County Courts have same limitations as municipal and JP courts regarding CDL holders says Amarillo Court of Appeals

 

In Re The State of Texas, Relator, 07-16-00052 (Tex. App. – Amarillo, March 16, 2016).

This is a writ of mandamus case of interest mainly to municipal prosecutors. It holds that on appeal, a county court judge cannot provide for deferred disposition any more than a municipal judge or justice of the piece can.

Relator, the State of Texas, acting by and through the Potter County Attorney’s Office, seeks a writ of mandamus to compel a county court at law judge from issuing deferred dispositions for commercial driver’s license holders, in particular Real Party in Interest Jimmie White. White was originally convicted in Justice of the Peace Court, Precinct 3, of Potter County, Texas, of the misdemeanor offense of speeding.  Under Article 45 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, a JP and municipal court judge are prohibited from providing deferred disposition to CDL holders. [Comment: what some defense lawyers do is to appeal CDL convictions to county court (which are de novo reviews) and argue the county court judge has additional authority to offered deferred disposition.  Some courts believe they have such authority, some do not.]  On appeal, the county court judge issued deferred disposition to White, which would potentially keep the conviction off his driving record upon completion. The County Attorney’s Office objected to the deferred order and sought mandamus to compel the withdrawal of the order.

Texas Code of Criminal Procedure article 42.111 authorizes the deferral of proceeding in cases appealed from a justice of the peace or municipal court to county court.  The court of appeals analyzed article 42.111.  It states, among other things, that “[i]f the defendant enters a plea of guilty or nolo contendere, 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 second part of the sentence is pivotal for the court. It states the county court may defer “adjudication of guilt in the same manner” as justice and municipal court. White argues the word “manner” has many meanings, including “a mode of procedure” and “a customary mode of acting.” After utilizing statutory construction principles, the court held it was “imminently logical” that if the JP and municipal courts did not have jurisdiction to offer deferred to CDL holders, a driver could not simply circumvent that by appealing to county court. As a result, the court issued a directive to the county court judge to withdraw her opinion else a mandamus would be issued to compel such compliance.

 

If you would like to read this opinion, click here.  Panel: Quinn CJ, Hancock, and Pirtle JJ. Per Curiam opinion.  Attorneys for the Respondent and Relator Are Honorable Pamela Cook Sirmon, and C. Wade Overstreet.  Attorney for the Real Party in interest is B. Jarrett Johnston.