Practical Tips for Stradley Law Clients

Parking at our law office is free and next to the Heights Law Building at 1545 Heights Boulevard at the corner of 16thand Heights. If you need assistance in avoiding stairs, please call the office, and we will give you access to the elevator.

Parking near Harris County Criminal Justice Center or the alternative locations for the criminal courts in downtown Houston can be difficult. You may want to check parking garage maps in advance. Please do not park at the meters because your court appearance may take more than 3 hours.

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Often with your criminal case, you will be required to attend many court appearances on a regular basis. The criminal courts have many cases, and the government requires defendants to show up regularly to check on them and the status of their case.

For some court appearances not much happens.

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. If you are going to the Harris County Criminal Justice Center or other criminal court locations in Houston, 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 courtroom at the time they are required.

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Though you will see people at the courthouse dressed very casually, judges and prosecutors 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.

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Like a lot of legal questions, the answer is “it depends on the situation.”

Legal time typically is slower than normal time. For most criminal cases, nothing is going on for a while when the prosecutors are processing thousands of cases, and then suddenly there is a lot of activity. Bill is usually able to predict when a case is likely to be resolved or when something significant will happen.

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.

Most cases have multiple court setting. Judges often want to sort of monitor defendants to make sure that they are not getting in trouble before the trial date. Many times we will need to wait for evidence to be given to us through a process called “discovery.”

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.

That said, there are some situations where a case can be resolved quickly, and usually Bill can figure out what pace a particular case will take.

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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 is all that happens, and the case is reset for a later date for the lawyers to talk and the discovery process to take place.

There are occasions, depending on the charge, when the judges want to hear a summary of the allegations against the defendant. Some judges do, some don’t.

Every judge has their own procedures they follow.

Also, 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 feel it is a good idea.

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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 persuade 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 and other downtown Houston criminal court locations 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.

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Sometimes in Texas, judges will require that a defendant submits to a drug test by the way of a urine sample. In Harris County, this is done at the probation office near the courthouse.

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 conclude.

If you are arrested and you are a user of drugs, you should stop while your case is pending. The courts have heard all the excuses for dirty samples and will likely not believe you.

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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 an onsite legal assistant answering phones. Email and text are also a good way to contact him during less traditional hours.

If you need to talk to him, he wants you to call. He values good client communication. Generally speaking, if there’s new activity happening on your case, he is going to be contacting you.

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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 may be able to direct you to some helpful resources.

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