What happens if I am charged with a non-criminal offense? A non-criminal offense can be an ordinance violation such as a noise or a traffic violation. An ordinance violation or a traffic offense results in a citation. In most of those cases you will not be taken to jail. Remember, police may not search you or your property without permission if you are not taken into custody for a non-criminal offense. The citation will generally give you a choice of paying a forfeiture or going to court. The citation will give a court date for you to appear. If you do not appear you will be convicted. If you do not want to appear or contest the charge you simply pay the forfeiture.
If you go to Court your first court appearances is known as the arraignment at which time you enter a plea of either “guilty”, “not guilty” or “no contest”. Remember, “no contest” pleas means that you are not contesting the offense charge. The “no contest” plea will result in a conviction but the conviction cannot be used against you in a future lawsuit. This is the difference between a “guilty” and a “no contest” plea.
The distinction between a “guilty” and “no contest” plea can be important especially in cases where you have been issued a traffic citation which resulted from an accident where someone was injured. In those cases, it is best to plead “no contest” as that cannot be used against you by the other driver should you get sued for causing injuries to another.
In most non-criminal cases you are given a pre-trial date as well as a return date if you plead not guilty at the first court appearance. In non-criminal cases you do not have an automatic right to a jury trial and unless you specifically demand a jury trial, and pay the required fee within 10 days of your initial appearance, you will not get a jury and your trial will be in front of a judge. At the pre-trial conference, the prosecutor and your attorney will try to settle the case.
If you can’t resolve the charge at pre-trial you must appear at either the return date or trial date if set. You may want to consider the seriousness of the offense as well as the possible penalties as part of your process of determining whether you need an attorney.
If you go to trial and the judge finds you guilty you will have to pay the forfeiture by the deadline date. If you fail to do so your driver’s license may be suspended if the violation is for a traffic offense. Otherwise, if you do not pay the forfeiture you could be jailed or ordered to perform community service.
If you have been charged with a non-criminal charge and in order to help you navigate the court system and determine the severity of your citation, it is important to hire an attorney. If you, a friend, or a family member have been arrested and you have questions please contact either Attorney Matt McCasland or Andrew Krueger with questions. In the Baraboo area at (608) 356-3961, Madison area at (608) 824-9540 or Statewide at (866) 455-2993. Please check out our website at https://khtlawyers.com. Remember, at Krueger Hernandez & Thompson SC we listen, we care, we get results!