The Texas Traffic and Speeding Ticket Court Process
Over the years, the Texas Municipal Court process for traffic and speeding tickets in Texas seems to have become much more rigid. Generally speaking, you can normally expect to make about 2 to 3 court appearances if you are representing yourself.
Of note, if you hire an attorney for your traffic ticket then a different process applies that greatly reduces and/or eliminates your time commitment.
Before we begin, it is important to note that the following is a general overview of how the Texas Municipal and Justice of the Peace Courts work with regard to traffic tickets issued in Texas...it does not supersede any standing pre-trial orders, and the process could vary from court to court.
For pro se litigants:
The first appearance is normally 10 days after you received the traffic ticket. Generally speaking, this appearance is to acknowledge the ticket, and it can take only a few minutes to hours depending on several factors.
In most, if not all, Texas courts a phone call does not constitute an appearance, and this is probably one of the biggest mistakes we see people make.
So, what happens if I fail to make my initial appearance for a traffic ticket?
If you fail to make a timely appearance then you will likely face increased fines and fees, an additional charge known as an FTA that could subject you to an additional fine up to $500, plus having a warrant issued for your arrest. Also, the ability to have the ticket kept off your driving record seriously diminishes. This is one reason why it is important to retain a traffic lawyer prior to your initial court appearance.
Prior to, or during, your initial appearance before the court, you are normally provided an opportunity to just take care of your ticket. Before you do, you might want to read this article on "Just Paying the Ticket."
The second appearance depends on the court's internal procedure. In some Texas traffic courts, you are immediately placed onto a trial docket. In others, you will be placed on a pre-trial docket. If you are placed on a trial docket then you will be asked to show up at the court at a specific date and time, and you are expected to try your case at that time. If you are placed on a pre-trial docket then the court will normally hear any motions you might have prior to proceeding to trial.
The second appearance can take up to a full day depending on the size of the court's docket. In some courts, you might see a hybrid system where the pre-trial is held in the morning, and then you are expected to be back later in the day for trial before a judge or jury. Depending on the number of cases set for trial and the length of each trial, you could be in for a long day. For example, in one North Texas town, a court did not recess until about 1:30AM.
If a third appearance occurs, it is normally the actual trial. Here you will be expected to present your case with any exhibits after the prosecution has rested. Although a certain level of lead way is normally given to pro se litigants representing themselves as a courtesy, you are expected to have a working knowledge of the jury selection process, trial procedures, direct and cross-examination techniques, and the proper method of introducing evidence.
If you have received a speeding, or other traffic related ticket, in Texas and you would like an attorney to work towards keeping the ticket off your driving record, please contact us today.