Below I will try to help you understand not only what a criminal defense lawyer is and does, but how they can help, who needs one, and the process of how a case proceeds through the criminal justice system. If you have further questions or feel you might need a criminal defense attorney, please call my office at 817-284-2263 (or) 817-589-2134.
According to the dictionary, criminal law is defined as “the law of crimes and their punishments.”
This seems like a pretty straight forward answer. A more detailed definition is “a body of rules and statutes that define conduct prohibited by the government because it threatens and harms public safety and welfare and that establishes punishment to be imposed for the commission of such acts.”
Our law of crimes and punishments is written in the Texas Penal Code. As a criminal defense attorney in Texas, I am constantly referring to the Penal Code.
The objective of the Penal Code is to establish a system of prohibitions, penalties, and correctional measures to deal with conduct that unjustifiably and inexcusably causes or threatens harm to those individual or public interests for which state protection is appropriate.
It is intended to ensure public safety by a deterrent influence of the penalties, rehabilitation of those convicted of violations, and use punishment necessary to prevent likely recurrence of the criminal behavior. It also defines and grades criminal offenses to give fair warning of what is prohibited and of the consequences of the violation and prescribe penalties that are proportionate to the seriousness of the offense.
Another key objective of the Penal Code is to “guide and limit the exercise of official discretion in law enforcement to prevent arbitrary or oppressive treatment of persons suspected, accused, or convicted of offenses and to define the scope of state interest in law enforcement against specific offenses.”
So, our Penal Code not only defines what specific crimes are, they also define and provide a balance of power against our government overreaching in their law enforcement power. It is difficult to convey just how important this is. Without the limitation of government enforcement, we would no longer live in a country that is free.
The term “criminal lawyer” or “criminal attorney” sometimes confuses people. The definition is “a lawyer who represents defendants in criminal cases.”
A longer, more descriptive term would be a “criminal defense lawyer.”
In criminal law, there are two different kinds of lawyers. Those that prosecute people who are being accused of committing some violation or offense and those that defend people who are being accused or have been accused of a crime or offense.
The prosecutor works for the government and will argue that you have violated a particular portion of the Penal Code and that violation should result in some punishment. The defense attorney can be either hired privately or in the event you cannot afford to hire an attorney, the court may appoint an attorney to defend you. Choosing your criminal defense attorney is one of the most important decisions you will ever make. You want to choose someone that is not only knowledgeable and hardworking but someone you feel comfortable with helping assist you during this very stressful time in your life. When the Court appoints an attorney to represent you, you lose this ability to chose the lawyer you are most comfortable with. The defense attorneys job is to protect your constitutional rights and make sure you are treated lawfully and fairly. You want an attorney you are sure is on your side.
In Tarrant County, where I practice the majority of the time, all criminal defense attorneys are private attorneys but some agree to also represent those that cannot afford to hire an attorney and get paid for their services through the government. If you have been accused or investigated for a crime and are looking to hire a criminal defense attorney, the single biggest advantage to hiring an attorney on your own is that you get to choose who you hire.
If you were to hire me as your attorney, I will work passionately to defend you against the allegations brought by the government. I take seriously the career I have chosen and realize I’m dealing with a very personal matter that can have lasting effects on your future.
I also know that it can be incredibly frustrating to try to navigate a legal system and get answers without being about to actually speak with someone that has your best interest at heart. That is why, for my clients, I provide my cell phone number and tell them they can call me with questions and concerns. Now clearly, this can’t be abused or my wife will kill me, but most people are very respectful and I am able to answer whatever question or issue is bothering them in a timely manner.
I can’t help but start off with a quote from a TV show called “Better Call Saul”… “Doesn’t it make me look guilty if I hire a lawyer?“
He is a criminal lawyer and is meeting with someone who is being investigated for a crime. The potential client says, “doesn’t it make me look guilty if I hire a lawyer?” To which Saul replies, “No, being handcuffed, arrested and hauled off to jail makes you look guilty.”
The point being, hiring a good criminal defense attorney can sometimes prevent charges from being filed. They can sometimes prevent being arrested in front of family and friends. And they can sometimes prevent additional charges against you. It is one of those times in your life where there really is not a negative side. On the positive side, you will have an advocate, a champion, a “defender” that will stand in front of you and protect your constitutional rights. The government has numerous resources at its disposal to investigate you and charge you. You need someone on your side to stand up for you and help keep that power in balance.
