Loved One Arrested? Print & Mail This Letter
A Practical Texas Criminal Defense Guide Written For Inmates Prior to Conviction
by Megan V. Cook
Cook & Cook Law Firm, PLLC
214 Dwyer Ave, Suite 300 San Antonio, Texas 78204
(210) 271-2800 | http://LawyerDefend.me
DISCLAIMER: THIS LETTER IS NOT INTENDED TO SUPPLEMENT THE ADVICE OF YOUR LAWYER. YOU SHOULD HIRE A GOOD LAWYER AND TAKE THEIR ADVICE. THIS LETTER IS INTENDED FOR YOUR PERSONAL INFORMATION PURPOSES ONLY
I know that you have been arrested, and that you are likely concerned about your case and concerned about your future. There are a lot of questions you may be wondering that you do not know how to ask. This letter is written to tell you, in easy to read terms, the best advice and tips you should follow to help yourself, your lawyer and your case.
If you were arrested, the first thing you will be concerned with is trying to bail out. You can get a bondsmen to help you bail out. Have your family or friends call around to hire a bondsmen. The judge sets your bond at a certain amount (say $10.000). You pay a bondsmen a percentage of that total amount, usually around 10% of the total. A bondsmen is like a loan officer. The bondsmen pays your entire bond, and gets the money back after you are done with your case. If you do not get a bond set, your lawyer can approach the judge to request a bond. If you failed to appear in court, or are considered a danger to society, sometimes you cannot get a bond. In addition, you can hire a lawyer and that lawyer can even act as your bondsmen. I do not advise you to utilize a lawyer as your bondsmen. In the event that you cannot pay your lawyer his entire legal fee, the lawyer can not only withdraw from your case, but can get off your bond, which will result in your arrest. In my opinion. you are better off having a bondsmen and a lawyer who do not work together and are separate people.
It is likely very annoying and troubling to you that no one properly read your Miranda Rights. Regardless, you have the right to remain silent. This means that you do not have to discuss the facts of your case with anyone. You should not discuss your case with inmates, the police or the probation department until you have spoken with your lawyer. If an officer is questioning you, you should say “I am using my 5th amendment right to remain silent, and I would like to have my lawyer present.”The police are legally permitted to use many different forms of manipulation to try to get you to talk about the details of your case. They are permitted to lie to you and tell you that they have evidence that they do not have.
The police will make it very appealing to you and very tempting to you to talk to them about your case.
The police may offer you a deal like, “if you rat out three big criminals, we will let you go.” Do not take this deal without your lawyer, because again the police are not legally obligated to follow through with any oral deal they offer. Sometimes inmates listen to conversations in the jail and can become witnesses in defense cases. Do not talk to inmates about your case.
You have the right to consult a lawyer regarding your criminal charge. However, no one is going to give you a lawyer immediately. Rather, you have to tell the police that you wish to consult a lawyer. This will not get you a lawyer any sooner, but will prevent them from being permitted to ask you questions. If police leave you alone and come back a few hours later, you must again state that you wish to speak with your attorney to prevent them from questioning you.
“Why is it a big deal if I talk to the police if I am innocent?”The reason that lawyers always advise against speaking to the police is that the defendant can ruin his defense by doing so. Even an innocent person can be convicted of a crime. An innocent person can say something that makes him look guilty to the police. Everything that you say to the police is used against you. It is common for people to be arrested and believe that they can negotiate themselves out the situations by talking to this rational person that is dressed in a police uniform. You cannot negotiate your way into a better situation with the Texas police after you have been arrested. On an additional note, do not try to bribe or flirt your way out of being arrested by an officer. Bribing an officer is a crime. You are best off to be polite, identify yourself, and let the officer conduct his investigation without you saying anything aside from your proper name and date of birth
“The Officer did not read me my Miranda Warnings, so can I get my case dropped?” No. The failure to read the Miranda Warnings will only help your case if the officer made you, as a reasonable person, believe that you were not free to leave and then questioned you. The only way the Miranda Warnings will help you is if you answered the Officer’s questions after you were effectively under arrest, and your answers are now being used against you in your case. Otherwise, Miranda will not help you.
