Chances are, if law enforcement is investigating you for an internet crime, you will not know it until they come to your home or place of business armed with a search warrant. Due to the nature of these investigations, it is a common tactic for police to build a case without tipping off the defendant. And, when they feel they have enough evidence to charge the individual with a crime, they will seek a warrant from a Texas judge. This warrant will serve as their license to seize the property of the suspect that they feel will further support the commission of the alleged crime.
No one wants to be in the position of being forced to turn over their computers and other technology so that law enforcement can strengthen their case against them. However, given the expansive nature of the internet crimes statute in Texas, these types of arrests can stem from investigations of alleged conduct that some individuals may not even know is a crime.
If you are facing allegations of committing internet crimes, there are certain steps that you should immediately take to ensure that you are protected.
Evoke Your Right To Counsel
Law enforcement often makes significant errors in their investigations. They leave loose ends that they realize after the execution of a search warrant. In some cases, police will want to take a second bite of the investigative apple by attempting to make contact with the suspect a second time before the preliminary hearing.
Texas law provides that when a suspect is criminally charged, they must be heard by a judge within 48 hours. For law enforcement looking to shore up their case before the initial hearing, this period can provide them with a lifetime of opportunity.
You do not want to wait for the preliminary hearing for you to evoke your right to counsel. Do it right away, even if you have not officially retained counsel. The evocation of counsel ensures that law enforcement is on notice that they cannot question you without your lawyer present. Simply stating, “I will not speak to you without my counsel present” should suffice. If law enforcement continues to push you, it is essential to remain silent; sooner or later, they will get the point and back off.
Keep Your Mouth Shut
The best witness in an internet crimes case is the suspect. Even if you have asserted your right to counsel, this does not preclude law enforcement from presenting evidence as to what you have said to others about the alleged offenses.
It is often the time right after the initial contact with law enforcement that suspects open their mouths the most, trying to vent to their loved ones about the circumstances surrounding the police encounter. Although some laws protect certain individuals from testifying against a suspect, such as the Marital Privilege law, do not count on these laws to protect you when you pour your heart to third parties.
The one, and only person you should talk openly about the criminal case with, is your attorney. The Sixth Amendment Right to Counsel and the Attorney-Client Privilege ensures that whatever you say in these meetings cannot be brought against you as evidence when your internet crimes case goes to trial.
Be Prepared For Your Preliminary Hearing
The Preliminary hearing in an internet crimes case is where the prosecution must present sufficient evidence to show that it is more likely than not that the crime alleged did, in fact, occur. This hearing is also where the judge determines the imposition of bail.
There are serious consequences that result from excessive bail, such as sitting in the county jail until your case is heard before a jury, which can be months away from the preliminary hearing. To give yourself the best possible chance of avoiding such an outcome, you must come to the preliminary hearing prepared to argue why little or no bail is required to ensure that you appear for future court appearances.
Internet Crimes Are No Joke
The Texas statute regarding internet crimes is broad for a reason. The statute’s purpose is to catch as many suspects as possible who may or may not be performing illegal acts online. Although the penalties are significant and the consequences are serious, an internet crime charge is not necessarily a straight path to a conviction if you can take immediate steps early in the process to mitigate your risk.
Are you or a loved one facing internet crimes charges? Reach out to us today to get your initial consultation underway. Let’s get you on the path to fighting these charges with the best representation out there in Vinas & Graham, PLLC. Be sure to follow us on Facebook for other legal and defense topics!