Texas Criminal Defense FAQs
What Do I Do if I Get Arrested?
Getting arrested isn’t supposed to be a fun or pleasant experience, and it isn’t. For some, the experience can be downright frightening and overwhelmingly stressful. There is no doubt when you are placed in custody that the authorities have control over you and can tell you what to do, which can understandably make you feel powerless and vulnerable. But you do have rights at every stage of the criminal justice process, including during your arrest. Temple criminal defense attorney Katie L. Gomez will educate and inform you and be your voice throughout this process. She’ll level the playing field against the authorities so you don’t feel helpless but instead know what to expect and are confident you have a powerful ally in your corner who can help you get the best result.
Below are some tips to consider if you’ve been arrested to help ease your mind and protect your rights until you can get a lawyer on board to take over your defense for you. If you’ve been arrested for a misdemeanor or felony offense in Temple, Bell County or Central Texas, call The Law Office of Katie L. Gomez for immediate assistance.
Stay Calm and Call a Lawyer
Getting arrested is stressful and consequential. This is definitely not the time to panic or make rash decisions based on fear, embarrassment or intimidation. Remember that help is on the way. Once you’ve had an attorney assess your situation and advise you on your options, you can make rational decisions in your best interest based on the facts.
During an arrest is not the time or place to argue with the police that they have the wrong person or got their facts wrong. Trying to talk yourself out of an arrest or clear up their confusion won’t do any good and will only make things worse by giving the police statements and observations about your behavior to use against you. If there are factual problems with your arrest or the way it was carried out, your lawyer knows when, where and how to argue these points, including getting the case dismissed or the charges dropped if the arrest is unlawful.
Keep Your Hands to Yourself
Resisting arrest is a Class A misdemeanor in Texas, which means you could face up to $4,000 in fines and a year in jail. That’s on top of whatever other charge or charges you were being arrested for. It’s also hard to defend against a charge of resisting arrest; the officers themselves are firsthand eyewitnesses. This crime is committed by intentionally preventing or obstructing someone you know to be a peace officer from effecting an arrest or search, and it’s not a defense to prosecution even if the arrest or search was unlawful. Resisting arrest can also be charged as a third-degree felony if a deadly weapon is used.
Let the Police Do Their Thing, and You Do Yours
As part of an arrest, the police will be able to conduct a search of your person and the immediate area within your reach, including inside your vehicle. There are many exceptions to the general rule that a warrant is required to search. The police are trained on these exceptions and on what constitutes probable cause. If they get it wrong, we’ll fight them in court, but don’t fight them in the street or on the side of the road.
Don’t obstruct a search, but don’t consent to one either. You are under no obligation to offer any information or give the police permission to search you, your belongings or your vehicle. If they ask you where you’ve been or how much you’ve had to drink, they aren’t just making conversation, and you don’t have to answer. If the police tell you to submit to a search or step aside while they search the area, do so. If they ask for your consent to search, you can just say no.
Call a Lawyer at the Earliest Opportunity
Don’t call your family first or your best friend or your employer. Don’t talk to other detainees at the police station, and certainly don’t talk to the police, except to tell them you want to call a lawyer. Your phone calls can be overheard and used against you, as can anything you say in the holding cell, even if you are just bragging or fronting. At the first opportunity call an attorney and only discuss the facts of your case with your attorney.
Katie L. Gomez Is Here to Help You After an Arrest in Temple, Texas
If you’ve been arrested on a misdemeanor or felony charge in Temple, Bell County or Central Texas, call The Law Office of Katie L. Gomez, PLLC, at 254-330-3214 for immediate assistance. Katie L. Gomez is a dedicated criminal defense attorney who will go to work right away positioning you for the best outcome in your case.
What Happens in a Criminal Case
Getting arrested, and the idea of having to appear before a judge, can be stressful and frightening experiences for anyone. Much of that anxiety comes from not knowing what to expect and feeling that you are powerless in the hands of the authorities. At The Law Office of Katie L. Gomez, PLLC, we take the time to explain things to you so you know what to expect and are ready to handle yourself at every stage. Temple criminal defense attorney Katie L. Gomez intentionally keeps her caseload low so she can provide individual attention to every client. We are here to help you, and we believe that the more you know about the process, the better able you will be to make the best-informed decisions and assist in your defense.
