Criminal Procedure in Texas
When you are arrested in Houston or a surrounding area in Texas, you are entering an extremely stressful and complicated process. There will be numerous important deadlines and court appearances that have an extraordinary impact on whether or not you will be convicted of a criminal offense.
A person who cannot afford a lawyer can be appointed legal counsel under the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, but many public defenders have significantly larger caseloads than private attorneys and may plead out of cases that could be won at trial. If you are under investigation or have been charged with a criminal offense, you should immediately seek legal representation in order to give yourself the best chance at obtaining a favorable outcome to your case.
Matt Horak works tirelessly to achieve outcomes that result in the fewest possible consequences for the people he represents. He has more than 10 years of experience in state courts in Texas as well as federal U.S. District Courts in the Southern District of Texas, and he assists people with the following:
- Grand Juries and Indictments
- How Bonds Work
- Stages of a Criminal Trial
- Affirmative Defenses
- Warrants/Bench Warrants
- Having Counsel Appointed
- Right to a Jury/How Juries are Selected
- Who will be called to testify?
Horak Law represents clients throughout the greater Houston area, including Pearland, League City, Missouri City, Richmond-Rosenberg, Pasadena, Spring, Conroe, Sugar Land, The Woodlands, and Galveston. You can receive a free review of your case during a no obligation legal consultation when you call our firm at (713) 225-8000 or toll-free at (800) 225-8009 today.
Overview of Criminal Procedure in Harris County
- What is the first thing that happens in a criminal case?
- How does the actual arrest work?
- When does an alleged offender first enter a plea?
- How does somebody who has been arrested get bailed out of jail?
- What happens during a criminal trial?
- Does the alleged offender have any options after he or she is convicted?
- Where else can I learn more about these cases in the Houston area?
When a crime has been committed, law enforcement will typically begin an investigation at the scene of the alleged incident. The time it takes to conduct an investigation depends on the nature of the offense. For example, a driving while intoxicated (DWI) offense typically occurs immediately after a motorist has been pulled over and an arrest occurs at the scene, but other more complex crimes like sexual offenses or drug trafficking can involve months of investigation.
In some cases, a grand jury may be utilized to investigate whether criminal charges should be filed. A prosecutor or district attorney can turn evidence over to the grand jury or a grand jury can initiate its own investigation.
If law enforcement determines there is enough evidence to establish probable cause—the reasonable belief that a crime has been committed—then they can arrest the alleged offender. In certain cases, this may involve an arrest warrant being issued, but such a warrant is not necessarily required.
When a person is placed under arrest in Texas, he or she should be issued a Miranda warning that notifies him or her of two very important rights:
- The right to remain silent
- The right to an attorney
After a suspect has been arrested, he or she will be taken to jail for booking. Afterward, authorities decide whether or not to give the case to prosecutors to bring formal charges.
If a prosecuting attorney decides to file charges, then the arraignment is the first step in the criminal process. An alleged offender will appear before a judge, be formally presented with the charges against him or her, and asked to enter a plea.
If the alleged offender has been accused of a misdemeanor offense, the judge sets the tentative appearance schedule. However, the judge will schedule a preliminary hearing if the case is a felony. During an arraignment, bail will also be established for the alleged offender.
There are essentially three options for an alleged offender to be released from custody while the outcome to his or her criminal case is pending. If a judge grants release, it will typically involve one of the following options:
- Cash Bond — This type of bail requires that the full amount of the bond must be paid by cash, cashier’s check, or money order in order for the alleged offender to be released. The court will issue a refund order if the alleged offender makes all scheduled court appearances and the case is disposed of, but bail will not be refunded if the alleged offender misses these appearances.
- Surety Bond — Approved bonding companies can charge an alleged offender a fee that is usually a fraction of the total bail in exchange for their guarantee to the court that the alleged offender will make all scheduled court appearances after being released. This fee is non-refundable, and the bonding company is liable for the entire amount if the alleged offender fails to appear in court.
- Personal Recognizance Bond — In some cases, an alleged offender can be releases on his or her own guarantee that he or she will be present for all court appearances without any financial amounts being required to be released.
Plea bargaining and various pretrial motions or hearings before and after an arraignment can result in a case being resolved without a trial. In cases that cannot be settled though, a jury trial can be a very lengthy process that involves:
- Jury selection
- Motions in limine (admissibility of evidence)
- Opening statements
- Case presentations from prosecution and defense, with direct examination and cross-examination of witnesses
- Closing arguments
- Jury instructions and deliberations
- Post-trial motions
If an alleged offender is found guilty or receives some other unfavorable verdict, he or she can appeal the ruling to the next highest court in Texas. For instance, a case at the district level would be appealed to the First or Fourteenth Court of Appeals of Texas. Any appeal of a ruling from one of those courts would go to the Texas the Court of Criminal Appeals (CCA).
Matt Horak has successfully represented clients in all types of criminal cases, and he has won appeals before various state courts, including the CCA.
Harris County Courts — This website contains links to criminal courts, civil courts, and probate courts in Harris County. Online case records can also be found here, as well as information relating to traffic cases, criminal cases, and civil cases.
1201 Franklin Street
Houston, TX 77002
Harris County District Clerk — In addition to online searches of records and documents in criminal cases, you can also find links to customer service, appeals, and writs of habeas corpus on this website.
201 Caroline Street
Houston, TX 77002
Houston Bar Association —The homepage for an organization with more than 11,000 member attorneys, you can find information about public services, domestic violence services, elder law services, and more.
1111 Bagby Street
Houston, TX 77002
Find a Criminal Procedure Lawyer in Houston
If you have been charged with or are under investigation for any type of criminal offense, you should contact an experienced Houston criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Matt Horak aggressively defends clients against drug charges, drunk driving, federal charges, and several other criminal offenses.
Horak Law represents clients all over Houston, including Fort Bend County, Liberty County, Montgomery County, Brazoria County, Galveston County, Waller County, and Harris County. Call our firm at (713) 225-8000 or toll-free at (800) 225-8009 right now to schedule a free, confidential consultation that will let us review your case and help you understand your legal options.