How You Can Know When You’ve Been Charged With A Crime
If you haven’t done anything wrong, you have nothing to worry about and no reason to expect police at your door with a warrant for your arrest, right? Not really. While most people will never face this horrible situation, it is possible that you or someone you know has been charged with a crime without their knowledge, and there is now a warrant out for their arrest. Reasons for this can range from a final decision from prosecutors looking at a questionable situation you were in and all the way to outright identity theft.
If you’re worried that you might have been charged with a crime, for whatever reason, you do have some ways to check. And if the worst happens and the police arrest you before you’ve had a chance to see what you might have been charged with, you still have the ability to contact a criminal defense lawyer.
Check Your Driving Record
One way to find out if you’ve been charged with a crime is to look at your driving record from the Department of Public Safety (DPS). This is a particularly important step if you fear you’re being charged with a crime due to ID theft. If there are any citations linked to your driver’s license number, they should show up here. These do not necessarily mean you’re about to be charged with a crime, but you should clear up any mistakes and incorrect information. If you find something, call DPS and let them know why you checked (e.g., you were worried about a recent incident of theft and are monitoring for problems, and you found one) and ask about which agency is in charge of dealing with that violation.
Now, if the violation you find is legitimate, you can’t clear it from your record. But you can investigate it further to ensure you haven’t been charged without your knowledge. If you’re worried that speaking directly with DPS about it could result in your arrest, contact a lawyer first.
Call Local Police
You can also call the local police department and ask them to do a warrant check. Again, it may help to let the police know why you’re checking as that influences the advice they may give you next. For example, if you’re worried about ID theft, and you find there’s a warrant out for “your” arrest for something that you did not do, the police can help you find resources to combat the theft. If the warrant stems from a situation you were actually involved in, the police can give you information on how to proceed. Then you need to contact a lawyer immediately because, if that arrest warrant is legit, the police will want you to turn yourself in.
Search Public Records
Arrest warrants and criminal charges are public record in Texas, and best of all, you can check for them online now. Look under both the name you usually use and variations such as nicknames, misspellings, with and without your middle name if you have one, and so on. If you can check by address, look that up, too. This might seem like overkill at first. If you’re in a situation where you’re worried about being charged, however, you want to cover all bases possible. You don’t need to wake up in the middle of the night, worried that maybe there is a charge and that they used a common alternate spelling of your name on the paperwork.
What to Do if You’ve Been Charged With a Crime
Let’s repeat this again: If you find a warrant or charge with your name on it, contact a lawyer immediately, especially if the charge is for a DWI as there are time limits attached to that, that could affect your ability to keep your license. The lawyer can help you approach the police in a way that is safest for you.
What to Do if the Police Just Show up to Arrest You?
Obviously, if a police officer arrives at your home and places you under arrest, well, chances are you’ve been charged with a crime. This isn’t the optimal way to find out about it, but you have options. You’ll likely be taken to the police station and possibly placed in jail. You might not find out what the charges are or see the warrant when placed under arrest, so be extra careful with speaking to the police. They may try to question you, but you shouldn’t answer anything until you have a lawyer present. Do be polite! Assume you’re being watched and/or recorded throughout the whole process. You may have the opportunity to get out of jail temporarily by posting bail or a bail bond, and you don’t want to give the police or court any additional reasons to keep you in custody.
You’ll have the opportunity to get your own lawyer or have one assigned by the court. Trying to find a lawyer at the last minute or dealing with a court-appointed legal representative who might not be too enthused about your case could make things more difficult for you. This is another reason why checking on your own to see if there are charges with your name on them is so important; it gives you time to find a lawyer who will help you and look out for you.
Whether you’ve been charged with DWI or another crime, you need a criminal defense lawyer who knows Texas law inside and out. Your rights are at stake, and a good criminal defense lawyer can at least help you mitigate some of the effects of the charges, such as reducing charges or even preventing you from having to participate in a trial. Look for a lawyer who concentrates on the type of crime you’ve been charged with. If you’re in the Austin/San Marcos/Georgetown region, call Stephen Bowling DWI & Criminal Defense Attorneys. From DWIs and drug charges to domestic violence, we’ve helped people deal with life-changing charges. Our office also understands the importance of being released from custody, and we can help secure your release.
If you or a loved one has been charged with a crime or has found an arrest warrant in their name, you need a good attorney now. Do not attempt to fight this by yourself; the legal system is huge and full of pitfalls that could inadvertently make things worse for you. The office of Stephen Bowling DWI & Criminal Defense Attorneys is here to help.
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