If you have been arrested, you may be about to go through a trying and frustrating process. Most people who get arrested also get formally charged with a crime. How you get charged, what charges you will face, and where you are charged depends initially on whether you are going to face a federal, state, or municipal charge. It is a scary process. So, an accused always needs to be informed on what the future holds. This blog will deal with state and municipal charges.
STATE FELONY CHARGES
State felony charges will be filed in a state district court in the county where the alleged criminal conduct took place. Penalty ranges are varied and severe. They range from a state jail felony offense (6 months – 2 years), to 3rd Degree Felonies (2 years – 10 years), to 2nd Degree Felonies (2 years – 20 years), to 1st Degree Felonies (5 years – 99 years / life) and all the way to Capital Murder (life without parole or the death penalty). Your eligibility for probation depends on whether or not you have a prior felony conviction. Clearly, this is something that is going to affect the rest of your life. And, you cannot afford to gamble. Choose an attorney with years of trial experience. One with whom you feel comfortable.
To get to state district court, you must first be indicted by a Grand Jury. Few accused deal with the Grand Jury. It is a process where prosecutors present evidence to a Grand Jury to see if there is probable cause to formally charge an accused. Your attorney does not have the right to be present during this procedure, and the Grand Jury meets and votes in secret.
If an accused is indicted by the Grand Jury, you will more than likely have multiple settings before getting a trial date. In Tarrant County, you will go from a Consultation Docket, to Evidence Exchange Docket, to Motions Docket, to Status Conference Docket, and then to a Trial Docket. Once you reach a Trial Docket, an accused may go through multiple trial settings before actually going to trial. Typically, Courts first try cases where the accused is incarcerated and has not been able to make bail. Depending on the speed with which the court moves, it is not unusual for an accused to have to wait more than 2 years from the date they are arrested to actually going to trial on their case. A trial can be before a judge or a jury. If a trial is before a jury, it will be before a jury of 12 citizens.
The decision to plead or go to trial on a case always belongs to you. Your attorney will inform you of the risks involved and potential consequences of all decisions, but the decision is yours to make. The advantage of a plea is that you remove the unknown from the equation of possibilities. If you have a low plea bargain offer, you may decide that is a better deal than running a risk of a jury or a judge giving you a longer sentence. But there are times when an accused may choose to go to trial for any of a myriad of reasons. You need to make sure you have an attorney that can walk you through this process. One you can trust to give you the best advice in order for you to make one of the most important decisions of your life.
STATE MISDEMEANOR CHARGES
Charges than are classified as Class A Misdemeanors or Class B Misdemeanors will be filed in a County Criminal Court or a County Court at Law. The penalty range on Class A’s is up to 1 year in jail and on Class B’s it is up to 180 days in jail. An accused may not be given as many settings as they would in state district court before they have to make the decision whether to plead or go to trial. A trial before a jury in county court will be tried before a jury of 6 citizens.
A conviction in county criminal court may not carry with it a potential penalty of years in prison, but the consequences can still be disastrous for you and your family. Convictions can affect your employment, child custody, divorce, and your reputation within your community. Make sure you have an attorney whom you trust to give you the best advice.
Charges that are Class C Misdemeanors are filed in municipal courts. The potential penalty for these charges is up to a $500 fine. They do not carry a penalty with jail time, unless you do not pay your fine. But make no mistake – these charges can be costly to your record. Whether it is a future employer running a criminal background check or a high school student applying to different colleges, these charges can come back to bite you. Make sure you have an attorney who you trust to protect your interests if you are charged with a Class C Misdemeanor.
If you are charged with a felony or a misdemeanor crime, contact the attorneys at Nickols & White, PLLC at (817) 617-7500 for a private consultation.