See below for an outline of the different steps of a criminal case. If you have been arrested for a misdemeanor or felony offense in Bell County or Central Texas, call The Law Office of Katie L. Gomez, PLLC for a free consultation, and get started protecting your rights and setting yourself up for a positive outcome in your case.
Police can make an arrest on the spot if they witness what they believe to be criminal behavior taking place, such as driving while intoxicated. Other times, arrests only occur after a period of investigation that justifies issuing an indictment or information. An indictment is required in felony cases and is voted on by a grand jury. An information is required in misdemeanor cases. Instead of going through a grand jury, an information is a document supported by a sworn complaint and signed by the prosecutor.
During an arrest, you will be taken to the police station or jail, fingerprinted and entered into the system (booked). As a matter of course, the police will “read you your rights,” also known as Miranda warnings, when you are arrested. The Miranda statement will inform you of your right to remain silent and to have an attorney present during questioning, and that anything you say can be used against you. The police should not question or interrogate you in custody until they have read you these rights. This is your opportunity to request a lawyer. It is in your best interests to call a lawyer right away and to decline to answer any questions without a lawyer present.
Your first appearance before a judge in a courtroom will be for your arraignment. An arraignment is required in Texas after any felony arrest or any misdemeanor arrest with jail as a potential penalty if convicted (these are Class A or Class B misdemeanors). An arraignment should be held within 72 hours of an arrest or at least two days after being served with an indictment.
At the arraignment, you will be informed of the charges against you and asked to enter a plea. You can plead Not Guilty at your arraignment and still later change your plea to Guilty or No Contest as part of a plea bargain negotiated with the prosecution by your attorney.
Bail is set during the arraignment, and if you are indigent, counsel will be appointed to represent you. If you already have an attorney, your lawyer can prepare you for the arraignment, attend the arraignment with you, speak on your behalf and make sure you understand what is going on.
If bail was set at the arraignment, you can be released from confinement pending your trial (bail is also known as pre-trial release). Your attorney can help you get released from detention at an affordable bail amount or with no cash bail required. If you need to hire a bail bond company to afford your bail, you can often get a favorable rate if you have an attorney, since the bond company will be more confident that you will appear before the court when requested.
Pre-Trial Discovery and Motions
Before your trial, your attorney will work to build your defense or negotiate a plea bargain with the prosecution. Your lawyer might also file motions to dismiss the case or reduce the charges or seek alternatives such as deferred adjudication or pretrial diversion. Criminal defense attorney Katie L. Gomez involves her clients in all of these discussions, reviews the evidence with them, and makes sure they are ready for trial or in favor of negotiating a plea. You may be called into court from time to time during this phase for docket calls to update the judge on the status of the case, set a date for trial, hear a negotiated plea, etc.
If your case goes to trial, you will be present during all phases of the proceeding, including jury selection and opening arguments from both sides. Next, each side presents its case, which involves presenting witnesses and exhibits and cross-examining the other side’s witnesses. The trial concludes with closing arguments from both sides, and the case is sent to the jury to deliberate. Your attorney might make post-trial motions before or after the verdict if grounds exist to dismiss the case or set aside the verdict.
If the verdict is Not Guilty, you will be released as a free person. If the verdict is Guilty, the next phase is sentencing, which might include fines, probation, community service, or jail. You can also appeal the verdict if you have grounds to appeal.
Get Help With Your Criminal Case in Temple, Texas
You have a constitutional right to be represented at every one of these stages of the criminal justice process, and you can benefit from having an experienced, passionate criminal defense lawyer who will make sure you receive fair treatment and work to get you the best result. If you’ve been arrested on misdemeanor or felony charges in Temple, Bell County or Central Texas, call The Law Office of Katie L. Gomez at 254-330-3214 for a free consultation, and set yourself up for a positive outcome in your criminal case.
What is Deferred Adjudication?
If you’ve been arrested for a misdemeanor or felony offense, there is a possibility that you could be fined thousands of dollars or sent to jail if you get convicted. Plus, having a criminal conviction on your record can haunt you for years and negatively affect you in all areas of your life, including employment, education, housing, personal relationships, and more. You might have a strong defense to put up at trial, but the outcome of a trial is never certain, no matter how weak the prosecution’s case or how strong your defense is. Deciding to fight the charges in court requires careful consideration of all the circumstances, including the consequences if you go to court and lose.
