The Trial Division is the largest division in the office consisting of approximately 36 Assistant District Attorneys working in three sections: Trial Court, Juvenile, and Appellate.

Trial Court

(From Left to Right) First Asst. DA Mindy Montford, Trial Division Director Guillermo Gonzalez, Chief prosecutor Jeremy Sylestine, Asst. DA Michelle Hallee, Director of Diversity and Community Engagement Rickey Jones, DA Investigator Sgt. Fred Spencer, and District Attorney Margaret Moore
(From Left to Right) First Asst. DA Mindy Montford, Trial Division Director Guillermo Gonzalez, Chief prosecutor Jeremy Sylestine, Asst. DA Michelle Hallee, Director of Diversity and Community Engagement Rickey Jones, DA Investigator Sgt. Fred Spencer, and District Attorney Margaret Moore

The Trial Court Section is responsible for prosecuting all felony crimes that take place in Travis County not otherwise assigned to one of the Office’s three special divisions. The Section’s 24 lawyers and approximately 16 support staff members are among the Office’s most experienced and versatile and are expected to handle cases ranging from drug possession to capital murder.

Appellate

The Appellate Section represents the State in post-conviction litigation, such as appeals from criminal cases and juvenile-court adjudications. With a broad knowledge of criminal law and skill in legal research and analysis, the appellate attorneys are frequently asked to assist prosecutors throughout the office with challenging legal issues. These consultations provide the prosecutors with supplemental legal research as well as practical guidance. The Appellate Section also provides support to the Trial Court Section attorneys by sitting as co-counsel during the trial of some of the most serious and complex cases.

Juvenile

The Juvenile Section is housed at the Gardner Betts Juvenile Justice Center and handles some of the most serious crimes committed in Travis County. It is also the only division in the office that handles a caseload of both misdemeanor and felony offenses. The Division prosecutes crimes committed by persons under the age of 17 years old and the charges range from possession of marijuana to murder.

Cold Cases

cold case team
Cold Case team

In continuing efforts to increase communication and collaboration with local law enforcement, the District Attorney’s Office formed a team of over 10 prosecutors to assist the Austin Police Department with its cold case investigations. These prosecutors volunteer their time, in addition to their normal caseloads, to work closely with detectives on cold case investigations trying to help find justice for victims and families that have sometimes waited decades for answers.

What is a cold case? According to the criteria developed by the Austin Police Department, the following requirements must be present for a case to qualify as a cold case for investigation purposes:

  • A cold case homicide is a criminal investigation by the homicide cold case unit that has remained open (not solved) for in most cases at least one year. All immediate leads/attempts to locate a suspect have been examined by the original case agent and the investigation has since stalled. A cold case may be closed for various reasons such as: unavailable technology previously capable of adequately analyzing the evidence in order to form a conclusion; uncooperative and hostile witnesses; time constraints that hindered the investigation; inactive leads that stall the case as well as other factors that cause the investigation to become inactive.
  • The review or criteria process takes into account solvability factors, which include the availability and condition of evidence, previously identified witnesses and suspects, as well as the impact the particular case has had on the community. In addition other factors to evaluate include:
    1. Locating applicable case files and documents, evidence logs, lab and autopsy reports.
    2. Analysis of previously tested forensics reports and location condition of evidence stored.
    3. Assessment and evaluation of all biological evidence tested and not tested.
    4. Assessment and evaluation of all trace evidence tested and not tested.
    5. Fingerprint evidence.
    6. Assessment of evidence for potential probative DNA.
    7. Evaluation, identification of witness willing to cooperate with the investigation.
    8. Evidence profile submittal to CODIS.

Vehicular Crimes Special Prosecutions

VCSP prosecutor Allison Tisdale conducting a training session for law enforcement agencies.
VCSP prosecutor Allison Tisdale conducting a training session for law
enforcement agencies.
VCSP prosecutors Allison Tisdale and Matt Foye receiving citations and Commander’s Coins from APD Highway Enforcement Command for their work with vehicular crimes.
VCSP prosecutors Allison Tisdale and Matt Foye receiving citations and Commander’s Coins from APD Highway Enforcement Command for their work with vehicular crimes.

The Vehicle Crimes Special Prosecutions (VCSP) Unit, created in 2017, was the expansion of the single position of a Vehicular Crimes Liaison Assistant District Attorney, which began in 2015. VCSP is headed up by ADA Matt Foye, along with ADA Allison Tisdale, Investigator John Holliday, and Paralegal Becca Arriaga. VCSP is on-call 24/7 as the point of contact for all law enforcement agencies in Travis County on all vehicular collision investigations. In addition to staffing vehicular cases with many different law enforcement agencies in Travis County, VCSP continues to attend weekly staffing sessions with the Austin Police Department’s Vehicular Homicide Unit. VCSP now handles all fatality and serious injury collisions, as well as all hit and run cases involving injury, through the Grand Jury stage of the process. VCSP also keeps all fatality, child victim, and first responder victim collisions through the entire court process, including trial. VCSP also conducts several training sessions throughout the year for local law enforcement agencies on courtroom procedure and the criminal justice process.

Animal Cruelty

animal cruelty trial
Animal cruelty trial

The Travis County District Attorney's Office values the wellbeing of all members of Travis County—including our animals. Our office has an Animal Cruelty Unit that works closely with law enforcement agencies to prosecute felony level offenses including Cruelty to Non-Livestock Animals, Cruelty to Livestock Animals, Cruelty to Assistance Animals, Dogfighting and Cockfighting. Our animal cruelty prosecutor staffs cases with law enforcement at their inception presents cases to grand jury, handles negotiations, and is the trial prosecutor if the case is unable to be resolve. Our animal cruelty prosecutor attends yearly trainings conducted by the Animal Legal Defense Fund, The Humane Society of the U.S., and other animal welfare groups in order to stay up to date on the issues surrounding animal cruelty. She also has conducted trainings on the basics of animal cruelty investigations to Austin PD, Travis County Sherriff's Office, Kyle PD, and various animal control agencies. Our office, along with the help of our community, stands proudly against the abuse of animals.