The law requires that you appear in court or pay the fine on or before the appearance date that you are given. If you were issued a citation, your appearance date is noted at the bottom of the citation. If you have been released on bond, your appearance date is set on the bond. You or your attorney may appear in person, in open court or by mail on or before this date. Your first appearance is to determine your plea. If you plead not guilty, the court will schedule a jury trial or bench trial for you, after you post bond to insure your appearance.
Translators are available (Spanish/English). Please notify the court 24 hours in advance for deaf and/or hearing impaired.
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". Your decision concerning which plea to enter is very important. You should read the following explanation of the three types of pleas and think carefully before making your decision. If you plead guilty or nolo contendere in open court, you should be prepared to pay the fine in full or request other arrangements. Contact Municipal Court for information on how to make the payment.
Plea of Guilty
- By entering 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. A plea of guilty may be used against you in a civil suit if there was a traffic accident.
Plea of Nolo Contendere (no contest)
- A plea of nolo contendere means that you do not contest the states charge against you. A plea of nolo contendere cannot be used against you in a subsequent civil suit for damages.
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 good defense for your case. If you plead not guilty, you will need to decide whether to hire an attorney to represent you.
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.
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. You are also permitted to strike three members of the jury panel for any reason you choose, except an illegal reason.
If you need a continuance for your trial, you must put the request in writing and submit it to the court with your reasons at least one week in advance, so that we can notify other involved parties.
If you need to have subpoenas prepared to bring witnesses for your trial, please request them from the Court at least one week before your scheduled trial date. You will need to provide the Court with the witness' name and address in order to prepare the subpoena. After the clerk prepares the subpoena, he/she will return the subpoena to you so that you can arrange for it to be served.
Brief opening arguments are sometimes made in jury trials to explain to the jury what each side believes it will show over the course of the trial.
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. Your cross-examination of the witness must be in the form of questions only.
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. Before you testify, you must be placed under oath as with any other witness. The State has the right to cross-examine you should you choose to testify.
Once all testimony is concluded, both sides can make a brief closing argument. The closing argument can be based only on the testimony presented during the trial.
Judgement / Verdict
If the case is tried by the judge, the decision is called a judgment. If the case is tried by a jury, the decision is called a verdict. 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 or make arrangements at this time.
Fines & Court Costs
- The amount of fine the court assesses is determined only by the facts and circumstances of the case. The maximum fine for most municipal court traffic violations is $200; for most penal violations -$500; in addition to the fine, court costs mandated by law will also be charged. Fines for municipal ordinance violations or for a second or third traffic violation of the same type may exceed $500. These charges vary according to the kind of violation. Court costs are assessed if you plead nolo contendere, or if your case is deferred for defensive driving or probation.
- If you are found guilty, you may make an oral or written motion to the court for a new trial. The judge may grant a new trial if the judge is persuaded that justice has not been done in the trial of your case.
- If you are found guilty, and are not satisfied with the judgment of the court, you have the right to appeal your case. You will have ten days from the date that your case was heard.
Municipal court has jurisdiction over all juveniles (16 years or younger) charged with Class C misdemeanor offenses except public intoxication. All juveniles are required to appear in open court for all proceedings in their cases. The parent of any juvenile charged in municipal court is required to be present in court with his or her child. Juveniles who fail to appear in court may have an additional charge of failure to appear filed against them. Juveniles who fail to appear or pay their fine will be reported to the Department of Public Safety their driver's license will be suspended by DPS. If a juvenile does not have a driver's license, they will not be able to obtain one until they appear in court to handle their ticket.
McAllen’s Teen Court program adds a new dimension of accountability and responsibility to the Juvenile Justice System. The program is specifically designed to address the needs of the youthful first time misdemeanor offender and his/her family. Teens judge each others’ conduct and learn about the criminal legal system as they hear from and participate with local community and legal agencies in the Teen Court program. From this experience, it is hoped that young persons learn more from their first contact with the legal system while keeping their record clean.