What You Can Expect When You Come To Court:
Under Texas State law, you are classified as a juvenile if you are under the age of 17. You must appear in Court with a parent or a legal guardian. You may also bring a lawyer, but the presence of your parent/guardian is still required. 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.
If you do not appear in court as scheduled, an additional charge of Failure to Appear (FTA) may be filed against you, which could result in a warrant issued for your arrest.
At your court appearance, you are expected to act and dress properly and follow the rules of the Court. Shorts, tank tops, halters, caps or hats, and any type of clothing displaying vulgar or offensive graphics are not permitted. The use of cell phones and other electronic devices are strictly prohibited unless permission has been granted by the Judge for a specific purpose.
At your court appearance, you have certain options available to you:
- You may enter a plea of not guilty, guilty or nolo contendere (no contest).
- If the plea is guilty or nolo contendere, you may offer proof as to the offense, and the punishment shall be assessed by the court. Code of Criminal Procedure Art. 45.022.
- If the plea is not guilty, the case shall be set for trial by the court (upon written waiver) or trial by jury.
- A plea of not guilty shall be entered by the court if the defendant refuses to plead. Code of Criminal Procedure Art. 45.024.
You may request a referral to Teen Court. To be eligible for referral to Teen Court, you must:
- Be charged with a fine-only offense, Class C misdemeanor for a non-traffic violation, not involving traffic or parking violations; and
- You must be under the age of eighteen (18) and enrolled full-time in an accredited secondary school in a program leading toward a high school diploma.
- Any defendant charged with a curfew violation under the City of Houston Code of Ordinances shall be automatically referred to the Teen Court per Section 28-176.
Additional information regarding Teen Court is available by visiting: https://www.houstontx.gov/courts/teen_court.html.
You may enter a plea of guilty or no contest and request deferred disposition.
If you request deferred disposition and it is granted by the Judge, you may be referred to work with a Juvenile Case Manager in order to successfully resolve your case. Court fines and costs will be suspended during the compliance period. The Judge, working with the Juvenile Case Manager, will set the terms and conditions of the deferred disposition, which you must follow for a period up to 6 months. Terms of deferred disposition may include: community service hours, workshop attendance, parental involvement, as well as sanctions that are in your best interest. Once the deferred disposition order has been signed, your case will be reset. If the terms and conditions are successfully completed, your case will be dismissed. When the case is dismissed, there will be no record of a conviction. Deferred disposition allows you to receive a "second chance." You are required to maintain updated phone number and address information with the Court until your case has been concluded.
You may enter a plea of guilty or no contest and request community service hours in lieu of paying a fine.
YOU SHOULD BE PREPARED TO PAY THE FINE AT THE TIME YOU ARE FOUND GUILTY IF YOU DO NOT CHOOSE ONE OF THE OPTIONS ABOVE.
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.