When you receive a citation, it will have an appearance date noted on it at the top. The law requires that you make an appearance in your case, but there are different ways to do that and different rules for adults and juveniles. There are generally three steps in the process of pleading “not guilty” to the charges or paying a citation to the City of Jarrell Municipal Court. Let’s take a look at these steps.
Step 1: Understanding Your Rights as a Defendant at Municipal Court
If you need the services of an interpreter, please notify the court administrator prior to your appearance in court.
- Under our American system of justice, all persons are presumed to be innocent until proven guilty.
- The State must prove you guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt” of the offense with which you are charged.
- Every criminal defendant has the right to remain silent and refuse to testify (without consequences).
- 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 by incarceration, you do not have the right to appointed counsel.
- You have the right to a jury trial. You may waive a jury trial and have a trial before the judge, commonly called a “bench trial.”
- If you elect to represent yourself, no person other than an attorney can assist you during a trial.
At trial, you have many rights including:
- The right to have notice of the complaint not later than the day before any proceedings in the prosecution
- The right to inspect the complaint before trial, and have it read to you at the 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 (a court order) to any witnesses to ensure their appearance at the trial.
Step 2: Learn Your Options: Not Guilty, Guilty, No Contest
Unless you are entitled to a compliance dismissal, you must enter one of the following three pleas:
Plea of NOT GUILTY – A plea of “not guilty” means that you deny guilt and require the State to prove the charge. A plea of “not guilty” does not waive any of your rights. A plea of “not guilty” does not prevent a plea of “guilty” or “no contest” at a later time.
Plea of GUILTY – A plea of “guilty” means you admit that you committed the criminal offense charged.
Plea of NOLO CONTENDERE (no contest) – A plea of “no contest” means that you do not contest the State’s charge against you.
The difference between a plea of “guilty” and “no contest” is that the “no contest” plea may not later be used against you in a civil suit for damages. For example, in a civil suit arising from a traffic crash, a guilty plea can be used as evidence of your responsibility or fault. If you plead “guilty” or “no contest,” you will be found guilty and should be prepared to pay the fine. A plea of “guilty” or “no contest” waives all of the trial rights discussed earlier. If you are unable to pay the entire fine and costs, you should be prepared to document and explain your financial situation.
Step 3: Plead “Not Guilty” or Pay Your Citation
If you choose to plead NOT GUILTY: If you wish to contest the charge, please appear in person at the Municipal Court on or before your appearance date as indicated on the citation. You will be given a court date in which you will discuss your case with the prosecutor. If the case cannot be resolved at this hearing, you will be set for a Bench or Jury Trial.
If you choose to plead GUILTY or NO CONTEST: Fines and court costs will be assessed in your case. Payment of fines may be made in person at the City of Jarrell Municipal Court or tover the phone. The Court does not accept personal checks for payment of fines. We do accept the following payment methods:
- Cashier’s Checks
- Money Orders
- Debit Cards (with a Visa, MasterCard, or Discover Logo)
- Credit Cards (Visa, MasterCard, or Discover)