Criminal Defense Process Timeline


Criminal Defense Timeline


If you find yourself facing criminal charges in the state of Texas, you likely have a lot of questions. However, your most severe concerns involve what is going to happen and what should you expect? While every case is unique and will be a little different, you can expect most criminal cases to follow the same basic timeline of events. We’ve put together a guide to some of the most significant events you can expect to occur—then, you will be able to prepare yourself for the weeks and months ahead of you.

The Arrest Or Booking

You may or may not be taken into custody (some crimes don’t lead to immediate incarceration). However, the first step will involve you being taken to the police station for “booking.”
You should be read your Miranda Rights at this time. Here is when you are told that you have the right to remain silent, that anything you say can (and will) be used against you and that you have the right to an attorney. More often, it’s best to request an attorney at this stage of the investigation.

You will be fingerprinted and photographed and, if you are taken into custody, bail and a court date will be set. If you are jailed, you will appear before a judge within 48 hours, unless a weekend or holiday pushes this back. If you are allowed to leave, you will also be given a court date and if you do not show up for this, you will be charged with “failure to appear.”


If you are jailed, a cash bail or bond can be placed for your bail (if a bail amount is set.) Paying this amount still requires you to show up for any future court dates or you will forfeit all bonds and you will be charged with additional crimes.

Arraignment and Pleas

The first court date in Texas is usually the arraignment and plea hearing. Depending on if the charge is a misdemeanor or felony, it may or many not involve a jury. The defendant can plead guilty, not guilty, no contest (not admitting guilt but not contesting charges).

Grand Jury (Preliminary Hearings)

For serious felony charges that will go to a jury trial, the next step may involve preliminary hearings. Your lawyer will help you determine if this is necessary or desirable. In some cases, these hearings can help determine whether probable cause is an issue or not.

Trial and Sentencing

In Texas, both felony and misdemeanor cases can wind up at trial. However, it is uncommon for this to occur in misdemeanor cases, as many are resolved before this occurs. It’s important to note that, according to, around 90% of criminal cases are resolved with a plea bargain at this time—leading to reduced charges. A jury of 12 hears a felony case and a jury of 6 hears a misdemeanor case. All jurors must find a defendant guilty beyond reasonable doubt. In a misdemeanor case, sentencing occurs immediately. In a felony case, the judge will be given some time to consider the case and personal circumstances that may have been involved.

Contact an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney

As you can see, there are a lot of things to think about regarding your criminal case. The most important matter is that you don’t face all these steps alone. If you are not already working with a lawyer, NOW is the time to start thinking about finding someone to work on your case. Brandy Austin Law Firm is an Arlington-based firm that works on many types of cases, including criminal law. We will assign legal counsel to your case that can help you every step of the way. Give us a call or contact us today so we can help you work through this timeline.

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