The Legal Process in Criminal Cases: What Happens When You’re Facing Criminal Charges

September 4th, 2023

Being charged with a crime can be incredibly frightening. It’s a process that most of us aren’t familiar with, and it can be overwhelming trying to figure out what you need to do. This is especially true if you’ve been wrongfully accused or charged with a crime.

If you’ve been charged or accused of a crime in Texas, keep reading to learn what happens during the legal process for criminal cases from your San Antonio criminal defense attorney.

Arrest and Booking

After a crime has been reported, police will investigate the incident to determine who, if anyone, should face some type of criminal charges. If the investigation suggests you committed the crime, a warrant may be issued for your arrest. You may also be arrested if police have reason to believe you committed or are currently committing a crime.

During your arrest, the officers should let you know your rights, including that you have the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney, both for consultation and for help during questioning. 

After being arrested, you can then expect to be booked, which usually includes a search of your person, fingerprinting, and a mugshot. If you’re facing charges for a serious offense, you may be kept in police custody. For minor offenses, you may be asked to appear in court at a later date. 

Regardless of your situation, you should seek help from a criminal defense attorney if you’re facing criminal charges. 

Arraignment

Within 72 hours of your arrest, you can expect to make your first appearance before a judge. This hearing is called an arraignment. 

During your arraignment, the judge will talk to you about your rights, including your rights to silence, an attorney, and a jury trial. If allowed, your bond will be set. You’ll also be told what charges you’re facing and the maximum penalties. You will need to make a plea during your arraignment as well. You can plead guilty, not guilty, or no contest. 

A plea of no contest means you accept the charges against you but aren’t admitting guilt. Your criminal defense attorney can help you decide the right course of action.

Pretrial Proceedings

Depending on the charges against you and the details of your specific case, you may go through a variety of steps between your arraignment and a trial. During this phase, you may appear in court multiple times if the District Attorney or your criminal defense attorney attempts to resolve the charges without a trial. These appearances won’t involve a jury or witnesses. 

You may also appear in court as motions are filed and processed, including things like a Motion to Dismiss or a Motion to Suppress Evidence. 

This phase also includes a process called discovery, which is when information is shared between your defense attorney and the District Attorney. Discovery may also take place during trial proceedings in some cases. Through discovery, you can request things like evidence testing and access to digital evidence.

Trial

If your charges aren’t resolved through plea bargaining, your case will go to trial. There are three types of trials that you could face:

  • Jury Trial — Every defendant in Texas has the right to a trial by a jury of their peers.
  • Trial by Judge — You can waive your right to a jury trial and instead have a judge determine your guilt or innocence and carry out sentencing. This is also known as a bench trial.
  • Plea of Guilty With Pre-Sentencing Investigation — If you waive your right to a jury trial and plead guilty but don’t accept a plea bargain, a judge can carry out sentencing. They may order a pre-sentencing investigation before deciding on your punishment.

Each Texas trial consists of two phases: the guilt/innocence phase and the punishment phase. Jury trials also include a first step of jury selection. 

During the innocence/guilt phase, the state will attempt to prove that you are guilty by showing evidence. Your criminal defense attorney will also have the chance to cross-examine witnesses and argue on your behalf. After your guilt or innocence has been determined, sentencing will be passed if needed. 

Sentencing

The sentence you face will vary depending on the severity of your crime, but the sentencing process isn’t any simpler than any other part of criminal legal proceedings. 

If you go through a jury trial, your jury will determine your sentencing. If you go through a bench trial, the judge will determine your sentence. 

It’s important to note that, if you’ve accepted a plea bargain, the judge may or may not accept the terms you agreed to. If the judge sentences you to a harsher punishment than you agreed to, you can recall your guilty plea and restart the process. 

Appeal

Finally, if you feel you were wrongfully convicted of a crime, you have the right to appeal that conviction. This involves filing a motion for a new trial, making a notice of appeal, filing the record on appeal, and filing an appellate brief. 

The appellate court will then begin processing your case. If the appellate court decides against you, you can file for review with the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, but your chances are low.

For Texas Criminal Charges, You Need an Experienced Criminal Defense Lawyer

Criminal charges are incredibly serious, and they can carry with them penalties ranging from a mark on your permanent record to a life-changing prison sentence. If you’ve been charged with a crime in Texas, you should not put your freedom at risk by attempting to handle your case on your own. A criminal defense attorney can help you determine the right path forward for your case.

If you’re facing Texas criminal charges, you can rely on the compassionate San Antonio criminal defense attorney John G. Perez for help with your case. We can help you fight for your rights and your freedom.

If you’ve been accused or charged with a crime in Texas, reach out to experienced San Antonio criminal defense attorney John G. Perez Jr.

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