Pre-Trial / Trial
You have the right to hire an attorney to represent you.
You do not have the right to a court appointed attorney at the Municipal Court level.
If you choose to represent yourself, the court is not required to give you any special treatment.
The Pre-Trial: When you enter a plea of not guilty, your case will be set on our pre-trial hearing docket. Pre-trial hearings are held on the 1st, 3rd, and 5th Tuesday of every month at 9:00 a.m. Check in begins at 8:30 a.m. You must be on time and dressed appropriately.You will be handed a summons with a date and time to appear for your pre-trial hearing. If you mailed, faxed, or e-mailed in your plea of not guilty, you will receive your summons via certified mail. Your appearance at pre-trial is mandatory. If you are unable to appear in person, you have the right to hire an attorney to represent you and appear for you.
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 must be on time and dressed appropriately.
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 unless you have waived that right;**
- The right to hear all testimony introduced against you;
- The right to cross-examine any witness who testifies against you;
- The right to testify in your behalf;
- The right not to testify. If you choose not to testify, your choice to do so cannot be held against you in determining your innocence or guilt; and
- You may call witnesses to testify in your behalf at the trial, and have the court issue a subpoena to any witnesses to ensure their appearance at the trial.
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.
Continuances: If you need a continuance prior to your pre-trial or trial, you must put the request in writing and submit it to the court with your reasons at least ten (10) calendar days prior to your pre-trial or trial date.
You may request a continuance for the following reasons:
- 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); or
- That you feel it is necessary for justice in your case.
The continuance form can be found HERE.
Presenting The Case: As in all criminal trials, the State will present its case first by calling witnesses to testify against you. After prosecution (State) witnesses have finished testifying, you will 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 must be in the form of questions only. You may not give testimony at this time. You will have an opportunity to tell your version of the incident later in the trial. After the prosecution has presented its case, you may then present your case. You have the right to call any witness who has personal knowledge of the incident. The State does have the right to cross-examine any witness that you call. If you choose to, you may testify in your own behalf, but as a Defendant, you cannot be compelled by the State to testify. Whether or not to testify is your choice, and your silence cannot be used against you in determining your innocence or guilt. If you do decide to testify, the State does have the right to cross-examine you. Finally, 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 you are charged with. The State has the right to present the first and last arguments. The closing argument can be based only on the testimony that has already been presented during the trial. No new testimony or evidence can be presented at that time.
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 the 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. In certain hardship circumstances, the Judge will discuss payment options.
New Trials: If you are found guilty, you may make an oral or written motion to the Court for a new trial. This motion must be made within five (5) days after a judgment of guilty has been rendered against you. The Judge may grant a new trial only if the Judge is persuaded that justice was not accomplished in the trial of your case. Only one new trial may be granted per case.
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 you must file an appeal bond with the Municipal Court within ten (10) days of the judgment if you appeared in open court. If you entered a plea of guilty or no contest before your scheduled court appearance date, waived your right to a jury trial, and requested in writing the amount of the fine and appeal bond, you have thirty (30) days from the time you received a notice from the Court sent to you by certified mail to either pay the fine or file an appeal bond.
If you have any questions, please contact the Court office at (409) 769-7452.
Please remember, the Municipal Court CANNOT give legal advice of any nature. Court personnel are allowed to explain Court proceedings and procedures regarding misdemeanor cases filed in this Court only. If you need legal advice, please contact an attorney.