From Texas NMA Member Ted Levitt
On late Sunday afternoon, December 2, 2018 I was involved in a traffic accident. I haven’t been in an accident in over 39 years. Who was at fault is still not clear but I was given a ticket for failing to yield the right of way to the other driver even though she made a left turn in front of me. The ticket required me to contact the court within 15 days and make a plea.
On Tuesday, December 11, 2018, I drove to the court house to speak to the Judge (JP). When I entered the JP’s office his clerk said I had to fill out a plea form first where I had to enter a plea of Guilty, Not Guilty, or No Contest.
If I plead not guilty, I could not speak to the judge and a trial date would be set. Only if I plead guilty or no contest could the JP speak with me while I was there. I ran my options through my head and decided to plead no contest and speak with the judge.
The judge invited me into his office and we discussed my ticket. Fortunately for me, the judge was a knowledgeable and understanding individual.
What the judge explained was that the Texas State Trooper that gave me the ticket had no choice. He was required to write a ticket for every accident.
I asked the judge why? Would he write a ticket for someone who had a stroke or heart attack while driving and hit a tree with no injuries to another individual or to another vehicle? The judge said yes.
He also said he could not dismiss my ticket, or any other traffic ticket, because only the District Attorney or DA could. The judge said based on the information I gave about my accident, he would have dismissed my ticket if it was in his power. We discussed my ticket/case and I decided to take his offer of leaving my plea of “No Contest”, paying a fine of $180.00 and getting a 30-day deferred adjudication option.
If I had decided to change my plea to “Not Guilty” the judge said the trooper would testify at trial that he believed I was at fault and I would most likely be convicted, have to pay the $180.00 fine, pay $60.00 in court costs and have the ticket on my record and no deferred adjudication. Also, if the DA pushed I might have to take a defensive driving course at a cost of about $100.00 and 8 hours of class time.
With the deferred adjudication option, (and if I don’t have another ticket within the next 30 days) my ticket will be dismissed and not appear on my driving record and I don’t have to take a defensive driving class.
I thanked the judge and paid the clerk my fine of $180.00. When I got home I looked at my receipt for the ticket. This is how the $180.00 breaks down;
- Deferred disposition fee $77.90
- Arrest fee Dept. of Public Safety $5.00
- Building service fee $1.00
- Consolidated court cost $40.00
- Courthouse security fee $3.00
- Indigent defense fund $2.00
- Jury service fee $4.00
- Justice court technology fee $4.00
- Moving violation fee $ .10
- State traffic act fee $30.00
- Support of judiciary fund—county $ .60
- Transaction administration fee (credit card payment) $2.00
- Support of Judiciary Fund—state $5.40
- Truancy prevention fee $2.00
- Uniform traffic act $3.00
For a total of $180.00
Why did I not fight the ticket?
Based on the discussion I had at the accident scene with the State Trooper who insisted I was at fault even though the other driver made a left turn in front of me together with what the judge explained to me what he thought the outcome of a trial would be—basically the likelihood of paying more in a fine, having the ticket on my record and not being able to get deferred adjudication and my ticket dismissed, I took the safe and cheaper way to go.
From family and friends who live in other states you can see Texas charges higher ticket fines and fees than most others.