training, and experience, competently defending a criminal case is very dangerous. For many experienced criminal defense lawyers, cases can be very difficult. Most telling, lawyers accused of crimes usually don't represent themselves.


Do I need an attorney if I am innocent?

Please read the above and consider the following,

Rarely a week goes by in America that the newspapers do not have a story of someone being released from prison after exoneration by DNA or other evidence. Almost every single one of these wrongfully convicted individuals had a competent criminal defense lawyer representing them at trial, and they still were convicted and sent to prison until another lawyer got them out. So at some point, even the innocent require the assistance of a lawyer.


What if I just want to plead guilty and get it over with?

This is a very dangerous way of thinking and it could land you in serious trouble. Criminal pleas can have consequences that can last a lifetime, even after a "deferred adjudication" that seems like a good deal at the time. Please read my posts "How Does This End?" and "Knowing When You've Won." Some pleas are not a bargain.


How long can a DWI/DUI conviction stay on my driving record?

A Texas DWI conviction will remain on your record indefinitely, it never goes away. Many people are mistaken when they believe that the infraction will be taken on after a certain number of years. If you successfully completed a pre-trial diversion, however, it may be expungable depending upon the terms of the diversion agreement.


What are the conditions of DWI probation?

These vary from case to case, court to court, and county to county. Generally, a person on probation for Driving While Intoxicated in Harris or the surrounding counties will be required to report to a probation officer once per month; pay fines, fees, and court costs; complete a DWI education course; complete community service; not consume alcohol or drugs; avoid persons and places of harmful or disreputable character; commit no new law violations; be subject to random drug and alcohol screening; work or be a full time student; undergo an evaluation for drug and alcohol abuse and obtain treatment if necessary; and other conditions. Many drivers who have a blood or breath test of .15 or greater will be required to have an ignition interlock device installed on any vehicle they operate. Persons with prior convictions may also have to serve jail time as a condition of community supervision.


The officers did not read me my rights; does that mean they have to drop my case?

No. Texas courts have been very creative in determining when a suspect is in custody necessitating Miranda warnings. And even in situations where a violation is clear, most prosecutors I've dealt with don't care and force the accused to litigate that issue in a suppression hearing typically carried with jury trial.

But, as a lawyer, I have rarely met an accused who didn't know they had a right to remain silent and even less who exercised it. The better question than whether the police violated one's rights is why many suspects never exercise them.

Americans struggled to establish the 5th Amendment right to remain silent and have suspects informed of it. Many cops hate having to give the warnings because they know many people will stop talking. Unfortunately, many won't stop talking or request a lawyer, even after receiving the following warnings.

"You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to talk to a lawyer and have him present with you while you are being questioned. If you cannot afford to hire a lawyer, one will be appointed to represent you before any questioning if you wish. You can decide at any time to exercise these rights and not answer any question or make any statements."


If your or someone close to you is under investigation or has been accused of a crime, please reach out to my firm to arrange a free consultation today!

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Law Offices of Q. Tate Williams, P.C. - Criminal Defense Lawyer in Houston
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