Municipal Courts

H.B. 528 (Turner/Whitmire) – Juveniles:  this bill makes confidential all records and files that relate to: (1) a criminal case for a fine-only misdemeanor offense (other than a traffic offense) that is committed by a child and appealed; and (2) a child who is charged with, convicted of, found not guilty of, had a charge dismissed for, or is granted deferred disposition for a fine-only misdemeanor (other than a traffic offense).  (Effective January 1, 2014.)  

H.B. 2302 (Hunter/West) – Electronic Filing: permits a local government that uses the electronic filing system established by the Supreme Court of Texas to charge a fee of $2 for each electronic filing transaction if: (1) the fee is necessary to recover the actual system operating costs reasonably incurred by the local government to accept electronic payments of interface with other technology information systems; (2) the fee does not include an amount to recover local government employee costs, other than costs for directly maintaining the system; (3) the governing body approves the fee; and (4) the local government annually certifies to the Office of Court Administration on a form prescribed by the office that the amount of the fee is necessary to recover the actual system operating costs.  (Effective September 1, 2013.)  (Note: This provision expires on September 1, 2019.)

H.B. 2679 (Guillen/Rodriguez) – Defendant’s Plea: this bill: (1) allows a municipal court judge to: (a) permit a defendant in jail to enter in a plea; (b) accept the plea entered; and (c) assess the defendant’s punishment; and (2) requires the judge to grant a motion for a new trial made by a defendant who enters in a plea while in jail, if made not later than 10 days after the judgment and sentence are entered.  (Effective September 1, 2013.)  

H.B. 3561 (Murphy/Patrick) – Court Proceedings:  allows the municipal court of a city with a population of 3,500 or less to conduct its proceedings within the city limits of a contiguous incorporated city.  (Effective immediately.)    

S.B. 107 (West/Johnson) – Municipal Court Records:  prohibits a municipal court from disclosing to the public any information that is the subject of an order of nondisclosure.  (Effective September 1, 2013.) 

S.B. 181 (Hegar/Guillen) – Proof of Financial Responsibility: provides that: (1) a motor vehicle operator may provide evidence of financial responsibility in electronic format displayed on a wireless communication device; (2) the display of motor vehicle financial responsibility information on a wireless communication device does not constitute effective consent for an officer, or any other person, to access the contents of the wireless communication device except to view the financial responsibility information; (3) the authorization in (1), above, does not prevent a court or the commissioner of insurance from requiring a person to provide a paper copy of financial responsibility at later proceedings; and (4) if a peace officer has access to a verification program, the officer may not issue a citation for a failure to provide proof of motor vehicle financial responsibility unless the officer attempts to verify through the program that financial responsibility has been established for the vehicle and is unable to make that verification.  (Effective immediately.)

S.B. 390 (West/Lewis) – Court Costs:  repeals the provision in current law regarding the implementation dates of new or amended courts costs. (Note: The effect of the bill is to repeal the exception so that all new legislatively-enacted criminal costs become effective on January 1 following the legislative session.)  (Effective immediately.)

S.B. 393 (West/Lewis) – Juvenile Offenders:  this bill: (1) allows a municipal court to permit a child defendant to choose to elect to discharge a fine or cost by either paying the fine or cost as allowed under current law or by performing community service or receiving tutoring; (2) requires that the defendant’s election under (1), above, be made in writing, signed by the defendant and, if present, the defendant’s parent, guardian, or managing conservator and entered in the record, with a copy provided to the defendant; (3) provides that all records and files relating to a child who is convicted of a fine-only misdemeanor other than a traffic offense and has satisfied the judgment or who has received a dismissal after deferral of disposition are confidential; (4) allows a court to waive payment of a fine or cost imposed on a defendant who defaults in payment if the court determines that the defendant is a child and discharging the fine or cost in an alternative method, including performing community service, would impose an undue hardship; (5) authorizes a municipal court, with approval of the city council, to employ one or more juvenile case managers to provide prevention and early intervention services to juveniles considered at-risk of entering the juvenile justice system or engaged in misconduct prior to cases being filed; (6) requires that a municipal court dismiss a complaint or referral made by a school district if the complaint is not filed correctly by the school district; (7) prohibits a peace officer from issuing a citation to a child who is alleged to have committed a school offense; (8) allows a school district to develop graduated sanctions against a child alleged to have committed a school offense that are required to be imposed before a complaint is filed with the court; (9) specifies certain requirements in relation to a complaint alleging the commission of a school offense; (10) allows an attorney representing the state to adopt rules pertaining to the filing of a complaint for a school offense; and (11) prohibits a person younger than 10 years of age from being prosecuted for a fine-only misdemeanor or city ordinance violation.  (Effective September 1, 2013.)   

S.B. 394 (West/Herrero) – Juvenile Records:  provides that records and files relating to a child who has received a dismissal after deferral of disposition for a misdemeanor offense punishable by fine only (other than a traffic offense) are confidential and may not be disclosed to the public.  (Effective September 1, 2013.) 

