The first court setting in criminal court is known as the arraignment. In Harris County misdemeanor cases, the arraignment is usually one week after the case is filed, or if the defendant has not yet been arrested, then one week after the arrest. At the arraignment, the court informs the defendant of the specific charges pending against him or her, and their right to legal representation.
Pre-Trial SettingsThe arraignment is one of several pre-trial settings that take place before the final trial setting. At these pretrial settings, in Harris County, the prosecution usually allows the defense attorney to review the police offense report and other available evidence. The prosecution and defense then discuss the case, attempting to reach a settlement agreement, a plea agreement. During plea negotiations, the prosecution and the defense each make offers, which the other side accepts or rejects. Generally, an offer remains open for acceptance until it is rejected or withdrawn.
At the first court setting, it is usually better to reset the case at least once and return to court on a new date. This allows time so that the defense can discover evidence, investigate the legality of the arrest and /or search, try getting the charges dismissed or reduced, bring forward any mitigating factors and prepare a defense before entering into a plea agreement. A good defense attorney will do all of these things in defense of their client. If dismissal of charges is not an option, then the defendant must decide whether to enter into a plea agreement or whether to proceed to trial.
In most plea agreements, the defendant pleads guilty in exchange for limited amounts of fine and incarceration. The plea agreement may also include certain recommendations to the judge regarding probation. If the judge accepts the plea agreement, the defendant generally loses their right to appeal the case to the Texas Court of Appeals. If the judge does not accept the plea agreement, then the defendant can withdraw their guilty plea. At that point, the defendant can either re-negotiate another plea agreement, or proceed to trial.
I am experienced in all aspects of criminal cases, including misdemeanor and felony jury trials. I leave no stone unturned in trying to get the best result for clients, even if that means going to trial. A trial offers the client certain advantages and disadvantages, which I thoroughly discuss with the client before proceeding. Sometimes a trial is the only possible way to get probation if the prosecution is unwilling to offer it.