Roles & Responsibilities of Local Criminal Justice System

District Attorney
The DA is the chief prosecutor for a local county. The district attorney, along with their (DDA’s) analyzes and gathers evidence to determine if there are grounds for criminal prosecution of cases within their districts and presents cases at trial.

Term Length:
4 years (elected official)


  • Represents the state in prosecuting felony criminal cases (DA prosecutes the most important cases, while other cases are delegated amongst their DDA’s)
  • Works with law enforcement officers in the investigation of criminal cases
  • Presents cases to the grand jury
  • Represents victims of violence in protective orders and represents the state in removing children from abusive households

Source: https://www.county.org/

Current Harris County DA: Kim Ogg https://app.dao.hctx.net/

City Council

The City’s legislative body, with the power to enact and enforce all ordinances and resolutions

Term Length:

  • 16 Council Members – elected every 4 years with a 2 term limit
  • 5 are elected At-Large or City-wide; the other 11 are elected to geographic districts among county


  • Monitors the performance of city agencies & confirms the mayor’s appointments
  • Adopts and may alter the annual budget & confirm the mayor’s appointments
  • Responsible for the appropriation and issuance of bonds, the awarding of contracts and the approvals of City expenditures over $50,000
  • May lease or dispose of the City’s real estate and may levy assessments against property.
  • Council determines its own rules of procedure, and its meetings are open to the public – the Mayor chairs City Council Meetings

Source: https://www.houstontx.gov/council/

Current Houston City Council Members:

Current Houston City Council District Maps:

County Commissioner

Term Length:

  • Elected to 4-year terms that are staggered with two taking office every other year
  • Four commissioners, elected from a quarter of the county’s population, serve along with the county judge on the commissioner’s court.


  • Responsible for roads and bridges within their precincts – makes policy-making budget decisions
  • Responsible for taxation, appropriations, ordinances & other general functions
  • Individual commissioners assigned executive responsibility for specific aspect of municipal affairs such as: Public Works, Finance or Public Safety
  • Represents one of four precincts within the county

Source: https://www.county.org/About-Texas-Counties/About-Texas-County-Officials/Texas-County-Commissioner

Current Harris County Commissioners:

Current Harris County Precinct Map:

Commissioners Court

The commissioners court conducts the general business of the county and consists of the county judge and four commissioners.

The court:

  • Adopts the county’s budget and tax rate
  • Approves all budgeted purchases of the county
  • Fills vacancies in elective and appointive offices
  • Sets all salaries and benefits
  • Has exclusive authority to authorize contracts
  • Provides and maintains all county buildings and facilities

Source: https://www.county.org/About-Texas-Counties/About-Texas-County-Officials/Texas-County-Commissioner

Current Harris County Commissioners Court Members:


Executive Officer/Chief Administrator of the City and is responsible for the general management of the City and for seeing that all laws and ordinances are enforced

Term Length:
Elected to a 4-year term


  • Appoints dept. heads and persons serving on advisory boards (with Council approval)
  • Administers oaths & signs all motions, resolutions and ordinances passed by City Council
  • Serves as a legislative function, presiding over City Council with voting privileges
  • Responsible for advising Council of the City’s financial condition and presents to Council and annual budget for approval

Source: https://www.houstontx.gov/mayor/

Current City of Houston Mayor: Sylvester Turner https://www.houstontx.gov/mayor/

City Controller

Serves as the City’s chief financial officer.

Term Length:
Elected to a 4-year term


  • Certifies the availability of funds prior to City Council approval of commitments
  • Processes and monitors disbursements exceeding $1 billion annually
    Invests the City’s funds
  • Conducts internal audits of the City’s departments and federal grant programs
  • Operates & maintains its financial management system
  • Conducts the sale of public improvement and revenue bonds
  • Produces a comprehensive annual report of City finances (CAFR)

Source: www.houstontx.gov/controller/

County Judge
  • The presiding officer on the Commissioners Court. As the main governing body of Harris County, the Commissioners Court plays a critical role that is part administrative, part legislative, and part judicial.
  • By state law, the County Judge is also the county’s director of emergency management, leading the Harris County Office of Homeland Security & Emergency Management (HCOHSEM).

