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Judge Charles J. Karisch

Justice of the Peace, Precinct One

846 6th Street, Suite 1
Hempstead, TX 77445

Phone: 979-826-7745
Email: wcjp1@wallercounty.us

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This is possibly your first experience in any court. The purpose of the following is to help you understand the court proceedings. Our desire is to have every person leave this Court assured that he or she has had a fair and impartial trial.

Justice of the Peace Courts try misdemeanor criminal cases, including traffic violations for which no jail sentence is a part of the punishment. These trials are conducted under the laws found in the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure.

REMEMBER: The motorist is not always right; that is why we have officers. The officer is not always right; that is why we have courts. If you disagree with the court ruling, you have the right to appeal.

Before Court Begins:

On or before the court date noted on your citation you must enter a plea to the charge against you. If you signed the citation in front of an officer, you did not plead guilty, but only signed a promise to appear in court by the date noted on the citation. There are three possible pleas to a complaint:

  1. "Guilty";
  2. "Nolo Contendere"' and,
  3. "Not Guilty".

Under our American system of justice, all persons are presumed to be innocent until proven guilty. On a plea of not guilty, a formal trial is held. As in all criminal trials, the State is required to prove the violation charged in the complaint "beyond a reasonable doubt" before a defendant can be found guilty by a judge or jury. Your decision concerning which plea to enter is very important. You should read the following explanations of all three types of pleas and think carefully before making your decision.

Plea of Guilty:

By a plea of guilty, you admit that the act is prohibited by law and that you committed the act charged. Ignorance of the law is never a defense. However, before entering your plea of guilty, you should understand that a plea of guilty may be used against you in a civil suit.

Plea of Nolo Contendere:

A plea of nolo contendere simply means that you do not contest the State's charge against you. You will almost certainly be found guilty upon a plea of nolo contendere, but it is not an admission by you that you are guilty. A plea of nolo contendere cannot be used against you in a civil suit for damages as can a plea of guilty.

You should be prepared to pay your fine when you enter a plea of guilty or nolo contendere. You should ask the Clerk in what manner the Court will accept payment.

Plea of Not Guilty:

A plea of not guilty means that you are informing the Court that you deny guilt in this case and that the State must prove the violation it has charged against you.

You may plead not guilty and take your case before the Court for trial if you believe that:

  1. you are not guilty;
  2. you have a good defense; or,
  3. the State cannot prove its case.

If you plead not guilty, you will need to decide whether to employ a lawyer to represent you or to defend yourself at trial. No one but yourself or a licensed lawyer may represent you. In Justice Court you are not entitled to a court appointed attorney.

The Trial:

Should you decide to plead not guilty, you have the right to a full, fair, open trial as in any other court. The following will aid you to understand trial procedure and the manner of presenting your case.

Under Texas law, you can be brought to trial only after a formal complaint is filed against you. A complaint is the instrument which alleges what you are supposed to have done, and the fact that such action is unlawful. You can be tried only for what is alleged in this complaint.

You have the right to be represented by an attorney.

You have the right to inspect this complaint before trial and have it read to you at the trial itself.

You have the right to have your case tried before a jury, if you elect.

You are entitled to hear all testimony introduced against you.

You have the right to cross-examine any witness who testifies against you.

You have the right to remain silent. If you choose not to testify, this cannot be used against you in determining your innocence or guilt of the charge. You have the right to testify in your behalf.

You may call witnesses to testify in your behalf at the trial, and you may have the Court issue subpoenas to these witnesses to ensure their appearance at the trial.

Presenting the Case:

As in all criminal trials, the State will present its case first by calling witnesses to testify against you. After each prosecution witness has finished his testimony, you will have the right to cross-examine the witness. In other words, you can ask the witness questions about sworn testimony or any other facts relevant to the case. However, you cannot argue with the witness. Your cross-examination of the witness must be in the form of questions only. Do not attempt to tell your version of the incident at this time.

You will have an opportunity to do so later in the trial. After the prosecution has presented its case, you may present your case. You have the right to call any witness who knows anything about the incident. If you so desire, you may testify in your behalf. Because you are the defendant, you cannot be compelled to testify. It is your choice, and your silence cannot be used against you. If you do testify, try to be fair and calm. Particularly, tell the truth and do not try to avoid answering any questions.

The prosecution also has the right to cross-examine all witnesses you call. If you testify in your behalf, the prosecution may cross-examine you. After all testimony is concluded, both sides can make a closing argument. This is your opportunity to tell the Court why you think you are not guilty of the offense charged. The closing argument can only be based on the testimony heard during the trial.

Judgment/Verdict:

If the case is tried by the judge alone, the judge's decision is called a judgment. If the case if tried by a jury, the jury's decision is called a verdict. In making the determination of guilty or not guilty at the end of the trial, the Judge or jury can only consider the testimony of witnesses made during the trial under oath and any written evidence submitted under the court's rulings. If you are found guilty, the Judge will announce the penalty at that time. Unless you plan to appeal your case, you should be prepared to pay the fine at this time.

