1) The police officer said it would be better for me if I talked with him, should I?
Both the U.S. Constitution and the Texas Constitution guarantees you the right to remain silent – use it. When investigating a case, the police do NOT have your best interests in mind. Police officers spend hours in training and simulations on how to interrogate suspects – that includes folks “stopped” for a traffic violation – with an eye towards getting incriminating information that they will use against you.
2) I’ve been arrested, what do I do?
After exercising your right to remain silent – that means not answering ANY questions, even if they are about the weather, where you were coming from, where you are going, where you work, or what football team you root for, exercise your right to get a criminal defense lawyer. An experienced criminal defense lawyer can begin working on your case immediately, including finding out what witnesses saw, getting an investigator to track down leads, and begin the process of attacking the State’s case.
3) What is a Diversion Program and why should I consider it?
Williamson County currently has three diversion type programs, three that are more formal than the fourth, all of which relate to various misdemeanors. For first-time offenders facing certain misdemeanor charges, the Pre-Trial Intervention Program (PTI) may provide the best resolution to your situation, while allowing you to seek an expunction – fancy legal term for order that would remove the arrest and case from public databases operated by the State of Texas – upon completion of the program. Essentially, you complete the PTI Program, file for and receive the expunction, and it is as if the case never occurred as far as the State of Texas is concerned. A second diversion program offered in Williamson County is the Veteran’s Court. While admission is more restrictive than the other programs, the Veteran’s Court affords an avenue for those who served us a way to deal with their case, with the potential for a dismissal being the end result. I can proudly say that I represented the very first veteran admitted into the Williamson County Veteran’s Court, and they successfully completed the program. The third diversion program is for those facing a second case for DWI, or a drug/marijuana case. The DWI/Drug Court is a court that focuses on helping individuals with their addiction through a structured program that can result in a reduction for the DWI charge, or another drug charge. The goal with this Court is to help someone by providing them with the tools necessary to address their addiction so that they can avoid making the same mistake down the road.
The last diversion program, one that is a bit less structured than the previous three, is the mental health docket. This docket is available for those facing misdemeanor charges that have a documented mental health issue and are seeking assistance for their medical condition. The program can assist with obtaining assistance for your condition.
4) What are these Collateral Consequences and how do they impact me?
Collateral Consequences are penalties/restrictions, other than jail or a fine, imposed by law. For instance, a conviction for a Possession of Marijuana, less than 2 ounces, a Class B Misdemeanor, will result in your drivers’ license being suspended for 180 days. An assault conviction will result in an automatic suspension of one’s ability to inspect motor vehicles, and it could result in a notary losing their commission, or a health care worker losing their license. If you are curious about what the collateral consequences are for the crime that you are charged with, click here (embed the URL for abacollateralconsequences.org), agree to the Terms and Conditions, Select Texas from the various states, and then choose the crime, whether it is a felony or misdemeanor, and whether a consequence is mandatory, discretionary, or can be waived. It is important to understand both the collateral consequences that you face, as well as the punishment under the criminal law, so that you can make an informed decision.
5) What is probation, and does it result in a conviction?
Texas offers two types of probation – deferred adjudication probation, and formal probation. Formal Probation is a conviction from a criminal record perspective; however, it can have some advantages when it comes to certain collateral consequences. Deferred Adjudication Probation is a different animal. Deferred Adjudication Probation carries with it the same costs, fees, and requirements as formal probation; however, if you successfully complete Deferred Adjudication Probation, the case is dismissed, and no conviction is entered on your record except for certain circumstances which can be discussed. Both types of probation will involve monthly fees – currently about $60 per month, the potential (o.k., an overwhelming likelihood) of drug testing, the attendance at required classes, and performing community service.
6) I have been charged with a crime, what am I looking at from a punishment perspective?
|Class A Misd.||0-365 days||up to $4,000||Up to 2 years|
|Class B Misd.||0-180 days||up to $2,000||Up to 2 years|
|State Jail Felony||180 days – 2 years||Up to $10,000||Up to 10 years|
|3rd Degree Felony||2-10 years||Up to $10,000||Up to 10 years|
|2nd Degree Felony||2-10 years||Up to $10,000||Up to 10 years|
|1st Degree||5-99 years||Up to $10,000||Not eligible|
|Capital||Life without Parole or death||Not eligible|
7) I am charged with a misdemeanor and they are offering a plea bargain, why shouldn’t I take it?
Because of the volume of cases that assistant county attorneys process, and their role of representing the State of Texas, they are not interested in protecting your rights. If they can get you to take a plea, that is one less case that they have to review, understand and ensure that there are no inconsistencies. That is not to say that a plea bargain may not be in your best interest after reviewing all of the facts, circumstances, and law related to your case. Only you truly know what occurred. However, having an experienced attorney working for you to ensure that your rights are protected.