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The Texas Felony Process
There are two general categories of crimes in Texas: felonies and misdemeanors.
If you have been charged with a felony in Texas, you will want to seek the help of a Texas criminal defense attorney. A criminal defense attorney can help guide you through the Texas felony process, ensuring your constitutional rights, helping you negotiate plea deals, and devising a defense strategy tailored to the facts in your case.
Texas Felony Basics
Felonies are considered to be more serious infractions against the state. These crimes usually entail prison sentences of a year or more, hefty fines, or a combination of both.
The following are examples of felonies:
Misdemeanors, on the other hand, are considered to be lesser crimes against the state. These crimes usually entail no more than a year in prison, smaller fines, community service, or a combination of these.
The following are examples of misdemeanors:
- Public intoxication
The first step in the Texas felony process is the arrest.
The arrest may be preceded by the search. This is when police officers have probable cause that you are involved in a crime. Probable cause means that it is more likely than not you are guilty of a crime. To legally be able to search your property, the police must get a judge to issue a warrant. However, there are a few instances where a warrant is not necessary.
For example, if you are placed under arrest, an officer has the right to search your person without a warrant. In addition, if you are arrested while in a vehicle, the officer may search the vehicle. A warrantless search is also allowed if you consent to the search or if there is an object in plain view.
At the time of your arrest, you will be protected under the Constitution. Specifically, you will have the right to remain silent, which means you do not have to answer any questions from the authorities. In addition, you will have the right to an attorney.
The next major step of the Texas felony process is the arraignment. This is when the charges against you are read in open court, and you have the opportunity to enter your plea. The arraignment usually occurs within 72 hours of the arrest.
The following are the types of pleas you are allowed to enter at this time. You should discuss what plea is the best option for you with your Texas criminal defense lawyer.
- Guilty plea: A guilty plea means you admit that you committed the crime you are being charged with.
- Not guilty plea: This means that you did not commit the crime you are being accused of. After a not guilty plea is made, a trial date is set.
- No contest plea: This plea means you are not admitting guilt; however, at the same time you are not disputing the charge. This plea is often used when there is potential for a related civil trial.
- Mute plea: A mute plea allows you to enter a not guilty plea while not admitting to the correctness of the criminal justice process up to that point.
According to the Texas felony process, trial will commence within 180 days of the arrest.
You and your attorney will have the opportunity before trial to negotiate a plea deal with the prosecution. The plea bargain can allow you to plead guilty to lesser charges, thus minimizing your punishment.
If no plea bargain is reached, the trial will begin. The prosecution will attempt to prove your guilt. A jury will listen to arguments from the defense and prosecution to make a determination of your guilt.
If you are found guilty, you will have 30 days from sentencing to file an appeal.