Traffic Violations And Other Class "C" Misdemeanors in Texas

General information article on traffic tickets and other violations filed in the Justice of the Peace and Municipal Courts in Texas.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

View From My Road Office

Stopped here to return some calls today.  Did not want to leave.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Off The Beaten Path, Xpress Market, Pinehurst, Texas

Besides some office time, part of what I do requires me to be on the road, going to various towns, several in one day sometimes, mostly within 60 miles of Houston.  Over the years, the courts in which I practice,  have carved out  for me, somewhat of a travel pattern, beaten path, or what I sometimes refer to as my orbit.  Unlike a comet though, I can change course from time to time.  This allows me to creatively plot my route so that I can travel less crowded country roads.  The things I most enjoy about what I do, is that I am rarely in the same place everyday, and driving the scenic Texas countryside is very relaxing.  I always prefer the uncrowded back roads to congested highways, even if it throws an extra hour into things.  I like seeing horses and cows, general stores and pastures.  I look at each week as a series of day trips.   A large consideration in deciding my route is the eating places along the way.

My latest favorite discovery is a well kept secret, on State Highway 249 North, just as you cross over the Montgomery County line, on the right.  There you will see a Shell station.  It looks like a mere gas station and convenience store.  Don't let looks deceive you.  I believe the formal name of the place is "Decker Xpress Market".  The address is 31718 TX-249, Pinehurst, TX  77362.

This place has Texas written all over it.  Among other items, they serve tacos, pizza, burgers, plate lunches, and they have a breakfast menu.

Since my schedule usually finds me there at lunch time, I always get the "Big Daddy" burger, all the way, with cheese and jalapenos, a bag of chips, a peach soda from the cooler, and a homemade brownie.  The buns taste like they are made from scratch.  I believe they are slightly toasted.  The patty on the Big Daddy Burger I would estimate to weigh 1/3 of a pound.

This is the Big Daddy Burger

Don't let the outside fool you.

This is where miracles are made.

They have a nice dining area.
I have visited with some locals, who are regulars.  All very friendly.  One of the locals, Mitch, runs a lawn and landscaping company.  He does pressure washing, and repairs lawn mower engines and such.  I could tell after talking to Mitch for a short time, he is a straight shooter.  He is very passionate about his work and his customers.  Mitch is one of those guys you can learn a lot about life from just by having a conversation with him.  The world could use more guys like Mitch.  Here is his business card.  It's a little worn from being carried in my wallet.  His telephone numbers are (281) 259-4803, and (281) 203-9580.

A funny thing happened there a couple of weeks ago.  A construction boss was buying lunch for his young crew member, who I would guess was about 18 years old.  As the young man looked at the menu, I suppose, in an effort not to feel like he was taking advantage of his boss, the young man said "I guess I'll have the Little Joe Burger".  This elicited a snicker and an "Awe", as in how cute, from the lady behind the counter.  It also got a laugh from everyone who witnessed it.  All in good humor of course.  I think the kid was even laughing himself.  My advice is, if you find yourself in the Xpress market in Pinehurst, Texas, hold your head high, and order boldly.  Unlike too many places now days, men being men is appreciated there.  I highly recommend this place.

Charles French was licensed to practice law in Texas in 1991. The majority of his practice includes the Justice of the Peace and Municipal Courts in Houston, Harris County and surrounding counties. You may visit his website by going to:

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Delinquent Tickets? Read This Before You Pay Them

I get at least one call a week, where the person has outstanding tickets, and/or warrants, sometimes lots of them, and, more times than not, they do not know where or in what courts the cases are pending. Most of the time, they are brought to the realization that they must now deal with the delinquent tickets because they cannot renew their driver's license. Most are searching for a quick easy fix because, for various reasons, employment, etc., they need their license last week. Most are looking for that attorney that they can hire to quickly clear up the situation, call them back in a couple of days, and tell them they can go renew their license. I hate to burst your bubble, but unfortunately, in most of these type of situations, that person simply does not exist. That is the cold shot of reality you need so that you make the best use of your time and resources and get started in the right direction in resolving your situation. Read each of the below topics, and you should have a good idea of how to handle your delinquent ticket situation, in a way that will minimize further damage to both, your driving record, and your ability to renew your license.

