What Happens In The First 24 Hours After My Arrest In Texas?
The exact process varies from county to county. Generally, you’ll be booked in at the local county jail and within 24-48 hours appear before a judge. That judge will formally notify you of the charges against you, set a bond for you, and give you a date for your first court appearance.
Most of my clients are arrested and charged in Harris County. Below is a summary of what happens to you within the first 24-48 hours after you’re arrested in Harris County.
After you’re arrested, the police officer will either take you directly to the police department’s jail or the Harris County Jail. Whether you go to the police department’s jail or the Harris County Jail depends on which police department arrests you and how busy things are during that shift. If you’re taken to the police department’s jail, you’ll eventually be transported to the Harris County Jail, usually in a transport van or bus with other arrestees.
Regardless of whether you go to the police department’s jail or directly to the Harris County Jail, a government agency called Harris County Pretrial Services will prepare a report called a Public Safety Assessment (PSA). A Pretrial Services employee will run information about you through a computer program, generate a report, and give you a score that reflects how likely or unlikely you are to show up for court if you are released on bond. To determine your score, the PSA looks at things such as the seriousness of your charge, whether you’re currently on probation or parole, whether you have prior convictions, whether you have a job, your age, sex, educational level, etc. Your PSA will be generally prepared within a couple of hours after you’ve been arrested and the District Attorney’s Office has finalized the charges.
After the PSA is completed, a Pretrial Services employee will compare your PSA score and charge to the Harris County Bond Schedule. A copy of the Harris County felony bond schedule can be found here and the misdemeanor bond schedule can be found here. Depending on what the bond schedule says, one of three things will happen next.
If your charge isn’t that serious and your PSA score is low, you will receive a “presumption of personal bond.” A personal bond (also called a “PR bond”) is a bond in which you don’t put up any money and are released based on your promise to show up to court and check in periodically with a pretrial services employee. Your case will be fast-tracked to a judge who will decide whether to grant you a PR bond. If the judge grants you a PR bond, you’ll be released. If the process happens quickly enough, you may even be released before you’re booked into the Harris County Jail. If the judge decides not to grant you a PR bond, he or she will set a monetary bond. All of this can, and often will, happen without you even appearing in front of the judge.
If your charge and PSA score are such that you don’t have a presumption of the personal bond, a monetary bond will be recommended for you according to the bail bond schedule. The judge doesn’t have to follow the bond schedule, but most of the time, the judge will. If you or a family member posts the bond, you will be released. If you make bond quickly enough, you may even be released before you are booked into the Harris County Jail. If you don’t make bond right away, you will be held until your probable cause court hearing (also called a “PC hearing” or “15.17 hearing”).
Lastly, if your charge is serious, your criminal history is serious, or other criteria are met (e.g., if you’re on bond for a felony charge and pick up another one), you will be held pending the PC hearing. You’ll be booked into the Harris County Jail and a pretrial services employee will interview you about your living situation, finances, and criminal history. The information gathered from this interview will be put into a longer, amended PSA report that will be given to the judge to help determine an appropriate bond amount and whether you’re too poor to hire your own lawyer.
Once the interview is completed and the final PSA is ready, the PC hearing is held. You’ll be sent to a room where there is a video-link to a courtroom. You’ll be represented by a lawyer from the public defender’s office. (It’s possible to have your own lawyer appear at a PC hearing, but few people hire lawyers so quickly they can actually appear at this hearing.) The prosecutor will read a summary of what the police say happened. The public defender may argue why there is no probable cause to support the charge against you. If the judge finds there is no probable cause, you will be released. If the judge finds there is probable cause, the judge will proceed to set your bond. The State may make arguments for a bond higher than the bond schedule, and the public defender will likely argue for a PR bond for you or a low bond. The judge will then set your bond. If your case involved a complainant who was a family member, you may be required to sign a protective order at the PC hearing promising not to go near that family member’s home or work. The judge will then tell you which court you’ve been randomly assigned to and the date of your first court appearance.
For misdemeanors, the PC hearing must take place within 24 hours. For felonies, the PC hearing must take place within 48 hours. If these deadlines pass without you having a PC hearing, the public defender will notice and move to have you released on a PR bond.
If this all sounds complex, it’s because it is. This flowchart should make things a bit clearer.
If you haven’t made bond after the PC court hearing, you’ll continue to go through the intake process at the jail. You’ll be interviewed to determine your classification in the jail, screened by a jail doctor, have your booking photo (i.e. mugshot) taken, have your personal property taken, assigned orange jail clothes, and then be assigned to one of the three Harris County Jail complexes. Women are sent to 1200 Baker and placed on floors separate from male prisoners. Men may be assigned to the male floors at 1200 Baker or the all-male jails at 701 N. San Jacinto or 1307 Baker. Which jail and floor you go to depends on your classification level, with inmates with more serious charges being housed separately from those charged with less serious crimes.
After you’ve been booked in, you’ll wait for your first court appearance, which will take place a few days after your arrest. You’ll be transported to a holding cell outside the courtroom. If you weren’t able to bond out of jail, the judge handling your case will assign you a lawyer that day.
If you bonded out without having a PC hearing (because your case was fast-tracked for a PR bond or because you made a monetary bond before making it to PC court), the judge handling your case will have a PC court hearing. As before, if the judge finds no probable cause, your case will be dismissed and you’ll be free to go. If the judge does find probable cause and you don’t yet have a lawyer, you’ll be given three options: ask for a court-appointed lawyer, ask for a reset for time to hire a lawyer, or ask to represent yourself (which is never a good idea). If you ask for a court-appointed lawyer, you’ll fill out a form and the judge will rule whether you get a court-appointed lawyer or not.
For more information on Aftermath Of An Arrest In Texas, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (713) 936-4521 today.
Call Now For A Free Consultation