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What are the steps in a criminal court proceeding?

Abilene, TX |

I'm trying to write a court case, and I was wondering in what order I need to do it. Like what comes first, arraignment, trial, etc.

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Attorney answers 1


In Texas, the terms may vary a little bit from what is used in a textbook that may cover laws and procedures from other state. Here are the basic steps that relate to Texas procedure:

1) Criminal Act

2) Arrest - If the defendant is arrested without a warrant, this is the second step. If the police conduct an investigation before arresting defendant and they believe they have probable cause to charge the defendant with a crime, they will then go to a judge and ask him or her to sign a warrant. Then the warrant is served by arresting the defendant.

3) Magistration - Or "Arraignment", where bond is set, the defendant is informed of the charges, and read Miranda warnings. Defendant is then given an opportunity to post bond and leave jail pending trial. (There are a few cases where the defendant can be ordered held without bond: capital murder and certain family violence cases.)

4) First Setting/Announcement - The defendant is required to hire an attorney and that attorney must "announce" that they represent the defendant. If the defendant meets the county's standard for indigence, then the court appoints a free attorney to represent him or her.

5) Pretrial Conference/Discovery Settings - These kind of settings are not specifically named in the CCP, but are available in almost every criminal matter in a Texas court. They are informal settings that allow the prosecution and defense to negotiate a plea agreement or to conduct discovery as required under Texas and Federal law.

6) Pretrial Hearing(s) - Depending on the circumstances of the case, a defendant may have one or more hearings regarding reduction of bond, probable cause to arrest/issue a warrant, suppression of evidence, discovery issues, etc. These are contested hearings where the prosecutor and defense attorney argue about the above issues.

7) Trial - A trial in Texas on anything above a Class C involves two parts; the first part determines guilt/innocence, the second determines sentencing. (Class C trials in Texas have only one phase and if the jury finds the defendant guilty, they also determine the sentence.)

8) Appeal - A convicted defendant may appeal the verdict and aspects of the trial through a direct appeal or by attacking the arrest and/or conviction through a process called the writ of habeas corpus.

Disclaimer: This answer is provided as a public service and as a general response to a general question, it is not meant, and should not be relied upon as specific legal advice, nor does it create an attorney-client relationship.

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