What is a District Attorney's Office?
It is the duty of the District Attorney's Office to prosecute all felony and misdemeanor cases that are committed in Midland County. Our job is to see that justice is done. Our office handles cases submitted to us by a law enforcement agency. We handle the cases through trial and all appeal proceedings.
We do not represent any one individual. Instead, we represent the State of Texas and the citizens of Midland County.
Who do I contact to report a crime?
In most cases you should report the crime to your local law enforcement agency. If your report is an emergency, call 911. If the crime occurred in the city limits, report the crime to the police department. The City of Midland Police Department Telephone Reporting Unit's phone number is (432) 685-7108. If the crime is committed outside the city limits in Midland County, contact the Midland County Sheriff’s Office Criminal Investigation Division at (432) 688-4600.
Can a crime be reported directly to the District Attorneys Office?
Any crime should be reported to your local law enforcement agency. The only direct filings the District Attorney's Office accepts are for hot checks.
What happens when a law enforcement agency files a case with the District Attorneys Office?
Felony: If the case is charged as a felony, a felony prosecutor will review the case to determine if it should be accepted for prosecution. If the case is accepted, it will be presented to a grand jury for consideration. A witness may be required to testify before the grand jury. The grand jury will either return an indictment against the defendant or no-bill the case. If the case is indicted, the prosecution proceeds until there is a resolution of the case. A no-bill means there is not sufficient probable cause to move the case forward.
Misdemeanor: If the case is charged as a misdemeanor, the case is filed in a County Court at Law or Justice of the Peace Court. The prosecution proceeds until there is a resolution of the case.
What is a grand jury and what does it do?
Texas law requires action by the grand jury in most instances before a felony case can be brought to trial. If the grand jury believes that there is probable cause to prove that a person has committed a felony, it votes to issue an indictment. A no-bill means that there is not sufficient probable cause to move the case forward. The District Attorney's Office assists the grand jury in hearing evidence and preparing indictments, but the actual deliberations are secret. Only the grand jurors are present during deliberations and voting on the cases.
What happens once a case is indicted?
The Court issues scheduling orders once a case is indicted. Scheduling orders tell a defendant when he needs to appear in court. It sets out any pretrial dates and potential trial dates. An Assistant District Attorney will also appear in court on those dates. Those hearings are open to the public.
What is a plea bargain and how does the process work to resolve a case?
Plea bargaining is a process to resolve a criminal case without a jury trial on the merits of a case. A prosecutor will evaluate the facts, circumstances, and applicable law of the case to make a determination of what punishment (i.e. sentence) to offer a defendant in return for his plea of guilty to the charge in the case. The defendant, in consultation with his lawyer, will decide whether or not to accept the plea bargain. There are advantages to both the State and the defendant to arrive at an agreement in many cases. However, a defendant has the right to reject a plea offer and request a trial by jury.
If the defendant accepts the plea bargain, the case is set for a plea hearing before the court. A written plea agreement is signed by the defendant and the attorneys and the defendant pleads guilty. If the court approves the plea bargain, punishment is assessed in accordance with the plea bargain agreement and the defendant begins to serve his sentence.
Any proposed plea agreement must be approved by the court before it is entered.
How often are criminal cases disposed of through the plea bargain agreements?
Most cases are disposed of by plea bargain agreements. There are many reasons why this process is necessary. If you are the victim and you are concerned about the recommendation in your case, contact the prosecutor assigned to the case to discuss your concerns. The Midland County District Attorney’s Office takes victims’ interests very seriously. We will make every effort to satisfy your concerns.
How does as a victim fit into the prosecution of a criminal case?
Once a case is assigned to a prosecutor, a letter will be sent to the victim telling the victim which prosecutor is assigned to the case. The prosecutor can be called at any time to answer questions about the case. The prosecutor welcomes any victims' comments on the resolution of a case. However, there are other factors for the prosecutor to consider and the prosecutor will make the ultimate decision about how the case is resolved.
A victim may be required to testify at trial and at a pre-trial hearing, if necessary. The prosecutor will advise a witness of all that may be required of him.
Please see our victims assistance page for additional information.
