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.
What about 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.