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I Received a Ticket, Now What?
The majority of cases heard in Municipal Court are traffic infractions. These citations can be handled in one of three ways: 1. By mail, following the instructions on the citation; 2. At the Municipal Court office in City Hall, where fines are assessed (possibly reduced) by the Court Clerk according to a schedule based on the type of offense and your driving record; or 3. By appearing in court at the time set for arraignment listed on your citation.
Court Arraignments - Violations
The purpose of arraignment is to tell the judge how you wish to proceed with your case. Traffic and other Violation arraignments are on Thursdays at 10:00 a.m. On the first and third Thursdays of the month we hold Criminal arraignments at 3:00 p.m. You should arrive before the scheduled time (which appears on your ticket) and check in at the court desk before entering the courtroom.
There are two options at arraignment:
You can plead NOT GUILTY if you wish to contest the charge against you and go to trial. The trial ordinarily is scheduled within a two-month time period.
You can plead NO CONTEST. If you choose this option, you can offer an explanation of the circumstances. Your fine or other penalty, assessed by the Judge, would depend on your explanation, your driving record, and the seriousness of the offense.
A plea of NO CONTEST under Oregon Law results in a guilty finding by the court. The benefit to a no contest plea is that you do not have to admit guilt in open court.
If you do not follow any order of the court, including an order to pay a fine, your driver's license will be suspended and you may be subject to further legal action and costs. A plea of NO CONTEST will result in a conviction being entered on your driving record.
At trial, you and the police officer will appear in court to present evidence about your citation. Evidence can include the testimony of you and the officer, the testimony of any witnesses, and photographs or diagrams.
Non-attorney trials are informal and take 30 minutes or less. The judge will hear the evidence and normally make a decision at the end of the trial.
If you choose to hire an attorney, make sure that he or she notifies the court as soon as possible, no later than 5 days prior to the trial. A new trial date will be set.
If you fail to appear for trial, the court will enter a judgment against you which can include an increased fine, up to the maximum allowed by law. The conviction may also be entered on your driving record.
Criminal Case Arraignments, Pretrial Conferences & Jury Trials
A defendant will be arraigned as part of the initial court hearing on the charge. The arraignment is normally a defendant’s first court appearance.
At the arraignment, the judge informs the defendant of the charge and makes sure the defendant understands his/her Constitutional rights as explained at the beginning of the court session. The defendant is then asked to enter a plea of guilty, no contest or not guilty to the offense, or if they wish to speak with an attorney before entering a plea.
If you plead guilty or no contest, you are admitting that you committed the offense as charged. If you plead not guilty, you are denying that you committed the violation or may have a defense to the charge. No Constitutional rights are waived unless expressly waived by the defendant.
The case will then be set for a pretrial conference. At this conference, all parties must be present. Plea agreements concerning the case may be made at these hearings. If the case goes forward, the next hearing will be either a bench or jury trial.
If the defendant waives his/her right to a jury trial, the next hearing will be a bench trial where the judge will hear testimony and decide the case. If the defendant requests a jury trial, the case is determined by a jury of six citizens from the community. Defendants are presumed innocent, and the plaintiff, the City of West Linn, must prove the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
Failure to appear for any of these hearings may result in a warrant for your arrest.