How Arraignment Works in Houston
While a felony case in Texas needs to be presented to a grand jury in order to obtain an indictment and misdemeanor charges are typically filed by a District Attorney or county attorney, the arraignment is the first step after an alleged offender has been arrested or criminal charges have been filed. These are typically short hearings, but can be very important to those accused of criminal offenses.
During this stage of the criminal process, an alleged offender is formally presented with the charges against him or her before entering a plea. The court also appoints legal counsel if the alleged offender does not have a lawyer or cannot afford legal representation, but there are many reasons that it is wise to have an attorney before arriving for the actual arraignment.
Arraignment Lawyer in Houston, TX
If you have been recently arrested or are facing criminal charges, you will want to contact an experienced Texas criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Matt Horak defends clients against all types of criminal offense, including drunk driving, drug charges, domestic violence, and many other crimes.
Horak Law helps people from all over the Houston area, including surrounding communities in Fort Bend County, Liberty County, Montgomery County, Waller County, Brazoria County, Harris County, and Galveston County. Call our firm at (713) 225-8000 or toll-free at (800) 225-8009 to receive a complete evaluation of your case during a confidential consultation.
Harris County Arraignment Information Center
- What typically occurs at these types of hearings?
- Which kinds of pleas are entered at this hearing?
- Why do I want an attorney for this hearing?
Several matters are addressed during this stage of the criminal process, including:
- The judge makes sure the alleged offender is the person named in the charges
- The alleged offender is informed of the charges filed against him or her and the applicable punishment range
- Court determines whether alleged offender has legal counsel or needs court-appointed lawyer
- Alleged offender enters initial plea
- Judge establishes bail amount
- Dates are scheduled for pretrial motions and upcoming hearings
When a person has been formally charged with a criminal offense, he or she has three options regarding the plea he or she will enter:
- Guilty — An alleged offender accepts the charges against him or her. While some people can tend to believe that this plea is their only option if they indeed committed the crime, it can be a mistake to waive constitutional rights without having an attorney review the charges first.
- Nolo Contendere (No Contest) — Latin for "I do not wish to contend,” pleading nolo contendere means that you neither accept the charges against you but nor do you deny them. No contest pleas can essentially have the same effect as guilty pleas, as an alleged offender is again waiving his or her constitutional rights.
- Not Guilty — An alleged offender does not accept the charges against him or her. The defense lawyer for the alleged offender and the prosecutor can then negotiate out of court before the case is taken to trial.
Keep in mind that a not guilty plea can always be changed to a guilty plea later, but guilty pleas are final and cannot be changed. This is why most alleged offenders choose to plead not guilty at this stage.
There are several benefits to having an attorney represent you during this stage of the criminal process, including:
- Review Prosecutor’s File — A skilled criminal defense lawyer can analyze the evidence against you and immediately address any weaknesses in the prosecution’s case.
- Assist With Bond — The judge at an arraignment does not address the merits of the case or consider evidence, but he or she does have the authority to raise or lower the amount required for bail. By having legal representation, you can give yourself the best chance to have your bail significantly reduced, preventing enormous stress for you and your family.
- Begin Plea Bargaining — Your attorney can immediately begin negotiating for reduced charges or a reduced sentence with a greater chance of success because it will occur before the prosecutor invests any substantial time in the case.
- Possible Case Resolution — If the case against you is not particularly strong or the prosecutor already has a heavy caseload, then it may be possible for the charges against you to be dismissed entirely.
Horak Law | Criminal Defense Lawyer in Houston
Matt Horak works closely with his clients throughout every stage of the criminal process. If you are preparing to be formally arraigned on criminal charges, call his firm at (713) 225-8000 or toll-free at (800) 225-8009 to let him review your case to see how he can help.
Horak Law represents residents of such Houston area communities as League City, Pasadena, Missouri City, Spring, Richmond-Rosenberg, Pearland, Conroe, Galveston, The Woodlands, and Sugar Land. Our Texas criminal defense attorney is dedicated to helping every person he represents obtain the most favorable outcome possible to his or her case.