Your appearance in Municipal Court may be the first experience you have had in any Court. This information will hopefully help you understand the Court proceedings and in inform you of your rights and duties. The Court’s goal is to ensure that every person leaves this Court feeling that he or she has been treated fairly.
Municipal Court is the Judicial Branch of City Government. Traffic violations and violations of City Ordinances are handled through the Municipal Court, and upon conviction carry a maximum fine. Some offenses carry up to $2500.00 fine and 1 yr in jail if convicted.
Trials are conducted under the Code of Ordinances, Code for Municipal Court and the Kansas Rules of Evidence as adopted by the Kansas Legislature.
Your Appearance in Municipal Court
- When you appear in Court you will be required to obey the following rules:
- Appropriate clothing and shoes will be worn
- The wearing of hats or caps is not allowed
- Food and drinks are not allowed in the Courtroom
- Cell Phones must be shut off
- No Cameras or IPODS in courtroom
- No Knives, Switchblades or scissors allowed in courtroom
- While the Court is in session, talking is not allowed, except with authorized Court personnel
- There will be NO SMOKING in the Courtroom or restrooms
Before Court Begins
You must decide upon and enter a plea to the charges against you. If you signed a citation when the officer presented you the ticket, you did not plead guilty. You only signed a promise to appear in Court on your appearance date. When you appear in Court, you will need to plead to the charges which have been brought against you.
If you wish to request a continuance, you must contact the Municipal Court Clerk and fill out the proper form. A continuance must be requested no later than 24 hours prior to your scheduled appearance.
There are three possible pleas to a complaint:
- “NOT GUILTY”
- “NO CONTEST”
*YOUR DECISION ON WHAT PLEA TO ENTER IS THE MOST IMPORTANT DECISION YOU WILL HAVE TO MAKE. WE SUGGEST THAT YOU READ THE FOLLOWING EXPLANATIONS OF ALL THREE PLEAS BEFORE ENTERING YOUR PLEA.
PLEA OF GUILTY:
By a plea of “guilty”, you admit that you committed the act charged, that the act is prohibited by law, and that you have no legal defense for your act.
Before entering your plea of guilty, you need to understand the following:
- The City has the burden of proving its case against you. You have the right to hear the City’s evidence and to require it to prove its case, when you go to trial. The law does not require you to prove anything.
- If you were involved in a traffic accident at the time of the alleged offense, your plea of guilty could be used later in a civil suit for damages as an admission by you that you were at fault or were the party responsible for the accident.
PLEA OF NO CONTEST:
A plea of” no contest” simply means that you do not wish to contest the City’s charge against you. Judgment will be entered by the Judge and some penalty will be set. A plea of no contest normally cannot be used against you in a civil suit for damages.
PLEA OF NOT GUILTY:
A plea of “not guilty” means that you are informing the Court that you deny the charges against you.
If you plead not guilty, you will need to decide whether to employ an attorney to represent you at trial. You may defend yourself, but no one else except an attorney may represent you. If you are a minor (under 18 years of age) one of your parents should be present.
If you defend yourself, please consult the “Trials” section below regarding the trial procedure and the manner of presenting your case.
Under our United States System of Justice, all persons are presumed to be innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. On a plea of “not guilty”, a trial is held and the City is required to prove all the allegations against you as contained in the formal complaint “beyond a reasonable doubt”, before a verdict of guilty can be reached.
Paying on Fines and court costs
Each case is assessed Court costs. The total amount for court cost is $80.00
Fines and court costs should be paid to the Municipal Court Clerk at City Hall. Payments made after normal business hours can be put into the payment drop box in the alley between 7th Street and 8th Street on Washington Street. Be sure to seal payment in an envelope stating your name and what the payment is for.
What to expect with a Not Guilty Plea
You have entered a plea of Not Guilty and have chosen to represent yourself at trial. The City is represented by an attorney. You will be expected to make legal decisions and the Judge may NOT help you make these decisions. The Judge must remain unbiased throughout the trial.
You must be present with your witnesses and all evidence at the date and time set by the Court. if you fail to appear at that time a bench warrant will be issued for your arrest, additional fees will be charged to you, your appearance bond may be forfeited and you driver’s license will be suspended if you have been charged with a traffic offense.
IF YOU DECIDE TO CHANGE YOUR PLEA, NOTIFY THE COURT AT LEAST 48 HOURS PRIOR TO YOUR COURT APPEARANCE. IN THE LESS SERIOUS CASES YOU MAY NOT HAVE TO APPEAR IN COURT TO CHANGE YOUR PLEA.
Right to Appeal
Any person who has been found guilty in the Municipal Court has the right to appeal the ruling to the District Court of Cloud County.
If you are found guilty, a written notice of appeal must be filed (with the Municipal court clerk) in the District Court within 14 days. (You can pick up the Notice of Appeal form from the Municipal Court Clerk at City Hall during regular business hours.)
- The notice of appeal must be filed with the Municipal Court Clerk.
- An oral statement of desire is not sufficient notice.
- If the convicted person pays the fine which was imposed by the Judge, it might destroy the right to appeal.
- Appeal Bond will be set – Total of fines and court cost that were assessed in Municipal Court case.
- The appeal is a new trail
The City also has the right to appeal from an adverse ruling of the Municipal Court only on questions of law.
Any defendant who is convicted of or pleads guilty to an ordinance violation may apply for an expungement of that conviction.
