Being accused of a criminal or serious traffic offense can
be a traumatic and upsetting experience. We hope this will
be of help in guiding you through the process and take some
of the mystery out of the "procedures." We have
tried to answer and anticipate your more frequently asked
questions. If you have any additional questions, don't hesitate
to ask a staff member.
SHOULD I WEAR AND HOW SHOULD I ACT IN COURT?
attire is required. Shoes and shirts are necessary.
Halter tops, tank tops, and shorts are not permitted.
Hats are to be removed upon entering the courtroom.
No smoking, food or drink will be allowed. Children
may be present in the courtroom. However, if they disturb
the proceedings you may be requested to remove them.
The Court does not provide child care. Upon your arrival,
find your name on the calendar outside the courtroom
and then have a seat in the proper courtroom until the
session convenes. You do not need to check with
the clerk unless your name is NOT on the list.
When your name is called, come forward and stand behind
one of the counsel tables. Be polite, courteous, and
remain standing until instructed otherwise by the judge.
IS AN ARRAIGNMENT?
arraignment is generally your first appearance in court
on the citation or charge. The judge will inform you
of, and explain the charge. Next, it will be confirmed
that you understand your constitutional rights as explained
at the beginning of the court session, and finally,
the maximum punishment and mandatory minimum punishment,
if any, will be stated. No testimony is taken nor is
evidence presented at the arraignment.
All persons accused of any crime or traffic offense that might
result in a jail sentence have the following rights:
ARE MY CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS?
|1. To have a lawyer
present with you at all hearings.
|2. To have a lawyer
appointed at public expense if you cannot afford to
hire one to represent you.
|3. To represent
yourself without a lawyer.
|4. To a public
and speedy trial.
|5. To cross examine
any witness who testifies against you.
|6. To call witnesses
to testify on your behalf, and have the Court compel
|7. To testify
or not testify yourself. If you choose not to, no one
can make you testify.
|8. To appeal to
Superior Court if you are convicted after a not guilty
I TALK TO A LAWYER BEFORE ENTERING A PLEA?
many cases this is a good idea. The judge, at your request,
will continue the arraignment. If you wish to plead
not guilty at this stage, the judge will request that
you have your lawyer put in a "Notice of Appearance"
within seven (7) days. If at any hearing you fail to
appear, your bond or bail will be forfeited and the
judge will issue a bench warrant.
I AM FINANCIALLY UNABLE TO HIRE A LAWYER, HOW DO I QUALIFY
FOR A PUBLIC DEFENDER?
the arraignment indicate to the judge that you are unable
financially to hire a lawyer. The judge will request
that you fill out a financial affidavit and will call
you up again at the end of the arraignment calendar.
At that point the judge will review the affidavit form
and determine, according to the appropriate financial
guideline, your eligibility for a public defender. If
you qualify, the in-court clerk will have you sign an
agreement acknowledging potential liability for the
lawyer fees if your financial situation changes. The
clerk will give you a form with the address and phone
number of the public defender. YOU must contact
the public defender immediately for an appointment
and be available for all meetings as requested by the
I PLEAD GUILTY, WHAT WILL HAPPEN?
you plead guilty, it means you admit the charge and
the elements to prove the charge. By pleading guilty,
you waive your constitutional rights and, in most cases,
you will be sentenced right then. However, you may speak
on your behalf at sentencing. The judge will then usually
review the police report, if available, and sentence
you. In some cases the judge will refer you to a probation
officer for a pre-sentence investigation. In such a
case the sentencing will be continued until the probation
report is ready.
HAPPENS IF I PLEAD NOT GUILTY?
guilty plea denies the charge and none of your constitutional
rights are waived unless you expressly wish to do so.
You are presumed innocent and the prosecution must prove
your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt at a subsequent
trial. The next hearing will be a pre-jury conference
where the prosecutor will be present. You and your lawyer,
if you have one, are required to be present. At this
conference all motions are heard and a jury trial date
is set. Information about all the evidence in the case
and witness names are exchanged. If at any stage you
have waived your right to a jury trial, you will receive
a notice in the mail of your NON-JURY TRIAL
MUST I DO IF I CAN'T PAY ALL OF MY FINE TODAY?
you can't pay all of your fine at sentencing, the judge
or clerk will work out a time payment agreement. This
is a contract with the court for installment payments
and must be adhered to strictly. Read the contract carefully,
as failure to follow the contract can result in late
fees, a suspension of your driver's license, a bench
warrant, or assignment to a collection agency.
IS A SUSPENDED SENTENCE?
the judge will suspend imposition of a portion, or all,
of a jail sentence or fine on the condition of complying
with various conditions within a time limit. If the
conditions are satisfied, the jail sentence is never
served. If the conditions are violated, then you will
be required to return to the Court for a hearing and
possible serving of the jail sentence or payment of
the suspended fine. In many cases the conditions are
supervised by the Probation Department
who will monitor compliance or assist with required