Few things in the law are as terrifying to face as a felony indictment. The State of Texas takes felony prosecution very seriously, and the process can be intimidating and complex. Here’s what you need to know about the indictment process in Texas.
Types of Crimes in Texas
Texas divides criminal infractions into several categories. For the least severe, some offenses are merely ordinance violations, meaning they are generally local municipal violations that have no criminal impact. There are also non-moving and minor traffic offenses that carry no criminal penalties. When it comes to criminal infractions, there are misdemeanors (generally for crimes punishable by up to a year in jail) and felonies (the most severe penalties available).
What is an Indictment?
In Texas, minor misdemeanor crimes are brought by a Complaint, in which a prosecutor essentially lays out the elements of the crime and how the defendant allegedly committed it. But a prosecutor must get past a second level of scrutiny to bring a felony charge. This is known as a Grandy Jury. An indictment is a formal accusation against the defendant, filed after the conclusion of the Grand Jury hearing which resulted in an indictment.
Here are the basic steps to the felony indictment process:
- The suspect is arrested. Once arrested, prosecutors have a limited amount of time to bring an indictment, if one is sought.
- Case is presented to a Grand Jury. In order to move forward with an indictment, the prosecutor will convene a Grand Jury of 12 ordinary members of the community. This is a lot like a regular jury, except that the burden of proof is much different. The prosecutor does not have to prove the defendant’s guilt. Rather, the prosecutor needs only prove that there is probable cause to believe a felony was committed.
- Case Proceeds to Trial Court. A Grand Jury needs nine people to vote that there is probable cause that a criminal offense occurred in order to return an indictment. There is no need for a unanimous decision. If they return an indictment, it means the case will now proceed to the trial court to move forward.
Here are a few points to consider about the Grand Jury
- A defendant has no right to be present
- The defense attorney may present a grand jury brochure to the grand Jury.
- If the Grand Jury finds there is not probable cause the case is no-billed or dismissed.
- The prosecutor has sole discretion to decide what is presented to the Grand Jury
Why Work With A Criminal Defense Trial Lawyer?
If you’ve been accused of committing a felony in Texas, an experienced felony trial lawyer can be a great asset in the battle for your freedom. At Abrams Trial Law, we’ve seen many different types of
felony cases and we have gotten many cases no-billed by the Grand Jury. Remember, it only takes 4 grand jurors out of 12 to vote that there no probable cause in order to get your case No-billed. But if a Grand Jury returns an indictment, that does not mean you are guilty and it certainly is not the end of the discussion. Remember that the government still has a burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt in order for the State to win their case.
If you are facing federal charges in Texas, the attorneys at Abrams Trial Law are ready to help you. Attorney Warren Abrams is a Board Certified Criminal Law Specialist and Former Chief Prosecutor with the District Attorney’s Office, with over 30 years of experience. As a former Assistant District Attorney and felony prosecutor for the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office, Joshua Abrams also has tremendous courtroom experience fighting difficult cases.
Contact Abrams Trial Law today to set up a free initial consultation.