You need a criminal lawyer if you are being accused, investigated, charged, or arrested for any criminal offense. It is in your best interest to seek the counsel of an experienced and trustworthy attorney immediately.
Call me as soon as possible if you feel you need a criminal lawyer. I established my law practice in 2000 with the sole purpose to represent those accused of criminal offenses. I have practiced solely criminal defense law since that time and have represented many clients from many different walks of life. I will vigorously defend you if you have been accused of a criminal offense.
When people find out I’m a lawyer, they usually ask me what kind of law I practice. When I tell them I’m a criminal defense lawyer, it is interesting to watch their response. Some don’t have a clue what that means. Others picture the criminal lawyers in the movies doing unethical and illegal things to get their clients off. Some will ask why criminal law?
As a young lawyer fresh out of law school in 1996 I went to work for the Fort Worth District Attorney’s office as an Assistant District Attorney. I had already spent three years as an intern for the District Attorney’s office while I was in law school.
I spent the next four years as a prosecutor and was able to handle hundreds of cases and learn how the criminal law worked. As a young intern and young prosecutor, I believed the best way to help society was to put the “criminals” away and hold people accountable for their actions. This is certainly a common mindset of young prosecutors and even some seasoned prosecutors. It’s also an important and vital role for the protection of society.
But it didn’t take long to see sloppy police work and cases sitting on my desk where I did not believe the person was guilty of any crime. I also learned how easily someone could be arrested, charged, and convicted of a crime they didn’t commit. And probably most importantly, I learned that most of the defendants were good people who made a bad choice or mistake and deserved a second chance.
Eventually, I left the DA’s office and have been practicing criminal defense for over 15 years now, and I’m passionate about it. I can’t imagine practicing any other kind of law. Good criminal lawyers realize they aren’t just defending individual people; they are defending all of our constitutional rights -yours and mine.
In our country, we have well-defined laws that are required to be followed. (We won’t discuss the merit of each law and whether or not we have dumb laws on the books. That is another topic for another day.) We have government agencies (police, prosecutors, investigators, etc.) that are given the task of making sure we are following these laws. However, we also have laws and procedures that the government agencies are required to follow in their quest to pursue “the bad guy” so that they don’t run roughshod over everyone and their rights.
The key to the system working properly is there has to be someone or something to hold our government agencies in check. For example, they cannot decide to go around searching everyone’s house for drugs just because they want to – without any just cause to do so. This might yield to a lot of arrests, but in the process, they have completely trampled on our Fourth Amendment rights.
The Fourth Amendment is part of the Bill of Rights that prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures and requires a warrant to be judicially sanctioned and supported by probable cause. Our government does not have unbridled authority to intrude on our personal property. I do not want the government to start frequently busting into my house and snooping around just because they want to.
As a criminal defense attorney, I am part of the system that can hold the government in check. If I have a client arrested for possessing drugs, one of my first questions would be whether or not the police found the drugs legally. Was it a legal search and seizure? If not, the government has violated the Fourth Amendment, and they may not get to proceed with their criminal case against my client. They have to play by the rules, or they don’t get to play.
Another reason I chose to be a criminal defense attorney is that we are all people – and people make mistakes and deserve second chances. I have dedicated my professional life to defending those accused of some kind of criminal offense. I am passionate about putting my clients in a position to turn their life around and not have a criminal record follow them throughout their life. I believe that my experience and the respect I’ve earned in the criminal law community give my clients an advantage. I work hard for every client and look at each case individually.
I honestly can’t imagine practicing any other kind of law besides criminal law. I believe God gives us gifts, talents, and abilities that we should use to help other people. It is a joy to see clients move on from a mistake or find relief from a situation where they were wrongly accused or made a poor decision and have a positive impact on others in life.
The consequences of a DWI conviction can be devastating to you emotionally and legally. This is why it is so important to hire a qualified and experienced DWI attorney to represent you.
I completely understand that the emotional toll of being arrested for DWI is sometimes harder on you than the actual legal consequences. My goal is to not only represent you against the allegations but also give you the support to get through the months (and sometimes years) it takes to get the best result possible for you.
