How To Get Into Court

These are the guidelines you may expected when dealing with the MOST Counties in the Texas Criminal Justice System.

How does a case enter the Texas Criminal Justice System?

Most cases are filed at the time of an arrest by a policeman and arraignment before the magistrate. He swears out a “complaint” or probable cause affidavit before a magistrate. If the magistrate believes there is probable cause to believe a crime has been committed, he signs the complaint and sets a bond. After the arrest, the case is then transferred to either the County or District Attorney’s office.

Misdemeanors are usually filed with the County Attorney’s Office and Felonies are filed with the District Attorney’s office. The prosecutor evaluates the case to determine what charge to formally charge as. In a misdemeanor case, the formal filing document is referred to as an “information.” In felony cases, the District Attorney presents the evidence to a Grand Jury. The Grand Jury then decides whether or not there is enough evidence to for an indictment. If an indictment is approved by the Grand Jury, the case is filed with a District Court.

After the information or indictment has been filed, the case is assigned to the appropriate court, then set onto that court’s case docket. All cases enter a five step process which include:

  • Designation or Announcement Setting- This setting informs the Court whether a lawyer is retained or if the defendant needs an appointed lawyer. The lawyer tells the Court whether the case should be set for a plea, pre-trial setting or trial setting.
  • Pre-trial Setting- This maybe a hearing with or without witnesses and is also referred to as a “Pre-Trial Conference”. This setting gives the attorney more time to review police reports, witnesses statements and any additional information the prosecution obtains and which allows the lawyer to file pre-trial motions. This period is also used for the prosecution to offer any plea bargains.
  • Trial Before the Court Without Witnesses- Lawyers use this setting to negotiate with the prosecutor. Neither the State or Defense calls witnesses for these settings. If a plea agreement is reached in this case it is usually set for a plea docket, if no agreement is reached, the case is set for Trial before Judge or Jury.
  • Trial Settings- Most cases do not go to trial at the first trial setting, since many cases are set for this one time and only one case can be tried at a time. The State must agree that a criminal case may be tried before a judge instead of a jury because both the State and Defense have a right to a Jury Trial unless that right is waived.
  • Plea & Sentencing- During these settings, the plea is entered or sentencing is finalized.

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