Choosing a Harris County juvenile defense lawyer is the most important decision as it can have a significant impact on the outcome of your child's case. Parents of prospective juvenile clients should consider the following factors when selecting a lawyer:
If you have an open warrant for your arrest in Harris County, it is important to hire a criminal defense attorney in Houston, TX to represent you throughout all crucial elements of your case. The attorney may be able to represent you in court to get a bond set so you can do a walk through in the processing center, so that you do not have to turn yourself in first at the processing center and wait for a judge to set the bond and then be processed out as that can take many hours.
In most cases, criminal defendants want an aggressive lawyer who will go to trial and fight on their behalf if their case requires it, who will try to negotiate an agreement to get the case dismissed so it can later be expunged, or who will suggest their client enter a plea deal if that is the best option for their case.
Texas Criminal Process Defense Lawyer in Cypress, Jersey Village, Tomball, Katy, Northwest Houston, TX
If you have been arrested for any criminal offense in Houston, James Sullivan is an experienced trial attorney who will make every effort to help you obtain the most desirable outcome in your specific situation by representing you throughout every important phase of the criminal process.
Call James G. Sullivan & Associates today at 281-546-6428 for a consultation about your alleged criminal offense in Houston, Cypress, Katy, Tomball, and surrounding areas of Harris County, Texas. Our firm will work to potentially get your criminal charges dismissed or reduced.
Houston Booking and Case Filing
After an alleged criminal offender has been arrested for a criminal offense in Houston, they will be held in jail until they appear before a judge. Immediately after the arrest, criminal defendants are taken to booking where their photographs and fingerprints are taken. Additionally, a fingerprint report, or rap sheet, is prepared that shows the defendant’s criminal history.
In misdemeanor cases, while the defendant is held in jail, the arresting officer files the criminal charges with the district attorney’s (DA) office. If the district attorney wants to pursue the case, the DA will prepare a charging instrument called an “information.” This is a written statement that is filed and presented on behalf of the state of Texas that charges the defendant with a crime. The information also puts the defendant on notice that they have been charged with a criminal offense. After the information is processed, the case is assigned to one of the 16 misdemeanor courts in Houston through a random process.
In felony cases, the arresting law enforcement agency will also file charges with the DA’s office.
If a defendant is formally charged with a felony offense, their case will be assigned to one of the 26 felony (district) courts in Harris County.
Initial Appearance, Bail, and Arraignment in Houston
While the criminal defendant is held in jail, the jail will determine whether to set bail, to release the defendant from jail without bail (personal recognizance), or to hold the defendant in jail without bail. If bail is set, it can be posted at any time while the defendant is held in jail.
If bail is set, the amount can be posted by a bail bondsman, or another person. After the amount of bail has been posted, the defendant is guaranteed they will appear at any subsequent hearings or at trial. If they do appear as ordered, the amount of the bond, less any fees paid to secure the bond, will be returned to the individual who posted it. If the defendant does not appear, the amount of the bond will be forfeited.
After an information has been filed and the judge has decided whether to set bail or not, the defendant is entitled to an initial appearance, which is also known as the arraignment, where they will be advised of the charges that have been brought against them. The judge will also conduct a probable cause hearing to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to file criminal charges against the defendant. If the judge finds probable cause, the case continues. If the judge finds no probable cause, the prosecutor may decide to present the case to the grand jury or dismiss the charge.
The judge will also identify the defendant’s lawyer if one was hired or may appoint a lawyer to represent the defendant and set bail conditions at the arraignment.
Additionally, your attorney will have an opportunity to argue the amount of bail that should be set, and if the prosecutor has requested the defendant be held in jail, your attorney will also argue for your release. At the end of the arraignment, the defendant will enter a plea of not guilty, nolo contendere, or guilty, and will be informed of the date of their next court appearance.
Between the first and second court settings, these charges usually will then be presented to the grand jury to decide if there is enough evidence to charge the defendant with the crime. If the grand jury does decide there is enough evidence, they will file an indictment. This charging instrument is a written statement that formally accuses the person named of the criminal offense. The grand jury is a private proceeding that is comprised of a panel of citizens who are randomly selected to review criminal complaints provided by the police.
If the grand jury decides to true bill the alleged offender, or formally charge them, the grand jury has determined there is sufficient evidence (probable cause) to charge the defendant with the alleged criminal offense and will issue an indictment. If the grand jury decides to no bill the alleged offender, the defendant will not be charged with a criminal offense because the grand jury did not find probable cause to proceed with the case.
Criminal Process and Pre-Trial Negotiations in Houston
Prior to any appearances, hearing, or trial for the defendant’s criminal charges, the defendant’s attorney and the prosecutor will have an opportunity to discuss any pretrial negotiations or enter a plea deal. They will also be able to enter a plea deal at the arraignment if this is in the defendant’s best interest.
