At Hoeller McLaughlin PLLC, we have some of the top criminal defense attorneys in Fort Worth and the surrounding Tarrant County area. We take the time to listen to your needs and help you develop a professional strategy for your defense.
A Fort Worth Defense Lawyer to Protect Your Rights
When you’re facing criminal charges in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, you’re probably worried about all of the possible outcomes and what will happen to you. Fortunately, one simple step can make this process much easier—talk to a top lawyer in Fort Worth about your case.
In addition to hiring a criminal defense attorney in Tarrant County who can help you navigate your case through each stage, you may also want to consider asserting some of your most basic rights, such as:
- Your right to remain silent
- Your right to not self-incriminate or refuse to answer questions from law enforcement
- Your right against unreasonable searches and seizures
- Your right to a criminal defense attorney Tarrant County
Being accused of a crime you didn’t commit may cause a lot of stress and worry about the outcome, but our team is comprised of top lawyers in Fort Worth and there are numerous strategies our team can use in your defense.
How Does My Record Impact My Criminal Case?
If you’re a first-time offender, you may be eligible for a dismissal or reduced charges that can lead to a dismissal after a deferred probation period. You may also be eligible to get a dismissal through one of the Tarrant County diversion programs, like the Deferred Prosecution Program (DPP), the First Offender Drug Program (FODP), Veteran’s Court, or the First Responder’s Diversion Program. Getting a dismissal is an important first step in the ultimate goal of getting the case sealed, through an expunction or a non-disclosure.
If you are a repeat or habitual offender, it can make it more difficult to get a dismissal or a reduction. Prosecutors, judges, and jurors tend to consider your record and other details when making their decisions about whether or not someone should be punished for their crimes and what kind of offers to make in a plea negotiation setting. If you are a repeat or habitual offender, it’s important to devise a strategy to get the best outcome. If you are repeat drug offender, for example, than entering a rehab facility may be a good way to help mitigate the consequences.
False Accusations in Fort Worth TX
Even with a clean record, you may be falsely accused of a crime. It’s unfortunately frequent that people are accused of committing crimes they didn’t commit. These cases often turn into a game of hearsay and other issues that can quickly spiral into confusion.
But it is important to remember that the burden of proof lies with the prosecution. This means if you are charged with a crime, the state of Texas will presume your innocence until you’re proven guilty. The prosecutor is tasked with providing evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that you committed any crime (the highest burden in any legal setting in the country).
However, it is not uncommon for people who have been falsely accused of crimes to face serious consequences if they do not have an experienced Fort Worth criminal defense lawyer at their side. Talk to your lawyer about building a strong defense, rather than expecting the prosecution to fail.
Getting Your Criminal Charges Dismissed
A criminal defense lawyer in Fort Worth can help you build a case for dismissal or acquittal, which means that the charges against you are dropped or dismissed. This doesn’t mean you won’t have any consequences from your arrest or charge, it just means that the charges can be minimized or eliminated.
Here’s how a Fort Worth criminal defense lawyer can get try to get you a dismissal:
- Were your constitutional rights violated during the stop, the arrest and the investigation?
- Can they link you to the offense?
- Do they have photos, videos, DNA, or other physical evidence supporting an arrest?
- Are the witnesses telling the truth? Do their stories line up?
- Was the evidence (DNA, blood and alcohol tests, etc.) collected properly under the law?
- Do you have a legal defense, like self-defense in an assault?
For example, your criminal defense lawyer can challenge evidence that was obtained illegally, such as blood or DNA samples taken without consent or a search warrant. If the evidence is thrown out because of a violation of your constitutional rights, then it cannot be used against you in court.
Additionally, if police officers or witnesses lied about what happened, then as the top criminal lawyers in Tarrant County TX, we will use this information in court as well. This type of evidence, especially in serious domestic violence, assaultive, or murder cases can make all the difference between acquittal and conviction.
