Rights in municipal court

Legal Advice WaiversA photo of a gavel

This information is to ensure you understand the court proceedings and to inform you of your rights and duties as a defendant. By understanding all your options and rights you can be assured a fair and impartial trial.

Nothing contained herein is to be construed as legal advice.

You may ask the clerks for an explanation of the procedures in municipal court. By law, the clerks are not allowed to provide you with any information that could be considered legal advice.

Options Before Your Plea Docket Date

Your plea docket date is generally considered your first appearance before the judge. You have several options to handle your citation prior to this date. The court date is located on the front of your citation. Examples of these options are as follows:

  • Appear in open court before the judge
  • Plead guilty or no contest and pay the fine
  • Request deferred disposition
  • Request defensive driving
  • Request dismissal of an expired offense

If you choose to take advantage of one of these options prior to your initial court appearance, you will need to follow the instructions contained on our web page.

Any paperwork (defensive driving, deferred disposition, reset requests, etc.) must be postmarked on or before your initial court date.

In the case of a defensive driving request - failure to postmark or make the request in person prior to your initial court appearance may (by law) result in a denial of this option.

Appearance at Your Initial Court Setting 

You must make an initial appearance by person, by mail, or by attorney representation within 20 business days after receipt of citation. When you appear at this setting you will enter your plea to the violation. Plea definitions are provided below for your reference. 

  • Guilty - You admit you committed the act(s) for which you were charged. You admit the act you committed is prohibited by law and you have no legal defense for your actions.
  • Nolo Contendere / No Contest - You are not admitting or denying you committed the act(s) for which you were charged. This type of plea simply means you do not wish to contest the state's charge against you. You may be found guilty by the judge, but could still be eligible for deferred disposition or defensive driving.
  • Not Guilty - You deny you committed the act(s) for which you were charged. You have a defense for the offense(s) and will be set for pretrial conference with the prosecutor and possibly a pretrial date with the judge to file any motions or subpoenas related to your case. After this hearing, a trial date will either be assigned at that time or sent to you via U.S. mail. If you plead not guilty, the judge may not hear any facts regarding your case prior to the actual trial date.

When appearing before the Judge, the time allocated for your visit will vary according to how many other defendants appear at the docket setting and the order in which you checked in with the bailiff.

Help for Self-Represented Litigants

The public has access to helpful tools for self-representation as directed under Texas Senate Bill 1911, effective September 1, 2017. For a quick guide to traffic court, please read the Texas Bar Association's "Guide to Traffic Court".