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Legal Services Bureau Helpful Documents & Links:

INTAKE DIVISION
The Intake Division is generally responsible  for  the coordination and review of all felony cases and Class  A & B misdemeanors filed with our office by the various law enforcement agencies in Montgomery County.  The Montgomery County District Attorney's  Office  (MCDAO) handles the prosecution of offenders arrested by police agencies or suspected of  committing  crimes  by  the  police. The  MCDAO  generally  does  not  conduct  criminal investigations,  as  that  is  the responsibility  of  law  enforcement.  Any  citizen   wishing   to  report  a  past  crime should contact the police agency that has jurisdiction.  All emergencies should be reported to 911 immediately.   Police officers who have arrested an individual in Montgomery County prepare an arrest record at  the  jail.  This document is then  used  by  prosecutors  to generate a legal document called a complaint and information.

In  addition,  police  officers  prepare  offense  reports which are also forwarded to the Intake Division for consideration of charges.  Police  and  citizens  do not file charges or press charges.  That is within the exclusive purview of prosecutors. In some  occasions,  prosecutors  may  request  additional  information  from  police  and  witnesses before accepting a case. Misdemeanor cases are filed with the County Clerk so that charges can proceed in one of the County Courts at Law. Once the paperwork  is  filed with  the County Clerk, the court records are generally considered public records and are available for  review.  Police  Reports  are  not  considered  public  records. The procedure for felony cases is substantially similar to those in misdemeanor,  except the  records  are  filed  with  the  District Clerk. Some felony cases may be presented to the Grand Jury for consideration of charges rather than have a complaint and information filed.

The Grand Jury’s task is to determine whether there is probable cause to believe that  a  person  has committed a criminal offense. It is not the Grand Jury’s job to determine whether the  legally  admissible  evidence will be sufficient to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, that task will later be performed  by  the  district  court  and  possibly  a  jury  chosen for that purpose.  The Grand Jury is impaneled by random selection like a typical trial jury.  If at least nine members concur in finding probable cause, then the foreman signs an indictment and delivers it to the judge or the clerk of the court and charges then proceed in one of the District Courts.  If nine members do not concur in  voting  for an indictment, then there is no indictment returned. 

The Intake Division is also involved  in  screening  and  participating  in  Montgomery  County’s two diversion programs for drugs and alcohol.  Lastly,  the  Intake  attorneys  assist  law  enforcement  agencies with questions they may have prior to filing a case with our office and in preparing search and/or arrest warrants.  The Intake  Division is responsible for the vast majority of cases.

Bill Delmore, a career prosecutor with more  than thirty years of experience, serves as chief of the  Legal Services Bureau.  A graduate of the University of Texas and the  University of Houston Law Center, Delmore clerked  for the Texas  Court of Criminal Appeals and then joined the Harris  County District Attorney’s Office as a misdemeanor  trial prosecutor.  Before retiring from Harris County in September of  2008, he served as general counsel to the  district  attorney, John B. Holmes, Jr.; as chief of the Appellate Division; and as  chief of the  Legal  Services  Bureau.  In  January  of 2009, Delmore ended his brief retirement to join the staff of  his  former  Harris   County intern, Brett Ligon.  Delmore has authored more than 600 appellate briefs, and he has  handled  numerous  capital  murder cases in which the death penalty has been imposed. He has represented the State of Texas in several Texas courts  of appeals, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, the Supreme Court  of  Texas,  the  United  States  Court  of  Appeals  for  the Fifth  Circuit, and the Supreme Court of the United States.  Delmore serves as chief of the Appellate Division, and he  also serves  as special counsel to the district attorney, handling petitions for expunction and nondisclosure, Public Information Act requests, civil discovery, fugitive extradition and other miscellaneous duties assigned by the district attorney.  


Appellate Division

The district attorney’s  Appellate  Division  prosecutors  and  paralegal  handle  the  appellate  litigation  that  arises  out of Montgomery  County  criminal  cases. Most  defendants  convicted  after  a trial appeal their convictions, and the appellate prosecutors defend those convictions by filing briefs and presenting  oral argument in the various Texas courts of appeals and  the  Texas  Court  of  Criminal  Appeals.  Their  affirmance  rate   (the  percentage  of  cases  in  which the judgment of conviction is upheld by the appellate courts) approaches 100% every  year—a tribute to the  experience  and  expertise  of the Montgomery County trial prosecutors and judges.

