Constitutional Rights


How to Dismiss Your Public Defender

Constitutional Rights | Criminal Defense | Public Defenders

Anyone accused of a crime is entitled to fair legal representation. This includes the right to a lawyer. If you cannot financially afford to hire your own lawyer, the courts are required to supply you with one. Although you do not get to choose your court-appointed lawyer, you must remember that he or she is required to work hard to represent you.

If you are not satisfied with your appointed attorney, you can submit a request for new representation. You might consider firing your attorney if he or she does not have any experience with cases similar to yours, or you do not feel like he or she understands your specific needs. If you do choose to let go of your court-appointed counsel, you have a few options for legal representation.

Request a New Lawyer

You can always request a new attorney, but the judge does not have to grant your request. If you cannot afford to hire your own lawyer and wish to use a public defender, you don’t get to choose who will be assigned your case.

Depending on the jurisdiction, you will either file your request with the judge or the public defender’s office. The judge will then consider the reason for the request and decide whether or not to allow you to change lawyers.

Your court-appointed lawyer can also ask to be relieved from your case. If this happens, a new attorney will be appointed to you.

Hire a Private Lawyer

If possible, hiring your own attorney is the best option. After dismissing the lawyer who was assigned to you, seek out private counsel willing to take your case for a reduced fee. Some lawyers might defend you pro-bono and other attorneys have affordable payment plans.

Court-appointed lawyers are assigned to defend clients who cannot afford to hire an attorney. If your financial circumstances change during the course of the trial, the judge may dismiss your appointed attorney anyway, and you will be forced to find your own representation.

Represent Yourself

If you cannot afford a lawyer and do not wish to keep the one who was assigned to you, you may choose to represent yourself in court. However, this option should only be considered as a last resort. Lawyers study the law for years and receive continuous training on new laws and procedures. If you choose to represent yourself, be prepared to spend a lot of time studying the details and laws of your particular case.

Return of Seized Property

Constitutional Rights | Criminal Defense | Search and Seizure

It is very common for law enforcement officers and agents to confiscate personal property during an arrest. There are several reasons for this course of action and, depending on the type of item confiscated, it may be possible to retrieve the property. However, property such as controlled substances will not be returned to the owner and will usually be checked into the evidence locker at the police station or will be destroyed. Some other types of property cannot be returned to the owner once they have been confiscated because they will be used in a trial to secure a conviction.

When Do Police Officers Confiscate Property?

Typically, law enforcement officers search and seize property when they feel that the items will be used in a criminal trial. This is the main reason for property confiscation, and the illegal possession of the property is usually the cause of the arrest. When someone illegally possesses this type of property, the property is known as contraband, and it cannot be returned to the owner.

Items That are Confiscated the Most

Another type of property confiscation is known as forfeiture. When certain items are used in the commission of a crime, the items will be legally forfeited into the custody of law enforcement. Such items typically include:

  • Cash that was gained from selling illegal drugs
  • Illegal weapons and vehicles that have been stolen.

One of the most common types of property confiscation is performed for the safekeeping of the items being confiscated. This is most often done at the scene of an arrest or when someone is being checked into the custody of a jail. These items are usually found on the person of the individual under arrest and often include:

  • Small amounts of money
  • Jewelry
  • Cell phones
  • Certain articles of clothing

These types of property are generally the easiest to retrieve after an arrest has been made.

How to Retrieve Confiscated Property

In order to retrieve confiscated property after an arrest, there are certain steps that must be followed. When someone is booked into jail and their personal belongings are confiscated for safekeeping, the jail clerk will secure their items into storage and catalog the items according to the name of the owner. They will then present the owner with a voucher or receipt to ensure that all of the property is accounted for.

To retrieve this property after being released from custody, the owner must present proper identification as well as their voucher to the jail clerk. The items will then be released from secure storage.

For more information about property retrieval after an arrest, speak to Mario Madrid at 713-877-9400.

A Person’s Right to a Speedy Trial

Constitutional Rights | Criminal Defense

According to the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, every civilian who is accused of committing a crime has a right to a “speedy” trial. Just as every defendant is entitled to a public hearing in a court of law, every defendant also has the opportunity to stand before an impartial judge and jury in a timely manner.

The right to a speedy trial exists primarily to safeguard the interests of the people. Without this rule, a defendant could be locked up for years before his case comes to trial. Pretrial delays could also cause irreparable harm to a defendant’s case as the passage of time erases evidence and witnesses from existence.

Determining Speedy Trial Violations

Once he has been charged with a crime, a defendant can claim at any time that his right to a speedy trial has been violated. The presiding judge must then weigh four specific factors to determine whether this claim has merit:

  • How long has the defendant waited? First, the judge will decide whether the duration of the delay is acceptable. Few speedy-trial violations are granted for delays that last less than a year after the defendant’s initial arrest. The prosecutor in the case is free to present an explanation for the unusual length of the pretrial delay.
  • What are the reasons for delaying the trial? Whether the prosecution or defense is ultimately responsible for the delay, the judge will then evaluate the stated reason for its occurrence. In general, neither the prosecution nor the defense may intentionally delay the court trial for the purpose of strengthening its own case. If a key witness has gone missing or more time is necessary for evidence collection and analysis, the judge may allow the delay to continue.
  • How has the delay affected the defendant? The judge will also evaluate the ongoing effects of the delay. If it appears to be benefiting the prosecution by causing key defense witnesses to disperse, the defendant may argue that his right to a speedy trial has been violated.
  • Did the defendant demand a speedy trial? Finally, the defendant must take action in order to ensure that his right to a speedy trial is upheld. In other words, the defendant cannot wait until the trial’s sentencing phase to voice his displeasure with the pace of the proceedings. An accused person who is unhappy about the length of pretrial delays should voice his dissatisfaction early on. If he sits back and silently endures a delay,  it is assumed that he waived his right to a fast criminal trial.

If the judge determines that the defendant’s right was in fact violated, he will either dismiss the case or overturn an existing conviction. The outcome of the violation depends entirely upon the defendant’s wishes.

Talk to attorney Mario Madrid at 713-877-9400 to learn more about a defendant’s constitutional rights in court.

You Have A Right To Confront Your Accusers

Constitutional Rights | Criminal Defense

The Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution  provides that in all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to be confronted with the witnesses against him. Generally, the right is to have a face-to-face confrontation with witnesses who are offering testimonial evidence against the accused in the form of cross-examination during a trial.Supreme_Court

Our founding fathers found it important that if you are charged with a crime you have the right to look your accuser in the eye and confront him. In Bullcoming v. New Mexico, 131 S.Ct. 2705, the United States Supreme Court addressed the issue as to whether the confrontation clause allows prosecutors to introduce introduce a forensic lab report containing a testimonial certification, through the testimony of an analyst who did not personally perform or observe the tests reported in the certification.

The court did not allow the testimony, unless the witness who made the statement was unavailable  and the defendant had a prior opportunity to confront the witness. It is an important decision as it protects us all in unwanted prosecutions.

The government must bring the accuser.

Science is being used more and more in the courtroom. It is important to hold the government to its burden and force them prove up the tests or analysis that they use in their prosecution, with more than a piece of paper.

If you are someone you know is in need of the services of a Houston defense lawyer for criminal cases, call Texas Board Certified Attorney Mario Madrid at 713-877-9400.

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