Term Length:
Elected to 4-year terms


  • Adopting a budget
  • Setting tax rates
  • Calling for bond elections
  • Building & maintaining county infrastructures (roads & bridges)
  • Overseeing county courthouses, jails, libraries, parks and the Harris County
  • Flood Control District
  • Presiding officer of the commissioner’s court
  • Represents the county in many administrative functions
  • Serves as budget officer in counties with fewer than 225,000 residents
  • Most have broad judicial duties, such as presiding over misdemeanor criminal and small civil cases, probate matters and appeals from the Justice of the Peace Court

Current Harris County Judge: Lina Hidalgo https://cjo.harriscountytx.gov/?_ga=2.230420500.90956434.1661964778-672951616.1637689556

Misdemeanor Court
  • Oversees misdemeanor charges – a criminal offense that carries a potential jail term of less than 1 yr.
  • Jail time served in a county jail
  • 3 Categories:
    • Class A – 1yr or less, more than 6 mos.
    • Class B – 6mos or less, more than 30 days
    • Class C – 30 days or less, more than 5 days
Felony District Court
  • Criminal courts which hear felony level cases – the most serious type of crime.
  • Sentencing of more than 1 year, which will be served at a state or federal prison
  • 5 Categories:
    • Class A – Life imprisonment or death penalty
    • Class B – 25+ years
    • Class C – less than 25yr, more than 10yr
    • Class D – less than 10yr, more than 5yr
    • Class E – less than 5yr, more than 1yr


Current Felony District Court Judges:

  • 174 Judge Hazel B. Jones
  • 176 Judge Nikita V. Harmon
  • 177 Judge Robert Johnson
  • 178 Judge Kelli Johnson
  • 179 Judge Ana Martinez
  • 180 Judge DaSean Jones
  • 182 Judge Danilo Lacayo
  • 183 Judge Chuck Silverman
  • 184 Judge Abigail Anastasio
  • 185 Judge Jason Luong
  • 208 Judge Greg Glass
  • 209 Judge Brian E Warren
  • 228 Judge Frank Aguilar
  • 230 Judge Chris Morton
  • 232 Judge Josh Hill
  • 248 Judge Hilary Unger
  • 262 Judge Lori Chambers Gray
  • 263 Judge Amy Martin
  • 337 Judge Colleen Gaido
  • 338 Judge Ramona Franklin
  • 339 Judge Te’iva J. Bell
  • 351 Judge Natalia “Nata” Cornelio
  • 482 Judge Maritza Antu
  • RIC Judge Brock Thomas

More Information About Harris County District Court Judges: https://www.justex.net/Courts/Criminal/CriminalCourts.aspx


Magistrates are regional judicial officers who are appointed by judges of the district court for a term of eight years. Contrary to a judge, a magistrate only has limited law enforcement and administrative powers. Magistrates have the power to impose fines and imprisonment for a specific period. But judges have the right to pass sentence of death or life imprisonment.

Term Length:
Appointed/ to 8-year term)


  • Oversees first appearances of criminal defendants
  • Sets bail amounts or other conditions of release/detention
  • Presides over misdemeanor & petty offense cases
  • Issues search warrants, arrest warrants and summonses
  • Disposes of minor criminal offenses
  • Holds bench or jury trials in civil actions on consent of the parties
  • Handles preliminary proceedings in felony matters
  • Reports and recommends to the district court on dispositive matters in civil cases
  • Manage and rule on non-dispositive matters in civil cases

Source: https://www.txs.uscourts.gov/page/history-magistrate-judges

Justice of the Peace

Presides over the justice court in cases involving misdemeanors, small civil disputes, landlord/tenant disputes and more. They also conduct inquests and may perform marriage ceremonies


  • Hears traffic and other Class C misdemeanor cases punishable by fine only
  • Hears civil cases with up to $20,000 in controversy
  • Hears landlord and tenant disputes
  • Hears truancy cases
  • Performs magistrate duties
  • Conducts inquests

Source: https://www.county.org/About-Texas-Counties/About-Texas-County-Officials/%e2%80%8bTexas-Justice-of-the-Peace

Harris County Attorney

The county attorney represents the state in the justice of the peace and county courts, defends suits in which the county is interested, and serves as legal advisor to county and precinct officials. If the county has no district attorney, the county attorney also represents the state in district courts.


