Texas Criminal Process
If you are arrested or accused of a crime, you may or may not be familiar with the criminal process in Texas. Either way, it is vital that you have someone on your side that is. By consulting with a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney in Austin, you can be sure that you will be adequately prepared to deal with whatever legal troubles come your way.
Being represented by a defense attorney who can explain each step of the criminal process to you can help provide clarity to such a stressful and confusing situation. At a time like this, having peace of mind is valuable.
Austin Criminal Process Attorney
If you have been arrested for a crime in Austin, Travis County, Pflugerville, Lakeway, or the surrounding areas, The Law Office of Kevin Bennett has the knowledge and available resources necessary to provide you with quality legal representation. Bennett is a well-rounded defense attorney who will work diligently to ensure that you are provided with the best defense possible.
Bennett will keep you informed throughout the legal process and ensure that you are aware of your options every step of the way. Contact him today at (512) 476-4626 to schedule your free consultation.
Overview on the Criminal Process in Texas
- Arrest or Notice to Appear in Texas Court
- First Court Appearance
- Preliminary Hearing
- Pretrial Negotiations/Plea Bargaining
- Pretrial Motions and Hearings
- Criminal Trial in Austin
- Guiding You through the Criminal Process in Austin
The Texas criminal process begins when an individual is arrested or given a notice to appear in court. After the arrest, the alleged offender will have his or her fingerprints and picture taken, and will be held in jail until they are scheduled to appear in front of the judge. The alleged offender will usually appear in front of a judge within 48 hours of their arrest. Once the arrestee has seen a judge and had their bond set, they are eligible to post a bail bond to be released from jail. When an individual bails out of jail, they are required to come back to court and answer to the charges against them. Almost all criminal charges carry jail time, fines or both, which makes it important to hire a defense attorney who will fight the charges with you.
If the individual is given a notice to appear, the notice will give the alleged offender a time, date, and location to appear in front of a judge. If the individual does not appear at the scheduled time, a warrant will be issued for his or her arrest. In Travis County, notices to appear are typically given in Class C misdemeanor cases.
When an individual appears before the judge, he or she will be notified of the charges they are facing. The judge will advise the alleged offender of his or her rights, will make a determination on whether or not to grant bail at this time. If the defendant is granted bail, he or she will have the option of paying to be released from jail until the conclusion of his or her trial. If denied bail, the defendant will remain in jail until the conclusion of the trial. In Travis County, this appearance usually takes place within the first 48 hours after the individual has been arrested. If an attorney has been retained by the accused, the attorney can usually speed up the jail release process and have their client released from jail much faster than someone who does not have an attorney.
In order for a defendant to be tried for a crime, the prosecution must prove during the preliminary hearing that there is enough evidence to show that a crime has been committed and that the defendant is, more than likely, guilty of the crime. If the defense attorney is able to successfully argue that the prosecution does not have enough evidence to support their case, or the prosecution fails to prove that they have sufficient evidence against the defendant, the case can be dismissed.
If the prosecution shows that they have enough evidence against the defendant to bring the case to trial, the defense and prosecution can begin pretrial negotiations. The purpose of pretrial negotiations or plea bargaining is for both sides to come to an agreement on the outcome of the case or what penalties the defendant will receive in exchange for a guilty or no contest plea.
The benefit of a plea agreement is that in many cases, the defense attorney is able to get the prosecution to agree to penalties that are less harsh than what the defendant could receive if found guilty at trial. These penalties can include probation, house arrest, community service, restitution, rehab, and other penalties that don’t involve prison or jail time.
A plea agreement could also include a defendant meeting certain conditions to have their case dismissed, deferred or reduced. Every case is unique and a good defense attorney can work with you to present favorable facts and evidence to the prosecution and court.
It is important to note that during pretrial negotiations, the defense attorney can only negotiate deals; he or she cannot force the defendant to accept a plea agreement. It is ultimately up to the defendant to accept or decline any plea deal. Attorney Kevin Bennett takes the defense of his clients personally and works closely with each client to try to obtain the best possible plea offer from the state, given the circumstances.
If the prosecution and defense are unable to reach an agreement on a plea bargain, the criminal process will continue. The judge will set a date to when all pre-trial motions are to be heard. During this time your defense attorney can present several motions including but not limited to:
- Motion to dismiss charges due to lack of probable cause
- Motion to dismiss due to lack of evidence
- Motion to exclude witness testimony
- Motion to suppress evidence
Sometimes the best plea offers from the State come after pretrial motions have been filed or after pretrial motions have been heard. For example, if the judge presiding over the case decides to grant a defendant's motion to suppress evidence, then the State may decide to dismiss or reduce the charge. If the judge denies the defense’s motion, the case may reach an agreement or proceed to trial, as scheduled.
Once the case has proceeded to trial and a trial date has been scheduled, the defendant will have the option of choosing between a bench trial (trial by judge), or a jury trial. If the defendant chooses a bench trial, the prosecution and defense will present their arguments in front of a judge who will then make the decision of guilt or innocence as well as the punishiment in the case should the defendant be found guilty.
If a trial by jury is selected, the prosecution and defense will present their arguments in the presence of a jury of citizens from the county where the trial is taking place. In either trial scenario, the burden of proof falls on the prosecution. This means that it is up to the prosecution to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that defendant is guilty of the charges against him or her.
In order for the defendant to be found guilty in a jury trial in Texas, the jury must reach a unanimous decision. If the defendant is found guilty, a sentencing hearing will be scheduled where a judge or jury will determine the punishments for the convicted individual. Punishments will be in accordance with the Texas Penal Code.
Upon the conclusion of the trial, your defense lawyer can file several appeals in an attempt to have your conviction and penalties overturned or reduced. In some cases, the defense can successfully have the conviction thrown out, and be granted a re-trial.
Contact Kevin Bennett today to discuss the circumstances that lead to your criminal charges in Austin, Travis County, Pflugerville, Lago Visto, Lakeway and the surrounding areas. As a quality defense lawyer, Kevin Bennett will analyze your case and provide you with legal options that best suit your particular situation.
Call The Law Office of Kevin Bennett today at (512) 476-4626 if you have been charged with a crime in and around Travis county. Your initial consultation is free.