The information on this page is not a substitute for legal advice from a licensed attorney. If you have questions about your best course of action, what plea you should enter, your rights or the consequence of a conviction of the offense for which you are charged, you should contact an attorney. Neither the clerk, judge, nor prosecutor can give you legal advice.
Prepared and distributed by the Texas Municipal Courts Education Center (TMCEC). The TMCEC is funded by a grant from the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.
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Under our American system of justice, all persons are presumed to be innocent until proven guilty. The state must prove you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of the offense with which you are charged.
Every criminal defendant has these rights:
- To remain silent and refuse to testify (without consequences).
- Hire an attorney to represent you. You cannot have an attorney appointed to represent you in municipal court.
- Since offenses in this court are punishable only by fine and not by incarceration, you do not have the right to appointed counsel.
- If you elect to represent yourself, no person other than an attorney can assist you during a trial.
- You have the right to a jury trial.
- You may waive a jury trial and have a trial before the judge, commonly called a "bench trial."
- Require the state to prepare a formal complaint, which states the act you are alleged to have committed and the fact that the act is unlawful.
- Hear the testimony and view any physical evidence or documents offered against you at your trial.
- Testify in your own behalf and the right not to testify. If you choose not to testify, your refusal cannot be considered in deciding your innocence or guilt.
- Call witnesses to testify on your behalf, and you have the right to have the court issue subpoenas to these witnesses to compel their appearance in court.
Unless you are entitled to a compliance dismissal, you must enter one of the following three pleas:
- Plea of Not Guilty- A plea of not guilty means that you deny guilt and require the State to prove the charge. A plea of not guilty does not waive any of your rights. A plea of not guilty does not prevent a plea of guilty or no contest at a later time.
- Plea of Guilty - By a plea of guilty, you admit that you committed the criminal offense charged.
- Plea of Nolo Contendere (no contest) - A plea of nolo contendere means that you do not contest the State's charge against you.
The difference between a plea of guilty and nolo contendere is that the no contest plea may not be used against you later in a civil suit for damages.
- For example, in a civil suit arising from a traffic crash, a guilty plea can be used as evidence of your responsibility or fault.
If you plead guilty or nolo contendere, you will be found guilty and should be prepared to pay the fine. A plea of guilty or nolo contendere waives all of the trial rights. If you are unable to pay the entire fine and costs, you should be prepared to document and explain your financial situation.
Legal Responsibilities - Appearing in Court
In addition to your rights, you have some legal responsibilities. The law requires you to make an appearance in your case.
- Your appearance date is noted on your citation, bond, summons or release papers.
- You or your attorney may appear in person in open court, by mail or you may deliver your plea in person to the court.
- Juveniles have a separate set of rules for their appearance. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org with any inquires.
Your first appearance is to determine your plea.
- Not guilty: The court will schedule a jury trial.
- You may waive a jury trial and request a bench trial.
- When you make your appearance by mail, your plea must be postmarked by your scheduled appearance date.
- If you plead not guilty, the court will notify you of the date of your trial.
- Guilty or no contest (nolo contendere):
- You may present extenuating circumstances for the judge to consider when determining the proper punishment. However, the judge is not required to reduce your fine.
If you need a continuance, you must put the request in writing with your reason for your request and submit it to the court prior to trial. You may request a continuance for the following reasons:
- A religious holy day where the tenets of your religious organization prohibit members from participating in secular activities such as court proceedings (you must file an affidavit with the court stating this information)
- You feel it is necessary for justice in your case
- By agreement of the parties (you and the prosecutor)
The judge decides whether or not to grant the continuance. Failure to submit the request in writing may cause your request to be denied.
Judge or Jury Trials
Judge Trial - a Municipal Court judge will consider the evidence and decide whether you are guilty or not guilty. If the judge finds you guilty, the judge will also determine the appropriate penalty.
Jury Trial - a jury of six citizens will consider the evidence and decide whether you are guilty or not guilty. If the jury finds you guilty, you may elect to have the jury determine the appropriate penalty.
- 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.
- You are also permitted to strike three members of the jury panel for any reason you choose, except a strike based solely upon race or gender.
