If you’re awaiting trial after being arrested on a misdemeanor or felony charge in Houston or Harris County, the outcome of your trial will depend on the evidence the state uses to make their case for conviction.
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In order to obtain a conviction in Texas, prosecutors must convince a jury, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the defendant is guilty of committing the crime(s) they’ve been charged with. To get a jury to convict, they must submit evidence that demonstrates that the defendant is indeed guilty of the crimes they’ve been accused of.
Your defense attorney will use this evidence to achieve the opposite goal — your acquittal or reduced charges, jail time, and fines. However, before they can formulate an effective strategy to counter the prosecutor’s charges, they must first be able to examine the evidence that will be used by the state against their client.
You may be wondering: what evidence does a prosecutor have to disclose to your defense attorney? The short answer is, all of it.
Discovery in a Texas Criminal Case
Discovery is the process by which prosecutors and defense attorneys share evidence and information about a criminal case. Sharing the evidence with the defense team ensures the defendant’s rights are being protected and helps streamline the trial process.
Texas law is very specific about sharing evidence with the defense. Article 39.14 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure states that a prosecutor, “after receiving a timely request from the defendant,” is required to produce and permit the “inspection and the electronic duplication, copying, and photographing, by or on behalf of the defendant” of:
- Offense reports
- Documents and papers
- Crime Scene photographs
- Written or recorded statements of the defendant or witnesses)
- Statements of law enforcement officers
The prosecution does not have to disclose as evidence their notes or reports pertaining to the evidence, or “any designated books, accounts, letters, photographs, or objects or other tangible things not otherwise privileged that constitute or contain evidence material to any matter involved in the action and that are in the possession, custody, or control of the state or any person under contract with the state.”
How and Why Was the Evidence Obtained?
In addition to what evidence the prosecutor must disclose to the defense, almost as important is how and why the evidence was collected. If the evidence was collected in an illegal manner, it likely cannot be used against you in a trial. For example, law enforcement is required to have a search warrant in order to obtain evidence from private property. If the police search your home and seize property as evidence of a crime, but did so without a warrant, your defense attorney may be able to get the illegally obtained evidence suppressed, which means it can’t be used against you in a trial.
If you’ve been charged with a misdemeanor or a felony crime in Houston, it’s important to take action to protect your rights. This includes protecting yourself against any improper or illegal evidence the prosecutors might use to get their conviction.
The best way to protect yourself after you’ve been charged with a crime in Houston is to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney to handle your case.
Frequently Asked Questions About Criminal Defense
To get to know you and your case, your attorney will ask you a lot of questions during your initial consultation. A variety of information will be requested, including your full name and contact information, education and employment history, family history, criminal record, and other background information. There may be a written questionnaire involved as well. You may think the questions go on and on, but this is all critical information that your attorney needs to know!
Your attorney will also ask you to bring documentation. Bail and arrest paperwork, as well as information about court dates, are extremely important. Having a list of possible witnesses can similarly be very helpful.
It is also a good idea to come prepared with your own questions to ask your lawyer, such as their experience with similar cases, their success rate, or their first impressions about your defense.
Unlike a credit report, which typically goes back only seven to ten years, a criminal record remains on a person’s public record forever. Two options exist in Texas to prevent an arrest from following you around the rest of your life: expunctions and orders of non-disclosure.
When an individual wins an expunction of all records regarding an arrest, the arresting record is effectively removed from the public record. Expunction, or expungement, allows a person to legally claim they were never arrested.
The records of an individual who is not eligible for expunction in Harris County may still be sealed, also known as orders of nondisclosure. The arrest is not completely erased like an expungement, but it is sealed from public view.
In Texas, some more serious crimes cannot be expunged or sealed. Capital murder, sexual assault, aggravated kidnapping, possession of child pornography, child endangerment, violation of a protective order, and family violence are among these crimes.
Even if a law enforcement officer tells you otherwise, videotaping encounters with the police is both legal and smart. Your video may serve as evidence of guilt or innocence. Just make sure you don’t interfere with their investigation, and obey their orders.
Officers also cannot confiscate your phone, demand to see photos or videos, or delete any of your data.
Evidence Can Affect the Outcome of Your Trial — Protect Your Rights
Lisa Shapiro Strauss is a former County DA turned criminal defense attorney. She understands the critical role evidence can play in the outcome of a criminal court case in Texas and how prosecutors use evidence to try and obtain a conviction. Lisa doesn’t just look at the evidence, but also at how and why it was obtained. Her extensive legal knowledge and experience often result in acquittal or reduced charges for her clients.
If you’ve been charged with a misdemeanor or felony in Houston or Harris County it’s important to take steps to defend your rights. The first step is to contact the law offices of Houston Criminal Defense Attorney Lisa Shapiro Strauss. Call 713-429-7310 today to schedule a free consultation.