Municipal Court Bill of Rights

YOUR MUNICIPAL COURT RIGHTS

 

The Municipal Court of Velda Village Hills, Missouri, is a Division of the 21st Circuit Court of the State of Missouri and is open to the public. It is authorized by the Missouri Constitution and created by charter.  The purpose of this Court is to provide you with a place to obtain a fair and impartial trial on any citation alleging a violation of a city ordinance.  The Municipal Court has jurisdiction over all cases arising under the city charter, or any ordinance of the City of Velda Village Hills and all such other jurisdictions as are or may be hereafter conferred by law.  The range of punishment on municipal violations is up to a One Thousand Dollars ($1,000.00) fine and up to ninety (90) days in jail, or both.

 

More information, include the courts hours of operation and court contact information can be found on the City’s website at www.vvhmo.org or by calling (314) 261-7221.

 

This is a court of law established to protect the rights of all citizens.  If there is anything you do not understand, do not hesitate to ask the Judge any questions.

 

While In The Courtroom, You Are Expected To: remain seated until your case is called, not smoke or consume food or drink, not talk, or make noise; not sleep or otherwise disrupt the Court proceedings.

 

Your case will be called and you should proceed to the front of the court room.  The Judge will read the charge or charges to you.  If you have retained an attorney, or wish to retain an attorney, do not plead at this time.

 

You have a right to plead (1) guilty, (2) guilty with an explanation or (3) not guilty. You are presumed to be innocent unless and until the City’s prosecution proves your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. When reasonable doubt exists, the case will be decided in your favor. If, after the charge is read and you understand it, you feel you have violated the law, you may enter a plea of guilty. If you believe you have not violated the law, or have a defense to the alleged violation, you should plead not guilty. If in doubt, plead not guilty. You will not be given a heavier penalty because of a not guilty plea.

 

Right to an attorney:

You have the right to be represented by an attorney and may employ one to represent you at any time during these proceedings. At the first setting of your case, upon your request, you will be granted one continuance in order to retain a lawyer, or to prepare your defense. If you desire a continuance, you should request it after your case is called and before entering your plea of guilty or not guilty.  However, you are not required to have an attorney represent you at trial; you may represent yourself at trial.

 

If you are a non-U. S. citizen:

If you are an undocumented individual, you are hereby advised that a plea of guilty or a conviction of the offense for which you have been charged may result in deportation, inadmissibility from admission to the United States, or a denial of naturalization pursuant to the laws of the United States.  You may wish to consult an attorney before entering a plea to any charges.

 

Right to a Public Defender:

If you establish that you cannot afford an attorney, and the City is seeking jail time for the offense charged, the Court will appoint a Public Defender to represent you.

 

If you proceed without an attorney:

You have a right to plead (1) guilty, (2) guilty with an explanation or (3) not guilty.  You are presumed to be innocent unless and until the City’s prosecution proves your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.  When reasonable doubt exists, the case will be decided in your favor.  If, after the charge is read and you understand it, you feel you have violated the law, you may enter a plea of guilty.  If you believe you have not violated the law, or have defense to the alleged violation, you should plead not guilty.  If in doubt, plead not guilty.  You are not given a heavier penalty because of the not guilty plea.

 

If You Plead Guilty:

  1. You will be sentenced this evening. Before, during or after a fine is assessed you may present evidence of your financial condition to the Judge.  If you want to present this evidence you should file out the Statement of Financial Condition which is located at the Clerk’s office, the Judge’s Bench and at the Payment Window prior to seeing the Judge.
  2. A guilty plea associated with moving violations may result in points on your driving record.
  3. A guilty plea associated with criminal charges will be on your arrest record as a conviction.
  4. The court will allow you time to pay any fine. You may present evidence regarding your financial condition to the Judge.  The court will consider installment payments if you establish the need for additional time to pay the fine.  The Court will also consider community service as an alternative to payment.  If you are given an extension to pay your fine, you will receive a sheet explaining payment.  READ THE SHEET CAREFULLY.  Make sure you appear on the court date noted on the sheet if you have not paid your court fine and/or costs as instructed.  YOU WILL NOT BE ARRESTED FOR INABILITY TO PAY A FINE.  HOWEVER, FAILURE TO APPEAR IN COURT ON THE DATE REQUIRED MAY RESULT IN A WARRANT BEING ISSUED FOR YOUR ARREST.

