Municipal Court Procedures

////Municipal Court Procedures
Municipal Court Procedures2018-10-17T11:41:34+00:00
Court Appearances

The law requires that you appear in court on your case.

    • If you were issued a citation, your appearance date is noted on the citation.
    • If you were issued a summons, the appearance date is indicated on the summons.
    • If you have been released on bond, your appearance date is set on the bond.

If you request and are granted a reset or continuance by the judge, the court will notify you of your new appearance date by mail. (Please refer to the section entitled “continuances” under the Trial tab).

You or your attorney may appear in person in open court, by mail, or you may make an appearance in person at the court facility. Juveniles have a separate set of rules for their appearance. (Please refer to the tab entitled “juveniles”).

Your first appearance is to determine your plea (“Not Guilty”, “Guilty” or “No Contest”). (Please refer to the tab entitled “Pleas”).

If you waive a jury trial and plead guilty or nolo contendere (no contest), you may talk to the judge about extenuating circumstances that you want the judge to consider. If you plead not guilty, the court will schedule a jury trial unless you waive that right. If you waive your right to a jury trial, the trial will be before the judge. When you make your appearance by mail, the court must receive your plea before your scheduled appearance date. If you plead guilty or no contest, you must include a waiver of jury trial. If you plead not guilty, the court will send you a notice setting the date of your trial.

Juveniles (16 years old or younger) and persons under the age of 21 charged with alcohol offenses must appear in court in person and cannot enter a plea by mail.

Courtroom Decorum

All electronic devices including cell phones and pagers must be turned off before entering the courtroom unless you have received express prior approval from the court.  Failure to comply will result in the person’s removal from the courtroom.

Absolutely no weapons of any sort shall be allowed in the courtroom except those on the person of commissioned peace officers. Any persons entering the courthouse are subject to search.

No food, chewing gum, candy or drinks of any type shall be consumed in or brought into the courtroom.

Dress Code

To be permitted in the courtroom, you must be dressed appropriately so as to maintain the dignity, decorum and professional atmosphere of the court and the administration of justice.

No one will be permitted in the courtroom in:

  • Shorts
  • Any immodest or revealing wear such as halter tops or tube tops
  • Any clothing with offensive, vulgar, racist, sexist, obscene, or suggestive words, slogans, depictions, or pictures
  • Pants are to be worn at the waist.
  • No exposed undergarments are permitted.
  • Pants that are tattered, shredded or that exposes skin are not permitted.
  • No hats, caps, head coverings or sunglasses, except with prior permission of the court.

Any person not dressed in appropriate courtroom attire is subject to removal from the courtroom.

Court Dress Code

Pleas

Under our American system of justice, all persons are presumed to be innocent until proven guilty.  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.

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.

Plea of Guilty – By a plea of guilty, you admit that the act is prohibited by law, that you committed the act charged, and that you have no defense or excuse for your act. Before entering your plea of guilty, however, you should understand the following:

  1. The State has the burden of proving that you violated the law (the law does not require that you prove you did not violate the law)
  2. You have the right to hear the State’s evidence and to require the State to prove you violated the law
  3.  A plea of guilty may be used against you later in a civil suit if there was a traffic accident (another party can say you were at fault or responsible for the accident because you pled guilty to the traffic charge).

Plea of Guilty

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 almost certainly be found guilty, unless you are eligible and successfully complete a driving safety course and/or court ordered deferred disposition (probation). Also, a plea of nolo contendere cannot be used against you in a subsequent civil suit for damages.

Plea of No Contest

Plea of Not Guilty – A plea of not guilty means that you are informing the court that you deny guilt or that you have a defense in your case, and that the State must prove what it has charged against you.

If you plead not guilty, you will need to decide whether to hire an attorney to represent you.  If you represent yourself, the following section on the Trial will help you to understand trial procedure.

Plea of Not Guilty

In limited circumstances, if you are entering a plea of guilty or no contest, you may be eligible for a deferred disposition (probation) of your citation if your request is made on or before your answer date.

To be considered for deferred disposition, you must meet all of the eligibility requirements.  Failure to meet all eligibility requirements or to fully complete the application process will result in the denial of your request and may result in the entry of a judgment against you.

Deferred disposition is not a right but is a privilege offered at the sole discretion of the court. Applying for a deferred disposition of your case does not guarantee that deferred disposition will be granted. The court will review each application on a case by case basis. You are responsible for following up on your request for deferred disposition and making sure your charges are timely answered.

If deferred disposition is granted and you comply with all terms of the deferred disposition order, the charges will be dismissed at the end of the deferral period and no final conviction will be entered against you on that charge. The deferral period can be up to 180 days.

Application for Deferred Disposition

  • The Trial

    A trial in municipal court is a fair, impartial and public trial 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:

    1. The right to inspect the complaint before trial and have it read to you at the trial;
    2. The right to have your case tried before a jury, if you so desire;
    3. The right to hear all testimony introduced against you;
    4. The right to cross-examine any witness who testifies against you;
    5. The right to testify in your behalf;
    6. The right not to testify; if you so desire. If you choose not to testify, your refusal to do so cannot be held against you in determining your innocence or guilt;
    7. You may call witnesses to testify in your behalf at the trial, and have the court issue a subpoena (a court order) to any witnesses to ensure their appearance at the trial. The request for a subpoena may be oral or in writing.