  • Represents the state in prosecuting misdemeanor criminal cases
  • Works with law enforcement officers in the investigation of criminal cases
  • Provides legal advice to the Commissioners Court and to other elected officials
  • Brings civil enforcement actions on behalf of the state or county

Source: https://www.county.org/About-Texas-Counties/About-Texas-County-Officials

Chief of Police

A police chief is the head of a local police dept. A chief is appointed by and answerable to a national or local government, with the main exception of elected sheriffs.

Term Length:
The Chief of Police is appointed by the City of Houston Mayor to serve during the Mayor’s reign. Should the Chief of Police resign or be dismissed for any reason, the City of Houston Mayor can appoint a new Chief of Police.


  • Oversight of a department’s operations and budgeting
  • Oversight of officers
  • Limited disciplinary actions to be addressed on infractions of policy, rules, regulations, laws or ordinances
  • Full dismissal or heavy sanctioning of officer duty; these powers vary by department
  • Promotion and rank placement of officers
  • Production and development of department policies and regulations
  • Liaison with the governments that oversee and fund the department

Current City of Houston Chief of Police: Troy Finner https://www.houstontx.gov/police/chief/


The sheriff acts as a conservator of the peace and the executive officer of the county and district courts, serve writs and processes of the courts, seizes property after judgment, enforce traffic laws on county roads and supervises the county jail and prisoners. In counties of fewer than 10,000 residents, he may also serve as ex officio tax assessor and collector.

Term Length:
Elected to a 4-year term


  • Serves as a licensed peace officer and is responsible for enforcing the criminal laws of the state
  • Manages and operates the county jail
  • Provides security for the courts
  • Serves warrants and civil papers
  • Regulates bail bondsmen in counties with no bail bond board


Current Harris County Sheriff: Ed Gonzalez https://www.harriscountyso.org/


A constable is a licensed peace officer and performs various law enforcement functions. They also serve legal documents and perform other duties

Term Length:
Elected to 4-year tems based on geographic location


  • Serves as a licensed peace officer and performs various law enforcement functions, including issuing traffic citations
  • Serves warrants and civil papers such as subpoenas and temporary restraining orders
  • Serves as bailiff for Justice of the Peace Court

Source: https://www.county.org/About-Texas-Counties/About-Texas-County-Officials/%E2%80%8BTexas-County-Sheriff/%E2%80%8BWhat-s-the-Difference-Between-Sheriff,-Police-and

Current Harris County Precinct Constables:

Current Harris County Precinct Constables Map: https://www.harriscountytx.gov/Government/Law-Enforcement/Harris-County-Constable-Precincts

State Representatives

The Texas House of Representatives is composed of 150 members, and is considered Lower Chamber Congress

Texas Legislature = House of Representatives + Texas Senators
To be eligible to serve in the Texas House of Representatives, a candidate must

  • Be a citizen of the United States
  • Be a qualified elector of the state
  • Be at least 21 years old
  • Been a resident of the state for 2 yrs. immediately preceding election, and for 1 year immediately preceding election must have been a resident of the district they represent


  • Consideration of proposed laws and resolutions
  • Consideration of proposed constitutional amendments for submission to the voter
  • Appropriation of all funds for the operation of state government
  • All bills for raising revenue considered by the legislature must originate in the house of representatives.
  • Responsible for bringing impeachment charges against a statewide officer

Source: https://house.texas.gov/resources/frequently-asked-questions/#what_house

State Senators

The Senate is composed of senators, each of whom represents a single state in its entirety and is considered the Upper Chamber of Congress. Each state, regardless of its population size, is equally represented by two senators who serve staggered terms of six years.
To be eligible to serve in the Senate, a candidate must be:

