The Criminal Justice System in Texas
What You Should Know About the Police Investigation
When an arrest occurs, it is based one of two factors: the police received
a complaint or they witnessed an alleged offense. At this point, police
will often begin an investigation to gather enough evidence to bring a
case against you. The initial police report will likely be passed on to
a detective, especially in cases involving felony offenses. If the offense
is a simple misdemeanor, such as DWI, there will likely not be any police
investigation. However, for felony cases, an investigation is usually
conducted prior to giving the file to the district attorney.
During this time, you must remember that you have certain rights. Most
importantly, you have the
right to remain silent. Even if officers ask you to “tell your side of the story,”
do not share details about the situation. Why? You may think that you
are helping your case, but even a small detail or statement may give law
enforcement ammunition to use against you in court. Instead, you should
exercise your right to remain silent and your right to an attorney. Remember,
police officers are not your friend and are looking to prove you guilty.
How Cases Are Prosecuted
In most cases, prosecutors will be district or county attorneys in state
level cases. In federal cases, prosecutors will be United States Attorneys.
When a case is filed by a police officer, it will go through the District
Attorney’s Office and to the intake prosecutor. All misdemeanor
cases will be filed directly with the County Clerk’s Office, while
felonies must be indicted before being filed and put into court. This
means a grand jury will be used to determine whether or not to indict
the individual. If they agree to indict the accused, the case will be
filed with the District Clerk’s Office and put into the felony court’s schedule.
Preparing for the Trial
There are only three ways that a case can be resolved once it has been filed:
- A trial
- A guilty plea
- A dismissal
Many misdemeanor cases can be negotiated for either a dismissal or plea
agreement that carries lesser penalties. However, if an individual believes
their charges are unfounded or unfair, they will likely have to fight
them in a full trial. Regardless of whether you have been accused of a
misdemeanor or felony, if the case goes to trial you can expect the prosecutor
to use their entire arsenal to secure a guilty verdict. They can present
evidence, call witnesses to the stand, and use many other tactics to try
to prove your guilt. For these reasons, it is so important for you to
have a Denton criminal defense lawyer who can prepare for the trial. They
can help counteract any of the prosecutions claims and identify weaknesses
in their case.
How to Pursue an Appeal
In most cases, the appeal will come from the individual charged with an
offense. However, the government may pursue an appeal in limited cases
if they disagree with the ruling or verdict. To begin the process, the
individual must bring the appeal to the court of appeals. If an unfavorable
ruling or outcome is still given, the case can be taken to the next level.
The highest appellate courts include the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals
at the state level and the United States Supreme Court at the federal
level. It is important for you to understand that an appeal does not equal
a re-trial of the case. It typically is only allowed if there is some
type of compliant or issue that occurred in the original trial, such as
a mistake made by the trial judge. The appeal will be solely based on
the record retrieved from the trial and both parties’ briefs.
In cases where there is no alternatives left, a post-conviction writ may
be the final step. The Writ of Habeas Corpus can only be used in cases
where there has been some type of violation against a person’s constitutional
rights during their trial. This may include arguments that an individual’s
trial or appellate representation was inadequate or led them astray, they
were not provided due process, or that police or prosecutor misconduct
was involved. Writs will typically lead to a new investigation, as the
violations were presumably not discovered in the previous trials or appeals
and may require additional evidence to support them.
Have further legal questions? Let the Denton criminal attorneys at our
firm provide the answers you are looking for!
Contact us today for more information.