Municipal Court Procedures
The law requires you to appear in court on your case. If you were issued a citation, your appearance date is noted on the citation. You or your attorney may appear in person in open court, by mail, or you may deliver your plea in person to the court. (Juveniles must appear in person accompanied by a parent or their legal guardian.) Please bring photo-identification when possible or any other type of verification of identity with you when you come to court.
The judge will ask you to enter a “plea” at your first appearance. You have three options.
- Plea of “Guilty” – By a plea of guilty, you admit that the act is prohibited by law and that you committed the offense.
- Plea of “Nolo Contendere” (no contest) – A plea of nolo contendere means that you do not contest the State’s charge against you. You will be found guilty of the offense in most cases.
- Plea of “Not Guilty” – A plea of not guilty means that you deny guilt. The court will then set your case for a pretrial hearing, prior to setting your case for trial. If your case goes to trial, you will need to select whether you want a jury trial or a bench trial. If you wish to have a bench trial, the prosecutor must also agree to the judge hearing the case.
Please note, the Judge will not discuss your ticket or your case with you, unless you have pled “guilty” or “no contest,” or the Prosecutor is also present.
Your request for deferred disposition
must be made in person or in writing by your court appearance date. The judge has discretion to accept or deny your request and set the terms. Additionally, the prosecutor has the ability to voice his or her opinion as to this request. If accepted, the disposition of your case is deferred for a set period of time in order for you to pay cost and fees and complete the terms set by the judge. The case will be dismissed if all terms are met.
Under Texas law you may be brought to trial only after a sworn complaint has been filed against you. You may be tried only for what is alleged in the complaint. You have the following rights in court:
- The right to inspect the complaint before trial, and have it read to you at the trial.
- The right to have your case heard before a jury, if you so desire.
- The right to hear all testimony introduced against you.
- The right to call witnesses to testify in your behalf.
- The right to cross-examine witnesses who testify against you.
- The right to testify in your own behalf.
- The right to not testify.
If you would like to request a continuance (reset the trial date), you must submit a continuance form to the court 24 hours prior to your trial date. Phone calls will not be accepted. The judge has discretion to accept or deny your request.
The State presents its case first by calling witnesses to testify against you. After the State is finished you have the right to cross-examine the witnesses. Your cross-examination must be in the form of questions only. You may not tell your version of the incident until closing arguments are heard or if you testify. You have a right to call witnesses who have knowledge of the incident. The State has the right to cross-examine any witness you call.
You may or may not testify in your own behalf, it is your choice. Your decision to not testify cannot be used against you. If you testify the State has the right to cross-examine you.
In conclusion, both sides make closing arguments. This is your opportunity to tell the court/jury why you think you are not guilty. The closing argument can only be based on evidence presented during the trial. You may not add new information during a closing argument.
Judgment / Verdict
In determining the defendant’s guilt or innocence, the judge or jury can only consider evidence admitted and testimony presented during the trial.
The maximum fine for most traffic violations is $200; for state law violations $500; and for city ordinance violations $500 - $2,000. The assessed fine is determined by the facts and circumstances of the case.
Court cost are assessed if you are found guilty, plead no contest or guilty, if your case is deferred for a driving safety course or if your case is deferred. If you are found not guilty, court costs will not be assessed.
If you are found guilty at trial, you may make a written motion to the court for a new trial. The motion must be made within one day after the judgment has been rendered. The judge may grant a new trial if the judge believes justice has not been served. Only one new trial may be granted for each offense.
You have the right to appeal your case to a higher court after you are found guilty at trial. Or you may enter a plea of no contest and file your appeal bond. You must file an appeal bond with the court within 10 days of the judgment.
All juveniles are required to appear in open court. Juveniles who fail to appear or fail to pay their fines will be reported to the Department of Public Safety to deny issuance of their driver’s license. If a juvenile disobeys a court order, the court may order DPS to suspend or deny issuance of their driver’s license or find the child in contempt and assess a fine not to exceed $500, or referred to juvenile court for contempt.
Compliance Violations (expired inspection certificate, expired drivers license or expired license plates), may be dismissed if expired less than 60 days and renewal proof is presented to the Court.