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Municipal Courts

Local Rules

RULES OF THE MUNICIPAL COURTS
OF THE
CITY OF HOUSTON, TEXAS


Pursuant to the authority of Art. 45.203(b) of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure the following Rules of the Municipal Courts of the City of Houston, Texas are hereby adopted, effective September 22, 2010.


DEFINITIONS


Court where capitalized, shall mean the trial judge handling the matter; otherwise, it shall mean the particular court to which a matter has been assigned.

 

 

RULE  1. ARRAIGNMENT
RULE  2. COURTROOM DECORUM
RULE  3. CONTINUANCES
RULE  4. TRIAL SETTINGS
RULE  5. TRIAL DOCKET
RULE  6. JUVENILES
RULE  7. MOTION FOR NEWTRIAL
RULE  8. APPEAL BOND
RULE  9. BAIL BONDS
RULE 10. AMOUNT OF BOND
RULE 11. FORFEITURE OF BAIL BOND
RULE 12. REVIEW OF COURT DOCUMENTS
RULE 13. CERTIFIED COPIES
RULE 14. ADMINISTRATIVE HEARINGS
RULE 15. ATTORNEY VACATIONS
RULE 16. TRANSFER OF CASE
RULE 17. ASSOCIATE JUDGES


RULE 1. ARRAIGNMENT


1.1 The court appearance date that appears on a citation is the arraignment setting.


1.2 An arraignment takes place for the purpose of fixing a defendant's identity and hearing his plea. Code of Criminal Procedure Art. 26.02.


1.3 At the arraignment, the defendant may enter a plea of not guilty, guilty or nolo contendere (no contest).


1.4 If the plea is guilty or nolo contendere, the defendant may offer proof as to the offense, and the punishment shall be assessed by the court. Code of Criminal Procedure Art. 45.022.


1.5 If the plea is not guilty, the case shall be set for trial by the court (upon written waiver) or trial by jury.


1.6 A plea of not guilty shall be entered by the court if the defendant refuses to plead. Code of Criminal Procedure Art. 45.024.


1.7 Arraignment for those persons detained in the City jail for criminal offenses within the jurisdiction of the City of Houston Municipal Courts shall be held at times prescribed by the Presiding Judge.


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RULE 2. COURTROOM DECORUM


2.1 The Court shall maintain proper order and decorum and require all litigants, jurors, witnesses, lawyers, and others appearing before the court to conduct themselves in a manner respectful of the Court's authority and function.


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RULE 3. CONTINUANCES


3.1 A continuance may not be requested by mail, electronic mail, facsimile or telephone.


3.2 A case may be continued on the written motion of the State or of the defendant or his attorney. A case may be reset at the discretion of the Court upon sufficient cause shown. Code of Criminal Procedure Art. 29.03.


3.3 In the event the defendant is unavailable to file his motion for continuance, a representative of the defendant may file a written motion signed and sworn to by the defendant, setting forth the reason for the continuance. Code of Criminal Procedure Art. 29.08.


3.4 A request for continuance of a trial setting may be granted by the Court only upon written motion made at least five (5) days prior to the trial date.


3.5 All motions for continuance based upon grounds arising for the first time within the five (5) day period prior to trial date shall be heard at such time as the Court may specify.


3.6 The first request for continuance on Department of Public Safety (DPS) administrative hearings may be made through the DPS office; the maximum continuance obtained in this manner shall be two (2) weeks. Any subsequent requests for a continuance or for a continuance greater than two (2) weeks, may be granted only by the Court.


3.7 Non Issue continuances may be granted to allow later presentation of documentation that the defendant met the requirements for an absolute defense or a mandatory dismissal. Non Issue continuances may also be granted to allow a defendant an opportunity to pay court costs for mandatory and discretionary driver safety course or to post a bond for a deferred disposition (probation).


3.8 Non Issue continuances may include a plea of nolo contendere or guilty. In the event the defendant fails to return on or before the scheduled continuance date or fails to return with the required documentation, a judgment in the amount of the window fine will be entered against the defendant.


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RULE 4. TRIAL SETTINGS


4.1 A plea of not guilty may be made at the arraignment or by written request at a time prior to the arraignment.


4.2 If the defendant waives a trial by jury, the Court shall hear and determine the cause without a jury. Code of Criminal Procedure M. 45.025.


4.3 If the defendant wishes to have a trial by jury, such request may be made at arraignment.


4.4 A hearing on a pre-trial motion may be continued upon written request of either party.


4.5 Notice of the Complaint is deemed waived upon the entry of a plea of guilty or nolo contendere by the defendant. Code of Criminal Procedure Art. 45.018.


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RULE 5. TRIAL DOCKET


5.1 The State and the defendant shall announce "ready" or "not ready," and the Court shall then consider any properly filed pre-trial motions.


5.2 If the defendant, without good cause shown, fails to announce ready for trial at the time the case is called for trial, the Court will enter a plea of "not guilty" on the defendant's behalf and proceed with the trial.


5.3 If the State, without good cause shown, fails to announce ready for trial at the time a case is called for trial, the Court will dismiss the case.


