The Felony Case: A Roadmap
When a person is charged with a felony in Houston and Harris County, it takes very a very specific road, which Mr. Pham believes everyone should know. It does not happen like it does on television. In fact it is much more complicated than that.
Arrest can happen in one of three primary ways. First, if an officer sees someone doing something, he can affect an arrest. Or alternatively, if he gathers enough evidence through interviews and collection of evidence, he can then procure an arrest warrant. Finally, the prosecution can present evidence at a Grand Jury of a person’s wrongdoing and the Grand Jury can issue an indictment, from which the person can be arrested. This procedure is what is known as a “secret indictment,” because often the person indicted has no idea that his arrest is coming.
After the person is arrested, our court system ensures that the police officers did have probable cause to make the arrest in one of two ways: a preliminary hearing or a Grand Jury. Which one the accused gets depends largely on the timing. If a Grand Jury is scheduled before a preliminary hearing is set, the case will be heard by the Grand Jury. Conversely, if a preliminary hearing is set before the Grand Jury can hear the case, the accused gets a preliminary hearing. At either of these, the prosecution is required to present enough evidence to convince a judge (preliminary hearing) or the Grand Jury that there was sufficient evidence to warrant probable cause. Probable cause is generally defined as “more likely than not” that the accused committed the offense for which he is charged.
Once probable cause is established the case heads to trial. This is generally then time when some form of plea bargain or alternative disposition is worked out. However, if nobody can agree, the case will head to trial before either a judge or a jury. The accused has the option of whether he would prefer his case heard by a jury or a judge. Unless the defense is legal and highly technical, a jury is almost always the best choice.
In the unfortunate event that the accused is found guilty of the felony, after he is sentenced, he has the right to appeal that conviction. Only certain things can be appealed. Often Mr. Pham has cases where his clients say, “remember to bring up (x) on appeal.” The facts of the case cannot be litigated on appeal. Instead, the appeal is a place to dispute the judge’s legal decisions. For example, incorrect jury instructions or improper admission of evidence are two of the most often seen issues on appeal. While appeals are usually only successful around 5% of the time, Mr. Pham can advise you whether an appeal is advisable in your criminal case.
If you or a loved one is facing criminal charges, and you want an experienced and aggressive criminal defense lawyer, contact Houston attorney Michael H. Pham at (713) 236-7791.