Types of Hearings
The first hearing that a Defendant attends is generally referred to as a First Appearance hearing. Arraignment will occur at the time of most First Appearances. Defendants will be informed of their rights, the charges against them, and the possible penalties if convicted. Trials are not conducted at the same time as First Appearances and the judge will not hear evidence at that time.
Arraignment is the time scheduled for a defendant to appear in court and enter a plea on the violations for which they have been charged. Defendants may enter a plea of:
- Not Guilty: This means that you deny committing the offense. You will maintain your trial rights and your case will be set for trial at a later date.
- No Contest: This means that you do not admit committing the offense but do not wish to have a trial or contest the matter. The court will find you guilty and you will be sentenced.
- Guilty: This means that you admit committing the offense. The court will find you guilty you will be sentenced.
This hearing is basically a settlement hearing. The prosecutor, defendant, and defendant's attorney, if any, will meet to discuss a possible settlement. If the parties are able to reach a settlement, the terms of the settlement will be journalized and signed by the parties on that day. If you wish to have a pretrial conference, you may notify the judge at your arraignment after you plead not guilty. You will have to waive your right to a speedy trial as the court will not be setting your case for trial on the earliest practical day available. Defendants must be personally present for their Pretrial Conference. If you are not able to reach a settlement, you will maintain your trial rights and your case will be set for trial at a later date. All pretrial conferences are set on Thursdays.
If you inform the court at your first appearance that you wish to apply for diversion, your case will be set for a diversion review hearing. You will be required to appear unless you have already signed a diversion agreement, that agreement has been filed with the court, and you have received a file-stamped copy of the diversion agreement. Diversion reviews are typically set on Wednesdays at 9:00 a.m.
The purpose of the trial is to determine whether or not the defendant will be found guilty or not guilty of the offenses stated on the complaint or citation. The defendant is presumed to be innocent of those offenses. At the trial, the city must prove that the defendant is guilty of those offenses beyond a reasonable doubt. Jury trials are not held at the Municipal Court level. The Municipal Judge hears all testimony and will reach a verdict. All trial dockets are set on Thursdays at 1:30 p.m.
In all Municipal Court cases, you have the right to representation by an attorney. If you choose not to be represented by an attorney, you may act as your own attorney. This is called appearing pro se.
You have the right to have the court issue subpoenas for witnesses to ensure their appearance at trial. You would need to provide the clerk's office with the witnesses that you wish to have subpoenaed and you would need to provide a current address for each witness.
Steps & Rules of Conduct
- Step One: All those who expect to testify for the prosecution are to be sworn in.
- Step Two: The prosecution has the burden to show that you are guilty as charged. To do this the prosecutor will bring witnesses who will testify to what they observed. The witnesses may be police officers or civilians or both.
- Step Three: After each of the City's witnesses has answered the prosecutor's questions, you will be given the opportunity to question the witnesses. Your cross examination must be in the form of questions. You are not allowed to argue with a witness. This not the time for you to tell your side of the story. The opportunity will come later in the trial. You may present your side of the case later.
- Step Four: When the City finishes:
- You may remain silent. Your silence will not be an admission of guilt.
- You may put on witnesses to testify on your behalf.
- You may testify under oath and be questioned as any other witness.
- You may make a closing argument if you wish.
- Step Five: The Judge will make a decision of Not Guilty or Guilty based on the facts presented and the law of the case.
There are several sentencing options in Municipal Court such as jail time, fines, fees, restitution, community service, house arrest, and probation. If you are found guilty of the charges, the judge will announce a penalty at the time of sentencing. All Sentencing dockets are set on Thursdays. Depending upon the charges against you, you may be sentenced at arraignment or immediately following a finding of guilt after a trial.
Revocation hearings are hearings on motions filed by the City Prosecutor requesting that the defendant's probation, parole or diversion be revoked. The motions will specify the alleged violations of a defendant's probation, parole or diversion. Defendants have the right to be represented by counsel at revocation hearings and can request a court-appointed attorney if they are indigent.
It is the City's burden to prove to the court by a preponderance of the evidence that the defendant violated the terms of his or her probation, parole, or diversion conditions. If witnesses are brought to testify against the defendant, those witnesses must testify in open court and are subject to cross-examination by the defendant or their attorney. If a defendant's probation or parole is revoked, the defendant may be required to serve some, none or all of the defendant's original suspended sentence. If a defendant's diversion is revoked, the diversion will be set aside and the defendant will be required to enter a plea to the original charges. All revocation dockets are set on Thursdays.
An "expungement" removes an arrest, diversion or conviction from your criminal record for most purposes. Whether you can receive an expungement depends upon state law. You may have the right to have your arrest, diversion or conviction expunged after the passage of three or five years, depending on the offense. You may wish to contact an attorney to request assistance if you wish to request an expungement. There is no set expungement docket, but expungement hearings will be set on a Thursday docket. A $50 fee must be paid at any time that a petition for expungement is filed. This includes original petitions for expungement as well as amended petitions for expungement.