By Collin County Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal
This is probably the no. 1 question on the minds of many who come into my office. It’s a completely normal question I’d and probably worry about you if you didn’t care.
Obviously I can’t say yes or no unless I hear whats going on first.
Even then I can’t make promises though I can tell someone they’ve got a better chance of winning the lottery or getting struck by lightning than going back to jail after an initial arrest.
By the time most people are pondering this question it is as if a grenade has exploded in their living room. They or a loved one have gone through an ordeal they never imagined they’d face — going to jail then getting released on bond.
Then you or your loved ones read about sentence ranges for the particular charge and it’s hard not to fixate on the high number at the end of the punishment range to the exclusion of everything else. It is completely normal to have high anxiety wondering about the end result of the case and not knowing anything about the criminal justice system doesn’t help.
Here’s What I Can Say
The vast majority of people I help worry far too much about something totally unrealistic. They exaggerate their chances of going to back to jail in their own mind. Totally normal.
Law enforcement trends in most populated cities and suburbs in Texas are to lower inmate population. People with little or no criminal history simply don’t jam the jails on misdemeanor or low-grade felony offenses these days. Major emphasis is being placed on identifying other ways to address issues such as mental illness, addiction and even anger issues or conflict resolution other than jail.
And by the way… I’m going to work my hardest to acquit someone or get their case dismissed before we even get to jail questions!
The greatest chance for jail in someone’s future for someone coming into my office on most cases is violating terms and conditions of bond or probation. In other words, they may go back to jail if they use illegal substances, miss court, or drink alcohol when ordered not to do so while waiting for their case to be resolved or after they’ve been put on probation.
The good news here is the person is still in control of whether or not they face future incarceration. More good news is when people do go to jail on bond or probation violations — the time in jail is measured in days or weeks and not months or years.
I end up telling many people it is unrealistic to worry about future jail. I don’t mind repeating it 35 times if that is what it takes to take away the feeling a house has landed on you!
Normally my greatest concern is not future jail — it’s keeping your job and keeping your criminal history as clean as possible. This is a more realistic fear in many, many cases we handle.
When Jail is a Worry
There are times to worry about a jail sentence and not every place in Texas is the same. Each case is its own snowflake so trends I’ve discussed above may or may not apply to your situation.
The more severe the charge — the more likely it is we can’t safely rule future incarceration out. Even then we rarely realistically discuss worst-case scenarios.
*Jeremy Rosenthal is Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and licensed by the Supreme Court of Texas. Nothing in this article is intended to be legal advice. For legal advice you should see an attorney directly.