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Houston Lawyer: What Happens When A Person is Arrested For A Crime?

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Consult the Finest Houston Lawyer at the Charles Johnson Law Firm as soon as possible if you or a loved one has been arrested or charged with a criminal offense. Getting legal guidance is essential to make certain that a defendant’s legal rights are safeguarded.

Certain constitutional protections apply to an individual arrested for a criminal offense. Additionally, there are certain procedures that are generally identical from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Here is a concise explanation of what occurs when an individual has been arrested for a criminal offense.

A person could very well be charged with a criminal offense before they are arrested. If this transpires, a judge is going to issue a warrant for the individual’s arrest. A law enforcement officer will try to find the individual who is the subject of the warrant. If the individual is found by the authorities and arrested, police officers must give the individual a copy of the warrant that declares the charge for which they are being arrested. The authorities do not necessarily have to have a copy of the warrant with them at the time of the arrest, however they must provide a copy to the arrested individual within a reasonable amount of time afterward.

After an individual is arrested, they will be “booked” at the police department. This involves taking fingerprints and completing other procedural requirements. The individual will then be held in police custody pending a court hearing. This hearing will generally take place within 48 hours.

When an individual is taken into police custody, they have the right to contact a lawyer. The individual will likely be permitted to get in touch with a criminal defense attorney. The individual should have at least a brief opportunity to meet with their criminal defense lawyer prior to their preliminary court hearing.

At the court hearing, the judge will read the criminal charges against the individual, who is designated the defendant. If the individual was arrested without an arrest warrant, this will likely be the first time they are told the criminal charges against them. The judge will attempt to ensure that the defendant comprehends the criminal charges. The judge will then ask the defendant to enter a plea. A defendant can enter a plea of “not guilty”, of “no contest”, or of “guilty”.

Even if the defendant is guilty, they are able to enter a plea of not guilty, should they think there is not enough evidence to establish their guilt. In any case, a plea of not guilty may result in a trial where the federal government will be required to establish, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the defendant is guilty of the criminal offense for which they are being charged.

A jury will need to decide, dependent on the evidence introduced by both sides, whether or not the defendant is to be found guilty or not guilty. In many cases, a defendant may possibly waive their priviledge to a jury trial, and the judge will determine if they are guilty or not guilty primarily based on the evidence which is offered. The defendant should speak with their criminal defense lawyer about whether or not they should waive their priviledge to a jury trial.

If the result of the trial is that the defendant is found not guilty of the violations charged, they can be released from police custody. If the result of the trial is that the defendant is found guilty or if there isn’t a trial due to the fact that the defendant entered a plea of no contest or of guilty, then there will be a sentencing hearing.

There will be evaluations of the defendant that are performed prior to the sentencing hearing. By way of example, if the criminal offense is DWI, the defendant may be evaluated to determine if they have a substance abuse issue. The court will also prepare a pre-sentencing report, which is basically an investigation into the previous criminal history of the defendant. This knowledge helps the judge determine an appropriate sentence.

At the sentencing hearing, there will be an opportunity for individuals to speak with the court about what factors they feel the court should take into account in determining a sentence. These individuals can include the victim of the criminal offense, the victim’s family, the defendant, the defendant’s family, and any other interested party.

The judge will take into consideration all of the evidence shown and any sentencing requirements. The judge will then enter a sentence for the defendant. If the criminal offense was fairly minor, and the defendant has been in custody throughout the entire court process, some may have already served the jail time that has been imposed by the judge. If the criminal offense is more severe, the defendant could possibly face substantially more prison time. Furthermore, a criminal sentence may involve more than serving time in jail. The defendant may be ordered to pay fines, to provide restitution to the victim, to undergo treatment for substance abuse or mental problems, to perform community service, or many other things.

Any person who is arrested for a criminal offense should hire an experienced Houston Lawyer with practical experience in criminal defense to represent them. This is the most effective way to make certain that their legal rights are defended, and that they obtain the finest possible outcome.

If you or someone you love has been arrested, you probably aren’t sure where to turn or what to do next. A positive first step is to contact the Charles Johnson Law Firm as soon as possible, 24 hours/day. Houston Lawyer Charles Johnson will guide you through the complicated maze of the justice system and help you to remain calm during this stressful time.

Leading Houston Criminal Defense Lawyer » Search & Seizure: Exactly What Police May and May NOT Do.

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Although individuals within the United States are entitled to privacy and freedom from government intrusion, there is a limit to that privacy. State or federal law enforcement officers are permitted, where justified, to search your premises, car, or various other assets in order to look for and seize illegal items, stolen goods or evidence of a criminal offense. What rules must law enforcement follow when engaging in searches and seizures? What can they do in upholding the laws, and what can’t they do?

