Even someone who has never faced an arrest personally has no doubt heard, “You have the right to remain silent; anything you say can be used against you. You have the right to an attorney; if you cannot afford one, one will be provided for you.” This is part of what is known as Miranda rights and police are required to read it to someone before questioning them while in custody.
The right to a lawyer is so important that the sixth amendment guarantees it. This is important everywhere but especially in a place like Texas, which prides itself on cracking down on crime and treating defendants harshly.
Benefits of a criminal defense attorney
The right to legal representation touches most stages of the criminal prosecution process. From the initial interrogation before charges are filed all the way through to the trial, a defendant has the right to counsel. These are some steps where a lawyer protects a client:
- During the initial interrogation when police may try to twist words or coerce a confession
- At the arraignment, when the defendant appears before the judge and enters a plea
- After the arraignment, when there is a chance to review police reports or other evidence and prepare for trial
- During plea negotiations, providing insight into realistic and favorable outcomes
- At trial, where strategy and experienced decision-making are necessary
Do I need a lawyer?
Unfortunately, it is very common for defendants to voluntarily enter an unfavorable plea just to be done with a case. But in some special cases it is absolutely crucial to retain a criminal defense lawyer, even if the charge seems minor, because a misstep can have a big – and often unanticipated – effect on a defendant’s rights. These include:
- Immigration status – a plea or conviction to a seemingly minor crime can lead to inadmissibility (denial of reentry into the United States) or expedited deportation.
- Mental illness – a defendant suffering from mental illness is often harmed by the isolation of jail. He or she may not be competent to stand trial and may need special provisions for medication throughout the process.
- Firearms – a felony conviction disqualifies an individual from owning a gun, but a recent federal law also subjects those with misdemeanor domestic violence convictions to a severe life-long ban.
- Professional licenses – the Texas Occupations Code gives licensing authorities the ability to refuse a professional license to a person with a conviction, preventing applicants with a criminal history from obtaining work in their professional field.
In each of these special circumstances, an uninformed plea or self-representation can lead to loss of rights.
What to do if you are facing charges in Texas
First and foremost, the most important thing you should do if there is any indication that you may be suspected of a crime in Texas is speak with a lawyer. Many people wait until they have been charged but a defense lawyer protects your rights in the early stages, which is just as important.
Texas criminal defense lawyer Jeff King devotes his practice to protecting the rights of those accused of crimes in Texas, ensuring that the police and prosecutors follow the required steps without cutting corners. Contact Jeff King to discuss your case and legal options.
Additional “Right to Counsel” Resources:
- Ohio State Bar Association, Criminal Defense Lawyers Help Protect Clients’ Rights, https://www.ohiobar.org/forpublic/resources/lawyoucanuse/pages/lawyoucanuse-606.aspx
- United States Courts for the Ninth Circuit, Criminal Issues in Immigration Law, http://cdn.ca9.uscourts.gov
- PBS.org, Court upholds federal gun ban against domestic violence offenders, http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/court-upholds-federal-gun-ban-against-domestic-violence-offenders/