 

If You Plead 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 your charge/s.  This also gives the Judge the opportunity to consider any unusual circumstances which you believe may be in your favor before you are sentenced.

 

If You Plead Not Guilty:

Because of the number of cases before the Court each month and the need to have the officer and any witnesses present, your case cannot be heard tonight.  You will be given a future court date for trial.

  1. At trial, you have a right to testify or remain silent. If you remain silent, it is not considered an admission of guilt.  If you testify, the Judge may consider any statement you make in determining your guilt or innocence.
  2. At trial, you have the right to ask questions of witnesses testifying against you.
  3. You have a right to have subpoenas issued and served for witnesses on your behalf to appear at the trial and to question all witnesses who testify against you at trial.
  4. Your case is tried. If you are found not guilty, the case ends.
  5. You may, if found guilty, accept the decision of the Municipal Court or appeal your case to the Circuit Court of St. Louis County, where you may have a new trial before a different Judge. The request for appeal must be made within 10 (ten) days of entry of the court’s decision and cannot be extended for any reason.  Complete details of the appeal procedure will be explained to you by Court personnel upon request.

 

You Have the Right to Present Evidence of Your Financial Condition if a Fine is Assessed:

Before, during or after a fine is assessed you may present evidence of your financial condition to the Judge.  If you want to present this evidence you should file out the Statement of Financial Condition which is located at the Clerk’s office, the Judge’s Bench and at the Payment Window.  After this form is filled out you may get in line to see the Judge and present evidence regarding your financial condition.  You may also ask for alternative payment arrangement if you need more time to pay a fine.  You may present evidence of your financial condition after you have made alternative payment arrangement if you are unable to make your payment.  You must fill out a new Statement of Financial Condition and see the Judge to present your evidence on the next available court date.

 

In Lieu of a Fine You May Ask for Community Service:

The Court may allow you to perform Community Service please let the Judge know if you want to perform Community Service in lieu paying a fine.

 

The Order of Trial Is As Follows:

  1. The case is called.
  2. Witnesses are sworn.
  3. The City’s witnesses testify to explain their version of what happened.
  4. You or your attorney can question City's witnesses.
  5. You may testify and/or call witnesses to testify in your behalf to explain your version of what happened.
  6. The City Prosecutor may question you and your witnesses, if you and your witnesses testify.
  7. The Judge renders the Court’s Decision.

 

Right to release pending hearing:

If you are confined on a municipal court charge you have the right to release from custody unless the Court makes a determination that you need to be held for the protection of the community. If the Court orders your release, there may be conditions placed upon your release.

 

Right to access court records:

If you have a case pending in municipal court, you have the right to access court records regarding your case. This includes records which show charges, court rulings, fines owed, and other information related to your case.

 

Right to change of judge or recusal of judge:

You may request a change of judge without cause no later than ten (10) days after you entered your initial plea. If it is past the ten (10) days, then you must show cause as to why the judge should be removed. In addition a judge may recuse him or herself upon a determination that he or she has an interest in the case or that the judge will appear as the prosecuting attorney in a neighboring county where the prosecuting attorney will serve as judge.

 

This court is not conducted as a source of revenue.  No part of any fine or costs goes to the Judge, the prosecutor or any police officer or any city official.  The efficiency of a police officer is not determined in any way by the number of tickets he or she issues.

 

In traffic cases, the objective of this court is to reduce the number of accidents and injuries and to make our streets safer.  Careful driving is the daily responsibility of each and every one of us.