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Felony Court Procedure

When you are arrested for a felony in Williamson County, you might be taken to the local police department (e.g. Round Rock, Cedar Park, Leander) but you will usually be taken to the Williamson County Jail in Georgetown. Once there, you will need to sit until you can see a magistrate. Magistration is the procedure wherein a judge tells you what your rights are, including the rights to remain silent and not give a statement to the police and the right to have an attorney appointed if you are indigent. The magistrate will also set a bond for you. Felony bonds range from about $5,000 to $25,000, in general, although for some cases they will go into the hundreds of thousands. Since the magistrates in Williamson County only come in once a day in the morning, if you are arrested after about 10:00 am, you will have to spend the night in jail.

If you have been arrested on an outstanding warrant, the bond will already be set and you only need to be magistrated. If you have an attorney, he or she can have you sign a waiver of magistration. In this document, you are not waiving your rights, just the necessity of having the magistrate read them to you. Most of the time, if you know you have a warrant outstanding, you should hire an attorney and a bondsman and arrange a "walk-through" where you are booked into jail and immediately back out again, as the bond and waiver of magistration are presented with you at the time of your surrender.

Once you are released from jail, you will receive a notice from the court telling you when to appear. There are three Criminal District Courts in Williamson County, the 26th, the 277th, and the 368th. At your first appearance, the judge will want to know if you have an attorney yet. The district judges are quite insistent that you have representation, given the seriousness of felony cases. If you don't have one yet, you may apply for a court-appointed attorney if you are indigent, or the judge will give you time to go hire one.

If you have an attorney, he will be working on gathering the evidence he needs to dismiss, reduce or mitigate the damage of your case. At court, he may negotiate with the prosecutor, then reset the case while he works on your defense. Eventually, the District Attorney will take your case to the Grand Jury. The Grand Jury is a group of 12 citizens who review felony accusations and determine whether there is enough evidence to bring formal charges. This is not a trial and there is no defense presented, although your attorney may provide defensive or mitigating evidence to the prosecutor to be presented. You will most likely not be subpoenaed nor even be aware of the date your case goes before the Grand Jury. If the Grand Jury determines that there is not enough evidence for you to be charged, they will "no-bill" the case. The state has the option of regrouping and presenting the case again later, but they will probably dismiss it at that point. This is the common method for the District Attorney's office to dismiss cases when they believe that the facts or law are insufficient for prosecution. In most cases, the Grand Jury issues an indictment, which is the formal, felony charging instrument. Once the indictment is issued, the presiding judge may either approve the existing bond or increase it. If the bond is approved, your case continues as before. If the bond is raised, a warrant will be issued for your arrest and you must surrender and post the new, higher bond. In the majority of cases, the existing bond is approved.

In the District Courts, the judge will usually impose conditions on your bond. These conditions are very much like being on probation. You may be required to check in with a pre-trial officer, or be prohibited from drinking alcohol, or be drug tested, or may have to attend AA or some other kind of counseling. You will be instructed to avoid contact with witnesses in your case. If you violate any of these conditions, the judge may raise or revoke your bond and you will end up waiting in jail for your case to be heard.

From this point on, you should have an attorney who will help you through the rest of the case.

(This message is for informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. Each case is different and you should talk to an attorney of your choosing.)