Routine,, and Frequently asked questions

Order of Events at a Trial

The following are the order of events of the trial, as stated in the Texas Uniform Jury Handbook authorized by Chapter 23 of the Government Code:

  • Opening Statements: The lawyers for each side may explain the case, the evidence they will present, and the issues for you to decide.
  • Presentation Of Evidence: The evidence consists of the testimony of witnesses and the exhibits allowed by the Judge. Exhibits admitted into evidence will be available to the jury for examination during deliberations. You have a right to ask for them. You will be asked to make decisions regarding disputed facts.
  • Rulings By The Judge: The Judge may be asked to decide questions of law during the trial. Occasionally, the Judge may ask jurors to leave the courtroom while the lawyers make their legal arguments. The jurors should understand that such interruptions are needed to make sure that their verdict is based upon proper evidence, as determined by the Judge under the Rules of Evidence. You may give the evidence whatever weight you consider appropriate.
  • Instructions To The Jury: At the close of all the evidence, the Judge may submit to the jury the Charge of the Court. This will include legal instructions on this particular case and the questions that the jury is to answer from the evidence admitted.
  • Closing Arguments: After the Charge of the Court, the lawyers have the opportunity to summarize the evidence in their closing arguments and to try to persuade the jury to accept their client's view of the case.
  • Deliberations And Verdict Of The Jury: Following closing arguments, the jury is sent to deliberate. When the jury has answered the questions asked of them they shall return their verdict. The verdict must be based solely on the evidence presented by the parties, the Charge of the Court, and the rules of law provided by the Judge.
  • When In Doubt, Ask The Judge: You have the right to communicate with the Judge regarding any matters affecting your deliberations, including but not limited to: 1) physical comfort, 2) special needs, 3) any questions regarding evidence; or, 4) the Charge of the Court. During deliberation, if it becomes necessary to communicate with the Judge, the bailiff or the officer of the court will deliver jurors' notes to the Judge. The information in this handbook is not intended to take the place of the instructions given by the Judge in any case. In the event of conflict, the Judge's instructions will prevail.

Complaints and Citations

  • A complaint or citation is an allegation that certain actions on your part are unlawful or illegal. You must not ignore these charges and must appear in Municipal Court to answer these charges by entering a plea. If you were given a citation or a complaint by a Police Officer, the appearance date will appear on the citation / complaint.

Pleas, and Trial by Jury

  • What plea should I enter to the charges filed against me?
    • You are presumed to be innocent under our system of justice until proven guilty. You may enter one of three pleas:
      • Plea Of Not Guilty
      • Plea Of Guilty
      • Plea Of No Contest (also known as nolo contendere)
    • If your plea is "not guilty," your case will be set for trial.
    • If you enter a plea of guilty or no contest, you will be fined or sentenced immediately.
  • What about having an attorney represent me?
    • The Municipal Court does not appoint defense counsel. That is your responsibility if you desire to have an attorney represent you. You are not required to have an attorney in a court trial but may represent yourself if you desire. No one else may represent you in Municipal Court.
  • Should I request a trial by jury?
    • You may, by giving notice to the Municipal Court Clerk, at least 10 days prior to your trial date, to request a trial before a jury.
  • Can I testify at my trial?
    • Yes, you will be able to testify, hear all testimony introduced against you and have the right to cross-examine all witnesses who testify against you. You may also subpoena witnesses by requesting the Municipal Court Clerk, at least 10 days prior to your trial date, to subpoena these witnesses. If you personally testify, you will give up your right not to testify and will be subject to cross-examination by the City Attorney.

Jury Service Frequently Asked Questions:

  • Why is jury service important?
    • The United States Constitution and the Texas Constitution guarantee all people, regardless of race, religion, sex, national origin, or economic status, the right to trial by an impartial jury. Justice ultimately depends to a large measure upon the quality of the jurors who serve in our courts.
  • What is my duty as a juror?
    • As a juror, you must be fair and impartial. Your actions and decisions must be free of any bias or prejudice. Your actions and decisions are the foundation of our judicial system.
  • How was I selected?
    • You were selected at random from a list of voter registrations and a list of driver registrations from the county in which you live.
  • Am I eligible?
    • Jurors must:
      • Be a citizen of the United States and of this State
      • Reside in the City limits of Jacksonville
      • Be at least 18 years of age
      • Reside in the county of jury service
      • Be able to read and write
      • Be of sound mind
    • You cannot serve on a jury if:
    • You have been convicted of a felony or of any type of theft (unless rights have been restored)
    • You are now on probation or deferred adjudication for a felony or for any type of theft
    • You are now under indictment for a felony or are now under criminal charges for any type of theft
    • If you are in doubt, or think you may not be qualified to serve on a jury for one of the above or any other reasons, please notify the judge.
  • Who can be excused from jury service?
    • You are entitled to be excused as a juror if you:
      • Are the caretaker of a person who is unable to care for themselves (an invalid)
      • Can show a physical or mental impairment or an inability to comprehend or to communicate in English
      • Are over 70-years of age
  • What types of cases does Jacksonville Municipal Court handle?
    • Criminal Cases: A criminal case results when a person is accused of committing a crime. You, as a juror, must decide whether the person charged is guilty or not guilty. The accused person is presumed innocent, and the State, represented by the District or County Attorney, must prove guilt "beyond a reasonable doubt."Civil Cases (including family cases): A civil case results from a disagreement or dispute between two or more parties. In a civil case, you, as a juror, must answer questions of disputed facts based upon the testimony and evidence admitted by the Judge. The answers to these questions are called the verdict.
  • Will I be paid for being a juror?
    • Yes. You will be paid a minimum of $10 for each day you actually serve on the jury.
  • Must my employer pay me while I am on jury duty?
    • Your employer is not required to pay you while on jury duty; however, employers are prohibited by law from firing an employee for serving as a juror.
  • Who can have a jury trial?
    • Any person charged with a criminal offense or any party to a civil case has a right to a jury trial. All parties are equal before the law and each is entitled to the same fair treatment.
  • How is a juror selected for a particular case?
    • Cases will usually be heard by juries of 6 or 12 jurors. A larger group, called a panel, will be sent to the trial court (courtroom) where the jurors will be questioned under the supervision of the Judge. A juror may be excused from the panel if it is shown that the juror cannot act impartially concerning the case to be heard. In addition, each side is allowed to remove a given number of jurors from the panel without having to show any reason. The trial jury will be the first 6 or 12 of the remaining jurors on the panel.
  • What is voir dire or questioning of the jury panel?
    • It is a way for the parties to select a fair and impartial jury. Under the justice system, you may be questioned by each of the lawyers before they decide to remove a certain number of jurors from the jury panel. For example, the lawyer may ask you questions to see if you are connected to the trial or if you have any prejudice or bias toward anyone in the trial. These questions are not intended to embarrass you, but rather to help the lawyers in the jury selection process. You may ask the Judge to allow you to answer some questions away from the other jurors.
  • What if I have a special need or emergency?
    • After you have been selected as a juror on a trial panel, if you have a special need or an emergency, tell the bailiff.