Texas Court Records
What Do You Do if You Are On Trial For a Crime in Texas?
When an individual is charged with a crime in Texas, the offender is expected to appear in state court and has a right to an attorney. The state is then required to use an attorney to prove that the offender, also known as the defendant, committed the crime or crimes "beyond a reasonable doubt." It is not the defendant's job to prove innocence; it is the state's job to prove guilt. In a criminal court case, a jury is present for the entirety of the process and decides whether the defendant is guilty.
What Percentage of Criminal Cases go to Trial in Texas?
According to the 2019 Texas Judiciary Annual Statistical Report, there were 392,788 misdemeanor filings, marking a 3% decrease from the previous year and 225,497 felony filings, a 4% increase from the previous year. Overall, filings of cases did not change in 2019 compared to the previous year. In criminal case filings, however, there was a 2% increase. There was also a 3% increase in dispositions. Appeals declined 10% from the previous year, and 93% of appeals were granted. While around 50% of criminal cases are set to go to trial, only approximately 20% end up at trial.
Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites often make searching simpler, as they are not limited by geographic location, and search engines on these sites may help when starting a search for a specific or multiple records. To begin using such a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:
- The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile
- The location or assumed location of the record or person involved. This includes information such as the city, county, or state that person resides in or was accused in.
Third-party sites are independent from government sources, and are not sponsored by these government agencies. Because of this, record availability on third-party sites may vary.
When does a Criminal Defendant Have the Right to a Trial?
According to Texas judicial law, all criminal defendants have a right to trial. The United States Sixth Amendment also gives defendants the right to trial, stating that all defendants have the right to due process using a public trial by jury. A jury trial takes place after the punishment phase, when either a judge or jury decides what the defendant's sentence will be if the defendant is found guilty in the next stages of the prosecution process.
What are the Stages of a Criminal Trial in Texas?
Generally, a Texas criminal trial consists of six stages. Specific counties in the state may have different names for each stage, but the stages are typically similar statewide. These stages provide rights and consistency to defendants.
Arrest and booking
An arrest occurs when a police officer has reasonable cause to suspect that a party is guilty of a crime. When an arrest occurs, the party is reminded of his or her Miranda rights: the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney. After the arrest and reading of Miranda rights, the next stage is booking, where a court date and bail amount are set.
First court appearance and arraignment
At this point, the party that has been arrested will be referred to as the defendant, and the state as the prosecution. The arraignment is the first court appearance and gives the defendant an option to plead "guilty" or "not guilty" for the crime being charged. It is recommended to hire an attorney to advise the defendant whether to plead guilty or not guilty.
Defense attorneys and prosecutors can arrange a plea bargain, where the defendant will plead "guilty" or "no contest" to the charges in return for a possibly lighter sentence compared to being found guilty on trial.
Preliminary hearings occur prior to the trial to conclude whether the evidence against the defendant is strong enough to take to a trial. This can give defense attorneys the chance to counter any evidence or ideas the prosecution brings forth. At the end of the preliminary hearing, a judge ultimately decides if the evidence of the case is strong enough to bring to trial.
Trial by judge or jury
According to Texas Judicial law, a trial is required to start no more than 180 days from the arrest date. The defendant has the right to decide if the conclusion at the end of the trial will be made by a jury of 12 people or solely by the judge.
Sentencing will take place after the trial is concluded, and the defendant is found guilty. The judge decides sentencing. Here, a judge will consider every element of the case. Elements include the standard sentencing time for the crime, the defendant's demeanor, the criminal history of the defendant, and any other relevant details.
How Long Does it take For a Case to Go to Trial in Texas?
As the previous section states, Texas Judicial law dictates that defendants should wait no longer than 180 days since the arrest date to appear on trial for criminal charges. If the charges are not felony but misdemeanor charges, the trial date may be scheduled sooner, and the trial may be shorter.
What Happens When a Court Case Goes to Trial in Texas?
In Texas, the trial is where the prosecution makes claims in front of a judge or jury, and the defense has the chance to make counterclaims. At the end of a jury trial, the jurors must come to a unanimous conclusion of guilty or not guilty. Essentially, there are two phases of a Texas trial: the guilt/innocence phase and the punishment phase. The guilt/innocence phase is the part of the trial where prosecutors build a case in front of the jury and provide evidence that should prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the crime. The punishment phase only occurs if the defendant is found guilty. The judge ultimately decides the sentencing for each defendant.
Can you be Put on Trial Twice for the Same Crime in Texas?
No, individuals in Texas cannot be put on trial twice for the same crime as Texas Judicial law and the Fifth Amendment. Texas Judicial law follows the United States Fifth Amendment, which states that no one shall "be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb." This clause is also known as the double jeopardy clause. It makes it a violation of one's constitutional rights to be prosecuted for the same crime twice after acquittal or conviction or to be punished multiple times for the same offense.
How Do I Lookup a Criminal Court Case in Texas?
Criminal records are generated and disseminated by law enforcement agencies in each jurisdiction. To view an ongoing criminal court case record in Texas, it is necessary to contact the courthouse where the trial is taking place and determine what options are available. To view criminal court case records for a case that has been concluded, visit the state's Crime Records Service, a statewide database operated by the Texas Department of Public Safety. It is also possible to find this information through third-party websites such as CourtRecords.us, although this information may vary from state-sponsored searches.
How to Access Electronic Court Records in Texas
Unless the records have been sealed or marked confidential, anyone can use the Texas Crime Records Service, as stated in the previous section. This allows access to all public criminal records in the state.
How Do I Remove Public Court Records in Texas?
Removing or sealing a public court record from public records is a process that is started by seeking an order of nondisclosure, which will bar law enforcement and courts from divulging information regarding the order. However, an order of nondisclosure may not work for every type of case. To be eligible for sealing, parties must be placed on deferred adjudication, meaning not convicted of the offense. Parties are not eligible for sealing if the original charges consisted of murder; aggravated kidnapping; injury to a child, a disabled person, or an elderly person; abandoning or endangering a child; stalking; violation of court order in a case involving family violence, sexual assault or abuse, stalking, or trafficking; any offense that necesitates sex offender registration; or any offense regarding family or domestic violence.
To file for the sealing of a record, it is necessary to wait a certain amount of time after discharge or dismissal. For felony criminal charges, the wait time is five years. For misdemeanor criminal charges, the wait time is two years.