Deferred adjudication is an alternative to trial that provides a very favorable outcome for many people. Deferred adjudication is not a conviction; you won’t have a criminal conviction on your record and you also can’t be denied a professional or occupational license or certificate in some cases.
Deferred adjudication is often an excellent outcome, but it is not available in every instance, and even when it is, it might not be the best solution for everybody. Learn more about deferred adjudication below, and talk to your lawyer about the pros and cons of seeking deferred adjudication in your case. For help with misdemeanor or felony charges in Temple, Bell County or Central Texas, call The Law Office of Katie L. Gomez, PLLC.
Facts About Deferred Adjudication in Texas
Deferred adjudication is a type of probation (community supervision) that generally lasts up to two years for a misdemeanor and up to ten years for a felony, with a five-year minimum for certain offenses. No finding of guilt is entered, and at the end of the probation period, the case is dismissed and discharged. The judge does have the power to extend the probation period, and the judge can also dismiss the case early in certain cases.
Deferred adjudication can include a fine as well as conditions like other forms of probation, such as being required to remain within a specified place and report to a supervision officer as directed. Also, receiving deferred adjudication requires entering a plea of Guilty or No Contest to the crime charged. If you don’t follow through on all the terms of the probation, your probation can be revoked and you can be sentenced for the crime charged without a full trial and the opportunity to defend yourself.
After entering a plea of Guilty or No Contest to the offense charged, and after the judge hears evidence and finds that it substantiates guilt, the judge defers further proceedings and places the defendant on deferred adjudication community supervision. You should be informed of the consequences of violating community supervision at that time, as described above.
Eligibility for Deferred Adjudication
Any offense is eligible for deferred adjudication that is not specifically excluded in the law. Excluded offenses include several sex offenses, some drug offenses and most murder charges, and several DWI offenses. Some of the DWIs excluded from deferred adjudication include:
- Driving while intoxicated with a child passenger under 15 years old
- Causing serious bodily injury or death due to driving while intoxicated
- Driving or boating while intoxicated with a blood alcohol content of .15 or more
- Driving while intoxicated on a commercial driver’s license (CDL)
- DWI subject to penalty enhancements based on a prior conviction
For some offenses, the judge will grant deferred adjudication only if the judge finds it would be in the best interest of the victim. For the most part, deferred adjudication is only available for nonviolent offenses and is not available if the defendant has previously received deferred adjudication.
What Deferred Adjudication Doesn’t Do
Deferred adjudication is not a confidential record; employers and others could still see that you were arrested and placed on deferred adjudication. If you are otherwise eligible, you will want to petition for an order of nondisclosure (record sealing) to keep the record from public view. The Law Office of Katie L. Gomez, PLLC, can help you get deferred adjudication and an order of nondisclosure to seal your record.
Deferred adjudication can also be used against you as a sentence enhancement if you are convicted of a subsequent offense down the road. Being charged with another offense while on probation can also cause your probation to be revoked. Like other probation revocation hearings, you have a right to a limited hearing before being sentenced, although this is not the same thing as getting a full trial.
Deferred adjudication is not an acquittal. Although there is no adjudication of guilt, you have pled guilty to the charge and can later be sentenced if you do not follow through on the terms of your supervision. Deferred adjudication can be an excellent outcome in many situations, but you should always weigh it against your other options with your attorney before deciding how to proceed.
Help With Deferred Adjudication and Criminal Defense in Temple, Texas
Temple criminal defense attorney Katie L. Gomez goes above and beyond when it comes to spending time with her clients, making sure they understand their options and are ready to make the best decisions in their unique situations. To discuss deferred adjudication of your charges or for help with a misdemeanor or felony arrest in Bell County or Central Texas, call The Law Office of Katie L. Gomez, PLLC at 254-330-3214 for a free consultation.
What Is Pretrial Diversion?
Pretrial diversion is a way to avoid prosecution by agreeing instead to submit to a period of probation/community supervision in lieu of prosecution. Like deferred adjudication, pretrial diversion offers a way to avoid the uncertainty of trial and a possible criminal record. Also like deferred adjudication, pretrial diversion can be an excellent outcome when you are facing criminal charges, but it might not be the best choice in every situation.
