7 Common Myths About Criminal Law in Texas

08 Aug 2023
Greco Neyland, PC

Most people don’t understand the criminal defense system and process well. Television, genre fiction, and a host of other media portray the system in ways that aren’t at all accurate. There are plenty of misconceptions circling around social media, as well.

Here are seven common myths that can get you into trouble if you aren’t careful.

#1) If I’m innocent, everything will be okay.

Texas’ wrongful conviction rate hovers between 2% and 6%, which means there are anywhere from 3,000 to 9,000 innocent people serving time in Texas prisons for crimes they did not commit.

Most juries believe you’re guilty because the police arrested you, and it takes a talented lawyer to convince them otherwise. It also takes a talented lawyer to convince a DA or a judge that your charges should be dropped or dismissed or that you should enter a diversion program instead of spending time behind bars.

If the prosecution can put together a reasonable theory of the crime and place you at the center of that theory, you can end up in prison even though you are completely innocent.

#2) If police fail to read Miranda rights, the whole case can be thrown out.

Failing to read a Miranda warning doesn’t even keep most of the statements you make from being aired at a trial. Un-Mirandized statements can’t be used as evidence but may still be used to attack your character or credibility. The difference is subtle, but it’s real.

Worse, in the 2022 case Vega v. Tekoh, the US Supreme Court held that a Miranda warning is not a constitutional right but a warning to protect other constitutional rights. As a result, you can’t sue police for a civil rights violation if they fail to read a Miranda warning.

You need to be aware, in your own mind, that you have a right to remain silent, and you have the right to an attorney, both protected by the Fifth and Sixth Amendments. Invoke both rights and say nothing else when you are arrested for any crime.

#3) All the evidence is circumstantial, so I’m safe.

“They’ve got nothing; it’s all circumstantial” is only for television. Courts may consider both direct evidence and circumstantial evidence.

You will need a good lawyer to help tear circumstantial evidence apart, to show how it can support your innocence as easily as it supports your guilt, and to show that it is insufficient to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

#4) I can represent myself if it’s a misdemeanor charge.

A misdemeanor charge is still a criminal charge, and the lifelong collateral damage can be just as serious as a felony charge. You should take it every bit as seriously as you’d take a felony charge.

Remember, when you represent yourself in court, the court expects you to follow all the rules just as if you were a trained lawyer who went and got a 3-year JD and passed the bar. Even brand-new lawyers struggle to practice effectively. You won’t learn what you need to know with books and YouTube videos.

#5) The victim can drop the charges.

A crime is a crime against the state. The victim is just the key witness.

Only the District Attorney may drop charges. A judge may also dismiss charges.

While a DA can choose to keep the victim’s wishes in mind, they don’t have to. This is especially true in domestic violence cases, where the victim is often afraid of the perpetrator and tries to drop charges to protect themselves.

#6) All charges lead to jail time.

With a good lawyer’s help, some charges can lead to probation or a diversion program where you agree to meet certain conditions in exchange for skipping jail time. Sometimes, charges may even be dropped or dismissed.

However, if you don’t work closely with a good criminal lawyer, your chances of going to jail will increase.

#7) A public defender will defend me just as rigorously as a private defense attorney.

Houston public defenders are good people. They’re also extremely overwhelmed. Nine times out of 10, they will steer you to a quick plea bargain and move you on through the system.

Sometimes, a plea bargain is the right move for your case. At other times, it’s the worst possible thing you can do.

Hire a lawyer with the time and energy to investigate and defend your case. If you’re in trouble with the criminal justice system, contact us to schedule a consultation today.

See also:

3 Reasons You Need a Private Criminal Lawyer for Your Houston, TX Case

What Happens When Criminal Charges Get Dropped in Houston, TX?

Collateral Damage from a Houston, TX Criminal Conviction

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