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FAQs

 

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Due to Hurricane Harvey and the flooding of the Criminal Justice Center, the 184th District Court has moved to the Civil Courthouse, 201 Caroline, 10th Floor, to the Courtroom of the 113th District Court.  Dockets for defendants on bond are held at 1:00 p.m. on most days.  Jail dockets are conducted at the jail and may be viewed in a public viewing room on the 17th floor of the Civil Courthouse.  If a case is not resolved at the jail docket, the defendant will be given a date for a future jail docket.  Jail dockets for defendants in custody are scheduled for:

9:00 a.m., Friday, September 22, 2017
1:00 p.m., Friday, Sept. 29, 2017
1:00 p.m., Monday, October 9, 2017
9:00 a.m., Tuesday, October 17, 2017
9:00 a.m., Wednesday, October 25, 2017
1:00 p.m., Wednesday, November 1, 2017
1:00 p.m., Thursday, November 9, 2017
9:00 a.m., Friday, November 17, 2017
9:00 a.m., Monday, November 30, 2017
1:00 p.m., Thursday, December 7, 2017
1:00 p.m., Friday, December 15, 2017

Will the court close if there is bad weather?  During the school year, the court will be closed if HISD closes.

 Where is the court located?  The 184th District Court is temporarily located on the 10th floor of the Civil Courthouse at 201 Caroline in downtown Houston.  The court is expected to return to its regular courtroom in a few months.  The regularly assigned courtroom is located on  the 17th floor of the Criminal Justice Center, 1201 Franklin at San Jacinto, in downtown Houston.  It is one block north and three blocks west of Minute Maid Park.  

Where should I park?  Parking is not provided.  A number of lots are available in the courthouse area.  All lots charge for parking.
 
 What time does court start?  Dockets for defendants on bond are conducted at 1:00 p.m.  Defendants who are on bond must be present at that time.  The judge forfeits the bond if the defendant is not present.  Defendants who are unable to appear due to a medical emergency must provide documentation.  The time for dockets for defendants in jail vary according to the times assigned to the court.  
 
Who may attend the court proceeding?   The court is open to the public so anyone may attend.  Victims and their families and family members of the defendant are welcome.  Students often visit the court.  They are encouraged to inform the bailiff when they arrive.  The judge often will visit with students if her schedule permits.  For dockets conducted at the jail, there is a viewing room for the public on the 17th floor of the Civil Courthouse.    
 
What types of cases are handled in the court? The 184th District Court has jurisdiction in felony and capital murder cases alleged to have been committed in Harris County. 

When will the defendant see the judge?  Defendants are assigned court dates for the first docket after the defendant's arrest. The judge will read legal warnings and review the new case for any defendant who has not already had warnings and a finding of probable cause by the magistrate.  The judge also will review the bond.
 
Will the judge order conditions of bond?  This is done frequently.  Conditions often include no contact with the person who is alleged to be the victim.  Urine samples may be ordered to determine if the defendant is ingesting illegal substances and in murder, aggravated robbery and some other cases the judge will order a curfew and electronic monitoring.  The judge will order an ignition interlock in DWI cases and a child safety zone in cases involving sexual contact with children. In some cases the defendant will be ordered to remain in Harris County until the case is resolved.  
 
Will the judge appoint an attorney for the defendant? The judge will appoint a lawyer if the defendant is indigent. 

If the defendant hires an attorney, how long will he be given to retain this lawyer?  Cases are reset approximately three weeks to give the defendant time to hire a lawyer.  

How does the judge select the appointed attorney? The judge appoints individual attorneys who are in the private practice of law and attorneys from the Public Defenders Office.  The individual lawyers must have been approved under the county’s indigent defense plan.  These attorneys must meet specified qualifications, including criminal law and trial experience, and must pass an exam.  They also must be approved by a majority vote of the 22 criminal district judges.  Continuing education is required.  When the judge requests a lawyer, the computer gives a random list of several available attorneys and the list may include the Public Defenders Office, when their workload permits.  The court selects an attorney by making a computer entry.  The court appoints one or two attorneys to handle the indigent cases which appear on the docket that day.  The judge will appoint additional attorneys as needed, depending on the number of new cases.  The appointed attorney represents the defendant until the case is resolved or until the defendant hires an attorney.
 
How long will it take to resolve the case?  Some simple cases may be resolved at the first court appearance.  Other cases are finalized within the first 30, 60 or 90 days, depending on the amount of investigation needed.  Cases may be resolved through a plea bargain with the Harris County District Attorney’s Office or by entering a plea of guilty and allowing the judge to assess the sentence, either with or without a pre-sentence investigation report.  Only a small percentage of cases actually go to trial.  Defendants who wish to plead not guilty are given a trial setting, usually after 120 to 180 days.  From the first court appearance, most cases take about a year to go to trial, but some trials are held as early as six months after the court receives the case.  Other cases may not go to trial for 18 months or longer, depending on whether there is DNA evidence and whether there are witness difficulties or scheduling conflicts. 

Can I talk to the judge about the case?  The Code of Judicial Conduct prohibits the judge from discussing any case, unless the attorneys for both the state and the defendant are present.  The judge discusses cases only in open court.  Generally the lawyer will present the relevant information to the judge, so family members of the defendant should communicate their views to the defendant’s attorney and victims should speak with the Assistant District Attorney. 

Will the victim be heard in court?  The Harris County District Attorney's Office represents the victim's interest in a case.  Victim impact testimony is allowed under the law at the punishment stage of a trial.  Also, the law specifically allows a victim, or a victim’s family member, to make a victim impact statement in open court after the sentencing.  Victims who wish to make such a statement should make their feelings known to the judge through the Assistant DA assigned to the case.  The prosecutor also may communicate the victim's views to the judge during court conferences in which the defense lawyer is present.
 
Is help available for a defendant’s drug addiction or mental illness?  If a defendant receives community supervision, drug treatment (either inpatient or outpatient) may be ordered as a condition of probation.  A  probationer also may be assigned to the Change Through Intervention (CTI) specialized drug caseload, which includes intensive supervision and treatment as well as quarterly meetings with the judge.  A defendant also may request that his case be sent to the Star Program, Harris County’s drug court.  Those with mental illness may seek admission and transfer to the Felony Mental Health Court.  For probationers who have mental illness and who remain in the 184th District Court, a mental health probation officer will be assigned.  If eligible, the probationer may receive services from the New Start program or the Forensic Assertive Community Treatment Team (FACT). 

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