Texas Attorney General Opinion: JC-25 Page: 3 of 5
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The Honorable William T. Hill, Jr. - Page 3
In Treadgillv. State, 275 S.W.2d 658 (Tex. Crim. App. 1954), our Court of Criminal Appeals
held that where a city is authorized to adopt a nuisance ordinance that applies extraterritorially, a
municipal court has implied authority to hear cases arising from violations of the ordinance that
occur outside city limits. At issue in Treadgill was a City of Houston ordinance making it unlawful
to sell fireworks within city limits and within 5,000 feet outside city limits. The ordinance was
adopted pursuant to former article 1175 of the Revised Civil Statutes, the predecessor to current
Local Government Code section 217.042. The statute allowed a city to "define all nuisances and
prohibit the same within the city and outside the city limits for a distance of five thousand feet." Id.
at 662. A person who had been convicted in municipal court for selling fireworks within 5,000 feet
outside the city limits appealed his conviction, in part on the grounds that the municipal court was
without jurisdiction to hear his prosecution. The Court of Criminal Appeals acknowledged that the
statute conferring jurisdiction on municipal courts gave them express jurisdiction only within their
corporate limits. But the court said that the proper question was one of venue, not jurisdiction, citing
the legislature's power to authorize the trying of a person in a jurisdiction other than the jurisdiction
in which the person committed the offense. Id. at 663; but see id. at 665 (Woodley, J., dissenting)
(arguing that question was one of jurisdiction rather than venue and that municipal court had no
jurisdiction to try case arising from act outside city limits). The court found that the authority of a
municipal court to try cases arising from conduct committed beyond corporate limits was implied
by the fact that the city was authorized to prohibit nuisances there:
The right to prohibit such nuisances carries with it the right to do all
things necessary to that end, which extends to prosecution and punishment
in the courts having jurisdiction of such offense.
The ordinance making it unlawful to sell fireworks within five thousand
feet of the boundary line of the City of Houston being valid, the corporation
court of the City of Houston was a proper court in which a prosecution for a
violation of that ordinance might be maintained.
From what has been said, it is apparent that the ordinance here involved
is valid and the corporation court of the city of Houston is a proper forum in
which violations of that ordinance might be determined.
Id. at 664 (on motion for rehearing). At least one subsequent court has recognized the implied
jurisdiction of a municipal court over extraterritorial ordinance violations. See City of Westlake Hills
v. Westwood Legal Defense Fund, 598 S.W.2d 681, 687 (Tex. Civ. App.-Waco 1980, no writ) ("A
municipal court may... have jurisdiction to try offenses occurring outside the corporate limits if
the offenses constitute violations of city ordinances which validly apply to the area in which the
In the present case, the statute authorizing cities to prohibit nuisances beyond their borders
allows cities to "enforce all ordinances necessary to prevent and summarily abate and remove a
nuisance." TEX. Loc. GOV'T CODE ANN. 217.042(b) (Vernon 1988). We conclude in accordance
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Texas. Attorney-General's Office. Texas Attorney General Opinion: JC-25, text, 1999; (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth274334/m1/3/: accessed November 18, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.