Arrest – Whether someone swears out an affidavit or an officer arrests you directly, this is where the majority of all cases begin.
Bond – A bond is money paid to the courts to ensure a person’s appearance to address their charges. Unless you are charged with first degree murder a bond should be assigned to your case. A bond can be paid by the defendant or a bonding company can be paid to post your bond. If the bond is paid then you will fight your case from out of jail. If not then you will remain in jail until your case is disposed.
General Sessions – Almost all cases begin in general sessions. This is a court of limited jurisdiction. It can dispose of misdemeanors but not felonies. A client in general sessions has three options. Accept the District Attorneys offer to settle the case, conduct a preliminary hearing, or waive the right to a preliminary hearing and agree to have the case bound over. (Agreements regarding felonies get sent up on an information)
Grand Jury – If the case proceeds past general sessions it must go through the grand jury. Suffice it to say, the grand jury will return an indictment on your case.
Criminal Court – Criminal Court is where you really fight your case. This is where you are entitled to a jury and where you must be found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
Appellate Court – The Court of Criminal Appeals handles any errors which occur during trial. This court reviews the legal decisions made by the judge. Very rarely will this court address the facts of the case. This is just a court that addresses law. A victory here will most likely result in a new trial.
Post Conviction – If the appellate court fails to overturn the trial, post conviction is the next step. A post conviction challenges the effectiveness of counsel at any of the proceeding steps. Again the only remedy at this point is a new trial.
Habeas Corpus – This is the Latin phrase meaning “you are sunk and have no chance.” At least it should be. This remedy can be sought in federal court for relief of an unconstitutional restraint and is almost never granted.
With these options exhausted your only remaining hope is a presidential pardon, completion of your sentence, or death.