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Arrest – 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 Court- 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 the defendant.

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.

Defendants 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.

Pretrial Docket –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.  

Jury Trial – 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.

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