Misdemeanor crimes are less serious crimes than felony offenses
and are handled in the county court system. However, a first
offense misdemeanor can become a felony after repeated offenses.
that are commonly considered to be misdemeanors include:
Driving while intoxicated
Driving under the influence
Possession and/or delivery of marijuana
procedure for how a misdemeanor case is handled in the County
Filing the Case
The case is filed by the police agency with the District
Attorney’s office; it is then generated into a document
called an information. This document provided the defendant
with notice as to the offense for which he/she is charged
Once the information document has been processed, a file
is generated and the case is assigned to one of the county
If the defendant is in jail he/she will be brought to court.
Inmates are brought to the courts in groups through secured
access tunnels. The only way to be brought to courts is
by the request of the court or through the request of the
If the defendant was able to bond out of jail he/she will
be notified by mail. The address used is the one you gave
the jail when you were released, so makes sure the address
is correct. The information that is sent out is which court
the case has been assigned, the court date and the time
the defendant is to appear. On the court date, he/she should
go directly to the court and DO NOT BE LATE. If he/she is
not there on time then he/she could have his/her bond forfeited
and a warrant issued for his/her arrest. Bond forfeiture
means that the person who posted money, as a guaranty that
the defendant would appear for the setting date, losses
it. If you are not sure what to do it is always best to
enter the courtroom and check in with the court bailiff
or court coordinator, unless otherwise told by the defense
If on bond the person accused must appear in court. It will
be determined at this setting if the defendant must hire
an attorney or if they qualify for a court appointed lawyer.
Usually the defendant has until the next court date to hire
If in jail the defendant will be brought to the court on
what courts call a jail run. If the defendant cannot afford
to hire an attorney and if an attorney has not already been
appointed for him/her then one will be appointed at that
At this time the defense attorney will usually receive the
police reports on the case and any additional evidence that
the prosecutor has in his or her possession. The defense
attorney will also receive a formal complaint, which states
the charges that have been filed. It is possible that charges
may be different than those that the defendant was arrested.
The police may have arrested him/her for one pair of offenses,
the District Attorney’s office may have disagreed and filed
a completely different set of offenses if they feel the
The first announcement setting is usually to allow the defense
lawyer and the assistant district attorney an opportunity
to discuss the case and determine if the case will be dismissed,
plea bargained or set for a jury or bench trial.
The case can be set for announcement two or three times.
It is set several times, usually, because it is because
it is not the 1st case on the trial docket, older cases
go first. If the defendant is out on bond they will be required
to appear at every court setting regardless of if the defendant’s
attorney has to appear. If the defendant does not have to
appear he/she will be notified by his/her attorney.
If the defendant is in jail he/she will not always be brought
to the court for each announcement setting, unless the defendant’s
attorney requests that the defendant be brought to the court
on the jail run.
At the final announcement setting it is then determined
wither the defendant wishes to reach a plea bargain agreement
or to have a trial. If the decision is made to have a trial
most courts will not allow the plea bargain be offered again.
If the defendant has chosen to take the plea bargain offer
then the case will be set for a plea. This is were the defendant
will enter his/her plea of guilty or nolo contender to the
charges brought against him/her. A plea of nolo contender
means that the defendant is not pleading guilty but is not
contesting the charges brought against him/her. Though is
still has the same legal effects as pleading guilty to the
charge. During this setting the defendant may either accept
the plea bargain offered or he/she may enter an open plea.
An open plea is asking the judge to set punishment instead
of accepting the punishment the State has offered.
If you have been charged with a criminal offense you have
the absolute right to plead not guilty to the charges brought
against you and have a trial by jury or before a judge.
The form the trial takes depends entirely upon the particular
circumstances of the case. The well-prepared criminal defense
attorney will develop an overall theme to the defendant’s
and call witnesses that support the his/her innocence. The
State of Texas, through the Assistant District Attorney,
must prove the defendant guilty of the offense charged beyond
a reasonable doubt.
In most jurisdictions, before trial commences, the defendant
and the defense attorney will have the opportunity to select
a jury. This is commonly called voir dire (jury selection).
In a misdemeanor case there are 6 jurors.
After the jury has been selected the defense attorney will
argue whatever motions are required in order to secure the
defendant a fair trial. After the motions are heard, the
trial will then begin. The Assistant District Attorney will
give an opening statement. The defense attorney can give
an opening statement either at that time or reserve opening
statement until the after the Assistant District Attorney’s
case is over. After the opening statement, the Assistant
District Attorney will present its evidence in the form
of physical and scientific evidence and expert and lay witnesses.
The defense attorney will have the opportunity to cross-examine
each of those witnesses.
Once the State rests the case, the defense attorney will
put on the defendant’s case, calling any helpful witnesses
to the stand. After the defense attorney finishes his/her
case, the State has an opportunity to put on rebuttal evidence.
Once all the evidence is closed, the Assistant District
Attorney and the defense attorney will give a closing argument
to the jury.
The jury will then retire to reach its decision. The jury’s
decision regarding if the defendant is guilty or innocent
must be unanimous. All 6 jurors must reach the same conclusion
as to the guilt or innocence of the defendant. If the jurors
are not able to reach a unanimous verdict the judge may
declare a mistrial and the case may be retried.
If the defendant is found guilty of the offense he/she may
choose whether the jury or the judge will set punishment.
If it is a bench trial the judge determines the guilt or
innocence of the defendant and also set the punishment.
A defendant may be eligible to have a jail sentence probated
depending on various factors of the case. This means that
the defendant would not be sent to jail but would be released
and supervised by the Department of Community Supervision.
If you feel that you or you know someone who has been charged
with a misdemeanor offense please feel free to contact one
of our experienced defense attorney for a free consultation.