If you were arrested, you may have been searched. This paragraph offers a very basic outline of the search laws relevant to defendants in Texas. Police cannot search you without a reason for doing so. Most often, this right is violated when a police officer pulls over a person for a traffic violation, and ends up searching the person’s clothing and car. There are several ways that an officer can legally search you. It is very rare that a defendant can prove in a court of law that he was illegally searched. However, if you can prove you were illegally searched, than all of the evidence that the police found from this illegal search will not be used in your case. Your case will not be dismissed outright if you were illegally searched, but rather the State will have a more difficult time proving your case because now they lost evidence they were planning on using. Police can search you for weapons when they stop you, for the benefit of the officer’s own safety. If in searching for weapons, the police find drugs or illegal items, then these items can be used against you. Police can use any discovered items that you throw out of your car or off your person against you, as these items do not involve a “search.” Do not throw drugs or other illegal items, as you will lose the shield of the 4th amendment by doing this. Police can search you and your car if you are arrested for any lawful purpose. An officer can arrest you for outstanding warrants, or if the officer has a firm, well grounded belief that you have committed a crime. Officers do sometimes search people unlawfully and make up excuses in the report that make the search seem proper. If you were unlawfully searched, tell your attorney
How Much Money Will Your Lawyer Charge You
If you were arrested, you are going to need to pay a lawyer. Most lawyers are going to have to know some details about your case so that they can assess what amount of money they need in legal fees in order to properly represent you. The More time necessary to defend your case, the higher the fee. The more time in jail or in prison you are facing, the higher the fee. The lawyer will need to know what your criminal history is like, what court you are assigned to, what your goals are regarding the case, and what the facts of the case are. Lawyer contracts generally always say that if you are misleading about any of these details, that the contracted price can increase. Most cases in San Antonio, Texas cost defendants between $1,000 and $10,000. More severe felonies can cost over $20,000. If the case is the sort that is going to take all of the lawyer’s time for a year or more, or if you want the lawyer’s full attention on your case alone, then you can expect to pay over $100,000. Again, most cases at the State level will cost between $1,000 and $10,000 whether they are misdemeanors or felonies. Importantly, you can try negotiate the price that the lawyer quotes to you for your criminal defense. If you talk to various lawyers, you will inevitably find that lawyers charge different prices. The price does not necessarily correlate to the quality of the service, but if the price is too good to be true, the legal service is not going to be so.
On an additional note, if you do not pay your lawyer, he is unlikely to send your contract to a third party collections agency. Yet, your case defense is likely to suffer. Your lawyer most likely will remove himself from the case, without having to give you a refund. The court will know that you had a lawyer who removed himself from the case. You will be forced to pay a new lawyer who will not have the benefit of as much time for the defense as your first lawyer had. My advice to maximize your legal service is to find a lawyer you can afford, and pay him on time.
How to Talk to Your Lawyer
Your lawyer is an officer of the court. He cannot aid you in lying about facts or evidence during your case. However, do be assured that what you tell your lawyer is confidential. When you are in jail, you will be given your lawyer’s contact information. Use the lawyer’s mailing address to send letters. The lawyer will read your letters, and will likely respond. However, note that the jail personnel often open and read the letters. Do not disclose private information about your case in these letters. Rather, ask questions, and ask the lawyer to set up a jail visit with you. In my experience, the best thing you can do when talking to your lawyer is to be respectful. Do not threaten to fire your lawyer, or tell your lawyer that he is not doing anything on your case. If you have found that your lawyer is not helping you, simply go about getting a new lawyer. The new lawyer will be able to help communicate the change of lawyers to the court. If you cannot afford to get a new lawyer, you will want to keep the relationship you have with your current lawyer as civil as possible.
If all else fails, you can ask to approach the judge at your next court setting and request that the judge appoint an attorney to your case, but if you do this be prepared to specifically list the conflict of interest that you have with your current lawyer. Judges often deny defendants the right to get a new lawyer. As such, you must be prepared to specifically state reasons for the new lawyer. The fact that you cannot effectively communicate with your current attorney should be a sufficient reason. If you make requests to your lawyer in writing, and clearly communicate with your lawyer about your needs, he is more likely to accommodate you. Remember, that even if you and your lawyer do not get along at all, your lawyer still has an obligation to do the necessary legal work for an effective defense. Yet, I do believe that the more positive the attorney-client relationship, the better.
There are certain circumstances when you absolutely need to do everything you can to get a new lawyer. One such circumstance where you should fire your lawyer is if you have a good defense to your case, and your lawyer, from day one, is trying to get you to take a plea deal. In many cases, plea bargain agreements are appropriate, and in the best interest of the Defendant. Yet, in some circumstances, it is best if you fight the case. Some lawyers are not fighters, and are afraid of trial. Some lawyers really will not work for you. If you have discovered that you have one of these lawyers, then it may be time to fire him. Note, that there is a difference between a lazy lawyer and a wise lawyer. If your lawyer is giving you solid explanations as to why it is not in your best interest to bring your case to trial, that is different than if your lawyer does not want to bring your case to trial because of laziness.
What Your Lawyer is Doing Behind the Scenes
It may be helpful for you to know what a lawyer is doing behind the scenes for your case. Here is a list of things your lawyer may be doing for you, and this list can aid you in asking your lawyer what exactly he is doing on your case. Your lawyer could be:
Your lawyer may be submitting subpoenas to get documentations, photographs, videos and other evidence that will help your defense;
Your lawyer may be writing and filing Motions. Motions are documents lawyers use to request things from the court like speedy trials, private investigators, suppression hearings or any other type of specialized thing your case may require. Motions can take hours to prepare and file.
Your lawyer may be preparing to approach the District Attorney and request the best possible plea offer on your behalf.
Your lawyer may be talking to your family about your case, if the lawyer has permission to do so from you.
Your lawyer may be preparing for trial by writing an opening statement, writing a cross examination and writing a closing argument (in fact there are about 100 things a lawyer does when preparing for a jury trial)
Your lawyer may be writing you correspondence regarding your case update.
Your lawyer may be reading cases from the past that are similar to your to help him with arguing at your hearing.
If you are wondering what your lawyer is doing for you, ask him specifically whether he is doing any of these above listed things
The rest of this letter is available here. We encourage you to print this and send it to your loved one in jail to help them out.