Information about Municipal Court

What is Municipal Court?
The Municipal Court is a division of the Circuit Court of Butler County, Missouri. Cases in Municipal Court involve alleged violations of city laws. If you have received a ticket for a municipal ordinance violation, you have certain rights and responsibilities. The purpose of this document is to help you understand these rights and responsibilities.

Appointment of Counsel
You do not have a constitutional right to have an attorney appointed to represent you if jail is not a possible punishment. The Judge will notify you before you enter a plea of "Guilty" or "Not Guilty" if the violation for which you are charged has a possible punishment that includes time in jail.

The Arraignment

An arraignment is your first appearance in Municipal Court. 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 arraignment, your name will be called. When your name is called, approach the bench. The Judge will read the charge that has been filled against you. If you do not understand the charge, ask the Judge to explain it. When the Judge asks how you plead, you must say either "Guilty" or "Not Guilty". A pleas of "No Contest" will not be accepted and are not allowed in Missouri courts.

A Guilty Plea

If you plead guilty, you are admitting to the Judge that you have committed acts that 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 pleas 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 may only affect the penalty. When you plead guilty you will be giving up the following rights: 1) to hire an attorney to represent you; 2) to have a trial before a court or jury; 3) to call witnesses to testify for you; 3) to testify yourself; 4) to cross-examine any witnesses that the City may call; 5) the right to appeal the judgment and the penalty imposed.

A Not Guilty Plea

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 and 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.

The Trial

At the trial, the City will first present evidence against you. Then you will have a chance to tell your side of the story. At the trial, the City must prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The City’s witnesses will testify about the facts alleged in the charge. When each witness has finished answering questions or making a statement, you or your attorney will have the right to question the witness. This is called cross-examination. Cross-examination is not a time when you can testify or argue with the witness.

Presenting your case
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 City.

Rebuttal Evidence
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.

Guilty or Not Guilty
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, you are free to go.

Right of Appeal - Jury Trial - Trial De Novo (New Trial)
If the Judge finds you guilty, you have the right to appeal the decision. When you appeal, you are asking for a new trial also known as a Trial De Novo. Your application for Trial De Novo must be done within 10 days of the first trial. Payment of any portion of the fine or court costs or failure to file within 10 days forfeits your right to appeal. A filing fee must be paid before the application can be filed, unless the Court decides you are too poor to afford the filing fee. 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 Traffic Violations Bureau of the Municipal Court.