Judge's Pre-Arraignment Statement
When each defendant's name is called he comes to the bench. The judge will inquire if he understood the rights and procedures explained on the arraignment video. If he did not, the judge will explain them to the defendant's understanding. The complaint which charges the defendant with a violation of the city ordinance is then read. It is simply a copy of the traffic or non-traffic citation which the defendant has previously received. After reading the complaint, if the defendant does not understand the charge, the judge will go into a further explanation.
The judge then advises the defendant the maximum punishment which can be imposed upon a conviction, plea of guilty or plea of no contest.
Every defendant charged with a violation of a city ordinance has a right to be represented by an attorney. If the defendant has an attorney, the attorney can be present during the proceedings and any subsequent proceedings in the case.
When the defendant appears before the bench, if he has not previously appeared before one of the judges and entered a plea, he will be asked to enter one of three pleas.
The defendant may enter a plea of not guilty. If a not guilty plea is entered, an appearance bond will be set and a trial date given to him. He will then go to the counter in the lobby, post the bond with the clerk and be released to return on the trial date.
If the penalty for the violation of the city ordinance seeks imposition of a fine of more than five hundred dollars (500.00), excluding court costs, or carried jail time, or both such fine and imprisonment, the defendant will have a right to a jury trial. The defendant may waive that right and if he does, his case will be set on a non-jury docket on his plea of not guilty.
On the trial date the city attorney will be required to have the city's witnesses present and required to present sufficient evidence to show that the defendant was in violation of the city ordinance. The defendant will have the opportunity to present any evidence on his own behalf. After all the evidence has been presented the judge will make a finding. If the finding is not guilty, the defendant's appearance bond will be refunded and the case is over.
If the judge finds the defendant guilty, punishment will be fixed and the defendant will have a right to appeal the ruling by posting an appeal bond with the clerk. The case will then be set for a new trial before a district judge who will make a determination of the defendant's innocence or guilt. If the defendant is found innocent on appeal, his appeal bond is refunded and the case is over. If the defendant is found guilty, the district judge will set the punishment. From a finding of guilty in the second trial, the defendant has a right to appeal on the record to the Court of Criminal Appeals.
If the defendant pleads guilty, the judge will impose punishment. Whatever fines, fees, or court costs are imposed must be taken care of at the front counter with one of the clerks and the defendant is then free to leave and the case will be over.
If the defendant enters a plea of no contest, the same procedure will be followed as with a plea of guilty. The only significant difference between a guilty plea and a no contest plea is that a no contest plea is not considered an admission by the defendant if he is sued in a civil lawsuit arising from the facts of the city case. In other words, a no contest plea cannot be used against the defendant at a civil trial. On the other hand a guilty plea is an admission on the part of the defendant and may be used against him in a civil lawsuit. For all other purposes a guilty plea and a no contest plea are recognized as the same.