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In Austin, Texas, you are given several options for an alleged traffic speed violation, which, other than the Request Trial and the Pay options, include a Driving Safety course option, and a Deferred Disposition option, both of which must be selected prior to the appearance date on the citation (which appears to be within 4 weeks of the citation).

Would Discovery and Request for Information requests (would these have to be separate in Texas, or can they be a matter of a single request?) have to be entertained prior to entering a plea of not guilty (e.g., requesting a trial)? Do they at all have to be satisfied prior to the 20-work-days date of appearance as per the citation?

E.g., is it at all possible to make a fully informed decision about which of the options to take on a citation (prior to the original 4-week appearance date), after having all the facts on the case, or is there no such legal rights at all?

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This is a general answer based on the state of affairs in various jurisdictions. By that I mean it's not legal advice.

Do not assume that the 20 days is the arraignment. Often the thing that happens when you show up at the 20 days is you talk to a D.A. (and I use that term lightly) who asks you if you are going to pay. Maybe offers you a "deal" which is mostly requiring you to pay the full amount but reduce or eliminate the record. If you try to talk to this DA she will act like she's not a DA and say that she can't discuss the facts. If you don't pay she'll schedule your arraignment and THAT's when you plea. Your best bet is to tell her that you are requesting evidence and in likelihood she'll put your date out far enough.

You should consider the deferral and the safety course as offers. Offers the DA makes before you get all the evidence. No, you do not have a right to see the evidence before accepting an offer. You have the right to say no to the offer. That's the reason the offer is made; to save the DA the time of the process. (The song and dance I mention above is the pre-arraignment offer for low-level cases)

If you reject the offer and get arraigned before you see the evidence you need to tell the judge this before you enter your plea. (Be prepared to show her the written requests)

One thing - this stuff is all way easier if you have an attorney. And this is not the "consult an attorney..." disclaimer (although that applies!). Attorneys will short cut all of this for you. They know the clerks, they get you the front of the line at any appearance, and they generally give your argument credibility. It's totally unfair and it's totally the way it works. Walk into a courtroom at 8am and see 30 people waiting. No clerk, no one, just defendants. Between 8 and 8:10 various people in suits will walk past the bar and start rifling through folders on the clerk's desk. They'll read a folder and put it back. See, they're looking for their client. If you do this the sheriff will handcuff you.

  • i'm not sure this answer is useful at all, looks like you've misread / misunderstood the question -- an Austin resident already has the option for Driving Safety and for the Deferred Disposition options, right at the citation; if the citation ticket is to be believed, one can talk directly to the court (e.g., presumably, the judge) to get those options sorted out, no need to talk to the DA for that – cnst Aug 3 '15 at 0:57
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    presumably the judge - go see about that. – jqning Aug 3 '15 at 1:00
  • also, this part, they generally give your argument credibility, is entirely incorrect -- the judge is supposed to be impartial, and if they're not, they're violating their oath; I find it outrageous that you could even suggest that the same argument by an attorney would be viewed more credible than by a self-represented plaintiff (an attorney would likely help to deal with the prosecutor's indirection, however; but it's unlikely to help with the judge if the case holds no water) – cnst Aug 3 '15 at 1:03
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    Yeah credibility is not the right word. You've got it all figured out though. Good luck. – jqning Aug 3 '15 at 1:16
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According to a court clerk in Austin Municipal Court, the discovery cannot be done prior to pleading on the case and requesting a pre-trial hearing. E.g., you would have to plead not-guilty and request a trial in order for the discovery requests to be entertained.

According to the same clerk, if you, for example, do select a Driving Safety Course, but later change your mind, then a motion for a new trial would have to be filed. This is partly evidenced by the fact once the option is selected, a piece of paper is produced that claims that you've appeared, pleaded no-contest and waived your right to a judge or a jury trial, at which point you're found guilty, with a deferred judgment, and with the option of case dismissal should certain conditions be satisfied.

