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

It’s been quite an amazing and rewarding experience helping people who are facing what is probably the most stressful time in their life. Many of the clients who come to me are facing heavy court fines, jail, or even prison. While some use the term jail and prison interchangeably, that is not the case. Jail is for people waiting for a court hearing or trial or someone who is sentenced to a jail sentence of usually one year or less. Prison is much different. Prison is for someone who has been sentenced and is faced with a longer sentence.

While I am based in Brighton, my journey has taken me to many counties across our state. This includes having to travel to the mountains on Interstate 70 in the winter, which, as we know, can have its moments of anxiety. The journey has also taken me through Municipal Court, County Court, and District Court.

It’s worth taking the time to explain the differences in each court. I begin with Municipal Court. Almost every city or town has a Municipal Court. 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, you need to understand that the maximum penalty in most Municipal Courts is a fine of $2,650 and one year in the county jail. If you are charged with a Municipal Court violation, you must take it very seriously.

County Court also handles traffic tickets. However, they also handle more serious driving cases such as driving under the influence, reckless driving, careless driving, etc. Moreover, most crimes that involve domestic violence-related offenses are handled in County Court. County Court also handles all misdemeanor cases. Again, if you are charged with a crime and ordered to appear in County Court, take it very seriously. In many County Courts, the first time you appear, you report to the First Appearance Center. You will be given the opportunity to meet with a Deputy District Attorney to resolve your case. I strongly recommend that you retain an attorney to accompany you to your first County Court appearance.

District Court handles the most serious cases, which are felony charges. These include murder, attempted murder, first degree assault, second degree assault, sexual assault, armed robbery and many other serious charges. If you are charged with a felony charge or charges, you need to consult with an attorney immediately. You could be facing a long prison sentence. Your entire future could be at risk. While you have a constitutional right to represent yourself, it’s not a good decision given how high the stakes are on felony charges. Many attorneys offer free consultations either in person or by phone. I do. Hopefully, you have found this information helpful and will make use of 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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Greg for the Defense

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