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Texas Criminal Justice Process


When a person is arrested, they will move through the Texas criminal justice process, which consists of a series of steps or phases. Upon arrest, officers must inform the accused that he or she has the right to: 1) remain silent, 2) consult with a lawyer, and 3) have an attorney present while being questioned by law enforcement.

If you have been arrested for a crime, and you wish to assert your rights, you must make this abundantly clear to the police. If you have not been informed of these rights, it does not necessarily mean that any charges against you will automatically be dismissed.

Your Initial Appearance

Within 48 hours of your arrest, you must be taken before a judge, who will inform you of the charges against you. The judge will tell you that you have a right to an attorney, to remain silent, to have an attorney present during questioning, to terminate the questioning at any time, and that you are entitled to an examining trial (a hearing that establishes the reasons why you were arrested).

If you are unable to post bond and you remain in jail, the prosecutor must file charges:

  • Within 90 days for a felony
  • Within 30 days for a Class A misdemeanor
  • Within 15 days for a Class B misdemeanor

If you are not in jail, the prosecutor has up to two years to file misdemeanor charges against you. Otherwise, the case will be dismissed and the case cannot be prosecuted at a future date.

In a felony case, and depending on the nature of the alleged offense, the prosecutor may have between 5 and 10 years to file charges against you. If the charges are for a serious offense such as indecency with a child, or murder, the prosecutor does not have to file charges within a specified time frame.

The Arraignment

Once charges are filed, you make an initial appearance or arraignment, which is where the charges are read in open court, you enter a plea, and request a continuance if needed. Most cases are continued to allow time for further investigation.

Before and throughout trial, these are your rights:

  • The presumption that you are innocent until proven otherwise.
  • You do not have to incriminate yourself.
  • You have a right to a speedy trial by an impartial jury.
  • The right to cross-examine the state's witnesses.
  • The right to file an appeal.

Leading up to the trial, several procedures may occur such as the bond hearing, suppression hearings, plea negotiations, and discovery.

Once a case proceeds to trial, there are two phases: the guilt/innocence phase and the punishment phase (where applicable).

After trial is over and a defendant has been convicted, he or she has a right to appeal the conviction unless they previously gave up the right to a plea through a plea deal with the state.

Facing criminal charges in Denton? Contact our office to schedule a free consultation with Attorney Adame, we can be reached at (972) 619-3167!

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