The Law Office of Katie L. Gomez, PLLC takes the time to carefully review your case and counsel you on your options. Whether you opt for pretrial diversion or prefer to fight the charges in court, Temple criminal defense attorney Katie L. Gomez will approach your case with passion, confidence, skill, and a desire to obtain a successful result you will be happy with. Learn more about pretrial diversion below, and call The Law Office of Katie L. Gomez, PLLC, if you have been charged with DWI or another misdemeanor or felony offense in Bell County or Central Texas.
How Pretrial Diversion Works in Texas
Pretrial diversion, also known more formally as pretrial intervention, is authorized under Texas law in section 76.011 of the Government Code. Pretrial diversion programs involve a form of probation overseen by the community supervision and corrections department established by each county district judge. The specific terms of pretrial diversion can therefore differ from county to county, but they all tend to follow the same general rules. Below are some basic features of pretrial diversion.
- Only first-time offenders are eligible, including no previous pretrial diversions. Diversion is available for misdemeanor charges, or in some counties, low-level felonies as well. Sex crimes and domestic violence charges are ineligible. Some programs ban eligibility for violent offenses as well.
- Either the defendant can request or the prosecutor can recommend pretrial diversion.
- The defendant must agree to an interview or submit a written statement in which the defendant sincerely expresses regret and the desire to atone for the offense.
- The terms of diversion will be spelled out in a written pretrial intervention agreement. The defendant will be required to enter a plea of Guilty or No Contest and serve a specific term of supervision (probation). Standard rules of probation will apply, such as not committing any other crimes during the probation period, submitting to drug testing as required, performing community service, obeying curfews, meeting with the probation officer as required, etc.
- The term of probation can be up to two years long. After successful completion of the program, the prosecutor will file a motion with the court to dismiss the charges. In Bell County, the probation term is one year.
- The standard applied to probation violations can vary from program to program. Some have a strict zero-tolerance policy while others utilize a sanctions ladder depending on the severity of the infraction.
Pretrial Diversion Can Be Better Than Deferred Adjudication
Some pretrial diversion programs require you to waive your ability to seek expunction of your record, while others require you to wait a predetermined amount of time before seeking expunction. Some programs limit expunction to misdemeanors only while others allow you to expunge felonies as well.
In Bell County, you can apply for expunction after completing probation and the requisite time has passed. This fact makes pretrial diversion better than deferred adjudication in Bell County. With deferred adjudication, you still have a record. You can apply to have it sealed through an order of nondisclosure, but it is still there and viewable by certain agencies for certain purposes, such as if you were applying for government employment or certain occupational licenses or applying to adopt a child. Expunction, on the other hand, wipes the offense completely off your record. In fact, after expunction there is no record.
When You Might Not Want Pretrial Diversion
Part of applying for pretrial diversion is admitting guilt and waiving your right to a jury trial. In some cases, you might not be guilty of the offense charged, even though the prosecution has evidence to use against you. In other cases, you might have a good defense and a good chance of beating the charges in court. You might not be comfortable admitting guilt to something you didn’t do, even if you could get convicted for it. It’s important to discuss your options with your lawyer, including your chances at trial and what penalties you could face if convicted, and whether the terms of pretrial diversion would be acceptable to you.
Help With Pretrial Diversion and Criminal Defense in Temple, Texas
Temple criminal defense attorney Katie L. Gomez takes an exceptional approach to client service and attention, carving out extra time to spend with her clients in preparation for their trial or court appearance. She’ll make sure you understand all the facts and ramifications surrounding whether to seek pretrial diversion or not, and she’ll staunchly advocate for you and defend you no matter which route you choose. To discuss pretrial diversion and other facts about your case after an arrest in Bell County or Central Texas, call The Law Office of Katie L. Gomez, PLLC at 254-330-3214 for a free consultation.
What Not to Do at a Traffic Stop
If you get pulled over for speeding, running a red light, or some other moving violation, or for something more serious like driving on a suspended license or suspicion of DWI or drug offenses, the traffic stop can be a very significant moment in your life. Depending on the circumstances, the traffic stop could end with you being told to have a nice day and driving off with a fairly uneventful story to mention at dinner, or being arrested on the spot not just for the reason you were pulled over but with other charges tacked on as well.
