First Step of Preparing Your Criminal Defense: Meeting With Your Lawyer

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Accused of a crime? Be sure you understand your rights, and be prepared. Call The Barrera Law Firm.
Preparing to go to trail in Harlingen, McAllen, Brownsville, or anywhere for that matter, to defend yourself in a criminal defense case is nothing short of nerve racking. You will be fighting for your freedom, and this is a battle that no one wants to lose. Without a good criminal defense lawyer, you could end up getting the book thrown at you, getting slapped with high fines and jail time. Your first meeting with your criminal defense lawyer will set the stage for your defense strategy. Being prepared for that meeting will get your case off to a great start by giving your lawyer a better chance at building a good defense strategy.

  1. Be prepared to answer some questions. Your lawyer is going to need all of the details about what happened. You may want to sit down a few days before your meeting and write down all of the details you remember about what happened to you before, during, and after your arrest. Your lawyer is going to ask you to remember the names and details of all the people involved in your case, their role, what they know and what you think they might know. You will also want to recount all the details you can remember about your arrest. If the arresting officers made mistakes and you can remember them, it may be important to your case.
  2. Have your own questions to ask. You will also want to prepare some questions of your own for your criminal defense lawyer. Ask how long they have been working in criminal defense, if they have had cases similar to your own, and what the outcome was. Ask their opinion on the outcome of your own case, including the best and worse case scenarios. Find out how much their services are going to cost and how they accept payment. Knowing up front all of the details will ensure that there are no surprises later on down the road.
  3. Bring documents and evidence with you. Bring all of the documents associated with your case to the meeting with your criminal defense lawyer. This includes items you feel could be used as evidence, such as letters, photos, emails or other documents. Bring your arrest records, and any paperwork you were given by the police. Your lawyer will be better prepared to build a winning defense strategy for your case if they have all of the evidence needed to back it up.
  4. Listen to your lawyer’s advice. Your lawyer will have some advice for you at the end of the meeting. They may tell you where to go and where to avoid, who to speak with and who to not speak with. Pay attention to their advice and even write it down. Your criminal defense lawyer is familiar with the system and knows what it will take to win your case. Going against their advice could end up costing you in the end if it causes your case to end in a guilty verdict.

Criminal Law and Your Constitutional Rights

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One of the areas of law The Barrera Law Firm participates in is criminal law, more appropriately called constitutional law. When one is accused of a crime, when one is called before a court to answer up on a crime, people need to know they have rights, and those rights come from the Constitution and those rights come from under the law themselves. Individuals will often feel the full force and burden of the state or federal government when they are accused of a federal crime. Often, people aren’t even aware they are committing a crime. Sometimes people are inaccurately or inappropriately accused of crimes. Either way, they should immediately seek the assistance of an attorney to fight for their rights, to ensure that all avenues are explored and that the government meets its burden to provide evidence on every allegation they bring forth.

When you hire an attorney you should ensure that attorney cares about your case. You should ensure that attorney will sit down with you and listen to all your needs and concerns, and that the attorney is there for you. An important aspect of choosing an attorney is being able to feel comfortable with communicating to that attorney and feeling like that attorney is comfortable in communicating to you. Through communication you can achieve quite a bit and it is important that an attorney especially cares about you and he cares about your case.

Making a Strong Criminal Defense Strategy

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Ending up on the wrong end of the law, whether you are guilty of an actual crime or not, is no laughing matter. It is a serious situation that deserves a your utmost attention. Building a strong criminal defense strategy is important as it is all that stands between you and your freedom and heavy fines. Don’t wait until the last minute to plan your defense strategy as you want to give yourself plenty of time to prepare so your defense will go smoothly when you finally have your day in court.

