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Your traffic court rights
 

Your Rights In Traffic Court

Definitions

  1. Traffic Ticket/Summons - Command by court order to appear in court. Failure to appear may result in a warrant for your arrest and or your license being suspended.
  2. Charge - What the police says you did in violation of the law.
  3. Plead - To answer the charge in court.
  4. Plead Guilty - To admit the charge.
  5. Plead Not Guilty - To say that you do not believe that you broke the law or the state can prove that you did.
  6. Continuance - Having the judge change the court date to another day in the future.
  7. Subpoena - An order from the court that tells a person to come to court.
  8. Prosecutor - The lawyer for the city or county.
  9. Court Costs - The money needed to pay for the operation of the court system.
  10. Testify -To speak under oath (swear to tell the truth) in court to prove what happened.
  11. Appeal - To have your case heard again by a higher court.

When Do You Go To Court?

If you don’t know, ask the clerk if your name is on the list for that day, then sit down in the Court room. When your name is called, walk up to the judge and answer the judge’s questions. If you are charged with breaking the law, you are the defendant. The judge will read the charge. If you do not understand it, ask the judge to explain it. When the judge asks how you plead, you must say "guilty" or "not guilty."

If You Plead Guilty

You may then tell the judge everything that happened. If the judge asks you questions, you must answer them. The judge will tell you how much money to pay as a fine or what sentence you must serve. Before you plead guilty, you have the right to ask the judge if you could go to jail. Some of the money you pay is for court costs for the operation of the court system.

You Should Plead Not Guilty:

  1. If you did not do what the police officer says you did.
  2. If you are not sure that what you did was against the law.
  3. If you plead "Not guilty, " you will be given a trial.
  4. The prosecutor must prove that you did what you are charged with.

Trial

If you do not have a lawyer and you, your family or a friend think you need the services of a lawyer, you should contact a lawyer BEFORE going to court.

  1. The judge may set your trial for another day (continuance), but only for a good reason.
  2. You have a right to bring witnesses to trial. The court will help you by issuing subpoenas to tell them they must come to court.
  3. If you want a jury, you may ask for one; the judge will tell you if the law allows it in your case.

The prosecutor may bring witnesses to tell what they saw and heard. You or your lawyer may ask them questions. The prosecutor has the right to ask your witnesses questions and, if you testify, to ask you questions. (You cannot be forced to testify if you do not want to.)

If the judge or jury in a jury trial decides that you are not guilty, the trial is over, and you may leave.

If the judge decides that you re guilty, the judge will tell you what the penalty is and what then to do.

PENALTIES

  1. Fines
  2. Jail
  3. Both fine and jail
  4. Other. The judge may include in the penalty an order to go to driver’s school, alcohol safety school or other schools to help you better understand how to drive safely. You must go to the school or face additional penalties, including, but not limited to a possible jail sentence, a conviction, or other penalties.

Rights

You have a right to:

  1. Have a lawyer. The judge may provide you with a lawyer in some cases where you are poor and you are facing a possible jail sentence.
  2. Have witnesses testify on your behalf.
  3. Have a jury trial if the law permits.
  4. Testify or not testify.
  5. Ask the court to issue subpoenas for witnesses.

This document is not to be considered legal advice, and no attorney-client relationship is created by this document. If you have a traffic ticket or any other legal question, please consult an attorney who practices in your area.

Misdemeanor

A crime such as Retail Theft less than $150.00,Theft less than $300.00 or Disorderly Conduct. You can be punished by paying a fine up to $1,000.00 or serving up to one year in jail or both.

Felony

The most serious crimes, such as Theft over $300.00, Retail Theft over $150.00, Robbery, Murder, or Possession of Drugs. Punishment for these crimes can be going to prison for more than one year, life imprisonment, probation, or in some cases even death.

When can you be arrested?

  1. If a police officer has a warrant for your arrest.
  2. If a police officer sees you violate or try to violate the law.
  3. If a police officer believes you have violated the law.

After You Have Been Arrested.

  1. You may refuse to talk to the police or answer any questions. You may refuse to sign a statement.
  2. You must be allowed to call a lawyer.
  3. If you cannot pay for a lawyer, you may insist that you have a free lawyer present during any police questioning.

What Can The Police Do To You After You Are Arrested?

  1. Search your body.
  2. Search your belongings.
  3. Search your car if you are in it.
  4. Search the space around you if you are in your home. The police officer must show you a search warrant before he can enter and search your home.

Can The Police Test You For Alcohol?

Yes, if you have been driving, but the results can be used against you in court. You have the right to refuse, but your refusal may result in your drivers license being taken away. Your refusal to take the test may be used as evidence against you in court.

Your Rights In Court

  1. The court must tell you the charge against you.
  2. The court must tell you of your right to have a lawyer.
  3. The court must appoint a lawyer to represent you if you cannot afford to hire a lawyer.
  4. You must be given time to obtain a lawyer.

What Does "Waive Your Rights" Mean?

  1. To choose to give them up. You may decide not to talk to a lawyer.
  2. You may decide not to talk with a lawyer.
  3. You decide to talk with the police. All facts you give to the police may be used against you in court.
  4. You may decide to sign a statement.
  5. You may decide to take any tests.
  6. You are never required to waive your rights. If you choose to assert your rights, it can never be used against you.

When Do You Go To Court?

You may have to go to court several times. The court will tell you when to go to court.

Do You Need A Lawyer In Court?

It is best for you to have a lawyer with you. The court will ask who your lawyer is. The court will give you a chance to find a lawyer. If there is a chance that you could go to jail and cannot afford to pay for a lawyer, the court will assign an attorney to help you.

What Will Your Lawyer Do?

Your lawyer will learn all about the charges against you. Your lawyer will try to help you. You should try to help your layer all you can. Tell the lawyer all you know about your case. Tell your lawyer about your arrest. What you tell your lawyer is private. The police or the court cannot find out what you tell your lawyer.

What Happens In Court?

  1. The court will ask if you plead "guilty" or "not guilty". Your lawyer will tell you what your answer should be.
  2. If you plead " guilty, the court will decide your punishment.
  3. If you plead "not guilty," the court will set a date for your trial.

Can You Answer "Not Guilty" Even If You Are Guilty?

You are innocent until you are proven guilty. Your lawyer may think that the evidence against you is not enough to prove that you are guilty. You may have a better chance if you have a trial. You have a trial only if you plead "not guilty."

What Kind Of Trial Will You Have?

You have a right to a jury trial, but you must ask for it. If you do not ask for a jury, the judge will decide if you are found "guilty" or "not guilty." If you request a jury trial, the jury will decide if you are "guilty or "not guilty". Your lawyer will help you decide whether you should ask for a jury trial.

Is Court Any Different For A Felony Charge?

Yes. Before you answer "guilty" or "not guilty", you will have a preliminary hearing, or your case will go to the grand jury.

If you have a preliminary hearing, a judge hears the evidence against you in a public courtroom. He then decides if you should be held for trial.

If your case goes to the grand jury, 12 people will hear the evidence against you in a secret meeting. They will decide if you should be held for trial

What Happens While You Wait For Your Trial?

In some cases, you may be freed on bail until the trial, but you must come to court on your court dates before the trial. In some cases, where you have not posted the appropriate bail, you must wait in jail until your trial

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