W. Brooks Barfield, Jr.|
Fellow Texas Bar Association
Barfield Law Firm
criminal process can be complex and confusing. But it's important
to know your legal rights. The best way to be informed is
to contact our office as possible. As an Amarillo Criminal Defense Attorney
we understand the law as it relates to the crime you've
been charged with, and will be able to help you in making
informed decisions as your case moves through the process.
may be stopped for questioning by the police. A stop is
not the same as an arrest because, although you may be detained,
you aren't moved to a different location. During a stop
the police officer may ask you questions, but you have the
right to refuse to answer.
A search warrant authorizes police to
conduct a search of a specific, place such as your residence.
In order for a warrant to be issued by a judge, "probable
cause" is necessary.
cause to search means that:
is more likely than not that the specific items to
be searched for are connected with criminal activities
items will be found in the place to be searched
The general rule is that warrants are required for
searches. But search warrants are not required for
incident to arrest: Police officers are permitted
to search your body and/or clothing for weapons or
other contraband when making a valid arrest.
searches: If you're arrested in a vehicle,
the police may search the inside of the vehicle. To
perform a complete search of the vehicle (such as
in locked glove compartments, for example), probable
cause is necessary.
circumstances: Searches may be conducted
if there are "exigent circumstances" which
demand immediate action, such as to avoid the destruction
view: Police do not need a search warrant
when they see an object that is in plain view of an
officer who has the right to be in the position to
have that view.
If you consent to a search of your body, your vehicle,
or your home, police are not required to have a warrant.
You aren't required to consent to any police searches.
order to be arrested, there must be what's called "probable
cause." This means that there must be a reasonable
belief that a crime was committed and you committed the
crime. An arrest warrant is not necessary.
you're placed under arrest, you are protected by constitutional
rights. Two important rights to be aware of are right
to remain silent and the right to have an attorney. After
your arrest, you aren't required to say anything else
to police or investigators, until you have an attorney
present. You must be given the opportunity to contact
Miranda Rule, if you are in police custody you must
be informed of specific constitutional rights before
interrogation begins. Those rights are as follows:
right to remain silent
The right to have an attorney present during questioning
The right to have an attorney appointed if you are
unable to afford one
to note is that Miranda rights do not have to be read
until you are taken into custody. That means that you
can be questioned by the police before being taken into
custody, and anything you say at that point can be used
against you later in court.
you're arrested, the police will bring you to the police
station for the booking process . You'll be fingerprinted
and asked a series of questions, such as your name and
date of birth. You'll also be searched and photographed.
Your personal property such as jewelry will be catalogued
of an Attorney
Texas, if you cannot afford to hire an attorney, and if
you are charged with a crime that is punishable by incarceration,
an attorney will be appointed to defend you.
Once a public
defender has been appointed to defend you, you may ask
the court to appoint a substitute attorney only for
good cause. Good cause requires more than mere dissatisfaction
with your appointed attorney and may include:
conflict of interest between you and the attorney
attorney becomes ill and cannot continue to represent
is reason to believe that your attorney is not providing
criminal charges are filed, you'll make a court appearance
known as an "arraignment." If you are incarcerated,
this will usually occur within 72 hours of your arrest.
arraignment, you'll be asked to enter a "plea"
to the crime you've been charged with. Texas pleas and
corresponding definitions follow:
plea: If you plead "guilty," you're
admitting to the facts of the crime and the fact that
you were the one who committed that crime.
guilty plea: A "not guilty" plea
asserts that you did not commit the crime with which
you were accused. After your plea, a pre-trial or
trial date will be set.
contest plea: A "no contest" plea
indicates that, while you are not admitting guilt,
you do not dispute the charge. This is preferable
to a guilty plea because guilty pleas can be used
against you in later civil lawsuits.
plea: In Texas, you may "stand mute" instead
of making a plea. The court will then enter a plea
of not guilty. By standing mute, you avoid silently
admitting to the correctness of the proceedings against
you until that point. You are then free to attack
all previous proceedings that may have been irregular.
arraignment, the court will also:
is money or property put forth as security to ensure that
you'll show up for further criminal proceedings.
Texas, bail can be paid:
professional bail bondsman is an individual whose business
is to pledge his or her own property or security to guarantee
the bail bond to the court.
have a right to a speedy trial under the Sixth Amendment
of the United States Constitution, which requires that
the trial be held within a certain time frame after a
person has been charged with a crime.
right can be waived by asking for additional time for
the preparation of your defense.
Trial rights in Texas
exceptions, a defendant should be brought to trial in
Texas within the following time frames:
180 days if the defendant is accused of a felony
days of the defendant is accused of a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for more than 180
days if the defendant is accused of a misdemeanor
punishable by imprisonment of 180 days or
less, or punishable by a fine only.
felony is a crime usually punishable by imprisonment for
more than one year. A misdemeanor, on the other hand,
is usually punishable by a fine or a year or less of incarceration.
prosecutors will consider "plea agreements,"
although it's not legally required. If you don't reach
a plea agreement with the prosecutor, your proceedings
will move toward the trial stage.
you have the right to a jury trial in all criminal proceedings,
regardless of punishment. This right may be waived by:
a bench trial (a trial in front of a judge only)
If you request a bench trial, the judge will perform
the fact-finding function that is usually performed
by the jury.
you're found guilty after a trial, you're entitled to
an appeals process. This process varies depending upon
the crime, but there are always time deadlines by which
you must file an appeal.
Texas, you generally have 30 days from sentencing to file
are numerous reasons for an appeal from a guilty verdict
in a criminal case, including what's called "legal
error." Legal error may include:
evidence during the criminal process, including evidence
that was obtained in violation of your constitutional
of sufficient evidence to support a verdict of guilty
Mistakes in the judge's instructions to the jury
regarding your case
may also appeal due to misconduct on behalf of the
jurors, or if there is newly discovered evidence
to exonerate you.
In Texas, under some circumstances, you may be able to
have a criminal record expunged, which means that the
records are returned to you or destroyed.
may be eligible for expungement if:
you are eligible to have your records expunged, you may
file a petition in court. A person who has reached age
17 must make a sworn written request to have juvenile
addition, if you have received a discharge and dismissal
from deferred adjudication community supervision (an alternative
sentencing program in Texas), you may petition the court
for a nondisclosure order following dismissal for some
misdemeanors, five years after dismissal for other misdemeanors,
or 10 years after dismissal for felonies. A nondisclosure
order prohibits criminal justice agencies from disclosing
criminal history information to the public.
Motor vehicle records cannot be expunged