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What Do I Do if I’m Arrested?

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This is a question I get asked a lot. It is understandable as the thought of getting arrested for many people is scary. The process is something with which most people are not familiar. Knowing your rights and what to do if accused of a crime is important. In today’s blog, I will take you through a few things you need to know and do to put yourself in the best position.

Listen to Your Miranda Rights

If you have ever watched a crime show, then you are probably familiar with the Miranda rights. This is the statement that police officers make when arresting someone. 

It will be something like: “You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you.”

This statement is designed to inform you of your rights and protect you from yourself in a system that is not always perfect. You have the potential, even if you’re innocent, of putting yourself at risk of incriminating yourself by speaking. Even something that is harmless-sounding could be misconstrued and get you in trouble. It is best to avoid saying anything at all.

If you are asked a question you should respond that you need to speak with your attorney. Politely refuse to answer any questions until your attorney is present. You cannot be forced to speak without a lawyer present and staying silent is advisable.

Don’t Allow a Search Without a Warrant

Police officers may show up at your door and claim the right to search your property because of your alleged crime or connection with a crime. Unless they present you with a certified warrant, you are not required to let them conduct a search.

It is important to understand that preventing a search is not an admission of guilt. You are simply protecting yourself and your rights. Remember, the law has safeguards in place to protect you. Refusing a search without a warrant is your right and is in your best interest.

Do Not Speak with the Media and Stay Off Social Media

In most cases, arrest records are public. This means reporters can see when someone has been arrested. They may seek you out for public comment. It can be tempting to tell your side of the story. This is another time that seemingly innocent statements can make it difficult for your attorney to defend you. Always seek the advice of your lawyer before speaking with the media or making a public statement.

Social media is another thing to avoid. Anything you write on social media is considered public comment and could be used against you in court. Commenting on anything to do with your case would be a mistake. If you have already made comments on social media, seek your attorney’s advice about what to do. Taking them down may not be your best move.

Assault: A Closer Look at what Constitutes Assault

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At the most basic level, assault constitutes an act of inflicting unwanted physical contact upon a person or the threat to commit such an act. While this represents the definition of assault, it is much more complex.

Classes of Assault

The first element that makes assault cases complex is the different classes of assault.

Misdemeanor Assault

Misdemeanor assault charges carry less severe punishments than felonies, but still constitute serious crimes.  In order to be charged with a misdemeanor assault charge, the prosecutor must prove a person:

  • committed an overt act that a reasonable person would find as offensive or provocative
  • or actually caused bodily injury to another person
  • or threatened another person with imminent bodily injury

Felony Assault

One major differentiation factor between misdemeanor and felony assault is the presence of a weapon. If a weapon is involved, it is classified as felony assault. In order to be charged with a felony assault charge, the prosecutor must prove a person:

  • used a weapon, or caused serious bodily injury
  • or attempted to choke/strangle another person
  • or the other person was disabled, or elderly or a public servant

Types of Assault

Assault charges can fall within a variety of different categories depending on the act that was committed and who was impacted. Generally, assault charges will fit within the following categories:

  • Aggravated Assault
  • Domestic Violence
  • Harassment
  • Sexual Assault
  • Terroristic Threat

When it comes to assault charges, having the right legal representation is very important. Navigating the complicated legal process in assault cases is paramount and Mary Beth Harrell has the knowledge and expertise to build your defense. The team of assault lawyers at Harrell Law Firm understand the complexities of the various types of assault and can assist you today. Contact us today to speak with an attorney.

Understanding the Different Types of Sex Crimes

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A sex crime accusation has serious consequences and can impact the rest of your life, damaging your personal and professional reputation. There are many different types of sex crimes and if you have been accused of a sex crime, it is important to understand what the differences are between the types of sex crimes.

Indecency with a Child

Under Texas law, indecency with a child occurs when a person engages in sexual contact with a child or causes the child to engage in sexual contact, with the child being younger than 17 years of age. Indecency with a child can also occur when a person exposes themselves to a child or causes a child to expose themselves.

Indecent Exposure

Indecent exposure is committed when a person exposes any part of their genitals in order to arouse sexual desire. This can also be committed when a person is reckless about whether another person is present and would be offended.

Prostitution

In the state of Texas, the crime of prostitution is committed when a person knowingly engages in the exchange of sexual contact for a fee. It is also a crime to promote prostitution in Texas.

Public Lewdness

It is illegal in Texas to engage in sexual intercourse or sexual contact in a public space or in the presence of a person who will be offended.

Sexual Assault

Sexual assault constitutes a wide array of crimes and is committed when a person causes sexual contact to another person without consent.

