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Information about Traffic Cases
Options for Responding to a Traffic Ticket

Criminal Jurisdiction

Justices of the Peace have original jurisdiction in criminal cases punishable by fine only, or punishable by a fine and a sanction not consisting of confinement or imprisonment.

Criminal procedures for cases that are within the criminal jurisdiction of the Harris County Justice Courts are found in Chapter 45 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure.

The Rules of Evidence governing the trials of criminal actions in the District Courts apply to a criminal proceeding in the Justice Courts.

The Harris County District Attorney prosecutes traffic cases filed in the Harris County Justice Courts.

The Harris County Justices of the Peace have promulgated Local Rules. You may view the Local Rules at each Justice Court.

Rights of Defendants

If you are accused of an offense within the jurisdiction of the Justice Court, you have certain rights.

You have the right to see the complaint or citation that has been filed with the court.

You have the right to a trial by jury, but you may waive the right to a trial by jury and be tried by the court.

You have the right to be represented by an attorney of your choice. You are not required to be represented by an attorney. An attorney may make an appearance on your behalf.

You have the right to remain silent and not to give evidence against yourself. You may waive this right and discuss your case with a prosecutor in an effort to dispose of your case without trial.

First Appearance in Court

Your traffic citation or summons will specify a date and time on which you are required to appear in court. You may comply with a written promise to appear in court by an appearance by counsel. Tex. Transportation Code §543.009

At the time of your first appearance, you will be identified as the defendant, and you will be asked how you plead to the offense with which you are charged.

Pleas are "not guilty," "guilty," or "no contest."

If you plead not guilty, your case will be set for trial. You may waive your right to a trial by jury and have the case heard by the court. At your request, the court will subpoena a witness on your behalf, but you must furnish the court with the name, address, and telephone number of each witness prior to trial. You may be required to attend a pre-trial conference.

If you refuse to enter a plea, the court will enter a plea of not guilty for you, and your case will be set for a jury trial unless you waive that right.

If you plead guilty or no contest, the court will find you guilty and assess a fine as punishment. A plea of no contest has the same result as a plea of guilty, but it may not be used against you in any civil proceeding that might arise from the incident leading to your arrest.

If you are pleading guilty or no contest, you may present any evidence or documents to the court in connection with the offense and you may explain any mitigating circumstances that may affect punishment.

If you are unsure about how to plead, do not hesitate to enter a plea of not guilty.

The court may be required to provide you certain notices, and it is your responsibility to notify the court of any change of address.

Discovery

You may request documents and evidence in your case from the State by following the discovery procedures set out in Art. 39.14 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure. ("Discovery" is the process by which the defendant may request evidence related to the case from the State.)

If You Do Not Want To Appear In Court

Pay the Acceptable Fine Online

For most offenses for which a citation has been issued, fines can be paid online by using the Harris County Justice of the Peace Courts' website. Online payments may be made until 11:00 p.m. on the appearance date shown on your ticket.  Unless a warrant has been issued ordering your arrest, an online payment may also be made after your appearance date until at least five (5) business days before a scheduled trial date.

Pay the Acceptable Fine in Person or by Mail

If you do not want to appear in court, you have the option of paying your fine by mail or by paying in person at the Justice Court as directed on your citation or summons. Before the time you must appear in court, mail or bring to the court a Traffic Citation Reply Form together with your payment of the acceptable fine. The acceptable fine amount will include the court costs for the offense with which you are charged.

If you are paying by mail, you must pay by cashier's check or money order, payable to the Harris County Justice Court. If you are paying in person, you may pay your fine in cash, by cashier's check or money order, or by credit card.

Payment of the acceptable fine constitutes a finding of guilt in open court as though you had entered a plea of no contest.

Enter a Plea of Not Guilty by Mail

Before the time you must appear in court, you may mail or bring to the court a plea of not guilty using the Traffic Citation Reply Form. The court will set your case for a jury trial. If you notify the court that you waive your right to a jury trial, your case will be set for a trial by the court. You may be required to attend a pre-trial conference.

More Options for Responding to Traffic Cases >>



General Information

This information is furnished to you to provide basic information relative to the law governing procedures for traffic cases in the Harris County Justice Courts.

The Harris County Justices of the Peace and the Clerks of the Harris County Justice Courts are not allowed to give legal advice. You are urged to review the applicable laws and to consult an attorney of your choice for further information or answers to specific legal questions.

You have the right to a trial by a jury and to be represented by an attorney of your choice, or to represent yourself.

Traffic offenses, generally, are punishable by a fine of not more than $200.00 and all costs of court.

Disclaimer: The law is constantly changing and there may be times when the information on this web site will not be current. This information is provided for general informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. This information is not a comprehensive treatment of the subject and is not a substitute for advice from an attorney.