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Houston Criminal Defense Attorney - Can you go to jail for a ticket if you commit the crime enough?

Houston Criminal Defense Attorney - Brian Foley - Board Certified in Criminal Law


I was recently asked, "If you jaywalk enough times can they put you in jail?" The answer to that specific question is no. No matter how many tickets you get for jaywalking the police and prosecutors can only punish you with up to a $500 fine for each offense. Now if you don't pay your tickets you can be held in contempt of court. If you fail to appear an arrest can be made.



Now technically an arrest can be made for every crime other than speeding, open container, and texting and driving. "(c) The offenses specified by Subsection (a) are the only offenses for which issuance of a written notice to appear is mandatory." So you can be arrested for it initially. But once you've been given a court date for a jaywalking case then you can only be punished for up to the maximum fine. This is true for all class C offenses. The problem comes if you miss a court date or plead guilty and fail to pay your fine. Eventually a Capias pro fine warrant will issue for failure to pay and you can be arrested and serve a specific amount of jail time correlated with how much money you still have to pay. In Harris County this happens so frequently that judges typically give them credit for however long they have already been in jail and not a day by day rate to calculate.


There are however some class c misdemeanor offenses for which you can be punished with jail time if you commit them too many times.


Section 12.43 of the Texas Penal Code lists offenses for which 3 convictions within 24 months will enhance your punishment range to up to 180 days in jail and a $2000 fine.

(c)  If it is shown on the trial of an offense punishable as a Class C misdemeanor under Section 42.01 or 49.02 that the defendant has been before convicted under either of those sections three times or three times for any combination of those offenses and each prior offense was committed in the 24 months preceding the date of commission of the instant offense, the defendant shall be punished by:
(1)  a fine not to exceed $2,000;
(2)  confinement in jail for a term not to exceed 180 days;  or
(3)  both such fine and confinement.

Section 42.01 is Disorderly Conduct and 49.02 is public intoxication. The only times I have ever seen this implemented is against homeless people who are frequently arrested for being intoxicated in public.


So if your friend asks you if you can be arrested for a class c the answer is yes. If they ask you if you can be sentenced to jail time as a punishment the answer is no unless they commit disorderly conduct or public intoxication 3 or more times in a calendar year.

Sec. 543.004.  NOTICE TO APPEAR REQUIRED:  CERTAIN OFFENSES.  (a)  An officer shall issue a written notice to appear if:
(1)  the offense charged is:
(A)  speeding;
(B)  the use of a wireless communication device under Section 545.4251; or
(C)  a violation of the open container law, Section 49.031, Penal Code; and
(2)  the person makes a written promise to appear in court as provided by Section 543.005.
(b)  If the person is a resident of or is operating a vehicle licensed in a state or country other than this state, Subsection (a) applies only as provided by Chapter 703.
(c)  The offenses specified by Subsection (a) are the only offenses for which issuance of a written notice to appear is mandatory.
Acts 1995, 74th Leg., ch. 165, Sec. 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1995.  Amended by Acts 1999, 76th Leg., ch. 62, Sec. 17.07, eff. Sept. 1, 1999.
Amended by: 
Acts 2017, 85th Leg., R.S., Ch. 438 (H.B. 62), Sec. 3, eff. September 1, 2017.
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