Negotiating a Plea Bargain
A plea bargain is an agreement between the defendant and the prosecutor. It means that if you plead guilty, the prosecutor will recommend a lighter sentence than he or she might otherwise have asked for at a trial. In exchange, you, as the defendant, would have to agree to plead guilty and waive all of your rights to an appeal. This usually happens because we have received the outcome we wanted. The goal is to get the best outcome and if we achieve that goal, than we can facilitate a plea bargain.
The decision to accept or reject a plea bargain is up to you, but your criminal defense lawyer in Fort Worth can help you make this decision by explaining what it means and how it will affect your future. Your criminal defense lawyer can help you determine which option is best for your future before you make a decision.
Types of Charges We Can Help You With
If you need a criminal defense lawyer, it can be difficult to know what kind of legal help you need and whether the circumstances of your case require a specific type of attorney. Luckily, our lawyers are here to help you.
We have some of the top lawyers in Fort Worth on our staff who specialize in helping people get their lives back on track after facing charges for crimes like DWI, drug possession charges (meth, THC, marijuana, cocaine, fentanyl, heroin), gun and weapons charges, DWI, white-collar crime, domestic violence and assaultive offenses, sex crimes, theft, and murder to name just a few. Here’s what you need to know about these charges before you seek help.
Drug Possession Charges
Possession of drugs charges can leave a serious mark on your record, depending on the quantity of drugs the prosecution claims you were in possession of. This charge can be brought against you if you are found with drugs on your person or in your car, purse, backpack, or home.
Of course, in addition to simple possession charges, there are also more serious offenses. You would need a criminal defense lawyer in Fort Worth more than ever if you’re charged with intent to distribute or manufacture drugs.
Let’s say the police arrested someone who they believe was selling methamphetamine out of their apartment. They find multiple bags of and thousands of dollars in cash at this person’s apartment after searching it. This would more likely be charged as intent to distribute or manufacture because it shows signs that this person was selling or intending to sell drugs.
Gun and Weapon Charges
Gun charges can be confusing, both for the uninitiated and for those who are familiar with them. To start, there are two main types of criminal charges you may face for a weapons offense—misdemeanors and felonies. A misdemeanor gun charge is punishable by up to a year in jail, while a felony is punishable by a minimum of two or more years in prison.
The penalties are different and depend on:
- What kind of weapon you had and if you used it
- Where you were located (for example, charges are more serious in school zones)
- When you were arrested
- Whether or not the weapon was loaded at the time of the arrest
What matters most is whether someone else was injured during an incident related to your possession of weapons. For instance, if someone was shot, you may be facing more severe charges than simply carrying a deadly weapon. You may need to speak with a lawyer as soon as possible in these cases.
Regardless of the circumstances, there are also potential defenses that your lawyer may use, depending on your case.
For example, someone else may have threatened you with a weapon. If you fear for your life and produce a weapon, even if you injure him when he is in your home, you may be protected under Texas self-defense laws.
Our Fort Worth criminal defense lawyers have many years of experience defending gun owners in all types of situations. While each case is different, there’s often no reason to let a weapon charge tarnish your record when some of the top criminal defense attorneys in Fort Worth can launch an effective defense on your behalf.
Driving While Intoxicated
Driving under the influence, or driving while intoxicated, is a serious charge. If you’re pulled over and a test shows you have drugs or alcohol in your system, you may be arrested and charged with a crime. That criminal offense can impact your record, your license, and your future.
If you’re on your third DWI in Texas, you’ll be charged with a felony. However, there are also certain circumstances when even first-time offenders face felony charges, like the following.
- Intoxication Assault – If you’re driving under the influence of alcohol and someone is seriously hurt or disfigured permanently because you were drunk driving, you could be charged with intoxication assault. This is a third-degree felony (up to ten years in prison).
- Intoxication Manslaughter – If someone dies because of a drunk driving accident, it’s called intoxication manslaughter. In these cases, you may face a second-degree felony charge (up to 20 years in prison).
- Driving Under the Influence with a Child Passenger – If you are accused of drunk driving and with kids in the car (or any minor under 15 years old), you may be charged with a state jail felony.
