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Houston DWI Attorney - Texas Code of Criminal Procedure Art. 4.01 - Court and Criminal Jurisdiction.

Houston DWI Attorney - Texas Code of Criminal Procedure Art. 4.01 - Court and Criminal Jurisdiction.



What Courts have jurisdiction in Texas?


Chapter 4, Article 4.01 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure outlines the courts with criminal jurisdiction in Texas. This article provides a detailed overview of these courts, their roles, and examples of the types of cases they handle.


1. The Court of Criminal Appeals


Jurisdiction:

The Court of Criminal Appeals of Texas has the ultimate appellate jurisdiction in all criminal cases within the state. It serves as the final arbiter of criminal law in Texas, ensuring consistency and uniformity in the application of criminal law across the state.


Functions:


Discretionary Review: The court has discretionary review over most criminal cases, meaning it can choose which cases to hear. This allows the court to focus on significant legal issues and cases that may have broader implications for Texas law.


Mandatory Review: The court must review all cases in which the death penalty has been imposed. This ensures an additional layer of scrutiny in capital cases, where the stakes are highest.


Writs of Habeas Corpus: The court has exclusive jurisdiction to hear post-conviction applications for writs of habeas corpus in felony cases, providing a mechanism for reviewing the legality of a person’s imprisonment.


The Court of Criminal Appeals consists of nine judges, including a Presiding Judge. These judges are elected in statewide elections and serve six-year terms. The court is based in the state capital, Austin.


The Court of Criminal Appeals was established in 1876 to relieve the Texas Supreme Court of its increasing caseload, especially as Texas grew and criminal cases increased. Over the years, it has evolved into the primary body for criminal appellate review, ensuring that criminal justice in Texas adheres to the highest standards of legal fairness and accuracy.


The Court of Criminal Appeals significantly impacts Texas law and criminal procedure through its interpretations and rulings. Its decisions set precedents that lower courts must follow, influencing the administration of justice throughout the state. The court also plays a critical role in reviewing death penalty cases, ensuring thorough examination and compliance with constitutional protections.


2. Courts of Appeals


The Courts of Appeal in Texas are intermediate appellate courts that play a crucial role in the state's judicial system by reviewing decisions from lower courts. These courts ensure that legal errors made in trial courts are corrected and that the law is applied consistently across the state.


The Courts of Appeals have appellate jurisdiction over civil and criminal cases from district and county courts within their respective geographical regions. They do not handle cases that fall under the exclusive jurisdiction of the Texas Supreme Court or the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. The primary function of the Courts of Appeals is to review the records and decisions of lower courts to determine if there were any legal errors that could have affected the outcome of the case. The courts correct errors related to the application of law, procedural issues, and, in some cases, factual determinations. The Courts of Appeals issue written opinions that explain their decisions. These opinions can serve as precedents for future cases within their jurisdictions.


Texas is divided into 14 appellate districts, each served by a Court of Appeals. The courts vary in size, with the number of justices ranging from three to thirteen, depending on the caseload and population of the district. Justices are elected in partisan elections and serve six-year terms.


The First Court of Appeals is located in Houston and covers counties such as Harris, Fort Bend, and Brazoria. An example case might involve reviewing a felony conviction from a Harris County district court. The Second Court of Appeals is in Fort Worth, covering counties like Tarrant, Parker, and Denton, and might handle an appeal in a civil dispute involving a significant monetary award. The Third Court of Appeals in Austin covers counties such as Travis, Williamson, and Hays, reviewing regulatory challenges against state agencies headquartered in Austin.


The Fourth Court of Appeals in San Antonio covers counties such as Bexar, Webb, and Maverick and might hear appeals in complex family law cases from Bexar County. The Fifth Court of Appeals in Dallas covers counties like Dallas, Collin, and Grayson, and could review commercial litigation cases from the business hubs in Dallas County. The Sixth Court of Appeals in Texarkana covers counties such as Bowie, Lamar, and Red River and might handle criminal appeals from district courts in Northeast Texas.


The Seventh Court of Appeals in Amarillo covers counties such as Potter, Randall, and Lubbock, reviewing agricultural law disputes from the Panhandle region. The Eighth Court of Appeals in El Paso covers counties like El Paso, Hudspeth, and Jeff Davis, handling appeals in immigration-related criminal cases from El Paso County. The Ninth Court of Appeals in Beaumont covers counties such as Jefferson, Orange, and Hardin and might review environmental litigation cases from the industrial regions along the Gulf Coast.