How can charges be dropped in a criminal case?
The decision to dismiss a pending a criminal case can be made only by a prosecutor. Prosecutors make independent professional judgments within the bounds of the policies of the District Attorney’s Office as to whether a case merits prosecution. If the prosecutor decides to file a motion to dismiss a case, the dismissal must be approved by a judge. A victim’s wishes will be considered in the decision to file, try, or dismiss a prosecution. A victim's thoughts are always welcomed by the prosecutor assigned to a case.
Can a witness refuse to testify?
A subpoena will be issued directing a witness to appear in court on a specific day and time for the purpose of testifying. If a witness refuses to appear after the subpoena is delivered, the prosecutor will ask that a warrant (called “an attachment”) be issued for the witness's arrest and confinement in jail until the witness testifies. Willful failure to obey a lawful order of a court, such as a subpoena, is an act of contempt for which the witness may be punished by the court. After all of that, a witness will still have to testify. A witness must testify truthfully. False testimony as to important facts while under oath in an official proceeding (such as a trial) is a very serious felony offense.
What if a defense attorney or private investigator contacts a witness about a case?
A witness may be contacted by defense attorneys or investigators working for the defense attorney to discuss the case. While a witness is free to speak to about the case with anyone they chose, they are not required to do so. If a witness decides to discuss the case with the defense attorney or investigator, the prosecutor would like to have someone from our staff present during the interview. A witness may refer the defense attorney to the prosecutor assigned to the case for any information he wants and may decline to discuss the case. If the person claims to be with law enforcement or the District Attorney's Office, please ask them to show some identification or for their telephone number to use to be sure it is a law enforcement number.
What is appropriate to wear to court?
Please remember to dress appropriately for court. Shorts, plunging necklines, short skirts, or jeans, pants, or shirts with holes in them are not appropriate. For men nice jeans or slacks with polo shirts or button down shirts are appropriate. For ladies skirts, slacks, nice jeans, blouses, and dresses are appropriate.
How long will a witness have to be at the courthouse?
We will try to take as little of a witness's time as necessary. Contact the number on the subpoena and the trial team secretary should be able to give a date and time to come to the courthouse. Tell her any scheduling conflicts at that time. A witness may not leave the courthouse until released by the court.
When a case goes to trial, who determines if the defendant is guilty or innocent?
In the State of Texas, a defendant can elect to have a jury or judge determine if he is guilty or innocent. If the defendant decides to have the judge make the determination, the State must agree or the trial will be by a jury.
The defendant has been found guilty, now what?
Once a defendant has been found guilty, he must have some punishment assessed. Again, the defendant can elect to have either the judge or jury determine his punishment. Both sides can put on more evidence at that time. There are times when the State and the Defendant agree on punishment and there is no hearing.
Once the defendant's punishment had been decided, is that the end of the case?
A defendant has the right to appeal his case. In Texas, there are two stages of appeal in a criminal case. The first stage is to a court of appeals. For Midland County, the appellate court is the 11th Court of Appeals in Eastland. The defendant can further appeal his case to the Court of Criminal Appeals in Austin.
Are all cases argued before the appellate court?
No. The appellate court may choose not to entertain argument by either the defendant or this office and will advise the parties that no argument will be permitted. The appellate court decides the vast majority of cases on the briefs and records without oral argument. Following the submission of the case, with or without oral argument, the appellate court will issue a written opinion either affirming (upholding) the conviction or reversing (overturning) the conviction as to the guilt and punishment assessed against the defendant. Occasionally the court will only overturn the punishment assessed.
If the defendant’s conviction is affirmed, may he seek other relief?
Yes. The defendant may file a petition for writ of certiorari to the United States Supreme Court or in federal district court by filing a writ of habeas corpus. He may also file a writ of habeas corpus for relief in the Court of Criminal Appeals.
Do most defendants convicted in a trial appeal their conviction?
Although there are no readily available statistics compiled to answer this question, it is a fair estimate that over 90% of those convicted in contested trials will appeal their convictions, even if the sentence of the defendant was probated.
If you have further questions, please contact the Midland County District Attorney's Office at 432-688-4411.