a body of law that defines most criminal offenses and sets a range of punishments that can be assessed.
a noncriminal legal dispute between two or more individuals.
the authority of a court to try to resolve a civil lawsuit or a criminal prosecution being heard for the first time.
the authority of a court to review the decisions of lower courts to determine if the law was correctly interpreted and legal procedures were correctly followed.
bifurcated court system
existence of two courts at the highest level of the state judiciary. The Texas Supreme Court is the court of last resort in civil cases, and the Court of Criminal Appeals has the final authority to review criminal cases. Texas and Oklahoma are the only two states that use this system.
a court of limited jurisdiction that hears cases involving city ordinances and primarily handles traffic tickets.
justice of the peace court
a low ranking court with jurisdiction over minor civil disputes and criminal cases.
constitutional county court
The Texas Constitution provides for 254 courts with limited jurisdiction. The county judge, who is also the presiding officer of a county's commissioners court, which is a policy making body, performs some limited functions in some counties.
statutory county court
a court created by the legislature that exercises limited jurisdiction over criminal and/or civil cases. The jurisdiction of these courts varies from county to county.
a court with general jurisdiction over criminal felony cases and civil disputes.
a procedure that allows a person charged with a crime to negotiate a guilty plea with prosecutors in exchange for a lighter sentence than he or she would expect to receive if convicted in a trial.
court of appeals
an intermediate level court that reviews civil and criminal cases from the district courts.
texas supreme court
a nine member court with final appellate jurisdiction over civil lawsuits in Texas.
texas court of criminal appeals
a nine member court with final appellate jurisdiction over criminal cases in Texas.
panel that reviews evidence submitted by prosecutors to determine whether to indict, or charge, an individual with a criminal offense. Can hear witnesses; all its meetings are held behind closed doors.
the conduct of legal proceedings against an individual charged with a crime.
a written statement issued by a grand jury charging a person or persons with a crime or crimes.
a document formally charging an individual with a misdemeanor.
a panel of citizens that hears evidence in a civil lawsuit or a criminal prosecution and decides the outcome by issuing a verdict.
persons who have been called for a jury panel.
petition for review
petition to the Texas Supreme Court stating that legal or procedural mistakes were made in the lower court, thus meriting a hearing before the court.
writ of mandamus
a court order directing a lower court or a public official to take certain action.
petition for discretionary review
petition to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals stating that legal or procedural mistakes were made in the lower court, thus meriting a hearing before the court.
a proposal under which the governor would appoint state judges from lists of potential nominees recommended by committees of experts. Appointed judges would have to run later in retention elections in which voters would simply decide whether a judge should remain in office or be replaced by another gubernatorial appointee.
changes in state law to put limits on personal injury lawsuits and damage judgments entered by the courts.
election in which judges run on their own records rather than against other candidates. Voters cast their ballots on the question of whether the incumbent judge should stay in office.
term, often with negative connotations, that refers to partisan politics linked to political favoritism.
a far reaching decision of the US supreme court that requires law enforcement officers to warn a criminal suspect of his or her right to remain silent and have an attorney present during questioning.
a plea of no contest to a criminal charge.
Murder committed under certain circumstances for which the death penalty or life in prison must be imposed.
a criminal offense that can be punished by imprisonment and/or a fine. This is a more serious offense than a misdemeanor.
a minor criminal offense punishable by a fine or a short sentence in the county jail. This is less serious than a felony.
a procedure under which a convicted criminal is not sent to prison if he or she meets certain conditions such as restrictions on travel and with whom he or she associates.
the early release of an inmate from prison, subject to certain conditions.