The defendant’s attorney and the prosecutor will determine if there are any immediate reasons to dismiss the case. More commonly discussed prior to trial, a plea deal is a resolution of the case where both the prosecutor and the defendant agree to a certain punishment without ultimately having a trial to determine the defendant’s guilt. Additionally, at any of these pretrial negotiations, the case may be reset, postponed, rescheduled, or a continuance may be requested by either party.
Houston Hearings, Appearances, and Pre-Trial Motions
After the defendant is released from jail on bail or bond, they will be informed of their next hearing date at their arraignment. The defendant is required to appear on the date and time where they were instructed to appear, or else they will risk losing the amount of bond and a warrant will be issued for their arrest.
After any pretrial negotiations, but before trial, the court will set a date to hear all pretrial motions filed by both sides. The defendant’s attorney can file any motions arguing why the case should be dismissed or to suppress certain evidence. The most common pre-trial motions filed on behalf of a defendant can include any of the following:
- Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Probable Cause
- Motion to Exclude a Non-credible Witnesses’ Testimony
- Motion to Exclude the Defendant’s Confession
- Motion to Strike Prior Convictions
- Motion to Suppress Illegally Obtained Evidence
Houston Criminal Trial
If a defendant has rejected all pre-trial negotiations, the case has not been dismissed, and the defendant has pleaded not guilty to an alleged criminal offense, the case will be set for trial. The defendant can choose to have a bench trial or a jury trial.
A bench trial is a trial without a jury where only the judge determines if the defendant is guilty or innocent. Additionally, in bench trials, the defendant waives any error in the case upon any subsequent appeals. A jury trial is comprised of a panel of 12 jury members for felony cases and six jury members for misdemeanor cases. The jury members are citizens in the county where the trial is held and are chosen through a process called voir dire (jury selection).
After the jurors are seated, the guilt/innocence phase of the trial will begin. This phase involves the presentation of all evidence, and all witnesses are called to testify. The prosecutor has the burden of proving the defendant committed every element to the offense beyond a reasonable doubt. This is a very high burden of proof and often difficult to meet. The defense does not have to prove anything.
In order to convict a defendant, all jurors must unanimously agree the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. If they do not all agree, the jury is called a hung jury and the judge must declare a mistrial. The case will then later be retried if the prosecutor believes another jury will be able to reach a unanimous decision. The prosecutor also could dismiss the charge or offer the defendant a deal on a reduced charge instead of having another trial.
If the defendant is found guilty, the punishment phase of the trial will occur next. This phase is used to determine the defendant’s punishment for their alleged offense. Prior to the beginning of trial, the defendant must choose whether to go to the judge or the jury to determine their punishment.
If the defendant believes a legal error occurred in the trial based on the judge’s instructions to the jury or for permitting inadmissible evidence, they can file an appeal to the next highest court. The criminal appeal is not a pre-trial rehearing of the evidence.
Find a Houston Criminal Trial Attorney | James G. Sullivan & Associates
Contact us today for a consultation about your arrest and criminal charges in Harris County in Texas. James Sullivan is a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney in Houston who will make every effort to fight for you at every stage of the criminal process.
Contact James G. Sullivan & Associates today at 281-546-6428 for a consultation about your alleged offense in Houston, Cypress, Katy, Tomball, and surrounding areas of Harris County, Texas. Our firm will work with the goal to get your criminal charges dismissed, won at trial, or reduced.
