What to Expect at your Court Appearance
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At an arraignment, the judge advises you of the charges against you and the maximum penalties you face if convicted, informs you of your rights, and asks you for a plea. The plea is your response to the charges stated in the citation(s) or complaint. Youth under the age of 18 must be accompanied by a parent or guadian for all court proceedings.

If you require an interpreter to understand the proceedings, please inform the court. Si necesita un interprete para compreder los procedimentos, por favor de informar a la corte.

Your Rights

  • Trial
    You have a right to a trial, to confront and cross-examine witnesses against you, and testify and present evidence on your own behalf.
  • Discovery and Subpoena Before trial, you may ask the judge to order the county to produce records relating to your case and/or to subpoena witnesses of your choosing. The court can provide you with a form in order to make this request. These requests may be approved or denied by the judge, or the judge may set a hearing with both parties present in order to make a determination about the requests.
  • Attorneys You have a right to be represented by an attorney at any and every stage of court proceedings. If the offense with which you are charged may be punished by time in jail and you qualify as indigent, you may request an attorney and the county will supply you with a public defender at no expense to you. The policy of the county has been to prosecute with an attorney if you are represented by an attorney, and to prosecute with a police officer or other non-lawyer county representative if you represent yourself.
  • Bail If you have been arrested for a violation of a local ordinance, the court may require you to post a cash bail to ensure your appearance at further proceedings. If you cannot make bail you may ask the court for a review. If you violate the conditions of release, you may be arrested again and you may forfeit your bail. After you have been sentenced, the person who posted the bail may authorize the release of the bail to pay fines and fees for the case. The bail will not be refunded until all fines and fees have been paid and other conditions met.

Conduct in the Court

Please remain seated in the spectator area in the courtroom until you are asked to come forward. Address the judge as "Your Honor" or "Judge," and stand when the judge enters or leaves the room. When you approach the podium, leave your family in the spectator area unless they are witnesses or parents, in the case of a juvenile defendant.

Pleas

Guilty
If you plead guilty, you may explain mitigating circumstances or other relevant aspects of your case to the judge before sentencing. The judge will also review evidence of prior convictions and depending on the charge, may request a pre-sentence drug/alcohol assessment from a counselor or other agency. There is no right of appeal from a conviction based on a guilty plea.

Nolo Contendre or No Contest
This has the same effect as a plea of guilty in Municipal Court. It may have some value to you if you are facing civil action as a result of the incident that led to your citation. The judge will proceed as if you had pled guilty.

Not Guilty
If you enter a plea of Not Guilty, the judge may not hear any details about your case until the officer that issued the citation is present. There will be no further discussion of the facts of your case at the arraignment. A trial will be scheduled for a later date, the officer will be subpoenaed, and you will be notified via mail of the trial date and time.

Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity
Municipal Court does not have jurisdiction in the event of this plea, and your case will be transferred to District Court.

Representing Yourself at Trial

"Pro Se"
Upon entry of a Not Guilty plea, the court will set your case for a Trial. Representing yourself at trial, without an attorney, is known as "Pro Se." The court will subpoena the officer or officers that issued your citation(s) to be present at the trial, and will notify you by mail of the trial date and time. Please advise the court if your address has changed to be sure you receive notification. The judge will guide the proceeding at the trial to make sure you have an opportunity to present an adequate defense, but the judge can not provide you with legal advice.

Sentencing
Fines and fees are assessed only if you are found guilty. If you choose to appear in court, the penalty after a subsequent conviction will not exceed the penalty assessment, provided that you do not miss any scheduled court appearances, including arraignment. In addition to fines and court fees, the court may impose jail for up to 90 days, probation for up to one year, and may require community service, defensive driving school, and other remedies deemed suitable by the judge.

If the defendant is under age 18 and it is a first offense, the charges may be referred to Teen Court for alternative sentencing.

If you are unable to pay the full amount of your fines and fees, the court will have you sign an "Agreement to Pay". If you fail to comply with the terms, you must come to court to address the issue of failing to pay.

"Deferred Sentence" is where the disposition of the case has been postponed or delayed, pending the satisfaction of certain conditions set by the court. Upon completion, the citation is dismissed by the court. Court fees are still assessed and collected in a deferred sentence.

Questions

If there is anything you do not understand, you may ask the court for an explanation. If you require assistance (such as an interpreter) to understand the proceedings, please inform the court.

This guide does not cover all situations that can arise, does not prepare you to be a lawyer, and does not take the place of a lawyer. For more information, you may access the Municipal Benchbook at the Mesa Public Library or review it online at:

http://jec.unm.edu/resources/benchbooks/municipal/index.htm


Contact Information
Los Alamos County 
Municipal Court  
505-662-8025  FAX 662-8365