If you have been charged with a drug crime in the Houston area, you can expect to face difficult decisions. At some point during the course of your case, it is likely that the prosecutor will make you a plea offer. While every case is different, this plea offer will likely carry stiff penalties. While this plea offer may not be appealing, the alternative is that you could face even more punishment if you are convicted at trial. But that's not the only thing: by taking the plea deal you would also miss the opportunity to be acquitted at trial and, thus, not be subjected to any penalties.
The risk of significant penalties carried by a Texas drug conviction is reason enough to consult with a seasoned attorney before deciding on a plea offer and before ending your chances of having your day in court. In this situation, it is understandable if you respond emotionally. But with an experienced Houston drug crimes attorney providing you with counsel, you can expect unbiased, unemotional advice.
To learn about your options in your Houston drug crimes case, contact the Doug Murphy Law Firm, P.C. right away. Doug Murphy is regarded as one of the top defense attorneys in the Houston metropolitan area, and he has the results and satisfied clients to prove it. To discuss your case, contact attorney Doug Murphy today.
Five Things to Consider before accepting a Plea Bargain
Like all criminal defendants, if you are charged with a Texas drug offense you are entitled to a trial before a jury of your peers. But if you accept a plea bargain, you waive that right forever. Giving up your right to a trial isn't the only consideration. Below are five things to keep in mind before you take a plea offer from the prosecution in your case.
You give up your right to a trial
As mentioned above, entering a guilty plea as part of a plea bargain with the prosecutor will end your case before your trial can take place. Your trial isn't just your opportunity to give your side of the story; it is the best opportunity to avoid a conviction entirely. That's why attorney Doug Murphy rarely advises his clients to accept a plea bargain. Houston drug crimes are defensible and with the right attorney, you could walk out of your trial free and clear.
A trial is valuable because it is your opportunity to make the State of Texas prove its case against you. The prosecutor in your case may lay out the evidence against you when you receive your plea offer. But with a carefully crafted defense, much of that evidence may end up falling flat at trial.
You miss your opportunity to challenge the evidence against you
While your trial is your final opportunity to challenge the state's evidence, it is not your only opportunity. Your attorney will have a chance to review your case to determine if at any point your rights were violated. If, after the review, your attorney concludes that evidence against you was collected illegally, your attorney will have the opportunity to have that evidence excluded from your trial. This is done through what is known as a suppression hearing.
At a suppression hearing, your attorney will make the case that certain evidence was only obtained by the state due to a violation of your constitutional rights. If the court agrees, the prosecutor will be barred from using that evidence against you. If that evidence was critical in the case against you, the prosecution may ultimately dismiss the charges against you.
However, if you plead guilty before your attorney can review your case and file any necessary motions to suppress, you will miss out on a possible avenue to avoid a conviction entirely.
You end up with a criminal conviction on your record
The plea offer that the prosecutor sent to you may sound generous at first glance. If you don't have any prior drug crime convictions, it is possible that you could avoid serving any prison time at all when arrested with a relatively small amount of a controlled substance in your possession. While that outcome may be tempting, it likely comes with a steep cost: a conviction. Most of the time, your plea offer will involve pleading guilty to the underlying charge that results in a criminal conviction on your record.
The prosecutor in your case can make recommendations regarding your potential sentence to the judge, but some collateral consequences of a drug crime conviction are outside of a prosecutor's release. For starters, if you plead guilty to a felony, you will lose your right to vote or own a firearm. What's more, a criminal conviction can add a layer of difficulty to normal life activities. For example, prospective employers typically run a background check, which could cost you current or even future earnings. Much like with prospective employers, prospective landlords may also employ background checks when screening an applicant. These consequences are severe, and many of them will last a lifetime. That's why weighing your options with an attorney makes sense.
You forfeit your right to an appeal
Not only does a plea bargain require you give up the right to a trial, but it also requires you to give up the right to appeal your criminal conviction.
The appellate process is your last line of defense; even if you are convicted of a crime at trial you have the opportunity to appeal the decision to a higher court. But with a guilty plea, you waive that right.
The judge could decline to accept the plea bargain
A plea bargain is an offer from the prosecutor in your case to make a sentencing recommendation to the judge in exchange for you changing the plea from not guilty to guilty. But the prosecutor in your case doesn't have the power to make the sentencing recommendation official. It is up to the judge in your case to either accept or reject the agreed-upon sentence. While most of the time the judge will go along with the recommendation of the prosecutor, there is no guarantee that the court will sign off.
If the judge in your case refuses to accept the plea offer in your case, you will be given the chance to withdraw your guilty plea. And unless you reach a new deal with the prosecutor that is closer to what the judge is looking for, you may wind up going to trial.
Is it worth pleading guilty to a Houston drug charge?
Ultimately, the decision to accept a plea bargain from the prosecutor belongs to you. This decision needs to be made with only after a complete investigation of your case with a veteran drug crimes lawyer. However, pleading guilty at your first court appearance – known as your arraignment – is always a bad idea. When you are arraigned, you would not yet have received an offer from the prosecutor. That means that by pleading guilty, you are essentially throwing yourself at the mercy of the court. A plea of not guilty, on the other hand, allows the case to continue, so there is no downside to pleading not guilty at your arraignment.
Attorney Doug Murphy typically advises his clients to take their cases to trial and avoid the plea bargains offered by the prosecution unless the plea offer is the absolute best option in your situation. That's why Doug Murphy prepares each case as if it will ultimately go to trial. This approach has resulted in years of positive outcomes for his clients.
How an Experienced Houston Drug Crimes Attorney can Help
Your best shot at avoiding a conviction and getting an outcome you can live with comes from hiring the right Houston drug crimes lawyer. With a zealous advocate representing you, you have the best odds of avoiding a conviction and getting on with your life. That's because an experienced drug crimes lawyer will be able to dedicate the necessary resources and time to defend you.
While the prosecutor in your case has the full power of the State of Texas behind him or her, the reality is that the prosecutor in your case likely has a large caseload to juggle at the same time. Unlike a private attorney, your prosecutor may not have the time to dedicate to your case that your attorney does. This is just one area in which the right criminal defense attorney can pay off.
Hiring the Right Houston Drug Crimes Lawyer
Have you been arrested and charged with a drug crime in the Houston area? While being charged with a drug crime can be daunting, it doesn't guarantee that you will face a conviction. Attorney Doug Murphy has been defending those accused of drug crimes in the Houston area for years. He understands what's at stake in your Houston drug case and will work tirelessly in an effort to get you the result you were hoping for.
As a Board Certified expert in criminal law, Doug Murphy has the experience and courtroom skill that distinguishes him from other criminal defense attorneys in town. In fact, Doug Murphy is one of only two attorneys in the State of Texas to be Board Certified as an expert in both criminal law and DWI defense law.
To discuss your options with a Board Certified expert, contact the Doug Murphy Law Firm, P.C. today to schedule your free consultation.