HOW IS A CRIMINAL CASE OPENED IN HOUSTON?
Once a crime has been committed, the subsequent investigation will begin when law enforcement arrives on the scene. Depending on the nature of the crime, witnesses may be questioned, evidence may be collected, and suspects may be detained, questioned, released or arrested. To aid in their investigation, law enforcement will typically document the scene by taking pictures, searching for any physical evidence that could tie a suspect to the crime and canvas the surrounding area for witnesses.
Once this facet of the investigation has been completed, police may then file the case with the prosecuting attorney for review and, where applicable, criminal prosecution. Upon reviewing the circumstances of the crime, the prosecutor may choose to accept the case, increase or reduce the charges that have been filed, file additional charges, return to the case back to the police for further investigation or reject the case altogether. It is at this point that a suspect’s fate will be decided.
INITIATING CRIMINAL PROSECUTION AGAINST THE SUSPECT
When pursuing a class C misdemeanor case in municipal or justice court, the procedure is initiated by filing a formal complaint. This is a written affidavit that accuses the defendant with committing a crime. For class A or class B misdemeanors, the case will be filed in a county court of law or a county criminal court. With these, the process begins with filing “information,” which is a written statement that is presented on behalf of the Texas state prosecutor that charges the defendant with committing a crime.
When dealing with a felony offense, the case will be prosecuted in a district court or criminal court. Unless it is waived by the defendant, an indictment or a bill of indictment will be required, which is a written statement from a grand jury that accuses a certain person of a criminal act as declared by law. The grand jury has jurisdiction over offenses that occur in its own county. Once a prosecutor presents a case, the grand jury will be responsible for deciding whether or not the evidence is sufficient.
Of the 12 jurors, at least nine must concur on the issue of the indictment. If the grand jury feels that there is not enough evidence to require that the accused stand trial, the suspect will be discharged, either indefinitely or until law enforcement can gather more substantial evidence. If the court decides to move forward with the charges, a pre-trial hearing will be set.
The pre-trial hearing will address:
- The defendant’s arraignment
- The appointment of a defense attorney
- Motions for change of venue
- Motions for continuance
- Motions for discovery
- Motions to suppress evidence
CAN I RESOLVE MY CASE BY ACCEPTING A PLEA AGREEMENT?
While a criminal case can be resolved in a number of ways, one of them involves the defendant making a deal with the prosecution. Known as a “plea bargain,” this agreement would require the defendant to plead guilty or nolo contendere (no contest) by waiving their right to a trial in exchange for a specific punishment – typically a lesser penalty than what would be imposed in lieu of a guilty verdict. On the other hand, the defendant can plead guilty and leave it up to a judge to assess the penalties.
Since everyone is guaranteed the right to a trial by jury under the Texas constitution, it is solely up to the defendant to decide whether or not they would like to waive this right in exchange for a plea bargain. The defendant also has the choice to wave a trial by jury and proceed with a trial to court (judge) with the consent and approval of the prosecutor, except in a case that involves a capital felony where the prosecutor may choose to seek the death penalty.
CONTACT OUR HOUSTON CRIMINAL LAWYER TO LEARN MORE
If you still have questions about the criminal process in Texas, The Law Office of Jim Medley encourages you to contact them today. With more than 20 years of experience in the criminal justice field and a background as a former police officer, lead attorney Jim Medley is well equipped to guide you through the process ahead. You deserve to have a strong defense fighting in your corner, so why not trust a proven track record of success?
contact The Law Office of Jim Medley Houston office at (713) 668-4589.