If you have been charged with a drug crime in Houston, you're facing a lot of uncertainty. There's no way for you to know what the consequences of a conviction might mean for you when it comes to the fines you'll owe or the jail time you'll be forced to serve. And while it may seem secondary at the moment, there are plenty of other collateral consequences that can haunt you long after any jail sentence is over. With a criminal conviction, you can face difficultly obtaining housing, maintaining employment, or keeping professional licenses. From the moment you are arrested, you are under a tremendous amount of pressure to resolve your criminal case in a way that won't ruin the rest of your life. And that's usually when the prosecutor's plea offer usually appears.
The prosecutor in your case will typically try to convince you to plead guilty in your case. In exchange, he or she will offer to make certain recommendations to the judge regarding your sentence. When you speak with the prosecutor, you can usually expect a hard sell. They will be quick to remind you of the evidence they have against you as well as the fact that you face the full weight of the State of Texas at trial. You can also expect to hear that the case against you is unbeatable and that your only shot at a light sentence is to plead guilty and accept the plea bargain.
But the prosecutor doesn't work for you; their job is to get a conviction and move on to the next case. You need an advocate with your best interests at heart to guide you.
The reality is that Houston drug cases can be won in your favor. In fact, attorney Doug Murphy has a long list of satisfied clients from the many drug cases he has defended in the Houston area and throughout Texas. Prosecutors often oversell the strength of the case against you, and an experienced attorney can identify issues in a case that even the prosecutor hasn't caught. Before you enter a guilty plea, you should always discuss your case with a board certified criminal defense lawyer who is an experienced drug crimes attorney. Each case is different and just because previous cases have been won, does not mean the same will be true for your case. That's why it is important to talk to a highly respected defense counsel in Houston. To do so, contact the Doug Murphy Law Firm, P.C. today.
Entering a Plea in Harris County
Regardless of the charges against you, the 6th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States guarantees you the right to be presented with the charges laid against you. In Texas, this is done through what is known as an arraignment hearing.
What is an Arraignment?
At your arraignment, typically you are formally read aloud the criminal charges against you. Arraignment can be waived, and generally is depending upon the court and jurisdiction. You have a right to an attorney at your arraignment; a right that you will be advised at the time the judge reads the charges to you. However, not everyone is able to arrange for an attorney in time for their arraignment, especially if they are not released from custody prior to the hearing. After your charges are read, you will be required to advise the court on how you plead to those charges. The default plea entered should universally be "not guilty"--regardless of what you know the facts to be. It is best to have a board certified criminal defense lawyer at your side to strategically guide you through this legal process.
Entering a plea of "not guilty" is not the last chance you will have to enter your plea, however. During the pre-trial process, you will have the opportunity to change your plea if you choose. You will be able to plead guilty at a later date even if you plead "not guilty" at arraignment, although whether or not later pleading guilty is a good idea is a different story. In addition to pleading guilty or not guilty, there is a third option known as pleading “no contest.” Each of the three options is discussed below.
Pleading Not Guilty in Harris County
If you enter a plea of not guilty, it is your official statement that you do not accept the evidence against you and that you demand a trial. It is also the only plea you can make that doesn't result in your criminal case coming to an end. Not guilty pleas simply push your case down the path towards a trial. Depending on the circumstances and the severity of the charges against you, this could take a lengthy amount of time before your trial is scheduled.
Pleading not guilty at your arraignment doesn't foreclose on the possibility of a guilty plea later on in the case. It's common for attorneys to advise their clients to plead not guilty at arraignment, take time to review the evidence against the client, and then make a recommendation on accepting or declining any plea offers. A not guilty plea also gives your attorney time to contemplate filing motions that could lead to the exclusion of evidence or the dismissal of the charges against you.
Pleading Guilty in Harris County
If you enter a plea of guilty, you are admitting to the court that you have committed the offenses you have been charged with. If your plea is accepted by the court, a judgment will be entered against you and your case will come to an end once you have been sentenced. If your guilty plea was entered as part of a plea bargain agreement with the prosecutor, the judge will review the agreement and have the final say on whether the agreement should be entered. It's important to know that the judge is under no obligation to accept a plea agreement between a prosecutor and a defendant. If the judge refuses to sign off on the agreement, you will have the chance to withdraw your guilty plea and proceed to trial.
