The Criminal Case Process in Texas

Every county handles the prosecution of a criminal offense differently.  Obviously the prosecution of a federal case is handled much differently than any case pending in a state court.  The system differs considerably given the type of criminal offense charged and where it is located.  The following is how, in very general terms, a given criminal case usually proceeds in Texas.


The first thing that occurs in most circumstances is the person is arrested. If the arrest occurs in either Dallas or Collin County, Carl can help facilitate a jail release to help get the person out as fast as possible. If Carl does not write the bond himself, he will refer the accused to a reputable professional bond company that works in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex that he has prior experience with.

First Appearance

The accused is then expected to make a "first appearance" in court. The first appearance is usually where the accused informs the court whether or not they have hired an attorney, or if they not, whether they want to apply to be represented by a court-appointed attorney.  Often, if the accused hires an attorney the first appearance can be waived if a "letter of representation" is filed.  Carl does this immediately after being retained on a criminal case to try and minimize the amount of time clients actually have to attend court.  He is respectful of the fact that people often have work and other professinal and personal obligations during the day that cannot be completed if they have to make additional time to attend various court settings.

Announcement Settings

The next settings are most commonly referred to as "Announcement" settings.  Several court appearances usually occur where discovery is obtained.  An attorney is also usually given a chance to discuss the facts surrounding the arrest with the prosecutor assigned to the case. Whether the defendant is required to attend these settings is dependant on whether the charge is a felony or a misdemeanor, and also on which court the case is pending.  A punishment recommendation is usually presented to the attorney by the prosecutor based on the strengths and weaknesses of the state’s case.  Several settings usually occur before a case will be disposed of.  During these initial settings, an attorney should request and obtain all police reports (and video and audio recordings) that will be used against the accused in the criminal case.  An announcement setting more or less means that an attorney will "announce" the case for a plea, or for trial.  This is usually an informal process and can take multiple court dates over the course of a few months.   If the accused needs more time to investigate the case, then more announcement settings can be requested.  The amount of announcement settings usually depend on the court and the judge where the case has been assigned.  

It should be expected that the attorney representing the defendant in these proceedings should carefully review all information pertinent to the case.  After a meticulous review of the facts, the attorney should make a decision as to how best proceed next.

Motion to Suppress

A case can be set for a "Motion to Suppress" the evidence if the situation calls for it.  A motion to suppress the evidence should be heard, for instance, if the police gathered the evidence pertaining to the case in some illegal fashion.  Sometimes investigating police officers overstep the permissable bounds required under the law when gathering evidence.  If the arresting officer violates any right of the accused (an illegal search, an illegal interrogation, etc.) the evidence should be suppressed, or ruled inadmissible.

In a DWI case a motion to suppress would most commonly occur if the initial stop was not based on the requisite "reasonable suspicion" that is needed to pull a driver over.  Motions to suppress based on a violation of the Fourth Amendment right to be "free of unreasonable searches and seizures" is a commonly used defense against drug charges.  A motion to suppress could also be based on a violation of the Fifth Amendment "right to remain silent", and/or a Sixth Amendment violation of the "right to counsel."  Motions to suppress inadmissable evidence almost always require the presentation of evidence, where the traditional rules of evidence do not apply.  The judge presiding over the case will usually have a hearing where both sides will present evidence to help the judge decide whether the evidence should be ruled inadmissable and suppressed.

Plea Setting

If a case is set on a plea docket setting, the case likely will be disposed of.  At this point, the attorney and the defendant should have made a decision to dispose of the case given whatever factors are involved.  If the accused agrees to a given plea bargain made by the state, the person has agreed to waive certain rights. These rights include: 1) the right to a jury trial; 2) the right to confront witnesses against them; 3) and usually the right to appeal the case after it is disposed of.  You must also give the court an affirmative affirmation that you are "knowingly and voluntarily" waiving these rights in order to enter the plea.  The plea can either be a "No-Contest" plea (if the court allows), or a plea of "Guilty."  Once the agreement is accepted and the plea is entered, the accused usually will be given certain requirements to follow afterwards and usually as a condition of probation. Usually this involves an agreed upon probationary period, where the accused agrees to follow certain guidelines to complete the probation successfully.  Fines, court costs, probation fees, and any jail time will also be understood and agreed upon before entering the plea.  The alternate to this setting would be a person pleading "Not Guilty" to the charges filed by the state and proceeding with a trial by either a judge or a jury.

Trial: Judge or Jury

Only a small percentage of cases are disposed of by a trial.  The only person that can make this determination to proceed with a trial is the accused.  If a case is set for trial, usually a pre-trial date is conducted where any preliminary matters are discussed and ruled upon.  Usually this occurs the week before trial.  The attorney can advise the defendant on the facts of the case and on whether the plea bargain recommendation is something that should be accepted.  The attorney should give an estimation on the strengths and weaknesses of the state’s case given the facts involved.  The risks and rewards of presenting a case to a judge or a jury should be discussed in full detail, where the pros and cons of going to trial versus entering a plea deal are analyzed.  

However, the sole decision on whether something proceeds to trial should always rest entirely with the defendant of the case, NOT THE ATTORNEY.  It should be up to the defendant to decide if they want to have a trial or plead guilty and accept the state's plea bargain offer and punishment reccomendation.  It is important to note that an attorney should NOT make any guarantee regarding the outcome of the case, whether the case proceeds to trial by judge or jury.  If the case is presented to a jury, the reality is every case is different and unique, and it is literally impossible to surmise how a jury will perceive the facts of the case.  

An attorney should gather all the evidence on the merits of the case and give the accused information as to what a possible outcome might be given a variety of possible factors.  Once this information is processed by the defendant, however, only THEY can decide whether a trial is the best option for them.  An attorney should advise the defendant that in most circumstances the punishment will increase if the defendant elects to go to trial and decline any plea bargain offer.  The punishment phase of a criminal case is usually separate from the criminal trial itself, where only "guilt/innocence" is decided.  The bottom line is that the risks and rewards for whether a trial is the best avenue to be pursue is always up to the defendant, NOT THE ATTORNEY.


Being arrested or accused a criminal offense can be a very frightening and confusing process. The Law Offices of Carl David Ceder, PLLC will do everything possible to work to ensure you understand everything as the process unfolds.  Often it is the first time someone has had to navigate through the justice system in a criminal case, so it is important to hire someone you can trust and who will explain the entirety of the situation clearly and in a way you can understand.  If you are in need of a Dallas-Fort Worth criminal defense attorney who will do everything to Protect Your Rights, please call The Law Offices of Carl David Ceder, PLLC now at 214.702.CARL (2275) to schedule an appointment.