The Benefits of Retaining Your Own Attorney
If you are currently pending criminal charges, you have a constitutional right to legal representation. If you cannot afford an attorney, the court will provide one for you; typically through the Office of the Public Defender.
Public defenders are excellent attorneys and tirelessly advocate for their clients. However, many public defender offices are extremely busy and most public defenders are extremely overworked. Therefore, retaining your own attorney to represent you in your criminal case might better benefit you and increase your likelihood of success.
In addition to representing you at your court hearings, a private lawyer can help you formulate a strong legal defense to your charge or help you negotiate a favorable plea deal with the state prosecutor. If you ultimately sustain a criminal conviction your lawyer can represent you at your sentencing hearing, help you obtain a fair penalty and lessen the collateral consequences you may face.
If you are currently pending criminal charges, you should have experienced legal counsel on your side as soon as possible. If you show up to your criminal court hearing or trial without a public defender or attorney present, the presiding judge might think you intend to waive your right to legal representation. The judge can refuse to postpone your hearing and make you go forward without a lawyer present.
An experienced Houston criminal defense attorney from The Law Office of Bryan Fagan can aggressively advocate for you at every stage of your legal proceedings. We can assist you with formulating a strong defense, understanding your legal options and helping you obtain the best possible result in court.
For a free initial consultation and case evaluation with an experienced Houston criminal defense lawyer, please call 281-810-9760 or contact us online for more information.
The Prosecution’s Burden of Proof in a Criminal Case
In every criminal case, the state prosecutor has the sole legal burden of proof. To establish their legal burden and secure a guilty finding or conviction against the defendant, the prosecutor must prove each element of the underlying criminal charge(s) beyond a reasonable doubt. Doing so is an extremely high legal burden to meet, and prosecutors can introduce evidence at trial to satisfy it. Potential evidence could be:
- A live testimony in court by the criminal defendant
- An eyewitness testimony
- Documents that support the criminal defendant’s version of events and that the preparer authenticates while on the witness stand
In a criminal case, the defendant does not need to prove anything or even testify as a trial witness. However, the defendant might want to argue one or more legal defenses at trial. Those defenses could prevent the prosecutor from satisfying their legal burden. If the defendant succeeds, the criminal charge or the entire case could be dismissed.
Potential Criminal Charges and Penalties
Texas recognizes numerous criminal offenses, many of which can incur significant legal penalties and collateral consequences upon conviction. Some criminal offenses are property crimes, such as burglary and arson, while others involve harm to individuals, like assault, robbery and domestic violence charges.
Homicide crimes encompass all categories of murder and manslaughter, while sex crimes include rape, sexual assault and possession of child pornography. Drug crimes, on the other hand, include actual and constructive possession of illegal drugs, along with drug trafficking and possession of drug paraphernalia.
The penalties a criminal defendant can incur depend upon the specific charge(s) they’re facing, as well as the circumstance of the offense and whether or not they have prior convictions on their record. Also, when a sentencing judge imposes penalties upon conviction, they will look to state sentencing guidelines, as well as statutorily imposed mandatory and maximum penalties. Potential penalties can include:
- Jail time
- Court-ordered community service
- High monetary fines
- Driver’s license suspension or revocation
- Inability to own or possess a firearm
- Mandatory registration on a state or federal sex offender registry
- Court-imposed alcohol or drug treatment and rehabilitation
- Supervised or unsupervised probation
Potential Collateral Consequences of a Criminal Conviction
In addition to the potential legal penalties a criminal defendant can have with a conviction; he or she will also face collateral consequences that affect them for the rest of their lives. Some of those potential consequences include:
- Difficulty finding a place to live, such as at an apartment complex
- Difficulty getting into the college or university of their choice or losing scholarships and financial aid if they are already a student
- Difficulty finding and keeping a job
These collateral consequences are common because landlords, educational institutions, employers and others frequently perform criminal background checks on applicants. If they uncover a serious criminal conviction or history, it can negatively impact their decision.
Meeting with You to Discuss Your Case
As soon as possible after your arrest, we can meet with you to discuss the circumstances and develop a plan for moving forward. In some instances, criminal defendants can raise constitutional violations as defenses. For example, a police officer might violate the defendant’s Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable searches and seizures or their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.
