This information is not a substitute for legal advice from a licensed attorney. If you have questions about what would be in your best interest, what plea to enter, your rights as a defendant, or the consequences of a conviction of the offense for which you are charged, you should contact an attorney. Clerks, judges, and prosecutors cannot provide any legal advice.
- Under the American system of justice, all persons are presumed to be innocent until proven guilty
- The State must prove you guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt.”
- Every criminal defendant has the right to remain silent and refuse to testify without consequences.
Your Rights Before Trial
- You have the right to retain an attorney
- No attorney will be appointed to you.
- You have the right to a jury trial
- You may waive a jury trial and have a trial before a judge.
- If you elect to represent yourself, no person other than a licensed attorney can assist you during a trial.
Your Rights At Trial
- To have notice of the complaint
- To inspect the complaint before trial and have it read to you.
- To hear all testimony introduced against you.
- To cross examine witnesses who testify against you.
- To testify on your own behalf or refuse without consequences.
- To subpoena and call witnesses to testify on your behalf.
Your Legal Obligation
- The law requires you to make an appearance.
- Your appearance date is noted on your citation, bond, summons, or release documents
- You or your attorney may appear:
- In person in open court
- By mail, postmarked by the appearance date (defendants 17 years of age or older)
- Delivering your plea in person to the court (defendants 17 years of age or older)
- Your first appearance is to determine your plea of guilty, nolo contendere (no contest) or not guilty.
Entering a Plea
- Plea of Guilty: By a plea of guilty, you must admit that you committed the criminal offense charged.
- Plea of Nolo Contendere (no contest): A plea of no contest means that you do not contest the State’s charge against you.
- Plea of Not Guilty: A plea of not guilty does not waive your right to appeal or to a jury trial. A plea of not guilty does not prevent a plea of guilty or no contest prior to trial.
After a Finding of Guilt
If you plead guilty or no contest, or you are found guilty by a judge, you should be prepared to pay your fine and costs. If you are unable to pay in full, you should be prepared to complete a payment arrangement application or have your case scheduled for an indigency hearing.
Motions and Continuances
- Written motions are required at least 10 days before the court date
- Motions are granted at the sole discretion of the judge
- Motions untimely filed or without good cause shown, may be denied by the court.
Fines, Fees, and Costs
- The amount of the fines assessed by the court are determined by the facts and circumstances of the case, and are determined at the sole discretion of the judge within the court’s legal bounds.
- Courts are required by the laws of the State of Texas to collect court costs and fees.
Fair and Impartial Justice
The Municipal Judge is responsible for conducting a fair, impartial and public trial. The case against you is brought by the State of Texas through the prosecutor, not the court. The judge may not dismiss a case without a motion filed by the prosecutor. The judge has the authority to dismiss driving safety courses, deferred dispositions and compliance violations.
- A case may be deferred at the sole discretion of the judge
- The holder of a commercial driver’s license is not eligible for deferred disposition on moving traffic related violations
- If granted, the judge will provide defendant with terms and conditions that must be completed resulting in dismissal of that violation.
- The deferred period cannot exceed 180 days
- The request must be made in person, by counsel, or by mail no later than the court appearance date.
- All defendants have the right to appeal a conviction.
- A judgment of guilty must be entered against you.
- The defendant shall give notice of appeal and post an appeal bond no later than the 10th day after judgment has been rendered (in person) or the 31st day after judgment has been rendered (by mail)
- Appeal bond must be double the fine and cost and paid with a cashier’s check or money order
After a Plea of Not Guilty
The court will place your case on the Pretrial Docket where the following may occur:
- You may waive your right to a jury trial and request a trial by Judge
- You may file various motions
- You may speak with the prosecutor, if you elect
- You may be required to post a bond to ensure your appearance at trial
- You may be scheduled for a Jury Trial date
- You may no longer be eligible for a driving safety course