A Plea of Guilty
If you plead guilty, you are admitting to the Judge that you have committed an act, or acts, that violates a municipal ordinance. The Judge will then decide what penalty will be assessed. At this time, you have an opportunity to tell the Judge any circumstances that you believe lessen the seriousness of the violation. However, you cannot plead guilty and then in your explanation to the Judge say that you did not violate the law.
After listening to your explanation, the Judge will assess a penalty, considering the seriousness of the offense and any explanation offered by you. Remember, if you plead guilty, the Judge will find you guilty. Any explanation that is offered by you can only affect the penalty to be imposed. When you plead guilty you will be giving up the following rights:
To hire a lawyer to represent you;
to have a trial before a court;
to call witnesses to testify for you;
to testify for yourself;
to cross-examine any witnesses that the City may call;
and the right to appeal the judgment.
Appointment of Counsel
The Judge will notify you before you enter a plea if there is the possibility of a jail sentence in your case. If you cannot afford an attorney, the court will appoint an attorney to represent you. You do not have a constitutional right to have an attorney if jail is not a possible punishment. You may, however, always request a continuance to hire your own attorney.
Appointment of Interpreter
If you are in need of an interpreter, inquire at the Court office before your court date so that arrangements can be made for an interpreter to appear with you in Court. Court Interpreters must be certified.
A Plea of Not Guilty
A plea of not guilty means you believe you have not violated the law. When you plead not guilty, the Judge will set a date for trial. A trial will not be held on your initial arraignment as all necessary witnesses will not be present. You do not need to be represented by an attorney if you want to plead not guilty. You may represent yourself at trial. You have the right to a jury trial, but all trials in the municipal division are bench trials. Jury trials are held on cases certified to the Associate Division. If you plead not guilty and later decide to change your plea to guilty you must appear in court on your trial date before the Judge in order to do so.
Do not contact the Office of the Public Defender as they do not represent individuals in Municipal Court cases.