Fines:

The amount of the fine the Court assesses is affected by the facts and circumstances of the case. Mitigating circumstances may lower the fine, even if you are guilty. On the other hand, aggravating circumstances may increase the fine. Fines may vary but are set according to applicable laws.

Right to Appeal:

If you are not satisfied with the judgment of the Court, you have the right to appeal your case to County Court. To appeal, you must file an appeal bond with the Justice of the Peace within 10 days from the date of judgment. In County Court, you will have a new trial before another judge or jury. That is, the entire case is tried anew in the County Court as if it had never been tried in the Justice Court.

Defensive Driving Courses:

You may be able to require that one traffic citation be dismissed by taking an approved driving safety course. HOWEVER, you may lose that right if you do not provide written notice of your desire to do so and a plea of guilty or no contest to the Court on or before the appearance date (as shown on your citation) See “Traffic Forms” tab.

The information contained herein is FOR YOUR INFORMATION and is offered as a guide to all interested parties. THIS INFORMATION IS FOR PROCEDURE ONLY. IT IS NOT INTENDED FOR LEGAL ADVICE OR TO TAKE THE PLACE OF AN ATTORNEY. THIS OFFICE CANNOT GIVE LEGAL ADVICE. As always, we recommend that you consult an attorney.

CIVIL CASE FILING FEE is $41.00.

CONSTABLE’S CITATION SERVICE FEE is $75.00 per defendant

If the defendant is to be served outside of Waller County, Texas:

  1. Call the county courthouse in the county where the Defendant is to be served.
  2. Ask for the name of the Constable or Sheriff in the precinct where the Defendant is to be served; then call that office and find out the service fee for serving a Justice Court Citation.
  3. Get the address of the Constable or Sheriff who will be serving the citation.

Venue: 
Suit should be filed in the county and precinct where one or more Defendant(s) reside. (Civil Practice and Remedies Code 15.082) If the suit is based on a contract or tort. the Defendant may also be sued in the county where the contract was entered into or to be performed, or where the tort occurred. If the suit is filed in this court and the Defendant filed a Motion to Transfer Venue (a request that the suit be transferred to another county or precinct), the Plaintiff will be liable for any additional filing fee if the suit is transferred.

Jurisdiction:
Jurisdiction (an issue over which the Court has authority) in Justice Court suits is for civil matters in which exclusive jurisdiction is not in the County or District Court and in which the amount in controversy is not more than $10,000.00, exclusive of interest. Justice Court also has jurisdiction over suits for foreclosure of mortgages and enforcement of liens on personal property where the amount in controversy is not more than $10,000.00, exclusive of interest. Justice Court also has jurisdiction over deed restriction cases with no limit on monetary amount.

Filing Suit: 
The responsibility for completing the petition rests with the Plaintiff. PLEADINGS MUST BE FILED IN DUPLICATE. The Court Clerks will assist with procedural questions. It is important that the Plaintiff understand that for a judgment to be valid, it is necessary to sue the Defendant in their legal capacity. They are as follows:

  • INDIVIDUAL
    A party personally responsible for damages.
  • SOLE PROPRIETOR OR PARTNERSHIP
    A business that is not incorporated but has filed an assumed name certificate with the County Clerk in the county of business that lists the owner(s). The County Clerk's office for Waller County is in Hempstead. For more information, call the Waller County Clerk at 979-826-7711.
  • CORPORATION
    A business that is incorporated. To sue a corporation, the Plaintiff must find the name of the REGISTERED AGENT, PRESIDENT, and OR VICE PRESIDENT of the corporation before filing the suit. The Secretary of State [(512) 463-5555] has that information. The Plaintiff will also need the ADDRESS of the REGISTERED AGENT, PRESIDENT, and OR VICE PRESIDENT for service of citation. When the suit is filed, the Plaintiff will be filing against the corporation and serving the citation on one of the above mentioned officers of the corporation. It is also possible for an incorporated entity to have as assumed name, e.g. John's Auto Shop, Inc. dba John's Garage.


Citation: 
Unless the Court is informed by the Plaintiff of the election of another entity for service, the Court will forward the citation to the Constable. Citations that will be served in a county other than Polk will be returned to Plaintiff, Plaintiff's agent, or attorney to forward to the appropriate agency for service.

Answer: 
The Defendant(s) in the suit must file a written answer with the Court by the 14th day from the date the citation was served upon the Defendant(s). The Rules of Court govern a proper written answer.

