Texas’ Criminal Justice Process

Learning Objectives

By the end of this section, you will be able to:

  • Discuss the steps in the Texas Criminal Justice process

Texas Criminal Justice Process

The Texas court systems have two conflicting goals: they must protect the people and the accused. Therefore the state of Texas must ensure that every person is treated equally in legal matters- this is known as due process. The steps in the Texas criminal justice process are: 1. Arrest, 2. Indictment, 3. Plea bargaining, 4. Trial, and 5. Post-trial.

  1. Arrest. One aspect pertinent to arrest are the Miranda Rights. Miranda Rights derived from the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case Miranda vs. Arizona (1966). During the Miranda case the question was whether or not procedures must be utilized by law enforcement officials to ensure that an individual’s 5th Amendment Self-incrimination rights are not violated. The United States Supreme Court ruled that a person must be made aware of their rights prior to being questioned. [1] Once an arrest is made, the defendant is arraigned and bond is set. Arraignment is when a defendant is formally charged and made aware of their rights. After this the defendant may receive bail, although bail is not guaranteed (Texas Constitution Article 1, Section 11 & 11a-b).
  2. Indictment. If the charge is a felony, than an indictment must occur for the process to continue. A grand jury is in charge of determining whether there is enough evidence to move forward with the charge- 9 out of 12 grand jury members must agree that the process can move forward. If this occurs it is knows as a “true bill” (indictment), if not it is known as a “No bill.”
  3. Plea bargaining. Due to the fact that there are overcrowded dockets, plea bargaining is the most common method for resolving criminal cases in Texas. Plea bargaining is when the defendant and the prosecutor negotiate a deal to avoid having to go to trial- the concept is that this saves time and money.
  4. Trial. If the case reaches trial, the defendant may choose to have a trial by jury (guaranteed by the Texas Constitution Article 1, Section 15); or waive that right and choose trial by a presiding judge. Texas utilizes an adversary system, which means the two sides will attempt to convince the jury or judge why they are correct.
  5. Post Trial. Post trial is the final step where the defendant, if found guilty, will receive a form of rehabilitation or punishment. Some examples of rehabilitation or punishment are prison time, probation, parole, house arrest, and fines.