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THE CRIMINAL DEFENSE CASE

Each criminal case is different. How much your case will cost to fight can only be determined after a complete case evaluation. Please review the following considerations, and then feel free to contact my office if you have any questions.

#1 Bail

If you are arrested:

If you're arrested you'll have to make bail. Bail will generally be set by the county bail schedule. The amount of your bail depends on what you are charged with. The higher the charge, the higher the bail. Sometimes an individuals bail is very high. If that is the case and you can not make bail, then you'll have to have a "Writ" hearing to lower your bail. A the Writ hearing, you'll present evidence of an amount of bail that is reasonable for you to make. You'll have to pay 10% of the bail to bail yourself out if you use a bondsmen.

If you are NOT arrested YET but there is a WARRANT:

If you are out in the free world, but have a warrant out, you're going to have to turn yourself in, or wait until you get caught. Whether or not the cops will come busting down your door for you generally depends on how high of a charge you are facing. However, make no mistake, an arrest warrant is an arrest warrant, and they'll get you any way they can.

If you choose to not wait it out, you will have to turn yourself in and "clear up" the warrant before anything can be done in your case. When you turn yourself in we do what is called a "walk through." A walk through allows you to go get your bond first, walk on over to the jail or courthouse, turn yourself in, get processed through the jail, and hopefully get back out in the free work by the end of the day. You'll want a lawyer to help you do this right.

#2 TRIAL - PLEA NOT GUILTY

You have two options in a criminal case, plea guilty or not guilty. If you choose to go to trial you'll present your case to a jury of 6 if a misdemeanor, and a jury of 12 if a felony. The STATE will have to prove your case BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT. If you take your cae to trial you can expect your case to last at least 6-8 months for smaller offenses, and at a MINIMUM of about a year or more for more serious felonies.

I break down the trial process into three parts. Part 1 is your pre trial preparation. This will include doing your own investigation, examining evidence, issuing subpoenas, getting affidavits, visiting the crime scence, talking to witnesses, and doing anything else to get yourself in a position to win.

Part 2 is the guilt/innocence phase. This is where we seat a jury, and present your case. The State has the burnden of proving every element of their charge BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT. The guilt/innocence phases consists of voir dire, opening statements, direct and cross examination, and closing argument. Smaller offenses can take a day or two, more serious offenses can last weeks or longer.

Part 3 is the punishment phase. The punishment phase is only necessary if you are found to be guilty. This part of the process is like its own mini trial. You'll present evidence and witness testimony regarding your punishment in an attempt to persuade either the judge or jury to give you the least amount of punishment possible.

#3 Plea of Guilty

If you choose to plea guilty you may have a number of options to consider. Keep in mind that the prosecution does NOT have to offer you anything, and the type of deal that can be worked out largely depends on your criminal history, the serverity of the crime your are accused of committing, and the facts of your case.

STRAIGHT PLEA:

A straight plea comes with a final conviction, forever. You will plea GUILTY, the judge will find you guilty, and the judge or jury will give you jail, probation, fines, or any combination of all three. In some cases, you may not be eligible for probation. You will never be able to escape a straight plea for the rest of your life, and it will follow you on your record forever.

DEFERRED ADJUDICATION:

Only some offenses allow you to have the option of getting deferred adjudication. If you accept a deferred adjudication plea you will plea GUILTY, but the JUDGE WILL NOT FIND YOU GUILTY, "defer" any finding of guilt, and put you on "probation" like conditions. You can expect to have educational classes, community service, fines, drug tests, restitution, or any other types of conditions that may relate to your offense.

The GOOD thing about deferred adjudication is that if you successfully complete your "probation" conditions, your case will be DISMISSED and you may be eligible for an ORDER OF NON DISCLOSURE to seal and clear up your record. Some offenses allow you to get an immediate Order of Non Disclosure, while others require you to wait 2 years from the time you finish your conditions, or 5 years if a felony.

The BAD thing about deferred adjudciation is that if you mess up while you're under your "probation" conditions, you are truely at the mercy of the court. By taking a deferred adjudication plea you WAIVE all your rights to fight your case. The State of Texas will file a Motion to Adjudicate, and you'll have to have a hearing and ask the judge to keep you on deferred. Furthermore, if you mess up while on deferred, you'll be subject to the full range of punishment of your offense. For example, lets say you get deferred adjudication on a 2nd degree felony 2-20 years. You get deferred adjudication for 5 years. On your 4th year you mess up by picking up another unrelated charge. You are now vulnerable to get anywhere from 2-20 years in prison.