A trial in municipal court is a fair, impartial and public trial, as in any other court. A trial is a trial of evidence. Evidence comes through the testimony of witnesses who are sworn to tell the truth. Though both sides may make opening and closing statements, the judge or jury is allowed to consider only the testimony of the witnesses in deciding your guilt or innocence.
Opening Argument & Cross-Examination
As in all criminal trials, the trial begins with each party given an opportunity to make an opening argument. Then the State presents its case first by calling witnesses to testify against you.
You then have the right to cross-examine the state’s witnesses. You may not, however, argue with the witnesses. Cross-examination must be in the form of questions.
After the prosecution has rested, you may present your case. You have the right to call witnesses who know anything about the incident. The state has the right to cross-examine the witnesses that you call.
If you so desire, you may testify on your own behalf, but as a defendant, you may not 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 summarize the evidence, present your theory of the case, argue why the state has failed to meet its burden of proof, and make other arguments allowed by law. The state has the right to present the first and last arguments.
Ruling & Fines
In determining the defendant’s guilt or innocence, the judge or jury may consider only the testimony of witnesses and evidence admitted during the trial. The judge or jury must find the defendant guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt.”
You may elect the jury to assess the fine if you are convicted. If you do not file an election before the trial begins, the judge will assess the fine. You should be prepared to pay the fine and costs or post an appeal bond if you are convicted.
The McKinney Municipal Court is a court of record. Appeals must comply with the requirements and procedures in Chapter 30, Texas Government Code, the Texas Rules of Appellate Procedure, and the Code of Criminal Procedure.
Appeals are to review this Court’s decision to determine if legal error exists that justifies overturning a conviction. An appellate court determines appeals from a municipal court of record conviction on the basis of errors that are set forth in the appellant's motion for new trial and that are presented in the clerk's record and reporter's record prepared from the proceedings leading to the conviction or appeal. An appeal from a municipal court of record may not be by trial de novo. Government Code Sec. 30.00014(b)
A written Motion for New Trial must be filed within 10 days of judgment, listing the errors made by the judge or jury. A Notice of Appeal must also be filed within 10 days of the Court’s ruling on the Motion for New Trial.
Within 10 days of the Court’s ruling on the Motion for New Trial, an Appeal Bond with double the amount of fine, costs and fees, must be filed. A Notice of Appeal must also be filed. The court reporter, who transcribed the trial proceedings, must be hired to make a written record of the proceedings (the reporter’s record). Please contact the Court for the reporter’s contact information.
All of these documents must be filed with the McKinney Municipal Court. Once filed, your case will be sent to the County Criminal Courts of Collin County that have criminal appellate jurisdiction for review. If affirmed, you must pay the fine and costs imposed by the Court. If reversed, the case may be remanded to this Court for further proceedings, or the conviction may be overturned.
The judge may not dismiss a case without the prosecutor having the right to try the case except in certain circumstances including:
- Deferred disposition
- Driving safety courses
- Compliance dismissals
The amount of the fine assessed by the court is determined by the facts and circumstances of the case. Mitigating circumstances may lower the fine, and aggravating circumstances may increase the fine.
Maximum Fine Amounts
- $200 - most traffic violations
- $500 - most other violations of state law and city ordinances
- $2,000 - for fire safety, health, zoning and sanitation ordinance violations
Costs & Fees
- Courts are required by the laws of the State of Texas to collect court costs and fees.*
- Because costs vary for different offenses, check with the court for the amount of the costs that will be assessed for the violation with which you are charged.
- If you go to trial, you may have to pay the costs of overtime paid to a peace officer spent testifying at trial.
- If a warrant was served or processed, a $50 warrant fee is also assessed.
- If you do not pay the whole fine and costs within 30 days of the court’s judgment, you must pay an additional $15 one-time payment fee.
*Court costs are only assessed if you are found guilty at trial, if you plead guilty or nolo contendere, or if you are granted deferred disposition or a driving safety course. If you are found not guilty or the case is dismissed, court costs are not assessed.
Approved Court Forms
These forms are available for you to use for your court case. They are not intended to be legal advice. Please note that payment is expected at the time of judgment.