Body of law that defines most criminal offenses and sets a range of punishments that can be assessed.
Serious criminal offenses that can be punished by imprisonment and/or a fine.
Minor criminal offenses punished by a fine and/or a short sentence in the county jail.
Noncriminal legal disputes between two or more individuals, businesses, governments, or other entities.
Individual or party who initiates a lawsuit.
Authority of a court to try or resolve civil lawsuit or criminal prosecution being held for the first time.
Authority of a court to review the decisions of lower courts to determine if the law was correctly interpreted and legal procedures correctly followed.
Laws enacted by a legislatures body.
Courts of limited jurisdiction that hear cases involving city ordinances and primarily handle traffic tickets.
Local laws enacted by a city council.
Latin for "anew." In a civil lawsuit or criminal trial, evidence is presented de novo before an appellate court, because no record was kept of the evidence presented to the trial court.
Justice of the Peace Court
Low-ranking court with jurisdiction over minor civil disputes and criminal cases.
Constitutional County Court
County court created by the Texas constitution and presided over by the county judge.
Statutory County Courts
Courts that exercise limited jurisdictions over criminal and/or civil cases. The jurisdiction of these courts varies from county to county.
Primary trial court in Texas. It had jurisdiction over criminal felony cases and civil disputes.
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
Intermediate-level courts that review civil and criminal cases from the district courts.
Texas Supreme Court
Nine-member court with final appellate jurisdiction over civil lawsuits.
Texas Courts of Criminal Appeals
Nine-member court with final appellate jurisdiction over criminal cases.
Panel that reviews evidence submitted by prosecutors to determine whether to indict, or change, an individual with a criminal offense.
The institution and carrying on of legal proceedings against a person.
Written statement issued by a grand jury charging a person with a punishable offense.
A document formally charging an individual with a misdemeanor.
The jury on which most people are likely to be called to serve is the trial jury.
Attorneys for both sides in a criminal or civil case screen the prospective jurors.
Allows attorneys to dismiss a prospective juror without having to explain the reason, and an unlimited number of challenges for cause.
Proposal under which the governor would appoint state judges from lists compiled by committees of experts. Appointed judges would have to run later in retention elections to keep their seats but would not have opponents on the ballot.
Changes in state law to put limits on personal injury lawsuits and damage judgments rendered by the courts.
Elections 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.
Far-reaching decision of the U.S. Supreme Court that requires law enforcement officers to warn a criminal suspect of his or her right to remain silent and to have an attorney present before questioning.
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.
Procedure under which a convicted criminal is not sent to prison if he or she meets certain conditions, such as restrictions on travel and associates.
Early release of an inmate from prison, subject to certain condition.