Generally, a conviction may be filed three years or more after the defendant has fulfilled the sentence and probation that was imposed. Exceptions to these would be Driving Under the Influence, Driving With a Suspended License, Leaving the Scene of an Injury Accident, Failure to Report an Injury Accident, and Failing to Maintain Motor Vehicle Liability Insurance. These violations may or may not be expunged for five years after all sentencing and probation are completed. (check current law on expungements)
What is a Bond?
Under the American System of Justice, an accused person is presumed innocent until proven guilty. Therefore, the purpose of a bond (bail) is to ensure the appearance of the accused in the designated court at the appointed time. If the bond is required, the accused must remain in custody until sufficient bond is made as set by the Judge of the Court.
Right to Bond
The Judge has set an amount of bond for each offense which requires a bond. The Police Department of Court has a bond schedule and will be able to assist you in obtaining the amount of the bond needed.
The posted bond is to guarantee the appearance of the defendant at the court date shown on your bond PLUS all future court dates on this case. All continuances, whether for the defendant or the plaintiff, automatically extends the bond. If the defendant fails to appear at any court appearance, the bond may be forfeited and, if forfeited, a warrant will be issued for the defendant’s arrest.
Bonding of an accused is a great responsibility and should not be taken lightly. If the accused fails to appear for a Court appearance the bondsperson could have the bond forfeited and be ordered to pay the Court the bond amount in cash.
Types of Bonds
A responsible individual residing within the state of Kansas, as surety, that has been approved by the Judge. This person should be of good standing in the community and may not be an individual who either has active warrants or a substantial number of prior warrants.
Payment of Cash:
Cash or a negotiable check can be made at the appropriate bonding time. The cash or check will be deposited immediately into a trust fund. Checks are not held until the time of appearance. If you have posted the bond for yourself, you may choose to have your fines and fees taken directly from the bond. If another person posts a cash bond for the accused, the bond money will be returned to that person only after the defendant has paid the due fines, or the case is dismissed. Allow up to six weeks for processing of bond refund check.
A professional bondsman is a person who has a guaranteed arrest bond certificate. This person usually charges a fee to bond an accused person from jail. The surety guarantees the appearance of the accused and, in the event of failure of such person to appear in court, the surety agrees to pay the forfeiture of bond to the Court. The bond is doubled. Money paid to a professional surety is never applied to any fines or fees owed to the Court. Money paid to a bondsman is for their service.
Personal Recognizance or Promise to Appear:
The accused signs a form promising he or she will appear. The accused’s promise (which contains a monetary penalty if broken) is not guaranteed by another person or by the deposit of money, a driver’s license or any other thing of value. Most courts take the position that an accused person is entitled to be released on personal recognizance “where relevant factors make it reasonably certain the accused will comply with the orders of the court”.
*IF YOU POSTED A CASH BOND FOR SOMEONE ELSE, YOU MAY RECEIVE A REFUND BY COMING TO COURT WITH THE DEFENDANT AND PRESENTING YOUR COPY OF THE BOND RECEIPT TO THE MUNICIPAL COURT CLERK.
Offenses Requiring Attorney or Waiver of Counsel
By signing a waiver of your right to counsel, you will be stating that you know what you are charged with, that you know the possible sentences, and that nay defenses to the charge(s) that are not raised will be lost. You will be held to the same standards as an attorney. The Judge may not assist you in your defense. Offenses requiring an attorney or waiver of counsel are:
- Driving Under the Influence
- Driving With a Suspended License
- Reckless Driving
- No Liability Insurance
- Criminal Damage to Property
- Criminal Trespass
- Disorderly Conduct
- All other Misdemeanors not listed
You have the right to hire an attorney. When appearing in Municipal Court, an attorney is not always required. In every case you have the right to consult an attorney and/or to hire on if you desire.
Sign a formal waiver. You may sign a formal waiver of your right to an attorney. If you decide to sign the waiver of counsel, then you are stating to the Court that you are freely choosing to represent yourself and that you will be acting as your own attorney.
In certain cases if you desire to have an attorney and you are proven to be indigent, ask the Judge to appoint one for you. If you have an attorney appointed to represent you, and you are found guilty of any of the charges, then in addition to a possible fine or jail sentence, you may be responsible for reimbursing the City for your court appointed attorney’s fees. Your attorney will bill the City for his/her time in representing you. By accepting a court appointed attorney, you will also be giving up your right to choose an attorney of your choice.
Appeal: A request made after trial, asking another court to decide whether the trial was conducted properly.
Bail: Money or other security provided to the court to temporarily allow a person’s release from jail and assure their appearance in court.
Bail Bond: An obligation signed by the accused to secure his or her presence at the trial.
Bond: A written promise to pay money on conditions stated.
Bench Warrant: An order issued by a Judge for the arrest of a person.
Continuance: The adjournment or postponement of a session, hearing, trial, or other proceeding to a subsequent day or time.
Defendant: In a criminal case, the person accused of a crime.
Expungement: Official and formal erasure of a record or partial contents of a record.
Oath: Written or oral pledge by a person to keep a promise or speak the truth.
Plea: The defendant’s declaration in open court that he or she is guilty or not guilty.
Prosecutor: A lawyer representing the City in a traffic or criminal case.
Subpoena: A court order compelling a witness to appear and testify.
Testimony: The evidence given by a witness under oath. It does not include evidence from documents and other physical evidence.