A Primer on Your Rights in Criminal Cases

Every citizen needs to know their rights when faced with potential legal issues. Any interaction with law enforcement can be dangerous if you are not familiar with your rights. Police and any other law enforcement agency will violate your rights if given the opportunity.

Police Traffic Stops

If you are the subject to a traffic stop, the best policy is to be polite and say as little as possible. Even if you have nothing to hide, do not volunteer extra information. Law enforcement will need your name and identification, but any other information you provide may be used against you and you may not even realize it. Seemingly innocent questions such as “Where are you coming from?” could raise suspicions with police officers. Questions about how much you have had to drink and whether you have anything illegal in the car are questions that you do not have to answer. Officers may threaten you with arrest if you refuse to answer questions, but they cannot arrest you for your refusal alone. If you are arrested it will be in your best interest to answer no questions—anything you say will be twisted and used against you.

During a traffic stop officers may ask you if they can search your vehicle. You have the right to say no. Officers may then threaten you with a search warrant. Let them—often times its nothing more than an empty threat, and you should never make an officer’s job easier or help that officer take a short-cut.

Interview with Law Enforcement

If someone is the subject of a police investigation, they may be contacted by a detective or other law enforcement officer asking to talk. The officer may want to talk at the police station or some other location or possibly just on the telephone. It’s important that you know your rights in this situation. You have the right to refuse to answer questions, refuse to talk to them and refuse to meet with them. Officers may suggest that speaking with them will help your case or help you, but know that is simply a tactic used by law enforcement to encourage you to cooperate. Any interviews or conversations are designed to gather evidence to use against you. The wisest choice you can make is to refuse to speak to law enforcement and consult a skilled criminal defense lawyer to help ensure your rights are not violated.

Evidence Against You

If a case is filed against you, you have the right to see all the evidence against you. The Michael Morton Act was passed by the Texas Legislature in 2013 and went into effect in 2014. Any offense alleged to have taken place after January 1, 2014, is subject to the requirements of the Act. This requires the government to produce every piece of evidence for the accused’s criminal defense attorney to inspect and review.

Right to a Have the Government Prove the Allegations Against You

Anyone accused of a crime anywhere from a Class C Misdemeanor to a Capital Felony has the right to have the government prove the allegations against them. The right to a jury trial is an absolute right and can never be taken away from the accused. In Tarrant County, the accused will have anywhere from two to four court settings before a trial is set. The accused has absolutely no burden at trial and is not required to prove anything. An experience criminal defense attorney will evaluate your case and help you make the best decision about how to proceed with your defense. Its crucial to know your rights and find an attorney that will protect your rights.