Trials conducted in the Mansfield Municipal Court of Record are in accordance with the due process requirements of the United States Constitution, Texas Constitution, and Code of Criminal Procedure. Defendants may be represented by an attorney or may act pro se, which is a Latin term meaning that the defendant represents himself or herself at trial.
Each defendant is assured of the following rights in Court:
- The right to inspect the complaint before trial and have it read to you at trial
- The right to have your case tried before a jury
- The right to hear all testimony introduced against you
- The right to cross-examine any and all witnesses who testify against you
- The right to testify on your own behalf
- The right not to testify (the 5th Amendment of the United States Constitution ensures that your refusal to testify cannot be held against you in determining your guilt or innocence)
- The right to call witnesses to testify on your behalf at the trial and have the Court issue a subpoena to any witnesses to demand their appearance at the trial
A subpoena is a Court order notifying the witness that he must be in Court for the trial. If a witness does not appear after receiving a subpoena, he or she may be cited with contempt and a warrant for the witness' arrest may be issued. Requests for subpoenas must be requested at least 10 days prior to trial and must be in writing or requested in person at the court.
Any time a defendant pleads not guilty before the court, he or she will be scheduled for a Pre-Trial Hearing. During this hearing, the defendant will have an opportunity to discuss the case with the State Prosecutor and present evidence as to why the case should be dismissed, or the fine lessened due to the facts and circumstances involved.
If the case is not dismissed and no plea agreement can be reached between the defendant and State Prosecutor, the case will be set for trial at a later date. This enables both the defendant and prosecutor to gather evidence, subpoena witnesses, and prepare for trial. A trial date will be scheduled only after the defendant has appeared for his or her Pre-Trial Hearing.
Trial by Court/Bench Trial
If a defendant elects Trial by Court, which may also be known as a Bench Trial, then the presiding Judge will hear and decide the case. Trials before the Court or Bench are heard during regularly scheduled court sessions. The defendant and the prosecutor will present his or her evidence to the Judge. The Judge will then apply the appropriate law, weigh the evidence presented, and render a verdict of guilty or not guilty.
The Judge will also assess the defendant's fine and order the costs and fees to be paid by the defendant when the defendant is found guilty. If the judge finds the defendant not guilty, the case is dismissed and no costs or fines are owed by the defendant.
Jury Trial (Trial by Jury)
Jury Trials are conducted Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. Jurors from the City of Mansfield will be summoned to appear for service.
The jury will return a verdict of guilty or not guilty. When a not guilty verdict is returned, the case is dismissed and the defendant is acquitted of the offense cited. No fees, costs or fines are owed by the defendant. If the verdict is guilty, the defendant is convicted of the offense and is responsible for the court costs and the fine assessed by the Jury. The defendant may also be ordered to pay jury fees as part of the court costs.
The State Prosecutor and defendant will have the opportunity to question the potential jurors to learn of any biases or prejudices present which could prevent a fair and impartial trial. The defendant and the prosecutor may each strike three potential jurors from the service. All cases tried in the Municipal Court will be heard by a petit jury which consists of six persons. The jury will select a foreperson.
The foreperson is responsible for polling the jury, signing the verdict form, and transmitting questions or requests to the Judge. The verdict of the jury must be unanimous. The jury panel will receive the charge of the Court before rendering a verdict. The charge sets forth the law applicable in the case, the range of fines allowed in the case, and directions on how the jurors must conduct themselves during deliberations to arrive at a fair and impartial verdict based on the evidence presented at trial.