This type of plea is great if you can finish successfully, but can be disastrous if you fail.

PRE - TRIAL DIVERSION:

A pre trial diversion is an option that can really be benificial to qualified individuals. This option is ussualy only offered to the most select individuals, and first time offenders. With a pre trial diversion you NEVER PLEA GUILTY, you only "admit guilt."

Think of the pre trial diversion as a contract with the DA office that you'll not mess up for a certain amount of time, and in return your case will be dismissed. In the pre trial diversion scenario if you finish successfully you can get your record EXPUNGED. This is great because an expunction is the ultimate method to clear your record for the long term.

If you mess up while on a pre trial diversion you get to start back at "zero." Unlike the deferred adjudication, where if you mess up you are left to the mercy of the court because you waived all your rights, if you mess up while on pre trial diversion you start back at square one, and may fight your case as if there had not been a pre trial diversion in place at all. For example, lets say you get placed on a pre trial diversion for a year. At month 7, you mess up. You'll get summoned back to court and you can either work out a deferred adjudciation deal if they want to give you one, or take your case to trial and fight.

It's a great deal if you can get it.

#4 Prior Criminal History - "Enhancements"

Your prior criminal history can dramatically change your defense strategy, especially if there are felonies invovled. A lower level felony can suddenly be turned into a "life" case if you have prior felony convictions from ANYWHERE in the U.S.

For misdemeanors, the minimum amount of time is raised if you are enhanced. For example, a Class B 0-180 days in jail turns into a Class B 30-180 days in jail. Or a Class A 0-1 year in jail can be turned into a Class A 90-1 year in jail case.

These are important considerations that sometimes are over looked, and can change the whole landscape of your case.

#5 Deportation

If you are not an U.S. Citizen, you could be looking at serious deportation issues. The law identifies certain offenses, like crimes of theft, family violence, drug dealing, multiple DWI, murder, and others, to be considered MANDATORY deportation offenses. Thus, when you finish serving your sentance, you will be deported.

Lower level offenses still allow you to be deported, but the risk may not be as high.

#6 Costs

How much your case will cost in expenses truely depends on the type and level of offense. If there are medical records, you'll need copies of them and you may need an expert to review them. If there is DNA, you may need an expert to combat the findings. If there are bullets, you may need an expert to review the ballistics. If there is a child invovled, you may need an expert in child psychology. If your case invovles drugs, you may need to weigh it or have it tested.

You may not need an expert at all. You may have only costs associated with subpoena's, copies of files like medical records, or investigation. Smaller cases can sometimes really have no additional costs at all, while more serious felonies could have tens of thousands of extra costs. It truely depends on your case.

#7 Drivers License

Some cases, particularly drug and DWI offenses, cause problems with your drivers license. Suspensions will vary greatly depending on your charge. If you loose your license, you'll have to pay surcharges to DPS get it back.

You'll also need to consider getting an occupational divers license while your on suspension. This type of license limits your ability to drive based on your needs.

#8 Other Professional Licenses

If you have a professional license as part of your profession or trade, a conviction may impact your ability to keep it. Additionally, you must consider how a conviction will effect your future ability to get a job in the profession you are seeking.

#9 Appeal and Parole

No criminal case evaluation is complete without an analysis of what issues must be preserved for appeal, and when you'll be eligible for parole.

Are you facing criminal charges? Contact Houston criminal defense attorney J. Vela for legal assistance with your case today!

Criminal Conspiracy, Violation of Protective Orders, Criminal Solicitation, Arson, Manslaughter, Criminal Mischief, Criminally Negligent Homicide, Robbery, Sexual Offenses, Aggravated Robbery, Assault, Burglary, Aggravated Assault (deadly weapon), Theft, Driving While Intoxicated, Driving Under the Influence, Deadly Conduct, Forgery, Terroristic Threats, Fraud, Harassment, Bribery, Computer Crimes, Money Laundering, Insurance Fraud, Medicaid/Medicare Fraud, Retaliation, Resisting Arrest, Evading, Escape, Bail Issues, Probation Issues, Disorderly Conduct, Riot, Stalking, Dog Fighting, Weapon Crimes, Gambling, Public Intoxication, Intoxication Assault, Intoxication Manslaughter, Controlled Substance Crimes, Manufacture of Drugs, Possession of Cocaine, Possession of Controlled Substances, Distribution of Controlled Substances, Possession of Marijuana, Distribution of Marijuana, DWI/DUI drunk driving, drug crimes, and all other criminal charges

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