Municipal courts, or city courts, deal with violations of city ordinances committed within city limits. Cases usually involve traffic and other minor offenses. A person charged with an offense in municipal court may be represented by a lawyer. The judge hears cases without a jury. Anyone convicted in municipal court may appeal to the district court of the county where the municipal court is located.
Municipal court convictions can carry sentences of up to a year in jail and become part of your permanent criminal history. For example, Driving Under the Influence of Drugs and/or Alcohol (DUI) is a commonly prosecuted offense in municipal court. A conviction of a first offense DUI is a Class B misdemeanor conviction and carries a maximum sentence of 6 months in jail and a $1,000 fine. The minimum sentence is 48 consecutive hours in jail and a $750 fine. Driving While Suspended (DWS) is another charge commonly prosecuted in municipal court. A first offense DWS conviction typically results in the defendant being placed on probation and a lengthening of the suspension of the defendant’s driver’s license. Many people don’t realize that a 2nd DWS conviction results in a mandatory 5-day jail sentence. Even worse, a DWS conviction when your license has been suspended because of a DUI conviction requires a 90-day jail sentence. I was recently in court in a rural county and watched a defendant without an attorney plead guilty to a 1st offense DWS charge even though the prosecutor told the judge the defendant was eligible for diversion. It was obviously that the defendant didn’t understand his options and was making a big mistake not applying for diversion. Frankly, it was his third big mistake. The first big mistake was driving while his license was suspended. His second big mistake was not hiring an attorney which led to the third big mistake. In the short term he saved by not paying attorney’s fees. In the long run, when his license is finally reinstated after the extended suspension expires, he’s going to pay a lot more in auto insurance and is going to have to list the conviction on every job application - both could have been avoided.
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