Believe it or not your rights stand a much greater risk of being abused in city court or traffic court than in regular criminal court. Why you ask? There are several reasons why, and I will explain them all as well as let you know what you can do to protect yourself.
City court handles smaller cases
In city court the most severe crimes you could be charged with are misdemeanors. A misdemeanor in Alabama covers many charges, but the most jail time you could possibly get is 366 days or a year and one day in the county jail. Most of the time any jail sentence is suspended or put off so long as you avoid further charges. For this reason it is easy for the judge and prosecutor to abandon the legal rules in favor of speeding up the docket.
City Judges and Prosecutors are hired, not elected
Unlike county government where we elect our district attorney and judges, in city court the judge and prosecutor are hired by the city council. They sign a contract and work for the city only. They don’t answer to you, because you can’t vote them out of office. They have to keep the city council happy if they want their contracts renewed. What does this mean for you? Don’t expect fair play.
I have personally seen where one local city court used to appoint attorneys who showed up to court to defend those who could not afford a lawyer. That is, until the city council complained that it was costing the city too much money in attorney fees. Now when you enter that court room you are asked to sign a waiver of attorney form before court stating you don’t want a lawyer to defend you. They save money, and your rights just got stomped on! FYI the Constitution states that in any criminal case where you could be placed in jail you have the RIGHT to have an attorney appointed to represent you if you cannot afford one. Ever pay attention to cop shows when they read the criminals rights? “You have the right to a lawyer. If you cannot afford on the court will appoint one to represent you.” That’s from the 6th Amendment to the Constitution.
Without a lawyer the prosecutor won’t cut you a deal
And why should he? If you showed up to city court facing possible jail time without a lawyer, you’ve just told the prosecutor that you don’t have a clue what you’re doing! That’s a tough pill to swallow, but by and large that’s the impression you give. Now the prosecutor expects that he can just tell you what you’re charged with and how you will plead and it’s off to the judge to plead guilty. You won’t get a charge dropped, you won’t get fines reduced, and you won’t get a chance to see the evidence against you, all because you didn’t know to ask.
If you can’t pay, you might have to stay
In my hometown, when you’re found guilty of a crime in city court, the judge will give you 30 days to pay your fine which could be several thousand dollars depending on the number of charges or tickets you received. He will set a date for you to come back in a month, and if you don’t have the money for your fines then he’ll place you in jail where you will “sit out” your fines at $30-35 dollars a day. In other words a $120 fine would take you four days at $30 a day to sit out. Harsh? You bet!
What Can I Do For You?
With me by your side you have access to my knowledge of the law and how it applies to your unique set of facts. I know that while you were speeding, your waiting for a safe place to pull over for the police officer was not an attempt to elude, and thus that charge should be dismissed. I also know that this is your first driving offense, and you may be entitled to defensive driving school, which will keep this ticket off your record and your insurance premium. Finally, I know that you can’t afford to pay a large fine at once, so I’ll ask that you be allowed to make monthly payments.
So if you’ve got a municipal charge and court is fast approaching then you can’t afford to get run over by the system. You need to place the law on your side. Call me today!