FAQ

ANSWERS TO FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
 
 

Bonds:

Bonds are normally made either through a bonding company or  by the arrestee (his friends/family)  in cash.  A bonding company charges their fee and keeps the money you pay; the cash bond will be returned to whoever paid it, minus processing charges (usually $25 to $50 in Fort Bend County).  It should be noted that bonding out for Fort Bend County charges will not get a defendant released if there is another hold or active warrant, such as a traffic ticket pending.   Bonds secure the defendant’s appearance at court settings.  Failure to appear will result in a bond forfeiture which means an order will be issued to arrest you on the charges again.  Since they can put you in jail if you do not appear, showing up for your court settings is your most important priority on court days.

An application for refund of the bond money is available in the clerk’s office and can be used once the defendant has taken care of their case and no longer needs to appear in court.  The refunds are normally processed  and mailed between 2 and 4 weeks from the application being submitted.

 

Do I need an attorney?

The simple answer is yes.  This is not traffic court. You have not been issued a ticket.  This is a criminal offense where you face the possibility of time in jail.  Do not expect to handle your case without help.  (Your best bet is to pick up the phone and hire me!)

 

Three alternatives for representation in Fort Bend County:

1. Hire your own attorney

Call and “interview” attorneys;  or  make appointments and go see attorneys (many have first time free consultations).   It is important to pick someone that has the experience to take care of your case; who cares about your situation; and someone with whom you can connect.  Not every attorney is for every defendant.

  • CHOOSE AN ATTORNEY WITH A LOCAL PRESENCE.  It should be noted that it is also very important to choose someone who has a local presence; many out of county attorneys do not have a rapport with the prosecutors; they do not know the system; and if they are engaged in their home county at the same time as your court date, they do not appear timely.  It bears repeating that many out of county attorneys fail to appear to reset cases and leave their clients sitting in the courtroom waiting for hours.  Many out of county attorneys do not know that there is a state rule concerning priority of appearances in counties.  FORT BEND COUNTY has priority over Harris County according to the state regulations.

2. Attorney of the day.

Fort Bend County has an attorney of the day in each misdemeanor court at every docket.  The attorney of the day is a defense attorney who can speak to you about the charge and the options in front of you.   If the attorney of the day can help you resolve your case in court, the court will pay the attorney’s fee.  It is a matter of luck as to who is present on your day of court to help you.   While there are many talented and experienced attorneys who perform this work; there are also attorneys who are inexperienced;  or otherwise not really invested in helping you.   If you cannot resolve your case with an attorney of the day, you can get a reset to come back in the future with a lawyer of your choice.

  • Please understand that the attorney of the day has a limited amount of time to speak to a large number of defendants.  Many cases require more than the ten or fifteen minutes they have to look at a case to advise you.

3. Court appointed attorney.

Of the misdemeanor courts in Fort Bend County, two routinely appoint attorneys for criminal defendants and the others follow the concept that anyone not in jail should hire their own.   Court appointed attorneys are paid by the court to represent you based on financial need.   Again, there is a broad range of attorneys taking court appointments:   talented and experienced attorneys all the way to brand new “baby” lawyers trying to get experience.

  • The felony courts prefer for you to hire your own counsel if you are not in jail.

 

First court appearance:

The first court date is normally six weeks from an arrest.  The date of your court appearance is contained on the bond paper work.   All five misdemeanor courts meet at 8:30 a.m. on the first or second floor of the new courthouse.   The main purpose of the docket is to inform the court if you have legal representation.  Since most cases are not filed until a few days before the first appearance, this is usually the first opportunity, for your case to be reviewed with your attorney.  Cases are assigned to one of the courts as soon as the case is filed.  There are notice boards in the courthouse both at the entry to the building or in front of each of the courts containing names of defendants with court information.

Unless you choose to resolve your case that day, no one needs or wants to know your plea at that time. The reset form contains all the information for your next setting; court locations do not change from setting to setting.

The four felony courts send their first court appearances to the associate judge; arraignments are held in his court on the second floor.  For felonies, you must appear at each setting even if your case has not yet been indicted.  Please be aware that the arraignment docket is normally the defendants appearing (with counsel if they have an attorney) and getting a reset.   Neither the prosecutors nor their files are present at these dockets so you cannot get something resolved even if your attorney is present.

Resets:

Criminal cases take time to resolve and resets are available.  Each court determines their own docket settings; normally it is about one month between settings.  Keep your reset handy as it has all information you need about where you are to be and at what time.

What can be done to resolve my case?:

This is a much longer discussion than what is outlined here, but basically, there are three main ways to get a case resolved:   trial setting to let a jury decide if you are guilty or innocent; negotiations to obtain an agreement with the state about punishment if you are willing to accept  responsibility for the charge (probation, deferred adjudication, jail time, or fine and court costs); or negotiations to obtain a lesser included offense or dismissal.   It should be noted, that while everyone wants their case dismissed, dismissals are few and far between.   Every prosecutor has a different opinion about the nature of the charge, the strength of their case, what they want to resolve it; your case resolution options has  a lot to do with the luck of which court your case lands in and which prosecutor is handling it.

Family members:

Most courts do not permit any family members to come inside the courtroom with the defendant; there is no room.

Attire:

Wear church appropriate clothing.  While you do not have to dress up, you do need to be presentable.   No flip flops (or  sandal versions), no shorts or shortened pants, no tank tops.  Shirts must be tucked into pants; pants must be pulled up and not sagging.  Please leave low cut blouses,  hoochie mama clothing, and too much bling at home!

Remember you are trying to make a good impression and you are in a formal setting.  Failure to dress appropriately could result in the bailiff refusing to permit you to enter the courtroom, which can lead to you having to return home to come back in appropriate attire.