Your Rights In Municipal Court
Your presence in Municipal Court today may be 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 and duties.
Your Rights: As a citizen you have certain rights. These Due process rights include:
- The right to retain an attorney
- The right to trial by Judge
- The right to remain silent
- The right to cross-examine witnesses
- The right to compel witnesses to appear for you
- The right to appeal from an adverse judgment to the Circuit Court after bench trial (trial de novo)
The Court does not pre-judge cases, we will treat each person coming before the Court with dignity and respect. We ask the same respect from you.
Right to Trial De Novo (Section 479.200, RSMo)
In any case tried before a municipal judge who is not licensed to practice law in Missouri, the defendant shall have a right to trial de novo before a circuit or associate circuit judge even if the defendant pled guilty. In any case tried before a municipal judge who is a licensed attorney in Missouri, the defendant shall have the right of trial de novo, unless there has been a plea of guilty or the case has been tried before a jury. An application for trial de novo shall not be granted after the defendant has satisfied any part of the penalty and costs of the judgment.
Filing (SCR 37.71)
An application for trial de novo must be filed within 10 days of the entry of judgment with the municipal court clerk. No judge may order an extension of time for filing the application and the $30.00 trial de novo fee or affidavit of indigency.
Courtroom conduct: This is a Court of law, please dress and act appropriately. Gentlemen should remove hats when entering the Courtroom. There shall be no eating, drinking or smoking in the Courtroom and no talking during the Court session. All cell phones and pagers shall be turned off or "silenced."
Burden of Proof: In municipal cases, it is the burden of the city prosecutor to prove "beyond reasonable doubt" that the defendant is "guilty" of the charged crime. It is not the burden of the accused to prove that he/she is not guilty. The Court must make this determination based on the evidence presented at trial and on the relevant ordinances, statutes, rules and case law.
Fines: The maximum fine and sentence in this Municipal Court for a traffic or general ordinance violation per offense is $500 and/or 90 days in jail. The maximum total fine and court costs in the Municipal Court for any single minor traffic offense as defined by Section 479.350 RSMo. is $225. Fines and costs may be paid by cash, debit/credit card, money order or cashier's check.
Entering a Plea: Come forward when your name is called, the Judge will read the charge to you, and you must enter a plea of either "Guilty" or "Not Guilty". Your choice to plead "Guilty" or "Not Guilty" is an important decision. Please read the following explanations before entering your plea. If you decide to seek the services of an attorney, you should promptly inform the Court to enable the Judge to take your situation into consideration in scheduling your trial or plea.
Assessment of Points on moving violations (possible): Traffic offenses carry, with conviction, assessment of points against driver's licenses. An accumulation of multiple points will jeopardize driving privileges (i.e., you may have your driving privileges suspended or revoked. For residents of other states, a record of any assessment of points from convictions in Missouri is forwarded to the home state under the Interstate Non-Resident Compact Law. Conferring with legal counsel before entering a plea of any charge before the Court is encouraged.
PLEA OF GUILTY
By a plea of guilty (under most circumstances), you admit that you committed the act charged, that the act is prohibited by law and that you have no legal defense. By pleading guilty, you are waving your right to remain silent. Most of the time, a fine will be issued and you will be expected to pay it promptly.
PLEA OF NOT GUILTY
A plea of not guilty means that you deny guilt and the City must prove its charges against you. Your case will be set for trial or you will be given a continuance of the case to retain an attorney. You may defend yourself but no one else except an attorney may represent you or speak for you.
At trial, the City must prove the charge against you as contained in the formal complaint "beyond a reasonable doubt" before a verdict of guilty can be reached.
Under Missouri law, you may be brought to trial after a formal complaint has been filed. The complaint is the document that states what you are accused of, and that your action was unlawful.
- You have the right to have your attorney assist you through all stages of the proceedings
- You have the right to inspect the complaint before the trial and have it read to you at trial
- You are entitled to hear all testimony against you
- You have the right to cross-examine any witness who testifies against you
- You have the right to testify in your own behalf if you choose
- You may call witnesses to testify in your behalf
You also have the right to have the Court issue subpoenas for witnesses to ensure their appearance at trial. However, you must obtain proper service of the subpoenas on your witnesses. You may be represented by counsel, although it is not required. In cases in which conviction would likely result in a jail sentence, the Court will advise you to seek counsel.
PRESENTING THE CASE
The City will present its case first by calling witnesses to testify against you. You have the right to cross-examine each witness at the completion of his or her testimony. Your examination MUST BE IN THE FORM OF QUESTIONS. This is not a time to make a statement, and you MUST NOT argue with the witness. You will have the opportunity to testify later in the trial.
After the prosecution has presented its case, you may present your case. You have the right to call any witness knowing anything about the incident. You may testify in your own behalf, but cannot be compelled to do so. If you testify, the Prosecutor may cross-examine you.
The verdict of the Judge will be based on the facts proven during the trial. In making the determination, the Judge will only consider the evidence admitted and testimony of the witnesses who are under oath.
The Judge will announce the penalty if you are found guilty of the offense. You should be prepared to pay the fines and costs at that time.
The facts and circumstances of the case and your own record affect the amount of the fine assessed by the Court. Mitigating circumstances may lower the fine, and aggravating circumstances may increase the fine. In no case may the fine exceed $500 for a traffic or general ordinance violation per offense. The maximum total fine and court costs in the Municipal Court for any single minor traffic offense as defined by Section 479.350 RSMo is $225.
If you are found guilty of an offense, court costs will be added to the fine. Court costs are required by state law and are remitted both to the General Fund of the City and to the State Department of Revenue.
RIGHT TO APPEAL
If you are not satisfied with the judgment (verdict) of this Court, you have the right to appeal the verdict to the Bates County Associate Circuit Court. If you choose to appeal, you must pay $30.00 to cover filing fees, which will be forwarded to the Circuit Court along with your case files. If you pay fines assessed, you waive the right to appeal. In addition, you must post an appeal bond in an amount determined by the Judge. You will be notified by the Bates County Circuit Court of the new court date and another Judge will hear your case again in its entirety. You must file this appeal within ten (10) days of the judgment or the judgment becomes final and all fines and costs assessed must be paid to the Court.