What happens during a traffic stop is not entirely within your control, but some of it is. The way you behave and the things you say and do can greatly influence the outcome of the stop. Just as important are the things you don’t say or do. Below are some tips about what not to do during a traffic stop. If you do get pulled over and arrested in Temple, Bell County or Central Texas, call The Law Office of Katie L. Gomez, PLLC for strategic advice and professional representation.
It should go without saying, but if the police light you up, you are required by law to pull over and can be cited or arrested for your failure to do so. Pull to the shoulder or right-hand lane (or wherever directed by the police) as soon as it is safe to do so. Some people get nervous, panic, or don’t seem to know where or how to pull over safely. The longer you wait, the more you put the officers on edge, on alert, and thinking that you are attempting to flee.
Don’t Be Aggressive
The quickest way to escalate a traffic stop into an arrest is to jump out of the car and start yelling and jabbing your finger in the officer’s chest (if this doesn’t sound like you, good, but it does happen). Managing a traffic stop as the driver involves staying calm, which keeps the officers calm and also keeps their suspicions from being further aroused; a nervous might person might just be nervous, but they can look like they have something to hide. Wait until the officer approaches and follow their requests before rolling down the window, reaching into the glove compartment or getting out of the car.
Don’t Argue, Don’t Explain, Just Don’t Say Anything
It’s certainly helpful to be polite and respectful and follow the officer’s commands, but you don’t have to answer questions that could incriminate you, and you shouldn’t. When the police ask you where you are going or where you’ve been, how much you’ve had to drink or how fast you were going, they aren’t just making conversation. As they say on TV, the things you say can and will be used against you. Also, the more you talk, the more you might give them probable cause to search your vehicle or arrest you. If you can, resist the temptation to argue the facts or explain yourself, because you could wind up doing yourself more harm than good. If you think it would be helpful to explain the situation, keep your statements short, clear and calm.
Don’t Take Field Sobriety Tests
Field sobriety tests are a group of tests designed not to see if you have been drinking but to give the officers probable cause to arrest you and make you take a chemical blood or breath test. These tests include the horizontal gaze nystagmus test, the walk-and-turn test, the one-leg stand test, and others. These tests are subjectively graded by the officer to provide the basis for requiring a breath test. You have the right to refuse these tests without losing your driver’s license; the choice is yours, but unless you feel confident in your natural balance and coordination, it might be wiser to decline.
When it comes to a chemical test of your blood or breath, however, this test can be required when the officer has probable cause to require it. If you refuse, you’ll lose your license on the spot. Also, the fact that you refused will be used as evidence against you in court if you are arrested and prosecuted for DWI. Some people still refuse to take this test, even knowing the consequences, because they will think they will blow over .08 or considerably higher. However, if you have previous convictions for DWI or were in an accident involving serious bodily injury, you can be forced to take a test against your will.
Don’t Consent to a Search of Your Vehicle
When it comes to a vehicle search, there are many exceptions to the constitutional requirements of a warrant and probable cause. If the police tell you they are going to conduct a search of your vehicle, step aside so as not to be charged with additional offenses like obstruction. However, if they ask your permission to search, that likely means they don’t have the right to search unless you give it to them. There is typically no good reason to consent to a search, even when you think there is nothing for the police to find. It’s your choice, but you shouldn’t feel pressured or obligated to consent.
DO call an attorney if you are arrested
Maybe you saw this one coming, but we want to end on a positive note. If the traffic stop doesn’t go your way, it isn’t the end of the world; it’s only the beginning of the prosecution’s case against you. By calling an attorney right away, you stand a chance of getting the charges dropped or reduced at an early stage, negotiating a favorable outcome that lets you keep your license and stay out of jail, or be prepared to fight the charges in court if necessary. Even if you forget all the DON’Ts above, please remember this DO.
For help with an arrest following a traffic stop in Temple, Bell County or Central Texas, call The Law Office of Katie L. Gomez at 254-330-3214 for a free consultation.
Will Hiring an Attorney Make Me Look Guilty?
If the police pull you over or stop you on the street, they aren’t doing so just because they have extra time on their hands. In fact, it’s illegal for the police to stop you without some suspicion of criminal activity. In other words, if the police pull you over or attempt to question you, it’s because they already suspect you of criminal behavior. So, no, hiring an attorney does not make you look guilty. It makes you look smart.