The Tenth Court of Appeals in Waco covers counties such as McLennan, Brazos, and Bell and might hear appeals in education law cases involving universities in Waco and College Station. The Eleventh Court of Appeals in Eastland covers counties such as Midland, Ector, and Tom Green and might review oil and gas litigation cases from the Permian Basin. The Twelfth Court of Appeals in Tyler covers counties like Smith, Gregg, and Cherokee, handling appeals in property disputes from East Texas.


The Thirteenth Court of Appeals in Corpus Christi-Edinburg covers counties such as Nueces, Hidalgo, and Cameron, reviewing cases involving maritime law from the coastal regions. The Fourteenth Court of Appeals in Houston overlaps with the First Court of Appeals in Houston, covering similar counties and handling complex commercial appeals from Houston's business districts.


The Courts of Appeals in Texas are integral to the state's judicial system, ensuring that justice is served through the thorough review of trial court decisions.


3. District Courts


Texas district courts are the primary trial courts in the state, handling both civil and criminal cases. They have general jurisdiction, meaning they can hear a wide range of cases, including felony criminal cases, family law matters, probate cases, and civil disputes involving larger sums of money. District courts are organized by geographical regions and serve specific counties or districts within the state. Each district court is presided over by one or more judges who are elected by the voters in their respective districts. These courts play a crucial role in the Texas judicial system, providing a forum for resolving disputes and administering justice at the trial level.


4. Criminal District Courts


Criminal district courts in Texas are specialized trial courts that exclusively handle criminal cases. Unlike general district courts, which may handle both civil and criminal matters, criminal district courts focus solely on criminal cases, particularly felony offenses. These courts have jurisdiction over a wide range of criminal matters, including serious offenses such as murder, assault, robbery, and drug trafficking. Criminal district courts are typically organized by geographical regions within the state and are presided over by judges who specialize in criminal law. They play a critical role in the Texas judicial system by ensuring that criminal cases are adjudicated fairly and efficiently at the trial level.


5. Magistrates in Specified Counties


Magistrates appointed by district court judges in Bexar, Dallas, Tarrant, and Travis Counties have authority in criminal matters, often handling preliminary proceedings such as bail hearings and issuing warrants. In Dallas County, a magistrate might preside over an initial appearance for someone arrested on suspicion of robbery.


6. County Courts


County courts in Texas are trial courts with limited jurisdiction, primarily handling civil cases and misdemeanor criminal cases. They are organized at the county level and have jurisdiction over matters involving smaller sums of money and less serious criminal offenses compared to district courts. County courts also typically handle probate matters, guardianships, and juvenile cases. In some counties, there are county courts at law, which have expanded jurisdiction and may handle additional types of cases, including some felony criminal cases and appeals from municipal courts. County courts play a vital role in the Texas judicial system by providing accessible and efficient forums for resolving legal disputes at the local level. This is where most DWI cases are handled


7. County Courts at Law with Criminal Jurisdiction


County Courts at Law with Criminal Jurisdiction in Texas are specialized trial courts that handle both civil and criminal cases within their jurisdiction. Unlike general county courts, which primarily handle civil matters, County Courts at Law with Criminal Jurisdiction focus specifically on criminal cases. These courts have the authority to hear misdemeanor criminal cases and may also have limited jurisdiction over certain types of felony cases.


County Courts at Law with Criminal Jurisdiction are typically located in larger counties and are presided over by judges who specialize in criminal law. They play a crucial role in the Texas judicial system by providing a dedicated forum for the adjudication of misdemeanor criminal offenses. This helps ensure that these cases are processed efficiently and fairly, while also relieving some of the caseload burden on the higher-level district courts.


In addition to handling criminal cases, County Courts at Law with Criminal Jurisdiction may also have jurisdiction over certain civil matters, such as family law cases, probate matters, and small claims disputes. This dual jurisdiction allows these courts to address a wide range of legal issues within their respective counties, providing accessible and efficient justice to local communities.


