Lawyer for Criminal Cases in Texas
Every situation is unique. These are general answers – they are not a replacement for a proper, individualized consultation with an attorney. To have your specific questions answered, please call us and schedule a consultation.
When someone you know gets arrested, the first thing you should do is call a reputable attorney. It is important that you know the following information so that the lawyer can properly assist you: 1) the person’s full name and date of birth; 2) the date and approximate time of the arrest; 3) what they are charged with; 4) what county the charge is out of; 5) whether they have any criminal history, and 6) whether they are a U.S. Citizen. You may not have all this information, but it is important to pass it along if you do.
The attorney can call pretrial services and check on the status of the person’s evaluation for a personal bond. The attorney can also check on the bond amount and interview the arrested individual to expedite the process.
Many people are approved for personal bonds in Travis County, but a lawyer can significantly speed up that process and save your friend or loved one extra time in custody. When a person is rejected for a personal bond, a lawyer’s involvement can change that recommendation and get the person approved for release on a personal bond. You can check the arrested person's status on the Travis County Sheriff’s website if they are in custody in Austin. This will give you information on the charge(s) and the bond amount(s). You can also call Pretrial Services at (512)854-9381 between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 8:30 p.m. to see where your friend or loved one is in the process.
A lawyer can tell you if you need to seek a bail bondsman's assistance to obtain the person’s release. In very serious cases and in minor cases where the person is not from Travis County or has a history of bond forfeiture, a surety bond with a bail bondsman may be the quickest option for obtaining a person’s release from custody. The disadvantage of using a bail bondsman is that money that could be applied toward the defense of the case will go toward jail release. Sometimes people spend all of their available money getting a person out of jail, and then there is little money left to defend the case. I always apply whatever monies I receive to secure a person’s release from jail toward their legal fees, and they receive what amounts to a discount on my services. For this reason, it is always advisable to call an attorney first to see if they can help.
Cash Deposit Bond
A cash deposit or “cash percentage” bond is also available in most instances in Travis County. This type of bond is something a lawyer can help you get approved, and it typically requires that 10% of the amount of the bond be posted with the County. The benefit is that even though you are ineligible for a personal bond, you still avoid a surety. I get an assignment of the 10% from the client, which offsets the legal fees for defense of the case. For example, if the defense cost is $5000 and the cash deposit posted with the County is $2000, only $3000 will be owed for legal representation at the front end, with the remaining $2000 being released to me close of the case.
A cash bond is something any defendant can post without the assistance of a lawyer or surety. Essentially, you must post the full amount of the bond with the County to secure your release. At the close of the case, the money is released to you or your assignee minus a minimal transaction fee (usually just $50). The clear benefit is that the defendant gets back almost all the money he or she put up for the jail release at some point. For example, if you pay $5000 to a bail bondsman, you will never get that money back. But, if you deposit $5000 with the County to secure your release, that money will be returned to you at the end of the case, assuming you show up for court and resolve the charge against you. This type of bond is feasible for many at the low end of bond amounts: e.g., $750 up to $5000. It becomes impossible for most beyond that, and that is when a surety comes in handy. With the use of a surety, only 10-20% of the full bond amount needs to be raised, e.g. a $50,000 bond would normally require $5000.
There are several databases you can check to see if you have active warrants. The OMNI system can be checked to determine if you have active Class C (mostly traffic) warrants. Have your driver’s license number ready before calling the automated number at 1 (800) 686-0570. You call also check for Travis County warrants on the Sheriff’s website. This search requires both name and date of birth. Lastly, you can check for APD warrants on the Austin Police Department’s website. I am happy to run these searches for you if you prefer.
Call an attorney. There is a procedure called a “walk-through” that may be available to you. This procedure involves getting you pre-approved for a personal or cash deposit bond so you can turn yourself in and be released shortly after that. The Sheriff’s deputies will take a booking photo and your fingerprints, assign an appearance date, and let you go. The process generally takes no more than two hours, depending upon how busy they are. The walkthrough is preferable to just waiting to be picked up because you do not need to fear being arrested at work, home, or while driving, and you have more control over how long you spend in custody.
No, I do not. Some attorneys do, and while the practice is legal, it is ill-advised, in my opinion. If your attorney is also acting as your bail bondsmen, there is a conflict of interest. If you disappear, the lawyer’s self-interested goal will be to have you rearrested. Your lawyer should never have an interest in you being arrested. If a surety bond is the only way for a person to be released, a bail bonding company should write the surety bond.
Call a lawyer immediately. It is rarely ever to your advantage to cooperate with law enforcement. Before the case has even been charge, it makes your life and your lawyer’s job significantly more difficult. Instead, I advise people to tell the detective or whoever is calling that they will need to speak to an attorney first. In certain instances, it may make sense to meet with law enforcement, but your lawyer should be present. I can advise you on how to proceed and, if appropriate, accompany you to give a statement. Usually, the advice will be to say nothing, but I have had cases where the client’s cooperation prevented criminal charges from being filed. The simple rule to remember is never to talk to law enforcement without a lawyer. As I tell clients, law enforcement is not your friend; they are only trying to gather evidence against you. And unlike grammar school, you do not get points for participation.
It is important to pick a lawyer you feel comfortable with and one who instills trust and confidence in you. Not all lawyers have respect for their clients or the work we are supposed to do for our clients. Unfortunately, the cost is often the driving force behind a person’s selection of defense counsel. As with anything, you get what you pay for. When your rights and freedom are at stake, it does not make sense to go with the low price leader. Attorneys set the fee based on the amount of work they think will be required to fight the case, and a low fee often indicates that the lawyer does not plan on putting in much effort for your defense. This should be a red flag to you.
While it is true that a high fee is not always a guarantee of high-quality legal representation, an attorney whose experience has led them to command a higher fee is generally one concerned about his or her professional reputation. I always charge what I think I’m worth and what I think the complexity of the case demands, no more and no less. I do not charge more because someone shows up in a fancy car for the initial appointment. Fee setting is an exercise in ethics, and we are duty-bound not to charge an excessive fee. I never do.
Command of the fact of your case and the law. A lawyer with a reputation among colleagues, Judges, and prosecutors for hard work, strong ethics, honesty, and general likeability is an asset to you and your defense. This is a small legal community, and clients pay when their chosen lawyer has a damaged reputation.
I take great pride in the fact that I am often the second attorney on a case. Since I do not advertise, what that means is that these people have become disaffected with their choice of lawyer, sought out a referral to more responsive and effective counsel, and been given my name by a satisfied client or someone else with whom I’ve had contact in my community. I can fix any damage that’s been done and get your case back on track.
Accessibility is a big deal. You need a lawyer whose volume is not so huge that they can’t be available to take your calls and answer your questions. I govern my volume to provide the highest level of service I can to each client. To my way of thinking, good lawyering must come first, and income generation must come second. A flashy ad can be expensive, and you can bet that many hundreds of people have responded to the same ad and will create a demand on that lawyer’s time that may mean you’ll get short shrift. Bigger is rarely better in criminal defense.