Duties of a Justice of the Peace

The Justice of the Peace Court is a constitutional office whose origins date back to the early days of Texas statehood. Justice of the peace courts have original jurisdiction in Class C misdemeanor criminal cases, which are less serious minor offenses. These courts also have jurisdiction of minor civil matters. A justice of the peace may issue search or arrest warrants, and may serve as the coroner in counties where there is no provision for a medical examiner. These courts also function as small claims courts. The Justices are elected to a four-year term of office by the voters residing in that precinct. Additionally, justices of the peace are required by law to complete a 40-hour course covering the proper execution of that office's duties the first time they serve. After that, they must complete twenty hours of relevant coursework per year.

The following is a partial list of the functions that these courts oversee:

Magisterial Duties

  • Determines probable cause, issues arrest warrants, issues both adult and juvenile statutory warnings, and conducts bail examinations for arrested person.
  • Determines whether there is reasonable probability of a judgment being rendered against a person as a result of an accident while operating a motor vehicle without insurance.
  • Conducts reviews for sufficiency and issuance of search warrants.
  • Reviews applications for emergency detention and issues mental health and dependency warrants.
  • Conducts hearings concerning the disposition of stolen property.
  • Conducts handgun license denial hearings.
  • Conducts driver's license suspension hearings.
  • Conducts death investigations and orders autopsies.
  • Conducts towing hearings.
  • Conducts review for sufficiency and issuance of warrants to seize cruelly treated animals
  • Conducts hearings to determine disposition of animals.
  • Conducts hearings to review dangerous dog determination.

Administrative Duties

  • Performs marriage ceremonies.
  • Handles and collects fees, fines and court costs.
  • Manages bank deposits.
  • Prepares report for auditor and treasurer.
  • Supervises employees.
  • Prepares correspondence to defendants and parties to litigation as required by statute.

Criminal Jurisdiction

  • Reviews and files citation issued and complaints filed by local law enforcement agencies, including Constable, Sheriff, Department of Public Safety, etc.
  • Reviews requests for driving safety courses, files complaints for failure to appear and issues warrants, conducts show cause hearings, allows extension of time in which to complete course, dismisses cases, or imposes judgments.
  • Reviews documents in connection with charges of no insurance, expired driver's license, expired registration, and expired inspection.
  • Undertakes efforts to satisfy judgment, issues capias pro fines, conducts indigency hearings.
    Collects restitution.
  • Handles failure to attend school offenses against juveniles.

Civil Jurisdiction

  • Files petitions instituting civil action within the jurisdiction of Justice Court.
  • Files petitions instituting proceedings to enforce deed restrictions.
  • Files petitions instituting evictions from residential and commercial properties.
  • Files petitions instituting civil action within the jurisdiction of the Small Claims Court. Amount not to exceed $10,000.