Information about Traffic Cases
Q. I was given a traffic citation. What are my options?
A. Pay the Fine. Prior to the appearance date shown on your citation, you may pay the fine for the offense with which you are charged. Most fine amounts are shown on the Uniform Traffic Notice. You may also find your fine amount using the "Find My Case and Court Date" feature on the Harris County Justice of the Peace Courts' website.
Fines may be paid online by using your credit card. Fines may be paid by mail in the form of a cashier's check or money order payable to the Justice of the Peace. Fines may be paid in person at the court with cash, a cashier's check, a money order, or with a credit card.
Enter a plea of "Guilty" or "No Contest." You may enter a plea of "guilty" or "no contest" and waive your right to a trial by jury, either in person or by mail, on or before the appearance date shown on the citation. You must pay the fine assessed on or before the 31st day after receiving notice of the amount of the fine.
Enter a plea of "Not Guilty." You may mail to the court a plea of "not guilty." The court should receive your plea of "not guilty" on or before the appearance date shown on the citation. You may also indicate if you waive your right to a jury trial.
Request Driving Safety Course or Motorcycle Operator Training Course Dismissal or Specialized Driving Safety Course for Instruction in the Proper Use of Child Passenger Safety Seat Systems. You may be able to require that your citation be dismissed by successfully completing the appropriate course. You will lose that right if, on or before your appearance date, you do not provide the court with notice of your request to take the course.
Q.What should I do if I missed my court date?
A. As a courtesy, the Justice Courts will allow you ten (10) days within which to appear and make arrangements for the disposition of your case.
If a warrant has been issued, you must act immediately to avoid arrest. However, you remain subject to arrest at any time. You may choose one of the following options:
Post Bail at the Court:
You may post bail at the Justice Court. Bail may be in the form of a Surety Bond or a Cash Bond. A magistrate must consider allowing you a personal bond. For a cash bond, you must tender cash in the form of a cashier's check or money order, payable to the Justice of the Peace, in the amount of the bail. You will be notified of a court date. You may also post a Cash Bond that allows the cash to be forfeited to satisfy the fine and costs in the event you fail to appear in court.
Pay the Fine at the Justice Court:
You may pay the amount indicated as the acceptable fine, either in person at the Justice Court during its normal business hours, or by mailing the fine to the Justice of the Peace. Fines may be paid by cashier's check or money order payable to the Justice of the Peace. Fines may be paid by credit card, in person, at the Justice Court. If you pay the fine, no further court appearance is necessary.
If you are arrested, you will be required to give bail to secure your release from custody, and appear in court at a later time to answer for this charge.
The court may also notify the Department of Public Safety to deny the renewal of your driver's license.
The court may also notify the Department of Transportation to refuse to register your vehicle(s).
Q. What should I do if I can't pay the fine immediately?
A. If you cannot pay the total amount of the fine and court costs, you may request the court to allow you additional time to pay. If you cannot pay the fine and costs at the time they are assessed, you should be prepared to give the court certain financial information in order to assist the court in making payment arrangements. You will be asked to complete a Financial Statement Form.
You should be aware that the law provides as follows:
If you pay any part of the fine and costs on or after the 31st day after the date of the judgment of conviction, you must pay a time payment fee of $25.00. (Tex. Code of Crim. Proc. Art. 103.003)
If the fine and costs are more than 60 days past due, the Court may refer the judgment to a private attorney or vendor for collection services. You will be charged a collection fee equal to 30% of the amount due. (Tex. Code of Crim. Proc. Art. 103.0031)
If you fail to pay the fine and costs as directed, the Court may notify the Department of Public Safety to deny the renewal of your driver's license. You will be required to pay an administrative fee of $30.00 prior to the renewal of your license. (Tex. Transp. Code §706.006)
If you fail to pay the fine and costs as directed, the Court may notify the Department of Transportation to refuse to register your vehicle. You will be required to pay an additional fee prior to registering your vehicle. (Tex. Transp. Code § 502.185)
If you fail to pay the fine and costs as directed, the Court may issue a capias pro fine commanding a peace officer to bring you before the Court or place you in jail until you can be brought before the Court to explain why you have failed to pay the fine and costs. You will be required to pay additional fees in connection with the issuance of the warrant and your arrest and release. (Tex. Code of Crim. Proc. Art. 102.011)
In certain circumstances, the Court may require a defendant who fails to pay a previously assessed fine or costs, or who is determined by the court to have insufficient resources or income to pay a fine or costs, to discharge all or part of the fine or costs by performing community service. A defendant who performs community service work is considered to have discharged not less than $50 of fines or costs for each eight (8) hours of community service performed. (Tex. Code of Crim. Proc. Art. 45.049)
