Your case is extremely important to us. We strive to offer high quality, affordable legal services that meet your needs and accommodate the difficulties, which often arise in the course of dealing with the legal system. We understand that these times can be stressful and confusing, and we will do our best to ensure that the process is as quick and free of complication as the system will allow.
To keep our fees as low as possible, we have to represent a large number of clients in a wide variety of cases. It is our challenge to maintain this volume while giving every case our utmost attention and effort. To facilitate this, and to avoid some common frustrations on both our parts, we provide the following information. Please read over this information now and consult it first when you have a question or concern so that we will be able to assist you in the most efficient and helpful way we can.
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Every case in the criminal justice system has a first appearance and an announcement. These are the first two court dates in your case. We will appear at both court dates for you, so that you do not have to show up at court or take time off work or school as long as you have executed a legal retainer contract hiring us as your attorney. It is best that you call our office or check the web at (http://www.co.travis.tx.us/courts/criminal/default.asp) for your appearance status.
If we represent you in felony cases and/or motion to revoke probation cases, please note that you must appear on all settings.
After the announcement, we usually schedule a pretrial hearing. This hearing can be conducted with or without witnesses. This is usually the first substantive (non-procedural) court proceeding which will occur in the case, and you will have to attend the hearing unless we notify you otherwise. We will try to inform you of any pretrial hearing date at least a week before it is scheduled to occur, but it is in your interest to call our office the afternoon of the announcement setting and ask about the status of your case or the next court hearing for your case.
When all pretrial hearings have been held, the case will be scheduled for a trial, either with a jury or without one. A trial before the jury will have a procedural setting called a Jury Docket at which time our office will be told whether or not we will be going to trial the following week. You do not have to be in court for the jury docket. A trial without a jury is called a TBC, Trial Before the Court. There is no docket setting for a TBC. It is, of course, imperative that you appear at either a Jury Trial or a TBC, and we will inform you of the date that you need to be in court well in advance of the actual trial date.
There may be other court dates in your case, which you will have to attend. Those described above are simply the most common court settings, which occur in virtually every criminal case. It is our responsibility to take care of your early court appearances and to represent you at those settings, which you must attend. It is important that you be in court promptly for all court dates. It is also important that you maintain contact with us so that we can inform you about the dates you must attend. If on the eve of your court date you have not heard from our office, it is your responsibility to contact our office to get the next court appearance.
Our office will inform you whether you must appear or not appear for the next court setting via 1st class mail at the address provided either by you or your Indemnitor at the jail release process. If you failed to contact our office to get the next court date or to update our office with your new contact numbers our office may withdraw from your case based on your lack of responsibility or whatever we deem appropriate for our withdrawal and return of bond.
If you were released from jail, it was most likely with a bond. There are three types of bonds: personal, cash deposit, and surety. A personal bond is essentially your promise to appear in court. A cash deposit bond requires that you give the court 10% or more of the bond amount as proof that you will show up to court. A surety bond requires a lawyer to promise the court that the attorney will pay twice the bond amount if you do not show up. Bonds often have conditions attached to them. It is your responsibility to follow all of these conditions. Failure to do so may result in the bond being revoked and a warrant being issued for your arrest.
If you fail to appear in court when you need to do so, or if you break a condition of your bond, a warrant will usually be issued, ordering the police (or the Sheriff) to arrest you. If you know or suspect that a warrant has been issued for you, call us immediately. There are procedures, which we can do to reinstate the bond, lift the warrant, and keep you out of jail. Be aware that this will cost you money. It will cost much less, however, than it would to do a second jail-release if you were arrested on the warrant and additional civil suit.
All payments on jail release, walk-through, bond reinstatement or docket reinstatement shall be in the form of cash, cashier check or money order only. The payment must be in full. Partial payment is accepted, but no service shall be rendered until the request amount is provided.
We cannot adequately represent you if we cannot get in touch with you. If you change your address or phone numbers you must contact us immediately to inform us of the changes. If you do not have an answering service and are away from home often then it may be very difficult for us to reach you. If that is the case, it will be your responsibility to check in with us from time to time so that we may give you information relevant to your case.
Because our practice is to file numerous motions on your behalf and to push our cases towards trial so that favorable resolutions or offers of settlement can be obtained, I am forced to spend a great deal of time in court, in the clerks’ offices, and at the various jails. For this reason, it will often be difficult to reach me personally. I do my best to return phone calls, but the sheer volume of messages I receive makes it impossible for me to get back to everybody, everyday. I understand this can be frustrating, but if you will note the following guidelines, we can probably avoid many problems.
The assistant who works in our office can answer the huge majority of the questions you will have about your case almost as well as I can.
Any question about the following should be directed towards our assistant(s):
Court Settings (When you have to appear in court. and what time)
Charges (What degree and classification of your charge.)
Bond Information (The current status of your bond, conditions of bond)
Payments (How much you owe and when you need to pay.)
General Information (What you can expect to happen at court, etc.)
Additionally, my assistant has training in both family and criminal law cases and is likely to know the facts of your case and understand the issues of law involved. Please do not hesitate to consult them with your questions and concerns.
I will be happy to meet with you to discuss your case in more detail, but it will probably be best if you make an appointment with me, so that I can be sure and free up the proper amount of time for you. Either my assistant or any attorney at my firm can set you up with an appointment.
If you insist on talking directly to me for every question or concern about your case, I will reply to your messages, but it will take much more time and you are more likely to get frustrated and impatient than if you direct your question to my assistant or any attorney at my firm. Your case is very important to us and we will ensure that everything necessary is done to speed it towards a just and satisfactory resolution. If we are sometimes hard to get a hold of, it is because we are out working for you and the rest of our clients, not because we are trying to avoid your calls.
Like everything else, the law is a business, and we cannot continue to serve our clients if the bills cannot be paid. You are responsible for making payments to the office in exactly the manner described in your retainer contract. If the contract says that you will pay $150 per week, it is not acceptable to just bring in $300 at the end of the month. We understand that even our very reasonable legal fees are expensive, and that these are not costs, which you counted on having to pay only a few months ago. We can work with you if there are genuine emergencies, which prevent you from paying us on time.
Be warned, however, that every possible excuse has been given to us for why payments cannot be made. We will be flexible if you are straightforward about your situation and make good faith efforts to pay, but we have little patience for those who are simply unwilling to make the unfortunate, but necessary sacrifices, which are required when legal problems arise. If two or more payments are missed, we will be forced to withdraw from your case. Any money you have already spent on the case will be lost, and you will have to find another attorney.
Of course, we do not expect this to happen. Happily, the number of cases from which we have been forced to withdraw for lack of payment is very few. So long as you make good faith efforts to pay your legal fees, we will work with you in order to continue our vigorous representation on your behalf with the courts. Our job is to handle the system for you and to help you achieve the best possible resolution for your legal problem. This letter has hopefully answered a number of your questions about the process, and informed you about the responsibilities you must fulfill in the weeks and months ahead. We look forward to working for you and will be more than happy to answer any further questions and concerns that you may have.
The courts handle a huge number of cases every day and commonly schedule numerous hearings and trials for the same date and time. Cases are generally dealt with on the basis of how long they’ve been in the system. A new case, therefore, will have low scheduling priority. You can count on at least one court date in your case being delayed. Delays can be for a week or two, or for months.
There is nothing that can be done about this and we can only ask for your patience. At least you can take comfort in the fact that everybody else faces the same frustrations and delays as you. No matter how much it may seem like it at times, the system is not out to make your life miserable. It’s out to make everybody’s life miserable. Understanding this will make your encounter with the justice system at least slightly less unpleasant.