  • A U.S. citizen
  • 26 years old before the general election
  • A five-year resident of Texas before the general election
  • A district resident for 1 year prior to the general election


  • Passing bills on public policy matters
  • Setting levels for state spending
  • Raising and lowering taxes
  • Voting to uphold or override gubernatorial vetoes
  • Approval of treaties
  • Confirmation of Cabinet secretaries, Supreme Court justices, federal judges, flag officers, regulatory officials, ambassadors, other federal executive officials and other federal uniformed officers.
  • Responsible for conducting the trials of those impeached by the House.


City and County Leaders

General Terms

Cash Bond
A cash bond is a cash amount awarded to a defendant paid to the judicial system in order to be released from jail. If the person does not show up for court when required, the system may keep the cash. When the person appears for court as required, the court will return the full cash bond you provided minus any costs or fees that may be owed based on the outcome of the case.
Criminally Negligent Homicide
Conduct where a person is aware of an obvious risk and disregards the life and safety of those around them resulting in another person’s death.
Deferred adjudication
A special form of judge-ordered community supervision (commonly known as “probation”) that permits a defendant to accept responsibility for a crime without an actual conviction being placed on the record if successfully completed. Only a judge can grant deferred adjudication, not a jury, so the prosecutor and defendant must agree to waive a jury trial.
A lawsuit is closed with no finding of guilt and no conviction for the defendant in a criminal case by a court of law. Even though the defendant was not convicted, a dismissed case does not prove that the defendant is factually innocent for the crime for which he or she was arrested. A dismissed case will remain on the defendant’s criminal record.
The final order/judgment/decree has been passed by the honorable court
Found Not Guilty
To find a defendant not guilty is to acquit. At trial, an acquittal occurs when the jury (or the judge if it’s a judge trial) determines that the prosecution hasn’t proved the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
No Bill
The grand jury did not find probable cause for the arrest. This means that the case will not proceed to trial unless another grand jury finds probable cause with additional evidence.
This means that a case has no disposition date and therefore is pending.
The release of an offender from prison before their sentence expires allowing them to serve the remainder of their sentence in the community under supervision by a state parole officer.
A criminal punishment entered after a finding of Guilt that requires you to submit to certain conditions and monitoring by the court.
Unsatisfactory Termination of Probation
A probationer is released from probation even though they did not fulfill all court-ordered requirements of their probation, this is decided on by a judge.
Unsecured Bond/General Order Bond/Personal Recognizance Bond

A bond awarded to a defendant with no collateral (financial) backing to be released from jail. The defendant acknowledges personally without sureties, his/her obligation to appear in court at the next hearing or trial date. It is used when the judge or magistrate is satisfied that the defendant will appear without the need sureties or any other security. This is also known as a Personal Recognizance Bond.


A loss of life without premeditation.

Intentionally and knowingly taking the life of another person or causing their death, OR the person intends to cause serious bodily injury and commits an act that causes the death of an individual, OR the person causes the death of an individual during the commission or attempted commission of a felony.

Source: https://versustexas.com/blog/murder-versus-capital-murder/

Capital Murder

Murder is elevated to a capital offense when the murder occurs under specific circumstances. Pursuant to Penal Code § 19.03(a), a person commits capital murder if he commits murder as defined above and:

  • The individual killed is a peace officer or fireman in the line of duty and the person knows the individual is a peace officer or fireman;
  • The killing occurs during the commission or attempt of the following felonies: kidnapping, burglary, aggravated sexual assault, arson, obstruction or retaliation, or terroristic threat;
  • The killing was committed for payment or promise of payment. Both the person who kills another and the person who hires a person to kill are guilty of capital murder;
  • The killing occurs during the escape, whether successful or not, from a penal institution;
  • The individual killed is an employee of a penal institution and the killing is committed by an incarcerated person;
  • The killing is committed by an incarcerated person in conjunction with organized criminal activity;
  • The killing is committed by a person incarcerated for murder or capital murder;
  • The killing is committed by a person incarcerated for the following aggravated felonies: aggravated kidnapping, aggravated sexual assault, or aggravated robbery;
  • The person kills more than one individual either during the same criminal transaction or during different transactions but under a common scheme;
  • The person killed is under 10 years old; or
  • The individual killed was a judge or justice and the killing was committed in retaliation or on account of the judge or justice’s service.

