By Dallas and Collin County Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal
In Dallas and Collin County criminal defendants are typically not required to enter into a plea on initial court settings and typically only do so either immediately prior to trial (in the case of a not guilty plea), or obviously if and when they make a plea bargain with the State. Most initial and second settings are merely to make sure the defendant is keeping up with requirements of bond as well as giving the prosecutor and defense lawyer an opportunity to make progress towards the resolution of the case… Be that a dismissal, a trial, or a plea bargain. Visiting directly with the judge is rare at these court dates.
Chapter 26 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure governs arraignments (the formal process where a court informs the accused of the charges against them as well as advising the accused of other rights). The arraignment is typically where a defendant will enter a plea, but the code is relatively silent on exactly when that must occur. Tex.Code.Crim.P. 26.03 only says arraignment is improper if it’s done within two days of indictment and the accused is still in jail.
Most Texas Courts have their own policies in place for when they do arraignments requiring a defendant to plead guilty or not guilty. In General, Dallas and Collin Counties only require the plea to be made at a guilty plea or before trial begins.
Some courts may seek to arraign defendants at their initial court setting for other reasons. This doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t change your plea but you should obviously consult your lawyer first.
*Jeremy Rosenthal is Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and licensed by the Supreme Court of Texas. Nothing in this article should be considered as legal advice. For legal advice you should directly consult an attorney.