Clients often come into our office confused about criminal charges saying authorities do not have any evidence. No fingerprints, DNA, video, photos or witnesses are involved. It’s just the accusation of another person.
First, sworn testimony is often enough to sustain a conviction. But even when there is evidence, it may be contaminated or suspect for a variety of reasons.
It takes an experienced criminal law attorney to put together a strong defense that protects your rights.
Competency of an accuser
When the basis for a criminal charge is an accusation, the main issue is whether the person is competent to be a witness. This question of competency looks at whether the accuser is insane or lacks sufficient intellect to testify at trial.
Someone suffering from schizophrenia with faulty perceptions might not be competent. Another example occurs with young children who might not fully understand the concept of “truth.” However, this is a relatively low bar and some very young children have been allowed to testify at trial.
The Harris County District Attorney’s office takes accusations seriously and frequently will take these one-witness cases all the way to trial. Then it is up to a jury to decide whether the accuser is telling the truth.
Bringing up anything that indicates an accuser is prone to exaggerate or was influenced to make accusations must be done carefully. Criminal rules limit what evidence can be used to undermine an accuser’s credibility. But this is essential when a case rests on the testimony of one other person.
Evidence that may not be reliable
What about cases when there is some physical evidence. Law enforcement may tell you they have fingerprints or blood work that proves the case.
Just last week, the Houston Chronicle reported on mistakes by a Houston crime-scene investigator that raises questions in many cases. An audit by the Houston Forensic Science Center (HFSC) uncovered errors in 65 cases since 2015. These included failing to gather possible evidence, including weapons and shell casings.
The criminal cases were not minor. Questions have been raised in homicides, officer-involved shootings and deaths of children. The crime scene investigator involved has since been reassigned to a different position.
This is not an isolated situation. As the Houston Chronicle reports, other issues have included improper destruction of evidence, incorrect roadside tests as well as a toxicology expert who misrepresented her qualifications. It takes the experience of a veteran criminal defense attorney to uncover when evidence is flawed.
Whether criminal charges stem from the accusation of one person or involve physical evidence, do not give a statement to police before seeking legal advice.
Immediately call the Mingledorff Law Firm to schedule a consultation with Ken or Judy. Our attorneys quickly step into action to protect your rights and build a strong defense strategy.