Texas Pre-Trial Process
Once criminal charges are filed, the first court appearance known as an arraignment usually takes place within seventy-two hours of arrest. Historically, the defendant was asked to enter a plea guilty or not guilty however; the common practice is for the judge conducting the arraignment to simply to formally notify the individual accused of the pending charges and to set bail.
When a person is arrested for a crime and booked into a jail, they will typically go before a judge within 24 hours who will decide the terms and conditions of that person’s bail order. Under certain circumstances, such as if a person is a danger to society if released or a risk of non-appearance at court proceedings, bail will be denied and that person will remain in custody until the issue of bail is reconsidered or until their case is resolved. In the overwhelming majority of cases bail will be set.
The eighth amendment of the US Constitution contains bail bond laws which state that bail is not allowed to be excessive for the crime in question and cannot be used to raise money for the government or punish a person who allegedly committed a crime. Most Texas counties have a set bail schedule which delineates the amount of bail based on the nature of the alleged crime.
There are generally three types of bail bonds utilized in Texas: 1) personal recognizance; 2) cash; and/or 3) surety. In a personal recognizance bond an individual charged with a crime is released “on his own recognizance” and agrees to all terms of release and is free to go without collateral offered. If any of the terms of release are broken the individual will be re-taken into custody and is subject to being held without bail or forced to post another type of bond. Personal recognizance bonds are very seldom used in Texas.
Cash bonds require that the full amount of the set bail be given to be held in trust to the county sheriff or to the court to ensure compliance with future proceedings. If there is any non-compliance, the person posting the cash bond is subject to forfeiture of the money left in trust. Cash bonds are returned once the obligations have been fulfilled and a judgment in the case has been reached. A surety bond is facilitated through a professional bail bonds person who posts an individual’s bail for a fee in exchange for guaranteeing the defendant will show up to court. The fees paid to bail bonds people are not refundable.
If you or a loved one has a criminal charge pending in Tarrant County, Texas the Law Offices of Roderick C. White can serve as both your bail bondsman and your attorney. Why pay a bail bondsman and then still be in need of an attorney? We can do both!!! We have very competitive bail bond rates (typically 10% – 15% of the bond amount) and in many instances we will apply your bond fee to your legal fees. Call Immediately – We offer 24–Hour Bail Bond in Tarrant County!!!
You have a right to a speedy trial under the Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution, which requires that the trial be held within a certain time frame after a person has been charged with a crime. Under Texas law (with limited exceptions), a criminal defendant should be brought to trial within the following time frames:
- 180 days if the defendant is accused of a felony
- 90 days of the defendant is accused of a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for more than 180 days
- 60 days if the defendant is accused of a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment of 180 days or less, or punishable by a fine only
A felony is a crime in which the possible punishment includes imprisonment for more than one year. On the other hand, a misdemeanor is a crime where the possible punishment includes only a year or less of incarceration or only a fine. For a more detailed discussion of Texas felony and misdemeanor punishment ranges please see our TEXAS CRIMINAL CLASSIFICATIONS page.
Speedy trial rights are often routinely and unwittingly waived by asking for additional time for the preparation of your defense. Accordingly, these rights are something that needs to be tactically considered in the beginning of any criminal case to ensure that they are both not waived and tactically asserted.
The court may set any criminal case for a pre-trial hearing before it is set for final trial on the merits. Pre-trial hearings are used to determine legal issues. Pre-trial matters are decided by the judge and in most situations both the defense and/or prosecution present evidence and/or witness testimony. At pre-trial hearings judges have an opportunity to hear evidence presented in order to determine what evidence is admissible at trial. For example, whether police legally arrested a suspect and gathered evidence, pursuant to state law and the United States constitution. If the person was unlawfully arrested, or the search and/or seizure were illegal, grounds exist for suppression. This means the prosecution may not be able to introduce the improperly obtained evidence at trial. Where essential evidence is suppressed, cases must be dismissed. For example, if police unlawfully search a suspect’s home without a warrant or without the suspects consent, the evidence recovered cannot be used to prosecute the suspect. Judges make such a determination at pre-trial hearings. The burden of proof is on the prosecution. If their burden is not met that serves as grounds for suppression. Once met, however, the accused must demonstrate his or her rights were violated to be entitled to have the evidence suppressed (i.e., excluded from trial).