Child Pornography

The possession of child pornography is illegal under Texas law and is committed when a person knowingly possesses material depicting a child younger than 18 engaging in sexual conduct.

Sex crimes carry serious consequences. While all sex crimes are not equal, they all carry stiff penalties and a cultural stigma. If you’ve been accused of a sex crime, you should contact a sexual assault lawyer immediately. Mary Beth Harrell has the experience and understanding to protect your rights. Contact Harrell Law Firm today to speak with a sexual assault attorney who can help.

Defending An Honorable Vet Suffering From PTSD Who Was Charged With A Drug Possession

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My client, John, walked out of Bell County district court with his “freedom papers”. His words not mine. John’s road to freedom spanned thirteen years. Back in 2006, John was arrested for possessing a usable amount of cocaine during a raid on a drug house outside Fort Hood. He was another homeless, jobless Army veteran with an incipient addiction. He’d meritoriously served 3 combat tours in Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan but was never evaluated for PTSD.  He’d never been arrested before.

Back then, he couldn’t make bond and wanted to get out of jail so he agreed to be placed on probation. The judge put him on probation for 6 years. Six (6) years. Probation is no cake walk. He had to report once a month to the probation office. He had to pay fees, fines and court costs adding up to a couple of hundred dollars a month.  He had to work off 300 hours of community service, complete and pay for an outpatient treatment program, attend 12 step meetings, complete several other classes, observe a curfew, and find a job and find a place to live and find a ride. A set up for failure. But a better option than going to prison. He got out and he tried, but six years can seem like an eternity when you’re that far behind. Within 6 months he gave up, started using again, left Texas and roamed from state to state. Meanwhile, the county filed a motion to revoke his probation and an arrest warrant was issued for him. But Texas wasn’t really looking for him.

A few months ago, John’s caregiver, Susan, called my office in a panic. She told me that VA stopped his benefits because he was a “fugitive from justice”. VA found the active arrest warrant so VA stopped his issuing his disability check, and refused to authorize his medication and counseling for severe, chronic PTSD with dissociative features, anxiety and anger issues. He wasn’t a danger to others but he was a danger to himself without the meds and treatment. They tried to work with VA but how do you reason with a bureaucratic monolith?

I worked with Susan to obtain his DD214, military awards and commendations, character letters, VA disability rating letter, letters from psychiatrists and providers stating his mental health diagnosis and treatment and medications. VA rated John as 100% disabled.

I initiated contact with the District Attorney’s office to try to get the warrant removed and the probation discharged but as the prosecutor would later tell the judge, “Ms. Harrell has her job to do and I have mine.” I gave the prosecutor the lengthy packet documenting John’s military service and awards, his VA disability rating, and the severity of his mental health diagnosis and extensive treatment. The prosecutor verified that John had not – not – been arrested again during that 13 year absence from Texas. But the prosecutor pointed out that John did not complete any of the probation requirements and was classified as an “absconder”. He said his hands were tied and he didn’t feel good about it.

So Susan drove John back to Texas and he turned himself in on the arrest warrant at the county jail on a Sunday. They brought his five different medications and the jail was administering them once a day though he was supposed to get his anxiety meds four times a day. John was holding it together.

We scheduled his probation revocation hearing for that Thursday. My client would break under the stress of testifying so I called Susan to testify. Susan had even completed the National Caregiver Veteran Training Program offered by VA so she could better assist John. She’s a lovely woman. She’d gone to Goodwill when she got to town to buy an outfit for court. She brought it by the office seeking our approval the day before the hearing. She looked sharp.

Susan told the court that she and John were adopted into the same family but were years apart in age, about 15 years. She’s known him all his life. John was born to a drug-addicted mother whose parental rights had been terminated. John has been living with her in California for about 4 years. She got him into VA for evaluation, diagnosis and treatment. She said it made a huge difference for John though he still has outbursts from time to time. She said on one occasion family and friends were gathered for a backyard barbeque and something triggered John’s PTSD. He started yelling and turning over tables. They called the police who took him to the hospital to get help. Susan testified that John has not used drugs or alcohol while he’s been with her. That he goes to all his VA appointments and takes his meds. Susan testified through her tears that “the Army broke him.” Susan is an army veteran too and she is proud of her military career. But she testified that “the Army broke him.” The courtroom was silent.

I asked the judge for mercy. I told the judge that California must be a liberal state because when their wounded vets act out, the local police take them to the hospital not to jail.  I asked the judge to dismiss the probation revocation and release my client from jail that day. I argued that it benefits no one to keep John in jail for any length of time and would grievously set back his mental health recovery. I gave the same packet to the judge that I’d given to the prosecutor documenting John’s meritorious military service and mental health issues.