According to Texas Family Code § 71.004 family violence is defined as:
(1) an act by a member of a family or household against another member of the family or household that is intended to result in physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or sexual assault or that is a threat that reasonably places the member in fear of imminent physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or sexual assault, but does not include defensive measures to protect oneself;
(2) abuse, as that term is defined by Texas Family Code Sections 261.001, by a member of a family or household toward a child of the family or household means either physical injury that results in substantial harm to the child, or the genuine threat of substantial harm from physical injury to the child, including an injury that is at variance with the history or explanation given and excluding an accident or reasonable discipline by a parent, guardian, or managing or possessory conservator that does not expose the child to a substantial risk of harm; sexual conduct harmful to a child’s mental, emotional, or physical welfare, including conduct that constitutes the offense of continuous sexual abuse of young child or children under Texas Penal Code § 21.02, indecency with a child under Texas Penal Code § 21.11,, sexual assault under Texas Penal Code § 22.011,, or aggravated sexual assault under Texas Penal Code § 22.021; compelling or encouraging the child to engage in sexual conduct as defined by Texas Penal Code § 43.01, including compelling or encouraging the child in a manner that constitutes an offense of traffiking of persons under Texas Penal Code § 20A.02(a)(7) or (8), prostitution under Texas Penal Code § 43.02(b), or compelling prostitution under Texas Penal Code § 43.05(a)(2); causing, permitting, encouraging, engaging in, or allowing the photographing, filming, or depicting of the child if the person knew or should have known that the resulting photograph, film, or depiction of the child is obscene as defined by Texas Penal Code § 43.21, or pornographic; the current use by a person of a controlled substance as defined by Chapter 481, Health and Safety Code, in a manner or to the extent that the use results in physical, mental, or emotional injury to a child; causing, expressly permitting, or encouraging a child to use a controlled substance as defined by Chapter 481, Health and Safety Code; causing, permitting, encouraging, engaging in, or allowing a sexual performance by a child as defined by Texas Penal Code § 43.25; or forcing or coercing a child to enter into a marriage; or,
(3) dating violence, as that term is defined by Section 71.0021, means an act, other than a defensive measure to protect oneself, by an actor that is committed against a victim or applicant for a protective order with whom the actor has or has had a dating relationship, or because of the victim’s or applicant’s marriage to or dating relationship with an individual with whom the actor is or has been in a dating relationship or marriage; and is intended to result in physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or sexual assault or that is a threat that reasonably places the victim or applicant in fear of imminent physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or sexual assault. A “dating relationship” is defined as a relationship between individuals who have or have had a continuing relationship of a romantic or intimate nature. The existence of such a relationship will be determined based on consideration of the length of the relationship, the nature of the relationship, and the frequency and type of interaction between the persons involved in the relationship.
Effects of Domestic Violence Conviction on Life
The effects a family violence conviction have on a person's daily life include some of the most profound consequences. These convictions, in multiple ways, can affect many aspects of a person's daily life.
Examples of how a domestic violence conviction can affect a person’s regular life include:
- You cannot obtain a fishing or hunting license in Texas,
- Your divorce or child custody proceedings could be adversely affected,
- You may be unable to foster or adopt a child,
- If you are not a U.S. citizen, you could lose your legal residence status,
- You may be denied housing, and
- You may be subject to the terms of either an Emergency Protective Order authorized by the Code of Criminal Procedure, or a Protective Order authorized by the Family Code.
Subsequent Offenses Can Be Enhanced to Felony Charges
It is also crucial to know that after being convicted of domestic violence or even successfully completing a deferred adjudication probation, all subsequent domestic violence charges can be enhanced. Texas Penal Code § 22.01(b) states that an assault offense under Texas Penal Code § 22.01(a)(1) is a Class A misdemeanor, except that the offense is a third-degree felony if the offense is committed against a person whose relationship to or association with the defendant is described by Texas Family Code § 71.0021(b), 71.003, or 71.005, meaning dating violence, family, or household if it is shown on the trial of the offense that the defendant has been previously convicted of an offense under this chapter, Chapter 19, or Texas Penal Code § 20.03 (kidnapping), 20.04 (aggravated kidnapping), 21.11 (indecency with a child), or 25.11 (continuous violence against the family) against a person whose relationship to or association with the defendant is described by Texas Family Code § 71.0021(b), 71.003, or 71.005.
An affirmative finding of family violence on even a Class C Misdemeanor could allow the state to file a subsequent family violence case as a felony charge. Additionally, family violence charges cannot be expunged or sealed from your permanent record, so the conviction or even completed deferred probation will permanently tarnish your reputation for life.
Houston, TX Family Violence Lawyer
If you were recently arrested for a crime of family violence in the greater Houston area, you should quickly seek legal representation. Call James G. Sullivan & Associates so you can have the best chance of possibly getting your criminal case dismissed.
Our law firm understands family violence charges are extremely personal in nature and knows how overwhelming it can be for a person to try and resolve these problems on their own. We can be by your side throughout the court process, and we review your case as soon as you call (281) 546-6458 to schedule a free consultation.
Effects of Family Violence Conviction on Work
In addition to the effects that domestic violence convictions can have on a person’s daily life, there can also be an immediate and negative impact on a person’s ability to work. People usually spend most of their time in their daily lives at their workplace, and the impact a domestic violence crime has on a career can be crushing.
A domestic violence conviction could result in some of these possible consequences on work:
- You could lose your current job,
- You may not be eligible for public service positions,
- You could lose professional licenses, and
- You cannot own or possess a firearm, which may rule out employment in law enforcement.
If you are unemployed, it is crucial to know that a domestic violence conviction could affect your ability to find a job. The family violence charge will show up on most background checks and some employers refuse to hire a person because of such a conviction.