Trial Information for Houston Texas

FAQ: Information regarding Houston Texas Criminal Trials

Houston Criminal Defense Attorney Carl D. Haggard’s trial abilities are unmatched by many Houston criminal defense attorneys as proven by his record of “Not Guilty” trial verdicts over the course of his career.

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Are all attorneys trial attorneys How long has Mr. Haggard been trying cases? If I just want a dismissal, why should I hire a trial attorney? Why is a Former Chief Prosecutor particularly suited to being a good trial lawyer? How is Mr. Haggard in trial? What should I look for in a trial lawyer as an indication of his ability to win trials? Why is actual trial experience important? Will Mr. Haggard decide whether I should go to trial in my case or plea bargain? Why might my trial case not go to trial? How will Mr. Haggard deal with a trial in a system geared toward plea bargaining? Will I be allowed to testify at my own trial? If I don’t testify, what should I do during my trial? Will Mr. Haggard be able to keep my prior convictions out of evidence? Will my case go to trial on the first trial setting? Will I have to be in court for each trial setting? Will my witnesses have to be in court for each trial setting? How long will my trial last? Is there more than one type of trial? What is a bench trial? When should a case be tried to the judge as opposed to a jury? What is an Instructed Verdict of “Not Guilty”? How does a trial proceed? How does Mr. Haggard select a jury? How long can a jury deliberate Does a jury have options in their findings of guilt or innocence? If I am found guilty by a jury, what will happen next and what are my rights? If I am found not guilty by a jury, what will happen next and what are my rights? Can I have a trial even if I am pleading guilty?
Are all attorneys trial attorneys?

No. Contrary to what most people think, many attorneys go their entire careers without actually going to trial or trial to verdict. Many others haven’t tried a case in years or actually go to trial very infrequently.

[Back to Top] How long has Mr. Haggard been trying cases?

Mr. Haggard tried his first civil jury case in 1973 right out of law school, on a referral from another attorney, and since then has had many hundreds of criminal and civil trials and hearings in his career as a District Court Chief Prosecutor and Misdemeanor Court Chief Prosecutor, as well as during his tenure as civil trial attorney in the areas of personal injury, oil and gas litigation, product liability, Deceptive Trade Practices Act cases, and many others.

[Back to top] If I just want a dismissal, why should I hire a trial attorney?

The most desirable outcome is a Dismissal, and Mr. Haggard will always try to obtain a Dismissal before and even after setting a case for trial: There is no risk in a Dismissal and quite a bit of risk in trial. But if he is unable to obtain the coveted dismissal, and you are unwilling to plead, then you need a trial attorney. If you hired an attorney who is not a trial lawyer to begin with, you will either have to change attorneys in the middle of the case or use an inexperienced attorney who may have poor trial skills.

Those lawyers with reputations as plea-bargain attorneys do not obtain the most dismissals: The most successful trial attorneys usually obtain dismissals by virtue of their reputation for winning trials.

If you are going to contest your case, you need a successful trial lawyer who has won many “Not Guilty” verdicts. Any good trial lawyer you consult with should be able to cite you to many jury trial wins.

[Back to top] Why is a Former Chief Prosecutor particularly suited to being a good trial lawyer?
  • A former Chief Prosecutor was first trained, mentored and vetted for trials by other seasoned Chief Prosecutors – who are the cream of the crop hired by the State to win trials;
  • A former Chief Prosecutor has evaluated cases from both sides of the law and thus knows why juries find people “Not Guilty”
  • A former Chief Prosecutor was responsible for training other Assistant District Attorneys and thus knows how to expose weaknesses in the State’s case. Houston Criminal Trial Attorney Carl D. Haggard is a former District Court Chief Prosecutor and Misdemeanor Court Chief Prosecutor whose years of prosecution experience, combined with his natural skill in legal argumentation, now make him ideally suited to defending clients in trial.
[Back to top] How is Mr. Haggard in trial?

Click Here to view Carl’s many case results in all areas of criminal defense

What should I look for in a trial lawyer as an indication of his ability to win trials?

“Not Guilty” verdicts.

Intelligence and good grades in law school are certainly one indicator of potential success as a trial lawyer: Attorney Carl Haggard was an Honors cum laude graduate from law school.

The ability to think on one’s feet and argue persuasively is important as well: Carl Haggard won many awards in college and law school for his outstanding debate skills.

Click Here to view Carl Haggard’s full resume.

However, unless a lawyer actually wins trials (on a regular basis), he either doesn’t have what it takes, or he’s learning on you.