Do Not Simply Pay Your Delinquent Tickets

When a mosquito lands on your arm, you have a natural tendency to swat it. In fact, it's practically a reflex. When your license is expired, and you are desperate to renew it, there is a similar knee jerk reaction to resolve it quickly by simply paying the tickets. Resist the temptation to do so. Here is why you do not just simply pay your delinquent tickets. When you pay your tickets, the violations then become convictions. That's where new problems will begin. Certain convictions trigger license suspensions, surcharges and points on your driving record. Do not swat the mosquito on your license by paying the delinquent tickets. Doing so may do more harm than good, and may further hinder your ability to renew your license.

The Process to Properly Handle Delinquent Tickets in a Nutshell

When people ask me what to do in this situation, these are the steps I tell them to follow. It doesn't matter whether they have two violations in one court or two hundred violations scattered in several courts. The steps are the same for either situation.

1. Find out in a what court(s) the cases are pending.
2. Post bonds to get the cases back on the courts docket.
3. Hire an attorney to represent you to keep the violations from becoming convictions.

For each court where you have cases pending, you will need a bondsman and an attorney. The bondsman may be you, a bail bondsman, or sometimes, the attorney representing you in that court. This is not an enjoyable process, but it is the best road map I can give you to dig yourself out. Memorize the above three steps and read the paragraphs below, and you will be armed with the information you need to improve your situation.

How Do I Find The Court In Which My Cases Are Pending?

I find that people do not hold on to their tickets sometimes. Especially those whose tickets are ten or more years old. Some people think there is a database that lists all the courts in which they have pending tickets. There is no such database. One way to figure out where your tickets are is to call both, the Municipal and Justice of the Peace Courts near the location where you received the ticket. Another great place to start is the Texas Failure to Appear database. If you miss court, most courts will place you into this system (known also as the OMNI system) so that the DPS will not renew your driver's license. It may not show all courts where you have delinquent tickets, but it will show most of them. It is a very useful tool and here is the link:

If you place your cursor over the court in the left hand column of the screen, it will give you the court's telephone number and address.

What Is a Bond?

A bond is a security that you place with the court to lift the warrants and get you a new court date. There are generally three types of bonds. A cash bond is where you give cash to the court to hold in order to secure your appearance in court on the new court date. When your case is disposed of, you get the cash back, minus any court costs. A bail bond is where you go to a bail bondsman and pay the bondsman to post the bond with the court for you. You usually pay a non-refundable percentage of the bond amount to the bondsman and you do not get any of it back. Finally, there is an attorney surety bond that your attorney can post for you as long as they are representing you on the case or cases they are posting the bond for.

How Do I Post a Bond?

Contact the court if you want to post a cash bond. Contact a bondsman in the county in which the court is located to post a bail bond through a bondsman. Check with the attorney who will be representing you to see if they can post an attorney surety bond for you.

Finding An Attorney

You will want an attorney to represent you so that, hopefully, the cases can be handled in a way to avoid convictions which may otherwise trigger license suspensions, surcharges and points on your driving record. If your tickets are in another city or town far away, you may want to search for a local attorney in that jurisdiction. One advantage to retaining local counsel is their familiarity with that particular court. Additionally, it may be too expensive to hire an attorney to travel to where your tickets are pending.

Be Aware, The Following Terms And Phrases Are Not Synonymous

Although they are often erroneously used interchangeably by lawyers, clients, police officers, DPS and court personnel, the following terms should not be confused, as they are each entirely different from each other.

Driver's License Suspension-If a driver's license is suspended, then there will be a definite period of suspension. A start date and a date on which the suspension is over. A license may be suspended for any number of reasons including for certain convictions. A driver's license may have more than one suspension at the same time.

Invalid Driver's License-A license may become invalid for any number of reasons including the non-payment of surcharges, or being unable to renew your driver's license due to a failure to appear in court. Unlike a driver's license suspension, there is not definite start and stop date. The period of invalidation is contingent upon removal of the cause or causes for the license being invalid. Validation of the license may require the payment of surcharges or the payment of OMNI fees.

