Frequently Asked Questions
The people who contact our Waco criminal defense lawyers have a range of emotions, including confusion, anxiety, and anger. You will have a lot of questions about what the future holds in your criminal case. Each case is judged on its own unique set of facts and law. That is why you should contact an attorney immediately if you’ve been charged with a criminal offense in Waco. There is no replacement for meeting face-to-face with an attorney to explore your legal defense.
Our criminal defense law firm handles thousands of criminal cases, and we know how stressful this time may be for you and your family. Below are some of our general answers to common questions.
What should I do if my friend/son/daughter/husband/wife was arrested in Waco?
There are three wise things you can do in this situation. First, call a criminal defense lawyer in McLennan County. Then call a bail bond agent to help get your family member or friend released from jail.
The best advice you can give is to tell them to ask for a lawyer when police ask questions. And tell them that they should also not to talk to anyone, including yourself or other people in jail, about the accusation that got them arrested.
Do Not Discuss Your Case on the Phone
Your conversations can be recorded. So don’t speak about the facts of your case on a phone call that is recorded.
What can I do to help my case?
Provide all information to your attorney – mainly information that is negative or damaging. Your Waco criminal defense lawyer will help you once that attorney knows all the facts of your case so that he can help you guard against them. You should only speak to your attorney about your situation because what is said to your lawyer, or even a prospective attorney, is privileged and confidential.
There is a warrant for my arrest in Waco or McLennan County. What should I do?
If there is a warrant, you should immediately contact a criminal defense lawyer. Your lawyer will help you with your bond. Your lawyer will be able to protect your rights so that you don’t accidentally undermine your case. In some situations, your lawyer can prevent incarceration by working with a local bonding company to post a “no-arrest” bond.
Should I talk to the police after I’m arrested?
No. Ask for a lawyer. Be patient. Do not let your emotions get away from you. There will be a later time to address a false charge or an injustice, but you can quickly weaken your case with an emotional outburst.
Asking for a lawyer or remaining quiet is not being uncooperative. Be polite. Be calm, but remember you have the right to remain silent and consult with an attorney, and that is the wisest option for your future. Be compliant. Do not resist. Asking for an attorney does not make you look guilty. Police officers who are charged with crimes immediately ask for a lawyer too. Police will likely tell you that they are allowing you to discuss your side of the story. But resist the urge to offer explanations, stories, or excuses that you think could exonerate you. Small details could make the case against you more persuasive. A Waco criminal defense attorney can help determine when it is essential to talk, and when it is better to remain silent.
What an attorney says on your behalf can’t be used in court against you. That allows your criminal defense lawyer to communicate with investigators and seek information he can use to lower or drop your charge. The best statement you can make to law enforcement when being questioned is: “I would like to speak to my attorney.”
What is bail?
A simple way to think of bail is to imagine it as a deposit against your freedom. Bail allows for the release of the accused person after a financial deposit has been made as a promise to return to the court. Bail is the amount of money that the arrested person must pay to secure their release until trial. Our system has bail to provide temporary freedom to those accused of criminal charges so that the defendant can prepare for their case. The money acts as an incentive to ensure the defendant returns to court.
A criminal defense lawyer in Waco often works with the courts to reduce the bail amount or get it completely waived. Lawyers can also negotiate with bail bondsmen for their clients.
A bondsman must pay the county the whole bail amount. In exchange, you must pay 10% of the bond. For example, assume that your McLennan County bond is $10,000. You can choose to pay the bail bondsman 10% of the bail amount ($1,000), or you can spend that entire $10,000 amount to McLennan County to get released, and it will be refunded to you after your case is done. If a defendant does not appear for trial, the bond company will revoke the bond and hire a bounty hunter to obtain the defendant.
Do I have to appear in court?
Yes, your bond could be revoked if you fail to appear in court. A defendant must appear.
What are bond conditions?
The judge can impose restrictions on your release like no contact with the alleged victim in the case, drug-testing, or requiring you to install an ignition interlock device in your car, in the case of DWI charges.
Do I need to hire an attorney if I plan on pleading guilty?
Yes. If you consider pleading guilty, it is still critical that you get a criminal defense lawyer to protect your rights. There are many unexpected results that you could create for your future by representing yourself. Hiring a Waco criminal defense attorney will give you the most effective defense for your matter.
Will I have to plead guilty or not guilty at the first court appearance?
No. The judges in Texas will usually instruct you only to say whether you understand your rights and whether you need a court-appointed attorney or hire one on your own.
What is the difference between parole and probation?
Probation is a punishment that keeps you out of prison. Parole is getting out of prison earlier than your sentence. Probation suspends your jail time in exchange for following engaging in ethical behavior. In probation, the defendant is found guilty and sentenced to a period in jail or prison. But the jail time or prison time is “probated” or suspended, meaning put on hold. Usually, probation requires the person to regularly check in with a probation officer, attend rehab programs, stay away from alleged victims, and attend your job. Parole can have similar requirements, but it is imposed after spending time in prison.
