As an accused in a criminal case, you have certain rights guaranteed to you by the U.S. and Texas Constitutions, and the Houston attorneys at McLemore, Reddell, Ardoin & Story, P.L.L.C. make it their business to see that your rights are protected at every stage of a criminal proceeding, including arrest and search and seizure, pre-trial proceedings such as arraignment and bail, trials and appeals. Below is a brief description of some of the more important rights that you should know and understand and be prepared to exercise when arrested or questioned by police.
Right to an Attorney
You have the right to be represented in any criminal case that could result in jail or prison time if you are convicted. This includes most misdemeanor offenses as well as all felonies. This right includes more than just representation at trial or during a custodial interrogation. At any significant stage in a criminal proceeding, you are entitled to have your attorney present.
Right to Remain Silent
If you are under arrest or in a custodial interrogation, meaning that you are not free to leave, you have the right to refuse to answer questions. In any situation, you always have the right to request an attorney before answering any questions. This area of the law has been changing dramatically in recent years, and your rights here can be taken away if you do not guard them zealously. Request an attorney and refuse to engage the police in any conversation until your lawyer arrives.
Right to Reasonable Searches and Seizures
Although the general rule is that a warrant is required, there are numerous exceptions to the warrant requirement. If ordered to submit to a search or your person, car or home by the police, you should not try to argue or interfere, but tell your attorney as soon as possible. If the search or arrest was illegal, your lawyer can work to have the evidence suppressed and maybe have the case thrown out and the charges dismissed.
The police always have a right to search if you give them permission, but you always have the right to refuse consent. If the police are asking your permission to search, politely and firmly refuse. If they have the right to search without your consent, they will do it. You are not doing yourself any favors by consenting to a search, even if you think you have nothing to hide. This includes allowing a search to go beyond the scope of a search warrant, which should describe what areas the police are allowed to search and what they are looking for.
Rights Can Be Waived
You have many other rights under the state law and the U.S. Constitution, including the right to post bond in most cases, and the right to an appeal if you are convicted. Many rights can be waived, however. For instance, entering a guilty plea waives the right to appeal, and you can forgo a jury trial or speedy trial if it is in your best interests to do so. Some rights can even be waived without your intending to. For instance, if you exercise your right to remain silent but then answer questions, you may have waived that right.
The Police Know Your Rights, But Do You?
The police know your rights very well. They are experts in criminal procedure and are well aware of the limits and lengths they can go to in order to elicit incriminating or contradictory statements that they can use against you in court. It’s important for you to know your rights, but it is even more important for you that we know your rights, and we do. Our lawyers are former prosecutors and experienced defense attorneys who will zealously safeguard your rights at every turn and work to achieve the best possible outcome for you in your case. For experienced, effective representation in a Texas state or federal criminal matter, contact David Reddell at McLemore, Reddell, Ardoin & Story, P.L.L.C. in Houston.