Your Legal Rights in Court

Court Process
You have certain rights in your case.  You have the right to plead not guilty and to have a trial by either a judge or a jury.  You have the right to confront and cross examine witnesses who testify against you and you have the right to subpoena witnesses to testify on your behalf.  You have the right to give your own testimony or to not testify.  You also have the right to plead guilty.  If you decide to sign the guilty plea and waiver form on the bottom of your summons, or at docket check-in, this will constitute a waiver of all of your rights stated above and you will be convicted of the offense as filed by the City Prosecutor.



Arraignment is your initial appearance in Municipal Division Court. When you receive a citation, you are given a court date and time to appear in the Municipal Division Court. Upon appearing at your arraignment, you will check-in with a clerk in the lobby.  They will locate your file and forward it to the Judge. When the Judge calls your name, approach the bench. The Judge will verify your identity and read the charge that has been filed against you. When the Judge asks you how you plead, respond with either Guilty or Not Guilty. No Contest or Nolo Contendere pleas are not allowed in Missouri courts.

The charge that is filed against you may differ from the citation that you received. The City Prosecutor reviews all charges filed with the court and may amend those charges at any time before verdict or finding of guilty. 


Pleading Guilty or Not Guilty

Guilty Plea
Pleading guilty is admitting to the Judge that you have committed acts which violate a City ordinance. The Judge will determine what penalty will be assessed. You will have an opportunity to tell the Judge any circumstances you believe would lessen the seriousness of the violation. You cannot plead guilty and then in your explanation to the Judge say that you did not commit the offense.

After hearing your explanation, the Judge will assess a penalty. If you plead guilty, the Judge will find you guilty. Any explanation that is offered by you can only affect the penalty. When you plead guilty you will be giving up the following rights:

  • To hire a lawyer to represent you;
  • To have a trial before a court or jury;
  • To call witnesses to testify for you;
  • To testify for yourself;
  • To cross-examine any witnesses that the City may call; 
  • To appeal your case to a higher court (Trial DeNovo)

Not Guilty Plea 
A plea of not guilty means you believe you have not violated a city ordinance. When you plead not guilty, the Judge will set a date for trial. A trial will not be held on your initial arraignment date. It will be necessary for the court to subpoena witnesses and police personnel.

You are not required to be represented by an attorney if you plead not guilty. You may represent yourself at trial. No other person who is not an attorney can represent you.



The City Prosecutor will subpoena all witnesses associated with your case. You are responsible for requesting subpoenas for your own witness(es). On your trial night, the Prosecutor will call witnesses to testify about the facts of the case alleged in the offense. When each witness has finished answering the Prosecutor's question(s), you and or your attorney have the right to question any witnesses or present your own witnesses. You may testify on your own behalf but are not required to. If you do testify you will be questioned by the Prosecutor. After your case has been presented the Prosecutor will present rebuttal evidence, or evidence explaining or denying evidence you presented. 

Each side may now provide a closing argument.

The Judge will then decide if you are Guilty or Not Guilty.  If found guilty, the Judge will assess a punishment ranging from $0 to $500.00 fine plus court costs and/or up to 90 days in jail.  The seriousness of your offense and any testimony, evidence or explanation offered by you will be considered by the Judge upon sentencing.  If a fine and or court costs is part of your punishment, you will be required to pay the entire amount in full immediately.  If the Judge finds you not guilty, you are free to go and there will be no punishment imposed.

Upon a finding of Guilty, you do have the right to file a Trial de Novo and have your case heard in a higher court before a different Judge. 


Your Rights in Municipal Traffic Court - Brochure