5.4 If the defendant fails to appear in person at the time the case is called for trial a warrant may be issued for his arrest.


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RULE 6. JUVENILES


6.1 A defendant who is younger than 17 years of age and is charged with an offense within the jurisdiction of the Municipal Courts, must be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian at all appearances. No action will be taken
unless the defendant is accompanied by such parent or legal guardian, provided, however, the Court may hear the case upon finding that due diligence has been used to obtain the presence of the parent or legal guardian. Code of Criminal Procedure Art. 45.0215.


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RULE 7. MOTION FOR NEWTRIAL


7.1 A motion for new trial must be made not later than the tenth (10th) day after the date on which judgment is rendered. Government Code Sec. 30.00014.


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RULE 8. APPEAL BOND


8.1 An appeal bond is required to perfect an appeal in the Municipal Courts. Appeal bonds, other than cash appeal bonds, require approval from the Clerk of the Municipal Courts before they are presented to the Court for approval. All appeal bonds require the signature and address of the defendant. An appeal bond must be approved by the Court and must be filed not later than the 10th day after the date the judgment was entered. Code of Criminal Procedure Art. 45.042, 45.0425.


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RULE 9. BAIL BONDS


9.1 A bail bond for a defendant, whether or not in the custody of the Houston Police Department, will be made in the Clerk of the Municipal Courts Bond Administration Office or public services counters.


9.2 In all cases where the defendant is in the custody of any other law enforcement agency and there is a "hold order" placed upon said defendant by the City for delinquent charges, the defendant may secure his release by:


9.2.1 Posting a cash bond in the Clerk of the Municipal Courts Bond Administration Office or public services counters after the defendant is transferred to the City of Houston jail; or


9.2.2 Posting a surety bond by having the defendant sign a properly executed surety bond and returning it to the Clerk of the Municipal Courts Bond Administration Office or public services counters; or


9.2.3 Posting a recognizance bond, which will be granted only by a magistrate assigned to hear the jail arraignment docket.


9.3 All bonds must be signed by the defendant.


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RULE 10. AMOUNT OF BOND


10.1 The Presiding Judge shall provide a bond schedule that shall be followed in all courts, unless or until modified by the Presiding Judge.


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RULE 11. FORFEITURE OF BAIL BOND


11.1 If a defendant is bound by bail and fails to appear in person in court as scheduled, the Court will (1) issue a bond forfeiture order, (2) enter a judgment nisi and (3) issue a warrant for the defendant's arrest and may order an increase of future bail in the case.


11.2. If the defendant fails to appear in court as scheduled and has posted a cash bond, entered a written and signed plea of nolo contendere and waiver of jury trial, the Court will enter a judgment. Code of Criminal Procedure Art. 45. 044(a).


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RULE 12. REVIEW OF COURT DOCUMENTS


12.1 Court documents shall be made available for review by the Clerk of the Municipal Courts under reasonable conditions and safeguards, and as required bylaw.


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RULE 13. CERTIFIED COPIES


13.1 Certified copies of court documents may be obtained from the Clerk of the Municipal Courts Bond Administration Office at the fees set forth in the City Code of ordinances. A defendant is entitled to only one (1) free uncertified copy of the complaint of a pending case.


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RULE 14. ADMINISTRATIVE HEARINGS


14.1 Hearings involving driver's license suspensions or revocations are administrative, not criminal proceedings.


14.2 Continuances for driver's license suspension hearings are governed by Rule 3.6.


14.3 Hearings involving parking citations are administrative, not criminal proceedings.


14.4 Parking hearings are held each day of the week at times prescribed by the Presiding Judge.


14.5 Appeals from parking hearings shall be heard by the Administrative Judge at times prescribed by the Presiding Judge.


14.6 Hearings involving red light camera violations are administrative, not criminal proceedings.


14.7 Red light camera hearings are held each day of the week (or by mail) at times prescribed by the Presiding Judge.


14.8 Appeals from red light camera hearings shall be heard by the Administrative Judge times prescribed by the Presiding Judge.


14.9 Appeals from a determination that a dog is dangerous shall be heard by the Administrative Judge at times prescribed by the Presiding Judge.


14.10 Appeals from an Order that a dog found to be dangerous be euthanized shall be heard by the Administrative Judge at a time prescribed by the Presiding Judge.


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RULE 15. ATTORNEY VACATIONS


15.1 Attorney vacation requests shall be governed by the procedures set forth in Rule 3.


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RULE 16. TRANSFER OF CASE


16.1 The Presiding Judge may temporarily assign Judges to exchange benches and to sit and act for each other in a proceeding pending in a court if necessary for the expeditious disposition of business in the courts.


16.2 A Court may transfer any case to another court, provided that the court to which the case is to be transferred accepts the case. No specified order of transfer need be entered of record.


16.3 Courts shall not make any disposition or take any action on a case not set on the docket for which that Court is responsible, unless such action is documented by the Court in the docket history of the case.


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RULE 17. ASSOCIATE JUDGES


17.1 Associate Judges shall have the same powers as other municipal court judges, including the duties of magistrate and shall serve in such courts and at such times as prescribed by the Presiding Judge.


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