Denial of Renewal of Driver's License-If you miss court, the court may place you in the Failure to Appear database so that you cannot renew your driver's license. The inability to renew Your driver's license is not a suspension, but may be the cause for the license being invalid, due to the inability to renew it.

Surcharges-Fees owed to DPS for either too many points or for being convicted of certain violations, including convictions for Noe Driver's License, Failure to Maintain Financial Responsibility (Driving without insurance), and Driving While License Invalid. I think of surcharges as punishment for being punished. The non-payment of surcharges will result in the license becoming invalid.

OMNI Fees-When you are entered into the Failure to Appear (OMNI) system for missing court, you will incur OMNI fees. OMNI fees are e$30.00 for each violation entered into the system. You must pay each $30.00 fee in order to remove the violations from the OMNI system so that you can renew your driver's license. The fees are paid at the court. Usually, you cannot pay the OMNI fees until you post a bond.

Failure to Appear-A charge filed when a person when a person misses court. The charge is in addition to the underlying charge such as speeding.

Warrant-Court order to arrest a person for missing court or for some other reason.

Be aware that any number or combination of all the above may be present at the same time.

But These Cases Are So Old, I Can't Believe They are Holding These Over My Head

I have people call me today with things from the 90's. That was last century folks. Unfortunately, warrants do not die of old age. With technology comes the ability to track forever.

But I've Been Stopped Several Times, I've Renewed My License Twice Since Then, And It's Never Been A Problem Until Now

Here is my explanation as to why it's never been a problem until now. They may have just recently acted on it. When you miss court, one or more of the following may occur:

1. An additional charge of Failure to Appear is filed.
2. A warrant or warrants are issued for your arrest.
3. You are entered into the OMNI system so that you cannot renew your license.

Any one or more of these events may occur at the time you fail to appear in court, a day later, a week later, a month later, up to two years later to file a Failure to Appear, and several years later with regard to issuing warrants and entering you into the OMNI system. There is no limitation on issuing warrants and entering a case into the OMNI system.

When Can I Renew My Driver's License?

That depends on the cause or causes of your not being able to renew.

Driver's License Suspension-When the suspension period is over and you have paid a reinstatement fee to DPS.

Invalid Driver's License-When the cause of the license being invalid has been removed, such as the payment of OMNI Fees or the payment of surcharges.

Denial of Renewal of Driver's License-If the denial is due to missing court, then whenever you pay the OMNI fees.

Surcharges-Whenever the surcharges are paid in full or are current pursuant to a payment plan with DPS.

Warrant-If you do not have a suspension, invalid license, or are not in the OMNI system, a warrant in and of itself does not prevent you from renewal, but of course, you may be arrested when you go to the DPS.

If you are clear of each of the above items, you should be good to go. If not, then you need to contact DPS to see what's holding you up.

Charles French was licensed to practice law in Texas in 1991. The majority of his practice includes the Justice of the Peace and Municipal Courts in Houston, Harris County and surrounding counties. You may visit his website by going to:

Saturday, March 20, 2010

What Is A Class "C" Misdemeanor In Texas? What Is The Statute Of Limitations For A Class "C" Misdemeanor In Texas?

What is a Class"C" misdemeanor in Texas?

In Texas, a Class "C" misdemeanor is an offense punishable by fine only. It is classified as a criminal offense, but it is the least serious criminal offense. Generally, citations issued for traffic and other violations, with a date to appear in court at a later time, fall into this category. Although such violations are "fine only" offenses, there may be other consequences. Paying the fine results in a conviction. A conviction on some violations may result in points on your driving record, surcharges, license suspension, higher insurance rates or other unintended consequences.

What is the statute of limitations for a Class "C" misdemeanor in Texas?