Most of my clients that hire me to represent them on a DWI case are law abiding citizens who have never been in any kind of trouble before. Until now, they have never been in jail. They have never had to post a bond to get out of jail. They have never read about the criminal justice process in any detail. And they certainly have never had any reason to hire a criminal attorney. The uncertainty of the process and what will happen causes a huge amount of stress and anxiety.
Having an attorney that will explain (in plain English) the process of fighting a DWI, what that means to you and how it will affect you is very important. In my practice, I strive to not only provide the best DWI defense possible, but also provide the emotional support and knowledge you need to deal with the uncertainty during this period.
If you have been arrested for a DWI or DUI, please call me to set up a free consultation where we can discuss your case. Just because you are charged with a DWI does not necessarily mean you will be convicted of a DWI. I will do my best to defend your rights. It is important to remember to call as soon as possible to ensure you have time to fight the administrative license suspension, which is separate from the criminal charge of DWI.
From a strictly legal perspective, the following are some of the legal consequences of being convicted of DWI in Texas
First conviction – Class B Misdemeanor
Up to a $2,000 fine
Up to 180 days in jail
Up to a 1 year drivers license suspension
$1,000 every year for three years to keep your driver’s license (Driver Responsibility Act)
Possible Interlock on any vehicle you operate
Second conviction – Class A Misdemeanor
Up to a $4,000 fine
Up to one year in jail
Suspended driver’s license for up to two years
$1,500 every year for three years to keep your driver’s license (Driver Responsibility Act)
Possible Interlock on any vehicle you operate
Third conviction – Felony
Up to a $10,000 fine
Up to ten years in prison
Suspended driver’s license for up to two years
$2,000 every year for three years to keep your driver’s license (Driver Responsibility Act)
Note: If you are released from jail on bond, you may be required to install an Interlock device on your car while the charges are pending. These devices are programmed to require a periodic sample of your breath in order to start and drive your vehicle.
Other Related DWI Charges
If there was an accident involving Serious Bodily Injury, you could face charges for Intoxication Assault. Intoxication Assault is a 3rd degree felony which could result in:
• A fine up to $10,000
• Prison term up to 10 years
If there was a death involved, you could face charges for Intoxication Manslaughter. Intoxication Manslaughter is a 2nd degree felony which could result in:
• Fine up to $10,000
• Prison term of 2 to 20 years
If you had a child in the car under 15 years of age, you could face:
• Fine up to $10,000
• Prison term of 180 days to 2 years
What is an ignition interlock and how does it relate to DWI offenses?
Interlock devices have been used in the United States for more than 20 years. All States have some legislation requiring or permitting the use of breath alcohol ignition devices, or “interlocks.” An interlock device is installed in a motor vehicle to prevent a driver from operating the vehicle if the driver has been drinking. Before the driver can start the vehicle, the driver must blow into the device. If the device detects a certain level of alcohol, it will not allow the car to start.
Interlocks are comprised of a breath alcohol sensor, a tamper-proof system, a data-recording system that logs results, and a retest system that is supposed to require the driver to provide another breath sample a varying time intervals.
The primary purpose of the interlock devices is to prevent someone that has been drinking from starting or driving the car. If the driver gives an alcohol-free sample of their breath and it is verified by the system, the device will provide power to the vehicle. The software in the system logs the test results and records other data, such as the number of times the car is turned off and on, mileage, etc.
How long does it take to have an interlock installed?
Generally, interlocks can be installed in about an hour.
Who has to have an interlock installed?
In Texas, the courts mandate an interlock device for certain people. In Tarrant County, most courts require interlocks during the pre-trial phase of a DWI charge if it is a second offense, an offense with a BAC above .15, an Intoxication Assault, or an Intoxication Manslaughter charge. Some courts will also require an interlock as a condition of probation or as a condition of an occupational license (if your license has been suspended).
Who pays to have an interlock device installed on my car?
If you are being required by the court to have an interlock on your car, you are responsible for the cost to install and maintain the interlock.
Someone else is going to drive my car. How do they start the car?
Anyone using a vehicle with an interlock must blow into the device for the vehicle to start. Most interlocks are now also equipped with a camera to verify who is driving.
Is the use of interlocks common?
Yes. In 2011, there were approximately 85,000 DWI arrests in Texas. In 2012, there were over 37,000 interlocks in use.
