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Secrets of the Texas Criminal Justice System and Your Rights
Whenever a person is charged with a crime in the state of Texas, they must defend themselves in court. Every step of the way, from arraignments and bail hearings, through pre-trial motions and a final trial, it is imperative that defendants obtain aggressive and knowledgeable representation. But for students accused of a crime, their troubles may not end with the criminal justice system.
Speak with a distinguished criminal lawyer regarding pending charges or accusations. Many colleges and universities throughout the state of Texas maintain their own student conduct boards that dispense their own punishments for alleged illegal behavior. Odessa student defense lawyers represent clients not only in Texas criminal court but also before their school’s student conduct boards.
The Texas Criminal Court System
As soon as a person is arrested by a police officer, they enter the criminal court system. Depending on the severity of the allegations, the rest of the case will be heard in either a Constitutional County Court, or a District Court. There are two main categories of crimes in Texas, misdemeanors, and felonies. Misdemeanors are considered lesser crimes and are subcategorized into Class A, B, and C. Texas Penal Code 12.03. Anyone convicted of a Class A Misdemeanor will be fined no more than $4,000, serve a jail sentence of no more than one year, or both.
Class B Misdemeanors reduce the fine to no more than $2,000 and 180 days in jail. Class C Misdemeanors carry no jail time and a maximum fine of $500.00. Examples of misdemeanor level crimes include assault, minor theft crimes, and disorderly conduct. Felonies are considered to be much more serious. These are also placed into five categories ranging from state jail felonies to capital offenses. Penalties for felonies range from the death penalty to minimum terms of 180 days in jail with a fine of no more than $10,000. Odessa student defense lawyers provide that representation for all criminal charges.
Legal Process in Texas
Regardless of the category of crime that a person is accused of, their time at court will follow the same general procedure. The first step after the arrest is the arraignment where an initial plea will be entered. By analyzing the boards’ rules and the facts of the case, Odessa student defense lawyers can give students the best chance for a positive outcome.
At this stage, the defendant will gain access to the prosecutor’s case file and issues such as bail will be discussed. In subsequent hearings, defendants may file motions contesting evidence or other procedural matters. Eventually, a final trial will be held to determine the defendant’s guilt. At all stages of this process, from the initial arraignment to a final trial, a seasoned and thorough attorney is of great importance.
School Disciplinary Hearings
In addition to any consequences handed down by the criminal court, many colleges and universities have their own investigatory boards. These boards are tasked with disciplining students when they have violated the code of student conduct. Possible penalties can include suspension, written citations, or even expulsion.
Unfortunately, these boards do not need to follow the same rules as the criminal courts and as a result, students’ rights can be trampled. The rules are as varied as there are many schools, but for the most part, the boards do allow accused students to bring an attorney to hearings. The extent to which the attorney is allowed to speak at the hearing may be limited, as it is at the University of Texas. Odessa student defense lawyers can provide valuable insight as to how to contest any alleged violations of the student code and prepare the student for all hearings.
Help from a Student Defense Lawyer
Students who have been charged with a crime can be scared and confused. In addition to the intimidating prospect of appearing in court to answer the charges and defend one’s innocence, they must also defend their academic futures. A conviction in the criminal courts will certainly be viewed as guilt by a school’s discipline board, but simply being charged may be enough to initiate proceedings. Odessa student defense lawyers work to defend students not only in the criminal courts, but also at disciplinary hearings.