In Texas, the statute of limitations for a Class "C" misdemeanor is two years. Be aware that this does not mean that traffic ticket violations and other Class"C" misdemeanors that are two years or older cannot be prosecuted. What it does mean is that if the offense is two years old, and a complaint has never been filed, then it is barred by the statute of limitations, and cannot be prosecuted. The complaint is not the citation issued by the officer. The complaint is a formal sworn document which meets the requirements of Chapter 45, Texas Code of Criminal Procedure. Only the filing of the complaint stops or tolls the statute of limitations. So, if a violation occurs and two years elapse without the complaint being filed, then it is barred from prosecution. On the other hand, If a complaint is filed within two years of the violation date, even if it is filed on the last day of the two year period, then it can still be prosecuted even after two years from the date of the violation.

Are all traffic violations in Texas classified as Class "C" misdemeanors?

No. Not all traffic violations in Texas are classified as Class "C" misdemeanors. Serious traffic violations where there is personal injury, property damage or intoxication involved may be classified as Class "A" or "B" misdemeanors or Felonies and punishable by fines and jail time. Also, automated traffic ticket violations such as red light camera violations are civil instead of criminal, and are therefore not Class "C" misdemeanors.

Charles French was licensed to practice law in Texas in 1991. The majority of his practice includes the Justice of the Peace and Municipal Courts in Houston, Harris County and surrounding counties. You may visit his website by going to:

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Courts Cannot Charge An Insurance Dismissal Fee

Texas traffic courts may legally charge a dismissal fee up to $20.00 for the dismissal of certain violations including expired registration, expired drivers license and expired inspection. A court may not however, charge a dismissal fee for the dismissal of a Failure to Maintain Financial Responsibility (FMFR) violation, more commonly known as a "No Insurance" violation.


The 70th legislature amended the Motor Vehicle Safety-Responsibility Act to allow courts to charge a $10.00 dismissal fee in cases where the person was unable to produce proof of financial responsibility when requested by an officer, but they were able to subsequently provide adequate proof that they were in fact in compliance with the act, either covered by insurance or by other means permissible under the act.


In 1988, that section of the Motor Vehicle Safety-Responsibility Act allowing courts to charge the $10.00 dismissal fee on financial responsibility cases was declared unconstitutional by The Office of the Attorney General of Texas, Opinion No. JM-917. The Attorney General opined that since the crime is driving without financial responsibility, and not failing to show proof to the officer, charging a dismissal fee to someone who was actually insured amounts to punishing the person for a crime they did not commit, and is therefore, unconstitutional.


The Motor Vehicle Safety-Responsibility has since been codified into Texas Transportation Code, Chapter 601. Heeding the advice of the Attorney General Opinion, that the fee is unconstitutional, the legislature correctly chose to omit any provision authorizing courts to charge a fee for the dismissal of financial responsibility cases.


In contrast to the financial responsibility dismissal statute, the statutes dealing with the dismissal of expired registration, expired drivers license and expired inspection specifically authorize courts to charge dismissal fees on those type of cases. These fees are not unconstitutional because, unlike financial responsibility cases, the person is paying a dismissal fee for a violation they actually committed which they later remedied by renewal of their registration, drivers license or inspection sticker. These statutes allow the courts some discretion to encourage compliance by allowing a small fee, rather than a big fine, for those violators who come into compliance. Compliance fee would probably be a more appropriate term for these fees.

Since charging a dismissal fee on a "No Insurance" violation is unconstitutional, the legislature has intentionally removed the statutory authority for the courts to do so. Therefore, any court that assesses or charges such a fee is doing so illegally.

Charles French was licensed to practice law in Texas in 1991. The majority of his practice includes the Justice of the Peace and Municipal Courts in Houston, Harris County and surrounding counties. You may visit his website by going to:

When Good Courts Give Bad Information

We have a right to rely on what our public officials tell us. They owe us the duty to be competent in the areas of information they give to the public. Furthermore, they owe us the duty, if not the courtesy, to make sure that what they tell us is correct. I would prefer that a court clerk tell me "I'm not sure, I'll have to check and get back with you" rather than give me erroneous information off the top of their head. The fact is, when court personnel give wrong information, bad things can and often do happen.

