Highest court in texas for criminal cases


Browse Court of Criminal Appeals of Texas Opinions

What is Texas' court structure? State Courts. Texas' court system has three levels: trial, appellate, and supreme. Trial: The trial level, or local, courts are the most numerous, consisting of over state district courts, over county courts, over Justice of the Peace courts, and over municipal courts. These courts handle the vast majority of legal matters in Texas. For more information about Texas trial courts, see here. Appellate: Most cases start out at the trial level, and most end there as well. However, if a party is unhappy with the outcome of their case, they can appeal it to one of the 14 state appellate courts.

The appellate court will review the trial court's work and decide whether to consider the appeal. The major trial courts are the district courts, which are responsible for conducting trials in civil and criminal cases. Some district courts specialize in a particular type of case, such as juvenile or family law. There are also county judges, county courts and statutory county courts at law , statutory probate courts, justice of the peace courts, and municipal courts. Civil law involves a dispute, usually between private individuals over relationships, obligations, and responsibility for example, contracts, property, and personal injury.

Chapter 9: The Texas Judiciary | Governing Texas: W. W. Norton StudySpace

Criminal law involves the violation of a criminal statute and is brought by the state against the accused violator or defendant. In civil cases, the plaintiff has the burden of proof and must prove his or her case by a preponderance of the evidence to recover monetary damages.

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In criminal cases, the state must prove that the defendant committed the offense beyond a reasonable doubt. Most cases are resolved before they reach trial, through settlement in civil cases or a plea bargain in criminal cases. Often, before a case goes to trial, a grand jury will determine whether there is enough evidence against a defendant to justify a trial.

Judges at every level are elected.

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The Texas Constitution states that "[t]here shall be established in each county in this State a County Court The county court has exclusive jurisdiction over "Class A" and "Class B" misdemeanors these offenses can involve jail time , concurrent jurisdiction over civil cases where the amount in controversy is moderately sized, and appellate jurisdiction over JP and municipal court cases for municipal court cases, this may involve a trial de novo if the lower court is not a "court of record". County court judges are not required to be licensed attorneys.

Due to this, defendants in counties which only have the traditional constitutional county court may ask to have their cases transferred to that county's district court for trial if the district judge consents [1]. However, defendants in counties with the county court at law structure do not have this option, as the county court at law judges are required to have law degrees.

Section 15 states that the County Court shall be a "court of record". Section 16 states that the County Court "has jurisdiction as provided by law"; Section 17 states that the County Court shall hold terms as provided by law and that County Court juries shall consist of six persons, but in civil cases a jury shall not be empaneled unless one of the parties demands it and pays a jury fee or files an affidavit stating that it is unable to do so.

Since the county judge is also responsible for presiding over the Commissioners Court the main executive and legislative body of the county , in 94 counties the Texas Legislature has established county courts at law to relieve the county judge of judicial duties.

The first multi-county statutory county court composed of Fisher, Mitchell, and Nolan counties was created in In most counties with courts at law, the civil and criminal jurisdiction of the constitutional county court has been transferred to the county courts at law. Unlike the county judge, judges of the county courts of law are required to be attorneys.

The county courts at law may hear both civil and criminal matters, or hear them separately, depending on how the Legislature has structured them Dallas, Denton, El Paso, Harris, and Tarrant counties have "county criminal courts" or "county criminal courts at law" that hear only criminal cases. Statutory County Courts at Law, not to be confused with Constitutional County Courts, generally have broader jurisdiction than constitutional county courts. Under the authority granted it by Section 1 of Article V, the Legislature has allowed for the creation of municipal courts in each incorporated city in Texas , by voter approval creating such court.

Chapters 29 and 30 of the Texas Government Code outline the duties of these Courts and their officers. Municipal courts in Texas come into contact with more defendants than all other Texas courts combined.


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The subject matter of municipal courts relates to crimes relating to public safety and quality of life issues. In recent years, municipal courts and justice court in Texas have become the primary venue for acts of misconduct committed by children. Within the city limits, these courts have shared jurisdiction with the JP courts on Class C criminal misdemeanor cases, and have exclusive jurisdiction on cases involving city ordinances. Municipal courts have limited civil jurisdiction over public matters relating to public safety e. The matter of civil jurisdiction has been further confused by the advent of civil penalties for conduct that can be prosecuted as a Class C misdemeanor e.