  1. Choose your criminal defense team wisely. Always research at least three criminal defense lawyers before you decide on one. Choose one that has had experience with your specific type of situation. You may want to ask friends and family if they have had any experience with criminal defense lawyers. If you know of anyone who has had a case like yours and won, make sure you give their lawyer a try. A criminal defense team that is familiar with your type of case will better your chances of getting a verdict that falls in your favor.
  2. Discuss your defense options. Talk to your lawyer about your defense options. There are generally three versions of events that defendants of criminal defense cases have. The three options are a confession, in which you admit your guilt, a complete denial, in which you deny your part in the crime, and an admit and explain story, in which you admit to part of the story but not all of it.
  3. Disclose any and all details of your case to your criminal defense team. It is important to give your criminal defense team all of the details concerning your story. They need to know if there is any chance of surprise evidence or witnesses coming forward for the prosecutor. When your lawyer knows the whole story, they can prepare your defense around it.
  4. Decide on a strategy and then stick with your story. Once you and your criminal defense team have decided on a defense strategy, you will need to come up with a solid story. Practice your story day and night. Go over every detail until you know it by heart. Its easy to get scared and confused once you get up on the witness stand to be interrogated by the prosecutor. Having your side of the story completely planned and ready to go will help take the edge off so you wont’ appear so nervous to the jury when you are in the hot seat.
  5. Look professional when you show up in court. When you show up in court, make sure you look your best. For men, you should wear either a suit or at least a button down shirt and slacks. Try to cover, or minimize, tattoos and jewelry. Women should look professional as well, in either a pants suit or dress. Looking your best for court shows that you are serious. Since this will be the first impression the jury has of you, make sure it is a good one as they will be deciding your fate.

Early Termination of Probation in Texas

Early termination of probation was created by the Texas Legislature to reward those who have complied with their requirements of probation and have reformed as a result of it. The Texas Code of Criminal Procedure Article 42.12 Section 12, allows a defendant to apply for early termination who has completed either 1/3rd of there probation or 18 months- whichever is less.

Early termination of probation is best applied for when you have paid all fines, court costs and restitution (if required). Also, courts look to see if you have violated your probation in the past. Individuals that are on community supervision as result of a Deferred Adjudication may also be eligible for early termination. There are circumstances and certain offenses that will prevent you from being accepted for early termination of community supervision or probation that can be complex.

Can You Go to Jail for Hot Checks in Texas?

hot checks texasIn Texas, a person commits a crime if they write a check in exchange for something, knowing they do not have enough funds to pay for that thing at the time they wrote it.

While prosecuting you, prosecutors will have the benefit of automatically showing you knew there was not enough funds if you:

1. fail to pay the hot check within 10 days after you received the proper and mandatory notification under law stating that you had insufficient funds, and

2. providing that the bank let you know within 30 days after you gave the hot check to another in exchange for something.

If a check is under $1,500, is over two years old, and an arrest warrant was not issued during that two year period, the case may be defeated on the grounds that the statute of limitations has run. If the check is more that $1,500, is over five years old, and an arrest warrant was not issued during that five year period, the case may also be defeated on the grounds of statute of limitations. Hot check cases that are over $20 are punishable by jail time, fines, and court costs.

It is important that a competent attorney be retained that will force the prosecution to prove that the person that wrote the check knew that there were insufficient funds and that they did actually receive proper notification of the bad check. With the correct legal challenges, hot check cases may be thrown out of court or dismissed.

5 Things You Should Know About Criminal Appeals in Texas

Court houseThe criminal appeals process can seem alien to people outside the legal system. The most important thing to remember is that while every case is different, the process itself remains the same. By understanding some  of the basic elements of criminal appeal procedure, however, you can get a better understanding of what’s happening in your case.

Following are explanations of five basic points that pertain to the criminal appeals process in Texas:


A criminal appeal is essentially a review of a trial to ascertain whether or not it was fair. What the appeal court does is review the actions taken by the trial judge, and specifically whether any rulings made either before or during the trial were correct.


In Texas, the first criminal appeal goes to one of 14 appellate courts. Each court has three judges and most have more. Appeal court judges are elected like other judges. Each appeal is decided by a panel of three judges and the courts of appeal hear both criminal and civil appeals.


A court of appeal does not decide guilt or innocence. What it will do is review a verdict to determine whether there is any evidence to support it. This is known as a “legal sufficiency review.”

