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 Lubbock 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.
A felony case on file in Justice of the Peace Court may be reviewed by you upon request.