Criminal Defense Trial Lawyer
Dallas / North Texas
When you have been arrested for a criminal offense such as Driving
While Intoxicated (DWI) you need an attorney with extensive expertise.
more on Texas DWI...
Misdemeanors are various crimes that do not rise to the level of a felony. Even though misdemeanors carry less jail time than felonies, they
can still be serious charges.
more on misdemeanors...
As listed in
Attorney At Law
5005 Greenville Avenue, Suite 200
Dallas, TX 75206
Dallas Texas Criminal Defense Trial Attorney
|"Board Certified Criminal Lawyer" and "Former Assistant District Attorney"
If you have been convicted, indicted for, or charged with a criminal
offense, you need the misdemeanor and felony defense lawyers at The Law
Office of Ward Maedgen. We have assisted many criminal defendants
throughout the Texas state and federal court system and provide legal
representation throughout the state.
We stand ready to assist you by investigating and vigorously challenging your
pending charges. We understand the serious nature of your situation and want to
help you deal with the stressful and complex issues.
Facts and Questions
regarding a Dallas criminal defense attorney for a DWI (Driving While Intoxicated) or a DUI
(Driving Under The Influence) and what is involved in the criminal court process: Click here for information
Facts and Questions regarding hiring a Dallas criminal defense attorney and what is involved in drug
possession charges / drug related matters and the criminal court process: Click here for information
Felony Offense / Charge - Misdemeanor Offenses - Texas Criminal Law
Locked up with questions? Unlock the answers
This is a general introduction to the criminal justice system
in Dallas County. It does not offer legal advice. Its purpose is to
provide a basic explanation of court terms and describe how a criminal
case progresses through the legal system.
What To Do If You Have Been Arrested
If you can make a bond (money to secure your release), then you will be
released from jail, but only if you have no other holds. (A hold is a
detainer placed on you by another governmental agency which requires
you be held pending clearance of the hold. Example: If you had unpaid
traffic tickets you could be held in jail until they were paid or you
served them out with jail time.) If you cannot make a bond (or do not
qualify for pretrial release), then you will remain in jail while your
case is pending.
Different Levels of Offenses
At the Frank Crowley Courthouse, offenses are prosecuted at the lowest
level of Class B misdemeanor up to highest level of First Degree
felony. Examples of the level of each type of offense and the possible
ranges of punishment are as follows:
Class B Misdemeanor - confinement for a term not to exceed 180 days in
the county jail: and/or fine not to exceed $2,000. Example: DWI ("drunk
driving"), Criminal Trespass, Theft by Check $50 to $500, evading arrest
Class A Misdemeanor - confinement for a term not to exceed one year in
the county jail; and/or a fine not to exceed $4,000. Example: a second
DWI, Assault, Burglary of a Vehicle, Unlawfully Carrying a Weapon.
State Jail Felony - confinement for a term from 180 days to two years in
a state jail; and an optional fine not to exceed $10,000. Example:
Credit Card Abuse, Unauthorized Use of a Motor Vehicle, Reckless Injury
to a Child.
Third Degree Felony - confinement for a term from two to 10 years in
prison; and an optional fine not to exceed $10,000. Example: a third
DWI, Indecency with a Child, Kidnapping, Possession of a Firearm by a
Second Degree Felony - confinement for a term from two to 20 years in
prison; and an optional fine not to exceed $10,000. Example: Aggravated
Assault or Kidnapping (if the victim is released unharmed), Arson,
Robbery, Sexual Assault.
First Degree Felony - confinement for life or a term from five to 99
years in prison; and an optional fine not to exceed $10,000. Example:
Murder, Aggravated Kidnapping, Robbery or Sexual Assault.
Capital Felony - punishment in prison for life or death penalty. If the
State does not seek the death penalty, upon conviction, an automatic
life sentence is imposed. Where the State seeks the death penalty, upon
conviction the jury must answer the questions which may result in either
a sentence of life imprisonment or the death sentence. Example: Murder
during the commission of another felony such as kidnapping, rape or
How the Case is Filed and Processed
Misdemeanor cases are filed by the police agency with the District
If the District Attorney's Office decides to prosecute the case, a
document is created called an Information. (The information is a
written statement filed and presented on behalf of the State of Texas
by the district attorney, charging the defendant with an offense.) It
provides the defendant with notice as to the offense for which he
Once an information has been processed, a file is generated and the
case is randomly assigned to one of 12 misdemeanor courts.
Felony level offenses are filed by the police agency with the District
The District Attorney's Office then generates a charging instrument
known as an indictment. (An indictment is the written statement of a
grand jury accusing a person therein named of some act or omission
which, by law, is declared to be an offense.) The indictment puts the
defendant on notice regarding the charges being brought.
Once the paperwork has been generated the case is then set to be heard
by the grand jury. The grand jury is a panel of citizens who briefly
review information provided by the police who then make a determination
whether there is sufficient evidence to believe that an offense has
Any person charged with a felony offense has an absolute right to have
his/her case indicted by the grand jury. Once filed, a felony case is
randomly assigned to one of 15 felony courts. It may take two to three
weeks before a case is actually heard by the grand jury.
