Being charged with any crime, large or small, first or repeat offense, without or without a conviction, can destroy your life. It exacts a toll on your relationships, job, finances, and emotional health. Whether you are guilty of the crime or not, you need to mount the best criminal defense possible.
If your arrest is one of the more than 600,000 made in Texas every year or if you are being investigated for a crime but have not yet been charged, you need to retain a skilled and experienced criminal defense attorney.
The Law Office of Aaron Fonseca represents clients in Edinburg, McAllen, and Mission, Texas, and throughout the Rio Grande Valley who are being investigated or have been arrested for crimes. I am dedicated to protecting your rights while providing an aggressive legal defense, inside the courtroom and out.
Texas law dictates which crimes are charged as misdemeanors and which as felonies. The difference generally depends on the severity of the crime such as the level of violence or amount of damage caused during the commission of the crime.
Misdemeanors are crimes punishable by no more than one year in jail. Examples include petty theft, disorderly conduct, a first DWI, minor drug crimes, and domestic violence. In addition to a potential jail sentence for Class A and B misdemeanors, penalties for misdemeanor convictions may involve fines, community service, and probation.
Felonies are more egregious crimes with much stiffer penalties, based on the degree or severity of the crime. Examples include murder, rape and sexual assault, aggravated assault, kidnapping, and major drug crimes. Penalties usually include incarceration for longer than one year, significant fines, restitution, probation, and community service. Some felony convictions are punishable by death.
There are several steps in the criminal court process in Texas which take place inside and outside the courtroom.
Upon arrest, you must be informed of your rights to remain silent, to have an attorney represent you, and to have your attorney present during questioning.
Within 48 hours of your arrest, you must appear in court where a judge will restate your rights and advise you of the charges against you. The judge will set a bond and allow time for you to consult with an attorney.
If you are unable to pay the bond and be released from jail, the prosecuting attorney must file formal charges within 15 days for a Class B misdemeanor, 30 days for a Class A misdemeanor, and 90 days for a felony charge. If charges are not filed in a timely manner, you will be released on your own recognizance.
Once out of jail on bond, the prosecutor has up to two years to file formal misdemeanor charges and a certain number of years to file charges for some lesser felonies. There are no time limits for filing charges for serious felonies.
Once charges are filed, you will appear again in court for arraignment during which the formal charges will be read, you will enter a plea of guilty or not guilty, and your attorney may request a continuance to have an opportunity to review the evidence against you and build your defense. Your attorney and the prosecutor will exchange evidence in “discovery” and may enter into plea negotiations to avoid a trial. Your attorney can make no decisions regarding pleas without your consent.
If your case goes to trial, you have the right to a jury trial in Texas and a jury will be selected prior to trial. If you waive that right, you may have a bench trial where the judge is the sole adjudicator. In either case, the prosecution will present its case and your attorney will present your defense. If you are found innocent, the process concludes. If found guilty, you will need to reappear in court for the sentencing phase.
Unless you accept a plea offer from the prosecution, you have the right to appeal a guilty verdict with the Appellate Court under certain circumstances. There are four key steps in the appeals process:
Motion for New Trial;
Notice of Appeal;
Filing the Record on Appeal with the court; and,
Filing the Appellate Brief which presents the history and facts of your case, including facts in dispute, and legal issues raised regarding your case.
The Appellate Court will render a decision following a review of briefs presented by both sides.
The potential negative impact a criminal conviction will have on your life warrants retaining a criminal defense attorney to represent you. Hiring one should be the first decision you make if you are being investigated or are charged with a crime.
If you have little income to hire an attorney, you may qualify to have a public defender appointed by the court. While that is certainly better than you attempting to represent yourself, you should remember that public defenders carry large caseloads and may not be able to give your case the time and attention it needs. This lack of time may lead to a public defender’s recommendation that you accept a plea deal offered by the prosecution. A plea deal is not always the best outcome for a defendant; it is merely the most expeditious.
A private criminal defense attorney will devote far greater time and attention to your case and fight aggressively for the best outcome. It is true that with criminal defense, you get what you pay for. Hiring an experienced criminal defense attorney is a sound investment.
Clients arrested for crimes in Edinburg, McAllen, and Mission, Texas, and throughout the Rio Grande Valley have relied on The Law Office of Aaron Fonseca to mount a sharp and tenacious defense on their behalf. If you are being investigated or have been arrested, I might be able to help you, too. Your future could be on the line — so call my office today for a free consultation!