Texas has launched several initiatives to fight drunk driving and any felony DWI is taken very seriously. If you find yourself at the mercy of the courts facing this type of charge, a Fort Worth DWI lawyer should be your first phone call.
Texas Driver Responsibility Program and a DWI
If you’ve been charged with a DWI, it is important to understand the charges and seek an experienced attorney to represent you during this tough time. A DWI can come with hefty fines and even a jail sentence, along with a tarnished reputation.
The Texas Legislature decided to allow the Texas Department of Public Safety to provide surcharges or super fines to individuals based on their traffic offenses, including DWIs that they have. These surcharges or fines (as they are now called) are in addition to other fees and are based on the number of points or convictions the driver has.
White-collar crime is a broad term that refers to crimes committed by business and government professionals.
White-collar crimes typically refer to non-violent crimes, typically ones with a financial angle. Many white-collar crimes are hard to prosecute because criminal activity often occurs in secret, making it hard to gather evidence against the criminal.
White-collar crime may be prosecuted as state or local offenses, such as in the case of fraud, or as federal offenses, including money laundering and mail fraud.
White-collar crime may sound less severe due to a lack of physical violence, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t victims who suffer because of it. Juries can be ruthless against white-collar crime offenders. As some of the top criminal lawyers in Tarrant County and the surrounding area, we have seen our fair share of cases throughout the years.
Launching an effective defense is crucial and may include expert witness testimony or computer forensics. Our experienced team will perform a thorough analysis and get other professionals on the team to design your best defense strategy if you’re accused of a white-collar crime in Texas.
Domestic Violence Charges
Domestic violence is a serious crime involving violence between family or domestic partners. If you are being charged with any form of domestic violence, it’s important to get help from a Fort Worth criminal defense attorney as soon as you become aware of the charges.
A domestic violence charge can refer to many different types of abuse and assault, including:
- Emotional abuse and threats against the victim
- Physical violence, such as punching, pushing, biting, or hitting
- Financial abuse, like threatening to restrict access to money
Many other forms of domestic violence may also be considered criminal offenses. For example, if you are accused of stalking or harassing your partner or spouse in violation of a protective order issued by a court after you’ve already been arrested for it, this could result in additional fines and jail time.
Acts of domestic violence often lack witnesses or solid evidence, so cases are tricky. They also often times have good self-defense claims. Because of the complexity of domestic abuse cases, having a criminal defense lawyer on your side can spell the difference between a conviction and walking free.
Sex Crimes (i.e. Sexual Assault, Indecency with a Child, Online Solicitation)
Sex crimes are one of the most serious offenses to be accused of, including sexual assault, sexual assault of a child, indecency with a child, aggravated sexual assault, continuous abuse of a child, and online solicitation of a minor. If you are being charged with any form of sex crime, it’s important to get help from a Fort Worth criminal defense attorney as soon as you become aware of the charges. These charges can result in significant prison time and/or lifetime registration as a sex offender.
Acts of sexual assault can often lack witnesses or solid evidence like DNA, it may involve a delayed outcry, or a child’s testimony. Because of the complexity of sex crime accusation, having a criminal defense lawyer on your side can spell the huge difference in the outcome of your case.
Theft and Larceny Charges in Fort Worth
Theft is a broad category of offenses that include shoplifting or stealing from a person. These crimes can be classified as either misdemeanors or felonies depending on the value of the property stolen and whether the person doing the stealing has prior theft convictions.
Because theft charges can have so many variables, you may need to speak with an attorney before your court date. Your lawyer can determine the severity of the charges against you and the strongest defense for your case.
What To Expect If You’ve Been Charged with a Crime
If you’ve never been charged with a crime before, you may not know what to expect. You may have learned things from TV shows or the news, but these aren’t always the most accurate representations of an arrest.
Everyone has different circumstances, but there are common procedures that are constant in the criminal justice system. Some of these events may be able to be avoided depending on the specifics of your case.