It is extremely important to hire a knowledgeable DWI attorney if you are facing charges. Tarrant County Criminal Defense Attorney Stephen Handy represents individuals being accused of DWI and other criminal offenses. Stephen is a member of the NATIONAL COLLEGE OF DUI DEFENSE and strives to be a leader in DWI defense.
It is important to understand the implications of a DWI conviction and the importance of hiring a knowledgeable and experienced attorney to represent your rights.
The Texas Legislature decided a few years ago to allow the Texas Department of Public Safety to assess surcharges to an individual based on certain traffic offenses, and Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) is one of them. These surcharges are in addition to other fees and are considered an “administrative fee” charged to a driver based on the number of points or convictions on the driver record.
How will you know if you receive a surcharge for an offense?
You will receive a notice through the mail. If you have a conviction for DWI, you will be notified once the conviction has been reported to DPS. These surcharges aren’t cheap. You will pay a minimum of $1000 per year for 3 years from the date of each conviction for DWI, Intoxication assault, or manslaughter. If it is a subsequent DWI conviction, the surcharge is $1500. If you are convicted of DWI with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.15 or greater, the fine is $2000.
A conviction for DWI causes hardships beyond the arrest and having to hire a criminal lawyer. If you have been arrested for DWI or DUI, it is imperative that you hire a qualified and experienced criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. My practice is largely made up of DWI cases and I have over 15 years defending those accused of DWI. I handle more DWI cases than any other type of criminal case. Call me, Fort Worth Criminal lawyer Stephen Handy, as soon as possible to discuss your case.
Want to check your Texas Drivers License Eligibility and Reinstatement Fees?
Go to the DPS site and login with your personal information.
DPS reviews surcharge cases annually. A surcharge will be assessed if an individual’s driver record:
- Continues to reflect six or more points, or
- If the underlying conviction for the surcharge is still within three years.
The amount of a surcharge can vary with each annual assessment if convictions are added or removed from the driver record.
If you’ve been charged with a crime, you probably don’t really know what to expect next. All you know is what you’ve learned from the news or TV shows.
Everyone’s case is different, but there are some general concepts and procedures that hold true throughout the criminal justice system. This is just a summary. Your case may be different and you may be able to avoid some of these events.
To begin with, there is usually an accusation or an event that takes place. For example:
- Someone calls the police and tells them you hit them or threatened them
- You were pulled over for suspected drunk driving (DWI)
- You were pulled over for a traffic violation and the officer arrests you for possession of marijuana, drugs, unlawful carrying a weapon, etc.
- You are under 21 and at a party drinking alcohol and the police were called
- You are accused of shoplifting or theft
The police will either proceed with arresting you (if they haven’t already) or open an investigation. It’s important to note here that you always have the right to remain silent when you are being suspected or accused of a crime.
Your responsibility is to properly identify yourself when detained or stopped by a police officer. The right to remain silent cannot be used against you as evidence in a trial. You do not have to answer questions or allow searches of your home or vehicle. They can only do this if they have probable cause, have a warrant, or have your consent.
If they are asking for your consent, they probably do not have probable cause. You do not have to give it. My best advice here: don’t resist arrest, don’t be rude, and remain silent. You can ask if you are free to leave. If they say no, ask for an attorney and remain silent. A police officer can arrest you if they have probable cause to believe that you committed a crime. They can also arrest you if there is a warrant out for your arrest.
If you are arrested you will go through the process of booking where they will take you down to the police station, get your fingerprints and gather identifying information. If the officer attempts to question you about the offense, continue to remain silent and ask for an attorney.
Next, a Judge or Magistrate will set bail. Bail is “property or money given as surety that a person released from custody will return at an appointed time.” The purpose of bail is to make sure that you will return to court when scheduled. Conditions of bail may also be set by the Judge for the protection of the public.
For example, a judge may require an interlock device on any vehicle you operate as a condition of bond on a DWI case or Intoxication Manslaughter case. A judge may also require an ankle monitor on a sexual assault of a child case, etc.
Once bail is set, you or someone you know can post the required amount of money and you will be released. If you don’t have the required amount of money available, you may hire a bail bondsman for a fee. The bondsman will post the bail for you for a percentage of the bail amount – usually 10% to 20% of the bail amount. Under certain circumstances, I, as your attorney also have the ability to post a bond for my clients. This saves you from having to hire a bondsman and then immediately turn around and hire a lawyer. In situations where I am not able to post bond for clients, I can refer you to some of the fairest and respected bondsmen in Tarrant County.
