Justices of the Peace have original jurisdiction in criminal cases punishable by fine only, or punishable by a fine and a sanction not consisting of confinement or imprisonment.
Criminal procedures for cases that are within the criminal jurisdiction of the Hill County Justice Courts are found in Chapter 45 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure.
The Rules of Evidence governing the trials of criminal actions in the District Courts apply to a criminal proceeding in the Justice Courts.
The Hill County County Attorney prosecutes traffic cases filed in the Hill County Justice Courts.
Rights of Defendants
If you are accused of an offense within the jurisdiction of the Justice Court, you have certain rights.
You have the right to see the complaint or citation that has been filed with the court.
You have the right to a trial by jury, but you may waive the right to a trial by jury and be tried by the court.
You have the right to be represented by an attorney of your choice. You are not required to be represented by an attorney. An attorney may make an appearance on your behalf.
You have the right to remain silent and not to give evidence against yourself. You may waive this right and discuss your case with a prosecutor in an effort to dispose of your case without trial.
First Appearance in Court
Your traffic citation or summons will specify a date and time on which you are required to appear in court. You may comply with a written promise to appear in court by an appearance by counsel. Tex. Transportation Code §543.009
At the time of your first appearance, you will be identified as the defendant, and you will be asked how you plead to the offense with which you are charged.
Pleas are "not guilty," "guilty," or "no contest."
If you plead not guilty, your case will be set for trial. You may waive your right to a trial by jury and have the case heard by the court. At your request, the court will subpoena a witness on your behalf, but you must furnish the court with the name, address, and telephone number of each witness prior to trial. You may be required to attend a pre-trial hearing.
If you refuse to enter a plea, the court will enter a plea of not guilty for you, and your case will be set for a jury trial unless you waive that right.
If you plead guilty or no contest, the court will find you guilty and assess a fine as punishment. A plea of no contest has the same result as a plea of guilty, but it may not be used against you in any civil proceeding that might arise from the incident leading to your arrest.
If you are pleading guilty or no contest, you may present any evidence or documents to the court in connection with the offense and you may explain any mitigating circumstances that may affect punishment.
If you are unsure about how to plead, do not hesitate to enter a plea of not guilty.
The court may be required to provide you certain notices, and it is your responsibility to notify the court of any change of address.
You may request documents and evidence in your case from the State by following the discovery procedures set out in Art. 39.14 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure. ("Discovery" is the process by which the defendant may request evidence related to the case from the State.)
If You Do Not Want To Appear In Court
For most offenses for which a citation has been issued, fines can be paid online by using the Certified Payments website. Unless a warrant has been issued ordering your arrest, an online payment may also be made after your appearance date until at least five (5) business days before a scheduled trial date.
Pay the Acceptable Fine in Person or by Mail
If you do not want to appear in court, you have the option of paying your fine by mail or by paying in person at the Justice Court as directed on your citation or summons. Before the time you must appear in court, mail or bring to the court a Traffic Citation Reply Form together with your payment of the acceptable fine. The acceptable fine amount will include the court costs for the offense with which you are charged.
If you are paying by mail, you must pay by cashier's check or money order, payable to the Hill County Justice Court. If you are paying in person, you may pay your fine in cash, by cashier's check or money order, or by credit card.
Payment of the acceptable fine constitutes a finding of guilt in open court as though you had entered a plea of no contest.
Enter a Plea of Not Guilty by Mail
Before the time you must appear in court, you may mail or bring to the court a plea of not guilty using the Traffic Citation Reply Form. The court will set your case for a jury trial. If you notify the court that you waive your right to a jury trial, your case will be set for a trial by the court. You may be required to attend a pre-trial conference.