Not everyone hires BRIAN FOLEY LAW PLLC as soon as they are arrested. Sometimes clients may have already been convicted and are now looking to appeal the case. Other times a client or client family member may be incarcerated and need to file a writ of habeas corpus. Read more to learn about the courts and your rights.
The Court Structure of Texas is outlined below and appeals start after you have lost a case in a court of original jurisdiction. The below chart is promulgated officially by the State of Texas but is incorrect in that it lists the Judges on the Court of Criminal Appeals as "Justices." The Court of Criminal Appeals own website affirms this as it reads "[t]he Court consists of a "Presiding Judge and eight Judges." Hence the old Appellate lawyer joke, "There is no justice at the Court of Criminal Appeals."
Where Cases start
Class "C" tickets are technically criminal cases but most people consider a criminal case to be a Class "B" or higher Misdemeanor or Felony Charge. Cases Start with either an Arrest or the signing of an Arrest Warrant. In Montgomery County criminal defense cases they call an arrest off the street an "instanter" arrest case. Cases that are filed with the District Clerk after a judge signs an arrest warrant are called "warrant" cases. This is different in Harris county where arrests off the street are called a "charge" and an arrest warrant is called a "to be" warrant or a "to be" case. This is short for a case which is going "to be" filed with the clerk.
Make sure you get a lawyer who has experience in your county and knows the prosecutors, judges, and the lingo used in the area.
After an Arrest the case gets filed in a County Court or County Court at Law for a misdemeanor charge and in a District Court for a Felony charge. These are the courts of "original jurisdiction." If you win your case or are satisfied with the result then the case stops there. If you are dissatisfied with the result you can appeal your original case to one of the Courts of Appeals.
Courts of Appeals
For Montgomery County criminal justice lawyers and accused citizens the first court to which they may appeal a misdemeanor or felony conviction is the 9th Court of Appeals which is located in Beaumont Texas and serves a number of counties.
For Harris County criminal justice lawyers and accused citizens the first court to which they may appeal a misdemeanor or felony conviction is the 1st Court of Appeals and the 14th Court of Appeals.
If you lose your case or are dissatisfied with the result of your case in the court of original jurisdiction you have 30 days to appeal the case either by filing a notice of appeal or by filing a motion for new trial followed by a notice of appeal.
Every defendant has a right to an initial appeal. If you lose at the Courts of Appeals level you can petition the Court of Criminal Appeals of Texas for a discretionary review. And as the name implies it is a discretionary review and the Court may decide not to take up the case. A strong advocate with Oral argument experience is necessary to advance a criminal appeal. Brian Foley is one of few criminal defense and criminal justice attorneys in Conroe, Montgomery County, Texas to have delivered argument to both the 9th Court of Appeals in Beaumont and the 14th Court of Appeals in Houston.
The Court of Criminal Appeals of Texas
The Court of Criminal Appeals of Texas is the highest criminal court in the State of Texas and shares the title of highest court with the Supreme Court of Texas. The Supreme Court of Texas handles Civil cases only. The Supreme Court of Texas has Nine Justices which serve at any time. On the Court of Criminal Appeals these same roles are filled but instead of being called "Justices" they are merely referred to as "Judges." Hence the old Appellate Lawyer joke that there is no "justice" at the Court of Criminal Appeals.
Appeals to the Court of Criminal Appeals are called petitions for discretionary review. Only death penalty cases are guaranteed a review by the Court of Criminal Appeals. You must have a strong written advocate in order to successfully have an appeal heard and to have relief granted.
Post Conviction Writs
If you were convicted of an offense or a loved one was convicted of an offense and is currently serving time in prison or jail and you have already lost an initial appeal then you may be able to file an 11.07 Writ or a Writ of Habeas Corpus. This is a special legal motion filed on behalf of a criminal defendant that is believed to be wrongfully held in jail or prison. A writ of habeas corpus is latin and means to produce the body of the person illegally held in custody. It means bring them to court and then let them out of jail.
The procedure for these types of writs differs if you have been sentenced to death. See 11.071 Texas Code of Criminal Procedure. Lets hope you don't have to call me about 11.071.