Everything you need to know about being charged with a crime in Houston and Harris County, Texas
Houston criminal defense attorney Matt Sharp offers the following Legal Library as a way to educate the public about their legal rights. We encourage you to browse the articles and resources below for valuable information about criminal offenses in Harris County and the greater Houston area. Start by skipping to the type of criminal charge you want to learn more about — or gain a comprehensive view of criminal law in Texas by starting at the top and working your way down the list. Be sure to come back again soon as we continue to add more resources.
Getting charged or arrested: what to do now
If you or a loved one were recently arrested or charged with a crime, you’re probably anxious, angry and overwhelmed — especially if it’s your first run-in with the law. One wrong move or saying the wrong thing can negatively impact the outcome of your case, which is why it’s important you understand your legal rights and take steps now to avoid a conviction.
Here are 5 basic tips and advice to protect your freedom and reputation right now:
1. Don’t talk to investigators without your attorney
Upon being arrested, police officers, detectives and investigators may try to convince you that it’s in your best interests to answer their questions, saying that you might get released or a lighter sentence if you cooperate now. They might try to make it sound like asking to talk to your lawyer will make you look guilty or like you have something to hide. This is false. Even police officers, when facing criminal charges themselves, will ask for their lawyers because they know it’s the best way to avoid entrapment.
You have the legal right to contact a lawyer and make sure you don’t accidentally say something that incriminates you. As the arresting officer said when he or she put you in cuffs: anything you say can and will be used against you. So while you should try to be polite and cooperate with police when possible, don’t agree to answer their questions unless your attorney is present. When you’re arrested, the only thing you should say to police officers is your name. Everything else can wait.
2. Avoid sharing on social media
You might be tempted to share your story and version of events with friends and family members in order to gain sympathy or advice on what to do. Resist this temptation, especially the urge to post on Facebook, Twitter, blog or any other social media platform. Even “temporary” SnapChat posts aren’t safe. Not only can the people you talk to be used by prosecutors as witnesses, but discussing your case online can inadvertently play into the prosecution’s case and be used as evidence against you.
3. Don’t agree to a plea deal (without your lawyer’s approval)
Even if a prosecutor offers a tempting plea bargain agreement that gets a much lesser sentence or avoids trial, don’t agree to settle until you’ve had a chance to talk it over with your attorney. Plea deals are complex and defendants often fail to fully comprehend the long-term consequences of agreeing to settle. Only an experienced Houston criminal defense lawyer can weigh the pros and cons of a plea agreement and determine if it’s a fair offer worth taking.
4. Keep a low profile
Following your arrest, whether you remain in custody or post bail, keep a low profile and stay out of trouble. Avoid putting yourself in compromising or questionable scenarios that might negatively affect your current case. Obey any court-mandated stipulations regarding your release and show up to court on time when required.
5. Hire a private attorney, not a public defender
It’s true that there are plenty of skilled and passionate public defenders out there who are available to represent people who either don’t want to hire a lawyer or can’t afford one. However, the reality is that they are poorly paid by the government and often forced to take on a heavy caseload. For these reasons, many public defenders don’t have the time necessary to thoroughly review each case and explore all legal options.
By hiring a private defense attorney instead, you can ensure your case is a top priority and that you’ll get personal attention. Your attorney will help make sure that charges are either filed against you or dropped within the 72-hour window (required by law), negotiate a fair bail amount, help you decide whether or not to plead guilty or not guilty, negotiate a plea deal, and collect evidence to support your defense. While a private lawyer may cost more than a public defender, it’s nothing considering the fact that your freedom, reputation and livelihood are on the line.
Disclaimer: These articles are not meant to replace professional legal counsel. Contact us to schedule a free consultation if you’ve been charged with a crime in Houston or have a question about your legal options.
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While these articles are NOT meant to replace professional legal counsel, they may help answer some of the general questions about the process and your rights. If you’ve been charged with a crime in Houston or have a question about your specific case, contact Houston defense attorney Matt Sharp as quickly as possible to schedule your free consultation.