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CENTRAL TEXAS TRIAL PROCESS

General Law

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The Central Texas trial process is relatively consistent across the region’s counties, such as Comal, Hays, Travis, Bexar, and Guadalupe. Please contact your criminal defense attorney if you have specific questions about the trial process.

Mistrial

The judge can declare a mistrial if the jury cannot reach a unanimous verdict. A mistrial means that the trial concluded without a decision on guilt or innocence.

A mistrial can also occur during the trial if one side violates specific rules of evidence. For example, if a defendant has a past criminal conviction, the prosecutor usually cannot mention it during the trial. The judge will probably declare a mistrial if the prosecutor improperly brings up the criminal conviction.

When a trial ends in a mistrial, the State may usually try the defendant again. However, sometimes a mistrial suggests to the State that they have a weak case, and they will dismiss the charges.

Motion to Suppress in Central Texas

Before trial, the defense lawyer may file a motion to suppress. A motion to suppress is a way to keep out evidence obtained by the police in violation of a defendant’s legal rights. For example, a defense attorney may file a motion to suppress if the police seized evidence from the accused without a proper warrant or forced a confession from a defendant. In a DWI prosecution, a defense attorney may file a motion to suppress if the police did not have reasonable suspicion to pull the defendant’s vehicle over for violating a traffic ordinance.

Punishment Phase in Central Texas

If the jury finds a defendant guilty, a punishment phase follows to determine the sentence. In Texas, the judge is the default choice to decide the sentence. However, a defendant has a right to have a jury determine the sentence.

The punishment phase is similar to guilt-innocence in that both sides make opening and closing statements and put on witnesses. The big difference is that the State can introduce almost any information about the defendant in the punishment phase. The State may discuss the defendant’s prior criminal record, put on witnesses to testify about the defendant’s character, or try to prove that the defendant committed other bad acts.

The State can ask the judge or jury to consider much more information about the defendant—information that would not be allowed into evidence during the guilt-innocence phase.

Jury Selection in Central Texas

The process of selecting a jury is known as voir dire. During voir dire, both sides question a panel of people about their backgrounds, beliefs, and biases. The parties select the jury from this larger panel.

For more information about jury selection, please check out this detailed guide.

The Actual Trial in Central Texas

At the start of the trial, the prosecutor will read the charging instrument to the jury. The prosecution must then make an opening statement. The defense lawyer may make an opening statement or postpone it. An opening statement must not contain arguments. Instead, the opening statement must only describe the facts that the prosecutor and defense attorney believe will be presented during the trial.

After opening statements, the State will present evidence through its witnesses. The defense will have an opportunity to cross-examine the State’s witnesses. After the State finishes its case, the defense may present evidence. After the defense presents its case, the State can call rebuttal witnesses. The defense can then follow with other rebuttal witnesses.

Once the witnesses have finished testifying, the judge will prepare a jury charge. The charge contains law and instructions to help the jury decide the verdict. The parties prepare the charge outside the presence of the jury.

The judge then reads the charge to the jury. The prosecutor and the defense counsel then make their closing arguments to the jury. The court gives the jury a copy of the charge, and the jury decides the verdict in secrecy.

Contact me for a free case review if you are charged with a crime in Comal County or other Central Texas counties such as Hays County, Guadalupe County, Travis County, or Bexar County.