All trials in Municipal Court are bench trials; that is, the Judge alone hears the evidence and decides the case. There is no jury.
The Prosecutor and the Defendant will be given the opportunity to make an opening statement. An opening statement is not required. It may be reserved for later in the trial or it may be waived. The opening statement is intended to allow the parties to state to the Court what the evidence presented will show. It is not evidence to be used by the Court in making a decision.
City Prosecutor’s Case
The City Attorney will call witnesses, some of whom may be police officers. The City Attorney will question the witness concerning any knowledge they may have of the facts of the case. After the City Attorney finishes questioning a particular witness, you as the Defendant then have a right to cross-examine the witness. Cross-examination means asking questions concerning the facts to which the particular witness has testified. This is not the time for you to testify.
The cross-examination questions should be directed to the witness’ testimony to test the witness’ recollection of facts. Each witness is treated in this same fashion. After the cross-examination is completed, the City Attorney will have the opportunity to conduct a re-direct examination. This means the City Attorney may ask additional questions only on facts or statements of a witness given on cross-examination.
When the City Attorney finishes calling all his/her witnesses, the City will rest its case. The City has the burden of proving its case beyond a reasonable doubt by competent evidence presented to the Court. If the City has failed to prove its case at this time in the trial, the case may be dismissed.
If the Defendant elects to proceed, he may testify under oath but is not, and cannot be, required to testify. If the Defendant chooses to testify, the City Attorney has the right to conduct a cross-examination. Also, the Defendant may present witnesses at this time in the trial. The City Attorney may cross-examine these witnesses.
Testimony should be restricted to the facts surrounding the charge before the Court. Testimony as to what someone said is not admissible as evidence unless the person who made the statement is present for cross-examination. Prior driving habits and prior driving records are not admissible as evidence at a trial.
At the conclusion of the Defendant’s case, the City Attorney will be given the opportunity to call witnesses to rebut the testimony of the Defendant or his witness. If the City Attorney calls rebuttal witnesses, the Defendant is allowed to call witnesses to rebut that testimony.
Conclusion of the Trial
When both the City and the Defendant have finished presenting their testimony and evidence, they will have the opportunity to make a closing argument. The City makes the first argument; the Defendant then makes an argument, and the City can then rebut the Defendant’s argument. A closing argument is each side’s summary of the evidence presented to the Court as viewed by each party. Closing arguments are not required and are not received by the Court as evidence to be used in making a decision. When all evidence is presented and final arguments are completed the Judge will decide the case.
If the Defendant is found guilty the Judge will then impose a sentence. Before sentencing, the Defendant will be given an opportunity to make a statement. The victim (if any) will be given an opportunity to make a victim impact statement. Any fine imposed is presumed due on the date sentence is imposed.