St. Charles County Circuit Court

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Traffic Tickets 101:  Municipal Court versus Circuit Court…

Traffic Tickets 101: Municipal Court versus Circuit Court…


                If you are pulled over in Missouri for a traffic ticket, your case could be heard either in a Missouri municipal court or a Missouri circuit court.

What’s the difference?  A municipal court is the court where a town or city enforces their own municipal ordinances.  A circuit court is where the state of Missouri enforces its own statutes.

At the bottom of every ticket where the officer can state select whether the violation is of a local ordinance or state law.

When a person speeds say in O’Fallon, Missouri, that speeding ticket is both a violation of a local O’Fallon ordinance prohibiting speeding and of Missouri state law.  However, revenue from fines and court costs goes to O’Fallon if it is charged as an ordinance violation and to the state of Missouri if charged as a state law violation.

If you are caught speeding on the highway by a Missouri State Highway Patrol officer or in an unincorporated part of a county by a sheriff’s deputy, both of those tickets are codes as state law violations to be heard at the circuit court in the county where the violation occurred.

If you have a prior offense like a DWI, it likely will be heard in circuit court because of the level of seriousness.  That is another factor in determining which court will hear your case.

Generally speaking, it is better to be in municipal court than state circuit court.  Municipal prosecutors are much more likely to amend a ticket in exchange for a fine.  That can happen at the circuit court too, but often prosecutors are much more reluctant to amend charges or to not attach some period of probation if the charge is serious enough.

Traffic Ticket Center is your traffic ticket lawyer for violations in St. Peters, O’Fallon, Wentzville, Cottleville and St. Charles.  We can help you understand how your particular circumstances might differ if you are charged in state circuit court versus a local municipal court.

Remember, you should always hire a traffic ticket lawyer to help you avoid rising insurance premiums and points on your license.  Pleading guilty to moving violations can lead to both and affect your ability to drive and to drive affordably.

5 Rules of How to Act in Court….

5 Rules of How to Act in Court….

When I sit down with a criminal client or someone who has received a traffic ticket that will require a court appearance I always discuss the Five Rules of How to Act in Court.

Here they are:

  1.  DRESS LIKE YOU ARE GOING TO A FUNERAL:  For men, this means wearing a suit.  If you can’t wear a suit or afford one, then wear a nice pair of khakis, a white button up dress shirt and a tie.  Women should wear a pantsuit or a conservative dress.  Why?  Because you want to show the court and the judge that you are taking your case seriously and with respect.  You also want to separate yourself from the majority of people who show up to court dressed like they’re going to the gym, were running late after waking up from a daylong nap or who just really don’t care how their image portrays itself to someone like a judge.  Judges appreciate the effort and it could be make a very helpful impression to the judge when you and I appear in front of him to discuss your case.
  2. PUT AWAY THE CELLPHONE:  When I was a prosecutor in New Jersey, the judge would tell everyone in the court room before starting his docket that if he saw or heard a cellphone in his court while in session, he would confiscate it and embarrass the person.  On more than a few occasions, I saw the judge stop in mid-sentence, have the bailiff confiscate a phone and bring its owner in front of him to ask him questions like “Did you not here my rules about cell phones?”  The point here is simple:  Judges and courts in general want people to show deference to simple rules of courtesy, especially in a court room setting.  I’m not saying you can’t bring your cellphone (although O’Fallon Municipal Court forbids them from being brought into court), I’m just saying turn it off.  When you get out of court you can check your texts and emails.  Or the weather forecast.
  3. REPLY TO EVERYONE AS A MA’AM OR SIR / REFER TO THE JUDGE AS YOUR HONOR:  Most people know that judges are formally referred to as “Your Honor” and less formally as “Judge”.  Clients should use “Your Honor” when asked a question.  Everyone else in the courtroom, from the bailiff to the payment clerk outside the courtroom should be referred to as “sir” or “ma’am”.  Old school?  Sure.  But it’s a sign of respect and I insist that my clients use these terms.
  4. DON’T BE LATE TO COURT:  This is common sense but here’s the real reason you want to be on time.  If you’ve hired me you have what is called an attorney represented case.  That means our cases are usually resolved with the prosecutor and/or in front of the judge first and usually in the order of appearance.  Most courts have an attorney sign up sheet.  Because of this privilege, we can often get your case handled immediately once the docket begins.  Take advantage.  You don’t have to be early, just be on time for the start of the docket.  If the clerk asks you to sign in, do so.
  5. PAY YOUR FINES AS YOU PROMISED:  Often I will be making representations to the court that since you can’t make full payment of a fine that you can probably pay it by a certain date.  Judges and court clerks understand that but the first thing to do is give a reasonable date by which you can pay everything in full.  If you have a $500.00 fine and can only pay $250.00 per month, it will take you two months.  Don’t tell them one month and then have to return to court (on your own) to explain to the judge you don’t have all the money.  Judges understand you get paid a certain amount and need time.  They’ll work with you if you’re upfront about what you need.  This problem actually occurs I believe because clients think they need to pay everything right away or else.  Not the case.  Each court has certain payment minimums per month or full payment by a certain date, but if you tell them how much time they need, they’ll usually work with you.
Traffic ticket courts in St. Charles County…

Traffic ticket courts in St. Charles County…

When we get a call from someone who received a traffic ticket in St. Charles County, one of the first questions we ask is when and where their court date is.

That’s because it makes a difference in what we charge clients and the procedures to  handle the ticket for the clients.

St. Charles County has three layers of courts.  First, each town has a municipal court.  If you get a ticket in O’Fallon, written by a police officer from the O’Fallon Police Department your court date will be at O’Fallon Municipal Court.   Makes sense, right?

What most people don’t know is that St. Charles County has their own court for traffic tickets and that is called the St. Charles County Municipal Court.  If you get pulled over for a traffic ticket by a St. Charles County Sheriff’s Deputy, your court date will be at St. Charles County Municipal Court.  That court is located, by the way, just north of Highway 70 off Highway 79.  Certain unincorporated areas of St. Charles County is where the sheriff’s department has jurisdiction.  A good example would be the Defiance, Missouri area off Highway DD.

The other court in St. Charles County is the St. Charles County Circuit Court, located on Second Street in downtown St. Charles (one block west of Main Street).  This court generally handles violations of state law, but for traffic tickets the cases that are heard here are tickets issued by the Missouri State Highway Patrol.  A common example would be a speeding ticket received while driving in St. Charles County on Highway 70 or Highway 64.   Incidentally, this court also handles more serious charges like felonies and serious misdemeanor cases.

From the standpoint of speeding tickets, however, the cases are treated pretty much the same in terms of how of our office would resolve them.  For relatively minor offenses like speeding, we can usually get very good results and the same outcome for our clients whether we are in St. Charles City Municipal Court, St. Charles County Municipal Court or St. Charles County Circuit Court.

Things get trickier for St. Charles County Circuit court for more serious charges like DWIs, Stealing and Drug Possession.  We can still help clients but the fees are higher because the cases take longer to resolve and involve much more investigation.