What police officers May Do:

  • Under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, law enforcement officials may engage in "reasonable" searches and seizures.
    • To establish that a search is "reasonable," the authorities need to generally demonstrate that it is more likely than not that a crime has occurred, and that if a search is conducted it is probable that they will find either stolen goods or evidence of the criminal offense. This is often designated probable cause.
    • In a few situations, police officers must first make this showing to a judge who issues a search warrant. In the majority of special circumstances, however, law enforcement may be able to conduct a search without a warrant. In fact, virtually all searches are "warrantless."
  • Police may search and seize items or evidence when there isn’t any "legitimate expectation of privacy." In various other words, in the event you did not have a privacy interest in the items or evidence, the authorities can take them and, in effect, no "search" has transpired.

Note: In deciding whether or not there was a "legitimate expectation of privacy," a court will take into consideration two matters:

  • Did you have an expectation of some degree of privacy?
  • Was that expectation reasonable in our society’s view?

Example: You have a semi-automatic rifle that you had stolen from a pawn shop. You leave the rifle laying on the hood of your vehicle when you get home. You do not have a "legitimate expectation of privacy" with regard to items you leave on the hood of your automobile, and the authorities may take the weapon. No search has happened.

  • Police may use first-hand info, or tips from an informant to justify the need to search your property. If an informant’s info is utilized, police officers need to establish that the information is reliable under the circumstances.
  • Once a warrant is obtained, police officers may enter onto the specified area of the property and search for the items listed on the warrant.
  • Police could very well extend the search beyond the specified area of the property or include some other items in the search beyond those specified or listed in the warrant if it is required to:
    • Ensure their safety or the safety of others;
    • Prevent the destruction of evidence;
    • Discover more about possible evidence or stolen items that are in plain view; or
    • Hunt for evidence or stolen items which, primarily based upon their preliminary search of the specified area, they believe may be in a different location on the property.

Example: Law enforcement have a warrant to search your basement for evidence of a drug manufacturing operation. On their way through your property to go down to the basement, they see a cache of weapons sitting on your kitchen table. Some may take the guns to guarantee their safety while searching your basement.

  • Police may search your property without the need of a warrant in the event you consent to the search. Consent needs to be freely and voluntarily given, and you can never be coerced or tricked into giving it.
  • Police may search your person and the immediate surroundings without any a warrant when they are placing you under criminal arrest.
  • If a person is arrested in a residence, police may make a "protective sweep" of the residence in order to make a "cursory visual inspection" of places where an accomplice may be hiding. In order to accomplish this, the police must have a reasonable belief that an accomplice may be around.

Example: Law enforcement arrest you in your living room on criminal charges of murder. They can open the door of your coat closet to make certain that no one else is hiding there, but may not open your medicine cabinet because an accomplice couldn’t hide there.

  • When you are being taken to jail, police may perform an "inventory search" of items you have with you without the need of a warrant. This search may include your vehicle if it is being held by the authorities in order to make a list of all items inside.
  • Police may search without the need of a warrant if they reasonably fear for their safety or for the public’s safety.

Example: If the authorities drive past your home on a regular patrol of the neighborhood and see you, in your open garage, with ten cases of dynamite and a blowtorch, they can search your garage without a warrant.

  • If it’s required to prevent the imminent destruction of evidence, police officers may search without any a warrant.

Example: If the authorities see you trying to burn a stack of cash that you stole from a bank, they can perform a search without a warrant to stop you from further destroying the money.

  • Perform a search, without the need of a warrant, when they are in "hot pursuit" of a suspect who enters a private dwelling or area following fleeing the scene of a crime.

Example: If law enforcement are chasing you from the scene of a murder, and you run into your apartment in an effort to get away from them, they could follow you into the apartment and search the area without the need of a warrant.

  • Police may perform a pat-down of your outer clothing, in what is designated a "stop and frisk" situation, as long as they reasonably believe that you may be concealing a firearm and they fear for their safety.

Houston Search & Seizure Defense: Hire the Leading Houston Criminal Lawyer

What police officers May NOT Do:

  • The law enforcement officials may not perform a warrantless search anywhere you have a reasonable expectation of privacy, unless one of the warrant exceptions applies.
  • If evidence was attained via an unreasonable or illegal search, the police may not use it against you in a trial. This is designated the "exclusionary rule."
  • The law enforcement officials may not use evidence resulting from an illegal search to obtain some other evidence.
  • The police may not submit an affidavit in support of obtaining a search warrant if they didn’t have a reasonable belief in the truth of the statements in the affidavit.
  • Unless there is a reasonable suspicion that it contains evidence, unlawful items, or stolen goods, law enforcement may not search your vehicle. If your vehicle has been seized by the police, however, they can search it.
  • Unless they have a reasonable suspicion that you are involved in a criminal activity, the police may not "stop and frisk" you. Should they have a reasonable suspicion, they may pat down your outer clothing if they have concerns that you might be concealing a weapon.

