Justice of the Peace Court in Texas

Justice of the Peace Court in Texas

When it comes to criminal cases, your case may be assigned to a Justice of the Peace Court, Municipal Court, County Court, or District Court. A Justice of the Peace Court in Texas and a Municipal Court for example (City of Austin, City of Round Rock, City of Georgetown) handle the same level of criminal charges. The level of criminal charges are Class C misdemeanors and they are the lowest level criminal charge in Texas.

Justice of the Peace Court in Texas

In Texas, the counties are broken up into sections. These sections are called Precincts. The Justice of the Peace Courts (JP Courts) have assigned number precincts. For example, Williamson county has 4 JP Courts and Travis County has 5. The precinct where you you received the traffic ticket or were arrested, is the JP Court precinct where your case will be heard. Usually Justices of the Peace do not have law degrees and they are not attorneys.

What happens in JP Court?

Much like the other Courts, you will be assigned a First Appearance date or an Arraignment date. JP Courts tend to be a little less formal than County Courts at Law or District Courts. However, you should still act respectful when in JP Court and act/dress appropriately. I usually tell me clients to dress like they’re going to church. In a previous post I explained what happens on your first Court date. This will remove a lot of uncertainty for you, and answer a lot of common questions you might have. You or I will be given a chance to talk to a prosecutor and try to work out a plea bargain in your case.

What is a Deferred Disposition?

In JP Courts, unless you have a long criminal record, you will usually be offered a Deferred Disposition as part of your plea bargain. A Deferred Disposition often includes a plea of guilty or Nolo Contendere or “No Contest.” For example, if you were arrested for Public Intoxication (PI) you may be offered a 90 day or 180 day Deferred Disposition. What does that mean? A Deferred Disposition on a Class C misdemeanor means that if you successfully complete the conditions and don’t get in trouble during the agreed period of time, then THERE WILL BE NO CONVICTION ON YOUR RECORD. Not only that, but your record would also be eligible for a type of Record Sealing called an Expunction.

How does that affect your case?

It means two things. First, it means that you won’t have a conviction on your permanent criminal record. Second, it means that after you complete the terms of your Deferred Disposition, the criminal charge and the arrest can later be gone from your record, forever. This means that you can deny the incident ever even happened once it is expunged! This is great news, especially if you are job hunting or about to graduate from school.

Think about these things when you’re in JP Court. Although the criminal charges may seem like no big deal at the time, they can have long lasting effects on your life. Keep this in mind when you’re in a Justice of the Peace Court in Texas and you “just want to pay the fine.”


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