If you enter a plea of guilty without a plea bargain or a sentencing recommendation from the prosecutor, there is no way of knowing what a judge might sentence you to. This makes the prospect of simply pleading guilty at arraignment as very dangerous. You could face the maximum sentence you would receive if you had been convicted at trial without the benefit of forcing the state to have to prove their case against you.
Pleading No Contest in Harris County
A third option is to enter a plea of no contest. Also known as pleading Nolo Contendere, a plea of no contest is essentially a guilty plea. With this form of a plea, you admit to the court that the prosecutors have enough evidence against you to convict you of the crime you have been charged. However, you are not required to admit your guilt or otherwise plead guilty. While the results can be the same as if you had pled guilty, a no contest plea agreement is often a sign to the judge that the prosecution understands there may be issues with the case despite the evidence the state has.
Should I plead guilty?
Whether or not you plead guilty in your Houston drug crimes case is your decision, but it is never a good idea to plead guilty at your arraignment. It comes down to a simple cost-benefit analysis: you lose nothing by pleading "not guilty" and keeping your options open but you lose a tremendous amount of legal options by pleading guilty before you speak to a qualified attorney who can investigate your case before making an uninformed legal decision that will haunt you for the rest of your life.
Veteran attorney Doug Murphy has built his career on not only advising his clients to plead not guilty but also on taking those cases to trial. When his clients plead not guilty, Doug Murphy has the time to properly investigate the case, research the law and determine which defenses might be viable to avoid a conviction.
When you have a strong legal advocate by your side, you will give yourself your best chance at obtaining an outcome you will be happy with that will preserve your personal and professional reputation. The prosecutor has plenty of experience and the power of the police force behind them, but the right defense attorney will have the resources to focus on your case in a way that the busy prosecutor can't. Remember, it is up to the prosecutor in your case to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you are guilty of the crime. If you plead not guilty, you will give yourself multiple opportunities to resolve your case favorably. Below are a few of the opportunities Doug Murphy will have to impact your case if you plead not guilty.
Negotiating Your Charges
The prosecutor in your case has discretion on what to charge you with, if anything. One of the earliest opportunities for your attorney to affect your case is negotiating with the prosecutor. In some cases, it is possible to have the charges against you reduced. At other times, it is possible to have some or all of the charges against you dropped. While every case is different, Doug Murphy has successfully had charges reduced or dropped for his clients early on in a case.
If the prosecutor doesn't agree to dismiss your case, Doug Murphy will begin preparing for your trial. However, there are many steps that must occur before a trial happens. If the state has evidence against you that was collected illegally or otherwise shouldn't be allowed into your trial, Doug Murphy will make the case for that evidence to be excluded from your trial. If successful, it is possible the prosecutor in your case will re-evaluate their chances for a conviction and possibly dismiss the case.
Going to Trial
Your best opportunity to put your charges behind you forever is at trial. Doug Murphy knows that the prosecutor has a heavy burden to prove you have committed a crime, and he has prevailed in a number of Houston drug crimes trials.
How an Experienced Houston Drug Crimes Lawyer Can Help
The benefits of hiring an experienced Houston drug crimes lawyer are clear from our discussion above. If you want to discuss the merits of your case with the top defense attorney in Houston, contact the Doug Murphy Law Firm, P.C. today. Attorney Doug Murphy is well-known in the Houston area as an exceptional attorney and fierce advocate. He is a Board Certified expert in criminal defense law; a hard-earned accolade that only a fraction of attorneys in Houston can claim.
At his core, Doug Murphy is a veteran trial attorney. He has seen time and again the advantages of fighting the charges against his client instead of just taking a plea bargain, and the results speak for themselves. Contact the Doug Murphy Law Firm, P.C. today for a free consultation.