The Initial Plea hearing may be the first time you appear in court and most people are concerned and upset. The Court urges you to read this information to help you understand the procedures used in Municipal Court and your rights. This is a court of law. While the proceedings are sometimes informal, respect and proper decorum must be observed at all times. As you wait for your case to be called, please remain silent. Do not engage in any behavior that might be disruptive and prejudice another person’s case. Anyone who fails to conduct themselves appropriately may be cited for contempt.
You have the right to an attorney. If you want an attorney you may stop the court and ask for an adjournment in order to hire an attorney.
When your case is called please have a seat in front of the “bench.” The Court will tell you the nature of the charge(s) as well as the maximum penalty which can be imposed. If you do not understand the charge(s), please ask the Judge to explain it to you.
The Judge will next ask if you are prepared to enter a plea to the charge(s). You also have the right to request a continuance. You have three Plea choices:
- Guilty—if you plead Guilty, you admit to all of the charges and the Court will impose a fine or forfeiture (monetary sentence) as explained below.
- No Contest—if you plead No Contest, the Court will find you Guilty. By entering a Plea of No Contest you neither admit nor deny the charge(s), but you state that you do not choose to contest the charge(s). The effect is the same as a Plea of Guilty except that the finding of guilt, as a result of this Plea, may not be used against you in civil court.
- Not Guilty—if you plead Not Guilty, your case will be set for a pre-trial conference with the municipal prosecutor. In most cases, the pretrial will be heard on the same date and time as your initial appearance.
If you are in doubt of which Plea to enter, do not hesitate to say “Not Guilty.”
At the pre-trial conference with the municipal prosecutor your case will be reviewed on the basis of the police reports and any other records which may be present. You will have a chance to discuss the merits of the case on an informal basis. The matter may be settled at the pre-trial conference, in which case the matter will be closed. If, however, the issues cannot be settled at the pre-trial conference your case will be scheduled for a Trial before the Court.
Failure to appear at the pre-trial or to make other arrangements will most likely result in a default judgment being taken against you.
If you are charged with Operating While Intoxicate,d you have the right to a jury trial in the Dane County Circuit Court. If you request a jury trial, your case will be transferred when the proper fees are paid. In all other cases, you have the right to a trial without a jury before this Court. Either form of trial is a formal proceeding, where testimony will be taken under oath, and you will have the right to produce evidence and examine or cross-examine any witnesses.
If, after trial, you feel aggrieved by the decision of this Court you have the right to appeal to the Dane County Circuit Court. The appeal may be based on the record made in Municipal Court, or you may request a new trial either to the Court or to a jury. To appeal, you must file a written notice with the Clerk of Municipal Court within twenty (20) days after your trial and pay the required appeal fees.
Upon your plea of guilty or no contest, or upon a finding of guilt by the Court after trial, the Court will review the record and impose a fine/forfeiture (monetary sentence) in accordance with the law. We accept cash, personal checks, money order, Visa or MasterCard. If you cannot immediately pay the forfeiture the Court will grant you up to sixty (60) days to pay the fine. You must pay your forfeiture in full at the McFarland Municipal Clerk’s office within the time permitted. If you fail to pay your forfeiture within the time permitted, and you are 17 years of age or older, the Court may do any of the following:
- For traffic violations, suspend your driving privileges for up to two (2) years or until the forfeiture and reinstatement fees are paid, whichever occurs first; and/or
- If your driving privileges have already been suspended, or if you have been convicted of violating a municipal ordinance, commit you to the Dane County Jail for up to ninety (90) days; and/or
- Tax Intercept.
POINTS AND SUSPENSION
If you are found guilty of a traffic offense, demerit points may be assessed against your driving record or your driving privileges may be suspended for certain offenses by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation. This Court has no control over the assessment or assignment of demerit points and suspensions.