In Texas, trials de novo are available in both civil and criminal cases, but only cases of certain types. Generally speaking, trial de novo is available to appeal cases which were originally heard in courts which are not courts “of record,” meaning that no official record or transcript of the trial was taken. Texas justice of the peace courts are not courts of record, as well as most Texas municipal courts. (In the larger urban communities, it is more common for municipal courts to be courts of record. Check the enabling statute for the court or the city’s charter to be certain.) So, generally speaking, appeals from these courts, which hear small claims actions and fine-only criminal cases, are de novo.
Usually a trial de novo from these justice and municipal courts would be heard by the county court which has jurisdiction to hear these appeals. In counties with a distinction between county courts at law and county criminal courts, small claims (civil) appeals would be tried de novo in the county court at law, which has civil jurisdiction, while a fine-only misdemeanor criminal case would be tried de novo in the county criminal court. In such appeals, an entirely new trial will be held as if the case had never been heard or decided in the lower court.
A trial de novo may also be available from certain administrative agency rulings, such as decisions from the Texas Workforce Commission. It is also sometimes available from rulings from certain magistrates and associate judges (judges who aren’t the presiding judges of the court in which the case was filed). These types of de novo appeals are generally heard in at the district court level.
— Bonnie Sudderth, Judge of the 352nd District Court of Tarrant County, Texas
Caveat: Trials de novo are not automatic and they are not guaranteed. A party desiring to appeal de novo must follow the applicable rules and deadlines to initiate the process, including filing a notice of appeal and, in many cases, the filing an appeal bond. There is usually a very narrow window of opportunity to pursue an appeal de novo – normally, just a few days. As always, it is advisable to consult an attorney if you want to seek a trial de novo.