Your first appearance in court is called an “arraignment.”
· You will be advised of the charges against you and given the opportunity to enter a plea.
· You have the right to be represented by an attorney.
o If the charges against you could include jail time as a possible punishment if you were to be found guilty, you will be asked if you will be hiring an attorney to represent you, applying for a court-appointed attorney, or waiving your right to counsel and representing yourself.
o If you want to apply for a court-appointed attorney, you will fill out a financial affidavit when you appear in court to determine if you qualify for the appointment of counsel.
o If you choose to waive your right to counsel, you must complete and sign a written waiver that the judge will provide to you.
Your decision on what plea to enter is very important, so consider your choices carefully.
· A plea of GUILTY means that you admit you committed the act charged, that the act is prohibited by law and that you have no defense for your act. Before pleading guilty, you need to understand that:
o the City has the burden of proving its case against you and you have the right to hear the City’s evidence by going to trial, and
o if your charges stem from being involved in a traffic crash, a guilty plea can be used against you as an admission of responsibility for the crash in a civil lawsuit for damages.
· A plea of NO CONTEST means that you are neither admitting nor denying guilt, but you are choosing not to contest the charges made against you and will accept the court’s ruling in the case.
· A plea of NOT GUILTY means that you deny that you commited the act charged and are requesting to have the case heard in a trial setting.
If you plead guilty or no contest, the judge will then find you guilty and impose the appropriate sentence in accordance with our published fine/fee schedule. The court clerk will give you a sheet of paper with information about the court’s ruling, your payment options and due dates.
If you plead not guilty, the court clerk will set a trial date for you and provide an information sheet on trial procedures. PLEASE REVIEW THIS CAREFULLY, BECAUSE YOU NEED TO BE FULLY AWARE OF YOUR RIGHTS AND RESPONSIBILITIES AT TRIAL.