Municipal Court Trial Procedures
If you need a continuance, you must put the request in writing with your reason for your request and submit it to the court prior to trial. You may request a continuance for the following reasons:
- A religious holy day where the tenets of your religious organization prohibit members from participating in secular activities such as court proceedings (you must file an affidavit with the court stating this information)
- You feel it is necessary for justice in your case
- By agreement of the parties (you and the prosecutor)
The judge decides whether or not to grant the continuance. Failure to submit the request in writing may cause your request to be denied.
If you choose to have the case tried before a jury, you have the right to question jurors about their qualifications to hear your case. If you think that a juror will not be fair, impartial, or unbiased, you may ask the judge to excuse the juror. You are also permitted to strike three members of the jury panel for any reason you choose, except a strike based solely upon race or gender.
Opening Argument & Cross-Examination
As in all criminal trials, the trial begins with each party given an opportunity to make an opening argument. Then the State presents its case first by calling witnesses to testify against you.
You then have the right to cross-examine the state’s witnesses. You may not, however, argue with the witnesses. Cross-examination must be in the form of questions.
After the prosecution has rested, you may present your case. You have the right to call witnesses who know anything about the incident. The state has the right to cross-examine the witnesses that you call.
If you so desire, you may testify on your own behalf, but as a defendant, you may not be compelled to testify. It is your choice, and your silence cannot be used against you. If you do testify, the state has the right to cross-examine you.
After all testimony is concluded, both sides can make a closing argument. This is your opportunity to summarize the evidence, present your theory of the case, argue why the state has failed to meet its burden of proof, and make other arguments allowed by law. The state has the right to present the first and last arguments.
Ruling & Fines
In determining the defendant’s guilt or innocence, the judge or jury may consider only the testimony of witnesses and evidence admitted during the trial. The judge or jury must find the defendant guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt.”
You may elect the jury to assess the fine if you are convicted. If you do not file an election before the trial begins, the judge will assess the fine. You should be prepared to pay the fine and costs or post an appeal bond if you are convicted.