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Why does it take so long? Understanding criminal court delays.

A criminal misdemeanor case can take over a year to resolve while felony cases can drag on for several years. The reason for this largly depends on a number of factors, most of which your attorney has no control over.

 

Factor #1: The Judge

Each judge controls their courtroom in their own way. Some judges in Bexar County immediately set every case for trial within 30 days of your first court appearance. Other judges will give attorneys the opportunity of doing pre-trial conferences in order to gather more evidence or work out some type of plea arrangement. Others will set your case 5 months out each time you have to come to court, which almost ensures your case will take at least a year to resolve. Attorneys have no control over how the judge calendars cases which can be frustrating to both attorneys and their clients.

 

Factor #2: The Offer

Most cases end up with a "plea-bargin" being accepted by a defendant. However, especially in misdemeanor cases, prosecutors do not give you their best offer up front. It can take several court settings for your attorney to convince the prosecutor that the offer you would be willing to accept is the offer that the state should give you. At times prosecutors may not even seriously consider an offer until they are faced with whether or not they want to get rid of the case by pleaing a defendant to an offer he will accept or if they want to spend the time it takes to have a jury trial. However, if you or your attorney is unwilling to roll the dice in a jury trial you are unlikely to obtain the offer you want because the prosecutor has no motiviation if they know you will plea no matter what. There are many times that cases plea the day of trial because the offers become more resonable.

 

Factor #3: Witnesses

The State needs witnesses to prove that you committed a crime. Sometimes these witnesses are "victims" of the crime you are accussed of committing or sometimes they are police officers who observed illegal activity occuring. Either way, people generally don't enjoy taking time off work to go to the courthouse to testify. Sometimes witnesses are out of state, on vacation, or just hard to track down. If the State is missing a witness, judges will often put off resolving your case to give the State another chance. This can cause significant delays in your case. Again your attorney has no control over this because the judge decides what cases get reset. There are some courtrooms in Bexar County where if the State is not ready on two occassions your case is normally dismissed.

 

Factor #4: Court Scheduling

Did you know that the day you are set to go to trial there are probably at least 20 other people set to go to trial in that same courtroom. Clearly, only one person can go to trial at a time. Even if you and the State are both ready to proceed on your case, there may be a case that has been on the court's docket longer. Judges normally like to get rid of the oldest case on their docket first. Sometimes though even if your case is the oldest you will not get to go to trial. If you are out on bond and there is a person awaiting trial who is in jail; the person in jail gets priority even if your case has been pending longer.

 

While the process of resolving a criminal case can be tedious the attorneys at the Christiansen Law Firm are committed to making things go as smoothly as possible for you. While we cannot always give you a perfect timeline of when your case will be resolved, we are committed to giving you the best representation possible. The judges and prosecutors we work with know that we are committed to our clients and their best outcomes and that we will fight for them. Contact our firm today if you or a loved one needs representation you can count on.

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Houston Office

(Principal Office)
16350 Park Ten Place
Suite 201
Houston, TX 77084
Phone: 281-579-2800
Fax: 281-579-2801
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111 Soledad Street
Suite 329
San Antonio, TX 78205
Phone: 210-829-0101
Fax: 210-829-8010
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