Texas Criminal Law FAQs
Frequently Asked Questions about Texas Criminal Arrests, Court and the Law
If you’ve been charged with a crime, you may be trying to research Texas law to find out what might happen. A problem with that is often information on lawyer websites is outdated or inaccurate and is difficult to apply to the facts of your particular case. And you can’t find out how a particular judge or prosecutor or county handles cases like yours.
With those caveats in mind, here are a few FAQs that people have right after they’ve been accused or charged with a crime in Texas.
Law Firm Parking: For less than 2 hours, you can park in front of our building at the meters. The meters take credit cards. If you think you may be over 2 hours, either through delays at court or because you are eating lunch, you should park at one of the all day surface lots either across the street from our firm or to the east of the office off of Franklin Street. There’s also surface lots near the court house. They get crowded closer to court times in the morning.
Court Appearances: Sometimes you will be asked to meet Bill Stradley at his offices before court if necessary. Other times you will be asked to show up directly at your court for an appearance. Especially if you are going to the Harris County Criminal Justice Center, please allow extra time for traffic, parking, going through security, and huge delays at the elevator. Judges can be very strict and punitive to defendants who do not show up in the court room at the time they are required.
Court Attire: Though you will see people at the court house dressed very casually, judges make snap decisions about you based on what you are wearing. Be sure to wear modest, respectful clothes to your court appearances. If you are going to trial, consult with Bill as to what you should wear.
Expectations: Legal time typically is slower than normal time. The legal process usually progresses at a glacial pace. For most criminal cases, nothing is going on for a while when the prosecutors are processing thousands of cases, and then suddenly there’s a lot of activity.
Usually, you will have multiple court appearances every three weeks to a month or so before a case is actually set for trial. That’s just how the system works, and there’s little you can do about that. The reason most cases have multiple court settings is that judges want to sort of monitor defendants to make sure that they are not getting in trouble prior to the trial date.
This slow pace can be frustrating when you feel the pressure of criminal charges, but knowing most cases go slow will give you the right expectations.
Best Time to Contact Bill: For most criminal lawyers, mornings are the busiest time because court appearances are usually scheduled in the mornings. Sometimes when Bill is in trial, he returns calls after hours. He welcomes your calls when you need him, but typically the quickest time to reach him is between the hours of 1-5 when he has a legal assistant assisting with phones. Email and via text is also a good way to contact him at less traditional hours.
If you need to talk to him, he wants you to call. Generally speaking, however, if there’s something going on in your case, he is going to be contacting you.
Emotional Issues: Often people going through criminal matters experience high levels of stress and/or drug , alcohol dependency issues that make things difficult to cope. Though lawyers certainly work with people experiencing stress, in-depth counseling beyond what a lawyer does may be necessary. If you feel overwhelmed, please let Bill know and he can direct you to some helpful resources.
If you contact Bill Stradley at (713) 224-5455 or on our contact form, we either answer or quickly return your call. Our first in-office consultation with you Is free. If you choose to hire him, he will give you a written fee agreement in an amount based upon the law and facts of your particular case.
Bill Stradley takes all major credit cards.
It may depend on the particulars of the offense. With these questions, contacting an experienced criminal defense lawyer in a timely way can be helpful.
Typically in Texas state cases, the best way to get someone out of jail is to contact a professional bondsman. Bail bond companies answer the phones 24/7 and usually charge approximately 10-20% of the bail as payment for their services.
If you have a warrant out for your arrest, you may need to get a bond. A bail bond company and criminal defense attorney may be helpful for this but you can’t really tell without knowing the facts.
You can avoid the bondsman charge in Harris County by paying cash, verified cashier’s check or money order at the bonding window on first floor of the 49 North San Jacinto Building. There’s a number of downsides to paying a cash bond:
There are often significant delays waiting to pay a cash bond.
It sometimes results in delays of jail release, and the Sheriff’s Department may hold your money for weeks after the final disposition of the case.
Money that you spend on a cash bond may be better used for hiring an experienced attorney.
