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Municipal Court Overview
Municipal Courts are the judicial branch of city government. In addition, the Municipal Court is part of the state judicial system. Municipal Courts hear Misdemeanor criminal cases, including traffic violations, which is punishable by fine only, and for which no jail sentence may be assessed. They also hear cases involving violation of city ordinances.
Court of Record
Addison Municipal Court is a Court of record. All pleadings must be in writing. Proceedings are governed by the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure and Chapter 30 of the Texas Government Code.
When you receive a citation, the options you have to resolve your case can vary depending on many different factors, including but not limited to: the type of violation, the severity of the violation, the age of the defendant, etc. The first thing you will need to do is enter a plea. Once you enter a plea, you may be scheduled for a court date, or you may have the option of disposing of the case without appearing in open court. If your situation allows you to resolve the matter without appearing in open court, you may pay the fine, provide proof for expired violations or insurance matters, or you may be eligible for an alternative sentencing option such as deferred disposition or a driving safety course.
Entering a Plea
You must decide upon and enter a plea to the charge against you on or before the response date on your citation. If you signed a citation in front of an officer, you did not plead guilty, but only signed a promise to appear in court within thirty (30) days. There are three possible pleas to a complaint:
2. Nolo Contendere, and
3. Not Guilty
Your decision on what plea to enter is the most important decision you will have to make. Whether you feel that you are guilty or not, we suggest that you read the following explanations of all three types of pleas before making your decision.
Innocent Until Proven Guilty
All persons are presumed innocent until proven guilty. Your decision concerning which plea to enter is very important. You should review the following material before determining your plea.
Plea of Not Guilty
A plea of not guilty means you are informing the Court that you deny guilt or that you have a good defense in your case. A plea of not guilty requires that a trial be held. The State must prove the guilt of the defendant "beyond a reasonable doubt" of the offense charged. You will elect to have a jury trial or if you waive a trial by jury you may have a trial before a judge.
If you plead not guilty you must decide whether to hire an attorney to represent you at your trial. If you represent yourself, these suggestions will help you to understand your rights and trial procedures.
Plea of Guilty
A plea of guilty means that the act with which you are charged is prohibited by law, that you committed the act, and that you have no defense or excuse for the act. Before you enter a plea of guilty consider the following:
1. The State has the burden of proving that you violated the law.
2. You have the right to hear the State's evidence against you.
3. A plea of guilty maybe used against you later in a civil suit.
Plea of Nolo Contendere (No Contest)
A plea of nolo contendere means that you do not contest (challenge) the State's charge against you. You will almost certainly be found guilty. This plea cannot be held against you in a subsequent civil suit for damages.
If you plead guilty or nolo contendere in open Court, you should be prepared to pay the fine.
If you defend yourself, please be advised that the Addison Municipal Court is a Court of Record. All proceedings will be conducted according to the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure and the Rules of Evidence. If you choose to represent yourself, you must be prepared. The court staff, bailiff, prosecuting attorney or Judge cannot act as your attorney by providing legal advice or legal assistance in the presentation of your case.
Appearing in Court
The law requires that you (and/or your attorney) appear in Court in person for your case. If you are 16 years old or younger see the Juvenile information section. If you are under 18 and charged with an alcohol related offense see Alcohol.
Your first appearance is to determine what plea you will enter in your case. If you plead guilty or nolo contendere (no contest), you may wish to reveal any extenuating circumstances that you want the judge to consider when setting your fine.
If you pled not guilty, the Court will schedule a pretrial date and a jury trial date. You may waive your right to a jury trial. If you do, the trial will take place before a judge. In all criminal trials, the State must prove the guilt of the Defendant beyond a reasonable doubt of the alleged offense charged in the complaint.
Under Texas law, you can be brought to trial only after a formal complaint is filed. The complaint is the charging document that alleges what you have done, and the fact that such action is unlawful. You can be tried only for what is alleged in the complaint. Trials are conducted under the Code of Criminal Procedure as adopted by the Texas Legislature. These laws may be found in Chapter 45 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure.
- You have the right to inspect the complaint before trial and have it read to you at the trial itself
- You are entitled to hear all testimony introduced against you
- You have a right to cross-examine any witness who testifies against you
- You have the right to testify in your own behalf. You also have the right not to testify. If you choose not to testify, your refusal cannot be considered in determining your innocence or guilt of the charge.
- You may call witnesses to testify in your behalf at the trial, and have the right to have the Court issue subpoenas to these witnesses to ensure their appearance at the trial
Presenting the Case
As in all criminal trials, the State will present its case first by calling witnesses to testify against you. You will have the right to cross-examine each prosecution witness. In other words, you can ask the witness questions about their testimony. However, you cannot argue with the witness. Your cross-examination of the witness must be in the form of questions only. Do not attempt to tell your version of the incident at this time - you will have an opportunity to do so later if you testify.
After the State has presented its case, you may present your case. You have the right to call any witness who knows anything about the incident, but the witnesses can testify only about matters of which they have personal knowledge.
If you choose, you may testify in your own behalf. Since you are the defendant, you cannot be compelled to testify. It is your choice, you may do as you wish, and your silence cannot be used against you.
The State also has the right to cross-examine all witnesses called by you. If you testify in your own behalf, the State may cross-examine.
After testimony is concluded by both sides, you can make a closing argument by telling the Court why you feel that you are not guilty of the offense charged. But such statement can only be based on the testimony heard during the trial. Additional testimony is not admissible in the closing argument.
If the case is tried by a judge, the decision is called a judgment. If the case is tried by a jury, the 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. If found Not Guilty, you will be acquitted of the charges. If you are found Guilty, the Judge will announce the penalty at that time.
If you are found guilty, you may make a written motion to the Court for a new trial. The motion must be filed within ten (10) days after a judgment or verdict of guilt has been rendered against you and must specifically include what grounds you rely upon. The judge may grant a new trial if confident that an error has occurred in the trial of your case. Only one new trial may be granted for each offense.
If you are found guilty and are not satisfied with the judgment of the Court, you have the right to appeal your case. You must file a timely motion for a new trial to perfect your appeal. To appeal, you must file an appeal bond with the Municipal Court within ten (10) days after the motion for new trial is overruled by the Court or operation of law and follow. If you appeal you will have to obtain a record. In order to obtain a copy of the record you must pay the fees required by the court reporter.
If you need a continuance (reset) for your trial, you must submit a written request for a continuance to the Court, 7 days prior to trial, stating your reasons. The judge will make the decision whether or not to grant the continuance. A continuance may be requested for the reasons set forth in the Code of Criminal Procedure Art. 28.01.
The amount of fine assessed by the court is affected only by the facts and circumstances of the case. Mitigating circumstances may lower the fine, even if you are found guilty. On the other hand, aggravating circumstances may increase the fine. Please see Payment Options for an explanation on how to pay your citation.
Court Costs will be charged if you are found guilty and assessed a fine, regardless of the amount of that fine. Court costs in the municipal court are set by the State, not by the court. Court costs must also be charged even if the fine is suspended and final disposition of your case is dismissed under the Deferred Disposition procedure. If an arrest warrant is issued, a warrant fee of $50 will be added to the fine and state court costs.