We can also help you decide whether you will be better served to take your case to trial and argue one or more legal defenses or attempt to negotiate a favorable plea deal with the state prosecutor. In any event, we will be by your side every step of the way and help you make informed legal decisions while your criminal case is pending.
Helping You Formulate a Strong Legal Defense to Your Charge
Although a criminal defendant does not have the legal burden of proof in their case, they can raise a defense at trial that negates one or more elements of their charge. Doing so can prevent the state prosecutor from satisfying their legal burden, resulting in the charge being dropped or the entire case being dismissed.
The defenses a criminal defendant can raise at trial will depend upon various factors, including the nature of the charge and the circumstances surrounding the incident. Some of the most common defenses criminal defendants raise at trial include:
- Alibi: The defendant was someplace else at the time of the alleged incident
- Mistaken identity: The alleged victim misidentified the defendant as someone else
- Self-defense: The alleged victim was actually the initial aggressor, and the criminal defendant used only a proportionate amount of force
- Police entrapment: A police officer or investigator engaged in unreasonable coercion tactics
- Duress: Someone threatened the defendant with death or serious bodily harm if he or she did not commit the offense
- Lack of knowledge in a drug case: The defendant did not have knowledge that drugs were present in a motor vehicle or home
- Fourth Amendment violations: The arresting officer engaged in an unreasonable search or seizure, such as initiating a random or otherwise improper traffic stop
- Fifth Amendment violations: A police officer continued to question a suspect in police custody after they already asserted their right to the presence of legal counsel
Representing You at All Court Proceedings
It is extremely important you have a knowledgeable Houston criminal defense lawyer representing you at all legal proceedings, including at your jury trial or sentencing hearing. At trial, we can make opening statements and closing arguments on your behalf, call you to the witness stand to explain your side of the story or call other witnesses to testify on your behalf. We can also introduce documentary evidence and present the best possible version of your case to the judge or jury.
Also, during a criminal trial, we can make the necessary objections and cross-examine witnesses whom the state prosecutor calls to the witness stand. We can also point out a prosecution witness’ bias or impeach their credibility during cross-examination.
If you ultimately sustain a conviction in your criminal case, we can represent you at your sentencing hearing in front of a judge. We can then highlight favorable aspects of your case, such as your participation in an alcohol or drug rehabilitation program or lack of prior criminal convictions, for example. We can then argue for a fair penalty on your behalf, helping you eliminate or lessen the potential penalties and collateral consequences of your conviction.
Negotiating a Favorable Plea Deal in Your Case
In addition to representing you at court hearings, we can also assist during plea deal negotiations with a state prosecutor. Sometimes, a prosecutor will put a plea deal on the table if they are not confident that they can secure a conviction against you in court. In some instances, the prosecutor may have weak evidence or be doubtful about their ability to prove all of the legal elements of their case.
When a state prosecutor introduces a plea deal, they typically make some concession, such as a term of probation or a charge reduction. In exchange, the defendant must ordinarily plead guilty. For example, a prosecutor might offer to reduce a murder charge down to a manslaughter charge, which is a lesser offense. In a DUI case, they might be willing to reduce the DUI charge down to reckless driving. In exchange, the defendant will have to plead guilty.
At other times, the prosecutor might offer the defendant a term of probation. This offer is common in cases where the defendant is a first-time offender. If the defendant completes all of the terms of their probation successfully, then the conviction goes away.
Plea deals have both benefits and detriments. One potential benefit of a plea deal is that it takes away the uncertainty associated with a criminal bench or jury trial. However, by pleading guilty even to a lesser offense the defendant waives their right to a jury trial, as well as their right of appeal.
We can help you decide whether a particular plea deal is a “good” deal, given the facts and circumstances of your criminal case. We can also help you decide whether you might be better off taking your case to trial.
Contact an Experienced Houston Criminal Defense Attorney About Your Charge Today
At The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, we can represent you at every stage of your criminal proceedings and aggressively advocate for a fair result in your case. For a free initial consultation and case evaluation with an experienced Houston criminal defense attorney, please call 281-810-9760 or contact us online for more information.