In some cases, the court can review the verdict to see whether it is “manifestly unjust.” This is called a “factual sufficiency review.”  This is because the court only has the written record to look at.   How witnesses look on paper and how they look in person are often quite different.


To start the process you first must file a notice of appeal, which tells the court:

  • that you want to appeal;
  •  what you are appealing from; and
  •  and which appellate court will hear the appeal itself.

You file this appeal in the Clerk’s office of the court where you were convicted. The Clerk will then send the notice, along with other information about the case to the appellate court. 

In Texas, you must file the notice of appeal in a criminal case within 30 days of the date you are sentenced.

If you have filed a motion for a new trial, you must file the notice of appeal within 30 days after the court denies the motion for new trial.


After you file the notice of appeal and your record is completed, an attorney must file a brief. The state then has an opportunity to file a response. After they do, the case is ready to be considered by the court.

The attorneys at the Barrera Law Firm are experienced in all areas of criminal law, including appeals.  We work closely with each of our clients to bring about the most successful outcome possible. When you need expert criminal defense from attorneys who care, contact us!

Should Juveniles Be Treated as Adults in Criminal Court?

should juveniles be treated as adultsThere is a debate in the state legislature this legislative session about changing our current laws which allow 17-year olds who cannot vote, drink or smoke to be tried as adults in adult court.  Texas has always been a tough on crime state and the question arises will relaxing this option send the wrong message to young people who get in trouble with the law.  Will it make for more youth crime, in other words?

I don’t think it does and there is strong evidence to support this.

The majority of juveniles get in trouble for some minor offense – a fight, possession of marijuana or even truancy which is a criminal offense in Texas – truancy isn’t a criminal offense in 48 other states.  These are not necessarily hardened and habitual criminals from which society needs to be protected.  They are kids and young adults that have problems and they need help with those problems.  Per a recent story in the Dallas Morning News, this softer approach is working in Dallas County and the recidivism rate (the number of people who re-offend after going to jail) there is now low.

We do not need more kids in the justice system.  We need less.  We need to stress the importance of family support, how additional tools in the class room can help, and how kids need a moral compass of their own rather than the threat of punishment to keep them on the right side of the law.  One excellent little book I know of is the Way to Happiness which has been in circulation for more than three decades.

Compassion and understanding for the situation that put them there in the first place is necessary. Solutions exist outside of detention and already exist in the community that can be implemented to turn a juvenile indiscretion into an opportunity to turn around an entire future.  It takes a village to raise a child.

So I applaud the Texas Legislature for moving ahead and being tough on crime by being understanding of our youth.

DWI and DUI in Texas

It’s never a good idea at any time to drive under the influence of alcohol. But if you or someone you love has, then you need to know what to expect if you get arrested in Texas for driving while intoxicated (DWI) or, if you are a minor, driving under the influence (DUI).

DWI indicates that a driver:

  • cannot safely operate a vehicle due to impairment by either drugs or alcohol;
  • is intoxicated to a level that’s above established DWI standards, as determined by a blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) test.

In Texas–which is a zero-tolerance state–you can be charged with DWI even if your blood alcohol level falls below the accepted maximum of .08%.  A first offense for a DWI is a class B misdemeanor. However, if you are arrested with a blood alcohol of .12% or higher, you may face felony charges, particularly if you have been convicted of a DWI in the last 10 years or caused an accident with injuries.

If you are under the age of 21, then getting caught for drinking and driving can result in a DUI charge. For a 1st DUI offense, possible penalties may include a 60-day license suspension, a fine of up to $500, community service and mandatory enrollment in an alcohol awareness program.

If you are under 18, similar penalties apply but a parent or guardian must accompany you at all of your court appearances. If the blood alcohol exceeds the maximum .08%, a court may decide to fine you up to $2000 and impose a one-year license suspension as well as a 180-day jail sentence.

The best advice is not to drink and drive at any time. But if you do and get arrested, then you should seek immediate legal assistance. The attorneys at the Barrera Law Firm are experts in Texas criminal law and can  aggressively defend your rights. We’re there to stand by you when you need us most!

Photo credit: Suat Eman