There is usually an event that takes place that lays an accusation on you. This can be any of these scenarios:
- You’re accused of theft or shoplifting from a company
- You were pulled over and suspected of a DWI or DUI
- You were at a party drinking alcohol and are under 21
- Someone calls the police and tells them you’ve hit them, threatened them, or assaulted them
- You were pulled over and arrested after a traffic violation and found to have drugs or a weapon
The police will either arrest you, if the crime was observed by police, or open an investigation. You always have the 5th amendment right to remain silent, regardless of whether you are being detained, arrested, or even just suspected of a crime.
If you’ve been detained or stopped by a police officer, your only responsibility is to remain respectful and provide your identification. Using your right to remain silent cannot be used against you during a trial. Questions don’t have to be answered and searches of your home and vehicle do not need to be allowed. A search warrant or probable cause is necessary for this.
If you’ve been arrested, don’t resist, don’t be rude, and remain silent. If you’re not free to leave, ask for an attorney. If you’ve been arrested, you will have to go through the booking procedure in the police station. They will collect your fingerprints and ID.
Setting a Bond & Bonding Out
The next step is having your bond/bail set after you’ve been booked. A judge or Tarrant County magistrate will set this amount based on the crime. Bail is money or property that is given to assure that the person released from jail will return for trial. It’s also possible to get a personal recognizance bond (PR bond) if you are a first time offender and have a low level misdemeanor.
The judge may also set conditions of the bond. Many times, these conditions are standard depending on the offense. For example, an ignition interlock device is required for DWI’s with an alcohol concentration above a 0.15 or a felony DWI. A protective order or no contact order may be assessed in an assault domestic violence case, or a GPS ankle monitor may be required in a serious sexual assault case.
Once the bond amount is set, you or someone else you know can post the required amount of money. They will then release you. A bail bondsman might be necessary if you do not have the required amount of bail money.
They charge a percentage as a fee to borrow the money (typically around 10% and is non-refundable). It is always important to have an attorney in cases such as these, as they can advise you on the best course of action depending on the specific circumstances and can help make sure that you acquire a bond in a reasonable course of time.
Filing at the DA’s Office
After the arrest, your case is typically filed with the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office. This can happen within a day or take several months if they filing police agency is still waiting on a piece of evidence like an alcohol blood test or DNA. Even if your charges have been dismissed, it remains on your record unless you work to have these records expunged.
After the case is filed with the DA’s office, the evidence is accessed and reviewed by your attorney. This is when your lawyer could meet with the district attorney to discuss the case, present additional evidence or a defense. With felonies, it’s important to have an attorney early on in this process, but making a presentation to the District Attorney’s office or the Grand Jury could result in the case being dismissed or no billed by the Grand Jury (i.e. the grand jury declines to indict). Therefore, it’s important to hire a lawyer as soon as you’re arrested, so this moment isn’t lost.
In Tarrant County, after your case has been filed and accepted, it falls into one of the county criminal courts (for misdemeanors), or district courts (for felonies). The court dates will then be set to give your lawyer and the district attorney a chance to look over everything and build a case.
It is important to be dressed appropriately and be on time for your court appearance. This is essential while pleading with your case. Not only do you want to make the best impression, but being on time can help avoid having your bond help insufficient (arrested).
The Grand Jury
If you’ve been arrested for a felony charge in Texas, then after the case is filed, the DA will present your case to a Grand Jury, whether a Grand Jury will either vote to indict (probable cause exists) or vote to no bill (no probable cause exists; decline to prosecute). You cannot be tried for a felony offense unless you’ve been indicted by a grand jury.
This is a jury with twelve jurors that independently decide whether there is enough evidence and probable cause to prosecute. This is another instance where your attorney has a chance to get your case dismissed/no billed.
The Negotiations and Trial
If the case is a misdemeanor or if the case if indicted by a grand jury, than you will start getting pre-trial court dates for your lawyer to discuss the case with you and negotiate with the prosecutor.
In many instances, the case can be settled outside of a trial. Our philosophy is we don’t need a trial if we can get the outcome we want without one. That saves client’s time, money, and being on public display in a jury trial. If it does go to trial though, it is important to have an experienced criminal defense lawyer to represent you. You don’t want to wait too long in this process to hire an attorney to help. Understand and know your rights during a criminal trial and our team will make sure we hold the State to the highest level of burden in the country – beyond a reasonable doubt.
