Misdemeanor Court Procedure
When you are arrested for a misdemeanor 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 where 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. Misdemeanor bonds range from about $500 to $3000, in general. 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. However, if you are charged with family violence, the courts no longer allow you to waive magistration and you must sit until you see him.
Upon your release, you will be given a document telling you when to come to court. There are three misdmeanor courts in Williamson County: County Courts at Law One, Two and Three. This is called the "First Appearance" docket. The purpose of this court hearing is to determine if you are going to plead guilty without an attorney, or if you wish to plead not guilty and either hire an attorney, apply for a courrt-appointed attorney, or attempt to represent yourself in a contested case. Should you plead guilty without an attorney, you will be allowed to speak with a prosecutor who will tell you what your punishment will be. This is not a trial and you are not going to be able to tell the prosecutor that you are not really guilty. You are simply telling him or her that you ARE guilty and that you will accept whatever punishment they think is appropriate. Whatever legal or factual defenses that you may have or think you have may not be raised here.
BE VERY CAREFUL ABOUT PLEADING GUILTY AND EXPECTING TO BE ABLE TO CHANGE YOUR MIND IF THE PLEA OFFER IS TOO HARSH OR THE JUDGE INCREASES THE PUNISHMENT. In misdemeanor cases, the judge is not required to let you withdraw your plea and is not legally bound to follow any plea agreement. Most judges will either follow a plea bargain or allow you to withdraw your plea, but not all of them.
At First Appearance, if you tell the judge that you wish to plead not guilty or wish to speak to an attorney, he or she will reset your case to give you time to do so. If you show up at the next hearing without having made an attempt to hire an attorney, the judge may be peeved at you, so make the attempt at least. If you want me to tell you why you need a lawyer, go to my page "Why You Need A Lawyer" and read all about it. If you have retained an attorney prior to First Appearance, the attorney can call the court and reschedule your case without your appearance.
In courts 2 and 3, the next setting is called a Discovery setting. You do not need to appear for this and your lawyer will handle it. This setting is only for the court to determine if the state has provided your attorney the discovery in the case so that the case can move forward.
The next setting is called Announcement. You will need to appear for this setting. Your attorney will consult with the prosecutor to see what progress can be made or where the disagreements may lie in the interpretation of the facts and the law. He or she will speak with you about where you wish to go with the case. At some point, your case will ieither be dismissed, set for trial or you may agree to a deal with the state if you and your attorney agree that a trial would not be in your best interest.
Having a trusted legal partner on your side can make all the difference in your case. Call my office in Round Rock, Texas, today at 512-218-7999 or schedule a free initial consultation with my office online by completing the form at the top right of this page.
(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.)