Criminal Procedure in Houston, TX
Explained by Criminal Lawyers at The Martinez Law Firm
If you have been arrested, particularly if this is your first arrest, you may be unsure of what to do. Here at The Martinez Law Firm, we exist to help guide you successfully through the criminal justice system as it is in Houston, Texas. Know that the absolute first thing that you should do is contact a Houston criminal defense attorney to understand the best course of action. Anything you say can and will be held against you in court, and you have the right to attorney representation, so contact The Martinez Law Firm as soon as possible after an arrest.
In order to be lawfully arrested in Houston, a law enforcement official must have reasonable cause. Reasonable cause (or reasonable suspicion) is not a hunch, but is based on observable facts and evidence. Defined, reasonable cause is "based on specific articulable facts taken together with rational inferences from those facts." In some instances, law enforcement officials arrest people without probable cause, and therefore violate their fourth amendment rights (lawful search and seizure). In this instance, a case could be dismissed for lack of a lawful arrest. An arrest can come after a crime is committed, if there is a lawful warrant or after an indictment and investigation.
Criminal Charges & Preliminary Appearance
After an arrest, an individual will be taken before a judge for a formal reading of the charges against them. The Harris County District Attorney's Office will be responsible for making the decision to file charges or not. The arrestee will be taken before a magistrate, which should occur less than a day after the initial arrest. If bail is set, then the arrestee does not have to wait in custody until their hearing. In some cases, bail can be denied if the defendant is labeled as an endangerment to the public. Bail may also be set too high for the defendant or their loved ones to pay it. An attorney may be able to get bail reduced or there is the option of a bail bond- which will provide the money for bail on the condition that the accused person appears in court.
Evidentiary Hearing & Trial
At the evidentiary (preliminary) hearing, the defendant's attorney may be able to get certain evidence dismissed from the case. Many criminal cases fail to go to court and are dismissed at this phase of the criminal process. This is because, with certain pieces of evidence dismissed, the charges have little to rest on and are not strong enough to compel a case to trial. If a case does go to trial, this is one of the final stages of the criminal process, provided that there is no appeal. There is also the possibility of a hung jury or a mistrial.
Appealing a Criminal Conviction
A defendant cannot always appeal a criminal conviction. The appeal must be based on a few different factors which could include claiming that the judge made a bad ruling, the prosecutors acted in an unethical manner or the defendant's defense lawyer was not competent enough to handle the trial. By claiming that any of these things occurred, the defendant is appealing their criminal conviction on the basis that they would not have been convicted otherwise.
By providing a brief overview of the criminal process, we hope that you will be compelled to contact us for further legal counsel. The Martinez Law Firm has the experience in the Harris County courts and skill you need to be confident in your case.