I’m Jeff Hampton with the Hampton Law Firm. Today I want to talk about what to do if you’ve been arrested for assault, but it was the other guy who was really at fault. Why didn’t the police arrest him? By the way, if you wait around to the end of this video, I’ll also give you a free eBook: “What to Do If You Have Been Charged with a Crime in Texas.”
We see this happen all the time. Someone ends up being arrested for assault. It’s pretty clear the other person appeared to start the fight, but then the police choose to go ahead and arrest you instead of the so-called victim, right? Why didn’t they arrest the guy who actually started the fight to begin with? Well, usually this happens for three reasons. We’re going to identify three examples of times where we see this happen.
In fact, scenarios one of them is when the other party has more injuries than you did. Now think about this. This happens all the time. It’s going on right now in any evening at any bar that might be taking place in the north Texas area. Let’s say a guy in a bar stands up. He’s had too much to drink. He looks at you, and you’re sitting there, and as a result of that, he begins to kind of poke at you and pushes you, and he says, “Hey, what are you looking at?” You say, “What are you looking at?” And then the guy begins to get aggressive with you, and then you know what happens is the aggressor bites off more than he can chew, and then as a result of that, the guy who was minding his own business, you presumably, ends up finishing the fight when you were really just trying to defend yourself.
Now, this happens all the time. The problem with it is, what do you think takes place? The police show up. They get to the bar. Things get a little heated. The police show up, and what do they find? They find this guy, the other guy, sitting there with more injuries than you do, and now they have to decide: who are they going to believe? Do they think the guy who’s hurt most was probably the victim, or you, who doesn’t appear that you were hurt as badly at all? Maybe you were the aggressor, right? The problem is, the police sometimes tend to grade whether someone’s a victim or a defendant, someone who should be arrested, based upon how bad the injuries are of the people when they show up, especially if there’s a situation where there are no other witnesses and no one else saw what was going on. You’ve got he-said, he-said situation. So that’s one of the examples where we see that happen.
Scenario number two is where you remain silent when you talk, and the other party stays silent.
Okay, so let’s say the police show up and they start asking questions. They’re going to want both sides to give their stories, beware. Okay, the moment you begin to open your mouth, everything you say can and will be used against you. You can count on that. If the police officer begins to ask you questions, let’s say you acted in self-defense very clearly. You’re very eager to explain this to the police. You go to the Fort Worth Police Officer, and you say Look, yeah, I hit him. I popped him right in the mouth because of what he did to me. Look at what he did to me. He grabbed hold of me, and I was in fear for myself. I thought he was about to do something that put me in fear for my life, right? But yet, they look over, and the cop looks over and sees this other guy with half his face torn up because you punched him, right? You happened to be good at being able to defend yourself.
Well, in that situation, what do you think they’re going to do? First of all, they see this other guy, and let’s say this other guy is looking at you, and he’s quiet, but he’s the one that’s hurt. Well, now you’ve opened your mouth. What do you think the police are going to write down? The police are going to say you admitted to hitting him.
Now, a statement that you might have made in innocence can actually be used as a means to show that, according to the police, you confessed to a crime that you obviously were not meaning to confess to? It’s critical to understand that in many situations, you’re putting a lot of faith and trust in a police officer to write down exactly what you meant, and hopefully, they do not either misinterpret or manipulate what you’re saying in order for them to be able to arrest you on scene.
What if you remain silent, and the other guy talks? Now, you’re not going to say anything, anything at all. But what do you think is going to happen on the other end? The other guy’s going to blame you for everything. He’s going to say you were the aggressor, and they came to you, and that you came to him, and that he only acted in self-defense against you. Well, here’s the reality – the police only need probable cause in order to get a warrant, or not even a warrant, just probable cause to arrest you, right? Then, if they see injury and if they believe a crime is taking place, so in that situation, it’s really important to understand if you keep your mouth closed and he opens his mouth, they could use that information to arrest you. But I don’t want you to be confused by that. It does not mean that you should still open your mouth.
It is always a good idea to remain silent because the moment you begin to open your mouth, it’s not you necessarily telling your story. Please understand, the police are trained to interrogate you. So, it’s easy to say, “Look, I defended myself. That’s all I’ve got to say. I didn’t do anything wrong.” The moment you begin to talk and answer questions, and you begin to get into this interrogation mode, the police can begin to twist and turn things that you did not say or mean to say. Now, it looks like it’s the gospel truth that you’ve committed this crime. So be very careful about that. You cannot control how the police choose to see a situation, but you can control what information you provide to the police in that situation.
Situation Number Three, the police might think you took the fight too far. And we see this happen where the situation arises where maybe you act out of self-defense. We have a client that acts out of self-defense, and maybe the police think, “Well, it was not proportionate. What you did was not proportionate to the amount of threat or force that was being brought against you by the other individual.”
For example, we represented a client where a man continued to bully him, continuing to come to him threatening him, saying that he was going to do these things to him. Well, he shows up one day at his work, and he literally just swings at our client, punches him right in the face. Well, then what does our client do? Our client grabs a hold of him, puts him in a headlock, and I mean, he pounds this guy to the point where the guy ends up with a concussion. He ends up at the hospital. He ends up in there for several days, with some pretty significant injuries. Well, he now has to have surgery for facial repair. So, what do you think the police do? The police go to him and start interviewing him, and now they’re like, “Hey, what you did was too much, even if you think it was self-defense. We don’t believe you. We’re not going to arrest you for an assault.” So, it’s really important to understand that in that situation, the police charged our client because they believed his defense was not proportionate to the threat that was being brought to him.
Okay, so now what do you do about these situations? I can go over all these types of hypotheticals all day, but you know you didn’t do anything wrong, and you know the police are arresting the wrong guy. What do you do about this? Well, I want to remind you of something. If you acted in self-defense, don’t forget, in Texas, the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that what you did was not self-defense. Literally, they must prove a negative beyond a reasonable doubt.
So, a jury will have to look at the facts of the case, and they’ll have to consider what happened, and they’re going to have to prove that you were not acting defensively in your situation. That can many times be a very difficult burden for the State of Texas to prove. Okay, and what I mean by that is, especially if both sides have injuries, as long as you’re not opening your mouth and allowing them to twist and turn any information or depending upon what other witnesses might have been present and what they would say, it makes it very difficult for the State of Texas to prove that self-defense argument beyond a reasonable doubt.
It’s very important. It is particularly when you’re innocent, it is particularly when you’re acting in self-defense, that you have to be the most careful when you’re having conversations with the police regarding what information you share.
Remember, if you’re under investigation for something similar to this and a police officer is trying to follow up with you about it, trying to get you to talk more, give a written statement, provide additional information, you have a Sixth Amendment right to counsel, to hire an attorney. You also have a Fifth Amendment right not to have to speak to that officer. You can have your criminal attorney help you with that process, and everything your attorney says is hearsay and it cannot be used against you. The great thing about that strategy is your criminal lawyer can actually share helpful information for you, and it can be useful in order to hopefully avoid a case, but it cannot be used against you in court if the police officer or that detective chooses to not make use of that information.
Now, I hope that was helpful for you. Listen, I want to provide you with a free eBook here today, “What to Do If You Have Been Charged with a Crime in Texas.” All you have to do is click down into the link or down into the actual text portion of the YouTube video, give us your email address, and we’ll be happy to send that over to you. And if I encourage you, if you like what you’ve heard today, if you’d like to hear more great criminal defense content like this, subscribe to our YouTube channel, like this video, and we’ll see you on our next video series.