When do I Need a Criminal Defense Attorney?

Cesar MontalvoCriminal Law

In the state of Texas, the accused usually realize they need a criminal defense attorney after they have been arrested and placed in the county detention center or jail where it takes 8‐12 hours to be processed. Here’s what the process looks like:

  • Bond: The magistrate states the allegations in the case and sets a bond amount to ensure that the defendant appears on their court dates and resolves their case. Once the case is resolved the court returns the bond. Depending on the severity of the crime, the defendant may be released with a Personal Recognizance Bond or a Cash Bond.
  • Arraignment: In the arraignment hearing, the defendant is formally read the charge, is able to correct any misspelling of their name and enters a pleading such as Guilty, Not Guilty, or No Contest. If the pleading is Not Guilty, then the court will usually set a pre‐trial docket where the defense attorney will be able to conference and exchange evidence with the State in order to prepare a proper defense. Practically, the Arraignment date is used as an opportunity for the defense to make contact with the Prosecutor and request any evidence at hand.
  • Pretrial and Motion Practice: This is where the saying “the squeaky wheel gets the grease” is resoundingly true. If the defense attorney does not request, petition, or essentially ask for something, neither the court nor the state will generally provide it. If we feel as though the evidence used against the defendant was obtained in violation of their constitutional rights, we may want to have a suppression hearing where we would question the procedure, method, or reason for the acquisition of the incriminating evidence that has raised the charges at hand.
  • Pretrial Diversion (PTD) / Pretrial Intervention (PTI) / Deferred Adjudication: This is an agreement where either through the recommendation of the State or the court itself, the defendant has the opportunity to resolve their case promptly with favorable terms and dismissal upon successful completion of the terms. However, if the defendant fails to complete any of the requirements of community supervision, the State may issue a Motion to Adjudicate Guilt (MTA) and the defendant is exposed to the full range of punishment of their underlying crime. At this hearing, the State must prove by clear and convincing evidence (low standard of proof) that the defendant failed to complete the terms of their deferred adjudication. The State’s evidence is often testimony from the probation officer and any documentation to support their case.
  • Straight Probation: This is an agreement where either through the recommendation of the State or the court itself, the defendant has the opportunity have their case resolved and closed without having to do any jail time (or perhaps jail on the weekends). Furthermore, the agreement creates a limit as to the range of punishments should they fail any terms of their community supervision. The downside is that there will ultimately be a conviction on the defendant’s record. Depending on the facts of the case and the needs of the client, this may be the best option.
  • Motion to Revoke (MTRP): A Motion to Revoke Probation (MTRP) is typically filed when the terms and conditions of probation have been violated and the probation officer reports the violation to the District Attorney’s office. After the MTRP is filed with the court, a warrant is issued for arrest. Depending on the underlying nature of the offense and type of probation violation, a bond may or may not be set. Once the warrant has been executed, a court appearance is set to try to resolve the case. At this point, probation revocation is extremely likely and an experienced criminal defense attorney is required to ensure the best possible outcome.

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