Houston Search & Seizure Defense: Hire the Leading Houston Criminal Defense Lawyer

Courts often need to determine case-by-case whether or not the circumstances in which law enforcement searched without a warrant had been legal. Thus, any time a search has already occurred and you aren’t sure of its legality, speak to the Top Houston Criminal Defense Attorney as soon as possible. And if the search has not yet been conducted, make sure that you understand your rights in advance.

If I Have Not Been Arrested, How Do I Find Out If I Am Charged With A Crime?

If there is reason to believe that you have been charged with a crime, you may wish to have an attorney contact the police or prosecutor to find out if a warrant has been issued for your arrest. Many people who have been charged with criminal offenses do not find out about the charges until they are stopped for traffic violations. The police, while checking their identification, find “outstanding warrants” for the person. Sometimes, the warrants have a “limited pick-up radius,” or the police officer does not believe that an immediate arrest is necessary, and the officer will simply inform the driver that a warrant has been filed and that the driver should report to the police agency that requested the warrant. At other times, the officer will make an immediate arrest, and will take the person into custody.

If you or someone in your family may have a warrant issued for their arrest, you probably aren’t sure where to turn or what to do next. You can do several things right away to gain information and control. A positive first step is to contact the Charles Johnson Law Firm. Houston Criminal Defense Attorney Charles Johnson will guide you through the complicated maze of the justice system. We can be reached 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Call us at 713-222-7577 or toll free at 877-308-0100.

What Can The Police Charge Me With?

A person who has been stopped by the police may be ticketed for a “civil infraction,” may be ticketed or arrested for a “petty offense” or “misdemeanor,” or may be arrested for a “felony,” or may be released. It is possible for the person to later be charged, when the police complete their investigation.

Sometimes, the person will be informed that charges have been filed, and will be asked to present himself at the police station by a particular date and time.

At other times, a “warrant” for the person’s arrest may be entered into the state’s computer system, informing police officers to arrest the person if they find him. If the charges are serious, the police may go out to arrest the person.

Civil Infractions

A “civil infraction” is not a crime, although it is a charge filed by the state. The state has to prove that you committed a civil infraction by a “preponderance of the evidence,” which is to say; that it is more likely than not that you committed the violation. This is a much lower standard than the “proof beyond a reasonable doubt” standard that applies in civil cases. The typical civil infraction is decided by a judge or magistrate, without a jury, in what is typically a short proceeding.

Petty Offenses

Some states have a class of “petty offenses,” where the defendant may be tried without a jury before a judge or magistrate. Typically, the only punishment for a “petty offense” is a fine. However, these offenses may be of a criminal nature. If you are not sure whether you are charged with a criminal offense or a civil infraction, consult a lawyer.

Misdemeanors

A “misdemeanor” is a criminal offense, and conviction ordinarily results in a criminal record. Misdemeanors are technically less serious offenses, although the consequences of conviction can nonetheless be quite severe. Possible punishments for misdemeanors include imprisonment, probation, fines, and at times driver’s license sanctions. Some misdemeanors are classified as “sex crimes” and require that a convicted person be registered as a “sex offender”, and keep the police informed of his place of residence — a requirement that may continue for life.

Felonies

Felonies are the most serious offenses that can be charged. Sometimes, the distinction between “felonies” and “misdemeanors” seems arbitrary. However, all of the most serious criminal offenses (such as murder, sexual assault, embezzlement, burglary, robbery, arson, and treason) are felonies.

If you or someone in your family has been arrested, you probably aren’t sure where to turn or what to do next. While the arrest itself is a daunting situation, you can do several things right away to gain information and control. A positive first step is to contact the Charles Johnson Law Firm.  Attorney Johnson will guide you through the complicated maze of the justice system.

What Happens If I Am Stopped by the Police?

When Will The Police Stop A Person?

Generally, the police will stop a person for committing a traffic violation, for suspicion of being engaged in criminal activity, or to arrest the person for a crime. After being stopped by the police, a person will typically be questioned.

Can The Police Stop And Question People Who Are Not Under Arrest?

