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Local Government Assistance

Justice of the Peace Manual February 2002 CHAPTER 3

Collections and Fees of Office
CHAPTER 3 (Part 1) CHAPTER 3 (Part 2) CHAPTER 3 (Part 3)

(Part 1)
Justices of the peace are entitled to personally retain fees received for performing marriage ceremonies, acting as registrar for the Bureau of Vital Statistics, and for acting as ex officio notory public. All other fees and commissions earned must be paid into the county treasury. [107]

Trust Funds
A defendant who has not paid a judgment in favor of a plaintiff and who has used due diligence in trying to locate the plaintiff may pay the court the amount owed under the judgment. After paying the court, the defendant is released from the judgment. The funds collected are held in trust for the plaintiff, and the justice must remit the funds to the county clerk at least monthly. The clerk then takes responsibility for the money and handles it in accordance with the statute covering trust funds. [108] Restitution on bad checks may be made through a Justice Bad Check Restitution Account if approved by the court. Restitution may be made through the prosecutor's office if collection and processing were initiated through that office. [109]

Specific Collections
Justices of the peace are required to charge specified fees for certain

services and may impose certain fines. The statutes in this area are numerous and specific. The major fees and fines are described below. Rules of Civil Procedure Either party is entitled to a trial by jury. The party desiring a jury must request one not less than one day in advance of the date set for trial. The party also must deposit a jury fee of $5, which should be noted on the docket, and the case set down as a jury case. [110] Civil Practices and Remedies Code A witness is entitled to $10 for each day the witness attends court, unless the witness lives within 150 miles of the county where the proceedings are being held. This fee includes the entitlement for travel. The witness is not entitled to any reimbursement for mileage traveled. [111] The party who summons the witness must pay the witness's fee for one day at the time the subpoena is served on the witness. The witness fee must be assessed in the bill of costs as other costs. A justice court may order a party who demands a jury trial in a justice court and who fails to appear for the trial to pay the costs incurred for impaneling the jury. [112] The justice court may, for good cause, release a party from the obligation to pay costs. An order issued by a justice court, however, may be enforced as contempt of court. Fees in Small Claims Court (Civil Cases) Fees in small claims court are, except as provided by Subchapter E, Chapter 118, Local Government Code, the same as those for cases in justice courts. [113] These include the following: [114] Services Rendered before Judgment (filing of documents and all other processes) 1. Justice Court $15 2. Small Claims Court $10 Services Rendered after Judgment 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. Transcript $10 Abstract of judgment $5 Execution, orders, writs, or other process $5 per page Certified copies $2 for first page; 25 cents thereafter Issuing other documents (no return required) $1 for first page; 25 cents thereafter

Penal Code A fine of not more than $500 must be assessed as punishment against

an individual adjudged guilty of a Class C misdemeanor. [115] Parks and Wildlife Code A justice of the peace who receives a fine imposed by a court for a violation of the Parks and Wildlife Code or a regulation of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission must send the fine to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department within 10 days after the date of collection. A statement containing the docket number of the case, the name of the person fined and the regulation violated must accompany the remittance of the fine. Eighty-five (85) percent of the fine is to be remitted to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the balance is tendered to the County Treasurer. [116] A fine of not less than $25 or more than $500 must be assessed as punishment to an individual adjudged guilty of a Class C Parks and Wildlife Code misdemeanor. [117] The law specifically says that "each fish, bird, animal, reptile, or amphibian or part of a fish, bird, animal, reptile, or amphibian taken, possessed, killed, left to die, imported, exported, offered for sale, sold, purchased, attempted to be purchased, or retained in violation of any provision of this code or a proclamation or regulation adopted under this code constitutes a separate offense."
[118]

Code of Criminal Procedure A justice may enter a judgment of conviction and forfeit a cash bond posted by the defendant to satisfy the defendant's fine and cost if the defendant: 1. entered a written and signed plea of nolo contendere and a waiver of jury trial; and 2. fails to appear according to the terms of the defendant's release.
[119]

