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How To Handle A Texas Traffic Ticket

Receiving a traffic ticket is no fun for anyone and receiving a Texas traffic ticket may be a little confusing for those who aren't familiar with the Texas court system. Texas law has created a multitude of courts and, unless you are thoroughly familiar with jurisdictions in Texas, you could have trouble understanding which court has jurisdiction over your ticket.

Your Texas traffic ticket should list the court having jurisdiction over your ticket and the officer should explain your court date and which court will be handling your case however, it may still be a bit confusing. The court that has jurisdiction over your Texas traffic ticket will depend on the law enforcement agency that issued the ticket and the location where you received your ticket.

Basically, there are two types of courts that have jurisdiction over Texas traffic tickets; Justice of the Peace Courts and Municipal Courts.

Justice of the Peace Court - If you receive a ticket from the Texas Department of Public Safety (Highway Patrol), a county sheriff, or a county constable, your ticket will normally fall under the jurisdiction of the Justice of the Peace Court in the county where you received your ticket.

Large counties such as Harris or Dallas may have up to 8 Justice of the Peace precinct courts within the county and the precinct court handling your ticket will normally depend on the precinct of the law enforcement agency that issued the ticket. It is important to remember that the precinct court handling your ticket may not necessarily be the one for the precinct where you live.

Municipal Courts - If you receive your ticket from a municipal or city police department such as the Austin or Round Rock Police Department, your ticket will be handled by the Municipal Court in that city or town.

Your Plea - First it is important to understand that signing your traffic ticket does not mean you admit guilt. Signing the ticket merely means you understand you have been issued a traffic citation and you know what date you must appear in court. If you do not pay your traffic fine or fail to appear in court on the scheduled date, you will be charged with "Failure to Appear" and your license may be suspended.

Upon receiving a Texas traffic ticket, you have several options. You may plead "Not Guilty" in which case a hearing date will be set. You may plead "Guilty" and pay your fine, or you may plead "Nolo Contendere" which means you don't admit guilt but the case will be handled the same as a guilty plea.

Traffic Ticket Dismissal (Deferred Disposition) - If you are eligible, Texas law allows one traffic offense in a 12 month period to be dismissed by taking a defensive driving course or a motorcycle operator's course. In order to be eligible to take the defensive driving course, you:
-may not have completed an approved defensive driving course or motorcycle operator course, as appropriate, within the 12 months preceding the date of the offense.
-must enter a plea of guilty or nolo contendere on or before the answer date on the citation and present the request to take the course to the court in person, by counsel, or by certified mail (postmarked on or before due date);
  • must present to the court a valid Texas driver's license or permit or proof of active military duty status or be the spouse or dependent child of a person on active military duty; and
  • must provide the court evidence of financial responsibility (Auto Liability Insurance).
You will not be eligible for ticket dismissal if:
  • you are alleged to have been speeding 25 mph or more over the speed limit;
  • the offense was committed in a construction or maintenance zone when workers are present;
  • you were charged with passing a school bus loading or unloading children;
  • you were charged with leaving the scene of an accident after causing damage to a vehicle that is driven or attended;
  • you were charged with leaving the scene of an accident and failing to give information and/or render aid;
  • you were charged with committing a serious traffic violation; and
  • you held a commercial driver's license at the time of the offense or hold a CDL at the time of the request including when the person is driving his or her own personal vehicle.
Time Limits - In order to have your traffic ticket dismissed, you must request permission from the court by filling out a form. Depending on the court, you will have a certain time limit in which to submit the request. You should either hand carry the request to the court or send it via certified mail to ensure that it arrives prior to the deadline.

Court Costs - When requesting to attend defensive driving school, you must still pay court costs and, once you have completed the school, you must include a copy of your driving record along with your school completion certificate in order for the court to verify that you were eligible to attend the defensive driving course.

Out of State Drivers - Drivers from another state who receive a Texas traffic ticket may, with the permission of the judge, take an on-line defensive driving course that has been approved by the Texas Education Agency (TEA) to have the ticket dismissed.

Active Military - Active military members who hold an out of state license may request permission from the judge to take a TEA approved defensive driving course, as long as they have not taken a defensive driving course (or similar course) within the previous 12 months, in order to have the ticket dismissed.

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