Court: Procedures

Purpose

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.

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Initial Appearance

The law requires that you appear in Court and enter a plea in your case. 

  • If you were issued a citation, your appearance date is noted on your citation. By signing the citation, you promised to appear in court or to take some action by the date indicated. 
  • If you were in custody, your appearance date will be listed on the written promise to appear provided to you at the jail. 
  • Failure to appear or resolve your citation on or before your initial appearance date may result in a hold being placed on your driver's license, a warrant for your arrest, and additional fees. 
  • If you hire an attorney to handle your case, your attorney will contact the court to establish the appropriate court setting. 
  • Juveniles and Minors have a separate set of rules for their appearances. 

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Pleas

Unless you are entitled to a compliance dismissal, you must enter one of the following three pleas:

  • 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. If you plead not guilty, you must do so before the judge, and the Court will schedule a pretrial hearing and jury trial. You may waive a jury trial and request a court trial. 
  • Guilty - By a plea of guilty, you admit that you committed the offense charged.
  • 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. 

If you plead guilty or nolo contendere, you will be found guilty unless you are granted, and successfully complete, a deferred disposition or driving safety course option. 

A plea of guilty or nolo contendere waives your trial rights. If you are unable to pay the entire fine and costs, you should be prepared to document and explain your financial situation.

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Contesting Your Citation

To enter your plea of not guilty, you may appear at any open docket on or before your scheduled initial appearance date and enter your plea before the Judge. 

Court open docket calendar

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Trial Procedures

A trial in municipal court is a fair, impartial, and public trial, as in any other court. The 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 evidence presented in deciding your guilt or innocence.

At the time you enter a plea of not guilty, your case will be set for trial. At the time your case is set for trial, you will also be set for a mandatory pre-trial hearing to take place before your trial date.

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, the appropriate penalty will be assessed.

Court Trial (Trial by Judge)

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.

Your Rights

At trial, you have many rights, including to:

  • Inspect the complaint before trial, challenge defects in the complaint, and have it read aloud at trial.
  • Request evidence material to any matter involved in your case. Requests must be made to the City Prosecutor at [email protected].
  • Hear all testimony (evidence) against you.
  • Cross-examine witnesses who testify against you.
  • Testify on your own behalf.
  • Not testify. Your refusal cannot be held against you in determining whether you are guilty.
  • Call witnesses to testify on your behalf. You may request that the court issue a subpoena to ensure a witness appears at the trial.
  • Present evidence on your behalf.
  • Appeal a finding of guilt.

Jury Selection

  • If you have a jury trial, you may question potential 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 may remove none or up to three potential jurors for any reason you choose, except a reason based on a person's race, gender, sex, or religion.

For more information on jury service, visit the Texas Uniform Jury Handbook.

Opening Argument & Cross-Examination

  • The trial begins with each party given an opportunity to make an opening argument. 
  • 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.

Personal Testimony

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.

Closing Argument

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.” The judge or jury will set a fine within the applicable range of punishment at the time a verdict is reached.

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Continuances

If you need a continuance for a scheduled appearance, including for a pre-trial or trial setting, you must put the request in writing with your reason for your request and submit it to the court at least 72 hours before your court setting. Continuances are governed by Chapter 29 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure. 

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).
  • Upon sufficient cause shown to the judge

Each motion shall contain:

  • the cause / citation number
  • the name of the defendant
  • the date and time of the setting to be continued
  • the specific facts justifying the continuance

If a motion for continuance is denied the defendant must appear at the originally scheduled date and time. It is the defendant's responsibility to determine whether the motion was granted or denied.

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Failure to Appear for Pre-Trial or Trial

  • Failure to appear on the day of pre-trial or trial will cause the assessment against the defendant of the costs of impaneling the jury unless good cause is shown to the Court, pursuant to Article 45.251 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure.
  • The defendant must post a bond in the full amount of the fine, court costs, and fees to reschedule to a new court setting. 
  • If a Defendant is unable to post bond they will be set for an indigence hearing on the court's next available docket and must sign, in person, a promise to appear for a specified date and time.
  • Failure to appear for your pre-trial or trial setting may result in a hold being placed on your driver's license, a warrant for your arrest, and additional fees. 

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Appeals

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 an opportunity to have a higher court review the record to determine whether any legal errors were made at trial.

Motion for New Trial

A written Motion for New Trial must be filed within 10 days of judgment, listing the errors made by the judge or jury. 

Ruling on the Motion for New Trial

  • If granted, a new trial will be scheduled.
  • If denied, you may proceed with your appeal. If you proceed with your appeal, you must within 10 days:
    • File a Notice of Appeal, 
    • File an Appeal Bond with double the amount of fine, costs and fees,
    • Request the reporter's record. A court reporter must transcribe the trial proceedings. You will be responsible for all costs associated with transcription. Please email the Judicial Clerk for the court 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 Collin County Courts, which have 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.

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Court Forms

These forms are available for you to use for your court case. They are not intended to be legal advice.

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Helpful Links

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