Parnham & Associates
Attorneys at Law
Criminal Defense: Frequently Asked Questions
The criminal justice process is complex, and can be very confusing for anyone who may be facing charges. Every case we defend presents a unique set of circumstances.
You should expect to be completely informed about your criminal charge, the possible defenses and the different methods of resolving your case in criminal court. Although no attorney can guarantee how your case will be concluded, at Parnham and Associates we attempt to ensure that our clients understand exactly what is happening in their legal case, and all of the potential ramifications of their charges.
If you are arrested, you should know your rights:
After you have been arrested, you have two very important rights: the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney. The arresting officer is required to "read you your rights" via the Miranda Warning, and to respect those rights after your arrest.
In virtually every situation, we strongly recommend that you excercise those rights IMMEDIATELY; DO NOT attempt to argue with the arresting officer, as he or she has already made a determination to take you into custody at that point.
You are not legally required to answer any questions asked by the police, and they often take statements out of context in the pursuit of an arrest and conviction. Many people provide the evidence needed to convict themselves to the police through confessions, statements, or other evidence. Although it is always a good idea to be cooperative with law enforcement, it is important to do so in a controlled setting where you have access to competent legal advice.
There are two limited exceptions: first, in some states, you must provide your name to law enforcement officers if you are stopped and told to identify yourself. But even if you give your name, you are not required to answer other questions. Second, if you are driving and you are pulled over for a traffic violation, the officer can require you to show your license, vehicle registration and proof of insurance (but you do not have to answer questions).
Do I need to hire an attorney if I plan on pleading guilty?
Regardless of how you intend to plead in a criminal case, representing yourself in court is never a good idea. The prosecution will almost always seek to bring the harshest penalties possible, and a competent criminal defense lawyer can help you obtain a lighter sentence or minimize and sometimes even completely eliminate the charges.
Will my case go to trial?
Records from the Texas Office of Court Administration report that less than 2% of felony criminal cases actually go to trial. On average, less than 1% of misdemeanor cases go to trial. Around 13% of felony charges are eventually dismissed and around 33% of misdemeanors are dismissed.
Plea bargaining may allow you to plead to less serious charges and face reduced penalties. Our firm can provide you with counsel and advice about your legal options and their possible impact, but the decision to accept a plea bargain or go to trial is yours. In some cases the chances for obtaining the most favorable results may rest on accepting reduced charges and / or penalties, while in others unfair plea offers or the desire to seek a complete acquittal may mean that a trial is the best option. Your attorney may be able to convince the prosecution your case is not worth prosecuting, or may be able to prove your charges were not filed on legal grounds. If this is true, your case may be dismissed.
How much do old criminal records matter?
Whether a defendant's prior conviction is admissible in a new criminal case depends on a number of factors, including the crime of which the defendant is now accused and the purpose for which the conviction is asked to be admitted. Typically, a prosecutor or defense attorney can ask that a prior conviction or set of convictions be admitted as proof of motive, opportunity, intent, preparation, plan, knowledge, identity, or absence of mistake or accident.If a defendant loses at trial or takes a plea offer, the judge may have the discretion to use a prior conviction to enhance the sentence for the defendant in the current case. In some situations, such as DUI cases, a judge may be required by law to enhance a sentence if a defendant has a prior conviction for the same type of offense on their record.
As a general rule, if a prosecutor or a defense attorney wants to introduce a defendant's prior conviction they must notify the court of their intention. A prosecutor typically succeeds in getting a prior conviction admitted into evidence if the defendant chooses to testify or to make their character an issue in their case. Typically, a prosecutor cannot introduce a criminal conviction to prove the defendant has a bad character unless the defendant has made their character an issue, or to prove a defendant has or had a propensity to commit crime.
Most courts use a balancing test to determine if the prior conviction should be admitted. The judge weighs the probative value of permitting the crime to be introduced against the prejudicial impact on the defendant. If the prior conviction is for a similar offense, the judge may determine that the risk is too great.
At Parnham & Associates we understand that family difficulties, drug addiction, youth and even mental illness can play a part in a person's past indiscretions, and we work hard to mitigate any previous criminal records.
What is the difference between a dismissal and an expungement?
A dismissal can occur when a prosecutor drops your case. This can happen after the assistant district attorney reviews your case and decides the evidence against you isn't strong enough or your case is not worth prosecution. In certain situations, a dismissal can be given if you perform community service or attend specific classes.
An expungement is when your case is erased. The court records relating to your case are destroyed and you can truthfully state on job and loan applications that you have never been convicted of a criminal charge. Expungements are difficult to obtain, and require an experienced criminal defense attorney.
If you receive a subpoena or an officer threatens to get one for you, you should call an attorney right away.
If a law enforcement officer threatens to get a subpoena in order to get you to testify to a criminal offense, you still do not have to answer the officer's questions. They may or may not succeed in getting the subpoena.
If you are given a subpoena, you must follow the subpoena's direction about when and where to report to the court, but you can still assert your right not to say anything that could be used against you in a criminal case.
If you have been accused of a crime, please contact us today for a free consultation with an aggressive and resourceful criminal defense attorney. We will work tirelessly to ensure the best possible outcome for your case. Call (713) 224-3967 or use the link below for a free initial consultation.
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The Law Office of Parnham & Associates
440 Louisiana St., Suite 200 (The Lyric Centre), Houston, TX 77002
Phone: (713) 224.3967 | Fax: 713.224.2815
This information is provided for general informational purpose only. This information: • DOES NOT represent a legal advice or opinion, • DOES NOT create an attorney-client relationship, • DOES NOT account for community-supervision eligibility, special punishment issues, mandatory minimum confinement, enhancements, and "Exceptional Sentences" under Chapter 12 Subchapter D of the Texas Penal Code, • DOES NOT apply Corporations & Associations. • DOES NOT represent the unique circumstances of your case.