A trial in Municipal Court is a fair, impartial, and public trial. Under Texas law, you can be brought to trial only after a sworn complaint is filed against you. A complaint is the document which charges what act you are allegedly committed.
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 choose either a jury trial or a non-jury (bench) trial.
- The right to hear all testimony and see all evidence 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 so desire. If you choose not to testify, your refusal to do so cannot be held against you in determining your innocence or guilt.
- You may call witnesses to testify in your behalf at the trial and have the court issue a subpoena (court order) to any witnesses to ensure their appearance at the trial. The request for a subpoena must be in writing and submitted to the court at least 10 days before trial.
If you are found guilty, you may be assessed the cost of overtime for a Police Officer's appearance at court. If you request a trial by jury and fail to appear, you may be assessed the cost of impaneling a jury.
If you need to reschedule your pre-trial or trial, you may drop off, email, or mail in a request in writing and state the reason for your request. Your request must be received by the Court at least five (5) days prior to trial.
If your motion for a continuance is denied and you fail to appear, a warrant for your arrest will be issued.
Presenting the Case
You have the right to hire an attorney to represent you or you may represent yourself. An attorney is not assigned by the court. Whether you have an attorney or represent yourself, the rules of procedure and evidence will apply.
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. In each 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 to strike based solely upon a person's race or gender).
As in all criminal trials, the State will present its case first by calling witnesses to testify against you.
After each prosecution witness has finished testifying, you have the right to cross-examine. In other words, you may ask the witness questions about their testimony or any other facts relevant to the case. You cannot, however, argue with the witness. Your cross-examination of the witness must be in the form of questions only. You may not tell your version the incident at this time--you will have an opportunity to do so later in the trial.
After the prosecution has presented its case, you may present your case. You have the right to call any witness who knows anything about your case and to offer into evidence pictures, documents, or other evidence. 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. It is your choice, and your silence cannot be used against you. If you do testify, the State has the right to cross-examine you.
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 charged. The State has the right to present the first and last arguments. The closing argument can be based only on the testimony presented during the trial.
Judgment / Verdict
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 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. You should be prepared to pay the fine at this time.