Representation: 
An individual may represent themselves in a Justice Court suit, be represented by an authorized agent in an eviction case or, be represented by an attorney. A corporation or other entity may be represented by an employee, owner, officer or partner of the entity who is not an attorney, be represented by a property manager or other authorized agent in an eviction case or be represented by an attorney. The court may, for good cause, allow an individual representing oneself to be assisted in court by a family member or other individual who is not being compensated.

Preparing your case for Trial: 
The Plaintiff has the burden of proof and must meet that burden by showing thorough evidence that the Defendant is at fault. The Plaintiff should bring to trial all proof of damages and evidence necessary to substantiate the claim. It is the Plaintiff's or Defendant's responsibility to furnish copies of information to the Court and all parties involved. Witnesses to the suit, who will not come to court voluntarily, may be issued a subpoena to compel them to appear. Submit a request for a subpoena in writing at least one week prior to the trial date and pay the required fee for service.

When the defendant cannot be properly served, the case remains in our file until the plaintiff provides an adequate address to accomplish service. If service cannot be accomplished, the case will be set on a Want of Prosecution Docket one year after the last attempted service.

SETTINGS AND NOTICE; POSTPONING TRIAL:

After the defendant answers, the case will be set on a trial docket at the discretion of the judge. The court must send a notice of the date, time, and place of this setting to all parties at their address of record no less than 45 days before the setting date, unless the judge determines that an earlier setting is required in the interest of justice. Reasonable notice of all subsequent settings must be sent to all parties at their addresses of record.

A party may file a motion requesting that the trial be postponed. The motion must state why a postponement is necessary. The judge, for good cause, may postpone any trial for a reasonable time.

After Judgment:
After judgment is entered, the losing party has 21 days to appeal the case to the County Court at Law in Polk County. Should the Court rule the Plaintiff recover nothing or should the Plaintiff receive a judgment for less than requested, the Plaintiff may appeal the case to the County Court within 21 days. If an appeal is not filed within 21 days from the date the judgment is signed, or if a Motion to Set Aside a Default Judgment or a Motion for New Trial is not filed within 5 days from the date the judgment is signed, the judgment becomes final.

THIS COURT DOES NOT COLLECT THE JUDGMENT FOR YOU: 
Some remedies to collect a judgment are as follows:

1. Abstract of Judgment: 
The winning party may obtain an Abstract of Judgment after the judgment is final. The fee for obtaining an Abstract of Judgment is $5.00. The Abstract will be mailed to the party requesting it. The Abstract of Judgment may be filed with the County Clerk's office in the county where the losing party may have real property. After the Abstract of Judgment is filed with the County Clerk, if the losing party sells any real property within 10 years from the date of judgment, the amount of the judgment should be paid. The County Clerk may charge an additional fee for filing the Abstract of Judgment.

2. Writ of Execution: 
A Writ of Execution may be obtained any time after 30 days from the date of judgment. A Writ of Execution allows a Constable or Sheriff to seize non-exempt property from the losing party. If property is seized, an auction is held and the proceeds from the sale are credited toward your judgment. The cost for obtaining a Writ of Execution in Waller County is $75.00.

There may be other remedies available, which are not covered here. PLEASE CONSULT AN ATTORNEY FOR ANY OTHER REMEDIES TO COLLECT A JUDGMENT. SHOULD THE LOSING PARTY PAY THE AMOUNT OWED IT IS NECESSARY TO NOTIFY THE COURT IN WRITING. ADDRESS CHANGES SHOULD BE REPORTED TO THE COURT.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:

Alternative servcie: 
The Defendant in a Justice Court suit should be served personally by the Constable or Sheriff of the county. Sometimes, service is avoided by the Defendant and an alternate method of service is necessary. The Constable, Sheriff, or process serving entity may file an affidavit with the Court stating that service upon the Defendant has not been obtained for various reasons. The Plaintiff may make a motion to the Court that the Defendant is served by alternate service after the Court receives the officer's affidavit. The alternate service may be as provided by statute(s). The Plaintiff will be notified to come to the Court to sign the motion for alternate service. If this is approved, the Judge will sign the order and the citation is returned to the process serving entity.

APPLICABLE STATUTES GOVERNING JUSTICE COURT INCLUDE BUT ARE NOT LIMITED TO CHAPTER 27 OF THE GOVERNMENT CODE, RULES OF COURT, CIVIL PRACTICE AND REMEDIES CODE AND PROPERTY CODE.

CIVIL FEE SCHEDULE

Filing New Civil Case (citation(s) issuance included)  $41.00
 Application for Occupational License $41.00
 Constable's Citation - per defendant $75.00
 Jury Fee $22.00
 Re-Issued Citation No Fee
 Counterclaim / Third Party Action $41.00
 Abstract of Judgment / Writ Issuance  $5.00
 Photo Copy - per page  $1.00
 Certified Copy  $5.00
 Constable's Writ   $200.00


Form of payments include: debit/credit card, money order, or cashier's check.

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