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People charged with a criminal offense in Collin County Texas are naturally concerned with the amount of time it will take to resolve the matter, so they may address the matter at hand and move on with their life. I am often asked questions about what to expect, generally, in terms of time, court appearances, etc. I am going to break this up into two sections: after arrest and before the first court date. Part two will address the process after the case is filed or indicted.BETWEEN THE TIME OF ARREST AND FIRST COURT DATE
Most people have a general understanding of the court
process after a formal charge has
been filed. That is to say, most of us
understand that when one is formally accused of a crime by the government, one
has the right to a jury trial, to require the government to present proof
beyond a reasonable doubt to a jury, to present witnesses one's own behalf and
that the accused has the right to confront and cross examine witnesses against them
that are presented by the government.
that period of time between the moment when the police place someone under
arrest and the moment the arrested person is actually in court to defend the
charge against them? For many people,
that aspect of the process is murky or confusing or both. Here is a brief summary of that process that
I hope answers some of the questions you might have.
When the police arrest someone,
they have to bring the accused before a magistrate within forty eight hours. The magistrate makes a preliminary
determination as to whether the police had probable cause to arrest
someone. If he or she finds that the
arrest was unlawful, the arrested person is discharged. If the magistrate finds that the arrest was
lawful and supported by probable cause, the magistrate will inform the arrested
person of several important issues. The
issues that will be discussed by the magistrate include the accusation made
against them, their right to remain silent, and their right to an attorney
among other things. At this point the
magistrate also sets a bond. If the
person is unable to bond out by posting a cash or surety bond, they will be
transported to the Collin county jail in McKinney.
When a person is held and unable to
make bond, they may try to raise bond, seek a bond reduction in the appropriate
court, or if the case is not formally filed or indicted within certain time
frames, they may be eligible for a reduced or personal bond. In a felony case, if the arrested person is
unable to make bond for ninety days and the state is not ready for trial, i.e.
the arrested person has not been indicted by the Grand Jury, the arrested
person is generally entitled to a reduced or personal bond. Similarly, in a misdemeanor case the state
must be ready within fifteen day for a Class B misdemeanor and thirty days for
a Class A misdemeanor or the arrested person will generally be entitled to a
reduced or personal bond.
As you are probably aware, the
arrest and arraignment is not the end of the process, in fact it is really just
the beginning. Following arrest, the
investigating police agency will usually file a case with the District
Attorney's Office. If it is a
misdemeanor case the District Attorney's office will prosecute by filing a
document known as an "Information." An
Information is the formal charging document in a misdemeanor case. Misdemeanor cases may be filed by the
District Attorney after the case is reviewed by attorneys assigned to the Intake division. There is no requirement for a Grand Jury indictment
in a misdemeanor case, rather they may simply be filed. Misdemeanor cases of a grade Class B or
higher are filed in the County Court at Law Clerk's office and assigned
randomly to one of the six County Courts at Law that we have in Collin County.
In a felony case, the process by
which a person is formally charged is more complicated. When the police file a felony case with the
District Attorney's Office, the case is sent to its Grand Jury division. The Grand Jury Division has several options
at this point. They may present the case
as filed to a Grand Jury with the goal of seeking an indictment, the may decide
not to prosecute the case, they may request additional investigation from the
filing police agency, or in some unusual instances, may decide that the case
should be filed as a misdemeanor.
If the District Attorney's Office
decides to seek a felony indictment, the case is presented to the Grand
Jury. A Grand Jury is composed of not
more than twelve citizens summoned serve as grand jurors to consider whether an
indictable offense has occurred in the cases presented to them. The grand jury proceeding is secret. It may come as a surprise to you to learn
that the arrested person whose case is being considered by the Grand Jury has
no right to be present when the evidence is being presented; nor does an
attorney representing an arrested person.
Only the grand jurors themselves, the attorney for the State, the
bailiffs and stenographers may be present.
Generally, the arrested person may submit written material for the Grand
Jury to consider.
When the Grand Jury has considered
the case, a vote is taken and if at least nine members of the Grand Jury concur
with the bill presented by the attorney for the State the Grand Jury has found
a "true bill" and an Indictment will issue.
An indictment is the written statement of a grand jury accusing a person
of a crime. If an indictment issues the
case will be filed in the District Clerk's office, assigned to one of the
District Courts and a criminal prosecution will commence. On the other hand, if less than nine of the
grand jurors concur in the bill, the grand jury has issued what is referred to
as a "no bill", and no indictment will issue.