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Thursday, January 13, 2011

'Ask the Judge" 10 tips in JP Court printed in La Prensa, 1-12

10 Tips when appearing in a Justice of the Peace Court by Judge Steve Walker

1. One of the biggest mistakes a defendant or plaintiff make when coming to Justice of the Peace Court is not hiring an attorney. It is especially difficult to win your case if the other side does have representation.
It can be best compared to a fist fight with someone with one hand tied behind your back. It is not a fair fight and your chances of winning are slim.
2. When you enter the court, you must maintain your composure and decorum. If you yell, cuss, act belligerently, or become disorderly you will be held in contempt and may spend up to 72 hours in jail. If you are cited for contempt you will serve the full 72 hours in jail. There is no bonding out.
3. When you have a scheduled court date, show up. Failure to appear could cost you a warrant, additional fines and jail time. Not having money to pay fines is not an excuse for not showing up. Show up and plead mercy of the court. The court offers payment plans and extended time to pay the fines.
4. Dress appropriately in the courtroom. Baggy pants, caps, low cut dresses, short shorts, etc. are not allowed. You will be asked to pull up your pants, take off your caps and cover yourself or be escorted out of the courtroom.
5. Turn off all cell phones and other devices while in court. If they go off, they will be confiscated by the bailiff and returned to you at the end of court.
6. For moving violations such as running red lights, speeding, failing to stop at stop signs, failure to signal etc., you will be allowed to take a defensive driving class once a year with court costs to keep your driving record clean. You may also request deferred probation.
7. If you refuse (contempt) or do not complete court mandates, you most likely will go to jail.
8. Students skipping school (truancy) will be mandated probation, a fine, community service, counseling, possible revocation of driver’s license and more.
9. Students cited for disorderly conduct will be mandated many of the same punishments as truants. Students charged with minor in possession of drugs, alcohol or cigarettes will be state mandated to take an 8-hour Tecada class pertaining to their specific offense.
10. Remember any decision a Justice of the Peace makes that you don’t agree with, can be appealed to County Court within the designated time.

Editor's Note: Published in La Prensa, January 12th issue on page 3.

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