The law requires that you appear in court for your case. If you were issued a citation, your appearance date is noted on the ticket, please refer to Arraignment Information.
If you have been released on bond, your appearance date is set on the bond. If you have already appeared/waived your arraignment hearing a new court date will be mailed to you, please contact the court to verify your mailing address. At your scheduled court date, you or your attorney may appear in-person in open court.
If you are unable to appear on your scheduled court day, you may submit a written motion for a continuance before your scheduled hearing. If approved, the court will notify you of your new appearance date by mail.
If you waived a jury trial and plead guilty or nolo contendere (no contest), you may speak with the judge about extenuating circumstances that you want the judge to consider when setting your fine, however the judge is not required to reduce your fine. Before pleading guilty or no contest you may want to read the section on “Pleas” below.
Your decision concerning which plea to enter is very important. Please consider each plea carefully before making a decision. If you plead guilty or nolo contendere in open court, you should be prepared to pay the fine and court costs. You should contact the court regarding how to make payment. On a plea of not guilty, a formal trial is held. As in all criminal trials, the State is required to prove the guilt of the defendant “beyond a reasonable doubt” of the offense charged in the complaint before a defendant can be found guilty by a judge or jury.
A trial in municipal court is a fair, impartial, and public as in any other court. Under Texas law, you can be brought to trial only after a sworn complaint is filed against you. A complaint is the document which alleges what act you are supposed to have committed and that the act is unlawful. You can be tried only for what is alleged in the complaint. You have the following rights in court:
If you choose to have the case tried before a jury, you have the right to question jurors about their qualifications to hear your case. If you think that a juror will not be fair, impartial, or unbiased, you may ask the judge to excuse the juror. The judge will decide whether or not to grant your request. You are also permitted to strike three members of the jury panel for any reason you choose, except an illegal reason (such as a strike based on solely upon a person’s race).
As in all criminal trials, the State will present its case first by calling witnesses to testify against you. After prosecution witnesses have finished testifying, you have the right to cross examine. In other words, you may ask the witnesses questions about their testimony of any other facts relevant to the case. You cannot, however, argue with the witness. Your cross-examination of the witness must be in the form of questions only. You may not tell your version of the incident at this time, but you will have an opportunity to do so later in the trial.
After the prosecution has presented its case, you may present your case. You have the right to call any witness who knows anything about the incident. The State has the right to cross-examine any witness that you call. If you so desire, you may testify in your own behalf, but as a defendant, you cannot be compelled to testify. It is your choice, and your silence cannot be used against you. If you do testify, the State has the right to cross-examine you.
After all testimony is concluded, both sides can make a closing argument. This is your opportunity to tell the court why you think that you are not guilty of the offense charged. The State has the right to present the first and last arguments. The closing argument can be based only on the testimony presented during the trial.
If the case is tried by the judge, the judge's decision is called a judgment. If the case is tried by a jury, the jury's decision is called a verdict. In determining the defendant's guilt or innocence, the judge or jury can consider only the testimony of witnesses and any evidence admitted during the trial.
If you are found guilty by either the judge or jury, the penalty will be announced at that time. Unless you plan to appeal your case, you should be prepared to pay the fine at this time.
The amount of fine the court assesses is determined only by the facts and circumstances of the case. Mitigating circumstances may lower the fine, even if you are guilty. On the other hand, aggravating circumstances may increase the fine. The maximum fine for:
In addition to a fine, court costs mandated by state law will be charged. The costs are different depending on the offense. You need to check with the court for the amount that will be assessed to the violation for which you are charged.
Court costs are assessed if any of these occur:
If you are found not guilty, court costs cannot be assessed.
If you are found guilty, and are not satisfied with the judgment of the court, you have the right to appeal your case. Please follow the Citizen’s Guide to Appeal to view all of the required steps and frequently asked questions about the appeals process. It is also available in Spanish: Guia de Apelactiones de la Corte Municipal.
If you would like to identify decisions on appellate cases related to the issue you are raising in your appeal, you can use the Subject Index: Court of Appeals Cases.