Let me be the first to say that the majority of courts and court personnel that I deal with are both professional and knowledgeable at a level that serves the public well. However, from time to time, I run across some recurring situations whereby a justice or municipal court defendant has been led astray by court personnel. Some of these instances of misinformation have or could have had devastating consequences for the defendant in the case. In many cases the erroneous information could have led to convictions, points on the driving record, hundreds of dollars in surcharges and/or license suspensions. Below, I have listed some of the more common situations I run into.

Although, these are actual situations that I have personally experienced, I will not name the courts, since to do so would unfairly stigmatize them for the deeds a a few bad apples. If you have a situation similar to one or more of those discussed below, then you may want to contact an attorney before you act on the information given to you by the clerk.

The clerk said "Your name is not on the insurance so you'll have to pay the fine."

The question is whether or not you were covered for purposes of the statute when you were issued the citation. The clerk is wrong to automatically assume that you are not covered merely because your name does not appear on the policy or I.D. card you give to them. There are several instances where, even if you do not have insurance in your name, if the car you were driving was covered, then you were your covered for purposes of the law you are charged with violating. It will depend on the insurance company, the policy and whether or not you were excluded as a driver. The best way is to verify it through the insurance company prior to providing the insurance to the court. It is a good idea to get the person's name at the insurance company to whom you spoke.

The clerk said "Your name is on the insurance, but the vehicle is not listed."

The clerk is wrong to automatically assume that you are not covered when you are listed on insurance, but the vehicle you were driving does not appear on the policy or I.D. card you give to the court The insurance I have covers me regardless of whose vehicle I am driving, even if the owner of the car I'm driving does not have insurance on that particular vehicle. Again, the best thing to do is to verify it through the insurance company prior to giving it to the clerk.

Do not automatically assume that you were not covered because either your name or the vehicle is not listed on the insurance. Call the insurance company and know ahead of time whether you were covered before presenting your proof of insurance to the clerk.

Unfortunately, I know people who have relied on what the court clerk told them, and have paid the fine when they were actually covered and the violation should have been dismissed. As a result they were needlessly convicted, incurred license suspensions and hundreds of dollars of surcharges, when in fact, they should not have done so.

If you discover that you actually were not insured at the time of the citation, you may want to contact an attorney of your choice to represent you on the matter.

The clerk said "There is a dismissal fee on the insurance case."

The clerk is wrong. While the court can charge a dismissal fee of up to $20.00 for the dismissal of expired drivers license, expired inspection and expired registration, it cannot do so on Failure to Maintain Financial Responsibility cases where the person actually had insurance at the time they were cited.

I have a client I'll call Joe. Here is what happened.

Joe was pulled over and issued a citation for Failure to Maintain Financial Responsibility (FMFR). He had insurance coverage at the time he was stopped, but did not have proof with him. A week later, he faxed his proof of insurance to the court and called to confirm they received it, which they did. Joe assumed the case had been dismissed, which it should have been.

Joe later discovered that he had a delinquency of $324.00 and a hold on the renewal of his drivers license from the same court to which he previously faxed his proof of insurance. Upon contacting the court, Joe was told that the delinquency and hold on his license renewal were due to his not paying a $10.00 dismissal fee on the insurance case. Joe was told that he would have to pay the $324.00.

Had Joe listened to the clerk and paid the $324.00, he would have been wrongly convicted of FMFR. He would have incurred $260.00 surcharges every year for three years and possibly triggered a license suspension.

Here's why the court was wrong and Joe was right. The court illegally charged Joe a $10.00 dismissal fee for the dismissal of his insurance case. The clerk wrongly assumed there was a dismissal fee on FMFR cases as there are for expired drivers license, expired inspection and expired registration cases. These cases differ from FMFR cases. Expired drivers license, expired inspection and expired registration cases are such that the person actually committed a violation and later fixed them so that they are allowed to pay a dismissal fee for compliance after the fact. In an FMFR case, where the person later shows proof they were covered at the time they were issued the citation, they were never in violation of the law, and therefore forcing them to pay a dismissal fee for a crime they did not commit would be unconstitutional.

