Felony Defense Lawyers in Fort Worth
Facing a felony charge can be a scary thing, even if you know you’re innocent. A good criminal defense felony lawyer might be the difference between exoneration and jail. .
Felony charges can include everything from assault and battery to DWI to robbery and even murder. The penalties can include both substantial fines and lengthy prison terms. The weight of the government’s prosecutorial resources is against you, but defendants have rights in the United States and it's the job of the attorney to help you know your options during the entire process, all the way through a potential trial.
A Felony Defendant’s Constitutional Rights
The rights of the accused are important enough that three constitutional amendments–Amendments 4 through 6–deal specifically with what an accused person is entitled to under the law. Even someone guilty of the crime they have been charged with is entitled to these basic legal protections. It’s the responsibility of a good defense lawyer to make the government meet these obligations, which are imposed on the prosecution for the greater societal good.
Fourth Amendment Rights
Under the Fourth Amendment, you are protected from unreasonable search and seizure. What does this mean in practice? *It means the police must have a warrant to search your property. Consider an example where your roommate had drugs in your shared apartment. Police came in and did a search, found the drugs, and also charged you with felony possession. You know you’re innocent, but how do you prove it?
If the police did not have a search warrant, the drugs cannot be used at trial as evidence. You (and your presumably guilty roommate for that matter) are likely off the hook. Without the ability to introduce the drugs as evidence, the prosecutor likely has a weak case.
Even having the search warrant isn’t always enough. The Fourth Amendment guarantees that police must have probable cause to have asked for the warrant. That is, there must be actual evidence that gave them a reasonable basis to believe drugs would be found in your apartment. Judges will require probable cause to be shown even before issuing the warrant, but in the event of a judicial mistake, your lawyer can still challenge the legality of the search.
Fifth Amendment Rights
The Fifth Amendment protects you against self-incrimination. That is, you cannot be forced to give up any information that the police could use against you. In more common language, the Fifth Amendment protects your right to remain silent.
We strongly urge clients to exercise this right. It’s natural, when you’re innocent, to believe that simply telling your story and answering questions will result in a good outcome. That is not always the case. Officers who may see you as guilty might interpret your answers in a different way than you intended.
It is further suggested that you avoid discussing the felony charges with people close to you. It’s true that your conversations with a spouse are protected–the spouse cannot be summoned to testify against you–but the same is not the case with anyone else. The safest approach is to keep any talk about the case between yourself and your lawyer.
It’s the prosecution’s responsibility to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that you are guilty of what you’re charged with. It is not your responsibility to help them. You don’t have to help them catch the real bad guy and you certainly don’t have to help a District Attorney build a case against you.
Another part of the Fifth Amendment protects you from double jeopardy–being charged with the same crime twice. If you and your attorney beat this rap, it can never return.
Sixth Amendment Rights
The Sixth Amendment covers your right to legal representation and for your trial to be conducted in a reasonable amount of time. This amendment also gives you the opportunity to confront your accuser.
Let’s say you’ve been charged with assault and battery. You know you were acting in self-defense and believe that the person making the accusation is essentially hiding behind the police. The Sixth Amendment ensures that you can be present in a court of law to face that person and you may take the stand in your own defense to refute what they have said.
What Happens After Felony Charges?
There are several important steps in the legal process that take place between the time charges are filed against you and when the trial begins.
At the preliminary hearing the burden is on the prosecution to demonstrate to the judge that they have enough evidence to convict you of the crime. The judge works off the presumption that all the evidence can indeed be proven. The purpose is not to convict you before the trial even starts. It is merely to be certain that the prosecution could, if they persuade the jury on everything presented, meet their burden of proof for the particular charges filed against you.
This is also a hearing where your attorney can challenge evidence. Those drugs from our example further up? This is another opportunity to insist they be thrown out and not shown to the jury. Or that conversation you had with a police officer before you were allowed to call your lawyer that’s being spun to make you look guilty? Your attorney might seek to get that suppressed.
The arraignment is where the court reads the formal charges against you, and you officially enter your plea. Then the legal process of discovery begins. You have the right to see all evidence the prosecution intends to bring against you. The dramatic “surprise” at trial might make for great television, but in the real world, the focus is on a fair trial. The defense lawyer will not know everything about how the prosecution intends to approach the case, but the defense will know the substance of all evidence the prosecution has.
Plea bargaining can be a part of this process at most any time. This is where the prosecutor agrees to a lesser charge, and you agree to plead guilty. Any plea negotiations are a time for even more reliance on the wisdom of a good defense lawyer.
An experienced defense attorney will have a firm grasp of how strong the prosecution’s case is. They may be able to speak candidly to a defendant and tell them that they’re better off taking the lesser charge. On the flip side, a defense attorney is responsible for knowing when a prosecutor is bluffing–trying to scare a defendant into a plea when the government’s case is actually quite weak.
Depending on the gravity of the crimes charged, it’s possible the prosecutor may impanel a grand jury. A grand jury is a pre-trial procedure where citizens will hear the evidence, the same as a trial jury will. The prosecution calls it to see just how strong their case is before proceeding with the time and expense of a full trial. The grand jury hearing is another venue where your defense lawyer can challenge the evidence against you and perhaps dissuade the District Attorney from even bothering with a jury trial.
The legal process following a felony charge is a long one. It’s important to remember that the length of the process and its multiple stages are meant to protect defendants. The key is making sure defendants have the legal representation necessary to get all they are entitled to.
At the Law Offices of Mark M. Childress, PLLC, we know that you’re fighting for your life and your freedom. That’s why we bring intense, personalized service to our clients. You need an attorney who will be there for you, ready to talk through strategies with you and then to tenaciously challenge the prosecutor every step of the way.
If you need a felony defense lawyer in Fort Worth, please call us today at (817) 497-8148 or contact us online. We’ll set up an initial consultation and work on a plan aimed at getting your life back.
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“Value a capable team with experienced staff. For the past 9 months, the folks at the Law Offices of Mark Childress handled my case with class and empathy. My questions were heard and answered without having to ask twice. I felt like I was kept in the loop and always briefed properly. As I move forward with other ventures I wouldn't be surprised if we crossed paths again. And hats off to Konner, THANK YOU!”
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