By: Beltz Law Firm
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The Law Of Violation Of Promise To Appear Charges For Tickets In Municipal Courts In Texas
Violation Of Promise To Appear – “VPTA”
What The Charge Is and How To Handle It
There are more and more courts that are filing additional charges against those that do not appear in court before their appearance date passes on the citation that was issued. This charge can be more expensive than the original ticket and is used in many instances to generate more revenue for the city that issues the offense. For that reason, this article is to help those that have been charged with VPTA and what to do about it.
The Laws of VPTA
- Sec. 543.003. NOTICE TO APPEAR REQUIRED: PERSON NOT TAKEN BEFORE MAGISTRATE. An officer who arrests a person for a violation of this subtitle punishable as a misdemeanor and who does not take the person before a magistrate shall issue a written notice to appear in court showing the time and place the person is to appear, the offense charged, the name and address of the person charged, and, if applicable, the license number of the person’s vehicle.
When you get a ticket you are required to sign the ticket as well. This is not to say you are guilty of the offense. Sometimes we have clients who say they refused to sign the ticket because they were not guilty. The signature only marks your willingness to go to court to prove your innocent. So, best practice is to sign the ticket for the officer and appear in court prior to the appearance date listed on the ticket to resolve it one way or the other.
- Sec. 543.005. PROMISE TO APPEAR; RELEASE. To secure release, the person arrested must make a written promise to appear in court by signing the written notice prepared by the arresting officer. The signature may be obtained on a duplicate form or on an electronic device capable of creating a copy of the signed notice. The arresting officer shall retain the paper or electronic original of the notice and deliver the copy of the notice to the person arrested. The officer shall then promptly release the person from custody.
If you do not sign the ticket, the officer can arrest you. So again, sign the ticket and you can protest your innocence later in open court. After signing the ticket, the officer must release you.
Sec. 543.006. TIME AND PLACE OF APPEARANCE. (a) The time specified in the notice to appear must be at least 10 days after the date of arrest unless the person arrested demands an earlier hearing.
(b) The place specified in the notice to appear must be before a magistrate having jurisdiction of the offense who is in the municipality or county in which the offense is alleged to have been committed.
General rule of thumb is to contact the court by the first week after the ticket was issued. This gives you an extra 3 days before the 10 day deadline passes.
Sec. 543.009. COMPLIANCE WITH OR VIOLATION OF PROMISE TO APPEAR. (a) A person may comply with a written promise to appear in court by an appearance by counsel.
(b) A person who wilfully violates a written promise to appear in court, given as provided by this subchapter, commits a misdemeanor regardless of the disposition of the charge on which the person was arrested.
They key word in this portion of the statute is “willfully.” This term “wilfully” is not actually defined in the Penal Code Chapter 6 which outlines the mental states. This makes it difficult to define as a lawyer. Some courts have described wilfull as intentional. If they truly are considered synonyms in this instance, then the definition used would be as follows:
- Sec. 6.03. DEFINITIONS OF CULPABLE MENTAL STATES. (a) A person acts intentionally, or with intent, with respect to the nature of his conduct or to a result of his conduct when it is his conscious objective or desire to engage in the conduct or cause the result.
It can be argued pretty easily that nobody consciously desires to engage in conduct to cause the result of missing a court date. It is up to you to speak with your lawyer about the reason for missing court and whether or not it was intentional or due to some other circumstance. If it was due to some other circumstance, then use that as leverage to argue for dismissal of the case.