Thousands of people are arrested every year in Texas, and for most of them, it is the first time they have ever been involved with the criminal justice system. Some arrests are the result of a traffic stop, where a determination is made that the driver is under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Other arrests stem from domestic violence altercations where one or both parties are arrested. Other arrests are triggered by a crime, such as, robbery, assault, or theft.
There are two types of arrest:
- Warrantless Arrest
- Warrant for Arrest
Warrantless arrests are the most common and are those that happen at the discretion of law enforcement.
In Texas, there are two categories of offenses: misdemeanors andfelonies.Misdemeanors are the less severe criminal offences; they can range from a driving infraction, to small violations of the law that result in a fine and possibly a stay in the county jail. Felonies are more serious crimes, and if convicted, the penalties are much more harsh. The fines associated with felonies are higher and incarceration in the state prison system will last for a year or longer.
Many law enforcement officers have the authority to make arrests. Any police officer, whether it be state, county, or city, has the authority to arrest, as well as probation officers and game wardens. The police also have the right to search the person about to be arrested and the vehicle they are driving, if stopped in a car.
When you are accused of committing a crime, you have Miranda rights:
You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to talk to an attorney and have him present with you while you are being questioned. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed to represent you before any questioning if you wish. You can decide, at any time, to exercise these right and not answer any questions or make any statements.
There is a misconception that if the police or other arresting authorities have not read the Miranda warning, the charges must be dropped. The Miranda warning only applies to questioning, and has nothing to do with the arrest. What the Miranda warning says is that if you say anything it can be used against you in court, once they have warned you.
If they have not read the Miranda rights, they can ask you questions and even if you answer, none of that conversation is admissible in court. As a matter of safety, never answer any questions without an attorney by your side, Miranda warning or not.
At some point during the arrest, the authorities will take your picture and fingerprints. First, these are used to see if they match the database for any other crimes. Secondly, they go into a permanent database that will store the information and the changes forever. After the details of the offense are concluded, it is very important to talk to an attorney to get the files sealed. A person can be charged with grand larceny, photographed, and fingerprinted, only to have the charges dropped when the real car thief is found. If you don't get your files taken care of, the arrest will stay on your file.
Very soon after the arrest, there will be an arraignment set, usually within 72 hours. The arraignment is an appearance in court to have the judge read the formal charges. At the arraignment the charges are read and a plea is entered, you either plead: guilty, not guilty, or no contest
Bail is an agreement with the court that is secured with a monetary payment. Failure to appear in court will not only trigger a warrant for arrest, but the bail money will be forfeited. There are three types of bail:
- Personal bond or release on own recognizance (OR). There are many times when a defendant will be released without the need for bail, usually for small offenses or if law enforcement makes a determination the defendant can be trusted to return to court.
- Surety bond: This bail generally requires a third party, like a bail bondsman. For a fee, normally of about 10 percent of the total bail amount, the bail bondsman will put the money up for the court to hold. If the defendant fulfils all the requirements of the court, the money will be refunded to the bail bondsman. Using a bail bond company is helpful when bail is set very high. Most people do not have thousands of dollars to give to the court. A bail bondsman will also take property, like a car title or deed to a home. When the court case is concluded to the court's satisfaction, the bail bondsman will return the title or deed, and the defendant owns the handling fee to the bonding company, and nothing else.
- Cash bond: The entire amount of bail is paid in cash by the defendant. The cash is held by the court until the defendant appears in court, and the case is concluded. If the defendant meets all the conditions of the court, the money will be returned.
Defendants under O.R. owe no bail money to the court. In the other two instances, once the money is paid to the court for bail, the defendant forfeits that money or the title/deed, if they fail to return to court. The bail money is not court fees, it is a lure to entice the defendant to return to court.
These early stages, following an arrest, are the time to hire a criminal defense attorney who can make sure your rights are protected. If you are willing to make statements under the Miranda warning, it is imperative that you do so with the advice of legal counsel. If you are innocent of the charges filed against you, you absolutely need an attorney to maneuver through the legal system and prove your innocence. If you are guilty as charged, you need the experience of a criminal attorney, whose job it is to make sure you do not pay more fines than necessary or spend more time in jail or prison.
Call the attorneys at The Kyle Law Firm to set up a free consultation today.