Criminal cases in Texas County Courts begins with an application for a “complaint” that is filed by the police, private individual, or other organization, in the district court clerk’s office.
In Texas District Courts, cases begin with an indictment (a document listing the charges) that has been returned by a grand jury. The grand jury is a group of citizens who hear evidence presented by the prosecutor. If the grand jury decides there is probable cause to believe a crime has been committed, they issue an indictment and the individual is then notified of the indictment and must appear in District Court on the arraignment date, the first court date. This charge does not mean that the person has committed the crime. Guilt must be determined later by a judge or jury.
Misdemeanor crimes generally begin in County Court, and the more serious felony crimes are brought in the State District Courts, although there are a few crimes that a County or District Court may both have jurisdiction to decide.
The County Courts are generally limited to deciding cases for which the maximum authorized penalty for a crime is not more than one year in jail and a fine of no more than $4,000
The District Courts are generally limited to deciding felony cases for which the authorized penalty for a crime is not less than 180 days in a state jail or two years in prison, and up to a $10,000 fine. The maximum sentences and fines depend on the category of the crime charged, and may be significantly higher.