What is deferred adjudication?
Deferred adjudication is a type of probation. Deferred adjudication lasts for a certain amount of time. If you complete that amount of time without trouble, those charges will be dismissed. You will not have a conviction on your record. But if you violate the conditions of the deferred adjudication or you commit another crime, then the judge can find you guilty of the original crime and give you the punishment that can include time in jail.
Deferred adjudication means that you have not technically been convicted because the judge did not find that you were guilty of that criminal offense. If you receive regular probation, you do not qualify for an Order of Non-disclosure. This keeps a court clerk from disclosing the presence of an offense for background checks.
What is the difference between a dismissal and an expungement?
Dismissal is when the prosecution no longer pursues the criminal case against you. That dismissal usually happens after the district attorney’s office decides the admissible evidence against you isn’t strong enough, or your case is not worth prosecution.
An expungement erases your case. You can honestly state that you have never been convicted of a criminal charge. The court records relating to your matter are destroyed.
Will my case go to trial?
Depending on your lawyer and your case, you might have to go to trial. But to avoid trial, your Waco criminal defense attorney will work to convince the prosecution that your case is not worth prosecuting or convince the court that your charges were not filed on legal grounds.
What is an arraignment?
An arraignment is your first court appearance. During that arraignment, you will be presented with the charges against you. In the State of Texas, this hearing is when the judge determines bail.
What is a preliminary hearing?
If you are charged with a felony in Waco, you may have a preliminary hearing. This is a hearing where the judge determines whether there is probable cause to pursue your criminal case. Even if you lose a preliminary hearing, it can give you valuable insight into the evidence against you, which lowers the chance of being surprised at trial.
What is a pretrial conference?
A pretrial conference is when your lawyer can talk about a plea bargain with the prosecutor.
What usually happens at trial?
In Texas, the criminal trial has two main phases. The first is guilt and innocence. That is when the jury decides whether you committed the offense. If you are found guilty, a separate punishment phase of the trial will follow. The stages of trial follow this pattern:
Selecting a jury
Prosecution: Presenting the evidence
Defense: Cross-examining witnesses
Once both sides have made their case, the jury (or the judge, if no jury was selected) deliberates and returns with a guilty verdict. In Texas, the jury’s decision must be unanimous to convict the defendant. If the jury does not reach a unanimous verdict, then the judge can declare a mistrial.
Should I be careful when calling from jail?
Yes. The government can use what you say against you in court if you have been notified that your calls may be recorded. If they are recording your phone call, contact your criminal defense attorney and ask them to meet you.
How long does a criminal case take?
On average, it can take from two months to two years. The length of time that a criminal case takes depends on factors like the case complexity, severity of the charge, and the prosecution’s evidence.
Do I need a criminal defense lawyer?
Yes. You need an experienced attorney on your side. When lawyers and police officers are charged with a crime, they get a lawyer because they know it helps. A lawyer can navigate the legal landscape to help you develop the best strategies for your defense.
How do I hire a criminal defense attorney?
Consider your needs, research lawyers, and then schedule interviews. Most lawyers offer a free initial consultation. That is when you can discuss the specific defense strategies available for your case and other important things like cost, experience, background. Even if you don’t hire a lawyer, your discussion with that attorney is protected by confidentiality and privilege. Confidentiality is the promise to keep something secret. Privilege is the legal doctrine that prohibits a lawyer from testifying against you.
When you meet with a criminal defense attorney, it is important to have questions prepared. For example, ask the following questions of your prospective attorney:
1. Will you be personally handling the case or hand it off to another lawyer?
2. How often do you make court appearances?
3. What type of criminal law do you have the most experience with?
4. How long have you been handling criminal defense matters?
5. How many jury trials have you tried in the last three years?
6. Are you board certified in criminal law?
How much will it cost to hire my Waco criminal defense lawyer?
There is no pre-set fee for representing someone in a criminal case. Each case is different and requires different levels of investigation and casework. Also, the defense strategy varies by situation. For these reasons, we are unable to put a fee on this website. Once our law firm has consulted with you about your case (or that of your loved one), we will gladly provide an estimate of costs and fees for the situation.
What are my constitutional rights in a criminal case?
The “Bill of Rights” of the United States Constitution details citizens’ fundamental rights under arrest for criminal offenses. The infringement (violations) of these rights can drastically affect the outcome of criminal proceedings, typically in favor of the defendant. Here are just a few protected rights:
“No person . . . shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself (Miranda Warning), nor be deprived of life, liberty or property, without due process of law . . .” (Fifth Amendment).
“In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury . . . and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor; and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.” (Sixth Amendment).
“Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor shall cruel and unusual punishments be inflicted.” (Eighth Amendment).
Since the adoption of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, the states have also had to guarantee these rights. This amendment provides that: “No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of the citizens of the United States . . .”