A justice who enters a judgment of conviction and forfeiture should immediately notify the defendant in writing, by regular mail addressed to the defendant at the defendant's last known address, that: 1. a judgment of conviction and forfeiture of bond was entered against him and the forfeiture satisfies his fine and costs in the case; and 2. that he has a right to a new trial in the case if he applies for the new trial not later than the tenth day after the date of judgment and forfeiture. The defendant may apply for a new trial, and the court must grant the motion if the motion is made within the time period prescribed. At the new trial, the court must permit the

defendant to withdraw the previously entered plea of nolo contendere and waiver of jury trial. If the accused does not waive a trial by jury, the justice must issue a writ instructing the proper officer to summon a venire (a panel of prospective jurors) from which six qualified persons shall be selected to serve as jurors in the case. When summoned, the jurors shall remain as jurors in all cases that may come up for hearing until discharged by the court. Any person so summoned who fails to appear may be fined an amount not exceeding $100 for contempt. [120] A justice court may order a party who does not waive a jury trial and who fails to appear for the trial to pay the costs incurred for impaneling the jury. The justice court may release a party from this obligation to pay costs for good cause. [121] Education Code A child commits an offense if he or she fails to attend school as required and is not excused. An offense under this section may be prosecuted in a justice court in the county in which the child resides or in which the school is located. [122] If the justice court finds the child has failed to attend school, the court may enter an order that requires the child to attend a class for the high school equivalency examination. If the child is at least 16 years of age, the court may order that the child take the high school equivalency examination. The court may also require the child to attend a special program such as: an alcohol and drug abuse program; rehabilitation; counseling, including self-improvement counseling; training in self-esteem and leadership; work and job skills training; training in parenting, including parental responsibility; training in manners; training in violence avoidance; sensitivity training; and training in advocacy and mentoring. Another option available to the court is to require the child and his or her parents or guardian to attend a class for students at risk of dropping out of school, designed for both the child and the parents. The court may also require the child to: perform community service; attend school without unexcused absences; or participate in a tutorial program provided by the school attended by the child. Finally, the court may require the child's driver's license be suspended.

[123]

Following an order of the justice, a peace officer may take a child into custody and immediately notify the child's parent or guardian of the officer's action and the reason for that action. The officer, without unnecessary delay, must release the child to the child's parent or guardian, if they promise to bring the child to the justice court as requested by the court. Failure to attend school is a Class C misdemeanor. A child convicted of not more than one violation while a minor may apply to the court in which he or she was convicted to have the conviction expunged. The application, which may be filed on attaining the age of 18 years, must contain the applicant's sworn statement that he or she was not convicted of any other violation while a minor other than the one the person seeks to have expunged. If the court finds the applicant was not convicted of any other violation while the person was a minor, it must order the conviction, together with all documents relating to the offense, be expunged from the applicant's record. After entry of the order, the applicant shall be released from all disabilities resulting from the conviction and the conviction may not be shown or made known for any purpose. [124] Family Code If a child does not follow a justice court's order to attend school, the court may refer the child to the juvenile court for delinquent conduct for contempt of the justice court order or retain jurisdiction of the case and hold the child in contempt. The court may then impose a fine not to exceed $500. The justice court also may order the child to be held in a place of nonsecure custody for a single period not to exceed six hours. The court may order the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) to suspend the child's driver's license or permit or, if the child does not have a license or permit, refuse to issue a license or permit to the child. If the child has a continuing obligation under the court's order, the court may require that the suspension or denial of the child's driver's license or permit be effective until the child fully discharges the obligation. Once the child fully complies with the orders of the court, the court must notify the DPS that the child no longer has an outstanding obligation. A justice court may hold a person in contempt and impose an authorized remedy if the person as a child was placed under an order of

the justice court or if the person failed to obey the order while the person was 17 years of age or older. A child may be held in contempt and the court may impose a remedy if the child, while younger than 17 years of age, engaged in conduct in contempt of an order of the justice court, but contempt proceedings could not be held before the child's 17th birthday. A justice court may not order a child to a term of confinement or imprisonment for contempt of a justice court order. A justice court may not refer a child who violates a court order while 17 years of age or older to a juvenile court for delinquency proceedings for contempt of court. [125] Transportation Code It is unlawful for a person to drive a passenger car, light truck, sport utility vehicle or truck tractor and transport a child younger than four years of age or less than 36 inches in length and not keep the child secured with a child passenger safety seat system according to the manufacturers' instructions. An offense under this section is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of not less than $100 or more than $200. If the person was operating the vehicle in an emergency or for a law enforcement purpose, those circumstances may be presented as a defense to prosecution. This does not apply to a person operating a vehicle transporting passengers for hire; or transporting a child in a vehicle in which all seating positions equipped with child passenger safety seat systems or safety belts are occupied. "Child passenger safety seat system" means an infant or child passenger restraint system that meets the federal standards for crash-tested restraint systems as set by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. [126] It is also unlawful for a person at least 15 years of age to ride in the front seat of a passenger car while the vehicle is being operated, occupy a seat equipped with a safety belt and not use the safety belt. An offense under this section is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of not less than $25 or more than $50. It is also unlawful for a person to operate a passenger car, light truck, sport utility vehicle or truck tractor that is equipped with safety belts and allow a child who is at least four years of age but younger than 17