The police might lead you to believe you don’t need a lawyer or that “only guilty people need a lawyer.” The reason they do this is because it is easier for them to get a suspect to make incriminating statements when they don’t have a lawyer or to pressure them into pleading guilty to a charge. They might need more evidence to make their case, or they might be charging a more serious offense than is supported by the evidence. A lawyer won’t let you make incriminating statements that help the police make their case against you, and a lawyer will advise you to plead Not Guilty to a crime you might not have committed or that the state cannot prove.
If you’ve been arrested or taken into custody, or if the police ask to speak with you, make the smart choice and ask for a lawyer before you agree to answer any questions, sign any statements, or enter any plea other than Not Guilty. A positive outcome in your case depends on it. For help with a misdemeanor or felony matter in Temple, Bell County or Central Texas, call The Law Office of Katie L. Gomez, PLLC, for immediate assistance.
Your Right to an Attorney Is a Constitutional Right
“You have the right to an attorney.” It’s not just something they say on cop shows. The Bill of Rights, in the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, says that in all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall have the assistance of counsel for their defense. This right applies to any felony or misdemeanor offense where jail could result. In Texas, that means a Class A or Class B misdemeanor, or any felony. This right applies in court, at the police station, and at any stage of the proceeding. Even if you haven’t been formally arrested, as long as you are in custody, the police cannot interrogate you without a lawyer present if you request one. Unsure if you are in custody or not? Ask the police, “Am I free to leave?” If they say no, then you are in custody.
Here’s What an Attorney Can Do for You
It may be obvious that you need a lawyer to speak for you in court and represent you at trial. But an attorney can step in for you long before that. Below are just some of the reasons hiring an attorney from the very start is the smartest move you can make regarding an arrest or criminal prosecution.
An attorney will make sure you are treated fairly. An experienced criminal defense attorney knows your rights and how to look out for them. Many of your constitutional rights can be waived and rendered useless if you don’t know how to exercise them or protect them. Having a lawyer on board at the outset puts you in the best position for a good result by making sure you don’t say or do the wrong thing to your detriment.
An attorney will educate you about your rights and options. If you are facing criminal prosecution, you will have many decisions to make along the way. Do you plead Guilty, Not Guilty, or No Contest? Do you request a jury trial or a bench trial? Should you testify in your defense? Your criminal defense attorney will give you the information you need to make the right decisions in your best interests. Temple criminal defense lawyer Katie L. Gomez spends extra time with her clients to make sure they understand their situation.
An attorney can negotiate a favorable plea. Going to trial isn’t always in your best interest, but neither is simply pleading guilty and throwing yourself on the mercy of the court. A skilled and knowledgeable defense lawyer will negotiate a plea that involves probation instead of jail time or other favorable outcomes such as pretrial diversion or deferred adjudication.
An attorney can negotiate the charges against you. Before you are arrested or tried, your attorney can intervene with the prosecutor and make a case for reducing a felony charge to a misdemeanor, or presenting enough evidence to convince the prosecutor to drop the case altogether.
An attorney can represent you at trial. The burden of proof at trial is on the prosecution to prove every element of the charged offense beyond a reasonable doubt. Your criminal defense lawyer will hold them to this burden, challenge their evidence and arguments at every turn, raise all viable defenses, and ensure that you are treated fairly throughout the trial.
An attorney can represent you at sentencing. If you do go to trial and wind up getting convicted, a knowledgeable criminal law attorney will be able to explore sentencing alternatives that can help you avoid the worst consequences of a conviction and move on from this episode in your life as quickly and successfully as possible.
You Have the Right to an Attorney. Use it.
Hiring an attorney is the smartest thing you can do if you’ve been accused of a crime. The police and prosecutors know this, and it’s the first thing they would do if they got arrested. The constitutional right to an attorney is there to protect anyone accused of a crime from government overreach and to ensure fair treatment and a proper defense. It isn’t only guilty people who hire lawyers but anyone who wants a fair shake and the best chance at a good outcome.
If you’ve been arrested on misdemeanor or felony charges in Temple, Bell County or Central Texas, call The Law Office of Katie L. Gomez at 254-330-3214 for a free consultation.