By: Beltz Law Firm
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CAN COMMERCIAL DRIVER’S GET DEFERRED ADJUDICATION BY APPEALING CASE OUT OF LOWER COURTS?
CAN COMMERCIAL DRIVER’S GET DEFERRED ADJUDICATION BY APPEALING THEIR CASES TO A HIGHER COURT?
COMMERCIAL DRIVER TICKET DEFENSE FIRM EXPLAINS
This article is intended to help explain to lawyers and commercial drivers alike the current state of the law when it comes to deferred adjudication requests on appeals from lower courts into county courts at law in Texas. If you are a commercial driver and have received a speeding ticket or any other moving violation and would like good sound advice on your legal options contact our office today. 214-321-4105.
As of 2016, the law has become clearer for prosecutors and judges alike that have struggled with the issue of whether or not to offer deferred adjudication to commercial drivers who have appealed their cases from lower courts in the county courts at law across the state of Texas. In the past, defense attorneys would make the argument that because the case is appealed to county, that the Chapter 45 of the Code of Criminal Procedure did not apply to them. Chapter 45 specifically is the code section that applies to municipal and justice courts. We would often make the argument on behalf of commercial drivers that because county court is not a justice or municipal court it does not apply.
However, I really never believed this argument. The problem with the argument is that it is based on the appeal not being seen as granting only concurrent jurisdiction to county courts. When it is clear by the case law and all other relevant legal statutes that county courts do not have true appellate jurisdiction over justice and municipal courts of non-record. They only have concurrent jurisdiction. This means the appeal is more of a lateral move and not a move for judicial review of anything the lower court has done.
The lateral move to the county court at law establishes a trial de novo in that court for the sole purpose of creating a record that can be appealed at a later date. Because of this very important distinction, the rules that apply to lower courts must also apply to the county court at law for purposes of a true appellate action based on legal error.
The case that outlines this point came out of Amarillo and is listed as follows in a synopsis from the TCDAA:
Texas Courts of Appeals
In re State of Texas (7^th COA)
No. 07-16-00052-CR 3/16/16
Does a county court-at-law judge have authority to grant deferred
adjudication to a CDL driver for a traffic offense?
Holding (per curiam):
No. On appeal from a justice of the peace or municipal court, a county
court-at-law judge cannot offer deferred adjudication to a CDL holder.
Because Code of Criminal Procedure art. 42.111 states that the court may
defer further proceedings without entering an adjudication of guilt in the
same manner as provided for the deferral of proceedings in justice or
municipal court under Article 45.051 of this code the county court is
limited in the same manner as municipal judges or justices of the peace and
cannot offer deferred adjudication for a violation of traffic laws (other
than parking violations) to persons who currently hold or held a commercial
driver’s license at the time of the offense. Read.
Commentary (as seen through the lens of a prosecutor of course):
A thorough and well-reasoned opinion that should put to bed, for now, any
argument that a county court has authority to defer traffic cases that a
justice or municipal court does not.
So what now? How does a defense attorney do a bang up job for their commercial driver’s after this opinion? My thoughts are that we do what our firm has always done. You do it brick and mortar style. You start in the lower court. You fight like crazy there. If things don’t work out after a trial, then you appeal and start over again. You fight all the way through until there are no more options left. Because after all, we are talking about a person’s ability to support themselves and their loved ones. Does this opinion make our job harder. Of course it does. But the commitment should remain the same to the client. Just make sure you are having those hard discussions with them in the beginning about what they are up against. Make sure you have a client that cares as much as you do about the process and the long road ahead. Make sure they will be committed to the process and have the financial resources available to help you fight for them. If all these things fall into place, then see where that takes the case.