8. County Criminal Courts


County criminal courts in Texas are specialized trial courts that exclusively handle criminal cases, particularly misdemeanor offenses. Unlike general county courts, which may handle both civil and criminal matters, county criminal courts focus solely on criminal cases. These courts have jurisdiction over a wide range of criminal matters, including offenses such as theft, assault, DWI (Driving While Intoxicated), and drug possession, among others. County criminal courts are typically organized at the county level and are presided over by judges who specialize in criminal law. They play a critical role in the Texas judicial system by adjudicating misdemeanor criminal cases and ensuring that justice is served at the local level. These courts handle various stages of criminal proceedings, including arraignments, pretrial hearings, trials, and sentencing.


9. Justice Courts


Justice courts in Texas are the lowest level of trial courts in the state's judicial system. Also known as justice of the peace courts, they handle a variety of matters, including minor criminal offenses, small claims disputes, landlord-tenant disputes, and traffic violations. These courts are organized at the precinct level within each county and are presided over by justices of the peace, who are elected officials. Justice courts have limited jurisdiction and primarily handle cases where the amount in controversy is relatively small or where the offense is considered less serious. They play a crucial role in providing accessible and efficient justice to local communities by resolving a wide range of legal disputes at the grassroots level.


10. Municipal Courts


Municipal courts in Texas are local trial courts that handle violations of city ordinances and certain state law misdemeanors that occur within the city limits. These courts have jurisdiction over a variety of cases, including traffic violations, minor criminal offenses, code enforcement violations, and municipal ordinance violations. Municipal courts are typically organized by municipalities or cities and are presided over by municipal judges, who are appointed or elected officials depending on the jurisdiction. They play a vital role in the local justice system by adjudicating cases that affect the community's safety and quality of life. Municipal courts also serve as revenue generators for municipalities through fines and fees collected from violations.


The remainder of Texas court jurisdictions are specific to counties as listed below and have similar responsibilities.


11. The magistrates appointed by the judges of the district courts of Lubbock County.


12. The magistrates appointed by the El Paso Council of Judges.


13. The magistrates appointed by the Collin County Commissioners Court.


14. The magistrates appointed by the Brazoria County Commissioners Court or the local administrative judge for Brazoria County.


15. The magistrates appointed by the judges of the district courts of Tom Green County.


CHAPTER 4. COURTS AND CRIMINAL JURISDICTION Art. 4.01. WHAT COURTS HAVE CRIMINAL JURISDICTION. The following courts have jurisdiction in criminal actions: 1. The Court of Criminal Appeals; 2. Courts of appeals; 3. The district courts; 4. The criminal district courts; 5. The magistrates appointed by the judges of the district courts of Bexar County, Dallas County, Tarrant County, or Travis County that give preference to criminal cases and the magistrates appointed by the judges of the criminal district courts of Dallas County or Tarrant County; 6. The county courts; 7. All county courts at law with criminal jurisdiction; 8. County criminal courts; 9. Justice courts; 10. Municipal courts; 11. The magistrates appointed by the judges of the district courts of Lubbock County; 12. The magistrates appointed by the El Paso Council of Judges; 13. The magistrates appointed by the Collin County Commissioners Court; 14. The magistrates appointed by the Brazoria County Commissioners Court or the local administrative judge for Brazoria County; and 15. The magistrates appointed by the judges of the district courts of Tom Green County. Acts 1965, 59th Leg., vol. 2, p. 317, ch. 722. Amended by Acts 1981, 67th Leg., p. 801, ch. 291, Sec. 101, eff. Sept. 1, 1981; Acts 1983, 68th Leg., p. 883, ch. 204, Sec. 2, eff. Aug. 29, 1983; Acts 1989, 71st Leg., ch. 25, Sec. 3, eff. Aug. 28, 1989; Acts 1989, 71st Leg., ch. 79, Sec. 2, eff. May 15, 1989; Acts 1989, 71st Leg., ch. 1068, Sec. 3, eff. Aug. 28, 1989; Acts 1991, 72nd Leg., ch. 16, Sec. 4.03, eff. Aug. 26, 1991; Acts 1993, 73rd Leg., ch. 413, Sec. 2, eff. Sept. 1, 1993. Amended by: Acts 2019, 86th Leg., R.S., Ch. 606 (S.B. 891), Sec. 5.02, eff. September 1, 2019. Acts 2021, 87th Leg., R.S., Ch. 934 (H.B. 3774), Sec. 5.01, eff. September 1, 2021

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