[Back to Top] Why is actual trial experience important?

Few trial skills are taught in law school. Many aspects of trying a case are only learned through experience, such as how to successfully parry prosecutorial blows which come out of left field in the middle of trial, or which juror is right for a particular case and which juror is wrong and should therefore be excluded.

[Back to Top] Will Mr. Haggard decide whether I should go to trial in my case or plea bargain?

No. Mr. Haggard will discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the State’s case, and the effect of a conviction. But the decision of whether or not to go to trial should be the client’s. Mr. Haggard will advise, but will not make this decision. An attorney who tells you, “Your case will not go to trial” has made that decision for you.

[Back to Top] Why might my trial case not go to trial?

If your case does not go to trial, it will be either because:

A. You elected to accept a plea bargain

OR

B. Mr. Haggard was able to get your case dismissed prior to or on the eve of trial.

It will not be because Mr. Haggard is too busy for trial, intimidated by the prosecution, or talked you out of it.

[Back to Top] How will Mr. Haggard deal with a trial in a system geared toward plea bargaining?

Although it is true that many court procedures and facets of the criminal justice system are geared toward intimidating you into accepting a plea bargain agreement, a good trial attorney will not be intimidated.

If you have hired Mr. Haggard to contest your case, he will establish early on his stance that your case will not be quickly disposed of – which is the aim of the system – and that you will not be accepting any offers.

[Back to Top] Will I be allowed to testify at my own trial?

This is one of the most crucial of many important trial strategies. You have a Fifth Amendment right not to testify. Whether or not you should is a decision your attorney will make. If you testify, the prosecutors will be allowed to tell the jury about your prior record, if any. This is only one of several considerations which will influence Mr. Haggard’s decision. One thing is certain: he will not put you on the stand unless you are thoroughly prepared to testify.

[Back to Top] If I don’t testify, what should I do during my trial?

Listen closely to all testimony and take notes of things you want to discuss with Mr. Haggard during breaks. But do not distract Mr. Haggard during witness testimony as this may cause him to miss something important that requires an objection or a question on cross-examination.

[Back to Top] Will Mr. Haggard be able to keep my prior convictions out of evidence?

A prior conviction does not automatically mean the State will be able to convict you of an enhanced offense. There are a variety of ways, depending on your individual facts, potentially to prevent the State from either using or proving your prior convictions and Mr. Haggard will investigate these possibilities prior to the trial.

[Back to Top] Will my case go to trial on the first trial setting?

Probably not. Most cases set for trial are reset at the first trial setting. But you and your witnesses will need to be present and prepared as well as your attorney who, if competent, will not hope or count on the case’s being reset in order to have time to prepare later.

Mr. Haggard never bluffs and certainly never counts on a trial reset, even though trial resets are quite common. He is prepared with an immaculate trial notebook and entirely ready to try your case at the first trial setting should your case be reached.

[Back to Top] Will I have to be in court for each trial setting?

If you are the Defendant, yes. A trial could be reset several times before it is actually tried. Be prepared for this and for the many mornings taken off from work.

[Back to Top] Will my witnesses have to be in court for each trial setting?

Mr. Haggard will swear in your witnesses on the first trial setting, if possible, so that they can be “on call” and thus will not have to return to court on subsequent trial settings until the day they are actually needed to testify. This is just one more example of our efforts at treating our clients and their witnesses with courtesy and respect.

[Back to Top] How long will my trial last?

Most of our jury trials last from two to five days.

[Back to Top] Is there more than one type of trial?

Yes. Besides the more-commonly-known jury trial, composed of a jury of six of your peers in a misdemeanor and twelve in a felony, there is also the bench trial.

[Back to Top] What is a bench trial?

In the bench trial, the judge performs the fact-finding function of the jury.

[Back to Top] When should a case be tried to the judge as opposed to a jury?

Houston Criminal Defense Attorney Carl D. Haggard will advise you when a bench trial, as opposed to a jury trial, is in your best interest. Some instances of this are when there are technical legal issues a jury might not understand or when Mr. Haggard fears that a jury might be not be objective or prejudicial in judging the evidence, especially when the subject matter of the crime is highly inflammatory.

