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Case Flow within Texas Criminal Courts

To understand how a typical criminal case progresses through the court system of many of the 254 counties in the state of Texas—including ours in Aransas County, please click on this link Case Flow - Texas Criminal Courts and review the chart along with the supporting information below:

Alleged Crime Committed

Law Enforcement Observes the Crime or Receives Notification of it

Law Enforcement Investigates Investigation may include interviewing victims, witnesses, suspects; collecting physical evidence; visiting, viewing, photographing, measuring the crime scene; identifying suspects through line-ups, etc. From this initial investigation a police report is generated.

Law Enforcement makes an Arrest then sends an Investigative Report to Prosecutor (County District Attorney)

County District Attorney Reviews Report then accepts it as a Case or Requests Additional Information Most felony cases are discussed with the reporting law enforcement agency during a meeting between the Criminal Investigation Divisions of the arresting agency and our office.  At that time, we will either accept the felony case or request that further investigation be done or supplemental information be given before it is accepted.  Misdemeanor reports are handed directly to our department as well.

his case intake meeting is generally the first involvement that the County District Attorney's office has with a case, unless he/she reviewed a search warrant or visited the crime scene.  At this stage, the Prosecutor determines whether or not a person should be charged with a crime and, if so, what the charge should be.  (Police do not issue charges, prosecutors do.) 

An Assistant County District Attorney (ACDA), working at the direction of the County District Attorney, must thoroughly review all reports and records of a case, including witness statements. The ACDA also reviews a suspect's prior criminal or traffic record.

Information or Indictment Issued 
Informations are the charging instruments used (generally) in misdemeanor cases to allow the County Courts at Law to obtain jurisdiction of both the case and the defendant.  The County District Attorney can issue a charge on an Information if he/she reasonably believes that probable cause exists that the suspect committed the offense; although, most times, they apply a higher standard: whether he/she reasonably believes that he/she can prove the charge, at trial, beyond a reasonable doubt when the case is filed.

Indictments are the charging instruments used in felony cases and are only obtained through a 
Grand Jury.  A Grand Jury is composed of 12 county citizens who will hear cases presented to them by the County District Attorney's office and then vote upon them during secret proceedings. If at least 9 of the 12 Grand Jurors believe sufficient evidence exists for a case to be tried and they vote to return an indictment and that indictment is signed by the Grand Jury foreperson, the indictment is known as a true bill of indictment (“true billed”).  However, if the Grand Jury votes not to present a true bill of indictment, the case is considered to be "no billed."  A Grand Jury may also pass on voting on a case and require an agency—through the County District Attorney—to further investigate the matter before bringing it back to the Grand Jury.

Warrant Issued When the Affidavit of Warrant is filed in the County Court at Law or District Court, the judge then signs a warrant—an order to bring the defendant before the court.  In many cases, a bond had previously been set by a magistrate or a judge and the defendant posted bond and is out of jail awaiting the disposition of their case in court.  In that instance, they will continue on bond unless, for some reason, the Judge increases the amount of the bond or revokes the bond of the defendant for failing to abide by the conditions of the bond.

Suspect Arrested (if not already in custody)
The delay between the date of the crime and the defendant's arrest after indictment or after the filing of an information can take any length of time.  For example, if the defendant's whereabouts are unknown or if he/she has left the State of Texas.  A notice of the warrant is placed into the various law enforcement agencies databases and the defendant may be arrested on that warrant anywhere including out of state.

Court Arraignment 
This is the first court appearance for any misdemeanor or felony. After the defendant is charged by information or by indictment, the suspect appears in either the County Court at Law or the District Court for arraignment. At arraignment, the defendant is told what the charge(s) is (are) and the maximum penalty if convicted, and is advised of his constitutional rights to a jury or bench trial, appointed attorney, presumption of innocence, etc. The defendant may waive arraignment in court by filing a document. All further pre-trial procedures are determined by whether the defendant is charged with a felony or misdemeanor.

Sentencing in Texas varies with the crime; the ranges of punishment are set by the State Legislature and sentences are generally at the judge's discretion.  If the defendant goes to the jury for punishment, the judge will follow the jury's sentencing recommendations. If there is a bench trial, a plea, or an election by the defendant to have the judge sentence him/her if found guilty by the jury, the judge will consider the information in the pre-sentence report before determining the sentence.  

A judge is not bound to sentence a defendant to the terms of a plea bargain agreement between the State and the defendant.  If he "breaks" the agreement by sentencing the defendant to something harsher than the agreement, the defendant may recall his plea of guilty to the charge and the process begins all over again. The parties may correct factual errors in the pre-sentence report and offer additional evidence relevant to the judge's sentencing decision.  The judge may consider different alternatives, such as a fine, probation, community service, a sentence to jail or prison, or a combination. The judge must also order the defendant to make restitution to any victims who have suffered financial harm.