Source: https://versustexas.com/blog/murder-versus-capital-murder/


Offenses Defined

Aggravated Assault

AGG ASLT MV/DIS FRARM HAB/BLDG: Aggravated Assault using a Motor Vehicle as a weapon / Discharging a Firearm into a Habitat (residence)/Building (business)
AGG ASLT-SER BOD INJURY: Aggravated Assault Causing Serious Bodily Injury
AGG ASSAULT: Aggravated Assault
AGG ASSAULT OF PB SERVANT: Aggravated Assault of a Public Servant
AGG ASSAULT SEC OFFICER: Aggravated Assault of a Security Officer
AGG ASSAULT W/DEADLY WEAPON: Aggravated Assault with a Deadly Weapon
AGG ASSAULT-DEADLY WEAPON RECK: Aggravated Assault with a Deadly Weapon causing Reckless Injury
AGG ASSAULT-FAMILY MEMBER: Aggravated Assault of a Family Member
AGG ASSAULT-PEACE OFFICER: Aggravated Assault on a Peace Officer
AGG ASSLT AGAINST PB SERVANT: Aggravated Assault against a Public Servant
AGG ASSLT AGNST WIT/INFORMANT: Aggravated Assault against witness or informant
AGG ASSLT FAM MEM SBI W/WEAPON: Aggravated Assault of a Family Member causing Serious Bodily Injury with a weapon
AGG ASSLT MV DISC FIREARM HAB: Aggravated Assault using a Motor Vehicle as a weapon / Discharging a Firearm into a Habitat (residence)
AGG ASSLT-D/W-PO: Aggravated Assault using a deadly weapon against a peace officer
AGG ASSLT-DEADLY WPN: Aggravated Assault with a Deadly Weapon

Aggravated Sexual Assault

AGG SEX ASSAULT: Aggravated Sexual Assault
AGG SEX ASSAULT ELDERLY/DISABL: Aggravated Sexual Assault to A Disabled Elderly Person
AGG SEX ASSAULT-VICT 65 OR OVE: Aggravated Sexual Assault to a person 65 years of age or older
AGG SEX ASSLT CHILD 14-17: Aggravated Sexual Assault of a child between 14 and 17 years of age
AGG SEX ASSLT CHILD-UNDER 14: Aggravated Sexual Assault of a child under 14 years of age
AGG SEXUAL ASSAULT CHILD: Aggravated Sexual Assault of a child
AGG SEXUAL ASSLT: Aggravated Sexual Assault
SUPER AGG SEX ASSLT CHILD 6-14: Aggravated Sexual Assault of a child between 6 and 14 years of age
SUPER AGG SEX ASSLT CHILD < 6: Aggravated Sexual Assault of a child under 6 years of age

Aggravated Robbery

AGG ROBERRY – DEADLY WPN: Aggravated Robbery with a Deadly Weapon
AGG ROBBERY – OVER 65 OR DISABLED: Aggravated Robbery of a person over 65 years of age or who was disabled
AGG ROBBERY – S-B-I: Aggravated Robbery causing serious bodily injury
ROBBERY: Robbery
ROBBERY – BODILY INJURY: Robbery causing Bodily Injury


CAPITAL MURDER: Capital Murder
CAPITAL MURDER (MULTI MURDER): Capital Murder charge in which more than one person is killed by the defendant.
CAPITAL MURDER-POL OFF/FIREMAN: Capital Murder of a Peace Officer or Fireman
CAPITAL MURDER-UNDER SIX YRS: Capital Murder of a person under six years of age
CAPITAL MURDER-UNDER TEN YRS: Capital Murder of a person under ten years of age
CAPITAL MURDER=>10 YRS <15 YRS: Capital Murder of a person between 10 and 15 years of age
CRIM NEG HOMICIDE W/DEADLY WEA: Criminally negligent homicide with a Deadly Weapon
CRIMINAL NEG HOMICIDE: Criminally negligent homicide
MANSLAUGHTER: Manslaughter, A loss of life without premeditation.
MURDER: Murder