See below for one example of a case in which Mr. Haggard decided to have a bench trial rather than a jury trial:

Zephia R. [Expunged by Mr. Haggard]
PROSTITUTION
INSTRUCTED VERDICT OF NOT GUILTY

A jury trial was waived and trial was to the Judge because Mr. Haggard noted that the D.A.’s charging instrument was faulty. An Instructed Verdict of “Not Guilty” was entered when Mr. Haggard pointed out the faulty charging instrument to the Judge.
Client’s Testimonial: “I was falsely charged with prostitution by undercover “Vice Officers”… Mr. Haggard calmed our fears by teaching us court etiquette & procedure as well as prosecution and defense manner of questioning. After the Judge had heard the prosecution side only, Mr. Haggard got the charges dismissed due to his attention to detail & knowledge of the law.”

What is an Instructed Verdict of “Not Guilty”?

Briefly, an attorney can move for an Instructed Verdict of “Not Guilty” by the judge, if the prosecution failed to present evidence or enough evidence, without submitting the case to a jury for deliberation.

[Back to Top] How does a trial proceed?

The simplest summation is:

  • Voir dire, or jury selection
  • Opening remarks
  • State’s case-in-chief
  • Defense’s case-in-chief
  • Closing arguments

Between voir dire and closing arguments comes strategy and execution in:

  • Presentation of witness testimony
  • Documentary evidence
  • Demonstrative evidence
  • Cross-examination of prosecution witnesses…

The list could go on but suffice it to say that to entrust the trial of your case to a non-trial specialist or an inexperienced attorney is to risk your freedom and your future.

[Back to Top] How does Mr. Haggard select a jury?

The jury selection process is a major part of any trial. It is actually a “de-selection” or elimination process. Mr. Haggard considers many factors in determining whether to remove a juror, such as pre-existing bias and other human factors. A good trial attorney needs an excellent understanding of human nature and this is where there is no substitute for experience.

[Back to Top] How long can a jury deliberate?

Mr. Haggard has had trials in which the jury deliberated only a few minutes and those in which they have taken much longer. Juries can deliberate for weeks. In general the longer deliberations are due to a significant conflict among the jurors in the finding of guilt or innocence.

[Back to Top] Does a jury have options in their findings of guilt or innocence?

Yes. A jury can find a defendant guilty of all, some or none of the crimes with which he has been charged or even, in some cases, guilty of a lesser crime than that charged in the indictment.

[Back to Top] If I am found guilty by a jury, what will happen next and what are my rights?

If you are found “guilty” there will be a separate hearing on what the proper sentence should be. The judge or the jury will assess the punishment if you are found guilty. Whether to have the judge or jury assess punishment is another very important strategy in any trial.

Houston Criminal Defense Attorney Carl D. Haggard has been trying cases since 1973, has an excellent rapport and working relationship with all the judges and has the broad trial experience in all kinds of criminal charges to make the right decision as to who should assess punishment – the judge or the jury – in the event of a conviction. A mistake in this strategy can be fatal and is one more reason why an experienced trial attorney is crucial to your freedom.

You may also have the right to an appeal if there was procedural or legal error such as inadmissible evidence or jury misconduct.

[Back to Top] If I am found not guilty by a jury, what will happen next and what are my rights?

If you are found “not guilty” you walk out of the courtroom a free citizen and return to your family knowing that the verdict can never be overturned.

You have the right to an expunction of the charge from your record.

If you got justice, it didn’t just happen. Thank your good trial lawyer.

[Back to top] Can I have a trial even if I am pleading guilty?

Yes. As above, you can have a trial on a plea of guilty to a jury or to a judge. That is, the subject of the entire trial in this event is not the guilt or innocence of the defendant but his punishment.

Mr. Haggard has the experience to know when it is in his clients’ best interest to plead guilty to a judge or to a jury, as opposed to plea bargaining with prosecutors.

A persuasive attorney, who understands both jurors and judges, skilled in putting on witnesses and painting a favorable portrait of his client, Mr. Haggard will often obtain better results in this type of trial than he would by directly bargaining with prosecutors. See below for an example of a case in which Mr. Haggard advised a plea of guilty to a jury.

Mikka T. Case No. 819301
BURGLARY HABITATION
JURY TRIAL VERDICT ON PLEA OF GUILTY TO JURY: 10 YEARS PROBATION

Our client admitted to committing the offense. In an unusual legal maneuver, Mr. Haggard recommended a Jury Trial to determine the sentencing due to the D.A.’s severe recommendation on punishment and the probability that the Judge would not grant probation due to the facts of the case. Client’s Testimonial: “The best decision I made was choosing Mr. Haggard. He gave me all the alternatives on how my case could be handled. Based on his advice, I went for the jury trial on a guilty plea. I didn’t believe the Judge would have given me deferred adjudication. Mr. Haggard did a great job in front of the jury and I got my second chance.”