What To Expect From Arrest To Verdict In A Texas Criminal Case
Most people pay little attention to how the criminal justice process in Texas unfolds, since it does not affect them directly. Aside from a general idea from following the news or watching procedural crime dramas on TV, not many people know all the steps involved from start to finish in a criminal case.
This can change in a hurry, however, if a person (or family member) suddenly faces an arrest and pending criminal charge for any reason. Being charged with a crime and facing criminal penalties can be one of the more frightening events a person can experience. This is especially true if it has never happened before, and you do not know what happens next.
It is important to understand the typical case-flow in a Texas criminal case:
- Arrest. Before police can arrest and charge a person for a crime, they must have “probable cause” to show that the crime they are alleging took place. In Texas, a peace officer can arrest someone without a warrant if the offense is committed within the officer’s view and it is a felony or offense against the public peace. An arrest can be made with a warrant can be made under order of a magistrate to take a person into custody based on a named offense they are alleged to have committed.
- Arraignment. This is a court appearance, usually as soon as possible after the defendant’s arrest, in which they enter a plea to the charge(s) made against them. Typically, defendants will enter a not guilty plea and may have court-appointed counsel named based on their income. Bail will be set at this time, along with any conditions connected to the defendant’s bail.
- Pretrial Motions and Discovery. A skilled defense attorney will then review all facts and details involved with their client’s case to determine whether any pretrial motions or discovery requests need to be made. If there are any questions related to a defendant’s mental condition or capacity to stand trial, for example, they will be raised at this time. If there are flaws in the prosecution’s evidence, or evidence is missing, the defendant’s counsel will demand certain information or evidence that would support the prosecution’s case. If the prosecutor still cannot “fill the gaps” or address evidentiary and procedural problems, the defendant may file a motion to suppress evidence.
During the discovery phase, the prosecution is required to disclose the evidence in their possession – including “exculpatory” evidence that could serve to mitigate charges or even exonerate the defendant.
- Pretrial Conferences. Pretrial conferences are held before the judge and their purpose is to review the issues at hand, and determine any contested issues for trial. Trial dates will be set, along with deadlines for exchanges of witnesses and evidence. If expert witness testimony is required by either side for trial, these issues will be addressed as well. Pretrial conferences also serve as useful deadlines for prosecutors and defense attorneys to exchange plea bargain offers and determine whether an overall agreement is possible.
- Trial. The trial portion is something casual observers may be familiar with from TV dramas and the nightly news. At trial, a jury is selected and sworn in, then opening statements are made by each side. The state will present their case and move for a directed verdict (which is rarely granted). The defense will then present their case (with witnesses and evidence). Each side will have opportunities to offer rebuttals to the other’s case, and make closing arguments at the case’s conclusion. At the end of the case, the jury is given their instructions from the court and sent to deliberate until a verdict is reached.
The justice system in Texas follows the same guiding principles as the United States federal system: a defendant is innocent until proven guilty. Defendants are entitled in all cases to due process and a fair, speedy trial. If the defendant is dissatisfied with the outcome at trial, they have a right to appeal their conviction. In Texas, a case can be appealed to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals and the Texas Supreme Court.
Our Pearland, Texas Criminal Defense Attorney Can Help if You Face Charges under Texas Law
Facing any kind of criminal charge in Texas is a nerve-wracking, confusing, and often devastating turn of events. If you or someone you know faces a criminal charge, know that you are not alone and you can turn to a trusted and proven Pearland criminal defense attorney. At Keith B. French Law, we understand your fears and the questions you will have throughout the criminal process. To learn more about your options, contact the offices of Keith B. French Law, PLLC online or call 832-243-6153 today.