Another evidentiary issue determined by the court at pre-trial hearings involves statements made by a suspect. An accused must “knowingly, intelligently and voluntarily” waive his or her right to remain silent (Miranda Rights) before police can lawfully take a statement. Prior to taking a statement from a person in custody accused of a crime, police must inform the suspect of his or her Miranda rights. If this is not properly done the judge may suppress the statement at a pre-trial hearing.
Additionally, at pre-trial hearings, if the person accused was identified in a line-up or photo array, evidence must be presented demonstrating neither procedure was conducted in a manner creating an improperly suggestive identification of the person accused. If the prosecution cannot meet this burden of proof, the court will not permit evidence of the identification and the identification procedure to be introduced at trial.
These are just a few significant issues addressed at pre-trial hearings. An aggressive effective defense is crucial at every stage of a criminal case. The Law Offices of Roderick White are prepared to provide the both effective and aggressive legal representation needed to get the very best result possible.
Pre-Trial Case Resolution
After indictment there are essentially two ways a criminal case may be resolved prior to trial: 1) dismissal; or 2) plea-bargaining. The most favorable form of pre-trial disposition of a criminal case is a dismissal. The prosecutor may, with the consent of the judge, dismiss a criminal case. Common reasons for dismissal include: (1) insufficient evidence – for example, post-indictment trial preparation reveals a fatal lack of evidence such that the court would instruct a verdict in favor of the defendant; (2) crucial evidence is suppressed (excluded) because of an illegal arrest or search; (3) at the request of the victim; (4) the defendant pleads guilty to other offenses (often less serious offenses); and/or (5) necessary witnesses cannot be located. While there are many potential reasons for a dismissal, a competent aggressive defense, spearheaded by a competent aggressive criminal defense attorney, is almost always either directly or indirectly responsible. For example, it is usually the defense attorney that convinces the prosecutor that there is insufficient evidence to successfully prosecute or gets the crucial evidence necessary to prosecute the case suppressed. Like most other favorable results, dismissals of criminal charges are often the result of an aggressive effective defense. While pre-trial dismissals are not always possible in every case, the aggressive attorneys at the Law Offices of Roderick C. White have obtained numerous dismissals of serious criminal charges and are ready, willing and able to aggressively seek the dismissal of any and all cases that we handle.
Plea Bargaining is the disposition of criminal charges by agreement between the prosecutor and the defendant, under judicial supervision. In exchange for the defendant pleading guilty or no contest and waiving the right of trial by jury, the prosecutor recommends a specific punishment which the judge can either accept or reject. If the judge rejects the agreement, the defendant is permitted to withdraw their guilty plea. If the judge follows the agreement, the defendant must obtain the judge’s permission before the defendant may appeal any matter in the case except matters raised by written motions filed prior to trial. The defendant usually waives the right of appeal as part of the plea bargain. A non-negotiated guilty plea or an open plea is a less commonly used form of plea-bargaining. In an open plea a defendant pleads guilty to a criminal charge without an agreement with the prosecutor as to what punishment the prosecutor will recommend. Here, the judge will assess the punishment unless the defendant specifically requests that a jury do so. The defendant retains the right to appeal the sentence, but typically waives any appeal of matters occurring before the entry of the guilty plea. The vast majority of all criminal cases are resolved by some form of plea bargaining.
Why plea-bargain? A good criminal defense lawyer invariably asks two basic questions after thoroughly reviewing a case: 1) Can I help my client beat these charges? and 2) If I cannot help my client beat these charges, how can I help him get the best result possible? Helping clients beat criminal charges in high profile trials is the portion of a criminal defense lawyer’s that television shows and movies focus on. While the criminal trial is quite likely the most exciting part of the job helping clients get the best results possible when a trial cannot be won is a very important part of being a good criminal defense lawyer. This is where plea-bargaining often comes into play. Because not every criminal case can be won at trial, a good criminal defense attorney must also be a good negotiator. Under Texas law there are many criminal charges that present possible punishment ranges of anything from probation to ninety-nine years or life in prison. When faced with such broad possible punishment ranges and criminal charges that may likely result in conviction a good negotiator may mean the difference between probation and a lengthy prison sentence. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Roderick C. White are both aggressive trial lawyers and skillful negotiators.