As a general rule, the municipal courts are not "courts of record" i. This proved to be a loophole for some defendants in traffic cases, who betted on the officer not being able to attend, and thus having the case dismissed. Furthermore, the de novo trials crowded the dockets of already busy county courts at law. Many major cities—such as those in Austin, El Paso, Houston, Dallas and San Antonio—have chosen to convert their municipal courts to courts of record this also requires voter approval to close this loophole. Each county has at least one JP Court.

JP cases are appealed to the county court level where the case results in a trial de novo. The perfection of the appeal vacates the judgment of the JP court, which means that the higher court does not reverse or affirm the JP court when it resolves the appeal. The case is instead retried on appeal, but the jurisdictional limits of the JP court, rather than those of the court of record, apply. Appeals from JP court also differ from appeals to the courts of appeals in that they require the posting of bond.

This makes such appeals more onerous to losing defendants than appeals from county courts to the court of appeals unless the defendant qualifies to proceed in forma pauperis. Under Section 18, the number of JP's and associated constables ; each county has as many constables as JP's is dependent on the size of the county:. The Texas Supreme Court has constitutional responsibility for the efficient administration of the judicial system and possesses the authority to make rules of administration applicable to the courts [15] in addition to promulgation and amend rules governing procedure in trial and appellate courts, and rules of evidence.

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There is a local administrative district judge in each county, as well as a local administrative statutory county court judge in each county that has a statutory county court. There is no longer an officially published reporter.

In the Texas Court of Appeals's web sites were updated and migrated to new web addresses with automatic forwarding from the old URLs. Additionally, courts of appeals are now also making procedural orders, briefs, and motions available online. The record on appeal, consisting of the Clerk's Record and the Reporter's Record, however, is generally not posted online even if the parties' briefs are.

Appellate opinions are also available through Google Scholar. Google Scholar presents them in a format that is more user-friendly for online viewing compared to the double-spaced PDFs in small font released by the courts , hotlinks cited cases, and provides other functionality, such as identification of subsequent citing cases and ranking of search results by relevancy or time recency and time-frame delimited searches.

Google Scholar versions now also include attorney information for each decided case, but they do not as of May provide a hotlink to the appellate dockets, which would be a very useful additional feature. Google instead uses the hot-linked cause numbers internally to link opinions in a case with the procedural orders issued in the same case that are also included in its database.

By clicking the cause number, all documents available for a particular case in the Google Scholar database can be displayed on a search results page, and can be sorted into reverse chronological order if desired.


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The Texas Judicial Council is the primary policy-making body for the judiciary. The Texas Office of Court Administration provides information and research, technology services, budgetary and legal support, and other administrative assistance to a variety of judicial branch entities and courts, under the supervision of the Supreme Court of Texas and the Chief Justice. The Texas Bar is responsible for assisting the Texas Supreme Court in overseeing all attorneys licensed to practice law in Texas. In Texas, state judges are elected in partisan elections. It serves as a mechanism whereby the party in control at the state level seeks to assure replacement of incumbents with successors of the same party, who then contest the elections as incumbents.

It does not always work, however. All elective positions in the executive and judicial branch are currently controlled by Republicans because the state as a whole is solidly red. Appellate and trial court judges, however, are elected from districts, and some of those districts are more competitive than Texas as a whole, and some even have a clear Democratic majority.

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Court of Criminal Appeals of Texas Cases

In the November 6, midterm elections numerous Republican appellate justices lost to Democratic challengers, entailing in a switch from Republican to Democratic majority control effective January 1, in Dallas and in the two Courts of Appeals in Houston, and major changes in the partisan makeup of other courts, including Austin and San Antonio.

There are other scenarios that can result in turnover on benches, but they are rare. Judges may be removed by voters in retention elections, by trial by jury, or by legislative address or impeachment if state judges. The probability of election-driven turnover on district and appellate benches is affected by the nature of the concurrent elections presidential or mid-term and by partisan tides, at least in the more competitive counties and appellate districts, e.

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