years of age to ride in the vehicle without requiring the child to be secured by a safety belt, provided the child is occupying a seat that is equipped with a safety belt. An offense under this section is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of not less than $100 or more than $200. A passenger car or a seat in a passenger car is considered to be equipped with a safety belt if the vehicle is required to be equipped with safety belts. It is a defense to prosecution if the person possesses a written statement from a licensed physician stating that the person should not wear a safety belt for a medical reason, and the person presents to the court, not later than the 10th day after the date of the offense, a statement from a licensed physician stating that for a medical reason the person should not wear a safety belt. It is also a defense if the person is: employed by the United States Postal Service and performing a duty for that agency that requires the operator to service postal boxes from a vehicle or that requires frequent entry into and exit from a vehicle; engaged in the actual delivery of newspapers from a vehicle or is performing newspaper delivery duties that require frequent entry into and exit from a vehicle; or employed by a public or private utility company and is engaged in reading meters or performing a similar duty for that company requiring the operator to frequently enter into and exit from a vehicle. "Safety belt" means a lap belt and any shoulder straps included as original equipment on or added to a vehicle. [127] A judge, who chooses to defer further proceedings and to place a defendant on probation, in lieu of requiring the defendant to complete a driving safety course approved by the Texas Education Agency (TEA), shall require the defendant to attend and present proof that the defendant has successfully completed a specialized driving safety course approved by the TEA under the Texas Driver and Traffic Safety Education Act. The course should include four hours of instruction that encourages the use of child passenger safety seat systems and the wearing of seat belts. It must also emphasize the effectiveness of child passenger safety seat systems and seat belts in reducing the harm to children being transported in motor vehicles and the requirements of this section and the penalty for noncompliance.

A county, at the end of the county's fiscal year, shall send to the Comptroller an amount equal to 50 percent of the fines collected by the county for violations of these provisions of law. [128] A person commits an offense if the person operates an open-bed pickup truck or an open flatbed truck or draws an open flatbed trailer when a child younger than 12 years of age is in the bed of the truck or trailer. An offense under this section is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of not less than $25 or more than $200. It is a defense to prosecution under this section that the person was operating or towing the vehicle in an emergency. [129]

Endnotes

[107] V.T.C.A., Local Government Code, §154.005; Vernon's Ann. Texas Const. Art. 16, §61. [108] V.T.C.A., Government Code, §28.055. [109] V.T.C.A., Penal Code, Sec. 32.41(e). [110] Rules of Civil Procedure, Rule 544. [111] V.T.C.A., Civil Practice & Remedies Code, §22.001. [112] V.T.C.A., Civil Practices & Remedies Code, §30.008(a). [113] V.T.C.A., Government Code, §28.004. [114] V.T.C.A., Local Government Code, §118.121 [115] V.T.C.A., Penal Code, §12.23. [116] V.T.C.A., Parks & Wildlife Code §12.107(a); V.T.C.A., Parks & Wildlife Code, §12.107(b). [117] V.T.C.A., Parks & Wildlife Code, §12.406. [118] V.T.C.A., Parks & Wildlife Code, §12.409. [119] Vernon's Ann. C.C.P art. 45.044. [120] Vernon's Ann. C.C.P. art. 45.025, 45.027. [121] Vernon's Ann. C.C.P. art. 45.026. [122] V.T.C.A., Education Code §25.094. [123] V.T.C.A., Family Code §54.021(d). [124] V.T.C.A., Education Code §25.094. [125] V.T.C.A., Family Code §54.023. [126] V.T.C.A., Transportation Code §545.412. [127] V.T.C.A., Transportation Code §545.413. [128] 1 Texas H.B. 1739, 77th Leg., Reg. Sess. (2001). [129] V.T.C.A., Transportation Code §545.414. Carole Keeton Strayhorn Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts Window on State Government Contact Us Privacy and Security Policy