Mayor's Update #11: Traffic Ticket Woes Explained
So you received a ticket from the Blanco City Police, paid a big fine, and you realize that the whole process was one big mystery. In this Mayor’s Update, Blanco’s Municipal Court Clerk, Jessica Garner, and I will try to explain what just happened or what will happen if you receive a ticket in the future. We’ll also address some of your concerns about traffic tickets, and educate you about your rights and options. DISCLAIMER: If you receive an actual ticket, you should consult with an attorney, as this Update is only meant to inform you generally and is not intended to give specific legal advice.
The Court. If you receive a traffic ticket, you will most likely end up in Blanco’s Municipal Court. This Court only hears Class C misdemeanor cases involving violations of the City’s ordinances and codes, parking and traffic violations, and school attendance violations. Class B and above violations are handled by the Blanco County Court. During this past year, 86% of the citations issued in Blanco were for traffic offenses. Through November, the Blanco Municipal Court handled 447 citations and 557 violations.
You received a ticket—now what? When the police officer issues you a ticket, you will have to sign it. Signing the ticket does not mean that you are admitting that you are guilty. It simply means that you are acknowledging receipt of the ticket. Whether you are guilty or not, you must make an appearance on or before your designated court date that is noted on your ticket, though you can handle it all by mail. If you fail to appear or respond, the Court may levy a “failure to appear” fine, which is in addition to your traffic ticket, and your troubles will multiply.
If you believe you are not guilty, you can plead “Not Guilty” either in person at City Hall or by mail. If you plead “Not Guilty” you will be scheduled for an appearance before the Municipal Court where you will present your case to the Judge Barnett, the Municipal Court Judge, or to a jury if you request a jury trial. In either case, you have the right to represent yourself or retain an attorney to represent you. The City of Blanco will be represented by the City’s Prosecuting Attorney. If you are judged to be not guilty of the infraction, you will not be charged anything by the City. If, however, you are judged to be guilty you may be assessed court costs, a charge for the cost of overtime paid to the police officer who was required to testify at the trial, a jury fee of $5 per juror, and a warrant fee of $50 in addition to the fine.
You can also plead “Guilty” or “No Contest.” In doing so, you will pay the fine plus administrative court costs that commonly are around $65-100. But you will also have the option to take a Driver’s Safety Course at your expense. The advantage of this is that once you successfully complete the course, the ticket is erased from your driving record and no points are assessed against your State of Texas driver’s license. To be eligible to take the Driver’s Safety Course 1) you must not have completed such a course in the preceding 12 months; 2) you must not have been driving more than 24 miles per hour above the posted speed limit; 3) you must be at least 17 years old; 4) your driver’s license must not be a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL); and 5) you must present proof of liability insurance. If you take this option, your case is deferred and you are placed on probation for 30-180 days until you complete the course.
Fines and Fees. Fines for a speeding ticket fines start at $135.00 plus $5.00 for each mile over the posted speed limit. In addition to the basic fine, if found guilty you will also have to pay a Municipal Court Building Security fee of $3.00 per conviction and a Municipal Court Technology fee of $4.00 per conviction.
If payment is not received within 30 days after your court date, a State of Texas mandated fee of $25 must also be paid. The State of Texas also charges additional administrative fees, or surcharges, of $30-$70 per month to drivers who have numerous convictions reported on their driving record.
In addition to the fines, your insurance company may raise your car insurance. Under Texas law, of course, you are required to carry liability insurance. If you don’t have this insurance, you will have more troubles than just a speeding ticket.
Where Does All the Money Go? Now, you may be wondering where all that money you just paid goes. If you suspect that the City of Blanco is making a killing on issuing traffic tickets, you are wrong. Generally, Blanco only gets to keep about 30 % of the fine, with the State of Texas getting the rest. From its 30 %, the City of Blanco must pay for the salaries of the Municipal Court Judge, the Municipal Court Clerk, and the City’s Prosecuting Attorney as well as building and technology expenses; administrative expenses; postage, education and travel expenses; and trial expenses.
At the end of the day, your traffic ticket costs you a lot of money but after expenses are paid, the City of Blanco keeps very little, if any, of it. Issuing speeding tickets is not a money making operation for the City of Blanco. We do it only to keep speeders in check for the safety of our citizens. Only the attorneys and the State of Texas benefit when you receive a ticket.
Bottom line. When driving in Blanco, please don’t speed because, if you do, it will cost you a lot of money that we don’t get to keep.