- Jim Medley
Do I Need a Criminal Defense Lawyer?
In 2000, a Mexican woman performed a C-Section on herself. Both she and the baby survived. After slicing at her abdomen for about an hour, she delivered the infant and cut his umbilical cord with a pair of scissors.
So, it’s possible to perform major surgery on yourself. But most people would not do so, no matter how many inspiring stories they read and instructional YouTube videos they see.
Likewise, it’s also possible to represent yourself in a criminal case.
But an experienced Houston defense attorney gives defendants both the best opportunity to obtain a good result, as well as additional peace of mind. These things are too positive to pass up.
Pretrial release is very important in a criminal case and an attorney often plays a critical role in this process.
If the defendant remains in jail, there are severe consequences from a personal and legal standpoint. People who are in jail cannot work or spend time with their friends and families.
And unless the defendant is free before trial, the defendant may feel pressure to take an unfavorable plea deal just to get it over with.
For these reasons, the Eighth Amendment guarantees reasonable bail in criminal cases. At the arraignment, which is usually about two or three days after the arrest, an attorney may be able to reduce the bail amount.
The judge will consider a number of factors, such as:
Severity of the offense,
Defendant’s ties to the community,
Any threat to the public or witnesses,
Defendant’s ability to travel, and
Amount of evidence against the defendant.
Based on these factors, the judge may reduce bail to an affordable amount. In the alternative, an attorney can often work out an arrangement with prosecutors.
For example, in a DWI case, prosecutors may agree to reduce bail if the defendant installs an Ignition Interlock device in his or her vehicle.
Discovery in a Criminal Case
Once the defendant is out of jail, the defendant has a limited right to view the prosecutor’s evidence in the case. Most jurisdictions sharply limit the amount of evidence the defendant can review, at least initially.
An attorney knows what legal arguments can open the prosecutor’s file. There is a growing legal trend in favor of expanded discovery.
But there’s an old saying in the law that you do not get anything unless you ask. Failure to timely and properly request discovery could result in a loss of the claim.
Furthermore, many non-lawyers do not know what to look for.
Prosecutors only have an obligation to turn over their evidence, not explain its significance. So, unless you have an experienced lawyer, the key to beating the case may be in front of your nose, but you may not know it.
Agreed plea bargains resolve over 90 percent of the criminal cases in Harris County.
Prosecutors almost always make offers, but resolving a criminal case is a lot like buying a car. The first offer is never the best one, and an experienced lawyer knows how to get the best possible deal.
Many times, there is a legal defense.
For example, there may be an issue with the search in a drug possession case or the defendant may have acted in self-defense in an assault case. The Supreme Court has recently narrowed the scope of warrantless searches, most prominently in 2014’s Riley v. California.
Additionally, Texas has very favorable self-defense laws. Texas is both a stand-your-ground state and a castle doctrine state. So, any use of force, particularly if it was on the defendant’s own property, is usually justified.
Lack of evidence is usually a good defense as well.
Prosecutors must establish guilt beyond any reasonable doubt. In other words, the evidence must be so overwhelming that guilty is the only reasonable explanation. That’s the highest burden of proof in the American legal system.
Many times, especially if the prosecutor must rely on a non-police witness or on circumstantial proof, there simply is not enough evidence.
If the case goes to trial, your attorney must be more than a good arguer and a diligent worker. Your lawyer must also be familiar with all the procedural rules, including the unwritten ones.
A good attorney also knows how to be persuasive when s/he is not speaking.
In the classic 1959 film Anatomy of a Murder, unconventional defense attorney Paul Biegler (Jimmy Stewart) assembled fly fishing bait while the prosecutor was examining witnesses. His apparent nonchalance convinced the jury that what the prosecutor was saying was not very important.
Even if the defendant is convicted at trial and there is no ground for appeal, an attorney is not finished.
In Texas, most defendants are eligible for early termination from probation and record expungement or sealing.
Generally, if the defendant has a good probation or prison record and has completed at least a third of the sentence, a Harris County judge may release the defendant early. If that happens, the defendant might also receive judicial clemency. That’s not quite as good as expungement or sealing, but it is close.
Record expungement may be available if the case was dismissed due to a lack of probable cause or there was another similar favorable outcome, like a not-guilty verdict.
Alternatively, sealing may be available if the defendant has no criminal record. Sealed records are invisible to the public, so it’s easier to find a good job, find a place to live, or pursue certain professional opportunities.
Connect with an Assertive Criminal Defense Lawyer
The right legal help makes a difference at almost every point in a criminal case.
For a free consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney in Houston, contact Jim Medley Defense Lawyer. Convenient payment plans are available.