Filing with DA’s Office
Shortly after your arrest, your case will be filed with the District Attorney’s Office. Even if they dismiss all charges against you just hours after your arrest, it will remain on your record unless you proactively take the steps to have your record expunged. (For more info on expunctions, see Expunction of Criminal Records.) After your case is referred to the District Attorney’s Office, an Assistant District Attorney (ADA) will review the evidence provided by the police agency that arrested you.
This is a great opportunity for your defense lawyer to meet with the ADA in hopes of convincing them to reject the case for filing, in essence dismissing the case. This opportunity is often lost by clients who wait until after their case is filed to hire an attorney. Hiring an attorney quickly doesn’t always keep the case from being filed and obviously, there is never a guarantee of that, but it can never hurt you. You don’t want to miss any opportunity to have your case dismissed.
If the case is a Tarrant County case and is filed and accepted, it will randomly fall into one of seven criminal courts. Court dates will then be set to give the ADA and your defense lawyer an opportunity to discuss your case and options. These settings also inform the court of the status of the negotiations between the ADA and the criminal lawyer. They are generally nothing for the client to worry about.
However, when appearing in court, it is important to remember to be on time and dressed appropriately. Appropriate attire in a courtroom is essential. Many judges see the inappropriate dress as disrespectful. A suit or dress is not necessary, but jeans, shorts, flip-flops, T-shirts, are a no-no! Slacks and a button down shirt for men and skirts or nice pants for women are fine. The key is to dress conservatively. You should never stand out in a courtroom by what you chose to wear.
If your case is a felony it will be presented to the Grand Jury. No person in Texas may be tried for a felony unless their case has first been indicted by a Grand Jury. A Grand Jury is comprised of 12 jurors who sit for several month terms and are called upon to independently decide whether there is probable cause to prosecute on a given case. The Grand Jury process is another opportunity for your defense lawyer to try and have your case dismissed. When the Grand Jury fails to indict a case it is referred to as a No Bill.
Negotiations and/or Trial
If your case cannot be dismissed, no-billed, or worked out to your satisfaction after several court settings, the Judge or Court will be expecting you to announce whether or not it will need to be a trial. Once your case is set for trial, it will be scheduled for a trial date. At trial, you will have a jury seated to decide whether or not the State can prove the case against you beyond all reasonable doubt. Many cases can be handled to my client’s satisfaction without having to set the case for trial. However, in the event your case is set for trial and contested in front of a jury, I am experienced and skilled at criminal defense trials and will defend your rights and reputation.
It is extremely important that you seek the services of a qualified and experienced criminal lawyer as quickly as possible. I have seen many defendants make a mess of their case trying to do things on their own or waiting too long to hire someone.
If I serve as your criminal attorney, I not only help you understand the case and the process, I will fight for every right you have. I have over 15 years of criminal defense work with thousands of very satisfied clients. I work hard for my clients and would work hard for you. You would have my personal attention and access to communicate with me throughout the process.
I will do everything I can to restore your reputation and give you peace of mind throughout the process. Please call me at 817-284-2263 to discuss your criminal case or situation.
Call me today to schedule a meeting to discuss your case.
I will provide one-on-one contact and will handle your case personally. You will not be shuffled to another less experienced attorney or paralegal. When you are being accused, charged, or under investigation for a criminal offense, you will want to speak to your lawyer, not an associate or assistant. If I am not available, my office will get you in touch with me as soon as possible. Immediate action can often play a significant difference in the outcome of your case. Opportunities to win your case can be lost by waiting.
I hope this overview of criminal law, what a criminal lawyer is, and how it all works is helpful. I have given some tips on how to handle certain things, but the best advice I can give is to call me at the Law Office of Stephen Handy as soon as possible if you are being accused, investigated or arrested for any criminal offense so we can discuss your case. Your reputation, rights, and freedom could be at stake.
I have practiced criminal defense in the Fort Worth area for over 15 years, and I strive to get to know each client, their individual needs and do everything I possibly can to achieve the best result for each client. Customer service and communication is very important to me and I understand the stress each client is enduring.