Find the answers to some frequently asked questions of Chris Perri Law’s experienced criminal defense attorneys.
Q: I was arrested for DWI, and the police officer confiscated my driver’s license! Can I still drive?
A: Whenever anyone is arrested for DWI, the police officer confiscates that defendant’s driver’s license. In its place, the person is given a Temporary Driving Permit, which lasts for 40 days from the arrest date, unless the defendant requests a hearing with the Department of Public Safety (DPS) within 15 days of the arrest. If my client hires me in time, I always request this license revocation hearing because it allows my client to continue driving until the date of the hearing, which is usually held 3-4 months after the arrest. The periods of suspension vary. If the defendant voluntarily provides a breath or blood sample that shows a blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) over .08, the suspension is for 90 days. If the defendant refuses to provide a sample, then the suspension is for 180 days. For repeat offenders, the periods of suspension are significantly longer. Despite the suspension, I can help a client apply for an occupational driver’s license, which allows my client to get back on the road.
Q: If I’m stopped and under investigation for a DWI, do I have to take the tests?
A: You have the right to refuse to take the field sobriety tests, and you can refuse to provide a breath or blood sample. For advice on how to make the right choice, read my blog entry on this issue at here. For information on why the breath test does not reliably measure your BAC, click here.
Q: I know I’m guilty of committing the crime, and there’s no way I’m going to get off. Why do I need a lawyer?
A: It is extremely important to have a lawyer advise you through the criminal process. Even if you think that the prosecution has you nailed, there may be some technical weakness in the prosecution’s case that a good lawyer can expose. Also, there’s much more to the process than being found guilty in a court. Your attorney can help you achieve a result that’s best for you. For example, probation conditions can be very burdensome, and an experienced lawyer can negotiate with the prosecution so that you aren’t prevented from doing your daily activities. Also, a lawyer can investigate your background and present the prosecution with a “character packet” in order to show how you’re different from the stereotypical “criminal.” Most of my clients are surprised by how much a good lawyer can make a difference in the outcome of their cases.
Q: How do I get someone out of jail?
A: If you or a loved one is accused of a crime, it’s important to consult an attorney to discuss your options. In Travis County, a personal bond is often an option for defendants who hire an attorney. A personal bond allows a person to get out of jail without paying for a bail bond. One of the drawbacks of a bail bond is that bond companies often charge 10-20% of the bond amount, and you never get that money back. That’s why I always investigate whether I can obtain a personal bond. If that fails, then I can direct you to an affordable bond company that will help get you or your loved one out of jail.
Q: I’m in jail, but there’s no bond set on my case. What’s going on?
A: When you’re arrested on a misdemeanor, the police have 24 hours to turn in the PC affidavit, which is a miniature version of the police report. A magistrate judge must have this document in order to set a bond on your case. If no bond has been set, it’s likely that the arresting officer hasn’t turned in the PC affidavit yet. For felonies, the police have 48 hours to turn in the PC affidavit. In felony narcotics cases, the detectives often use this time to further investigate the case while some defendants are already in jail. Also, when police feel like a defendant has been rude or uncooperative, they’ll often wait to turn in the PC affidavit.
Q: I'm on probation, and I was arrested for violating the conditions of my probation. The jail says that no one can bail me out because the judge didn't set a bond amount when the warrant was issued. Is that true?
A: In Travis County, judges usually don’t set a bond amount when they issue warrants for probation violations. This guarantees that defendants spend at least a night in jail if they’re arrested on a probation warrant before retaining an attorney. If you have a loved one in jail without a bond amount set, it’s important to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney in order to approach the judge about setting a bond amount and possibly signing a personal bond. If you’ve violated your probation conditions but haven’t been arrested yet, you should hire an attorney to expedite the booking process by persuading the judge to set a bond amount and approve a personal bond before you’re arrested. If that happens, you’ll be in-and-out of the jail in less than an hour (commonly known as a “walkthrough”) instead of spending the night in a cell. You can check whether you have a warrant for a probation violation by clicking here.
Q: A detective called to ask me questions about a crime that I committed. Should I call him back?
A: You have the absolute right to remain silent, and I recommend that all of my clients exercise this right. The detective’s job is to build a case for the prosecution, so their questions are geared toward further incriminating the suspect. Even if you think that you can talk your way out of the situation, you’ll likely regret your decision to talk to the police when the prosecution is playing back the conversation to a jury.
Q: A police officer questioned me, but he didn’t read me my rights. Are my statements admissible in court?
A: The answer depends on whether you were in custody at the time when the officer questioned you. If you were in custody, then the officer is required to read your rights and record the conversation. On the other hand, if you were briefly “detained” or part of a “consensual encounter,” then you weren’t technically in custody, and the officer doesn’t have to read your rights to you. There’s a fine line between custody and temporary detentions, so you need a knowledgeable attorney to determine whether your statements can be thrown out.
Q: How much do you charge for your legal services?
A: Every case is different, so my fees are based on an estimate of how much time it will take to effectively represent a client on a particular case. I understand that criminal charges can place a financial burden on families, so I offer payment plans that are tailored to individual clients’ needs. My rates are competitive with other quality attorneys who strive to limit the volume of their practices in order to devote their full attention to each case.