Under our American system of justice, all persons are presumed to be innocent until proven guilty. The state must prove you guilty of the offense with which you are charged beyond a reasonable doubt.
Every criminal defendant has the right to remain silent and refuse to testify (without consequence). You have the right to retain an attorney and have them try your case or answer your questions. Since offenses in this court are punishable only by fine and not incarceration, you do not have the right to appointed counsel.
You have the right to a jury trial. You may also waive your right to a jury trial and request a trial before the judge, commonly called a bench trial.
At trial you have many rights, including:
- The right to have notice of the complaint not later than the day before any proceedings
- The right to inspect the complaint before trial, and have it read to you at trial
- The right to hear all testimony introduced against you
- The right to cross-examine witnesses who testify against you
- The right to testify on your own behalf
- The right not to testify; your refusal to do so may not be held against you in determining your innocence or guilt
- You may call witnesses to testify on your behalf at the trial, and have the court issue a subpoena to any witnesses to ensure their appearance
In addition to your rights, you also have legal responsibilities. The law requires you to make an appearance on your case. Your appearance date is noted on your citation, bond, summons, release paperwork, or mailed notice. You or your attorney may appear in person in open court, by mail, or you may deliver your plea in person to the court.
Your first appearance is to determine your plea. This is sometimes done at the clerk’s window or in front of the judge (if you request a first appearance court hearing). If you waive a jury trial and plead guilty or no contest, you may present extenuating circumstances for the judge to consider when setting your fine. If you plead not guilty, the court will schedule a pretrial to speak with the city prosecutor.