Texas Criminal Process
Many people who have been charged with a criminal offense have no previous experience with the justice system in Texas. For these types of alleged offenders, there can be tremendous fear and confusion about what to expect and what will be required in order to resolve their cases.
Michael J. Price works closely with every client they represent, answering every question and addressing every concern. Law Office of Price & Wiggins, P.C. aggressively defends people against many types of criminal charges.
Michael helps residents in Georgetown as well as such nearby areas as Hutto, Taylor, Leander, Cedar Park, and Round Rock. Let our criminal defense attorneys review your case by calling (512) 354-1880 to set up a free, confidential consultation.
Overview of Texas Criminal Process
- What happens before, during, and immediately after an arrest is made?
- How does a grand jury work?
- What happens at an arraignment?
- How does a suspect get released from jail?
- What motions get filed before a trial?
- What happens at a criminal trial?
- How does a sentencing hearing work?
- What options does an alleged offender have if he or she receives an unfavorable verdict?
- Where can I learn more about this process in Williamson County?
Law enforcement officers usually begin conducting an investigation when they arrive at the scene of an alleged crime. The first person they will typically interview is any alleged victim followed by any possible witnesses. If there is a suspect, then authorities nay detain him or her before questioning and either arresting or releasing him or her.
The length of time required for an investigation can vary depending on the alleged crime. A motorist who is suspected of driving while intoxicated (DWI) can be investigated and arrested within a matter of minutes, but a case involving white-collar crime such as fraud can take several months before an alleged offender is charged.
The suspect in a criminal case can be arrested when law enforcement has either a warrant or probable cause that the alleged offender broke the law. When a criminal suspect is in police custody, officers should issue a Miranda warning before asking him or her any questions about the alleged crime. This notifies alleged offenders of the following rights:
- Their right to remain silent and that anything they say can and will be used against them in a court of law
- Their right to talk to a lawyer and have him or her present while they are being questioned
During the booking process, the police are allowed to ask preliminary questions, such as the suspect’s name and date of birth, that are exempt from the Miranda warning. Law enforcements also fingerprint and take photographs of the alleged offender.
In misdemeanor criminal cases, the arresting officer files criminal charges with the district attorney’s office. If the district attorney decides to prosecute the alleged offender with a crime, then he or she will file “an information,” which is a written statement that charges the suspect with the commission of a criminal offense.
Felony criminal cases, however, require an indictment from a grand jury. Grand juries are organized by district judges and they vote in secret after hearing all of the prosecutor’s evidence. There are two possible vote results:
- True Bill — Under Texas Code of Criminal Procedure § 19.40, nine of 12 grand jurors need to agree in order to return an indictment, also known as a true bill.
- No Bill — If less than nine grand jurors vote to charge a suspect with the alleged offense, then the grand jury returns a no bill, or votes not to pursue criminal charges.
This is generally the first court appearance for an alleged offender after criminal charges have been filed. The suspect will appear before a judge and be formally presented with the criminal charges against him or her.
The alleged offender will also enter a plea, which is usually one of the following:
- Guilty — The suspect admits his or her guilt, forfeits his or her right to trial, and the case proceeds to sentencing.
- No Contest — Also known as “Nolo Contendere,” which is Latin for “I do not wish to contend,” the suspect is neither admitting guilt nor challenging the charges against him or her. The suspect still forfeits his or her right to trial and the case proceeds to sentencing.
- Not Guilty — The suspect challenges the charges against him or her and the state is required to prove his or her guilt in a criminal trial before the alleged offender can be sentenced.
Some suspects may refuse to enter a plea or attempt to enter a creative plea, but the judge will often enter a plea of not guilty on behalf of these alleged offenders and the suspects could also face additional consequences for their noncooperation.
Under Chapter 17 of Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, there are essentially three types of bail bonds that a judge may order if he or she grants a suspect’s release:
- Surety Bond — An authorized person or company guarantees the court that the alleged offender will be present for all court appearances. If he or she does not appear in court, then the bonding company or bondsman is liable for the full bail amount. Bonding companies or bondsmen typically charge alleged offenders a fraction (often 10 percent) of the total bail or their services, but this amount is non-refundable.
- Cash Bond — The alleged offender is the principal on this type of bond and posts the entire amount of required bail by cash, cashier’s check, or money order. After he or she is released, the alleged offender will have this amount refunded so long as he or she makes all scheduled court appearances.
- Personal Bond — The alleged offender is released without any sureties or financial security, but agrees to make all scheduled court appearances.
The alleged offender’s criminal defense attorney may file any number of motions before a trial that can challenge a prosecutor’s evidence, dismiss charges, or have some other type of impact on the case. Possible motions that may be filed include, but are not limited to:
- Motion for Discovery
- Motion to Disclose Expert Witnesses
- Motions in Limine
- Motion for Pre-Trial Hearing
- Motion to Suppress Evidence
If a criminal case moves to trial, then this is process typically involves the following processes:
- Selection of jury
- Information or indictment read to jury
- Defendant enters plea
- Prosecutions and defense make opening statements
- Prosecution and defense present their cases
- Prosecution and defense rebuttals
- Closing arguments
- Jury instructions
- Jury deliberations
In many cases, sentences for alleged offenders are prearranged as the result of a plea bargain. However, in cases in which the prosecutor and defense lawyer did not agree to a sentence before a jury verdict, then the defendant will have his or sentence determined by a judge or jury if he or she is found guilty.
The alleged offender typically chooses whether to have his or her possible punishment determined by the judge or jury before the trial begins. After a guilty verdict is announced, the judge will often set a separate date for sentencing so the convicted offender can be interviewed for a pre-sentence report that will be prepared by the Community Supervision and Corrections Department with sentencing recommendations.
The decision of a judge or jury is not necessarily the final word for an alleged offender. If he or she has been found guilty, the alleged offender may appeal the ruling to a higher Texas court. In Williamson County and Bell County, district level court decisions are appealed to the Third Court of Appeals of Texas in Austin. If that court also issues a ruling the alleged offender disagrees with, then the case goes to the state’s highest court for criminal cases, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.
Williamson County Clerk Courts Division — There are answers to frequently asked questions about criminal, civil, and probate case management on this website. You can also find various records as well as forms and documents.
405 South Martin Luther King Street
Georgetown, TX 78626
Williamson County Records — You can search criminal, civil, family, and probate case records on this website. There are also court dockets for the 368th District and 425th District as well as court calendars and jail records.
Williamson County Victim Services Division — This website includes contact information for multiple victim services organizations in the county. You can also find links to public resources and other online services.
Law Office of Price & Wiggins, P.C. | Georgetown Criminal Defense Lawyer
If you or your loved one is under investigation for or has been charged with any crime, you should immediately seek the help of an experienced Georgetown criminal defense attorney. Michael J. Price has over two decades of experience fighting to protect the rights of people accused of committing criminal offenses.
Law Office of Price & Wiggins, P.C. represents clients all over Williamson County as well as communities in Bell County such as Belton, Harker Heights, Temple, and Killeen. You can call (512) 354-1880 to schedule a free legal consultation that will let us review your case and help you understand all of your options.