It’s important to understand that Bell County is home to Fort Hood the largest military installation is the US. Our soldiers have been serving in armed conflicts since 2001. Our judges and prosecutors have become inured to the “PTSD defense.” Sympathy has been replaced by skepticism and frustration.

And the judge ultimately does not want to appear to be rewarding bad behavior. My client possessed cocaine then fled the state while on probation. He did do that, he violated the law. My job is to show facts that mitigate that behavior. John was dealing with his undiagnosed PTSD by using cocaine. After he stopped using and got the help he deserved and earned through his military service, he turned himself in on the warrant and was prepared to face the consequences.

I had to prove to the judge that John wasn’t “playing the PTSD card” as an excuse and I was successful. The judge dismissed the probation revocation and dismissed the underlying felony drug charge. John was released from jail that day and did not have a felony drug conviction on his record. Susan drove John back to California to get his VA benefits and care reinstated. Having an experienced, caring drug lawyer take on your case makes all the difference. If you or a loved one is experiencing a similar situation, feel free to contact Mary Beth Harrell today.

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What to Do When You’re Arrested for Drug Possession in Texas

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According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 10.1 million people reported driving under the influence of illicit drugs in 2014. Even more individuals choose to use drugs without ever getting behind the wheel. Although drug use is more common than most people would like to admit, the reality is that being caught with illicit substances can still have very serious consequences.

Understanding Texas Drug Crimes

You may think that using and carrying around your drug of choice is no big deal. In some states that might be true. But in Texas your entire future could be at risk if you’re charged with drug possession. Depending on the type of drugs found in your pockets, your car, your home, your luggage or even your backpack, you may face different penalties. Whether you’re accused of possessing cocaine, methamphetamines, ecstasy, prescription drugs, or marijuana, you could face harsh punishments that might include large fines and serious prison time. If convicted, your driver’s license could be suspended. If convicted of felony possession of a controlled substance, it could be extremely difficult for you to find a job and housing. Ultimately, one drug charge could change your whole life.

What to Do if You’re Arrested for Possession of Drugs

If you’re arrested, stay calm and be respectful of law enforcement. That doesn’t mean volunteering information; it simply means keeping your wits about you. Don’t argue with law enforcement, you will lose. Give the officer your name, date of birth and photo ID. But otherwise invoke your right to stay silent and refuse the search.  Be polite and smart, don’t answer questions until you obtain legal counsel. Never consent to the search of your person, vehicle, home or belongings. Because of the serious consequences you could face, it’s imperative that you hire a smart reputable drug lawyer. Your attorneys can ensure that your rights are protected and that you won’t make any mistakes that can hurt your chances in court.

Whether it’s marijuana or meth, a misdemeanor or felony, you need a lawyer. Trying to fight these charges by yourself will never work in your favor. You deserve help from a lawyer who has the experience to craft a superior defense. To learn more or to schedule a consultation, please contact the law offices of Mary Beth Harrell today!

First Offenses: Do You Really Need a DUI/DWI Lawyer?

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If you’re arrested for a DUI/DWI, it’s essential to understand the risks this poses for your future — especially if you opt to go it alone. If you are convicted of DUI/DWI – even your first – you will lose your driver’s license, pay a fine, court fees and surcharges totaling thousands of dollars. You may face jail time. If you’re placed on probation, then you may be ordered to install an interlock device in your vehicle.

A lot of people mistakenly believe that a first-time DUI arrest is no big deal. Although many first DUI offenses are classified as misdemeanors, that doesn’t hold true in every case.

If the allegedly intoxicated driver’s actions resulted in the injury or death of another person, the driver could be sentenced to 10 or 20 years in prison, even if it’s their first offense. Having a child present with you in the car at the time of your arrest can also result in felony charges. If these or other serious circumstances were a factor in your case, you will benefit from seeking out assistance from an experienced DUI/DWI lawyer. Because you could face serious prison time, it’s a smart idea to hire an experienced lawyer to mount a serious defense and potentially reduce the charges against you or get them dismissed.

For example, if your field sobriety test results can be called into question, your BAC levels were inaccurate, or arrest procedures were not followed, your DUI lawyer may be able to get the case dismissed or reduced to a lesser charge like attempted DWI/DUI or reckless driving.

The experience and training that your lawyer brings to your case makes a huge difference in the outcome. In most cases, it’s recommended that you hire a reputable lawyer — even for a first DUI arrest. For more information on how our firm can help you, please contact Mary Beth Harrell today.

