Municipal Court FAQs
The law requires that you appear in court on your case. The law also allows that if a defendant is charged with a misdemeanor for which the maximum possible punishment is by fine only may, in lieu of the method of entering a plea in court, mail or deliver in person to the court, a plea of guilty or nolo contendere and a waiver of jury trial. Our court operates by pretrial process. When the defendant appears for court they are allowed to speak with the city prosecutor and then decide how they would like to handle their case.
All persons are presumed innocent until proven guilty. On a plea of not guilty a trial is held either by judge or jury. The defendant has the right to choose whether he/she wants a trial by judge or jury. The defendant's choice must be made in writing, and may be made on a plea form which is available in this court. The state has the burden of proof in each case and must prove the guilt of the defendant beyond a "reasonable doubt" before a defendant can be found guilty by a judge or jury.
Plea of Guilty
By entering a plea of guilty you admit you committed the act with which you were charged a plea of guilty may be used against you in a civil suit, if you were involved in a traffic accident.
Plea of Nolo Contendere (No contest)
By entering a plea of no contest it means that you do not contest the state's charge against you. You will be found guilty and a conviction may appear on your driving record unless you qualify and successfully complete a defensive driving course or deferred disposition (probation).
Plea of Not Guilty
A plea of not guilty means that you are informing the court that you deny guilt in the case for which you are charged. The state must then prove it's case filed against you. You have the right to hire an attorney to represent you.
You have these rights at trial:
- The right to inspect the complaint before a trial and have it read to you at the trial
- The right to have your case tried before a jury
- The right to hear all testimony introduced against you
- The right to cross examine any witness who testifies against you
- The right to testify on your behalf
- The right not to testify. If you choose not to testify, this cannot be held against you
- You may call witnesses to testify on your behalf at the trial and have the court issue a subpoena to any witnesses to ensure their appearance at trial. The request for a subpoena shall be made in writing. The request should be made at the time you enter your plea to the court
If you choose to have the case tried before a jury you have the right to question jurors about their qualifications. If you think 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 this request. During the jury trial you are also permitted to strike three members of the jury panel for any reason you choose, except an illegal reason such as a person's race. The prosecution is also given three strikes.
The state will present its case and call witnesses to testify against you. After prosecution witnesses have finished testifying you have the right to cross-examine them. Your cross-examination of witnesses must be in the form of questions and you cannot argue with the witnesses.
After the prosecution has presented its case, you may present yours. You have the right to call witnesses that know about the incident. The state also has the right to cross-examine your witnesses.
You may testify on your behalf, if you so choose. If you testify the state has the right to cross examine you. Your refusal to testify cannot be used against you in determining your guilt or innocence.
In deciding a defendant's guilt or innocence, the judge or jury can only consider the testimony of witnesses and evidence admitted during the trial. If you are found guilty at trial you will be told what the penalty will be. You should be prepared to pay your fine at that time unless you decide to appeal your case.
If you are found guilty you may request to appeal your case. You will need to file a cash bond or surety appeal bond with the court within 10 days of the date of the judgment. Appeal bond forms can be obtained from the court by request.
If you are under the age of seventeen and charged with a violation other than public intoxication, your case falls under this court's jurisdiction. All juveniles are required by the family code to appear in court with their parent or guardian. The court mails a parental summons to the parent or guardian prior to the court hearing. If a juvenile fails to appear in court or fails to pay a fine, they will be reported to the texas department of public safety. The department will suspend their driver's license or if they do not have a license, they will not be able to obtain one until they appear in court to resolve the case.
All requests to reset cases must be made in writing and faxed, mailed, or delivered in person to the court. Please call the court for specific instructions. It is the judge's policy to reset cases once only.
Driving Safety Courses
If you are charged with a traffic offense under subtitle c of the transportation code you may ask the court if you qualify to take a defensive driving course. The request for defensive driving must be made in writing and the court will require the following at the time of the request:
- Valid Texas driver's license
- Valid proof of financial responsibility (insurance)
- A plea of guilty or no contest
- Payment of court costs and an administrative fee (you will need to call the court to get the amount)
If you are to take a defensive driving course you will be allowed 90 days to complete the course and show proof of completion to the court. You are required to attend a defensive driving course approved by the Texas Education Agency or a motorcycle operator's course approved by the Texas Department of Public Safety.
You are eligible to take the course if you:
- Have not taken a defensive driving course within the past year for a ticket dismissal
- Are not currently taking the course for another traffic violation
- Have not committed the offense of speeding 25 mph or more over the speed limit
- Do not have a commercial driver's license or out of state driver's license.
You may not take defensive driving for certain offenses. You should call the court to see if you qualify. Passing or overtaking a school bus is an example of a violation that will not allow you to take a defensive driving course
If you fail to show proof of completing the defensive driving course to the court within 90 days, you will be required to appear for a show cause hearing. If you fail to appear for the hearing you will be charged with failure to appear and the case will be reported to theTexas Department of Public Safety.
Deferred disposition (probation): all requests for probation must be in writing with a plea of guilty or nolo contendere and a waiver of jury trial. You will need to call the court to see if you qualify and for specific instructions before submitting this request.
Defendants may not speak with the judge prior to trial. All defendants are encouraged to call the court office for assistance with their cases.
This court is contracted with the Texas Department of Public Safety through their failure to appear system. If you fail to appear in court as required by law for the prosecution of an offense, or if you fail to pay or satisfy a judgment ordering the payment of a fine and costs in the manner ordered by the court, renewal of your driver's license may be denied, and an additional charge will be filed against you.
The City of Castroville's Community Service work day is usually the third Saturday of the month. To place yourself on the schedule, please visit the Castroville Library (802 London St.) with your Court paperwork. You will be asked to fill out a form (Community Service Instructions) with your contact information and schedule availability. It is best to do this as soon as possible after receiving a community service order to meet your deadline; scheduling community service for times other than the third Saturday is not guaranteed.