What to Do When Charged
Being charged with a crime is a serious matter. It is something that can impact your life in many ways. Being charged is something that needs to be taken seriously. This post will take you through the Tarrant County Criminal Process. It will outline the procedure awaiting someone charged in municipal court, county court, and district court, and what you need to know moving forward.
There are generally three types of courts where cases get filed – municipal, county, and district. Municipal Court handles anything that is a Class C Misdemeanor. County courts handle all other misdemeanors, i.e. those that are Class A and Class B. Finally, District Court handles all felonies, State Jail, Third, Second, and First Degrees. Let’s examine each of these in the Tarrant County Criminal Process.
Class C Misdemeanors out of Municipal Court are different than all other types of criminal offenses in that the only punishment you can receive is fine only. Even if you are convicted there is no possibility of jail, only a fine. Municipal courts differ greatly from County and District courts. Generally, there are only 1-2 appearances before the case is disposed of. It is less formal, and can be handled without an attorney with greater ease. This does not mean you should not consult with, and possibly hire an attorney, before going to court on any matter. The best thing about Class C Misdemeanors is that if the case is disposed of properly an expunction is all but guaranteed.
County courts deal with Class A and B Misdemeanors, with the range of punishment being up to one-year in county jail. There are ten county courts in Tarrant County with certain courts like County Criminal Court No. 5 and County Criminal Court No. 9 case specific. For instance, CCC 5 only deals with family violence cases, and CCC 9 takes care of all Veteran’s cases.
There will likely have 3-4 court appearances in county court before the case is disposed of. During these court appearances, the prosecutor will provide a plea bargain offer to your defense attorney. At that point, the decision to plead the case or try the case rests with you.
District courts are even more formal than county courts. Furthermore, the punishment levels are the most severe. All felonies will be placed in a district court, and these felonies range from State Jail all the way to Capital Murder. Like the county courts Tarrant County has ten district courts. Unlike the county courts there are no case specific district courts.
In district court, there will be 4-5 appearances. These begin with a consultation appearance, then an evidence exchange, motions docket, status conference, and then pretrial hearings, if necessary. The consultation appearance is the first time the prosecutor and defense attorney have a chance to discuss the case. It is also very likely that the prosecutor will provide the first plea deal at the consultation appearance. Next is the evidence exchange which provides the opportunity to ensure all evidence has been provided to the defense. Motions docket is next up, and allows for the filing of any motions the state or defense might have a need for. Finally, the status conference appearance will either see the case pled, or placed on the trial docket. At that time, depending upon the issues within the case, a pretrial hearing might be necessary for suppression or evidentiary matters.
To Plead, or to Try:
A question that is often asked in the Tarrant County criminal process is, “should I plead, or should I try the case?” There is no perfect answer to this question. Trials can be scary. But that alone should not deter someone from taking a case to trial. Instead, knowing all the factors and issues each case presents allows for an intelligent decision to be made.
For instance, there are many reasons pleading the case is advantageous. Whether it’s disposing of the case quickly, the evidence is overwhelming, or a trial is too risky and time consuming. Furthermore, pleading the case allows you to control the parameters to which you plead. This provides peace of mind in knowing exactly what your punishment will be, and for how long.
On the other hand, going to trial might be the only option. In Texas, trials come in two halves. First is the guilt/innocence half, and, if found guilty, the trial moves into the second half – punishment. Each half can be to either the judge or jury. Juries consist of six people at the county court level and twelve at the district court level. Choosing judge or jury is again a case specific decision to be made only after examining all issues and factors. There are positives to each; but, there are also negatives.
Trials in Texas can have up to seven parts: (1) jury selection, (2) opening statement, (3) State’s case, (4) Defense’s case – if any, (5) Rebuttal – if any, (6) closing arguments, (7) jury deliberations. In Tarrant County, a county court trial will generally take place over the course of two days, while a district court trial can vary widely depending upon the case. It is important to have a plan of action for each part, and to be involved as much as possible.
Being charged with a crime is a serious matter that deserves serious attention. You may only get one shot at getting it right. It is essential that you have someone ready to fight for your rights, and your freedom. Someone that knows that Tarrant County Criminal Process. It is also essential that you have someone in your corner that knows the playing field.
To that end, if you or someone you know have been charged with any type of crime contact the criminal defense lawyers at Westfall | Sellers immediately.