Felonies are offenses punishable by death or by confinement in a penitentiary or state jail. Felonies are classified according to the relative seriousness of the
crime. Felony offenses include capital murder, kidnapping, aggravated assault,
sexual assault, crimes against children, identify theft, and certain drug and theft
Taylor County has three District Courts with felony jurisdiction: the 42nd District Court, 104th District Court, and the 350th District Court. Each court has two prosecutors: a court chief as well as a second assistant criminal district attorney who handle the cases assigned to that particular court.
The Taylor County Criminal District Attorney's office handles approximately 2000 felony cases every year. Local and State law enforcement agencies submit cases to the office for consideration of charges. During the intake process, experienced prosecutors review the case and determine if there is enough evidence to go forward with a charge. Occasionally the case requires more investigation prior to filing.
Every person accused of a felony offense has the right to have his or her case heard by a grand jury. Each district court has its own grand jury. The grand juries are composed of twelve citizens of Taylor County. They are chosen much like a trial jury, but their duties are different. Grand jurors decide if there is enough evidence to charge a person with a crime. If at least nine grand jurors agree the evidence is sufficient they return an indictment. If not, they return a "no bill" and the case is over. Once an indictment is returned, the case is sent to district court.
The prosecutor assigned to each case will look at the evidence, review the defendant's criminal history, if any, speak to any victims, and then make a punishment recommendation. When making punishment recommendations or "plea bargains", prosecutors also look at jury verdicts in similar cases. If the defendant accepts this offer the case results in a plea bargain. If the defendant does not accept the offer, the case is put on the trial docket. With some exceptions, cases are tried according to the age of the case.