An arraignment is your first appearance in the St. Charles Municipal Court. When you are given a ticket/summons, you are also given a court date and a time to appear in the St. Charles Municipal Court. When you come into the building at your scheduled time, proceed to the court window and give your name. You will then proceed into the courtroom and take a seat. No food or drink is allowed in courtroom. There is no talking while court is in session.
Your name will be called by the Bailiff. When your name is called, approach the bench. The Judge, a licensed attorney in the state of Missouri and a resident of the City of St. Charles, will verify your identity and read the charge that has been filed against you. If you do not understand the charge, ask the Judge to explain it. When the Judge asks you how you plead, you must reply either:
- “Guilty with an Explanation”
- “Not Guilty”
- “Request a continuance to hire an Attorney”
The charge that is filed against you may differ from the summons that you received from the officer. The St. Charles City Prosecutor, a licensed attorney in the state of Missouri, reviews all charges filed with the Court and may amend those charges to more accurately reflect the circumstances surrounding the event.
Arraignment schedules are as follows:
- One Tuesday per month at 9:00 a.m.
- Almost every Thursday night at 6:30 p.m.
A Plea of Guilty
If you plead guilty, you are admitting to the Judge that you have committed acts which violate a valid City law. The Judge will then decide what penalty will be assessed. At this time, you will have an opportunity to tell the Judge any special circumstances that you believe lessen the seriousness of the violation. You should not plead guilty and then in your explanation to the Judge say that you did not violate the law. After listening to your explanation, the Judge will assess a penalty, considering the seriousness of the offense and any explanation offered by you. Remember, if you plead guilty, the Judge will find you guilty. Any explanation that is offered by you can only affect the penalty. When you plead guilty you will be giving up the following rights:
- To hire a lawyer to represent you;
- To have a trial before a court or jury;
- To call witnesses to testify for you;
- To testify on your own behalf;
- To cross-examine any witnesses that the City may call; and
- The right to appeal the judgment
A Plea of Not Guilty
A plea of not guilty means you believe you have not violated the law. When you plead not guilty, the Judge will have the Court clerk set a date for trial. You will obtain the trial date at the window in the lobby when your name is called prior to leaving the building. A trial will not be held on your initial arraignment date as all necessary witnesses will not be present. You must appear at the trial. You do not need to be represented by an attorney if you want to plead not guilty. Remember, the Prosecutor is a skilled attorney! You may represent yourself at trial. If you plead not guilty and later decide to change your plea to guilty, you must reappear in Court before the Judge in order to do so.
Trials are scheduled after the call of the regular docket. At the trial, the City Prosecutor will first present evidence against you. Then you will have a chance to tell your side of the story. At the trial, the Prosecutor must prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The Prosecutor will call witnesses to testify about the alleged facts in the charge. When each witness has finished answering the Prosecutor’s questions, you or your attorney will have the right to question the witness. This is called cross-examination. Cross-examination is not a time when you can testify or argue with the witness. You must ask relevant questions. Therefore, have your questions prepared ahead of time.
After all witnesses for the City have testified, you will have an opportunity to present your case. You may testify and you may call witnesses to testify. However, you are not required to testify. If you do testify, you may also be questioned by the Prosecutor.
After you have presented your case, the Prosecutor has the right to present “rebuttal evidence”. Rebuttal evidence is evidence that explains or denies your evidence. After all witnesses have testified, each side may give a closing argument.
The Judge must then decide if you are guilty or not guilty. If you are found guilty, the Judge will assess a punishment, considering the seriousness of the offense and any explanation offered by you during your evidence. You will then go to the Court window in the lobby. When the clerk calls your name, you must make payment arrangements. If the Judge finds you not guilty, you are free to go after checking out at the Court window in lobby.