Your Rights in Municipal Court

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KNOW YOUR RIGHTS IN MUNICIPAL COURT

Your presence in municipal court is perhaps your first experience in any court. This information has been prepared to help you understand the court proceedings and to inform you of your rights.

RIGHT TO KNOW WHEN COURT IS OPEN: Every court has different hours it is open. It is important that you check the court’s website or call the court’s clerk to determine when it is open. A comprehensive listing of contact information for all municipal division courts in Missouri can be found at https://www.courts.mo.gov/mcw/findacourt

RIGHT TO ATTEND COURT: Courts in Missouri are open to the public of all ages.

RIGHT TO RELEASE PENDING HEARING: If you are in jail for a municipal charge, you have the right to be released unless the court decides you need to be in jail for the protection of the community or because you may not appear for court. If the court orders your release from jail, there may be conditions on your release, including bail.

RIGHT TO AN ATTORNEY: You have the right to be represented by an attorney and may hire one at any time. When you first appear in court, you may ask to postpone the hearing one time so you can hire an attorney. However, you are not required to have an attorney represent you. You may represent yourself.

RIGHT TO A COURT APPOINTED ATTORNEY: If you show you cannot afford an attorney and the city is seeking jail, the court will provide an attorney to represent you. You may be required to fill out paper work about your finances and/or provide financial documents as a part of this process.

RIGHT TO REQUEST A DIFFERENT JUDGE: You may request a change of judge for any reason within ten (10) days after you enter your initial plea. If it is past the ten (10) days, then you must show cause why the judge should be changed.
In addition, a judge may decide he or she cannot hear the case if they have a
conflict of interest in the case or if the judge will appear as the prosecuting
attorney in a neighboring county where the prosecuting attorney will serve as
judge.

RIGHT TO TRIAL: If you plead NOT GUILTY, your case will be scheduled for trial. Because of the number of cases the court hears each month and the need to have the officer(s) and any witnesses present, your case cannot be heard that night. You will be given a future court date for trial.
When your case is scheduled for trial, it will be in the same court in which
you appear, UNLESS you request a jury trial. A request for a jury trial
should be made by written motion ten (10) days prior to the scheduled trial date.
If the motion is timely, your case will be sent to the presiding judge of the
circuit court for a new trial date with a jury.
1. At trial, you have a right to testify or remain silent. If you remain
silent, it is not considered an admission of guilt. If you testify, the judge
may consider any statement you make in deciding your guilt or innocence.
2. At trial, you have the right to ask questions of witnesses testifying
against you.
3. You have the right to ask the clerk to issue a subpoena to require
witnesses to come to trial and testify.
4. If you are found not guilty, the case ends.
5. If you are found guilty, you can accept the decision or appeal to the
circuit court. If you appeal your case, you will be granted a new trial before
a different judge. The request for appeal must be made in writing within ten
(10) days of the court’s decision and cannot be extended for any reason.
You can appeal even if you are not able to pay.

Trial Process
1. The case is ready to be heard by the judge.
2. Witnesses are given an oath to testify.
3. The city’s witnesses explain their version of what happened.
4. You or your attorney can ask questions of the City’s witnesses.
5. You may testify and call witnesses to explain your version of what
happened.
6. The city prosecutor may question you and your witnesses, if you and
your witnesses testify.
7. The judge makes the decision.

PUNISHMENT & FINES
If you plead guilty or are found guilty, you may face the following punishments
or fines:
1. Minor traffic violations—up to $225 total fine and costs.
2. Housing, zoning or building code violations—up to $200 total fine and
costs for the first violation in a year, $275 for the second violation in a year, $350
for the third violation in a year, and $450 for the fourth and any subsequent
violation in a year.
3. All other municipal code violations—up to $500.00 fine plus court costs.

JAIL: In addition to these fines and costs, certain violations may result in jail
time. Such violations include any violation involving alcohol or drugs,
violations endangering the health or welfare of others, or giving false
information to a police officer. You may face up to 90 days in jail.

PROBATION: Additionally, you may receive up to two (2) years of unsupervised
(Court) or supervised probation with certain conditions.

RIGHT TO APPEAL: If you are found guilty, you can accept the decision or appeal to the circuit court. If you appeal your case, you will be granted a new trial before a different judge. The request for appeal must be made in writing within ten (10) days of the court’s decision and cannot be extended for any reason. You may appeal even if you are not able to pay.

RIGHT TO ACCESS COURT RECORDS: If you have a case in a municipal division court, you have the right to see the court records for your case. This includes records that show charges, court rulings, fines and other information regarding your case.

RIGHT TO HAVE JUDGE DECIDE IF YOU CAN AFFORD AN ATTORNEY OR PAY FINES: If you wish to have an attorney but cannot afford one, you may ask that the judge decide if you qualify for a court appointed attorney. You may also request the judge to decide if you are able to pay court fines or to
be granted an alternative sentence such as community service. You may be required to fill out paper work about your finances and/or provide financial documents as a part of this process.
You may not be put in jail for failure to pay fines or costs unless the judge finds
you have the ability to pay but are unwilling to pay or when alternative
sanctions to jail are not sufficient.

NON U. S. CITIZENS
If you are not a citizen of the United States, you should know that a guilty
plea or conviction may result in your deportation, denial of admission to the
United States, or you may be denied naturalization under United States law.
You may wish to speak with an attorney, especially before entering a guilty
plea to any charges.

ADA ACCOMMODATIONS
You have rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). For
example, if you or a witness are deaf or hearing impaired, you have the right
to request assistance, including an interpreter. For help, please contact the
court’s ADA coordinator. A list of ADA coordinators can be found at
http://www.courts.mo.gov/page.jsp?id=180.
If you need help with other ADA disabilities, please call (573)751-4377 or
send an email to access2justice@courts.mo.gov.

COURTROOM RULES
Stay seated until your name is called

No food or drinks

No chewing, smoking or vaping

No talking while court is in session

No weapons

Remove sunglasses and hats (religious hats or head coverings are acceptable)

Silence cell phones and other electronic devices

No sleeping or disrupting court proceedings