We all make mistakes.
Maybe a mistake, either one you made or the arresting officer made, is why you’re caught up in legal trouble in the first place.
Regardless of how or why you’re facing a criminal charge, it’s important that you know what NOT to do from now on to protect your legal right to a strong defense.
As one of Houston’s leading criminal defense law firms, we’ve seen criminal defendants make the following mistakes time and time again.
First, if you haven’t been arrested but could be, you should know that it’s vital not to resist arrest.
A normal response when facing a crisis such as an arrest is to flee or resist. But that’s the worst thing you could do. You could make things worse by fighting with police and causing injuries which could bring even more charges.
Instead, be polite and respectful when dealing with police, while at the same time refusing to answer questions or provide evidence which could be used against you.
Which leads us to the next mistake you should avoid...
It’s best to be cooperative with police, but only up to a point. You should rationally and reasonably respond to their requests to “Stand here” or “Sit there,” but that doesn’t mean you have to offer any information which might later be harmful to your defense.
Even while not resisting arrest, you have a legal right to decline to answer questions until you have met with your criminal defense attorney.
This is extremely important, since speaking to police — even when telling “your side” of the story — can lead to you inadvertently disclosing evidence that turns out to be incriminating.
Police are looking to use such incriminating statements against you, so they will ask questions with traps. Keep this fact in mind when politely declining to answer police questions and requesting that you speak to your lawyer first.
Yes, you need an attorney. In fact, it’s vital.
Unless you’re a lawyer yourself, you probably have little knowledge of how the criminal justice system works — that is, what you can expect and what you should guard against when facing a criminal charge.
For this reason, it’s imperative you hire an experienced criminal defense lawyer to safeguard and protect your legal rights at every stage of the legal process.
Early in the process, your defense attorney may be able to negotiate with prosecutors in order to reduce the charge against you. Your lawyer may even be able to get the charge dropped entirely, depending on the circumstances. Your defense lawyer can also represent you if your case proceeds to trial. And there, your attorney can fight for your acquittal.
Here at the Neal Davis Law Firm, our attorneys are often able to do this for our clients who have been wrongly or unjustly accused of a crime. Getting charges reduced or dropped is part of our job.
Some defendants believe so ardently in their innocence that they get carried away and demand to take an active role in their defense.
But no matter how persuasive you believe yourself to be, you should never try to lead or steer your defense. That’s your defense lawyer’s job — and duty.
Your defense lawyer must know all the facts and details of your case, and have all the evidence in order to represent you best.
Remember that the things you share with your attorney will not necessarily be exposed in court. Even if you believe something is irrelevant or incriminating, you should divulge it to your defense lawyer, who will know how to handle the information from a strategic standpoint.
Just as you don’t have to answer police officers’ questions at the time of your arrest, you’re not legally required to offer any other evidence either. Such evidence can include many things, and you don’t have to provide any of them.
For instance, you don’t have to provide bodily fluid samples or subject yourself to fingerprinting without a court order. Nor do you have to give any personal belongings to police, such as a laptop computer or your car keys.
Thanks to protections provided by the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, police cannot legally search your home, your car or your belongings without a court order or search warrant.
If ever there was an occasion to look respectable, it’s when facing a criminal charge in a courtroom. A courtroom is a place to show respect for the legal system, even if you feel you’ve been unjustly accused.
Keep in mind that it’s in court that you can gain justice. The legal system can work for you, so respect it.
This means not dressing down in court by wearing sloppy clothes or looking like you have a casual attitude about the process. Instead, dress neatly and formally, and have a dignified bearing.
That doesn’t mean dressing in a showy manner which conveys wealth or style. It means dressing in a tidy and respectful way, such as a coat and tie for men and a conservative dress for women.
As your defense lawyer will advise you, you shouldn’t communicate with any person or persons who have accused you of a crime or who are involved in some way in the investigation. That could be construed as witness tampering, which is a crime in itself.
Even worse, if the witness complains and a witness tampering charge is filed against you, that charge cannot be dropped by the witness if he or she changes his or her mind. Charges can only be dropped by prosecutors, not victims.
If communication with an accuser is needed — perhaps for clarity in order to seek a reduced or dropped charge — leave that to your defense attorney.
One of the first places prosecutors look for evidence to use against a defendant in a criminal proceeding is online, via social media such as Twitter, Instagram and Facebook or in communications such as texts and emails.
They should find nothing about your case, but that’s up to you.
Resist the urge to share any information — again, any information — about your case online. Such shared information on social media can be located by prosecutors and used against you.
Even if you feel as though a social media post would have nothing to do with your case, it might. We advise our clients to refrain from using social media at all until their case has been resolved. That includes writing or typing anything on your cell phone, personal computer or even paper. Avoid posting on YouTube as well.
Don’t assume that what you share directly only with friends or family members cannot be traced by prosecutors. Even persons with good intentions can accidentally expose such information, perhaps by forwarding an email to someone else who isn’t as cautious and trustworthy.
Again, sharing information on social media is a mistake.
As Forbes has reported:
“Courts today are more than willing to admit social media content as a form of evidence both for and against you.”
You’ve heard the old adage, “You get what you pay for.”
You can hire an attorney at a reasonable cost without sacrificing your future — and your freedom — by scraping the barrel bottom. Your success in defending your legal rights is worth it.
You should engage a Houston, Texas criminal defense lawyer with the knowledge, skill and experience that your case deserves.
But until then, keep these tips in mind while avoiding the biggest mistakes you can make in your Texas criminal case.
Learn all about the legal process and your legal rights.