What Happens After I Get Out Of Jail On Bail?
First, you’ll go to the courthouse, usually a few days after you get out of jail, to make your first appearance. Your name will be called during docket, and you’ll answer that you’re present. You’ll be asked if you have a lawyer. If you don’t, you’ll wait to see the judge.
You’ll be called up in front of the judge. If you bonded out before you made it to probable cause court, there will be a short probable cause hearing. The judge will then give you three options: (1) get a continuance to hire a lawyer, (2) fill out a financial affidavit for a court-appointed lawyer, or (3) fill out a form in order to represent yourself. If you choose to hire a lawyer, the court will give you a couple of weeks to do that.
It’s during this period of lawyer-shopping that I get most of my calls from potential clients. If you call me during this period, we’ll talk about your case over the phone. Even if you choose not to hire me, whatever we talk about is protected by attorney-client privilege. I’ll let you know how much I’ll charge for your case and, if that works for you, we’ll set up a time to meet in person in my office.
When we meet in person, we’ll have an in-depth interview. We’ll talk about what to expect and you’ll sign a contract allowing me to represent you as your lawyer. I’ll then sign onto your case, appear at your next court appearance, and get to work defending you.
For a simple misdemeanor case, you’re looking at a minimum of a couple of months. That delay is mostly because so many misdemeanors are filed in Harris County that it takes time before prosecutors can evaluate whatever arguments or evidence I’ve presented to them. For more complicated misdemeanors, or misdemeanors that can only be resolved with a dismissal or trial, it will take a lot longer—sometimes over a year. For felonies, the same principles apply, but the timeframes are just longer. It is not unusual for felony cases to take eighteen months or two years or more before finally getting to trial.
For a simple misdemeanor case, simply due to the volume of cases we have in Houston, you’re looking at a minimum of several months. For more complicated misdemeanors, or misdemeanors that can only be resolved with a dismissal or trial, it will take a lot longer—sometimes over a year. For felonies, the same principles apply, but the timeframes are just longer. It is not unusual for felony cases to take eighteen months or two years or more before finally getting to trial.
Expect to make court appearances about once a month until your case is set for trial. If that seems excessive, it’s because it is. Other counties do not have as frequent settings as Harris County. Judges and prosecutors like these frequent court appearances because they wear defendants down. It’s not unusual for innocent people to just give up from the frustration and disruption of a year’s worth of court appearances and plead guilty. More frequent court appearances also increase the chances of a defendant being late to court or forgetting a court appearance and having their bond forfeited. And once a person’s bond is forfeited and they’re back in jail, they’re far more likely to plead guilty.
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