Arraignment & Pre-Trial Hearings
Arraignment (Plea) Hearing
This is the initial appearance before the court to determine your plea. If you waive your right to a trial and plead guilty or nolo contendere (no contest) you may present extenuating circumstances for the judge to consider when determining the proper punishment. However, the judge is not required to reduce your fine. If you qualify, you may also request to complete a Driving Safety Course or Deferred Disposition (probation).
- Guilty - You admit you committed the criminal charge against you.
- Nolo contendere (no contest) - You do not dispute the charge against you. The difference between the plea of guilty and no contest is that the plea of no contest may not later be used against you in a civil suit for damages.
- Not guilty - You are denying the charge against you and the state must prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt.
If you plead guilty or nolo contendere, you will be found guilty and should be prepared to pay the fine assessed. If you are unable to pay the entire amount due you must request a payment extension from the judge. You must be prepared to complete a financial document explaining your financial situation. If the total amount assessed is not paid in full within 30 days from the date the fine is imposed the State of Texas requires a $25 time payment fee be assessed.
If you enter a plea of not guilty, you will be scheduled for a jury trial. You may waive your right to a jury trial and request a bench trial. A trial will require that you appear for a pre-trial hearing prior to scheduling a trial.
All individuals who request a trial are required to attend a pre-trial conference. At the pre-trial conference, you will meet with the prosecutor who may explain various sentencing options including deferred disposition and driving safety course (DSC).
You do not have to explain your side to the prosecutor if you do not want to, as you have the right to remain silent and not say anything at all. If you do choose to speak to the prosecutor, anything that you may say, may be used against you. In addition, you do not have to accept a plea bargain if one is offered as you have a right to a trial.