DUI/DWI Myths Vs. Reality: 5 Misconceptions

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There are many misconceptions when it comes to information about DUI/DWI. To help sort out any preconceived ideas about what might cause an arrest or whether a DUI charge will stick, here are five busted myths about DUI and DWI.

1. Only people who drink and drive get arrested. Not true. Sober drivers are arrested for DUI/DWI. A police officer only needs probable cause that you’re intoxicated for them to arrest you. You may have been driving erratically because of fatigue or the breathalyzer may have given a false positive.

2. A field sobriety test can’t be used against me if I don’t take it. True. You can be still be arrested even if you refuse to take a field sobriety test but if you perform poorly on those tests then it will be used in court to try to prove you were intoxicated. There are many reasons why a person will perform these tests poorly: overweight, fatigue, bad knees, bad feet, poor physical coordination, age, stress, anxiety or other mental health issues. So it is better to not take the tests.

3. You won’t be arrested if you pass the field sobriety test. Not true. Police officers don’t rely solely on field sobriety tests to determine if there’s probable cause to arrest you. You can still be arrested for DUI/DWI even if you pass the test.

4. You won’t be arrested for DUI/DWI if you’ve pulled over to sober up. Not true. It’s always a good idea to pull over if you don’t trust yourself on the road. But you can still be arrested for DUI/DWI if the officer believes you were driving while intoxicated before you pulled over.

5. You can’t be arrested if your impaired driving was caused by medications. Not true. You can be arrested for DUI/DWI if your legal medications impaired your driving. It’s crucial that you look at the side effects of your medications before you get behind the wheel. Certain prescriptions can cause you to be drowsy, which can make affect your driving skills,

Where can I find a DUI attorney?

Mary Beth Harrell and her associate lawyers have the expertise you need to help you understand the details of your case and to work for you. For more information or to schedule a consultation with our DUI attorneys, contact Mary Beth Harrell today.

What to Do if You’ve Been Accused of Sexual Assault

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Take Your Case Seriously
The cornerstone of our criminal justice system is that you are innocent until proven guilty. Unfortunately, the court of public opinion usually convicts without the evidence. While there are countless men and women who should be believed by law enforcement and loved ones when they come forward to tell their stories, there are too many people who are falsely accused because of mistaken identity, misremembered events, or even acts of revenge. In this day and age, the general public may immediately side with the accuser, rather than with the accused. Even though a surprising number of sex assault cases do not have DNA or any other witnesses besides the person making the accusation, the prosecutor will not hesitate to take your case trial. Although you will certainly get your day in court, you shouldn’t put blind faith in our system. Just because you know you’re innocent doesn’t mean the truth will set you free. The prosecutors, police, their experts and your accuser are building a case against you. It’s vitally important that you hire an experienced, tough smart defense lawyer, rather than hoping that these accusations will simply go away.

Remain Silent

Any sexual assault lawyer will tell you that if and when you are arrested, you should invoke your right to remain silent. Doing so can ensure your rights are protected. When you’re facing charges like these, you should make it a rule to remain entirely silent about your case. You can, of course, trust your sexual assault lawyers and should be completely up front with them. But refrain from talking about your case to others, even if you think you can trust them. Don’t post anything that even alludes to your case on social media, either. Remember that if you say nothing, the prosecution will have much less to use against you in a trial.

Hire a Sexual Assault Lawyer
This area of law is extremely complex and the consequences you’ll face are incredibly serious including prison and lifetime registration as a sex offender. Don’t assume that only guilty people hire lawyers. It’s the smartest thing you can do to safeguard your future. If you or someone you know has been accused of sexual assault, hiring an attorney is an important first step. To learn more, please contact Mary Beth Harrell today.

240th Anniversary of the Declaration of Independence

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declaration of independenceIn an historic event in honor of our nation’s 240th anniversary, Mary Beth Harrell will lead local lawyers in Readings of the Declaration of Independence starting at noon at the flag pole in front of the Bell County courthouse in Belton. Bell County lawyer will join with lawyers around the lone star state who will lead Readings in all 254 counties. This event has been organized by the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association. It was first held in 2010 in just a handful counties.

The Declaration of Independence is our nation’s most cherished symbol of liberty embodying our stand against tyranny. Our founders resisted the illegal and immoral practices of the crown. Today, we continue to fight against the abuses of government: police and prosecutorial overreaching and misconduct. Prosecutors continue to withhold evidence, courts persist in plea mills, police abuse our citizens, and appellate courts engage in intellectual dishonesty to achieve a desired result while disregarding rules of law. Our readings are our reminder to all in the criminal justice system that abuses of power will be exposed and fought by the defense bar.

Please join us in honoring our nation’s most sacred document in the spirit of independence.