Yes. The police can stop a person, and ask questions, without “arresting” the person. Upon seeing suspicious activity, the police may perform what is called a “Terry Stop,” and may temporarily detain people to request that they identify themselves and to question them about the suspicious activity. The scope of a “Terry Stop” is limited to investigation of the specific suspicious activity, and if the police detain people to question them about additional matters, the stop can turn into an “arrest.” For their own safety, the police can perform a “weapons frisk” on the outside of a person’s clothes (sometimes called “patting down the suspect”) during a “Terry Stop.” During this frisk, if they feel something that may be a weapon, they may remove it from the suspect for further examination. However, they are not entitled to remove items from person’s pockets that do not appear to be weapons, even if they believe that the items are contraband.

When Is A Person “Under Arrest”?

Many people think of an arrest as being a formal declaration by the police, “You are under arrest,” followed by the reading of the “Miranda” rights. (As seen on TV: “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 an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed to represent you.”)

Reality is a bit more complicated. An arrest occurs when a person no longer reasonably expects that he is free to leave. A “Terry Stop” is not an arrest, even though the person can’t leave during the investigatory questioning, as the detention is of short duration and is limited in its scope. (A “Terry Stop” may involve little more than a short series of questions, such as, “What is your name? Where do you live? Why are you here?”) However, if a person is not allowed to leave the scene for an extended period of time, the person may be considered to be “under arrest,” even though those words are never used. If a person is handcuffed, is locked in the back of a police car, or is otherwise restrained from leaving, the person will ordinarily be considered to be “under arrest.”

If The Police Ask To Search Me, My House, Or My Car, Do I Have To Say “Yes”?

No. You can refuse the police permission to conduct a search. Remember this – the only reason the police officer wants to perform a search is for evidence of criminal activity, and the fact that he is asking reflects an expectation that he will find some. You are entitled to say “No.” If the police officer has the legal right to perform the search, he will do so whether or not you agree. However, if he does not have the legal right to perform a search, your consent gives him that right.

During an investigative stop, or a traffic stop, a police officer may ask if he can search you or your car. However, if you give the police officer permission, he can perform the search even if he otherwise had no legal right to do so. Some people don’t know, or forget, that they have an “open” bottle of liquor in the car – a bottle with the seal broken, whether or not the cap is off. Sometimes, people have knives or other weapons which can be classified as illegal “concealed weapons.” Sometimes, people forget that they have contraband in their cars, such as illegal drugs, or find to their chagrin that their teenaged child dropped a marijuana cigarette in the car. Unless you are the only person with access to the interior of your car, you may be in for a surprise if you grant permission for a search.

Do The Police Have To “Read Me My Rights” When I Am Arrested?

The police have no obligation to formally announce the arrest when it occurs, or to read a suspect his “Miranda Rights.” Typically, at some point the police will inform a suspect that he has been arrested. However, many defendants never receive their “Miranda Rights,” which relate to the validity of police questioning of suspects who are in custody, and not to the arrest itself.

What Is The Difference Between A “Terry Stop” And An “Arrest.”

While a “Terry Stop” can be made upon “reasonable suspicion” that a person may have been engaged in criminal activity, an arrest requires “probable cause” that a suspect committed a criminal offense.

Can the Police Arrest Me Without A Warrant?

For most misdemeanor offenses, a police officer can only make a warrantless arrest of a suspect if the offense was committed in the officer’s presence. (A notable exception is “domestic violence,” where the police are typically required to make an arrest, despite the fact that “domestic violence” charges are almost always misdemeanor offenses.) Officers can arrest people for felonies based upon witness statements, or where a warrant for the person’s arrest has been issued.

What Happens If I am Arrested Without Legal Cause?

It is important to note that an “illegal arrest” does not mean that a person can’t be charged with a crime. If a person is arrested illegally, and is searched or questioned by the police, evidence gained through the search or questioning may be declared inadmissible. However, there are circumstances where that evidence will be admitted into court despite the illegality of the arrest. Further, if a person has outstanding warrants for other charges, he may be detained on those charges, even though his initial arrest was illegal.

If I Am Arrested, Can The Police Search Me?

When the police make an arrest, they get the power to search the suspect and his immediate surroundings “incident” to that arrest. If the police arrest a person who was driving a car, they ordinarily get the right to search the entire passenger compartment of the car – and will usually also be able to search passengers for weapons. If the car is impounded, the police may perform an “inventory search” of the entire car, including the contents of the trunk.

If you or someone in your family has been arrested, you probably aren’t sure where to turn or what to do next. While the arrest itself is a daunting situation, you can do several things right away to gain information and control. A positive first step is to contact the Charles Johnson Law Firm.  Attorney Johnson will guide you through the complicated maze of the justice system.

We can be reached 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Call us at 713-222-7577 or toll free at 877-308-0100.
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