– A misdemeanor criminal case
begins when a law enforcement agency makes an arrest or presents
a report of possible criminal activity to the County Attorney’s
office. An arrest or charge is simply based on probable cause to
believe that a criminal offense has been committed. After the
arrest has been made or a report is presented, a prosecutor will
read the offense report submitted by the law enforcement agency
and make a decision on whether the case should be filed.
Courtroom appearance and
etiquette- If charges are filed by the County Attorney, in
virtually all cases, there will be at least one courtroom
appearance by the person charged. Persons who are appearing in
court should dress appropriately; no shorts, sleeveless shirts,
no profanity, no hats or caps. Cell phones must be turned off
when brought into the courtroom. Loud talking or laughter will
not be tolerated. Any violations of conduct or appearance
standards may be addressed by the judge as contempt of court
and, as such, violators are subject to fines or confinement. If
children are brought to court, the judge will order that they be
removed from the courtroom.
Defense Attorney options- At any
stage in a criminal process or case, a defendant is entitled to
be represented by an attorney. It is usually a private attorney
hired by the defendant. A person may represent themselves and it
is not required that they be represented by an attorney. Most
defense attorney’s are hired by and paid by the defendant,
however if a defendant is indigent, he may be entitled to a
court appointed attorney. Requests for court appointed attorneys
may be made at magistration following an arrest or at any time
during the process up until the day of trial. At that time,
requests for court appointed attorneys will not be timely made
and will be denied.
Misdemeanor cases are heard in the Kerr County Court at Law
courtroom on the first floor of the Kerr County Courthouse, 700
Main Street, Kerrville, Texas. Arraignments are usally done on
Tuesdays, and begin at 8:30 a.m. with a roll call of all those
who are on the docket that morning. Defendants who arrive late
may be held in contempt of court and fined or jailed
accordingly. Whether the judge decides to find the defendant in
contempt or not, defendants who arrive late will have their
cases called last.
Arraignment by the Court–
Persons charged with an offense, even though they have not yet
been convicted are referred to as the "defendant." Misdemeanor
defendants are initially given a first appearance setting called
an arraignment. When the defendant appears for court, the Judge
informs the defendant of the specific charges against him or
her, informs them of the range of punishment for each offense
and asks them to enter a plea to the charges. The defendant has
three options: Guilty, Not-guilty, or No-contest. At arraignment
the plea is a mere formality and may be changed at any time by
Plea Offer- After
arraignment, and before the defendant is excused from the
courtroom, he or she will be given a plea bargain offer from the
prosecutor. Plea bargain offers are usually negotiable. If the
defendant agrees to a plea bargain offer, and the judge approves
the plea bargain, the necessary paperwork is prepared in the
courtroom and the defendant is allowed to enter their final plea
with the court and begin the negotiated punishment with no other
court appearance being necessary. If a plea bargain is not
reached at arraignment, the case will be set for a pre-trial.
pleading to an offense should be prepared to pay at least some
portion of their fine and court costs on the day of court.
Court costs vary from $200 to $300 in most cases while the
typical fine in a fine-only case is $500 or less. If you cannot
pay the total amount of fine and court costs on the day of
court, you may make a payment agreement with our court
collections department. IF SUCH AN AGREEMENT IS MADE, IT IS
IMPERATIVE THAT EACH PAYMENT BE MADE ON TIME. FAILURE TO MAKE
PAYMENTS AS AGREED WILL RESULT IN A WARRANT BEING ISSUED FOR THE
DEFENDANT’S ARREST AND HE OR SHE WILL BE HELD IN JAIL AND
CREDITED AT A RATE OF FIFTY DOLLARS PER DAY UNTIL THE FINE AND
COSTS ARE SATISFIED.
–At Pretrial Docket the defendant or his attorney will have
another opportunity to discuss the case with the prosecutor.
Again, a plea bargain offer will be discussed. Cases are often
resolved through plea bargain agreements at this point in the
process. If no agreement is reached, the case will be set on a
trial docket and a contested pre-trial docket.
Trial Before the Court
– A defendant may waive his or her right to a trial by jury. The
case can then be heard by the judge in a trial before the
court. The prosecutor must also agree to waive trial by jury in
order to have a trial before the court. The judge decides the
guilt or innocence of the defendant as well as any punishment.
– A jury trial is the embodiment of the American criminal
justice system. Six people are selected from a pool of citizens
called a “venire.” Those six people sit as a jury in the
criminal trial of the defendant. The jury hears the testimony
and evidence. After the evidence has been presented, the jury
“deliberates” or discusses the facts of the case amongst
themselves and decides a verdict of guilty or not guilty. The
jury may only return a verdict of guilty if they are convinced
beyond a reasonable doubt of the defendant's guilt.
Plea Setting – Most criminal
cases in the United States are resolved
without a trial through a process known as plea bargaining.
Plea bargaining allows for fair and just resolution of criminal
cases while effectively conserving the resources of the criminal
justice system. The Kerr County Attorney’s Office never loses
sight of the citizens that we have sworn to protect and we put
their interests at the forefront when determining what plea
bargain offers are made to criminal defendants.