Practice Area Criminal Law – State

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State Criminal Trial Law

State criminal law is divided into misdemeanors and felonies.  Misdemeanor jurisdiction is generally in municipal courts, Justice of the Peace courts, andcounty courts and county courts at law.  Felony jurisdiction is in the district court.  Both the State of Texas and the accused citizen have a right to a jury trial on the issue of guilt/innocence.  Only the accused citizen has a right to have a jury decide punishment if convicted, or the citizen can elect to have the judge decide punishment.

State Criminal Appellate Law

Appellate law includes both direct appeals and post-conviction collateral attacks. In the state system, direct appeal of a criminal matter is an appeal of the judgment in the district court directly to the Court of Appeals.  It also includes a Petition for Discretionary Review, commonly known as PDR, to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, the highest criminal court in the State of Texas. located in Austin. The Court of Criminal Appeals is not required to grant the petition.

If the prosecution was for a Class C Misdemeanor in Municipal Court or Justice of the Peace Court, appeal is to the County Court At Law.  This appeal is conducted de novo, meaning it is a brand new trial and no consideration can be given to what happened in the Municipal Court or Justice of the Peace Court.

Collateral attack is a post-conviction attack on the judgment which is not a direct appeal.  It is commonly known as a Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus. It usually follows the direct appeal process.

Although the Court of Appeals has both criminal and civil jurisdiction, theSupreme Court of Texas, sitting in Austin, Texas, has civil jurisdiction only.  It is the highest state court in civil matters.   The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, also sitting in Austin, Texas, has criminal jurisdiction only.  It is the highest state court in criminal matters.

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