• NOTICE
  • This site is maintained by the El Paso County Public Defender's Office as a public service. It is intended for informational purposes only. The information here is not legal advice. If you are in need of legal advice please CLICK HERE.

Office Hours:
Monday - Friday
7:30 am - 5:30 pm

Address:
500 E. San Antonio
Suite 501
El Paso, Texas 79901
Phone (915) 546-8185
Fax (915) 546-8186

publicdefender@epcounty.com

El Paso County Public Defender

  • NOTICE: This site is maintained by the El Paso County Public Defender's Office as a public service. It is intended for informational purposes only. The information here is not legal advice. If you are in need of legal advice please CLICK HERE.
  • Know your Rights
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  • Every person accused of a crime in the United States has the following rights:
  • 1. The right to remain silent.
  • 2. The right to a lawyer when accused of an offense which could put him in jail.
  • 3. The right to have a lawyer present during questioning by law enforcement.
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  • Other rights you’re entitled to:
  • *In addition, the Texas Constitution guarantees accused individuals.
  • *If you are not a United States Citizen, the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations also guarantees
  • *If you are stopped for driving while intoxicated (DWI)
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  • 1) You have the right to remain silent.
  • Under the 5th Amendment of the United States Constitution, you cannot be forced to give testimony against yourself.  This means that no one can make you admit to having committed a crime, or even make a statement that could make it appear that you committed a crime.  So if you have ever heard “I’ll plead the fifth,” it means the person intends to remain silent. Some law enforcement officers act negatively or try to pressure you if you decide not to talk to them. But this is your right and you are entitled to stick to it.  Our law says remaining silent is not evidence of guilt, and the fact of your silence cannot be used against you in court.
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  • Do not assume that law enforcement understands you plan to not make a statement—you must tell them clearly that you don’t intend to answer their questions. They may repeat the question more than once “just to make sure.”
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  • But if you choose to make a statement, that statement—whatever it may be—will be used against you.  When you are in the custody of law enforcement (not free to leave), they must warn you of your right to remain silent.  If you find yourself in a situation where you are being asked about a crime, the best option is to have a lawyer present to advise you.
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  • Police will not automatically ask if you can afford a lawyer, nor will they know that you cannot afford a lawyer if you don’t tell them.  If you want a lawyer, tell the officers you want to have the lawyer with you before discussing anything else.  Also if you cannot afford a lawyer, you must tell the police you cannot afford to hire a lawyer, and you are asking to have one appointed to represent you.
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  • Never lie to a police officer. If an officer asks for your name and date of birth, you must give it, because failure to identify yourself, or giving a false name and/or date of birth is a crime.
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  • Do not be rude to police officers; it never helps—in fact, it can make things much worse.
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  • 2) You have the right to have a lawyer to defend you in court if you are accused of a jailable offense, whether you have a trial or get a plea bargain. If you do not have enough money to hire a lawyer, you have the right to request an appointed lawyer. If you qualify based on your income, the court will appoint one to represent you.
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  • 3) You have the right to have a lawyer present during questioning by police if you decide to talk to police officers.  The lawyer can advise you on the possible legal consequences of anything that you say.
  • If you cannot afford to hire a lawyer, then the State of Texas must provide one to advise you and make sure you understand what is happening, and what can result from what you tell police officers or other members of law enforcement.
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  • Other rights that you’re entitled to:
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  • In addition, the Texas Constitution guarantees accused individuals:
  • The right to end an interview by law enforcement at any time. This means that if you start to talk to police officers, and then decide that you no longer want to continue talking to the police officers, then you can stop talking to them at any time, but you must say so clearly.
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  • If you are not a United States Citizen, the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations also guarantees:
  • The right to speak with a representative from your country's Consulate before any questioning by police officers.  This is true whether or not you are a permanent legal resident in the United States.
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  • If you are a US citizen traveling outside of the US, you are entitled to this same protection if you are accused of a crime in another country that is a participant in the Vienna Convention. The purpose of this protection is to be sure a person accused of a crime in a foreign country knows their rights, is provided legal representation, and is informed of the laws in that country.
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  • You have the right to privacy in your home or possessions. If a member of law enforcement asks if it is OK for them to search or look through your car, your home, or any of your other possessions, you DO NOT have to give them your permission or approval if there is no warrant.  Refusing to let law enforcement search your home or property does not mean you are guilty; it only means that you are relying on constitutional protections against unreasonable searches.
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  • Law enforcement may obtain a warrant, or court order, to search or seize your property. Then you must comply with the warrant.  Later on, the warrant, search, and/or the seizure can be reviewed in a court hearing to determine if evidence was taken illegally by the police.
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  • If you are stopped for driving while intoxicated (DWI):
  • First, be aware, DWI does not apply to alcohol only; it may also be marihuana, other illegal drugs, and even prescription or over-the-counter medications. Even if a prescription medication under a doctor’s prescription leaves you without the normal use and control of your body and mind you can still be charged with and may be convicted of DWI.
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  • You may be asked to submit to a breath or blood analysis to determine the amount of alcohol in your system. If you submit to the breath analysis test and the machine indicates that your blood alcohol is above 0.08 (the legal limit in Texas), your driver's license will be suspended for at least 90 days (if you are over 21 years) and 60 days (if you are under 21 years), and you will probably be taken to jail, and the police will have scientific evidence that you drank alcohol and that you were legally "intoxicated" under Texas law at the time of the test.
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  • If you submit to the breath test and the machine indicates that your blood alcohol level is below .08 you may still be taken to jail if the officer reports that you did not have the normal use of your mental and physical faculties because of either drinking alcohol, using drugs or both.
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  • If you refuse to take the breath analysis test, your driver's license will be suspended for at least 180 days. If you are younger than 21 years of age and have any detectable amount of alcohol in your system, your driver’s license will be automatically suspended for at least 60 days.  Besides that, you will probably be taken to jail.  Further, be aware that if you choose to object to giving a breath sample, the officers may approach a judge to get a warrant, or court order to test your blood.
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  • Additional Resources
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  • National Legal Aid Defenders Association National Legal Aid Defender Association
    National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers
    Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association
  • State Bar of Texas
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