Your first appearance in court is commonly called an arraignment. This is the time when you are informed of the charges against you. This time is also when you are given the opportunity to enter a plea of guilty of not guilty. This is not the time for you to bring evidence or witnesses to testify.
If you plead not guilty, the Court will set a trial date. The Court will also set bond. Bond guarantees your appearance at future court proceedings. If you are found not guilty, your cash bond will be returned. If you are found guilty, the cash bond may be used toward any fines or restitution you receive as part of your sentence. Cash or surety bonds will be accepted.
You have the right to consult an attorney before entering a plea. The Court may appoint an attorney for you if you cannot afford one and you would receive jail if convicted. The Judge will ask you how you would like to plead. You have the following options:
Not Guilty – You are denying every material allegation of the charge. Do not explain any of the circumstance to the Judge at this time. If you enter a not guilty plea, you may have the opportunity to immediately talk with the County Attorney about your case and work out a pre-trial disposition agreement. If the case is not resolved, you will receive a date to return to court for a Judge or Jury Trial. You must maintain weekly contact with your attorney until your case is resolved. Please direct all questions you may have to your attorney.
Guilty – You are admitting guilt and may explain the circumstances. You will need to say what it is that makes you guilty. The Judge will usually sentence you immediately unless you need additional time.
No Contest – (nolo contendre) – You are not admitting guilt or fault but you feel, after considering the evidence, that you could be found guilty if you went to trial and you feel it is in your best interest to enter this plea. The Court must find evidence sufficient to establish a given fact (prima facie) to support the plea. The County Attorney must also agree to this plea.
Detention – The Judge has sentence you to serve time in jail.
Suspended sentence – The Judge has sentenced you to incarceration but suspended it on certain conditions. If these conditions are met, no detention would be served. This charge will go on your criminal record. If these conditions are not met, the County Attorney may petition the Court to revoke the suspended sentence and ask that you serve out a portion or the entire jail sentence. You would first be entitled to a hearing.
Deferred sentence – The Judge has given you a period of time to complete certain conditions prior to imposition of sentence. If the conditions are met, the sentence will not be imposed. The charge will be dismissed and will not be reported to the Department of Justice. If the conditions are not met, the County Attorney may petition the Court to revoke the deferral and full sentencing could take place.
Fine payments – The Judge may give you the opportunity to make monthly payments toward your fine. The Court accepts payment of fines by cash, money order, or cashier’s check. VISA and Mastercard are accepted through the CitePay USA website. If you ever have trouble making these payments, contact the Court for an extension. You may also work off a fine on community service. Failure to make payments may result in a warrant being issued for your arrest and your case being turned over to a collection agency. Failure to complete community service will result in a warrant and jail time.