It is not entirely clear whether the original option of the Driving Safety Course and a reduced fine of 113$ that comes with such option (instead of an EARLY AMT of 165$, or the STANDARD AMT of 196$, for the lowest 10mph-over-the-limit charge on an interstate) goes out of the window when you do ask for a trial, since no trial would actually occur prior to the original appearance date on the ticket, so, I would imagine that the option could still be exercised before a walk-in judge (however, the clerks couldn't confirm anything like that, and CR 45.0511 doesn't really explain this, either). (Prices are for Austin in Travis County as of August 2015.)

Art. 45.0511. DRIVING SAFETY COURSE OR MOTORCYCLE OPERATOR COURSE DISMISSAL PROCEDURES. (a) Except as provided by Subsection (a-1), this article applies only to an alleged offense that:

(3) the defendant enters a plea under Article 45.021 in person or in writing of no contest or guilty on or before the answer date on the notice to appear and:

On the other hand, if the trial is selected prior to the original appearance date, and the fee of 165$ is paid, then, according to the same clerk, it would already cover and include all court and jury fees as well in case one is not acquitted; although the jury does have the right to increase these fees to 500$, or to lower them, too.


However, instead of obtaining the required information through the Discovery process, it could also instead be obtained through the Open Records Request under the Texas Public Information Act as well (but there might be extra charges for such service).

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In Texas most moving violations are class C misdemeanors. They do not carry a possible jail sentence (that doesn't mean you can't be jailed for failure to appear which is a separate and distinct offense). They usually have a maximum fine of $200.00 and not $500.00 although there are exceptions like being ticketed in a school zone, for school bus stop sign violations and for construction zones when workers are present.

The options of Defensive Driving are usually only if not in a school zone, if no workers are present in a work zone, and only if you do not have a commercial drivers license. If you take the defensive driving course you usually have to elect to do it before your first appearance date. You'd pay around 110 dollars and the court will dispose of your case after you take the course, pay around 25 dollars for the course and get a certified copy of your driving record showing that you didn't take a similar course for traffic ticket disposal in the prior year.

Deferred adjudication is like probation where you agree not to get a ticket (really a conviction) for speeding in the time allowed by the court, which can be 60, 90, 120 days or whatever the judge agrees. After you fulfill this obligation, you need to file a motion to the court and they will dismiss your case resulting in no points and no conviction.

If you decide to plead not guilty at your arraignment, they'll likely set a court date for a pre-trial hearing (but they might not). If you want to get discovery you can file a motion for discovery but you should file it prior to your pre-trial hearing date so you can get the court to order the prosecution to provide the discovery. If the court orders the prosecution to cough up the evidence against you, you probably don't have to pay anything for it. Or you can file Freedom of Information act requests to get it, but might have to pay for it in those cases.

You have a right to a jury trial for a traffic ticket in Texas if the fine is more than 20 dollars, and unless you waive that right, they have to provide it for you. You do not have to accept a bench trial (trial by judge) even though the prosecution will likely pressure you to waive that right.

If you're not provided the discovery that the court orders in a reasonable time period prior to your trial, the court might dismiss your case. It might not. Depends on the judge.

I've used this many times when I fight my traffic tickets. Your mileage may vary depending on the court.

If your trial is in a "court of record" - which means they record your trial and the judge is a real attorney, then it's harder to appeal if you are found guilty. Much harder and more expensive.

If the trial is held in a court that is NOT a court of record (the judge might not be an attorney) and you lose your trial, you can appeal it to a court of record and the trial is held "de novo" - or all over again, with a new judge in a county court of record. There will be a 'appeal bond' you'd need to file to appeal this kind of decision which will usually be two times the fine (whatever the jury fines you) and the court costs. So if the jury finds you guilty and assesses the fine of 30 dollars, and your court costs are 120 dollars, then your appeal bond will be 300 dollars. You'd make that out to the county and you have to pay it (perfect it) within 10 days from the date you are found guilty. - also not that if you also want the jury to assess the fine if they find you guilty then you NEED to ask the judge to tell them to do that PRIOR to the start of the trial.

If you are found not guilty you don't owe anything and can walk out and forget the matter.

If there is a hung jury you might be tried again, but that's not likely.

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