The Steps Behind Dallas Criminal Charges
Have you been charged? Although each criminal case is different, the series of steps of the case often remains the same. It is important to retain a criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible to guide you through our criminal justice system.
Arrest & Magistration
It is crucial that you retain a criminal lawyer as soon as possible. You should call us before you talk to the police and before you have been formally booked in to jail if at possible. If you or a loved-one has been arrested and is being booked into jail, contact us to help navigate the bail process, fight to get bail reduced and assist with a variety of other concerns you may have.
One of your first rights after you’ve been arrested is magistration. You have the right to know what crime you have been charged with and your bond amount. Unfortunately, this process does not happen immediately. After you are taken to jail, you will be processed at booking. From there you will be housed until you go to court for magistration and have your bond set. During this time, the arresting officer completes a probable cause affidavit explaining to the magistrate why you were arrested. This affidavit is what the magistrate uses to determine the proper bond amount. After magistration, you will be able to make arrangements to bond out whether you do this via cash either paid by yourself, or another person or through a bail bond company who will work with you on a payment plan.
Consultation & Engagement Letter
One of the most common mistakes is waiting too long to hire an attorney or failing to hire an attorney at all. These mistakes can severely thwart the quality of your defense. Before you are formally arrested, the police conduct an investigation. If you contact us immediately, we may be able to intervene, catch mistakes in the investigation and possibly keep you from being arrested in the first place.
If you have already been arrested, there is still time to intervene before the District Attorney files the charges or indicts you if it is a felony charge.
Bottom line, schedule a free consultation as soon as you can. Have a friend or family member call us. We are available 24/7. We recognize how scary and overwhelming it can be to face a criminal charge. We understand that you are coming to us with the worst in your life. You trust us to make it better. You trust me with your future, your livelihood, your every ounce of being.
Our mission is to simplify the process as much as possible and provide you with a road map of the entire process to the best of our ability. We recognize that oftentimes this is the first time you have ever dealt with our criminal justice system and need answers to concerning questions like “What do I do if I have an arrest warrant?” or “How long does it take to go to court after being charged?” or “How long before this will be over?”
We have helped our clients beat a variety of charges ranging from DWI and possession all the way to intoxication manslaughter and aggravated sexual assault of a child. Our team is experienced at protecting your freedom every step of the way. We are in your corner and will fight for you. You will have 24/7 access to your attorney, including our cell phone numbers to use whenever they need us.
Felony Grand Jury Proceedings
In Texas, if you are arrested for a felony, the charge must first be presented to a grand jury before the case can move forward. A charge for a felony indictment comes from the grand jury. If the grand jury determines there is sufficient evidence to charge the defendant, an indictment is issued. If the grand jury determines there are inadequate grounds for prosecution, a “no bill” is issued. A “no bill” means there is insufficient evidence to prosecute someone. When a no bill is issued, the case stops and does not proceed any further. If the grand jury determines there is sufficient evidence to prosecute, then a “true bill” is issued, and the defendant remains in custody or on bond pending plea negotiations to reach a plea bargain or trial.
After the indictment has been issued, we will negotiate a plea bargain with the State. If a favorable agreement is reached, the defendant will be brought before the trial court judge and enter a plea. While a guilty plea is an admission that the defendant committed the crime, it is done after we have spoken to the defendant at length and advised him or her of their rights, and the pros, cons and risks of taking the negotiated deal versus rejecting the State’s offer and setting the case for trial. In such case when the defendant accepts the State’s offer, the defendant has agreed to plead guilty and the State has agreed to a lesser punishment than what would be expected after a trial and conviction. This process is referred to as plea bargaining.
A not guilty plea contests the charges and challenges the state to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant did in fact commit the crime. This results in a trial. A plea of nolo contendere is a plea of no-contest. Under the law, this plea has the same effect as a guilty plea.
First Court Appearance
This is the first time you will be required to go to court. Depending on the county, the first appearance setting will typically be 40 to 60 days after the date of your arrest. At the first appearance, you will inform the court whether or not you have hired an attorney. If you have hired an attorney then he or she will meet with the prosecutors about your case. Your attorney will request discovery. After that, the court will give you a new court date. This date will be your first “announcement” setting. You are NOT required to enter a plea or set your case for trial at the first appearance setting. Typically, you will do nothing more than check in with the bailiff or court clerk in your assigned court and wait to be given a new court date.
Discovery is what the State is required to turn over which includes copies of any police reports, witness statements, videos, exculpatory evidence and any other evidence in the prosecutor’s possession. This is typically done at the first appearance setting.
These are the settings immediately following your first appearance. Each additional setting is typically 20 to 30 days after the previous setting. The purpose of the announcement setting is just like it sounds, to announce to the court whether you are ready to enter a plea in your case or ready to set your case for trial.
Just like your first appearance, you will typically do no more wait until your attorney provides you a new court date and dismisses you from court. Citizens are given these additional settings to give the attorneys adequate time to obtain all the discovery materials from the District Attorney’s Office. Because of the volume of criminal cases filed each month, it usually takes the prosecutors some time to comply with discovery requests. For this reason, Judges usually give defendants several announcement settings to ensure that citizens and their attorneys have enough time to receive and review all of the materials necessary to make an informed decision to set a case for a plea or a trial.
In addition to discovery materials, announcement settings also allow your defense attorney to review all of the documents in the court’s file to evaluate them for any procedural or evidentiary defects that may warrant a dismissal of your criminal case. After you have had adequate opportunity to review all the evidence in your case, the court will require you to set your case for a plea setting or a trial setting.
While your case is pending, we will negotiate with the prosecutor in hopes of reaching a favorable plea bargain or deal for you. We will inform you of all reasonable offers made by the State, including those that may not be favorable to you.
A plea bargain may require a “guilty” plea instead of “no contest” and may require that some rights are waived.
Prior to accepting any offer, we will sit down and discuss the offer and your rights in detail prior. As your attorney, we will advise you of the offer and the pros and cons to accepting or rejecting the offer. If we reject the State’s offer then we must set your case for an open plea to the judge or set the case for trial. This may require an additional fee.
Please note that a judge is not required to accept a plea deal, even if both sides do. If the judge rejects the deal, you will be given the opportunity to withdraw the guilty or no contest plea.
Please be advised that there is usually an additional fee involved with a trial. In Texas, there are two phases to trial: guilt/innocence phase and punishment phase.
During guilt/innocence, the State holds the burden of proof. The State and the State alone must attempt to prove BEYOND ALL REASONABLE DOUBT that you are guilty of a particular crime on a particular day. This is when evidence such as police reports, audio or video recordings, lab reports, witness statements and testimony is presented.
We are given the opportunity to cross-examine the State’s witnesses. After the State presents their case, we have the opportunity to present our own case. However, we are not required to present anything at all. Nor are you required to testify. Remember, the entire burden of proof rests with the State.
If found guilty, the sentence will be announced by the judge or by a jury after the punishment phase.
Get the representation you deserve with Redden Law.
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