FAQs: Criminal Defense
Jan. 18, 2024
As a criminal defense attorney operating out of Edinburg, Texas, I've had clients from McAllen, Mission, and the Rio Grande Valley come to me with their concerns and questions about the criminal defense process. It's a complex system that can seem intimidating, especially if you're facing charges for the first time. To help shed some light on this topic, I've compiled a list of the most frequently asked questions I receive about criminal defense in Texas:
What should I do if I'm arrested?
First and foremost, remember that you have a right to remain silent and a right to an attorney. You should absolutely use these rights. Be respectful to the police officers, but don't speak about your case or share any information until you have an attorney present. You should reach out to a criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible.
How long do prosecutors have to file formal charges after an arrest?
For a Class B misdemeanor, charges must be filed within 15 days of your arrest. For a Class A misdemeanor, it's 30 days. If it's a felony, charges must be filed within 90 days. If they fail to file within these timeframes, you may be released on your own recognizance.
What happens during the arraignment process?
During arraignment, you'll hear the formal charges against you and enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. If you need more time to review the evidence and build your defense, your attorney can request a continuance.
Can I negotiate a plea deal to avoid a trial?
Absolutely. Plea negotiations are quite common. Your attorney and the prosecutor can discuss a mutually beneficial agreement. However, any decisions regarding pleas require your consent.
What happens if my case goes to trial?
If you go to trial, you have the right to a jury trial in Texas. The prosecution presents its case, then your attorney presents your defense. If you're found innocent, the process concludes. If you're found guilty, you move on to the sentencing phase.
What is the appeals process in Texas?
If you're found guilty and don't accept a plea offer, you can appeal. This involves filing a motion for a new trial, notice of appeal, filing the record on appeal, and filing an appellate brief presenting the facts and legal issues of your case.
Should I hire a private criminal defense attorney or rely on a public defender?
While public defenders are capable, their heavy caseloads may limit the time they can dedicate to your case. Hiring a private criminal defense attorney often ensures more thorough attention to your case.
What's the difference between misdemeanors and felonies in Texas?
Misdemeanors are less severe crimes punishable by up to one year in jail, while felonies are more serious offenses with penalties exceeding a year of incarceration. The severity of the crime determines whether it's charged as a misdemeanor or felony.
What are the potential penalties for misdemeanor and felony convictions?
Misdemeanor convictions may result in fines, community service, probation, and potential jail time. Felonies carry stiffer penalties, including longer incarceration, significant fines, restitution, probation, and community service.
How can a criminal defense attorney help me?
A good criminal defense attorney will protect your rights, review the evidence against you, build a strong defense strategy, negotiate plea deals, represent you in court, and guide you through the complex legal process.
Facing criminal charges can be overwhelming, but understanding the criminal defense process in Texas can make it easier to navigate. Always consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney who can provide personalized guidance and fight for the best possible outcome in your case. The Law Office of Aaron Fonseca represents clients in Edinburg, McAllen, and Mission, Texas, and throughout the Rio Grande Valley.