Criminal Cases in Texas: From Beginning to End (Part 1)

black and white image of hands in handcuffs

If you are facing a criminal charge, you almost certainly have questions, concerns, and doubts that need to be addressed. Having a better understanding of how criminal cases are handled from beginning to end can allow you a greater sense of control and can provide you with the confidence boost you need to better defend your legal rights.

It is important to note that having an experienced Killeen criminal defense attorney in your corner can have a significant impact on how favorably your case will be resolved and is always in your best interest.

Why You Need a Criminal Defense Attorney on Your Side

Criminal law in Texas is exceptionally complicated, and attempting to navigate the process forward on your own is not going to do you or your criminal case any favors. Your dedicated criminal defense attorney brings all of the following to the table:

  • Your criminal defense attorney has close working knowledge of the criminal justice system and has a nuanced understanding of the system’s unique ins and outs, which will serve you well from the very beginning.

  • Your criminal defense attorney has the keen legal knowledge to begin defending your legal rights from the outset and the legal insight to remain ahead of the game in terms of strategizing your next legal step.

  • Your criminal defense attorney will help to ensure that you understand the criminal process your charge moves through, that you understand your options as you proceed, that you are as comfortable as you can be within the process, and that you make the best choices for you moving forward.

  • Your criminal defense attorney has a working relationship with the prosecution that allows him or her to enter into beneficial negotiations when it is in your best interest to do so.

  • Your criminal defense attorney is there for you every step of the way, which means that he or she can serve as a sounding board for your concerns, can help you make well-informed decisions, and will ensure that your best interests are always at the forefront.

The financial and social cost of having a conviction on your record can be very difficult to overcome, and this is not to mention the calamitous consequences of having to spend time behind bars. If you are facing criminal charges, contact a seasoned criminal defense attorney right away.

What Comes Next: After You Hire an Attorney

If you have been charged with a crime in Texas, you can expect your criminal defense attorney to engage in a lot of early activity.

Information Gathering

To begin, your attorney will engage in information gathering, which can include all of the following:

  • Information about your education

  • Information about any prior criminal charges you have faced

  • Information about any mental health concerns you may have (which will remain between you and your attorney but can play a role in the process moving forward)

There is also the matter of information about any special circumstances that may apply in your situation. For example, if you are facing a DWI (driving while intoxicated), your attorney will want to know all the following information (as relevant):

  • What and how much you ate prior to being charged (and whether this may have played a role in your test results)

  • How much you had to drink prior to driving

  • Whether you have any medical conditions like GERD or diabetes

  • What your BAC (blood alcohol concentration) test results were and any factors that may have skewed them

  • Any information that could relate to the efficacy of the BAC test that was administered to you at the time of your arrest

Information gathering is important in the here and now and as your case progresses. Ultimately, you cannot share too much information with your attorney. The more information your lawyer has, the better he or she can advise and represent you.

Notifications

Your criminal defense attorney will also notify the court that he or she is representing you, and this ensures that any notices, actions, and information regarding your case that are generated by the court will also go to your attorney.

Having your attorney on record can help to set the stage for a smoother path forward and helps to ensure that you are not taken advantage of as a result of not having legal representation.

Your criminal defense attorney will also notify the prosecution – for much the same reason – and will request that the prosecution share any discovery it has related to your case.

Discovery amounts to any evidence the state has against you or to any exculpatory evidence, which is evidence that supports your innocence in the matter. Discovery can include all the following:

  • Your arrest warrant

  • Any affidavits involved

  • Any additional records that are available

These can help flesh out the information your attorney has regarding your case and can help guide your defense strategy. From here, you need to prepare yourself to bide your time – while you wait to see if you will be charged, to learn what you will be charged with, and to be informed regarding any upcoming court dates (which your attorney will docket).

Your Job

This is your case and your future, which makes it in your best interest to engage in the process. The tasks you should focus on from the outset include:

  • Getting your attorney the information he or she needs (and being thorough in the process)

  • Showing up and being well prepared for your appointments (if something comes up that prevents you from attending an appointment with your attorney, let the office know as soon as it comes to your attention)

  • Staying in touch with your bondsman to help ensure that you stay out of jail while your case proceeds

  • Staying out of legal trouble while your case moves forward (having two strikes against you is far more difficult to successfully defend than having one)

The Investigation and Discovery Phase

The prosecution is obligated to provide your attorney with discovery, such as any videos, photographs, reports, statements signed by you, and any other evidentiary information that pertains to your case – all your attorney should have to do is ask. In return for providing their file to you, limitations apply – it is illegal for certain aspects of this discovery to be shared with you as the defendant.

