Best Austin Criminal Lawyers
Best Austin Criminal Lawyers and Criminal Attorney
If you need an Austin criminal defense lawyer, it can be a very intimidating and stressful experience. Having the right lawyer can make all the difference in the outcome of your criminal defense case. The Spodek Law Group is here to provide an overview of criminal defense in Austin, Texas, reasons to hire a criminal attorney, potential legal guards in criminal cases, key parts of the Texas penal code, possible penalties, and more.
Why You Need an Austin Criminal Defense Lawyer
If you have been arrested or charged with a crime in Texas, it is super important that you speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Here are some key reasons why hiring an Austin criminal lawyer is so important:
- Protect Your Legal Rights: From the moment you are taken into police custody, your constitutional rights are at stake. Your attorney can ensure your rights are protected during your arrest, any interrogations, legal searches, and other investigative procedures.
- Avoid Mistakes: Even if you think you are innocent, it is easy to slip up, and say something to the police that can damage your criminal defense case. Your lawyer can advise you on how to behave with law enforcement individuals and agencies.
- Challenge Evidence: Your lawyer has the skills to examine the prosecution’s evidence, raise objections if your rights were violated, and keep biased or unsupported evidence out of court.
- Negotiate with Prosecutors: Many criminal cases end in a plea bargain rather than a trial. Your lawyer will know how to negotiate with the prosecution to get charges reduced or dropped completely.
- Develop an Effective Strategy: There are a wide array of defense strategies your lawyer can use, depending on the specifics of your case. This can include arguing you were misidentified or raising a defense.
- Get Charges Dismissed: In some cases, a criminal defense lawyer can file motions to get charges dismissed due to lack of evidence, technicalities, or constitutional violations by police. This makes it so you don’t need to go to trial.
- Represent You in Court: If your case goes to trial, your attorney understands court procedures and rules of evidence to give you the strongest defense possible.
Without solid legal advice and representation, you risk facing the maximum penalties. Hiring an attorney levels the playing field and gives you the best chance of the best resolution.
Potential Criminal Defenses in Texas
Some of the most common defenses that skilled Austin criminal lawyers may use on your behalf under Texas law include:
Defenses require the defense to present evidence that justifies or excuses the criminal act. Examples include:
- Self-Defense: Use of force was justified to protect yourself, or others from harm. Deadly force could be used if you reasonably believed it immediately necessary to protect yourself from death or serious injury.
- Insanity Defense: Due to severe mental disease, or defect, the defendant didn’t know the criminal act was wrong. This is a difficult burden to prove.
- Duress: You were forced to commit the crime under threat of imminent death, or serious bodily injury, with no way to escape. For example, being forced at gunpoint.
- Necessity Defense: The act was necessary to prevent more significant harm. For example, trespassing on private property to take an injured person to hospital.
- Consent: In certain crimes like battery, theft, or sexual assault, the victim consented to the act, making it not criminal.
Procedural defenses usually focus on violations of your rights or issues with the evidence:
- Illegal Search & Seizure: Evidence was obtained by agents without probable cause or a warrant in violation of the 4th Amendment.
- Miranda Rights Violation: Police did not inform you of your 5th Amendment right to remain silent before questioning you while in custody.
- Statute of Limitations Expired: The window of time that the state has to charge you with a crime has passed.
- Misidentification: Mistaken identity due to flawed police line-ups, eyewitness confusion, or lack of evidence you committed the crime.
- Entrapment: Law enforcement induced you into committing a crime you otherwise would not have.
- Exculpatory Evidence: Favorable evidence for the defendant was withheld by the prosecution.
Key Parts of Texas Criminal Law That Could Influence Your Case
To mount an effective defense in your criminal case, your Austin criminal attorney will need extensive knowledge of Texas state laws and penal codes. Here are some of the most important topics that often come up in criminal defense cases:
Classification of Offenses
Crimes are classified based on severity, from capital felonies down to misdemeanors:
- Capital Felonies: Death penalty offense or life without parole. Murder of on-duty public safety officer is one example.
- First Degree Felonies: 5 to 99 years in prison. Examples are murder, aggravated kidnapping, aggravated sexual assault. 10 year minimum if convicted.
- Second Degree Felonies: 2 to 20 years in prison. Examples include manslaughter, arson, robbery.
- Third Degree Felonies: 2 to 10 years in prison. Examples are DWI with serious bodily injury, evading arrest.
- State Jail Felonies: 180 days to 2 years in state jail. Examples include fraud and drug possession.
- Class A Misdemeanors: Up to 1 year in county jail. Assault, DWI, and theft $750-$2500.
- Class B Misdemeanors: Up to 180 days in county jail. Trespass, disorderly conduct.
- Class C Misdemeanors: Fines up to $500. Traffic tickets, public intoxication.
Alcohol and drugs often play a role in criminal cases. Texas law states that voluntary intoxication is not a defense in a criminal case. However, involuntary intoxication can serve as a defense if:
- You were unaware what they were taking was intoxicating
- Intoxication was induced by force, duress, or deception
It can also be argued the defendant did not have the requisite mental state to commit the crime. Evidence of intoxication can lead to getting certain charges reduced.
Texas has some specific statutes regarding illegal firearms possession that your attorney has need to review:
- Texas Penal Code 46.02: Unlawful Carrying of Weapon – Class A misdemeanor if previously convicted. Defense of traveling or not concealed.
- Texas Penal Code 46.05: Prohibited Weapons – Possession of machine gun, armor-piercing ammo, zip gun, or tire deflation device. Third degree felony.
- Texas Penal Code 46.04: Unlawful Possession of Firearm – Third degree felony for felon to possess firearm within 5 years of release from custody or supervision. Affirmative defense of a desperate need for protection.
The Prosecutor, and judge, will look at your criminal history to determine which sentencing enhancements apply. Standard enhancements in Texas:
- Repeat Offender/Habitual Offender: Harsher penalties for repeat convictions of same crime. Third conviction moves up degree.
- Deadly Weapon: Stricter penalties if defendant used or exhibited deadly weapon during crime. Even if weapon legally possessed.
- Hate Crime: Crime substantially motivated by bias – ex. victim’s race, religion, sexual orientation. Penalty bumped up one category.
- Drug-Free Zones: Harsher sentences for drug crimes committed near schools, parks, playgrounds, and other areas.
Potential Criminal Penalties
The criminal penalties you face depend on the specific charges filed against you. Here is an overview of common penalties under Texas state law:
For lesser misdemeanors and non-violent felonies, the court can order probation instead of incarceration. Standard probation is 2-10 years. Conditions include Good behavior, fees, restitution, treatment, community service, drug testing. Early termination of probation is possible for good compliance. Violating probation risks being re-sentenced.
Financial fines up to the statutory maximum can be imposed in addition to jail time upon criminal conviction. Additional fees can include court costs, restitution to victims if it applies, and other administrative costs. Failure to pay risks further penalties.
Jail or Prison Time
The severity of the crime, and your prior record, determines whether jail or state prison is imposed. Time ranges are set by statute for each offense class. Mandatory minimums apply to some charges. Parole is possible prior to the end of sentence in most cases.
Texas executes far more criminal than any other state – over 560 since 1976. Death penalty cases will receive automatic appeals. People under 18 or intellectually disabled are ineligible for execution.
Beyond direct sentencing, a conviction can impact your life long-term due to:
- Criminal record visible to employers, landlords, schools
- Loss of voting rights, disqualification from jury duty
- Potential immigration consequences if not a citizen
- Loss of the right to possess firearms
- Many occupational license restrictions
- Requirement to register as sex offender for certain crimes