Every county has its own set of local rules, procedures, and processes. Here are some tips to guide you through what to expect in Travis County.
“Unfiled” – means the County Attorney’s Office has not filed an information, or formal notice of charges against the accused.
“Unindicted” – means the Travis County District Attorney has not presented the case to a grand jury to determine if there is probable cause to continue the prosecution.
Examining Trial –
Under Texas Code of Criminal Procedure 16.01, the accused has a right to an examining trial. In theory, this is a hearing that requires the State to present evidence that establishes probable cause of your guilt. While a lawyer can request an examining trial, once the State receives notice of the examining trial, they will simply take the case before the grand jury and secure an indictment. Once there has been an indictment issued, there is no right to an examining trial.
A person arrested in Travis County (Austin and parts of surrounding communities) or on a Travis County warrant, will likely be taken to the downtown jail. 500 W. 10th St., Austin, TX 78701. https://www.tcsheriff.org
Within a few days, if the accused does not post a bond, he or she will likely be taken to the Travis County Del Valle Correctional facility. Travis County Correctional Complex, 3614 Bill Price Rd., Del Valle, TX 78617. https://www.tcsheriff.org
To search for inmates in Travis County custody: https://public.co.travis.tx.us/sips/default.aspx
For information on how to visit inmate, retrieve property, provide money for their commensary:
Complaint – After each arrest, the police file a complaint with the clerk. A complaint is a legal document that starts the criminal process.
Probable Cause Affidavit:
Each complaint must be accompanied with evidence that establishes probable cause on each element of the offense. In most cases, the police write an affidavit (probable cause affidavit, or PC affidavit), which briefly outlines the evidence they believe establishes probable cause of guilt.
Probable cause affidavits are extremely one-sided. They typically do not include all of the facts of the investigation, establish any defenses, or outline any mitigating circumstances.
These are public records and can be obtained at the Travis County District Clerk’s office for felonies:
1000 Guadalupe St, Austin, TX 78701, Phone: (512) 854-9457, Fax: (512) 854-9549. https://www.traviscountytx.gov/district-clerk/contact
Or at the Travis County Clerk’s Office for misdemeanors. Travis County Courthouse, 1000 Guadalupe Street, 2nd floor, Austin, TX.
Travis County has a unique personal bond system. Travis County Pretrial Services, (512) 854-9381, 509 W.11th St., Rm 1.700, Austin, TX 78701
will most likely automatically interview the arrestee. If the person faces a nonviolent or lower level offense, has little criminal history, can show stability in housing and employment, and provides references that s/he will come to court as ordered, the court may be grant a personal bond.
An experienced attorney can often speed-up the release process on a personal bond. Sometimes an attorney can convince a judge to override Travis County Pretrial Services’ recommendation against releasing the person on a personal bond.
If you are released on a personal bond, you will have to abide by the following conditions: timely appear at all court settings, commit no new crimes, no drugs or drinking, remain in Travis County, pay a $20.00 fee (and possibly monitoring fees).
Additionally, the judge may impose other conditions, which may be listed on the bond or in a separate document. They may include GPS, Electronic, or Alcohol Monitoring, supervision by a Travis County Pretrial Services officer, random urinalysis, classes, evaluations, curfew, and stay away orders.
A bondsman or bail bondsman post surety bonds. Typically, these companies charge 10% of the bond to be paid as collateral for the person’s appearance, plus processing fees. Typically, of these fees are refundable.
Of course, you can always post the full amount with the Travis County Sheriff’s Office and obtain release on bond. https://www.tcsheriff.org/inmate-jail-info/bonds
Cash Deposit Bond:
Travis County sometimes offers an accused the opportunity to pay a percentage of their total bond amount (10-20%) to the Clerk as collateral for the person’s appearance. Once the case is resolved and the person faithfully comes to court and resolves their case, the cash deposit is returned, minus some fees. Often, an attorney and client will enter into an agreement whereby any refund of the cash deposit bond will belong to the attorney in payment for his or her fee to represent the client.
Release on Bond:
Once the person is released on bond, it is imperative that they follow all conditions, especially coming to court on time. Failure to follow any of the conditions will likely result in a motion to revoke the bond and the issuance of a warrant for arrest.
Travis County can and typically does file additional charges for a bond forfeiture. A “bail jumping” charge will require an additional bond for release. A personal bond is unlikely once the person forfeits a bond for noncompliance.
Indictment – in a felony case, this is the formal pleading file that officially starts the criminal case. An accused can agree to go forward on an “information” and waive his or her right to an indictment.
– in a misdemeanor case, this is the formal pleading that officially starts the criminal case. A defendant in a felony case can agree to proceed on an Informationinformation, unless it is a Capital Murder case.
Discovery – is the process by which an accused learns about the evidence that will be used against him or her at trial.
Under the new “Michael Morton Act” accused citizens are entitled to the offense reports, “as soon as practicable.”
However, historically, both the District Attorney and County Attorney provide discovery in pieces: offense reports, photographs, statements, patrol videos, are now routinely produced, but not always right away.
Travis County Attorney’s Office – has jurisdiction over almost all misdemeanor offenses. https://www.traviscountytx.gov/county-attorney
Travis County District Attorney’s Office – has jurisdiction over felony and a few misdemeanor offenses. https://www.traviscountytx.gov/county-attorney
What to Expect in Travis County
Appearance in Court
It is your responsibility to appear at every court appearance on time. 509 West 11th St, Austin, TX 78701.
You can check for your court setting here: https://publiccourts.co.travis.tx.us/dsa/
Blackwell Thurman Criminal Justice Center entrance
You will have to go through an airport-like security check for weapons and contraband. There are giant monitors on the left where you can verify your court, date, and time.
On your court date:
Every court has different rules regarding appearing in court. Sometimes, the defendant is excused from court while the case is unfiled or unindicted. Some courts do not require an appearance until later settings, allowing the attorney to appear on the client’s behalf, conduct discovery, and negotiate with the prosecutors.
Your attorney may have multiple clients set on the same day, at the same time, in different courts. You are still required to be at court on time for each setting.
Some # courts require you to check in with the bailiff while others courts ask that you sit quietly in the courtroom or just outside until your attorney gets to your court.
Your case is likely to be reset several, sometimes many times, before it will be resolved. These “pretrial settings” are opportunities for your lawyer to speak with the prosecutor. At these settings, evidence is produced and discussed, plea offers are made, counter-offers may be presented, problems with the State’s evidence may be discussed, the alleged victim’s input will be shared, etc.
In many cases, time is a defendant’s friend. While repeated resets can be frustrating and time-consuming for the client, many positive things may occur. Over time, complainants calm down or get in trouble themselves, witnesses can’t be located, evidence gets lost, memories fade, prosecutors get transferred, different judges are elected, and many other variables may occur.
Usually, the judge arraigns a defendant in Travis County once it appears plea negotiations have failed and the case is proceeding to trial. This is the time when the accused formally pleads, “Not guilty.” Or if a person has arranged a plea bargain when the accused pleads "Guilty."
Cases can take years to actually be presented to a jury in a trial. Defendants in jail are given preference, or get to go to the front of the line for trial. Most Courts in Travis County have jury selection on Monday, and then evidence and is presented on Monday afternoon or Tuesday morning and continues until the trial’s conclusion.
Criminal charges can result in a dismissal from the State, an agreement between the accused and the State as to the appropriate charge and punishment, or a trial, either to the judge or to a jury.