ADMINISTRATIVE HEARING PROCESS:
JUSTICE OF THE PEACE COURT
- PURPOSE AND AUTHORITY
This administrative hearing process is adopted under subsection 372.107(h) of the Texas Transportation Code to provide persons who a toll project entity (“TPE”) has determined to be a “habitual violator” under 372.106(a) a timely and fair hearing in which to contest that determination.
- INITIATION OF ADMINISTRATIVE HEARING PROCESS
When pursuant to 372.106(d) a TPE receives a timely written request for a hearing from a registered owner of a vehicle (“Owner”) who the TPE has determined is a habitual violator, the TPE will forward that request to a justice court in a county in which venue properly lies. If the person does not request a hearing within the period required by Subsection [372.106](d) the [TPE’]s determination becomes final and not subject to appeal to a justice court. (372.106(e)).
A hearing requested under Section 372.106 shall be conducted in a justice court in a county in which the toll collection facilities where at least 25 percent of the events of nonpayment occurred are located. (372.107(b))
- FILING FEE
A party requesting a hearing shall pay a filing fee of $100 to the clerk of the justice court. If that party prevails under the justice’s finding under Subsection [372.108](f), the other party shall reimburse the prevailing party for the amount of the filing fee within 10 days after issuance of the finding. (372.108(c))
- PREHEARING CONFERENCE
Upon receipt of a request for a hearing, and prior to the court scheduling such hearing, the parties shall meet and discuss matters relevant to the issues to be determined by the justice court. The court shall send notice to both parties of the date, time and place of the prehearing conference. At the meeting the parties shall discuss settlement and, if terms of a settlement cannot be reached, the parties shall seek to narrow the disputes to specific issues, exchange witness lists and documents to be offered at the hearing.
- SCHEDULING AND CONTINUATION OF HEARING
If, after the prehearing conference, the parties do not come to an agreement,, the justice court shall inform the Owner and the TPE of the date, time and place of the hearing which shall not be scheduled prior to 45 days from the date of the notice of hearing. The hearing may be continued upon good cause shown and in the interest of justice at the discretion of the presiding judge.
- THE ISSUES AT THE HEARING
The issues that must be proven at the hearing by a preponderance of the evidence are:
(1)whether the registered owner was issued at least two written notices of nonpayment for an aggregate of 100 or more events of nonpayment within a period of one year, not including events of nonpayment for which:
(A) the registered owner has provided to the toll project entity information establishing that the vehicle was subject to a lease at the time of the nonpayment, as provided by applicable toll project entity law; or
(B) a defense of theft at the time of the nonpayment has been established as provided by applicable toll project entity law; and
(2) whether the total amount due for tolls and administrative fees specified in those notices was not paid in full by the dates specified in the notices and remains not fully paid. (372.107(d))
Proof under Subsection [372.107](d) may be by oral testimony, documentary evidence, video surveillance, or any other reasonable evidence. (372.107(e))
Written discovery shall be limited to the production of documents and identification of witnesses that each party intends to introduce or call at the hearing. Discovery is limited to evidence relevant to the issues at the hearing as outlined in Section 5 above and shall not pertain to irrelevant matters. The TPE has no obligation to serve the Owner with documents that have previously been supplied to the Owner.
- CONDUCT OF THE HEARING
The Justice of the Peace shall have full authority to conduct and control the hearing. Irrelevant, immaterial, or unduly repetitious evidence shall be excluded. Evidence not admissible under the Texas Rules of Evidence may be admitted (except where precluded by statute) if it is of a type commonly relied upon by reasonably prudent persons in the conduct of their affairs. Objections to evidentiary offers may be made and shall be ruled upon by the justice of the peace. Subject to these requirements, when a hearing will be expedited and the interests of the parties will not be prejudiced, any part of the evidence may be received in written form.
If the Justice of the Peace finds in the affirmative on each issue in subsection [372.107](d), the toll project entity's determination that the registered owner is a habitual violator is sustained and becomes final. If the Justice does not find in the affirmative on each issue in Subsection [372.107](d), the toll project entity shall rescind its determination that the registered owner is a habitual violator. Rescission of the determination does not limit the toll project entity's authority to pursue collection of the outstanding tolls and administrative fees. (372.107(f))
- FAILURE TO RESPOND TO NOTICE OR APPEAR FOR HEARING – DEFAULT
A registered owner who requests a hearing and fails to appear without just cause waives the right to a hearing, and the toll project entity's determination is final and not subject to appeal. (372.107(g))
- APPEAL FROM THE JUSTICE OF THE PEACE’S FINDING
Unless prohibited by Section 372.106(g), a registered owner may appeal the justice of the peace's decision by filing a petition not later than the 30th day after the date on which the decision is rendered:
(1)in the county court at law of the county in which the justice of the peace precinct is located; or
(2) if there is no county court at law in that county, in the county court.
1 All subsequent statutory references are to the Transportation Code unless otherwise noted.
2 Statutory language is italicized.