General Municipal Court Procedures
The law requires that you appear in person or by mail or pay the fine on or before your court date. If you were issued a citation, your appearance date is noted on the citation. If you have been released on bond, you are required to appear in court on or before the 10th day following your release (weekends and holidays not included in the 10 days). You or your attorney may appear in person in open court or by mail.
Your first appearance is to determine your plea. If you waive a jury trial and plead guilty or nolo contendere (no contest), you may talk to the judge about extenuating circumstances. Appearance by mail is considered timely filed with the clerk of the court if the document is deposited with the United States Postal Service in a first class postage prepaid envelope, properly addressed to the clerk, on or before the appearance date. If you plead not guilty, a pre-trial hearing will be scheduled. Absent the entry of a plea bargain at pre-trial, a trial date will be scheduled. You may request a trial by a jury or by a judge.
Check-in times for Open Adult Appearance Dockets are 8 a.m./noon on Mondays and noon only on Tuesdays. Early arrival is advised because the number of persons scheduled on each docket is limited.
Your decision concerning which plea to enter is very important. You should read the following explanation of the three types of pleas and think carefully before making your decision.
PLEA OF GUILTYBy entering a plea of guilty you admit that the act is prohibited by law, that you committed the act charged, and that you have no defense or excuse for your act. Before entering your plea of guilty, you should understand the following:
- The State has the burden of proving you violated the law.
- You have the right to hear the State's evidence and require the State to prove you violated the law; and
- A plea of guilty may be used against you in a civil suit if damages were incurred as a result of your actions.
PLEA OF NOLO CONTENDERE (NO CONTEST)
A plea of nolo contendere means that you do not contest the State's charge against you. A plea of nolo contendere cannot be used against you in a subsequent civil suit for damages.PLEA OF NOT GUILTY
A plea of not guilty means that you are informing the Court that you deny guilt or that you have a good defense for your case. On a plea of not guilty, a formal trial is held. As in all criminal trials, the State is required to prove the guilt of the defendant "beyond a reasonable doubt." You have a choice of a trial by judge or a jury trial. If you prefer a trial by judge, you must sign a form waiving your right to a jury trial.
If you plead not guilty, you will need to decide whether to employ an attorney to represent you at the trial. You may defend yourself, but no one other than an attorney may represent you.
If you defend yourself, please be advised that this court is a court of record. All proceedings will be conducted according to the rules of criminal procedure and the rules of evidence. If you choose to represent yourself, you must be prepared. The court staff, bailiff, prosecuting attorney or judge cannot act as your attorney by providing legal advice or assistance in the presentation of your case.
The pre-trial setting is your opportunity to be apprised of the charges against you and to consider your options. The prosecutor meets with you to review the case. Depending on the circumstances, the prosecutor may offer deferred adjudication or a driver's safety course and may offer to reduce the fine or fee. If no agreement can be reached, the case will be set for trial.
The TrialUnder Texas law, you can be brought to trial only after a formal complaint has been filed. The complaint, rather than the citation, is the formal charging instrument, which alleges the specific offense.
- You have a right to inspect the complaint before trial and to have it read at trial.
- You have the right to have your case tried before a judge or a jury at your request.
- You are entitled to hear all testimony introduced against you.
- You have a right to cross-examine any witness who testifies against you.
- You have a right to testify on your own behalf. You also have a constitutional right not to testify. If you choose not to testify, your refusal cannot and will not be used against you in determining your guilt or innocence. However, the prosecutor will have the right to cross-examine you if you do testify.
- You may call witnesses to testify on your behalf. You also have the right to have the court issue subpoenas for witnesses to ensure their appearance at trial. However, you must furnish the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of these witnesses to the Court at least 72 hours in advance so that the witnesses may be located and the subpoenas served.
Trials are conducted under the Code of Criminal Procedure, Texas Rules of Criminal Evidence as adopted by the Texas Legislature.
See Docket Schedule Court Room No. 1 and Docket Schedule Court Room No. 2 for day of the week and time of day each type of docket is heard. (example: jury trial, trial by judge, juvenile docket, etc.)
Presenting the Case
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 his testimony, you will have the right to cross-examine the witness. Your examination must be in the form of questions and you must not argue with the witness. Do not attempt to tell your side of the story 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 by calling witnesses, presenting physical evidence and/or testifying on your own behalf.
Judgment / Verdict
If the case is tried by the judge, the decision is called a judgment. If the case is tried by a jury, the decision is called a verdict. The judge or jury can consider only the testimony of witnesses under oath 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. The judge will extend the case for 10 days for you to pay the fine or file a Motion for New Trial.
FinesThe amount of fine the court assesses is determined only by the facts and circumstances of the case. The maximum fine for most municipal court traffic violations is $200; for penal violations, $500; for certain city ordinance violations, $2000; and for other city ordinance violations, $500. Fines are payable by cash, check, money order and MasterCard or Visa credit/debit cards. A 24-hour depository box is also available for your convenience on the northeast corner of the court facility. Documents submitted to the Court through the 24-hour depository box will be date stamped "received" on the following business day.
If you are found guilty of an offense, mandated state court costs are included in the amount due. These charges vary according to the offense. Court costs are applicable to defensive driving, deferred adjudication or probation.
Right to Appeal
If you are found guilty and are not satisfied with the judgment of the court, you have the right to appeal your case. Since the Grand Prairie Municipal Court is a court of record, you must adhere to the appeal process as outlined in the Government Code. (The Uniform Court of Record Act and Sections applicable only to the City of Grand Prairie). Appeals will be based on any "legal" error - not a new trial of the facts.
If you are found guilty, you may make written motion to the court for a new trial. The judge may grant a new trial if persuaded that justice has not been done in the trial of your case. Your Motion for a New Trial must state the legal grounds for the appeal. Denial of the Motion for a New Trial requires the posting of an Appeal Bond, Notice of Appeal and a transcript of the proceedings.
Juveniles who fail to appear or complete their sentence will be reported to the Department of Public Safety. The Department of Public Safety may suspend a juvenile's drivers license or deny the right to obtain a drivers license.
If you have received notice that your Grand Prairie citation is in warrant status, you will need to dispose of this matter immediately to avoid the possibility of arrest. City Marshals are assigned to actively pursue individuals in warrant status and you may be subject to arrest. These warrants are entered into a state-wide computer system, are valid throughout the state, and are accessible to any peace officer. You may retain an attorney to represent you in this matter, or you may personally appear at the Grand Prairie Municipal Court during normal business hours and inquire about the various options that would remove you from warrant status. You may contact the Grand Prairie Municipal Marshal Division at 972-237-8665.
The most common options available to you for disposing of your warrant(s) are:
- Payment of fine in full
- Request a time payment plan with down payment required
- Post a surety or cash escrow bond and request a new court date
- Retain the services of a bail/bonding agency
In addition to the service of warrants, the City Marshals are responsible for Municipal Court security, bailiff duties, transfer of prisoners, and the service of process.
The Warrant Clerical Section is responsible for issuing, processing, and tracking the status of all warrants that arise in Municipal Court.