Unfiled Cases FAQ

What does it mean when a case is “unfiled”?

It means that the county attorney has not reviewed the offense report and formally filed a “complaint”. Either they haven’t gotten around to it, or they have not received all the evidence necessary to determine what the correct criminal charge will be.

What is a “complaint”?

A complaint is a sworn written document that alleges (among other things) the type of offense, states that it occurred in Travis County, the name of the defendant, and the date of the offense.

Why does this take months to do?

There are upwards of 400 people arrested every week in Travis County. The County Attorney’s office does not have the staff to keep up. Until they develop Artificial Intelligence, the process must be done by a relatively bright human.

Can’t they just skip this process?

No, it is required by the Code of Criminal Procedure. This requirement is good for us. It lets the defense attorney know exactly what the prosecutor is alleging.

How can the county attorney not know what the correct charge is going to be? The police allege it in the probable cause affidavit, right?

There are lots of situations where some information is not known to the county attorney immediately after the arrest. One example is the Blood Alcohol Content in a DWI case (when the police took blood instead of a breathalyzer). The blood can take months to analyze (because the forensics lab is overwhelmed). This matters because the BAC level determines which level of offense the county attorney must allege. There are also times where the type of drug needs to be determined by a lab or prior criminal charges from out-of-state convictions need to be confirmed.

How long can my case be unfiled?

I’ve seen cases remain unfiled for as long as 8 months. But usually it is one to three months. Here is a video about why this happens in DWI cases.

Does this raise a speedy trial issue?

It would take a delay of years to invoke a speedy trial issue.

Is it good or bad that the case is unfiled?

It is neither good nor bad. It is almost always that they just haven’t gotten around to it yet.

Doesn’t a delay hurt our case?

There are rare situations where witnesses might no longer be available after a delay. But the evidence in most cases is preserved by the county attorney so that it does not deteriorate. In general, if a delay helps anyone, it is the defense.

I still have questions.

We’re happy to answer them. Give us a call at (512) 472-1113. Or you can e-mail us.