Sometimes paying a significant cash bond from lawful and legitimate funds gets unwelcome scrutiny from law enforcement entities.
When you attempting to bail someone out of jail, you need to gather some basic information:
- Defendant’s Full Name
- Defendant’s Date of Birth
- Prior Arrest Record if Any
- Bond Amount
- Booking Number
Full name and date of birth is the most critical information because Bonding Companies can look up detailed information.
Often, bonding companies will require an adult sign off as co-signer on the bond, before they will be willing to make bond for a person. This makes the co-signer responsible to pay the full value of the bond to the county in the event that the defendant runs off.
There are any number of qualified Texas bail bond companies, and you should choose the best one for you. We have had positive experiences with Aaron Bonding (713) 223-2667 and Burns Bail Bonds (713) 224-0305.
Even though there are sites online that say they can find out about arrest warrants (for a fee), the most accurate ones are the ones maintained by governmental entities. Often bonding companies will look up whether there is an active warrant on you at no expense.
Even so, if you or a loved one believes there may be a warrant out for your arrest on a serious matter or you are under investigation, please get criminal defense attorney help immediately to determine the status of the warrant and investigation. Often early intervention can lead to a better result.
If you have an active warrant for your arrest, do not ignore it. There is no one answer to this for every situation. Sometimes contacting a professional bonding company is best. Sometimes it is best to work with a criminal defense attorney to determine the best course of action.
You can, but it is not advisable. Even attorneys should obtain representation from another attorney when charged with a crime.
An experienced criminal defense attorney should be able to get you a better result than you trying to defend yourself. They will be able to look at the law, the facts, and what court you are in and determine the best course of action.
The first court appearance is not a trial. For the most part, the judges are seeking to determine whether or not a defendant has secured legal counsel. Sometimes, that’s all that happens and the case is reset for a later date for the discovery process to take place.
There are occasions, depending on the charge, when the judges want to hear a synopsis of the allegations against the defendant. Some judges do this, some don’t. In addition, there may be some discussion between the lawyers and the judge as to whether any additional bond conditions will need to be put into place. Examples of this could be the requirement of an electronic monitor or the requirement for a “blow and go” device put on a person’s car.
There is no need for a defendant to be concerned that they will need to defend themselves on the charge or to provide testimony for the first appearance. In Harris County in particular, a defendant is not required to say whether they are guilty or not guilty on the first court appearance.
Finally remember, one of the reasons to have a lawyer, is that the attorney does the talking for you. If you attend your first court appearance without an experienced criminal defense attorney, it is advisable not to discuss the facts of the case, even if you think it’s a good idea.
Some judges have zero tolerance for defendants who show up late, and they will order the bailiff to take the late defendant into custody. This is obviously not good. Depending on the reason that you are late however, and whether or not this is the first time you are late, your attorney may be able to beg the judge to forgive you and release you from custody.
Most of the bonding paperwork directs that court appearances begin at 8:00 am. However, virtually all the judges in Harris County, start calling the names of the defendants at either 8:30 or 9:00 am. Your lawyer will be able to tell you what the requirements of your court will be.
The best practice is DON’T BE LATE. Be sure to err on the side of arriving early. This is especially important at the Harris County Criminal Justice Center as traffic, parking, security lines, and elevator lines can be very slow. Everyone is showing up at around the same time, and it creates delay.
Sometimes in Texas, judges will require that a defendant submit to a drug test by the way of a urine sample. In Harris County, this is done at the probation office near the court house.
If you have a positive sample/a “dirty urine sample,” on the first court appearance, a defendant will usually be admonished to stop using drugs. If a defendant provides a dirty urine sample on a subsequent court appearance, it suggests to the judge that a defendant has been using drugs while on bond. This is one of the ways people find themselves in jail, waiting for their case to come to a conclusion.
If you are arrested and you are a user of drugs, you should at a minimum stop while your case is pending.
Contact Bill Stradley.
Been arrested or under investigation for a crime? Contact Bill Stradley today at (713)-224-5455 about your case. If your legal matter is not one that he handles, he likely know someone who does.