In  addition,  the  Appellate  Division  prosecutors  represent the State  in the habeas corpus proceedings in which prison inmates  seek  to  obtain  new  trials,  sometimes  many years after their  convictions. They also assist the trial prosecutors when complex legal issues arise during trial court proceedings. 

Appellate Division FAQ’S

How long do criminal appeals take? 
It’s hard to say.  A  simple  case  can  be  resolved  in  six months, but a complex appeal can drag on for several years.  It all depends on the amount  of  time  required  to  prepare  the court reporter’s record, the attorneys’ briefs and the appellate court’s  opinions.  It  also  depends  on  whether  the  Texas  Court of Criminal Appeals agrees to review the decision of the local court of appeals, which significantly lengthens the appellate process.

Does the defendant have to stay in jail during the appeal? 
The trial court can release the defendant on an appeal bond, unless he was convicted of certain violent or sexual offenses, or his punishment was assessed at imprisonment for ten years or more. 

Does the appellate court hear evidence, like a trial court judge?  
No.  In  a  direct  appeal  from  a  criminal conviction for an offense other than a Class C misdemeanor, the appellate court reviews  the  record  of  the  trial  and  the  attorneys’ briefs, in  which  one  side  complains  of  possible  errors by the trial court judge, and  the  other  side  defends  the  fairness  of  the  proceedings.  The  appellate  court  then  issues  a  written opinion, either affirming or reversing the judgment of the trial court.   

Can I attend the appellate court proceedings?     
Yes,  but  only  if  the appellate court hears oral argument by the attorneys.  The courts of appeals schedule oral argument in only a small fraction of their cases, depending on whether they believe a discussion of the legal issues would be helpful.  The arguments can be somewhat technical, and no new evidence is heard.   

What happens if the defendant wins his appeal? 
A  successful  appeal  by  a  defendant  usually results in a new trial, and the defendant is transferred back to Montgomery County  to  be retried on the original charge.  In rare instances, an appellate court can find the evidence was insufficient to support  the  conviction  and  acquit  the defendant,  in which case the defendant cannot be retried because of the Double Jeopardy Clause. 

If the defendant loses his appeal, is there another way he can challenge his conviction or sentence?
Yes,  anyone  who  is  confined  by  the  government can file an application for a writ of habeas corpus in a state or federal court, contending that they are illegally being held in custody.  A habeas corpus proceeding  is  different  from  an  appeal, because the applicant can offer new evidence, in the form of affidavits or testimony, showing  that  he  did  not  get  a  fair trial. 

Is there a limit on how many habeas corpus applications a defendant can file? 
No,  but  a  defendant  who  files  a  subsequent  writ  application  must  show  that  he  could not have raised an issue in a previous application or that he  is  actually  innocent  of  the  crime,  or  the  appellate  courts  will  refuse  to  consider  the subsequent application.

People say they will appeal “all the way to the U. S. Supreme Court.”  Can they? 
They  can  try,  but the Supreme Court of the United States only agrees to hear a tiny fraction of the petitions that are filed in that court every year.  The same goes for the top Texas appellate courts (the Texas  Court  of  Criminal  Appeals and the Supreme  Court  of  Texas),  which  usually  agree to  hear  only a  few  significant  cases with issues of importance to other litigants in other cases.  

Why do death penalty appeals take so long?
Every death penalty case results in both an automatic appeal to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, and a habeas corpus proceeding in that court.  The defendant can seek review of the state court decisions (on both the  writ and the appeal) by the Supreme Court of the United States. Then the defendant can start the process  all  over  in  the federal courts, by filing an application for a writ of  habeas  corpus in a U. S.  district  court.  If  the  federal court denies relief, that decision can be appealed to the U. S.  Court  of  Appeals  for  the  Fifth  Circuit  and  then  the  Supreme  Court of the United States.  In rare instances, a death row inmate can start yet  another  round  of  habeas  corpus  litigation,  if  he  learns  of some issue that could not have  been  raised  before.   For  example, when the Supreme Court changed the law and held that inmates with mental  retardation  could  not be executed, many death row inmates filed new habeas corpus applications raising mental retardation issues that required substantial investigation and testing.

Legal Services Bureau

The  Legal  Services  Bureau  of  the  District  Attorney’s Office consists of personnel assigned to the  Intake Division and the Appellate Division. These bookend divisions play critical roles at the start and the conclusion of criminal cases.