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Offered by: Brighton Resident Gregory R. McMahon, Esq.

As many of you recall, last month I gave a brief overview of our different court systems. This month we will focus on Municipal Court. Part 3 will focus on County Court in October. Part 4 will focus on District Court in November.

It’s worth taking the time to explain the differences in each court. Almost every city or town has a Municipal Court, including Brighton and Commerce City. Municipal Courts handle a variety of cases including traffic tickets, shoplifting charges, theft charges, dog at large cases, dog bite cases, and all other ordinance violations. If you’re a dog lover like me, you need to know that if your dog gets loose and bites somebody, causing injury, the Municipal Court has the power to take your dog and put it to death. Also, the maximum penalty in most Municipal Courts is a fine of $2,650 and one year in the county jail. So, if you are charged with a Municipal Court violation, you must take it very seriously.

If you are given a summons to appear in Municipal Court at a specific date and time, you must appear in court. Failure to appear on a summons can mean that a bench warrant will be issued for your arrest. If you are unable to appear on the date of your Municipal Court hearing, you should call the court immediately and explain why you cannot appear, such as you’re out of town or have a medical appointment. If the court agrees to reset your hearing date, make sure that you get written confirmation of your new court date.

At your first appearance in Municipal Court, you will meet with the city prosecutor who will probably make you what is known as a plea bargain offer to settle your case without going to trial. You have the right to accept the plea offer or set your case for trial. If you reach a plea bargain with the city prosecutor, you must keep in mind that the Judge has the right to either accept the plea agreement or not accept the plea agreement. If the Judge declines to accept the plea agreement, you will probably have a second meeting with the city prosecutor to see if a different plea agreement can be reached.

Many attorneys offer free consultations either in person or by phone prior to your first court appearance. I do. Hopefully, you have found this information helpful and will use it to help protect your rights.

As always, the information in this column does not constitute legal advice as every case is very different. It also does not create an attorney-client relationship.

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