Q. Will a conviction for a traffic offense be shown on my driving record?
A.The Justice of the Peace is required to submit to the Department of Public Safety a record of a conviction or forfeiture of bail of a person charged with violating a law regulating the operation of a vehicle on a highway. The Justice of the Peace is also required to report the fact that the defendant successfully completed a driving safety course or a motorcycle operator training course and the date of completion.
The Justice of the Peace does not notify the Department of Public Safety following the successful completion of probation under a suspension of sentence and deferral of disposition.
Under the Driver Responsibility Program, the driver's license of a person accumulates points as of the date the Department of Public Safety records a conviction. A moving violation of the traffic law is assigned two points and a moving violation that resulted in an accident is assigned 3 points.
No points are assigned for speeding less than 10 percent faster than the posted speed limit, unless the offense was committed in a school crossing zone.
No points are assigned following the successful completion of the terms of probation imposed under a suspension of sentence and deferral of final disposition or for the successful completion of the driving safety course or motorcycle operator training course dismissal procedures.
If you accumulate 6 or more points during the preceding 36 month period, you will be required to pay to the Department of Public Safety, a surcharge of $100.00 for the first 6 points, and $25.00 for each additional point.
Each year the Department of Public Safety will assess a surcharge of $250.00 if, during the preceding 36-month period you have been convicted of "driving while license invalid," "failure to show proof of financial responsibility (no insurance)," or "operating a motor vehicle while the registration is suspended."
Each year the Department of Public Safety will assess a surcharge of $100.00 if, during the preceding 36-month period you have been convicted of "driving without a valid license."
The Driver Responsibility Program applies to an offense committed on or after September 1, 2003.
Q. How do I request a Suspension of Sentence and Deferral of Final Disposition ("Deferred Disposition")?
A. The procedures for a Suspension of Sentence and Deferral of Final Disposition, often called a "deferred disposition," are found in Art. 45.051 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure. The Justice of the Peace has the discretion to grant you this option. However, you may not apply for a deferred disposition if you have been charged with an offense committed in a construction and maintenance work zone when workers were present, or if you hold a commercial driver's license, or if you held a commercial driver's license when the offense was committed.
This procedure requires a plea of "guilty" or "no contest" to the offense with which you are charged, and the payment of all court costs. You will be placed on probation for a period not to exceed 180 days, during which time you will be required to comply with certain specified conditions of probation.
If you are younger than 25 years of age and charged with a traffic offense classified as a moving violation, you must complete a driving safety course approved by the Texas Education Agency, and if you hold a provisional license, you must also take or re-take the examination required by the Department of Public Safety for all driver's license applicants to demonstrate your ability to exercise ordinary and reasonable control in the operation of a motor vehicle. You are required to pay a $10 fee to the Department of Public Safety for this examination. You may also be required to complete an additional four-hour live, interactive driving safety course focusing on issues specific to drivers younger than 25 years of age
If you timely present satisfactory evidence that you have complied with the requirements of probation, the Justice of the Peace will dismiss the case and there is no final conviction. You may be required to pay a special expense not to exceed the amount of the fine that was originally assessed.
If you do not timely present satisfactory evidence of compliance, the Justice of the Peace will impose the fine assessed which constitutes a final conviction and you will be responsible for the immediate payment of the fine assessed.
This information is furnished to you to provide basic information relative to the law governing procedures for traffic cases in the Harris County Justice Courts.
The Harris County Justices of the Peace and the Clerks of the Harris County Justice Courts are not allowed to give legal advice. You are urged to review the applicable laws and to consult an attorney of your choice for further information or answers to specific legal questions.
You have the right to a trial by a jury and to be represented by an attorney of your choice, or to represent yourself.
Traffic offenses, generally, are punishable by a fine of not more than $200.00 and all costs of court.
Disclaimer: The law is constantly changing and there may be times when the information on this web site will not be current. This information is provided for general informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. This information is not a comprehensive treatment of the subject and is not a substitute for advice from an attorney.