The easiest way to get criminal experience is to get on the court-appointed list. To do so, you must submit an application to Bobbie Moore, the Statutory County Courts Administrator for Denton County. Ms. Moore can be reached at (940) 349-2100.
Denton County follows the Indigent Defense Plan of 2010. In this plan it describes the minimum attorney qualifications for having your name placed on the list. The hardest part of the qualifications for a new attorney is that you are required to have five (5) jury trials under your belt and Class C trials do not count. The other requirement that can be hard to overcome is that you must have an office in Denton. Thus, working for a Dallas law firm with no offices in Denton will prevent you from getting on the list. There are other requirements but these are the big two. You can find the plan at the following website address:
Your client can bail out one of two ways: 1) they can pay the entire bond amount in cash, a.k.a cash bond, or 2) they can hire a bail bonds company which will charge 8 - 20 % of the bond amount. If they pay a cash bond, the court sets that money aside until the case is over. If the client makes all of his/her appearances, the money will be returned minus any admin fees. However, if your client no shows a hearing, the bond will be forfeited; he/she will lose all of the money and an arrest warrant will be issued . If a bail bonds company is used, the money paid is lost because that is kept by the bail bonds company. So yes it is cheaper to use a bail bonds company but that money is automatically lost. WARNING:if your client has an ICE Hold because he/she is illegal and he/she pays the cash bond, they will be deported back to their country. If this happens and they miss their first hearing, a warrant will be issued for their arrest. Deportation is no excuse for missing a hearing.
Visit or Make Contact with Your Client Immediately
If at all possible, you want to visit your court-appointed client in jail or schedule an appointment to meet your client as soon as you can if they are out on bond. I definitely visit them within 48 hours of being assigned the case but I try to visit them within the first 24 hours if at all possible. For those fortunate enough to be out on bond, just call them, introduce yourself and try to get the gist of their story. Set them up an appointment to discuss the case if you have a copy of the police affidavit and other documents. Don't waste your time meeting with them if you cannot compare their story to the police version. It is better to have a copy of the court's file when you meet with your client.
Don't Forget to Get your Copy of the Evidence
As a CYA, even if your client wants to accept a plea offer, make sure you get a copy of the State's file and get copies of any CDs or DVDs that the State may have in its possession. Requesting a video, such as a DWI video, is simple. First contact the prosecutor to find out if there are any CDs or DVDs in the file. If so, bring blanks to the District Attorney's Office in the Denton County Courthouse and drop them off for copying. Make sure you tape your card to the envelope/case and put your client's name and case number on the case as well. The DA's office will send you an email when the CD/DVD is ready for pick up. To copy the State's file, again contact the lead prosecutor of the court and see how they want to get that to you. Some prosecutors will make you come up to the courthouse and use the Criminal Defense Bar's copy machine. However, other prosecutors will make the copy for you and will leave it with the staff up front. Either way, the process is relatively simple.
PTD - Pre-trial Diversion
Believe it or not, Denton County does have a Pre-trial Diversion program so don't forget to inquire about it at your first setting. It is only offered to first time offenders and some crimes do not qualify. If the ADA states that your client is eligible, the Denton County Adult Probation Department will make contact with your client to set up an appointment. There is a seven (7) page packet your client has to fill out and bring to that meeting. PTD is worth it if your client can successfully complete the program.
Your client has to appear at all misdemeanor settings unless you draft and file an Authorization for Court Appearances and Waiver of Appearances. I tend to do this for all clients out on bond to prevent them from missing a court hearing. Of course, your client will have to appear for all plea settings. This waiver just helps them avoid appearing for the arraignment and announcement hearings. Remember, if your client is charged with a felony, they have to appear at all settings and a waiver will not cut it for a felony.
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