Citations and Court Appearances
Once a citation is received you will have thirty (30) days (please see the appearance date listed at the bottom of your citation) in which to enter an appearance with the Court and answer the charges filed against you. A phone call does not constitute an appearance.
Failure to Appear and Issuance of Warrants
Failure to appear in court or to otherwise appropriately answer the citation within the allotted 30-day period can result in a warrant (and related fees) being issued for your arrest and/or an additional charge of "Failure to Appear". Although not required by law, the Warrant Division will attempt to notify you by mail at the address listed on the citation if a warrant is issued. When issuing an arrest warrant for Class C misdemeanor offenses, the relevant information is added to the State’s criminal database. Be advised that you are subject to arrest by any agency. Warrants will remain active until all fines and fees have been paid or a bond has been posted following arrest. If you have outstanding warrants, the renewal of your driver’s license may also be denied.
To plead "guilty", acknowledge (via checkmark) the guilty plea option on the citation, sign the citation, and mail or deliver it in person along with payment in full of the related fine(s). If you include a self-addressed stamped envelope, a receipt will be sent. A guilty plea is considered a conviction and is recorded as such on your criminal and/or driving record. You cannot both plead guilty and request deferred adjudication or probation to keep the offense from appearing on your record(s).
If you wish to plead "nolo contendere" or "no contest", you will be responsible for the fees and costs, including the deferred adjudication fee, for your cited violation(s). A request for deferred adjudication must be made in person at the clerk’s office. You are encouraged to call ahead for the amount of the deferred fee that will be due at the time the request is filed. A request to complete a Driving Safety Course (sometimes known as "defensive driving") can be made via mail or in person.
If you wish to enter a plea of "not guilty", you must appear at the clerk’s office within your 30-day period. You cannot plead "not guilty" or schedule a court date by telephone. If you plead "not guilty", a pre-trial or first appearance hearing will be scheduled when you can discuss your case with the Municipal Prosecutor. If the citations are not dismissed and no plea agreement is made, a trial date will be scheduled.
Bench Trials and Appeals
Bench trials or trials before the Judge are held during all regularly scheduled Court sessions. Jury trials are held only as necessary (see "Trial by Jury" below). Trials conducted in the Pantego Municipal Court of Record are in accordance with the due process requirements of the United States Constitution, the Texas Constitution, and the Code of Criminal Procedure. Defendants may be represented by an attorney or may act “pro se” which means that a defendant represents themself at trial. A defendant cannot be brought to trial until after being formally charged with the offense in a complaint, which is a sworn document stating the offense(s) you are alleged to have committed and that your conduct was unlawful. Only the offenses alleged within the complaint may be brought to trial.
Each defendant is assured of the following rights in Court:
A subpoena is an order of the Court notifying a witness that they must appear in Court for testimony during the trial. If a subpoenaed witness does not appear, they may be cited with contempt and a warrant issued for their arrest. Requests for subpoenas must be received by the Court at least ten (10) days before the trial date and must be made in writing or requested in person at our office.
As mentioned above, when a defendant pleads "not guilty", they will be scheduled on a Pre-Trial or First Appearance docket. During this hearing, the defendant will have an opportunity to discuss the case with the Municipal Prosecutor and present evidence as to why the case should be dismissed or the fine lessened due to the facts and/or circumstances involved. If the prosecutor chooses not to dismiss the case and no plea agreement can be reached, the case will be set for trial at a later date. This enables both the defendant and prosecutor to gather evidence, subpoena witnesses, and prepare for trial. A trial date will be scheduled only after the defendant has appeared for his or her Pre-Trial or First Appearance hearing.
Trial by Jury
Jury trials are conducted only when a defendant opts for trial by jury rather than the traditional bench trial — or trial by judge (see "Bench Trials and Appeals" above). Jurors from the Pantego community will be summoned to appear for service. Be advised that juror fees may be assessed against you by the Court if you are found guilty following a trial by jury.
The Municipal Prosecutor and the defendant (or their attorney) will have the opportunity to question potential jurors to learn of any existing biases or prejudices which could prevent a fair or impartial trial. The defendant and the prosecutor may each strike three (3) potential jurors from the service. All cases tried in the Municipal Court will be heard by a petit jury consisting of six (6) persons.
The jury will select a foreperson. The foreperson is responsible for polling the jury, signing the verdict form, and transmitting questions or requests to the Judge. The verdict of the jury must be unanimous. The jury panel will receive the charge of the Court before rendering a verdict. The charge sets forth the law applicable in the case, the allowable range of fines, and instructions regarding how jurors should conduct themselves during deliberations in order to arrive at a fair and impartial verdict based solely on the evidence presented at trial.
Payment Plans and Extensions
If you receive a citation but are unable to pay the related fines by your appearance date, you can appear at our office on or before the appearance date appearing on your citation and request a thirty (30) day extension. At the end of the extension, you will either need to pay the citation in full or apply for a payment plan (PDF). If approved for a payment plan, an administrative fee of $25.00 per violation will be assessed. Failure to take care of your citation within your extension period or to follow the payment plan may result in a “capias pro fine” warrant being issued for your arrest and an additional warrant fee being added to your total cost.
Nothing appearing on this site should be considered legal advice. If you have questions about your best course of action, what plea you should enter, your rights, or the consequence of a conviction, you should contact an attorney. The clerk, the judge, nor the prosecutor can give you legal advice. Neither the Municipal Court nor the Town of Pantego makes any warranty as to the accuracy, reliability, or completeness of the provided information and shall not be responsible for errors or omissions nor for results obtained from the application of provided information.