There are two types of laws in the United States which are meant to punish wrongdoing, and/or compensate victims of illegal acts. These two branches of law are known as criminal law and civil law. Civil law is the set of written laws that address behaviors that cause some sort of injury or harm to an individual or other private party, by allowing the harmed individual to file civil lawsuits against the wrongdoer.
The penalties for any parties that are found liable for civil violations are generally monetary in nature, but can also include court-ordered remedies such as injunctions or restraining orders.
The other branch of laws are known as criminal laws. Criminal laws address behavior that is considered to be an offense against society, the state, or public. An individual who is convicted of a crime may be forced to pay criminal fines or they may also lose their freedom by being sentenced to jail or prison time.
Regardless of whether someone is being charged with a serious crime or a minor crime, the accused person will have constitutional rights, along with additional rights that may be provided by state laws. For example, an individual will have the constitutional right to a trial.
It is important to note that every state will have its own set of written laws concerning what constitutes a crime according to state law. As such, if an individual breaks a state law, they will be prosecuted by the county or district attorney in the jurisdiction in which they live. However, if the individual commits a federal crime, they will be charged in federal court according to where the crime was committed. It is also important to note that a state’s criminal laws will vary from other states, while federal law is uniform throughout the United States.
What Is Criminal Procedure? What Is Texas Criminal Procedure?
Criminal procedure refers to the overall legal process of resolving criminal matters for a person who is accused of violating criminal laws. The intention behind all criminal procedure laws is known as the “presumption of innocence,” which means that a suspect is considered to be innocent until they are proven to be guilty.
Because of the presumption of innocence for all persons accused of a crime, the burden of proof is on the state prosecution to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant actually committed the crime in question. Criminal procedures include a number of Constitutional protections for the defendant, along with additional state protections, which serve to prevent abuses of the justice system.
Examples of some of the most common legal protections for a person accused of a crime include:
In essence, criminal procedure can be thought of as a timeline, beginning when a suspect is initially apprehended and ending with the final criminal verdict or appeal. Additionally, procedural guidelines govern other after-measures, such as an individual’s probation or parole. Examples of common criminal procedure matters that are addressed in Texas include, but may not be limited to:
- Procedures to stop, detain, and arrest an individual.
- In order to detain or pull over an individual in Texas, an officer must have reasonable suspicion, a lesser standard than probable cause, that the individual has or is in the process of committing a crime.
- In order to arrest an individual in Texas, an officer must have probable cause and a warrant (i.e. a written order from a magistrate).
- However, there are statutory exceptions, such as committing the criminal offense in the presence of the officer where an officer may make a warrantless arrest;
- Procedures regarding when an individual may be searched and property may be seized;
- Procedures regarding when an individual may be booked in jail or charged with a crime;
- Procedures regarding how suspects are to be treated and/or how eyewitness lineup identifications may occur;
- Procedures regarding an individual’s right to an attorney, or how a court-appointed lawyer may be appointed to the defendant;
- Procedures regarding plea bargaining;
- Procedures regarding criminal evidence and how it may be introduced in the trial phase;
- Procedures regarding criminal trial;
- Procedures regarding criminal sentencing;
- Procedures regarding an individual’s right to appeal; and
- Procedures regarding post trial matters, such as probation and parole.
What Are Examples of Common Texas Criminal Cases?
Once again, every state has different written criminal laws that define what constitutes a crime in that state. Additionally, there are also local laws and statutes that may outline additional criminal infractions for that local jurisdiction. As mentioned above, this is because each state is unique from every other state, both demographically and geographically.
In the state of Texas, criminal cases often involve numerous different legal issues, including but not limited to:
As in any state, drunk driving and drug related crimes make up a significant portion of Texas criminal cases. However, another large portion of Texas criminal cases involve minor criminal infractions, such as traffic violations. It is important to note that Texas maintains habitual offender statutes. This means that criminal penalties for repeat offenders will be more significant than the criminal penalties for first time offenders.
What Is the Role of a Texas Criminal Attorney?
As can be seen above, the Texas criminal procedure process can often be a complicated process, as it involves numerous different steps from when a person is apprehended to when a person is convicted. Additionally, the laws regarding criminal evidence are very nuanced and require that the defendant timely object to the introduction of improper evidence.
As such, the role of a Texas criminal defense attorney is to ensure that an individual that has been accused of a crime both understands the crime that they are charged with, and asserts the best possible legal defense to the specific criminal charge(s) brought against that individual. Examples of other roles of a Texas criminal defense attorney include:
- Raising Legal Defenses: One of the main roles of a Texas criminal defense attorney is to raise applicable legal defenses on behalf of the accused party.
- For example, a Texas criminal defense attorney will be able to raise legal defenses pertaining to improper or illegal warrants, illegal search and seizure by the police officer, or even assert that there is reasonable doubt that the accused didn’t commit the crime; and
- Legal Representation: The main role of a Texas criminal defense attorney is to ensure that a person accused of a crime has representation throughout the entirety of their criminal case.
- An attorney will be able to be physically present with their client throughout most of the defendant’s pretrial phase and provide them representation in court at the trial and sentencing phase.
- An attorney will also be able to assist their client in the plea bargaining phase.
Do I Need a Texas Criminal Defense Lawyer?
As can be seen, having effective presentation is essential to ensure that your legal rights are protected throughout the entirety of your criminal case. An experienced Texas criminal defense lawyer is essential for any person that has been accused of a crime. Texas criminal procedure and Texas evidence laws are very complex and complicated, and as such require an experienced attorney that is familiar with all of the nuances of the laws.
An experienced Texas criminal defense attorney will be able to ensure that your legal rights are protected, and help you in either asserting applicable legal defenses to get the charges brought against you dropped, or help you receive a lesser sentence for any charges brought against you. Finally, an attorney will also be able to represent you at any in person criminal proceedings.