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What Happens in a Criminal Case?

Timeline of a Texas Criminal Case April 22, 2024

How a Criminal Case Progresses in Texas: A Step-by-Step Guide

If you or a loved one has been accused of a crime in Dallas, Fort Worth (Tarrant County), Plano, Frisco, Denton, Arlington or any other DFW county then it's essential to understand the criminal justice process and what to expect at each stage. From arrest to trial, the process can be complex and overwhelming without a clear understanding of the steps involved. In this post, we'll break down how a criminal case progresses in Texas, providing a comprehensive guide to help you navigate the system.

Step 1: Arrest and Booking (Hours 1-48)

The process begins with an arrest, which can occur following a police investigation, witness identification, or probable cause. Once arrested, the individual is taken into custody and transported to a local law enforcement agency for booking. During booking, personal information is recorded, and a mugshot is taken. The individual is also searched, and any personal belongings are confiscated.

Step 2: Initial Appearance and Bail (Hours 48-72)

Within 48 hours of arrest, the individual is taken before a magistrate judge for an initial appearance. The judge informs the accused of the charges, their rights, and the amount of bail required for release. In Texas, bail is typically set based on the severity of the crime and the individual's criminal history.

Step 3: Investigation and Evidence Collection (Days 1-30)

Following the initial appearance, the prosecution begins building its case by collecting evidence, conducting interviews, and analyzing forensic data. This stage can take several weeks, during which time the accused may be released on bail or remain in custody.

Step 4: Grand Jury Indictment (Days 30-60)

In Texas, felony cases are typically presented to a grand jury, which decides whether there is sufficient evidence to indict the accused. If the grand jury returns an indictment, the case proceeds to the next stage.

Step 5: Arraignment (Days 60-90)

At the arraignment, the accused is formally read the charges and enters a plea (guilty, not guilty, or no contest). If a plea agreement is reached, the case may proceed to sentencing. Otherwise, the case moves forward to the pretrial phase.

Step 6: Pretrial Motions and Hearings (Days 90-180)

During this stage, the defense and prosecution file motions and attend hearings to resolve various issues, such as:

· Motions to suppress evidence
· Motions to dismiss charges
· Hearings on bail reductions
· Discovery disputes

Step 7: Jury Selection and Trial (Days 180+)

If a plea agreement is not reached, the case proceeds to trial. A jury is selected, and both sides present their cases through testimony, evidence, and arguments. The jury delivers a verdict, which may result in a conviction, acquittal, or mistrial.

Step 8: Sentencing (Days 180+)

If convicted, the accused is sentenced by the judge, taking into account factors such as criminal history, the severity of the crime, and any mitigating circumstances.

In conclusion, understanding how a criminal case progresses in Texas is crucial for navigating the complex criminal justice system. From arrest to sentencing, each stage plays a critical role in determining the outcome of the case. If you or a loved one is facing criminal charges, it's essential to seek the guidance of an experienced criminal defense attorney to ensure your rights are protected throughout the process.