TicketHelpTexas.org uses the term “fine-only offenses” to refer to Class C misdemeanors and any other misdemeanors intended to be punished by only a fine.
Special thanks to Texas Fair Defense Project and Texas Appleseed for this article. It has been lightly edited for style.
What are some fine-only offenses?
- Traffic offenses such as speeding, running a red light, or failure to yield. They also include driving-related violations like a first offense of driving with an invalid license, driving with defective equipment, driving without insurance, or having an expired registration. The maximum fine amount varies by offense but does not exceed $500.
- Non-traffic Class C misdemeanors include public intoxication, theft of something valued less than $100, possession of drug paraphernalia (but no drugs), assault without any injury (like verbal assault, unwanted touching and family violence), disorderly conduct, minor in possession of alcohol, and more. The maximum fine does not exceed $500.
- City ordinance violations like leash laws, health and safety ordinances, and solicitation or panhandling ordinances. The maximum fine does not exceed $2,000.
How much is a fine for a class C misdemeanor or fine-only offense?
The fine for a Class C misdemeanor and most traffic tickets can range up to $500. There are also other fine-only offenses that are punishable by fines potentially greater than $500, though they are less common.
Will I go to jail if charged with a fine-only misdemeanor?
Usually, you will receive a ticket when you are charged with a fine-only misdemeanor instead of being arrested and booked into jail. Still, even with those that are supposed to be “fine-only,” people may be arrested on warrants when they fail to pay their fines or fail to appear in court in these cases. A judge may also order someone who willfully refuses to pay to sit out their fines in jail. Click here to see what information your ticket usually includes.
Can I just pay online or by mail, or must I go to court?
For almost every fine-only offense, a person may choose to just submit payment through the mail or online and resolve the case. But for those not paying by mail, the citation will provide you with a date or time you must appear in court, or deadline before which you must either appear in court or set a time to appear in court.
Are there some Class C offenses that require me to go to court?
One exception is Class C assault-family violence. You cannot resolve this type of case by merely paying the fine by mail or online. You must appear in court to enter a plea. Your fingerprints will be taken. If you are convicted, it must be reported to DPS for inclusion on your criminal record.
Another exception is Public Intoxication; you will usually be arrested for this rather than issued a ticket, even though it's a Class C misdemeanor. You’ll be booked into jail until you see a judge and are sober enough to be released, usually with an order to appear in court at a later date.
What if I get a summons to court?
A handful of other Class C misdemeanors, such as Parent Contributing to School Nonattendance, are usually charged by a person filing a complaint with the court rather than an officer witnessing you commit the offense. So rather than receiving a ticket, you may receive a summons in the mail ordering you to appear in court on a certain date.
Can I have a defense attorney?
Unlike other criminal cases, you will not have a defense lawyer appointed to represent you when you’re accused of a fine-only misdemeanor, even if you cannot afford to hire your own lawyer. You are permitted to hire your own lawyer if you can afford to do so.
What courts handle fine-only misdemeanors?
Fine-only misdemeanor cases are handled by either a municipal court (operated by the city) or a justice court, also known as a Justice of the Peace or JP court (operated by the county). When you receive a ticket or a summons to appear in court, it will tell you the name of the court where your case was filed.