The criminal prosecution process does not end when a defendant is convicted. Post-Conviction prosecutors of the Tarrant County Criminal District Attorney’s Office represent the State of Texas in numerous post-conviction matters, including direct appeals, writs of habeas corpus, motions for post-conviction DNA testing, expunctions, and nondisclosures.
Many convicted defendants file an appeal to determine whether errors occurred at their trial that warrant either a new trial or an acquittal. The Post-Conviction prosecutors represent the State of Texas in all appeals from misdemeanor and felony convictions and from juvenile cases in Tarrant County.
Criminal appeals in Texas are heard by the fourteen intermediate courts of appeals and the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals – the highest court in Texas for criminal cases. Defendants file written briefs with the appropriate appellate court alleging those errors they believe occurred at their trial. On many occasions the Supreme Court of Texas equalizes the dockets of the intermediate appellate courts by redistributing the cases to the other courts of appeals. This requires Post-Conviction attorneys to litigate cases in all fourteen courts of appeals. The attorneys respond with written briefs and oral argument when directed by the court of appeals.
After an appellate court renders its written opinion, either party may request a rehearing by that court or seek discretionary review by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. Cases in which a death sentence was assessed are automatically appealed to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. In certain circumstances, decisions by the Court of Criminal Appeals can be reviewed by the United States Supreme Court.
In 2021, the attorneys filed 71 briefs and made numerous oral arguments in appellate courts across the State of Texas, including the Texas Supreme Court and the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.
Post-Conviction attorneys also represent the State in juvenile matters and represent the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services in termination of parental rights cases. When appealed, these matters invoke the civil jurisdiction of the intermediate courts of appeals and may require the Post-Conviction attorneys to litigate the issues before the Texas Supreme Court.
A convicted defendant may file a post-conviction writ of habeas corpus alleging constitutional errors that render his conviction void or other issues that cannot be raised on direct appeal. Post-conviction writ applications are filed with the convicting trial court to determine the facts and transmitted to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals for resolution of their merits.
The Post-Conviction attorneys respond to these applications with a written response and proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law, as well as handle evidentiary hearings. In 2021, defendants filed 266 applications for post-conviction writs of habeas corpus, in which 200 applications required a response.
The Post-Conviction prosecutors also represent the State of Texas in writs of mandamus and writs of prohibition concerning criminal law matters.
Actual innocence can be an issue raised in writs of habeas corpus. Post-conviction prosecutors investigate these claims, verifying that the science is still accurate and the evidence substantiating the conviction is still correct. Prosecutors make sure that the convictions of the guilty are upheld, while releasing any innocent defendants.
Post-Conviction DNA Testing:
Texas permits criminal defendants to request post-conviction DNA testing of evidence related to their conviction. DNA motions are filed with the convicting trial court. Rulings by the trial court may be appealed to the intermediate courts of appeal. The Post-Conviction attorneys respond to these requests and any related appeals.
The Tarrant County Criminal District Attorney has a duty to analyze petitions for expunction, retrieve the criminal file and appear at all proceedings on behalf of the Tarrant County agencies and offices. The Post-Conviction lawyer determines whether to oppose or agree to an expunction, determine what type of expunction is appropriate under the facts of the arrest and disposition of the criminal case, file necessary pleadings and represent Tarrant County agencies at the expunction hearing.
Chapter 55 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure contains provisions for the expunction of arrest records, court records and criminal history record information. The statute specifically details the requirements and procedures to properly expunge records in Texas. Since the Criminal District Attorney may oppose any petition for the expunction of criminal records, the Tarrant County Criminal District Attorney’s Office, with limited exceptions, cannot assist individuals in the expunction of records.
All individuals seeking an expunction of records are encouraged to obtain a copy of their criminal history maintained by the Texas Department of Public Safety and to seek the advice of a licensed attorney to determine if they are eligible for the expunction of records. For civil filing fees associated with filing a petition for expunction, please consult the Tarrant County District Clerk.
The Tarrant County Criminal District Attorney has a duty to analyze petitions for nondisclosures, review a petitioner’s complete criminal history and appear at any proceedings on behalf of the District Attorney. Post-Conviction prosecutors determine whether to oppose or agree to a nondisclosure, file necessary pleadings and represent the Criminal District Attorney at all hearings.
Texas Government Code Section 411.081 allows an individual who entered a plea of guilty or no contest to certain criminal offenses to petition the court that placed the individual on a deferred sentence for an order of nondisclosure. An order of nondisclosure prohibits criminal justice agencies from disclosing to the general public criminal history record information related to a criminal offense. Criminal justice agencies are permitted to release criminal history record information subject to an order of nondisclosure to criminal justice agencies, authorized noncriminal justice agencies and the individual who is the subject of the criminal history record information.
Similar to other civil petitions related to criminal matters, the Criminal District Attorney may oppose a petition for nondisclosure of criminal records. Any court considering an order of nondisclosure must find that nondisclosure of a criminal case is in the best interest of justice. This area of the law has many exclusions and statutory waiting periods before a petition may be filed. All individuals seeking a nondisclosure of criminal records are encouraged to seek the advice of a licensed attorney to determine if they are eligible for nondisclosure relief under the Texas Government Code. For civil filing fees associated with filing a petition for nondisclosure, please consult with the Tarrant County District Clerk if the deferred sentence was granted from a felony court or from the Tarrant County Clerk if the deferred sentence was granted from a misdemeanor court.
Criminal Misuse Of Identity:
Residents of Tarrant County whose name or identifying information was falsely given by another person during his/her arrest, may be able to expunge their identifying information, including name, address, date of birth, driver’s license number and social security number, if that information is falsely presented by an arrested person as the arrested person’s identifying information. The person seeking the expunction should first contact the Tarrant County Sheriff’s “Error Resolution Unit” at (817) 884-3049. Tarrant County Criminal District Attorney’s Post-Conviction attorneys can assist individuals in the filing of a petition and order of expunction of a victim’s identifying information from another person’s criminal record. There is no civil filing fee associated with an expunction based on identity theft. Post-Conviction attorneys will review criminal records and the certification provided by the Tarrant County Sheriff’s Error Resolution Unit; and if appropriate, will prepare and file necessary pleadings and represent the identity victim at expunction proceeding.
The Post-Conviction prosecutors provide other valuable services within the Tarrant County Criminal District Attorney’s Office and to the law enforcement community. Trial prosecutors regularly consult with post-conviction attorneys on legal issues. The availability and quality of this advice can mean the difference at trial. Many of the post-conviction attorneys also speak at legal seminars and informally advise prosecutors in other offices across the State of Texas.
This page was last modified on May 3, 2022.
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