Municipal Court Cases: Good News/Bad News
The Good News About Municipal Courts:
Most Municipal Courts are not “courts of record.” That means that there are no recordings of court proceedings. If you are found guilty in municipal court at trial, you usually have an automatic right to retry the case from the beginning in the appropriate Circuit Court.
Most Municipal courts do not have electronic access to their records so a background search will only reveal Municipal Court cases if the search includes a specific inquiry to the Municipal Court at issue.
Municipal Courts are only authorized to hear misdemeanor cases so if you are charged in Municipal Court, you are not facing a felony unless additional charges are added and the case is removed to Circuit Court. In addition to Misdemeanor cases, Municipal Courts routinely hear cases that are non-criminal violations and traffic offenses.
For information about Municipal Courts in your community, visit this site:
The Bad News About Municipal Courts:
Charges heard in Municipal Courts can include cases such as:
- Assault (including Domestic Violence Assault),
- Hit and Run property damage cases,
- Theft and Shoplifting,
- Reckless Driving,
- Reckless Endangerment,
- Trespass, and
- Underage Drinking
Conviction of these crimes, even in a Municipal Court, can result in suspension or revocation of driving privileges, time in the local jail, a requirement to complete treatment and educational programs, payment of restitution and imposition of court costs and fines. Certain convictions, such as for DUII and Reckless Driving, can never be expunged (removed) from your record.
In other words: A criminal conviction in Municipal Court has the same impact as a criminal conviction in Circuit Court.
If you are charged in Municipal Court, take your charge seriously and do not proceed without the advice of an attorney because the outcome of your case could last for your lifetime.
Your Right To Have An Attorney:
You have the right to have an attorney in all criminal cases, regardless of what court the case is charged in. Some Municipal Courts do a poor job of notifying the accused of this right. If you cannot afford to hire an attorney, demand that the Municipal Court appoint an attorney for you BEFORE you make any decision about your case. Do not let the court and prosecutor bully you into taking a deal without first consulting an attorney.