Your Rights In Traffic Court
- 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.
- Charge - What the police says you did in violation of the
- Plead - To answer the charge in court.
- Plead Guilty - To admit the charge.
- Plead Not Guilty - To say that you do not believe that you
broke the law or the state can prove that you did.
- Continuance - Having the judge change the court date to another
day in the future.
- Subpoena - An order from the court that tells a person to
come to court.
- Prosecutor - The lawyer for the city or county.
- Court Costs - The money needed to pay for the operation of
the court system.
- Testify -To speak under oath (swear to tell the truth) in
court to prove what happened.
- 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:
- If you did not do what the police officer says you did.
- If you are not sure that what you did was against the law.
- If you plead "Not guilty, " you will be given a trial.
- The prosecutor must prove that you did what you are charged with.
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.
- The judge may set your trial for another day (continuance), but
only for a good reason.
- 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.
- 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.
- Both fine and jail
- 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.
You have a right to:
- 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.
- Have witnesses testify on your behalf.
- Have a jury trial if the law permits.
- Testify or not testify.
- 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.
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.
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?
- If a police officer has a warrant for your arrest.
- If a police officer sees you violate or try to violate the law.
- If a police officer believes you have violated the law.
After You Have Been Arrested.
- You may refuse to talk to the police or answer any questions. You
may refuse to sign a statement.
- You must be allowed to call a lawyer.
- 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?
- Search your body.
- Search your belongings.
- Search your car if you are in it.
- 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
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
- The court must tell you the charge against you.
- The court must tell you of your right to have a lawyer.
- The court must appoint a lawyer to represent you if you cannot afford
to hire a lawyer.
- You must be given time to obtain a lawyer.
What Does "Waive Your Rights" Mean?
- To choose to give them up. You may decide not to talk to a lawyer.
- You may decide not to talk with a lawyer.
- You decide to talk with the police. All facts you give to the police
may be used against you in court.
- You may decide to sign a statement.
- You may decide to take any tests.
- 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?
- The court will ask if you plead "guilty" or "not guilty". Your lawyer
will tell you what your answer should be.
- If you plead " guilty, the court will decide your punishment.
- 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
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
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
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