Prior to Court
Municipal Court is the judicial branch of city government and is part of the state judicial system. The court is operated under the Revised Statutes of the State of Missouri and Rules established by the Supreme Court and the Circuit Court of St. Louis County.
Appearing in Court
You are appearing in court because you have been charged with an ordinance violation by the City of Dellwood. This does not mean you are guilty of any offense. If you signed a citation in front of an officer, you did not plead guilty, but only signed a promise to appear in court on your appearance date.
Your presence in Municipal Court today is perhaps your first experience in any court. This information has been prepared to help you understand the court proceedings and to inform you of your rights and duties. Every person should leave this court feeling that he or she has had a fair and impartial trial or hearing.
After Checking In
After you have checked in you should take a seat in the courtroom. Turn off all cell phones, pagers, beepers or any other electronic devices you may have which might make noise while court is in session. If a cell phone or pager interrupts court proceedings it will be confiscated. During court there is no talking except to conduct court business.
Proper attire is required in Municipal Court. If the bailiffs determine that your attire is not appropriate you will be asked to leave the court and change into appropriate attire. This will not relieve you of your responsibility to appear in court.
Your decision on what plea to enter is the most important decision you will have to make. Be sure to read this completely before entering your plea. If you decide that you would like to seek the services of an attorney, please inform the judge and you will be given time to do so.
Opening of Court
As the judge enters the courtroom, please rise. Afterwards, please be seated, and listen as the Judge makes some general announcements before the bailiff begins to call the docket. There is no talking, drinking, or eating during court.
When Your Name Is Called
When your name is called, you should form a line in the center of the court room between the two sections of seating, then once your name is called a second time step up to the bench before the judge. The charges will be read to you one at a time. If you miss the first call, your name will be called a second time by the judge.
Entering a Plea
You must first enter a plea. You may plead not guilty, guilty, or guilty with an explanation.
Not Guilty Plea
If you enter a plea of not guilty, your case will be set for trial. You must appear on the date and at the time the trial is scheduled or a warrant will be issued for your arrest. At your trial, you should be prepared to present any evidence you believe will help you in your defense.
Upon pleading not guilty, you will be assigned a trial date. Please note the following information concerning trials:
- You may subpoena witnesses to testify on your behalf. The court administrator will provide you the proper subpoena forms, but you must serve the subpoena personally upon the witness.
- You should also bring with you any documents or other evidence you wish to present to the court. The rules of evidence apply at your trial, which may prevent some evidence you may want to present from being admitted before the judge. Both the city and you, the defendant, must comply with these rules during the trial.
- No continuance of a trial setting will be given through the court office. You must appear as indicated by the judge.
- You may be at a disadvantage if you try the case without legal representation. The city has a prosecuting attorney that is experienced with all the rules and laws governing trials and will be held to the same level of standards for the trial.
- The trial will be a tried before the judge. You have the right to a trial by jury, but jury trials are not held in municipal courts. You will need to "certify" your case(s) to St. Louis County Circuit Court for a jury trial. There is no initial cost to do this, but the trial judge may impose a fee of $85 or more in order to have a jury trial. You must request this jury trial no later than ten working days before the trial is scheduled in the municipal court. The court staff will instruct you on to request this.
- At the end of the trial, if the judge finds you guilty, you have the right to appeal this finding by filing a trial de novo request with ten days of the end of the trial. If you pay any portion of the fine / sentence imposed, you forfeit your chance for an appeal. You must pay a $65 transfer fee to appeal this case to the St. Louis County Circuit Court.
If you have any questions about these procedures be sure to ask them prior to the beginning of the trial.
By pleading guilty, you admit that you committed the act charged, that law prohibits the act, and that you have no defense for your act. This also relieves the city of its burden of proving its case against you. If you were involved in a traffic accident at the time of the alleged offense, your plea of guilty could be used later in a civil suit for damages as an admission by you that you were at fault or were the party responsible for the accident.
You are urged not to plead guilty if you do not feel that you are guilty.
Plea of Guilty With an Explanation
This plea has the same effect as a plea of guilty, but says that you would like to explain to the judge mitigating circumstances with respect to the punishment only.
An example for this type of plea is if you are charged with Failure to Show Proof of Financial Responsibility (no insurance). If you failed to show the police officer insurance at the time of the stop, but had insurance coverage at the time, you should present the proof of insurance to the judge. If you have obtained insurance since you were stopped you should show that to the judge. Failure to show insurance is four points assessed to your driving record.
If you plead guilty to a moving violation, you will receive points on your license unless you attend the Driver Improvement Program within 60 days. The cost is about $50. You must ask the judge if you wish to attend.
In both cases of a plea of guilty or a finding of guilty, a fine most likely will be assessed. The mitigating circumstances explained to the judge may or may not have an effect on the amount of the fine assessed. Payment of fines and court costs will be expected at that time.
After a plea of guilty or a finding of guilty, the court has the authority to assess court fines up to $1,000 and/or a jail sentence not to exceed 90 days.
The amount of the fine assessed by the court is affected by the facts and the circumstances of the case. Mitigating circumstances may lower the fine. However, aggravating circumstances may increase the fine. In no case may the fine exceed $1,000. All fines are deposited into the general fund of the City of Dellwood. It is expected that fines and costs be paid on your court date.
Court cost of $24.50 per case are added to each fine assessed. Court costs are required by state law and the ordinances of the City of Dellwood and will be remitted to the general fund of the city and the Missouri Department of Revenue.