A Constable is a commissioned Peace Officer, elected by county constituents every four years for a particular area or precinct of that county. A Constable may enforce any criminal and civil law, motor vehicle violation and conduct criminal investigations. The Constable’s Office provides a valuable service to the county citizens by doing Justice Court duties, as well as regular law enforcement responsibilities.
Early records indicate that the first constables were established in the year 871 AD by King Alfred of England. The Constable was the judge in military offenses and in questions of chivalry. He was also named by the King to be the supreme arbitrator for tournaments and martial displays.
On June 15, 1215 the Magna Carta established Justice Courts with constables, sheriffs, and bailiffs. The first Constable in America was appointed in Plymouth Colony, Massachusetts. During that time, the leading official was the Justice of the Peace. Assisted by the Constable, they were in charge of the Colony Court, which was both judiciary and legislative. The Constable enforced the orders of colonial and county officials in both civil and criminal matters.
In 1823, while Texas was still a colony of Mexico, Stephen F. Austin wrote and got passed rules of criminal regulation. The Mexican government approved these rules, and Austin, with the aid of these cowboy-lawmen, began establishing courts of justice throughout the colonies of Texas.
In 1876, the Constitution of the State of Texas was written to include the elected office of Constable. Like other law enforcement officers, the Constables role has changed greatly over the years, and present day Constables must know criminal law as well as civil law. The Constables and any Deputies they are allowed have all the powers and responsibilities of any peace officer in the state. They may make arrests, conduct investigations, and file criminal charges. However, they have additional enforcement responsibility that street officers are not charged with. The Constables serve and enforce civil court orders such as Writs, Citations, Subpoenas, Summons, Notices, Orders, and Warrants. Constables are not allowed to serve any papers concerning any action which that Constable may be a party to.
As of the end of 2004, Texas does not require newly elected Constables to be already certified as Texas Peace Officers. The law allows the newly elected Constable 270 days to become licensed as a Texas Peace Officer, by attending an approved academy, or challenging the licensing exam given by Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Standards and Education. After the 270 days, if the Constable has not become licensed by the State as a Peace Officer, the Constable forfeits the office, and can be removed from office by Commissioners Court. The Constables regular term of office is four years, during which time the Constable must attend and pass numerous required law enforcement courses such as Family Violence, Cultural Diversity, Civil Process, and firearms training. In addition, the State requires every Constable take a medical, psychological and emotional examination given by State approved Physicians and Psychologists/Psychiatrists.
A Constable also attends the operation of the Justice Court, providing security for the participants and enforcing orders of the Justice of the Peace. Service fees which are not collected by the Justice Court and turned over to the County Treasurer are collected by the Constable, who then, by law, must deposit those funds in the County Treasury. The Constables salary comes from the general fund of the County, and is set by the County Commissioners. Other allowances for Constable expenses may be allowed by the Commissioners Court, as well. Constables budgets and Constables fees are public record and can be reviewed by any member of the community.