    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 solely upon a person’s race).

    Trial Information Brochure

    Continuances

    If you need a continuance for your trial, you must put the request in writing and submit it to the court with your reasons prior to trial. The judge will make a decision whether or not to grant the continuance.

    You may request a continuance for the following reasons:

    1. A religious holy day where the tenets of your religious organization prohibit members from participating in secular activities such as court proceedings (you must file an affidavit with the court stating this information);
    2. That you feel it is necessary for justice in your case.

     

    Presenting the Case

    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 or 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 – 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.

    Case Decisions

    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.

 

Warning – Obligation for Payment of Fines and Costs

Fines & Fees
Fines
Certain city ordinance violations $2,000
Failure to attend court $10 to $100
Failure to respond – jury summons $100
False court claim $10 to $100
False information – jury service $10 to $100
Maximum fine for most municipal court traffic violations $200
Municipal court penal violations $500
Other city ordinance violations $500
Fees
Dismissal Fee $10
Jury Fee $3
Teen Court $20
Warrant Processing $50
Credits and Payments
Community Service Credit (per hour) $12.50
Jury Pay (per day) $6
Fines

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.

Court Costs

In addition to a fine, other 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.

If you request a trial, you may have to also pay the costs of overtime paid to a peace officer, spent testifying in the trial. If you request a jury trial, an additional $3 jury fee is assessed. If a warrant was served or processed by a peace officer, an additional $50 fee is also assessed, along with additional state collection fees.

Court costs are assessed if you are found guilty at trial, if you plead nolo contendere, if your case is deferred for a driving safety course, or if your case is deferred and you are placed on probation. If you are found not guilty, court costs cannot be assessed.

  • New Trials

    If you are found guilty, you may make an oral or written motion to the court for a new trial. The motion must be made within five days after a judgment of guilt has been rendered against you. The judge may grant a new trial if the judge is persuaded that justice has not been done in the trial of your case.

    Only one new trial may be granted for each offense.

    Appeals

    If you are found guilty, and are not satisfied with the judgment of the court, you have the right to appeal your case.

    To appeal, unless you are in a court of record, you must file an appeal bond with the municipal court within (10) days of the judgment if you appeared in open court.

    If you have entered a plea of guilty or nolo contendere before your scheduled court appearance date, waived your right to a jury trial and have requested in writing the amount of fine and appeal bond, you have (31) days from the time you received a notice from the court sent to you by certified mail to pay the fine or file an appeal bond with the municipal court.

 

Juveniles

The municipal court has jurisdiction over juveniles (16 years or younger) charged with class C misdemeanor offenses.  All juveniles are required to appear in open court for all proceedings with a parent or legal guardian.  A letter will be mailed to the address on the citation with the date and time of the appearance.  Failure to comply with court requirements or failure to complete all terms regarding juvenile charges may result in additional charges against the parent and the child.  In addition, such failure may result in the juvenile having his/her drivers license suspended or prevent the juvenile from obtaining a driver’s license from the Texas Department of Public Safety.

Address Notification – You and your parent or guardian are required by law to provide the court, in writing, your current address and residence. If your place of residence changes, you have (7) days to notify the court, in writing, of your new address and residence.

Failure to keep the court informed of your new residence may result in Failure to Appear and Failure to Notify charges filed against both you and your parent or guardian. The obligation of keeping the court informed of your current address and residence is required until your case is finalized/terminated.

All juveniles must comply with the court’s dress code when appearing for court.

Notice of Right to Expunction

Teen Court

The Beaumont Municipal court actively participates in the Evelyn M. Lord Teen Court Program. Teen Court is a volunteer program for non-traffic criminal offenses which allows first time misdemeanor juvenile offenders an alternative to the adult criminal justice system. To participate, a first time offender must first make an initial appearance in open court with their parent or guardian and enter a plea of guilty or no contest to the charge.

The juvenile must then pay a onetime $20 fee. Thereafter, the juvenile offender then appears at a Teen Court session before a jury of the teen’s peers and is offered an opportunity to make restitution for the offense through community service, Teen court participation, and other appropriate punishments ordered by the teen jury. After successfully completing the sanctions ordered by the teen jury, the charge against the juvenile is dismissed and no conviction of guilt is entered on the juvenile’s permanent criminal record.

For more information regarding juvenile offenders or Teen Court, contact the Juvenile Coordinator at (409) 980-7200.

  • Dismissals

    If you received a citation for Expired Drivers License, Expired License Plates, or Expired MVI Sticker, and you get these items renewed before your due date, bring a receipt for each, and present these items to the Judge, then the Judge may dismiss these charges with a $10 fee on each.

    If you received a citation for No Financial Responsibility, you must present a liability insurance policy or a certificate of insurance issued by the State that was effective on the date you were cited.

    The insurance card issued for carrying in the car is sufficient evidence. Your proof of insurance will be verified and your case dismissed, if the insurance is valid.

    Any attempts to pass a faulty or altered insurance card to get a case dismissed will result in a criminal charges filed against you at the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office.

    If you were charged with No Valid License, and you do indeed have a valid license, you will need to come to Municipal Court and show this evidence to the Judge to have the case dismissed.