If you’ve been charged with a crime, you probably don’t really know what to expect next. All you know is what you’ve learned from the news or TV shows.
Everyone’s case is different, but there are some general concepts and procedures that hold true throughout the criminal justice system. This is just a summary. Your case may be different and you may be able to avoid some of these events.
To begin with, there is usually an accusation or an event that takes place. For example:
- Someone calls the police and tells them you hit them or threatened them
- You were pulled over for suspected drunk driving (DWI)
- You were pulled over for a traffic violation and the officer arrests you for possession of marijuana, drugs, unlawful carrying a weapon, etc.
- You are under 21 and at a party drinking alcohol and the police were called
- You are accused of shoplifting or theft
The police will either proceed with arresting you (if they haven’t already) or open an investigation. It’s important to note here that you always have the right to remain silent when you are being suspected or accused of a crime.
Your responsibility is to properly identify yourself when detained or stopped by a police officer. The right to remain silent cannot be used against you as evidence in a trial. You do not have to answer questions or allow searches of your home or vehicle. They can only do this if they have probable cause, have a warrant, or have your consent.
If they are asking for your consent, they probably do not have probable cause. You do not have to give it. My best advice here: don’t resist arrest, don’t be rude, and remain silent. You can ask if you are free to leave. If they say no, ask for an attorney and remain silent. A police officer can arrest you if they have probable cause to believe that you committed a crime. They can also arrest you if there is a warrant out for your arrest.
If you are arrested you will go through the process of booking where they will take you down to the police station, get your fingerprints and gather identifying information. If the officer attempts to question you about the offense, continue to remain silent and ask for an attorney.
Next, a Judge or Magistrate will set bail. Bail is “property or money given as surety that a person released from custody will return at an appointed time.” The purpose of bail is to make sure that you will return to court when scheduled. Conditions of bail may also be set by the Judge for the protection of the public.
For example, a judge may require an interlock device on any vehicle you operate as a condition of bond on a DWI case or Intoxication Manslaughter case. A judge may also require an ankle monitor on a sexual assault of a child case, etc.
Once bail is set, you or someone you know can post the required amount of money and you will be released. If you don’t have the required amount of money available, you may hire a bail bondsman for a fee. The bondsman will post the bail for you for a percentage of the bail amount – usually 10% to 20% of the bail amount. Under certain circumstances, I, as your attorney also have the ability to post a bond for my clients. This saves you from having to hire a bondsman and then immediately turn around and hire a lawyer. In situations where I am not able to post bond for clients, I can refer you to some of the fairest and respected bondsmen in Tarrant County.
Filing with DA’s Office
Shortly after your arrest, your case will be filed with the District Attorney’s Office. Even if they dismiss all charges against you just hours after your arrest, it will remain on your record unless you proactively take the steps to have your record expunged. (For more info on expunctions, see Expunction of Criminal Records.) After your case is referred to the District Attorney’s Office, an Assistant District Attorney (ADA) will review the evidence provided by the police agency that arrested you.
This is a great opportunity for your defense lawyer to meet with the ADA in hopes of convincing them to reject the case for filing, in essence dismissing the case. This opportunity is often lost by clients who wait until after their case is filed to hire an attorney. Hiring an attorney quickly doesn’t always keep the case from being filed and obviously, there is never a guarantee of that, but it can never hurt you. You don’t want to miss any opportunity to have your case dismissed.
If the case is a Tarrant County case and is filed and accepted, it will randomly fall into one of seven criminal courts. Court dates will then be set to give the ADA and your defense lawyer an opportunity to discuss your case and options. These settings also inform the court of the status of the negotiations between the ADA and the criminal lawyer. They are generally nothing for the client to worry about.
However, when appearing in court, it is important to remember to be on time and dressed appropriately. Appropriate attire in a courtroom is essential. Many judges see the inappropriate dress as disrespectful. A suit or dress is not necessary, but jeans, shorts, flip-flops, T-shirts, are a no-no! Slacks and a button down shirt for men and skirts or nice pants for women are fine. The key is to dress conservatively. You should never stand out in a courtroom by what you chose to wear.
If your case is a felony it will be presented to the Grand Jury. No person in Texas may be tried for a felony unless their case has first been indicted by a Grand Jury. A Grand Jury is comprised of 12 jurors who sit for several month terms and are called upon to independently decide whether there is probable cause to prosecute on a given case. The Grand Jury process is another opportunity for your defense lawyer to try and have your case dismissed. When the Grand Jury fails to indict a case it is referred to as a No Bill.
Negotiations and/or Trial
If your case cannot be dismissed, no-billed, or worked out to your satisfaction after several court settings, the Judge or Court will be expecting you to announce whether or not it will need to be a trial. Once your case is set for trial, it will be scheduled for a trial date. At trial, you will have a jury seated to decide whether or not the State can prove the case against you beyond all reasonable doubt. Many cases can be handled to my client’s satisfaction without having to set the case for trial. However, in the event your case is set for trial and contested in front of a jury, I am experienced and skilled at criminal defense trials and will defend your rights and reputation.
It is extremely important that you seek the services of a qualified and experienced criminal lawyer as quickly as possible. I have seen many defendants make a mess of their case trying to do things on their own or waiting too long to hire someone.
If I serve as your criminal attorney, I not only help you understand the case and the process, I will fight for every right you have. I have over 15 years of criminal defense work with thousands of very satisfied clients. I work hard for my clients and would work hard for you. You would have my personal attention and access to communicate with me throughout the process.
I will do everything I can to restore your reputation and give you peace of mind throughout the process. Please call me at 817-284-2263 to discuss your criminal case or situation.