Definitions and General Information
RIGHTS AND RESPONSIBILITIES IN MUNICIPAL COURT
The Municipal Court is a division of the Circuit Court. Cases in Municipal Court involve alleged violations of City laws. If you have received a ticket for a municipal ordinance violations, you have certain rights and responsibilities. The information on this web page is provided to help you understand these rights and responsibilities.
Some tickets can be paid without appearing in Court. You may pay the ticket on or before your court date. If you do not pay before your court date, you must appear in court on the scheduled date. If you need to change the date of a court appearance, contact the office of the Municipal Court Clerk. It is within the Court's discretion to grant delays or continuances from the court date. Before granting a continuance, the Court may require written proof of your excuse. If you need to change your trial date, you are required to personally appear before the Judge to request a continuance.
When you are given a ticket, you are also given a court date and time to appear in Municipal Court. When you appear at your court date, your name will be called. When your name is called, approach the bench. The Judge will read the charge that has been filed against you. If you do not understand the charge, ask the Judge to explain it. When the Judge asks how you plead, on this first court date, you must say either "Guilty" or "Not Guilty". "No Contest" pleas are not allowed in Missouri Courts. If you do not appear on the date set for your court appearance or trial, a summons will be issued. If you do not appear after a summons is issued, a warrant may be issued for your arrest. You have the right to hire an attorney and have him or her speak for you in Court. If you are financially eligible, an attorney will be appointed to represent you.
If you plead guilty, you are admitting to the Judge that you have committed acts which violate a valid City law. The Judge will then decide what penalty will be assessed. At this time, you will have an opportunity to tell the Judge any special circumstances that you believe lessen the seriousness of the violation. You cannot plead guilty and then in your explanation to the Judge say that you did not violate the law.
After listening to your explanation, the Judge will assess a penalty, considering the seriousness of the offense and any explanation offered by you. Remember, if you plead guilty, the Judge will find you guilty. Any explanation offered by you can only affect the penalty. When you plead guilty you will be giving up the following rights: To hire an attorney to represent you; to have a trial before a court or jury; to call witnesses to testify for you; to testify for yourself; to cross-examine any witnesses that the City may call; and the right to appeal the judgment.
A plea of not guilty means you believe you have not violated the law. When you plead not guilty, the Judge will set a date for trial. You do not need to be represented by an attorney if you want to plead not guilty. You may represent yourself at trial. If you plead not guilty and later decide to change your plea to guilty, you must reappear in court.
After all the witnesses for the City have testified, you will have an opportunity to present your case. You may testify and you may call witnesses to testify; however, you are not required to testify. If you do testify, you may also be questioned by the Prosecutor.
After you have presented your case, the Prosecutor has the right to present "rebuttal" evidence. Rebuttal evidence is evidence that explains or denies your evidence. After all witnesses have testified, each side may give a closing argument.
The Judge must then decide if you are guilty or not guilty. If you are found guilty, the Judge will assess a punishment, considering the seriousness of the offense and any explanation offered by you during your evidence. If the Judge finds you not guilty, your case is finished and you are free to go.
If you wish to have your case tried before a jury, you must notify the Judge prior to entering a plea. An application for jury trial must be submitted to the Court Clerk.
If the Judge finds you guilty during trial, you have the right to appeal the decision. When you appeal, you are asking for a new trial. The new trial is called a Trial de Novo. Your application for Trial de Novo must be done within ten days of the first trial. Payment of any portion of the fine or failure to file within ten days forfeits your right to appeal.
An application for Trial de Novo must be filed with the Clerk before transferring the case to Circuit Court. This payment must be in the form of cash or money order ONLY.
If you wish to appeal, you must tell the Judge or the Municipal Court Clerk. Forms are available for an appeal at the Violations Bureau.