The grand jury will either issue a true bill of indictment or a no
bill. True bill means that the grand jury found that there was enough
evidence to believe that an offense did occur and the case will then be
forwarded to the felony court to which it was assigned. A no bill means
that the grand jury did not believe that there was enough evidence to
proceed with the case as it was filed.
What Happens When I Go To Court?
If you are on bond you will be notified by mail (at the address you gave
the jail when you were released) as to which court your case has been
assigned, the court date and the time you are to appear. On your court
date, you should go directly to the court. Each court posts a docket
sheet in front of the courtroom. The docket sheet lists the name of
each person who has a court setting on any particular day, the name of
their attorney and the type of setting (announcement, plea, trial). You
must be in court on the day and time instructed or the court may forfeit
your bond and issue a warrant for your arrest. (Bond forfeiture means
that you lose the money that you have posted as a guaranty to the court
that you would appear on the setting date.) Some courts require that you
come inside the courtroom, while others will tell you to remain in the
hall directly outside the assigned courtroom until your name is called
by the court bailiff o If you don't know where to go, it is always best
to enter the courtroom and check in with the court bailiff or court
How the Case Proceeds
Misdemeanor Cases: This process begins once the case has been filed by
the police and the District Attorney's Office drafts an information.
Felony Cases: This process begins when the Grand Jury issues a true bill
of indictment. Once the case has been indicted, the process begins.
The First Appearance Setting
If on bond the person accused must appear in court. It will be
determined at this setting if the defendant must hire an attorney or if
they qualify for a court appointed lawyer.
If in jail the person will be brought to the court on the jail chain.
If the defendant cannot afford to hire an attorney and if a lawyer has
not already been appointed for the defendant, one will be appointed at
Theses settings allow both the defense lawyer and the assistant district
attorney an opportunity to discuss the case and determine if the case
will be dismissed, plea bargained (a plea bargain is a resolution of
the case where both the State and the defendant agree to a certain
punishment without involving either a judge or jury) or set for a jury
or bench trial. (A bench trial is a trial to a judge without a jury.)
Generally, a case may be set for announcement two or three times. A
person on bond may be required to appear in court every time the case
is set on the court's docket, regardless of the type of setting and
regardless of whether that person's attorney must also appear. If the
person is in jail he or she will not be automatically brought to the
court for announcement settings, unless the defense attorney has
requested that court to bring the person to the court on the jail
Final Announcement Setting
At this setting it is determined whether or not the person accused
wishes to reach a plea bargain agreement with the Assistant District
Attorney or to have a trial.
In many courts, once a case is set for trial of any kind, any plea
bargain offer is considered rejected and may not be offered again.
If a defendant chooses not to have a jury or bench trial, then the case
is set for a plea. At the plea setting a person enters a plea of either
guilty or nolo contender to the charges. (A plea of nolo contender means
that a person is not pleading guilty but chooses to "not contest" the
charges brought against him. It has the same legal effect as a pleading
guilty to the charge.) A person who pleads to the charge may accept
either the plea bargain offered by the State, or he may enter an open
plea. (An open plea means that the defendant has rejected the plea
bargain and asks the judge to set punishment.)
Every person charged with a criminal offense has an absolute right to
plead not guilty to the charge and have a trial by jury or a trial
before a judge (bench trial). In either case, the State of Texas,
through an Assistant District Attorney, must prove a person guilty of
the offense charged beyond a reasonable doubt. In a misdemeanor trial
there are six jurors who hear the evidence presented in the trial. At
the felony level there are 12 jurors. There are three possible phases
to each jury trial. They are: voir dire (jury selection phase);
guilt/innocence phase (the time during the trial when evidence is
presented); and, if the person is determined to be guilty, the
A jury's decision with regard to guilt or innocence must be unanimous
(that means that all six or 12 people must reach the same conclusion as
to the guilt or innocence of the person on trial). If the jury does not
reach a unanimous verdict the judge may declare a mistrial (also known
as a "hung jury") and the case may be retried.
A defendant who has been found guilty of an offense may choose whether
the jury or the judge will set his or her punishment.
In a bench trial the judge determined the guilt or innocence of the
defendant and sets the punishment.
Depending on a number of factors, a person may be eligible to have a
jail sentence probated. (Probated means that they are not sent to jail
but are released and supervised by the Department of Community
The information above was produced by the Dallas Bar
Dallas / North Texas Criminal Defense Attorney
"Board Certified - Criminal Law Texas Board of Legal Specialization"
Ward Maedgen - Attorney At Law
|Ward Maedgen practices criminal defense law in the following cities and counties: Dallas,
Arlington, Cedar Hill, McKinney, Highland Park, University Park, Addison, Plano, Richardson, Mesquite, Garland, Irving, D/FW Airport,
Duncanville, Frisco, Carrolton, Allen, Lewisville, Flower Mound, Coppell, Farmers Branch, Forney, Hutchins, Wilmer, Rowlett, Grand
Prairie. Counties: North Texas, Dallas County, Collin County, Denton County, Rockwall County, Kaufman County