Navigate the Criminal Justice System with Passionate and Persistent Professionals on Your Side
The criminal justice system is a complex maze of rules to navigate on your own. It is important at every stage of the criminal trial process to have an experienced team by your side seeking justice in your case. The Krause Law Firm believes that every person deserves an ethical, experienced advocate to fight the injustices of the criminal trial process with them. If you or a loved one have been charged with a crime in San Antonio, you don’t have to fight a complicated, broken system alone. As an all-women law firm, the Krause Law Firm understands that the justice system is unfair, especially for minority groups. Contact us for a free consultation so we can help you get the justice you deserve.
Arrest or Notice to Appear
In Texas, the criminal process begins either with an arrest or a notice to appear in court.
When the criminal process begins with an arrest, the individual is taken into police custody, where they will have their photograph and fingerprints taken. At this stage of the process, the offender is read their Miranda rights. What’s important to know here is that the defendant has the right to remain silent and the right to an experienced attorney present to advocate on their behalf from day one. When an arrest takes place and charges are filed, the defendant will be held in jail until they can appear before a Bexar County judge.
If the case begins with a notice to appear, the defendant will receive a notice for a mandatory court date with a date, time, and location. If the defendant doesn’t appear in court for this court date, they may have a warrant issued for their arrest.
First Appearance in a Texas Court
A defendant’s first appearance before a Bexar County judge is called an arraignment, which usually happens between 48 and 72 hours after the arrest. During the arraignment, the defendant will be read the charges against them and will be asked to enter into a plea of guilty or not guilty. At this stage, the judge will evaluate the circumstances of the case and decide on bail. Bail allows a defendant to be released as they wait for their trial date. The judge may decide to set bail at a certain amount, not to set bail at all, or to release the offender on their own recognizance, meaning on the defendant’s promise that they will return to court to see their case through.
When a judge sets an amount for bail, the defendant must pay this amount to be released until their trial. This amount will be refunded if the defendant makes all the necessary appearances for the case. There are bail bond options for offenders who can’t pay their bail outright through court-approved companies. Essentially, bail is an insurance policy to make sure that the defendant comes to court when they’re required to.
The Pre-Trial Phase
The Pre-Trial phase of a criminal case is the single most important step of the criminal justice trial. This is because, in Texas, less than 2% of felony cases and less than 1% of misdemeanor cases go to trial. During the pre-trial phase, the defense can make certain motions, or requests to the court, before a trial begins. An experienced defense attorney can argue that the case is dismissed and the charges are dropped. This is usually on the basis that there isn’t enough evidence that the defendant committed the crime to get a conviction or that there was not enough probable cause to make the arrest in the first place. The defense attorney can also argue that certain evidence not be allowed during the trial.
At this point, the prosecution and the defense can also begin discussing a plea deal. A plea deal is the most common way that charges are resolved and involves the defendant admitting guilt in exchange for a lesser punishment. In some cases, jail time can be avoided altogether, and the defendant can serve their sentence on probation or house arrest, in a drug treatment program, by completing a certain number of hours of community service, or by paying a fine. It is very important to consult an experienced defense attorney before making any sort of plea agreement to protect the defendant’s rights and best interests. Prosecutors are often willing to negotiate for lesser sentences on a plea deal because it saves them the time of preparing for trial and saves them the uncertainty of potentially losing at trial. A plea deal can often be a good option for a defendant because it allows them not to risk the potential maximum punishment at trial, leaving their fate in the hands of a judge or jury. It is especially important to know that a plea deal is never mandatory. The defendant has the right to a trial if they and their defense attorney feel that is their best option.
The Criminal Trial, Verdict, and Sentencing
If a case makes it past the pre-trial phase without a plea or dismissal, it is then brought before a Bexar County judge or a jury of San Antonio citizens. While every defendant has the right to a jury trial, they also have the option to have their case heard before only a judge and to allow the judge to make the final call, which is known as a bench trial. There are advantages and disadvantages to both judge and jury trials, and it is important to consult an experienced criminal defense attorney in making the decision that is best for the specific circumstances in the case. A typical trial follows the following steps:
- Jury selection (unless the defense team has decided on a bench trial)
- Motions on what evidence is relevant in the case
- Opening statements
- Case presentations, involving evidence and witnesses from both the prosecution and defense
- Closing statements
- Jury instructions and deliberations (unless it’s a bench trial)
- Post-trial motions
During the trial, the prosecution has the burden of proof, meaning that it is their job to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the crime. The defense doesn’t have to prove that the defendant didn’t commit the crime, they just need to show that the prosecution doesn’t have the evidence they need to show that the defendant committed the crime beyond a reasonable doubt.
A verdict isn’t always the end of a fight. With an experienced professional by your side, you still have options. The verdict in your case may be appealed to a higher level of court, and could even work its way up to the highest court, especially if there were errors made during your trial process. Even if the verdict doesn’t go your way, you still have options to continue the fight.
Let Experienced, Empathetic Professionals Join Your Fight
If you or a loved one is facing a criminal charge in San Antonio, you don’t have to navigate the complex world of a criminal trial alone. Contact the Krause Law Firm for a free consultation and fight the charges with a creative, passionate, and empathetic team by your side. From misdemeanors to felonies, the experienced team at The Krause Law Firm will guide you through the process and ensure that you have the best outcome possible for your case. The Krause Law Firm doesn’t back down from a fight.