In all trials, the Town Attorney or Town Prosecutor presents the complaint. A complaint document alleges the act you are accused of committing. There are certain rules that must be followed by all participants. The presentation of evidence, the cross-examination of witnesses, and any objections must be properly made pursuant to the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure and Texas Rules of Evidence. Just as the Prosecutor is expected to follow the rules, so will you. You have the following rights in court:
- The right to have notice of the complaint not later than the day before any proceedings.
- The right to inspect the complaint before trial and have it read to you at the trial.
- The right to have your case tried before a jury if you so desire.
- The right to hear all testimony introduced against you.
- The right to cross-examine witnesses who testify against you.
- The right to testify in your behalf.
- The right not to testify, if you so desire. If you choose not to testify, your refusal to do so may not be held against you in determining your innocence or guilt.
- You may call witnesses to testify on your behalf at the trial, and have the court issue a subpoena (a court order) to any witnesses to ensure their appearance at the trial.
Types of Trials
There are two kinds of trials. A bench trial is presented to the Judge of the Court. Each side presents their case and the judge rules on the evidence. A jury trial is presented before a six-member jury panel. Selection of this panel takes place prior to the trial from a pool of prospective jurors. Both sides have an opportunity to ask questions of the jury pool before the selection is made. In each jury trial, you are also permitted to strike three members of the jury panel for any reason you choose, except for an illegal reason (such as a strike based solely upon a person's race or gender).
Presentation of the Case
The State will present its case first by calling witnesses to testify against you. After prosecution witnesses have finished testifying, you have the right to cross-examine. In other words, you may ask the witnesses questions about their testimony or any other facts relevant to the case. You may not, however, argue with the witness. Your cross-examination of the witness must be in the form of questions only. You may not tell your version of the incident at this time; you will have an opportunity to do so later in the trial. After the prosecution has presented its case, you may present your case. You have the right to call any witness who knows anything about the incident. The State has the right to cross-examine any witness that you call. 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. After all, testimony is concluded, both sides can make a closing argument. This is your opportunity to tell the court why you think that you are not guilty of the offense charged. The State has the right to present the first and last arguments. The closing argument may be based only on the testimony presented during the trial.
Judgment / Verdict
If the judge tries the case, the judge's decision is called a judgment. If a jury tries the case, the jury's decision is called a verdict. In determining the defendant's guilt or innocence, the judge or jury may consider only the testimony of witnesses and any evidence admitted during the trial. If you are found guilty by either the judge or jury, the fine, and costs will be announced at that time. Unless you plan to appeal your case, you should be prepared to pay the fine at this time.
If you are found guilty and are not satisfied with the judgment of the court, you have the right to appeal your case. To appeal, you must file an appeal bond (bond will be twice the fine and court costs) with the municipal court within 10 days of the judgment, when you appeared in open court.