Texas Criminal Procedure

Whether it’s an arrest warrant, notice to court, or an indictment the Texas criminal process is stressful. In a single event, you can lose everything you’ve worked so hard for. Texas law is not kind to those who break the law. Understanding the steps to Texas criminal procedure is crucial for your charges.

It’s highly recommended that you seek a criminal defense attorney. A defense lawyer can inform you through every phase of the criminal process. Additionally, a skilled attorney can mount a sturdy defense for you through motions, suppressing evidence, and calling potential witnesses or experts. Do not be overwhelmed by the Texas justice system.  Contact a criminal defense attorney to assess your case.

Houston Attorney for the Texas Criminal Procedure in Texas

The Texas criminal procedure is not as simple as TV dramas may let you believe. You may have to appear for pretrial hearings, attend court multiple times, and possibly participate in a court-appointed program. It’s important to be educated about what may happen next in your case.

Attorney Brian Benken is passionate about defending his client’s rights. He has over 30 years of experience in the Texas legal system. Brian Benken has the resources, knowledge, and willpower to formulate a strong defense for you. This is not a time to be idle. Contact Brian Benken at (713) 223 - 4051 and schedule a free consultation today.

Brian Benken accepts clients throughout all communities in Harris County and surrounding counties in Texas. Some of these communities include Westchase, Houston Heights, Pasadena, and Alief.

Overview of Texas Criminal Procedure

Arrest or Notice to Appear in Court

Usually the Texas criminal procedure begins through an arrest or a notice to appear in court. If you mailed a notice in court, you will be given a court date and may be recommended to obtain legal representation. An arrest, however, will result in receiving the same information and detainment in county jail for a certain period of time.

After the alleged offender is booked in jail, he or she will be incarcerated until they appear in front of a judge. If the judge deems fit, the alleged offender will have a bond set for their release. Additionally, judge will schedule all upcoming court dates for the charges

Bonds under Texas law are a type of collateral for the court. If the alleged offender does not return for his or her court dates, a bench warrant will be issued. This means that you could be arrested for a second time for being contempt of court.

First Court Appearance in Harris County, Texas

The first appearance in court is called an arraignment hearing. An arraignment is considered a pre-trial hearing and is not a part of the trial process. In an arraignment the alleged offender will appear in front of a judge for the first time.

The purpose of arraignments is to inform the alleged offender of their charges, possible statutory penalties, and legal rights. This includes if the defendant would like to obtain legal representation, represent themselves, or have a court-appointed lawyer.  In addition, a judge will determine whether or not a bond will be set based on the crime.

An arraignment hearing also requires a plea. An alleged offender can plead guilty, not guilty, or nolo contendere (no contest). If the alleged offender pleads not guilty, he or she can possibly change their plea to not guilty after the arraignment. However, if the defendant pleads guilty they cannot change their plea throughout the trial.

Pre-Trial Negotiations and Logistics in Houston, Texas

Before any scheduled court dates, the prosecution and defense have a chance to discuss any possible pre-trial negotiations. Normally a plea-bargain is the main point for both parties to agree on a singular outcome. The prosecution has the ability to leverage lighter penalties for a plea of guilty or no contest.

A plea-bargain can be extremely beneficial. You may still have to face legal penalties. However, they are usually much less severe. If you accept a plea-bargain you may evade incarceration or added expensive court fines. Instead, you may face alternative penalties. Some of these penalties include participating in court-appointed programs, house arrest, community service, probation, and restitution.

It’s important to remember that you are not required to accept any plea agreement. No defense attorney or prosecutor can force you to plead guilty or no contest. It is ultimately up to you if the benefits outweigh the costs. In order to make an informed decision, it’s highly recommended that you obtain legal counsel.

Having an attorney on your side during plea-bargaining is crucial. A skilled attorney can examine the plea agreement and notify you of the pros and cons. Additionally, a defense can negotiate with the county or district attorney further if the agreement is not desirable.

Pre-Trial Motions in Texas Court

Sadly, not all cases can conclude in both parties agreeing on a plea-deal. In the event that the prosecution does not wish to negotiate, the defense has a chance to file pre-trial motions. A pre-trial motion is a request to the court to do a certain action before the trial starts.

Usually motions are related to suppressing specific evidence. A pre-trial motion can significantly affect the jury’s verdict in a trial. An experienced criminal defense attorney can present various motions including, but not limited to:

  • Motion to suppress evidence;
  • Motion to dismiss due to lack of evidence;
  • Motion to exclude witness testimony; and
  • Motion to dismiss charges due to lack of probable cause.

Texas Criminal Procedure in Houston, Texas

In Texas’s legal system, there are two types of trials for alleged offenders. These are referred to as a bench trial or a jury trial. A bench trial had no jury and a judge decides an outcome. Bench trials are normally only for those charged with minor misdemeanors.

In felony or higher misdemeanor cases, the alleged offender will face a jury. The verdict will be decided by the jury’s interpretation and deliberation of all the evidence presented. A jury is composed of 12 members that are chosen through a process called voir dire. The defense can only object to certain jury members before they are impaneled. This is referred to in court as a challenge to array.

In trial, the defense and prosecution will be able to present admissible evidence and witnesses. The Texas criminal justice puts the burden of proof on the prosecution. The state attorney must prove to the jury that the alleged offender fulfilled every element of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt. It’s the defense’s job to cast reasonable doubt on the prosecution’s evidence.

For a verdict to be admissible, it must be unanimous by the jury. Cases where the jury is split on a decision are called a “hung jury.” In the case of a hung jury, the judge may call a mistrial. A mistrial means that the alleged offender will repeat the criminal trial process with a different jury.

If a defendant believes that legal errors skewed their case, he or she still has options. The alleged offender can file an appeal to determine if any legal procedures were mishandled. Take note, an appeal is not a retrial. It is solely surrounding the initial trial itself and if any legal misconduct or errors occurred.

Additional Resources

Harris County District Courts – Visit the ofifical website for the Harris County District Courts and learn more regarding your charges. Gain access to the local court rules, the bail bond schedule, the criminal division judges, and answers to frequently asked questions.

Citizen’s Guide to the Texas Criminal Process – Visit a handbook for citizens regarding Texas criminal procedures provided by the State Bar of Texas, Criminal Justice Division. Here you can find information regarding criminal offense classifications, how appeals work, court proceedings, juvenile court, and a glossary that lists legal terminology.

Criminal Defense Attorney in Harris County, Texas

Have you been arrested or been given a notice to court? If so, it’s important that you gain trusted legal representation as soon as possible. An attorney can attend your arraignment, file motions, and advocate for you in court.

Brian Benken is an experienced criminal defense attorney who has been practicing for over 30 years. He has seen numerous criminal trials and thoroughly understands the potential outcomes of a case. He will fight for your rights in court. Gain a legal partner not just an attorney with Brian Benken.

The Benken Law Firm represents those with synthetic drug offenses throughout every part of Harris County and Houston neighborhoods including Westbury, Meyerland, Sharpstown, and River Oaks.

Have some peace of mind today. Call Brian Benken at (713) 223 - 4051 for your free consultation.

This article was last updated on October 23, 2018.

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