Penalties for Criminal Convictions in Texas
The penalties for just being arrested, let alone having a Fort Worth criminal conviction, can haunt you for years or even a lifetime, even after you’ve paid your debts.
For example, a criminal conviction on a felony may already net you hefty fines, jail time, lengthy probation sentences, or years in prison. Those fines and probation fees can leave you with thousands of dollars in debts, and you may be unable to pay those debts.
Once you’ve paid your debts and finished your sentence, you may not be free yet. That’s because your criminal record may have a major impact on your life. Your record shows up on a background check, and it may impact your ability to get a job, be approved for housing, or get a loan. Without an expunction or non-disclosure, the arrest alone will show up on your background forever. It’s why it’s important to get the right outcome, that not only minimizes the outcome now, but also sets up an opportunity to get the case sealed later on.
It can even impact your family. If you’re seeking child custody, the judge may consider your record when assigning custody. Because the impacts can be so dire, talk to a lawyer before you accept a conviction.
Connect with a Fort Worth Criminal Defense Attorney
If you’ve found yourself facing any of the charges we discussed today and are frantically Googling criminal defense attorney Tarrant County or something similar, don’t panic.
We know this is a tough situation to be in, but you still have options. The best way to make sure that those options are in your favor is by hiring a Fort Worth criminal defense lawyer. Your lawyer will advocate for your rights and help you navigate the confusing legal process.
We have provided quality legal services to clients throughout the Dallas-Fort Worth area for years. If you would like to learn more about what types of charges we handle, or if you have any other questions regarding our services, please reach out.
It’s important to remember that every case is different, and even if you feel completely hopeless about yours, there are ways to protect yourself from harsh consequences and maybe even have some of these charges reduced or dropped.
If you need a Fort Worth criminal defense lawyer on your side during this difficult time, please contact Hoeller McLaughlin PLLC by calling 817-334-7900 or by filling out the following online contact form.
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Frequently Asked Questions About Criminal Defense Law in Fort Worth
Having a consultation with an experienced Fort Worth criminal defense attorney is one of the best ways to have all of your questions answered. However, for quick reference, while you wait for your appointment, here are some frequently asked questions. Take a positive step toward your case by knowing what to expect before your consultation.
What’s the difference between a private lawyer and a public defender?
Both criminal defense lawyers and public defenders are educated and able to practice criminal law as licensed professionals. Many private criminal defense attorneys start their careers as prosecutors or public defenders, but public defenders may not have the same time and resources as private attorneys, depending on their experience, work-load, and dedication to helping those who cannot afford to hire an attorney at the present time. We do handle appointed cases sometimes and we make sure to treat those clients the same as any other client because that's what the constitution requires. But we understand that's not always the case. The biggest difference is choice. If you are wanting to hire our firm, but cannot afford it, than you are stuck with the lawyer that the court assigns. You do not get to choose. You may get lucky and end up with a great lawyer, but it's a roll of the dice. You can choose who you want to be your private lawyer if you are hiring a lawyer.
How much does it cost to hire an attorney?
Every lawyer’s fee is different. The type and complexity of the case you have can also determine how much you spend on an attorney. It’s important to find an attorney that provides quality work at the best prices. We make sure you know upfront what you can expect to pay before you make any decisions.
Will my case go to trial?
In criminal defense cases, going to trial is rare. More often, these cases are resolved through plea bargaining. This is when negotiation between your attorney and the prosecutor on your case happens. Your attorney works to negotiate the best possible outcome for you depending on the evidence against you. Regardless of whether your case goes to trial or not, you want to choose an attorney that has had successes in the past. Having this will help the lawyer succeed at leveraging during the negotiation phase. It may be a crucial factor for your case’s outcome. We can never guarantee a result, but we make sure we are doing everything we can to give our client's the best outcome.
Will I have to go to jail?
Incarceration is something that can happen, depending on the severity of your crime. However, if you hire an experienced attorney, they work to reduce the possibility of this happening. They know of ways that can help keep you out of jail, especially if you’re a first-time offender.