The Offense Report

Fortunately, it is not necessary that you receive all of the information handed down by the prosecution because your criminal defense attorney will prepare an offense report (a summary of the evidence). This means that you will have a comprehensive understanding of what the prosecution has against you (in its entirety).

Your Opportunity to Weigh In

From here, your attorney will set up an appointment with you that allows you to go over the offense report (or the summary of the prosecution’s case against you) that your firm has compiled. This is your opportunity to do all the following:

  • Make any corrections in the report

  • Point out any errors in the report

  • Determine if there is anything missing in the report

  • Point out any additional investigating that needs to be done

The prosecution’s focus is evidence that makes you look guilty, but you may have a very good reason for having done whatever it is you did, and this information could go a long way toward building your strongest defense (this is if you did whatever you are alleged to have done in the first place).

Your Defense Strategy

Once your Killeen criminal defense attorney knows what the prosecution has against you, it’s time to begin strategizing a defense that is up to the task of meeting the charge you face. There is also the matter of determining whether or not the firm handling your claim will need to engage in an investigation of its own. This can include:

  • Obtaining various records

  • Conducting witness interviews

  • Issuing subpoenas

  • Deciding whether or not an investigator needs to be hired

A Final Note

The fact is that the police often do not share all of the reports, evidence, and information they have in any given case with the prosecution. And the prosecution is very unlikely to go out and dig up the information they do not receive. Further, the prosecution is only obligated to provide your attorney with the information it has, which means that you may not have all the evidence that you need to defend yourself once the discovery phase is completed.

Your attorney’s firm will go after this information on its own to help ensure that you have all the available evidence and information. The investigation phase is typically the longest component of any criminal case. The goal is to obtain all the available information in order to build your best possible defense – in pursuit of your case’s best possible resolution.

The fact is that knowledge is power, and it can bolster your defense considerably.

Going to Court

There are pretrial motions and hearings that may occur before your case goes to trial (or is resolved outside of court). Pretrial motions are not applicable in every criminal case. These motions are generally used to challenge a specific piece or type of evidence.

Motion to Suppress

One of the most common types of pretrial motions is the motion to suppress, which amounts to an attempt to keep evidence out of your case based on your contention that the proper procedures were not followed. If you are successful in your efforts, the state may no longer have a case to prosecute, and the case against you may be dismissed.

Another common pretrial motion is a motion to suppress evidence based on your contention that it was not obtained in accordance with the law. For example, you can file a motion to help keep out any statements or confessions that were obtained from you improperly.

Motion of Discovery

Generally, the state is required to give you all the discovery in your file, but there are specific instances in which it is necessary to file a motion of discovery. The kind of evidence that you may need a motion of discovery in order to obtain includes items such as the following:

  • Medical records

  • Telephone records

  • An item of evidence that the prosecution does not have but that could prove beneficial to your case

Notices

There are certain things that the prosecution is required to provide notice of, but this is only true if you ask for it, which means that your criminal defense attorney is likely to file notices, which amount to requests for information from the prosecution. Examples include:

  • Any expert witnesses the prosecution plans on using

  • Any evidence the prosecution plans on using related to an extraneous offense you are alleged to have committed

  • Any witness statements that the prosecution plans on using in your case

After filing a notice or pretrial motion, you will likely have a hearing before the judge that may not even involve testimony. Generally, your Killeen criminal defense attorney will simply supply the judge with the facts as they pertain to what you are asking for (along with any evidence in support of these facts). While you will typically need to appear for any such motions, it is unlikely that you will need to testify.

Turn to an Experienced Killeen Criminal Defense Attorney for the Legal Guidance that You Need

We will round out this guide to your criminal case by addressing the matter of plea bargaining (in Part 2).

Attorney Brett Pritchard is a trusted criminal defense attorney who takes great pride in helping clients like you prevail with advantageous case outcomes. For more information, please do not wait to contact us online or call us at (254) 781-4222 today.