Simply put, Joe was illegally assessed a $10.00 fee by the court. The court did not tell him about the fee. Since the fee was not paid, Joe was shown to be delinquent on the fine of $324.00 and a hold was placed on the renewal of his drivers license. We sent a letter putting the court on notice of the error, and the case was dismissed. I wonder how many cases like Joe's have occurred in that court.

The clerk said "He's never appeared, but the case is so old, he just needs to pay it."

The clerk is wrong. If the defendant has never appeared before the court on the charges, the only option is not just paying it. The defendant has the right to post bond, get the cases out of warrant, Pay his OMNI fees to renew his license, get his cases properly before the court again and get a new court date. It does not matter how old the case is. The age of the case has absolutely nothing to do with whether or not he can exercise his rights to do these things. If the defendant simply paid it like the clerk said, the defendant would unnecessarily be convicted and incur all consequences associated with such conviction (License suspension, points, surcharges etc.).

The clerk said "We cannot pull the case from the OMNI system (DPS Failure to Appear Database) until it is disposed of."

The clerk is wrong. By law, once the defendant posts a bond or gives other security to reinstate the case on the docket, the defendant may pay the OMNI fees at that time. The clerk must then send the clearance notice to DPS to take the non-renewal hold off of the license.

If the defendant followed what the clerk said, then they would be deprived of renewing their license until the case was disposed of, possibly months later. I am still surprised at how many clerks, and judges for that matter, do not know this.

While most court personnel I deal with are professional and knowledgeable, there is a possibility of misinformation as to your various options. Court personnel are not supposed to give legal advice. They may inform you of some options regarding your case, but may fall short of informing you about all of your options. You may want to contact an attorney of your choice before acting on your case.

Charles French was licensed to practice law in Texas in 1991. The majority of his practice includes the Justice of the Peace and Municipal Courts in Houston, Harris County and surrounding counties. You may visit his website by going to:

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Red Light Cameras in Texas: Public Safety or Revenue

A reporter asked me the other day if I thought red light cameras promoted public safety or were just revenue generators. I could barely keep a straight face. The latter of course. Keep in mind that these red light camera tickets herein discussed are civil rather than criminal. They are not Class "C" misdemeanors as are red light citations issued by a police officer.

I attended a seminar a while back, and one of the speakers had played a large role in shutting down these cameras in several California cities. What I gathered from this speaker was two things. First, red light cameras do not make intersections safer. In fact, in some instances, the cameras make intersections more dangerous. Second, the best way to make intersections safer is to lengthen the yellow light cycle.

If the installation of red light cameras is truly about public safety, then we must ask the following:

Since lengthening the time of the yellow light cycle has been shown to make intersections safer, then why wouldn't a city try doing so before deciding whether or not to install red light cameras?

Answer: No cameras, no revenue. Because even if increasing the length of the yellow light proved to make the intersection safer than the installation of a camera, it would not generate revenue, which is what the city wants. The city would have absolutely no interest in conducting a test which would probably prove that anything, other than a red light camera, would make an intersection safer. In fact, the city would have more of an interest in suppressing any such test.

Why isn't community service available to a citizen as a means to pay the fine on a red light camera ticket as it is for tickets issued by an officer?

Answer: Because the city wants money, not community service.

One recurring argument for red light cameras is that the cameras free up police officers from certain traffic stops so that they can address other more important issues. This is ridiculous. Does this mean that the officers will be able to concentrate more on homicide, rape and theft? Of course not. Everyone knows the the traffic stop is a primary tool for law enforcement in the detection of more serious crimes.

The camera company gets a significant share of the money from each ticket generated. Red light camera companies are basically travelling sales shows going from city to city peddling their wares, as are other industries which target local and state governments such as light rail or toll road systems. While some cities have done away with red light cameras, the camera companies keep prospecting cities where they have not yet been. They may be coming to a town near you if they haven not done so already.

Wake up. It is about revenue, not public safety. The cameras are basically a vending machine for for the partnership between the city and the company with the red light camera contract.

Charles French was licensed to practice law in Texas in 1991. The majority of his practice includes the Justice of the Peace and Municipal Courts in Houston, Harris County and surrounding counties. You may visit his website by going to: