On television, a person gets arrested and the trial happens a week later, with no steps in between.
In reality there are several more steps, and that works to your advantage. Here’s what to expect after your arrest in Houston, TX.
48 hours after your arrest, you must be brought before a judge. You will be advised of your right and given the opportunity to enter your plea.
The judge also determines whether you are eligible for bail and will set the bail amount. If you can post the full amount of the bond you will be released. If you can’t, you may be able to pay 10% to a bail bondsman and they’ll pay the bond for you.
If you cannot post bail you will remain in jail.
Your attorney will typically be writing some pre-trial motions. For example, if your civil rights were violated when the police gathered evidence against you, the attorney will petition to suppress that evidence.
Often these motions require a hearing.
You may also be required to attend pre-trial conferences.
These meetings allow the prosecution and defense to meet, to discuss weaknesses and strengths in the case, and to try to bargain with one another. If the prosecution’s case is weak the defense might use this opportunity to urge the prosecution to drop the case, for example.
At any point during the process the prosecution may offer a plea bargain. Whether or not you take this bargain will be a serious discussion between you and your attorney.
Once you accept a plea bargain, the process is over. Plea bargains require you to plead guilty in exchange for some concession. This is usually a reduction in charges and a lighter sentence. It could mean the difference between jail time and probation time, or even the formation of a deferred prosecution agreement.
A plea bargain is sometimes a bad deal, so be careful before you accept one. Be sure to discuss all the pros and cons with your lawyer and understand precisely what you’re agreeing to.
If you don’t resolve your case at the plea bargain phase, you’ll go to trial. Keep in mind that criminal cases are backlogged in the Harris County justice system. It can take months for cases to go to trial.
If the case goes to trial, your attorney will get the chance to argue a case before a jury, who will determine whether you’re guilty or innocent. If you are acquitted, you’re done with the case. If not, you’ll have an additional sentencing hearing, and then will go on to serve your sentence.
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