If you’ve received a citation, or were arrested and charged with a misdemeanor, you may wonder what options you have and what your journey will be like moving forward. A misdemeanor is one of three types of offenses, and carries a penalty more serious than an infraction, but less serious than a felony. The summons or citation will state what the charges against you are, and the scheduled day and time of your initial court appearance.
If you know that you would like to contact a lawyer concerning your charges, you probably want to do so before your initial court hearing (also known as an arraignment). By doing so, your lawyer can guide you on your plea and possible penalties before you are before the judge. If you wish to represent yourself, you will need to familiarize yourself with the law and proceedings surrounding the offense with which you’ve been charged. If you wish to be represented by a lawyer but cannot afford one, you will be given the opportunity to apply for a court-appointed lawyer at your initial hearing.
If you fail to present yourself at your arraignment, you may be charged with an additional offense known as failure to appear. This is a misdemeanor, and if committed, a court will likely issue a warrant for your arrest.
On the day of the arraignment, you should arrive to the courthouse at least 15 minutes early and dress conservatively and professionally. You are often required to check in at the clerk’s office. Before your hearing, you are given a legal rights form which explains your rights before your case is called by the judge.
Once your case is called, the judge will tell you what the charges are against you and the possible penalties from those offenses. Then the judge will ask if you need court-appointed legal representation, which are only available is jail time is a possible penalty. If you do want a court-appointed lawyer, you will have to fill out a form and answer questions about your finances to make sure you qualify.
Next in the hearing, the judge will ask you if you plead guilty or not guilty. If you do not know which to plead, ask the judge to reschedule your initial appearance so you can talk to a lawyer. If you plead not guilty, it will allow you time to talk to a lawyer before your next appearance and requires the prosecution to prove its case. If you plead guilty, you admit that you committed the charges against you, you give up your right to trial, and you give up your right to remain silent. The judge will then decide your sentence.
If you pled not guilty, you have the right to a bench or jury trial. If you choose a bench trial you will only be before a judge and he or she will decide if you are guilty. These typically can take place in an hour or so. In a jury trial, the decision of guilty or not guilty is determined by six members of the community and could last a couple of days.
Before any trial, a pretrial conference takes place. Either you or your attorney will receive a notice of the date and time. You must attend the pretrial conference, and also have the opportunity to discuss plea bargaining with the prosecution. Any other issues that need to be resolved are done so at this conference.
After either a bench trial or jury trial, the judge will decide the sentence. Sometimes the judge will do so the same day as the trial, but sometimes sentencing may be scheduled for a different day. The judge will ask if there is anything you have to say before he or she decides your penalty. For misdemeanors, penalties include jail (usually only up to one year), driver’s license suspension, fines, court costs, community service, probation, and restitution, which is money paid to the victim to cover costs they incurred. Typically the penalty is effective immediately at the time of sentencing.
If you can't appear at the scheduled time, contact your attorney or the court as soon as possible. If the court is contacted ahead of time and if you have a good reason, the court may reschedule your case. The court requires compelling reasons before it excuses a failure to appear.
Did you receive a citation to appear in Mecklenburg County Courtroom 1130? Courtroom 1130, also referred to as first appearance court, is an administrative criminal court that handles misdemeanor and traffic cases. There are no trials held in this courtroom. Instead, this is where many cases are handled before they are required to go to district court.
To handle the high volume of misdemeanor and traffic cases in Mecklenburg County, the state attempts to do the following in courtroom 1130:
1. Reduce traffic tickets at the discretion of an assistant district attorney
2. Accept pleas of guilty
3. Set trial dates when the defendant pleads not guilty
4. Advises defendants of their rights to a court appoint attorney
5. Provides defendants with options for enrollment in diversion programs such as defensive driving school, drug education school, deferred prosecution, worthless check program, and the dispute settlement program.
If you have received a citation and are required to appear in courtroom 1130, it is highly advisable that you seek the assistance of a criminal defense attorney. If you would like to schedule a free consultation with a criminal defense attorney, please contact Adkins Law. Adkins Law is located in Huntersville and primarily serves Mecklenburg County and the greater Charlotte area.
This is a common question: Do I have to come to court? In most cases, if you are represented by an attorney, you may waive your court appearance for your traffic ticket. Instead, your attorney appears on your behalf, handles your matter, and you never have to appear.
Not having to miss work or school is a huge reason to hire a traffic lawyer to handle your traffic ticket. Not only may this save you money, more importantly, it saves you time. I’ve included the statute below, which authorizes waiver of appearance.
§ 15A-1011. Pleas in district and superior courts; waiver of appearance.
(a) A defendant may plead not guilty, guilty, or no contest "(nolo contendere)." A plea may be received only from the defendant himself in open court except when:
(b) A defendant may plead no contest only with the consent of the prosecutor and the presiding judge.
(c) Upon entry of a plea of guilty or no contest or after conviction on a plea of not guilty, the defendant may request permission to enter a plea of guilty or no contest as to other crimes with which he is charged in the same or another prosecutorial district as defined in G.S. 7A-60. A defendant may not enter any plea to crimes charged in another prosecutorial district as defined in G.S. 7A-60 unless the district attorney of that district consents in writing to the entry of such plea. The prosecutor or his representative may appear in person or by filing an affidavit as to the nature of the evidence gathered as to these other crimes. Entry of a plea under this subsection constitutes a waiver of venue. A superior court is granted jurisdiction to accept the plea, upon an appropriate indictment or information, even though the case may otherwise be within the exclusive original jurisdiction of the district court. A district court may accept pleas under this section only in cases within the original jurisdiction of the district court and in cases within the concurrent jurisdiction of the district and superior courts pursuant to G.S. 7A-272(c).
(d) A defendant may execute a written waiver of appearance and plead not guilty and designate legal counsel to appear in his behalf in the following circumstances:
(e) In the event the judge shall permit the procedure set forth in the foregoing subsection (d), the State may offer evidence and the defendant may offer evidence, with right of cross-examination of witnesses, and the other procedures, including the right of the prosecutor to dismiss the charges, shall be the same as in any other criminal case, except for the absence of defendant.
If you need legal advice regarding a traffic citation and would like to speak with a traffic lawyer at a law firm in Huntersville NC, please contact Adkins Law for a free traffic consultation. Adkins Law is located in Huntersville and primarily serves Huntersville, Cornelius, Davidson, Charlotte, Mecklenburg County, and the Lake Norman area.