What Happens Between Arrest and a Criminal Case Being Filed?

Happy Friday, everybody. So for this week’s video, I want to talk about that really awkward phase in any criminal case in between when somebody gets arrested and when they actually start having court dates. It’s the number one cause for stress and uncertainty when a client is dealing with his criminal lawyer. So first, let me kind of explain to you for those of you who aren’t aware of kind of how the process works. So once somebody gets arrested, the police agency or the arresting agency, in most general cases, they conduct their investigation into what they arrested that person for. They put the investigation together, the offense report, whatever evidence they have or that they’ve collected. And then they send that to the district attorney’s office. And the district attorney’s office, depending on the county, will have an intake division that is tasked with reviewing all of those incoming cases.

So the time period between when somebody is arrested and when that case gets sent over to the DA’s office can vary quite greatly. In a simple, straightforward case, like a possession case or a shoplifting or a theft or something like that, or a robbery, those cases get sent over relatively quickly, generally within a week or two. In the more involved cases like a sexual assault, or even some DWIs or possession cases where they’re awaiting lab reports for either DNA swabs or they’re testing some of the substances that were recovered, they can take months to get from the police agency over to the intake division. And so while it’s kind of pending in that kind of nebulous ether, there’s not really a whole lot that a criminal defense lawyer can do.

Eventually, the intake division gets it. And the intake division will look at everything that was presented to them by the arresting agency, and they have to make a decision on really three things. Do we file the case at all? If we do, are we filing a felony or a misdemeanor? And if it’s a felony, when and who is presenting this case to the grand jury? The time it takes the intake division to make those decisions, again, can vary greatly. And the most important part that I want to stress to all of you out there is, if you come in right after you get arrested and you hire me, or you hire any criminal defense lawyer, a good quality criminal defense lawyer will be spending that time where it’s just the case is kind of nothing going on, doing everything that we can to try to get in front of it, or get in front of the prosecutor that it’s been assigned to, so we can have a conversation with that prosecutor, see if we can, for lack of a better word, cut things off at the pass.

Now, again, it’s very important that you understand there is nothing in the law that requires the prosecutors to engage in that type of conversation or negotiations with us. They don’t have to tell us a thing. All of that stuff is happening internally behind the scenes. They can simply ignore our phone calls and emails, and go about their business. And sometimes that’s exactly what happens. Sometimes we’re able to have that conversation with the prosecutor and we’re able to do some very good work ahead of the time when the case gets filed.

But eventually, the intake prosecutor will make a decision on what they’re doing. The case will get filed. At that point, it gets assigned to a court. And once it gets assigned to a court and filed, that’s when your constitutional right to discovery attaches. So that’s when we get all of the discovery in your case. That’s when we get the evidence that we’ve been wanting to see for these months. We get all the videos, all the reports, all the witness statements and all that stuff.

So the kind of big takeaway from this video is there’s going to be this set period of time, or this period of time. It’s not set. It kind of varies. There’s going to be this period of time after you get arrested but before your case gets formally filed that it’s going to feel like nothing’s happening. And I get that, and it’s frustrating, and you’re not wrong. But that’s normal. That process is built-in. That’s part of it. That’s how this whole thing works. And so I don’t want you to feel confused, or scared, or nervous, or thinking that, “Well, the state has it out for me because they’re making me wait this whole time. They really are making me wait longer than they need to.” Again, that’s just part of this process. That’s very, very normal.

So in that time period, it’s still important that you have a good, open communication with me, or with your criminal defense lawyer, so you can talk about what’s going on and answer questions that they might have. But it will feel like it’s out of our hands. And that’s because it really is. So again, hope this shed some light on that. If there’s any other specific questions, I could really talk for about 45 to 50 minutes on this specific topic because there’s a lot of nuances in this progress. This was really just kind of 30,000 foot overview. And again, this is specifically how it works here in Texas. This might vary from state to state. But here in Texas, especially North Texas in Dallas, Denton, Collin, Tarrant, all of these surrounding counties, that’s been my experience on how this works. So take this with a grain of salt if you live somewhere else.

But hopefully, this answers some questions that gave you a little bit of clarity on how that process works. Again, if there’s anything you want to see me cover in a topic or in a video like this, or if there’s any specific questions you have, please feel free to reach out. I’m happy to answer them. And I look forward to seeing you all next week. Y’all have a good weekend.

Author Bio

James P. Whalen

James P. Whalen is the managing attorney and founder of Whalen Law Office, a Texas criminal defense firm offering personalized legal representation for various federal criminal charges. With a commitment to providing comfort and guidance during challenging times, Mr. Whalen serves as both an attorney and counselor to his clients, helping them navigate their cases while striving to restore normalcy to their lives.

In an inherently unbalanced criminal justice system, Mr. Whalen takes on cases with unwavering dedication. With decades of legal experience, he offers representation across various criminal charges, including white-collar crimes, violent crimes, drug charges, and more. Mr. Whalen’s numerous accolades, including Super Lawyer recognition and board certification in Criminal Appellate Law and Criminal Law, reflect his unwavering commitment to ethical and high-quality legal representation.

LinkedIn | State Bar Association | Avvo | Google