Human Trafficking

AGG PROMOTION PROST: Aggravated Promotion of Prostitution
ATT ONLINE SOLICITATION OF MIN: Attempted Online Solicitation of a Minor
ATT PROMOT PROST SOLICIT: Attempted Promotion Prostitution Solicitation
ATT SOLICITATION OF A MINOR: Attempted Solicitation of a Minor
ATTEMPTED TRAFFICKING OF PERSO: Attempted Trafficking of a Person
COMPEL PROSTITUTION – FORCE: Compel Prostitution by Force
COMPEL PROSTITUTION – MINOR: Compel Prostitution of a Minor
COMPEL PROSTITUTION < 18 YOA: Compel Prostitution of a Minor under 18 years of age
COMPELLING PROST FRC/THRE/FRD: Compelling Prostitution by Force, Threat, or Fraud
CRIMINAL SOLICITATION OF A MIN: Criminal Solicitation of a Minor
ONLINE PROM PROSTITUTION: Online Promotion of Prostitution
ONLINE SOLICITATION OF MINOR: Online Solicitation of a Minor
ONLINE SOLICITATION OF MINOR <18 YOA: Online Solicitation of a Minor under 18 years of age
PROMOTE PROSTITUTION: Promoting Prostitution
PROMOTION PROST SOLIC 1 PRIOR: Promotion of Prostitution and Solicitation with 1 prior conviction
PROMOTION PROST SOLIC <18 YOA: Promotion of Prostitution and Solicitation of a Minor under 18 years of age
PROMOTION PROSTITUTION SOLICIT: Promotion of Prostitution and Solicitation
SEXUAL PERFOR B/CHILD <14 YRS: Sexual Performance by a child under 14 years of age
SOLICIT PROST/OTHER PAYOR – Someone soliciting prostitution as the buyer
SOLICIT PROST/OTHER PAYOR PREV – Someone soliciting prostituton as a buyer with a previous conviction
SOLICIT PROST/OTHER PAYOR PRSN: Someone solicits prostitution if they offer to pay someone else for engaging in sexual conduct.
SOLICIT TRAFFICKING CHILD COND: Solicitation Trafficking of a Child Conduct
TRAFFICKING OF CHILD PROHIB COND: Trafficking of a Child Prohibited Conduct
TRAFFICKING OF PERSONS: Trafficking of a Person
TRAFFICKING OF PERSONS CONTINU: Trafficking of a Person Continued
TRAFFICKING PERSON BENEFT FORC: Trafficking of a Person Benefit by Force
TRAFFICKING PRSN PROH COND FRC: Trafficking of a Person prohibited conduct by force

Felon with Possession of a Weapon

FELON POSS WEAPON: Felon in Possession of a Weapon
FELON POSS WPN: Felon in Possession of a Weapon
FELON POSS WPN W/1 ENH: Felon in Possession of a Weapon enhancement (typically mean a prior felony conviction is in existence)
POSS OF PROHIBITED WEAPON: Possession of a Prohibited Weapon
POSS. WEAPON GOVERNMENT BLDG: Possession of a Weapon in a Government Building
UNL CARRY WEAPON W/ FELONY CON: Unlawfully carrying a weapon with a felony conviction
UNL CARRY WEAPON W/ MISD FV CO: Unlawfully carrying a weapon with a prior misdemeanor family violence conviction.
UNL CARRYING WEAPON: Unlawfully carrying a weapon
UNL CARRYING WEAPON: HANDGUN: Unlawfully carrying a handgun
UNLAW CARRY WEAPON-AIRPORT: Unlawfully carrying a weapon in an airport
WEAPON FREE SCHOOL ZONE-PROH W: Carrying a Prohibited weapon in a weapon-free school zone