S.B. 395 (West/Herrero) – Fines and Court Costs:  this bill:  (1) allows a municipal court to permit a defendant who is a child to elect to discharge a fine or cost by either paying the fine or cost as allowed under current law or by performing community service; (2) requires that the defendant’s choice under (1), above, be made in writing, signed by the defendant and the defendant’s parent, guardian, or managing conservator, if present, and entered in the record; and (3) allows a court to waive payment of a fine or cost imposed on a defendant who defaults in payment if the court determines that the defendant is a child and discharging the fine or cost in an alternative method, including performing community service, would impose an undue hardship.  (Effective September 1, 2013.) 

S.B. 462 (Huffman/Lewis) – Specialty Court Programs:  provides that a city that establishes a drug court program must: (1) provide to the criminal justice division of the governor’s office: (a) written notice of the program, (b) any resolution or other official declaration under which the program was established, and (c) a copy of the applicable community justice plan that incorporates duties related to supervision that will be required under the program; and (2) receive from the division written verification of the program’s compliance.  (Note: A specialty court program that fails to comply is not eligible to receive any state or federal grant funds administered by any state agency.)  (Effective September 1, 2013.)     

S.B. 484 (Whitmire/Turner) – Prostitution Prevention Program: this bill: (1) allows a city or group of cities to establish a prostitution prevention program for defendants charged with prostitution; (2) authorizes a program to collect a fee from a participant in the program; and (3) requires a commissioners court of a county to establish a prostitution prevention program if the county has a population of more than 200,000 and a city in the county has not established a program.  (Effective immediately.)  

S.B. 1114 (Whitmire/Herrero) – Juvenile Misdemeanors:  this bill: (1) prohibits a peace officer from issuing a citation for conduct by a child who is younger than 12 years of age that is alleged to have occurred on school property or on a vehicle owned or operated by a county or independent school district; (2) requires a court to dismiss a complaint or a referral made by a school district that does not comply with statutory requirements; (3) prohibits a warrant from being issued for the arrest of a person for a Class C misdemeanor, if the violation was committed when the person was younger than 17 years of age; (4) permits a child accused of a Class C misdemeanor, other than a traffic offense, to be referred to a first offender program; (5) allows a law enforcement officer to refer the child to the first offender program before issuing a citation; and (6) prohibits a case from being filed with a criminal court when the child has successfully completed the first offender program.  (Effective September 1, 2013.) 

S.B. 1234 (Whitmire/Price) – Failure to Attend School: changes the penalties for the offense of failure to attend school including setting up alternatives to fines and providing for additional truancy resources in schools and allows a city to employ a juvenile case manager.  (Effective September 1, 2013.)

S.B. 1419 (West/Lewis) – Truancy Prevention Fund:  this bill: (1) requires a person convicted in a municipal or justice court of an offense, other than an offense relating to a pedestrian or the parking of a motor vehicle, to pay an additional $2 court cost, which will be deposited in a dedicated state account for truancy prevention and diversion; (2) permits the city to deduct and retain 50 percent of the cost for the purposes of operating or establishing a juvenile case manager program; and (3) allows a local government entity to request funds from the dedicated state account also for providing truancy prevention and intervention services.  (Effective September 1, 2013.) 

S.B. 1611 (Ellis/Thompson) – Discovery: this is the “Michael Morton Act,” and provides that: (1) a prosecutor, including a municipal prosecutor, upon request from the defendant shall produce and permit inspection and the electronic duplication, copying, and photographing of any evidence in possession of the state, including witness statements of law enforcement officers; (2) the state may provide to the defendant electronic duplicates of any documents of other information the state is required to disclose to the defendant; (3) the state is not required to allow electronic duplication of information for a pro se defendant; (4) the defendant or an agent of the attorney representing the defendant may not disclose anything received from the state to a third party; (5) before accepting a plea of guilty or no contest, or before each trial, each party shall acknowledge in writing or on the record in open court the disclosure, receipt, and list of all documents, items, and information provided to the defendant under this article; (6) the state shall promptly disclose the existence of any additional information required to be disclosed that is discovered before, during, or after the trial; and (7) a court may order the defendant to pay costs related to discovery, provided that those charges may not exceed the charges prescribed by the Texas Public Information Act’s cost schedule.  (Effective January 1, 2014.) 

S.B. 1896 (Garcia Naishtat) – Municipal Judge: would provide that information contained in property tax appraisal records that identifies the home address of a municipal judge is confidential. (Effective immediately.)

S.B. 1908 (West) – Court Fee Study: provides that the Office of Court Administration shall: (1) conduct a study on court fees and costs that identifies each statutory law imposing a court fee or cost in a court in the state; (2) determine whether each identified fee or cost is necessary to accomplish the state statutory purpose; (3) compile a list of the identified fees and costs and of each fee or cost the office determines is necessary; (4) publish the list on the office’s Internet website and in the Texas Register; (5) provide a copy of the list and determinations to the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and Speaker of the House of Representatives; (6) the office shall consult with local government representatives as the office determines appropriate; and (7)  the Texas Legislative Council shall prepare for consideration by the Eighty-Fourth Legislature a revision of the statutes of the state as necessary to reflect the court fees and costs identified by the Office of Court Administration. (Effective September 1, 2013.)

S.J.R. 42 (Huffman/Dutton) – Judicial Sanctions:  amends the Texas Constitution to expand the ability of the State Commission on Judicial Conduct to sanction a judge.  (Effective if approved at the election on November 5, 2013.) (Note: This provision expires January 1, 2016.)

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