A trial in Municipal Court is a fair, impartial public trial as in any other court. The Court follows the Texas Rules of Criminal Procedure and Evidence and all parties will be required to follow those rules. 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:
- The right to inspect the complaint before trial and have it read to you at the trial
- The right to have your case tried before a jury, if you so desire
- The right to hear all testimony introduced against you
- The right to testify in your behalf
- The right to cross-examine any witness who testifies against you
- 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
- The right to call witnesses to testify in your behalf at the trial, and to have the court issue a subpoena (a court order) to any witnesses to ensure their appearance at the trial. The request for a subpoena must be in writing at least two (2) weeks prior to trial date.
If you choose to have a jury trial, your case will be set for Pre-trial before it is set for the actual jury trial. All Pre-trial motions must be in writing and filed with the court on or before the Pre-trial date. You must also provide a copy of your motions to the prosecutor. At Pre-trial, the court will rule on any written motions filed with the court.
If your case is being 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 upon solely on the person's race).
If you need a continuance for your trial, you must state your reasons for the request in writing and submit it to the court 72 hours prior to your court date. The judge will make the decision whether or not to grant the continuance. You may request a continuance for the following reasons:
- A religious holy day where the tenets of your religious organization prohibits members from participating in secular activities such as court proceedings (you must file an affidavit with the court stating this information)
- You feel it 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 them. 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.
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 jury 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 a jury tries the case, 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 within ten (10) days.
If you are found guilty, you may make a written motion to the court for a new trial. The motion must be made within ten (10) days after a judgment of guilty has been entered 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.
You have the right to appeal a conviction in municipal court. The Municipal Court for the City of Euless is a court of record, and there are special provisions for perfecting an appeal. These provisions are found in the Texas Government Code 30.00014 et.sec. Court Clerks are not authorized to give legal advice and due to the complexity of the appellate process, you are encouraged to seek the advice of your own legal counsel.
Only the facts and circumstances of the case determine the amount of fine the court assesses. 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 most municipal court traffic violations is $200; for municipal court penal violations-$500; for certain city ordinance violations-$2000, and for other city ordinance violations-$500.
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 for the violation for which you are charged. If you request a trial, you may have to also pay the cost of overtime paid to a peace officer spent testifying in a trial. If you request a jury trial, an additional $3 jury fee may be assessed. If a warrant was served or processed by a peace officer, an additional $50 fee is also assessed.
Court costs are assessed if you are found guilty at trial, if you plead no contest, 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 will not be assessed.