What are the chances of getting charges dropped or at least reduced?
It’s important to have an attorney on your side as soon as you’re charged with something to increase the chances of your charges getting reduced or dismissed. This protects yourself and your rights against any criminal charges. They will take immediate legal action for you. The Texas Code of Criminal Procedure states that procedural errors and mistakes made by police can be used to help you dismiss your case. The evidence against you will also be looked into to find out if it is worth going to court over. Attorneys on your side will aggressively negotiate on your behalf to help get the charges reduced or dropped.
What is the difference between a misdemeanor and a felony criminal charge?
The Tarrant County Criminal Courts handle both misdemeanor (county courts) and felony crimes (district courts). Misdemeanors are less serious offenses than felony charges. These include driving under the influence (DWI), minor drug crimes (marijuana), petty thefts (under $2,500 in value), first time assault family violence offenses, and criminal trespassing. Penalties for a misdemeanor charge include up to a year jail sentence and fines that range from $0 to $4,000 depending on the severity of the charge. Felony charges are more serious. They come with high court fees and fines, and lengthy prison terms, with the death sentence being possible for the most serious charge of capital murder. Examples of felony crimes include sexual assault/rape, aggravated assault, weapon charges, aggravated robbery, assaulting impeding breath (choking), felony possession of a controlled substance (fentanyl, heroin, meth, THC), and murder. Both types of charges can remain on your permanent record even after the sentence has been served. These charges can cause issues when you go to rent a home, get a job, loans, or education. It also can be used against you in family court proceedings.
What are some common criminal defenses that may apply in my case?
To help you avoid facing harsh penalties and charges for misdemeanor and felony charges, it is important to reach out to an experienced Fort Worth criminal defense attorney. The attorney will work with you to build a strong legal defense in your case. These defenses can include proving your innocence, providing a strong alibi, claiming a case of mistaken identity or self-defense, lack of affirmative links in drug cases, witness lying, or disputing evidence. The specific defense case you may use depends on the specifics of your case.
What is criminal law?
According to the dictionary, this is defined as the law of crimes and punishments. The Texas Penal Code is what holds these crimes and their punishments. This is to help correct the specific wrong that was done. This helps to ensure public safety by deterring those who want to commit these acts to be persuaded not to. These punishments are also there to prevent the same crimes from happening again.
What is a criminal attorney?
A criminal defense attorney is a lawyer that provides a defense for someone who has been charged with a criminal offense. They work to build a defense case against the prosecutor that brings evidence up in a case. A criminal attorney listens to the case and presents a different point of view in your favor. They are there to provide you with a fair chance against the charges brought against you. It is important to reach out to a criminal attorney as soon as you’re charged.
Should I talk to the police?
If you’ve been arrested, the police are going to listen to everything you say. In some cases, what you say can be used against you in court. For this reason, it is recommended that you avoid talking to the police unless absolutely necessary. Wait until you have a criminal defense lawyer. Some people worry that if they exercise their right to remain silent or ask for a lawyer, it makes them seem guilty. This is not the case. Even some police officers arrested ask for an attorney if they’ve been arrested. The attorney can help prevent you from making incriminating mistakes. Do not be rude, always be respectful, and provide identification when asked. Simply ask to speak with an attorney during this time.
What happens during an arraignment?
The arraignment is your first court appearance. Even if not formally arrested, you will have an arraignment if you’ve been charged with a crime. This is to formally read you your charges. A plea must then be entered once you hear them. In Texas, this is also when you find out if bail can be set. They will let you know if you’re able to have bail and how much it will be. You can then post bail if there is an amount and leave until the next court appearance.
When can the plea deal happen?
A vast majority of criminal cases end with a plea deal. This usually happens during one of the pretrial court settings. The defense attorney will meet with the judge and prosecutor to speak with them about a potential plea bargain. You may be able to plead to a lesser charge, or your charges can be reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor during this time. If this happens, your case may not end up going to trial. It is sometimes referred to as plea bargaining.