Most Felony cases are originally filed in the Justice
of the Peace Court. While Peace Justices do not conduct trials of felony
cases, they do handle several Felony matters before the case goes to a
Grand Jury. If a person is arrested on a felony warrant from J.P. Court,
the Judge must determine if the arrest was legal.
1) Arraignment - When a person charged with a
felony is arrested, they are brought before a Magistrate for arraignment.
The Judge advises the defendant of the charges pending against him, sets
his bail, and advises him of his Constitutional rights, including:
- The crime and the nature of the crime. The Judge ensures the defendant
understands the offense.
- The right to legal counsel.
- The right to an examining trial.
- The right to remain silent. The defendant is advised that anything he/she
says may be used as evidence against them in Court.
The primary purpose of the arraignment is for the judge to make sure
the defendant understands the nature of the offense against him, the charges,
and his rights. The defendant may ask the Judge questions about the charges
or his rights at arraignment.
2) Bond - The Justice of the Peace sets bonds
at arraignment. In Collin County, and in most other Counties, an arrest
warrant carries a bond recommended by the District Attorney. The Justice
of the Peace may or may not follow that amount when setting bond.
A bond means you are putting up cash or surety (often through a bail bond
company) to promise that, if you are released from custody, you will show
up for all subsequent hearings and trials related to your case. Failure
to do so means your bond could be forfeited to the State of Texas, and
can lead to another warrant for your arrest.
You or your attorney may make a request for a reduced bond in writing
to the Court.
3) Attorney appointment - Criminal defendants
are entitled to legal representation, but that does not mean the defendant
is entitled to a free attorney in all cases. In some cases, a defendant
may ask a Justice of the Peace to appoint an attorney if the defendant
is indigent. The Judge will have the defendant fill out a form used to
determine if an individual is indigent. If the Judge determines the defendant
is indigent, the Judge may appoint an attorney.
4) Examining trials - An examining trial is a
preliminary hearing in which the Judge delves into the truth of the accusation
made in the criminal charge. Examining Trial Form
A felony case on file in Justice of the Peace Court may be reviewed by
you upon request.
If you have additional questions call your Justice of the Peace office.